Hon. Robert KyagulanyiPATRON
Caring Hearts Uganda
What was meant to be an evening of another weekend on a boat cruise with fun loving friends sailing while watching the sunset on lake Victoria; suddenly became horrific when the engine of the boat abruptly came to a stop. Silence overshadowed a group of noisy youth who were in my company. Away to the nearest shores the wind blew the boat which finally came to a stop on an eliegn island unknown to any of the group members.
Muddy grass thatched temporary shelters over looked the lake. As we were all trying to make meaning of the stench smelling shores with no boats in the vicinity, naked and half dressed dirty unhealthy children converged on the boat.
Like a miracle, our mechanic found the spoilt fuse and replaced it with a spare one from the tool box. The boys in my company who had smelt danger and were panicking got relieved. I was not scared at all. They could tell I wasn't. I saw them praying to Mary mother of Jesus and hoping I don't insist on getting off the boat.
"Let's move!" the captain shouted. The boat moved, My heart stayed behind. What is it like to live in this stench. What type of people live here. I would find another day and come back. My eyes looked to that direction until the brown shelters disappeared in the white fog on the lake.
Caring hearts Uganda was the right body to come along with on this second visit but I had serious commitments so the team witnessed the horror in this community with out me.
The video they recorded showed one of them step in human waste as he tried to maneuver through the shanty small houses. Men sat on the small verandah like spaces of the tiny shelters playing board games. Women stood on the doors of their houses gazing at the team. Only a few responded to the greetings sent to them. Loud and poorly balanced music came out of one broad day light dance hall. A long line of children with dirty noses and ill-fitting clothes followed the team everywhere they went. One elder approached them and greeted them. He had recognised my wife. He asked to get them seats but they in return asked to have a look around.
Jumping heaps of littered garbage lying in the small paths; the team held their noses. "Do you have a dumping place" my wife asked. They sure had one. A big manhole formerly dug by community members to construct a public laterine had been turned into a dumping spot. "If this is a dumping spot where is your laterine?" She queried. "We have none. We use the bushes around"
Cholera, diahorrea and all diseases that result from poor sanitation must have found solace in this place. I thought to myself. Rolling her eyes my wife asked where they go when they are sick. To the direction where a lady with a few painkillers in her first aid box lived, the gentleman pointed.
The video ended with a visit to what the gentleman who took them around called a classroom. I saw pupils with bottom less shorts squeezing themselves on one long chair in a shabby dangerously constructed room. One side of this shelter had a polythene roof and the other part was not roofed. It was situated under one huge tree which had partly been uprooted by the strong winds.
5 year olds sat in the same room as 12 year olds and studied similar things. English words were scribbled on the blackboard. Swallowing the saliva that had collected in my mouth, my mind was boiling with questions on how one can help this community. Sanitation is key to me and I believe in having a clean environment with proper disposal of all waste and rubbish.
We must construct latrines for these people but we can't do it alone. I convinced myself. With the help of the church on this Island the community was sensitized and educated on the need for a latrine. They pooled some finances, caring hearts Uganda took on the project with the help of the pastor at the main church there. The latrine was erected. People started using it. They learnt about the use of washing hands after visiting a latrine. Sowe became our usual stop over. They did not see a celebrity in me any more. They saw a helper, teacher and I was one of them suddenly!
Poverty, Hiv Aids, lack of medical care, poor sanitation, need for warm comfortable places to sleep, prostitution, teen pregnancies, domestic violence, illiteracy, unemployment and ignorance bite hard on the people living here.
Caring hearts Uganda has friends and when the plight of the people here was shared with them on casual meetings, some friends offered relief in different forms.
Hope for children and women a local NGO situated in Bukalango carried 100 mattresses, 100 blankets and 100 mosquito nets for pregnant mothers, children, the elderly and sick In a population of about 2000 people living here. Vine medicare clinics closed its hospital and brought all doctors to Sowe island to offer free medical services. Safe Male Circumcision, family planning services, Dental and Optical checkups and treatment, malaria testing and treatment, Antenatal services, Hiv Aids counselling and testing were provided to the people living in this community with no charge at all.
We are the change that we need to see. Each one of us has a role to play in touching lives and transforming communities around them. We can't wait for government institutions to do the work all alone when we can make a difference on our own. The little we can do, we must do.
Each one teach one; each one reach one.