As I had nothing specific to do with the Children of Peace during Saturday school, I decided to tackle the sadly neglected guesthouse garden. Volunteers come and enthusiastically sow rows of seeds but then depart for home, leaving the garden to become a tangle of wandering Jew weeds and a variety of twitch grass that produces an incredible mat of roots. Perched on a stool, with its legs sunk deep into the rich wet red soil, I hacked at the sticky earth, disentangling and discarding the weed roots. My chisel-shaped tool snapped in two almost immediately, and I used my hands instead as a digging hoe would have weeded out the vegetables with the weeds. Progress was painfully slow but I managed to expose a row or two of six-inch high tomato plants. Whether or not they ever will bear fruit will depend as much on the care of future volunteers as on weather.
Tracking down N— A—-
Teacher Bosco and I managed to reach N— A—-’s house in Bushika by pickipicki before the afternoon rains started. Our worst suspicions were confirmed. Her brother, with whom she had been living, informed us that she was pregnant and that the boy had “run off”. One more teenage pregnancy – the girl is in Primary 7 , 16 years old. She had not been seen at school since April and had not been attending Saturday school because she was ashamed. After a discussion, we arranged that her brother would ask her to go to the office on Saturday for counselling and to consider whether she would like to take the tailoring course at the Bududa Vocational Institute once the baby could be left with a caregiver.
Detective Work Tracking down the USAID Mosquito Nets and like Problems
Back at the project, only slightly wet from the rain, the mystery of the missing and old and holey mosquito nets at the homes of some of the children I had visited was still not clarified. The children “stubbornly” – a favourite word here – maintained that they had been eaten by rats. One bedraggled shifty looking young child was standing outside the office. Teacher Jane was speaking to him intently in Lugisu and Barbara was laying down the law in English. Teacher Eric, with whom the child had been living after running away from his grandparents, listed the accusations. I— was “cunning” and constantly ran off. Moreover he had been stealing the coffee beans off Eric’s trees. (For 1 kilo of beans, he could get 1,500 shillings.) In the end, after more exhortations and under the threat of losing the presents from his sponsor that Barbara was dangling before his nose, I—-, who did not utter a sound and avoided eye contact during this entire scene, was put on probation so to speak. He was given another week at Eric’s. Some of these children are indescribably emotionally messed up.
Mattress for M— B—-
With Hellen and Barbara, I hauled myself up into the school truck. The children going Bududa way scrambled up into the back of the lorry. The mattress lady was not in her shop so I sat in Olivia’s restaurant and took the opportunity to interview K— H—’s brother, M—, who appeared on a bike looking for Barbara. After my few depressing visits, it was heart-warming to see how eager he was to earn money for his school fees at Bubulo Secondary School. He had dug the latrines for the Children of Peace for whom I brought latrine money in February and he is now to dig a latrine for K— P—-. In addition, he has been making bead necklaces – although these are becoming more and more difficult to sell. Finally, I was able to pay for the mattress and photograph M— B—- grinning next to it before he set off home with the mattress rolled up on his head.