16.02.2017 - 17.02.2017 34 °C
At half past eight on Friday morning we were collected for our trip to the Amuru region. We decided to bring the van as well, as there were quite a few people travelling. First it was off to the Gulu office, where we met a few people from the previous night. Samuel joined us and we went to the Women’s Protection Centre, where Jennifer gave a presentation about the work they do there. Extremely impressive! We were a bit taken aback at the type of cases they deal with, the majority of which are cases of child sexual abuse. The building itself is very well organised. There is a reception area, counselling rooms, offices for the staff and on the other side of the building there is an ablution block, accommodation for women and children, and a children’s play area. Security is high.
It was then time to start our trip west. The road turned out to be under construction. Not a problem for the people in the Action Aid car, but much less pleasant for Padraig and Samuel, travelling in the van. Rumble strips in the road are one thing, but more than 5 km of it? We won’t mention the dust. Suffice it to say that Samuel’s shirt was a brilliant white earlier that morning and by the time we stopped at the community office in Nwoya it had turned pink! In Nwoya we picked up Julius who gave a presentation about the work he and his team do in the local communities. From here it was on to visit Felix and his family. When we turned off the road for the last stretch we were met by singing, dancing and shouting women and children, who ran beside the vehicles until we got to our destination. Everyone wanted to shake hands and welcome us! Finally we saw a little boy (well, small for his age) holding up two picture frames with the photos that we had sent him over the years. His father was right there and fortunately spoke some English. There were chairs for us and Felix’s family and we got a chance to have a bit of a chat. Felix is quite small for his age. He is nearly 14, but looks more like 8 or 9. He seems to have been involved in an accident a while ago (motorbike) and had broken his arm. It did not look as if the arm had set properly. There were also a number of open wounds on one of his legs… Not great in a dusty environment! There was a big spread laid on for us: chicken, beef, goat, rice and sweet potatoes. Felix and his family then showed us their house, after evicting about 20 boys and girls having their dinner inside! I always thought that a circle of huts meant a village, but that is not the case. It is usually a family group. A hut for cooking, a hut for the parents and a number of huts for the children. In Felix’s case, his father had three wives (one of them passed away 4 years ago) and there are 21 children in all. In the parents’ hut, Padraig got to sit on the father’s stool, and I got to share a mat with Felix’s mother. Gifts were exchanged and I am happy to say that Felix seemed very pleased with the quilt I made him. It won’t stay clean for long, but it will give him a bit of comfort hopefully.
We said our goodbyes and went on to the “Reflection Group” in the next community. More singing, more dancing, more handshaking… We introduced ourselves and when I mentioned that I was Padraig’s only wife, there was no shortage of offers (and giggles)… The community assembled then gave testimony about what the help of Action Aid had meant to them. Some were given goats, some were given cows, some were given oxen, and all this had improved their lives enormously. It was then time to eat again. Sure, it was only an hour since our last meal! But we didn’t want to insult anyone and did our best!
After that it was back to the vehicles for the trip back to Gulu and our . David said he would organise a snack for when we got there. Snack indeed! It turned out to be another meal!
We gave a short overview of everything we had seen and heard that day, especially our concerns for Felix’s medical needs. It had been a very busy and full day and I suppose it will take us a while to process it all.
It was a pleasure and a privilege meeting all the Ugandan Action Aid workers and we feel that we now have friends in Uganda as well! We will no doubt keep in touch.