WORLD AIDS DAY
World Aids Day, observed this year on Thursday, December 1, is dedicated to the purpose of raising awareness on the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). To promote HIV/AIDS awareness in Kachumbala, I led a joint Family Planning-STD prevention session with my women's group. I had previously asked the women - and the two men representing their wives - to bring their respective partners to the session, in attempt to generate much-needed dialogue and discussion on the topic.
Nine men showed up to the session. It was the best thing that could have happened!
A family planning discussion soon turned into a heated debate over the legitimacy of the current gender roles in Uganda, a taboo subject matter seldom discussed. I was particularly glad to see several of the women, who are typically fairly reserved in the group, strongly argue for and defend their rights. As an outside observer, it was also interesting to listen to some of the back-and-forth dialogue - from what I could understand in Ateso - between the women and their husbands.
Not only is it my hope that World Aids Day further promoted awareness on HIV/AIDS prevention in Kachumbala, but also that the group's women and men can begin to openly discuss taboo issues such as the current gender roles/hierarchy in Uganda.
RAINCATCHER'S VISIT TO KACHUMBALA
This past weekend, Martha (Raincatcher's Project Coordinator of Africa) and Dennis visited the Mission to assess the potential suitability for rainwater harvesting. I gave them a brief tour of the village, introduced them to the headmasters at Kongunga Primary School and Kongunga Secondary School, and took lots of pictures of the Mission's buildings/roofs (the schools, the Catholic Church, the Parish House, the Dispensary). Although it has not yet been determined nor finalized, it is looking like both the primary and secondary school, the Catholic Church, and the Parish House will each recieve their own rainwater harvesting tank (fundraised and materials/labor supplied locally by Raincatcher), and the Dispensary will have their malfunctioning rainwater tank fully repaired. This would greatly benefit the community because it 1) Provides additional water sources from which community members can fetch their water, 2) Eases the daily strain on the lone borehole, a result of it being largely overused, and 3) Significantly reduces the amount of rainwater that is wasted everyday during the wet season.
On behalf of my village, the school headmasters, the Mission priests, and everybody else from Kachumbala, I look forward to my continued partnership with Raincatcher over the next year. Huge thanks to Raincatcher for the 10 additional Sawyer water filters and the Doritos (an awesome reminder of home)!
"LIBRARIES FOR LIFE - PEACE CORPS UGANDA" UPDATE
Within the past week, "More than Pages - Uganda," another library project in Uganda on the Books for Africa donation page, expressed interest in merging with "Libraries for Life - Peace Corps Uganda."
Assuming both projects combine their efforts, how does this affect everything moving forward?
For starters, the $ that "More than Pages - Uganda" fundraised will essentially be transferred over to "Libraries for Life - Peace Corps Uganda." Thus, we will have reached our target goal! Not only will this expedite the shipment and arrival of the books from the U.S. to Kampala (than initially expected), but it also enables me to now primarily focus on the pre-establishment tasks of the library, for instance training the soon-to-be-appointed librarian in library management; fundraising enough $ to buy heavy-duty steel windows, bookshelves, and chairs locally (the secondary school is contributing the tables); and preparing the designated library room for the books' arrival.
Within the next month, I plan to further develop the project design/action plan, and clarify a number of logistical issues with the headmaster and librarian:
* When (days/hours) will the library be open?
* What are the librarian's designated tasks?
* What rules will students be expected to adhere to inside the library?
* What will the physical design of the library look like? For example, where will the nonfiction books be shelved? How many bookshelves (length? width? height?) are able to fit alongside the room's back wall? How many tables will be available for student use inside the library? Where will the librarian's desk be located?
* How will all the library's books be cataloged?
* What will be the policy for students/teachers checking out and returning books? Will there be an associated cost?
* What will be the fine for lost or damaged books?
* How will all funds collected from library fines be safeguarded?
* How will all the books inside the library be safeguarded?
* What is the most effective way to open and introduce the library to the general student body? To teach students how to reference information, and use books for research?
* When/how often will teachers be allowed to utilize the library for their classes?
* What is the most effective way to go about starting an afterschool reading club?
* Who will monitor, both in the short-term and in the long-term, that the library is achieving its intended objectives?
* How will the library remain sustainable for the long-term?
* How will the community outside the school (if applicable) be involved in the project?
Thanks again for all your contributions and donations! This project wouldn't have been possible otherwise.
Wishing everybody a Happy Hanukah, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!