One thing I forgot to mention on the Wednesday when I arrived is the girls club. Any of the Children of Peace can attend in the evening. The girls gather up on the guesthouse terrace and get a chance to use crayons and cut out pictures, which is a real treat for them because the schools have practically no learning materials and people in the village never get to read newspapers or see magazines. Most of the girls present were teenagers. Girls here are brought up to be very submissive. For instance they curtsey when they greet you – as do women, even elderly ones for that matter. They also speak in a very soft voice. Sabia, who was teaching the girls’ club got them all to introduce themselves to me but they spoke so softly I could not hear the names.
The theme this time was self-esteem, although the concept wasn’t actually named. The idea was to help the girls think well of themselves, realize they have rights, can say no, etc. Casual sex and unwanted pregnancies, including amongst teenagers, are appallingly common. Just the other day Sabia had to buy a pregnancy test kit for a student at the Bududa Vocational Institute. One of the Children of Peace I am to visit is thought to have run away from home to the big city where her future will be in doubt. Last February when Sabia was teaching a session of the girls’ club, it was clear from their questions that the girls had no clear understanding of the human reproductive system. Another subject addressed at these sessions is health. It is hard to imagine how a teenage girl who becomes conversant with the basic rules of hygiene could influence her caregiver or mother to improve the running of the household since she would have so little say. But perhaps the greater knowledge will be applied when the girls found their own households. In none of the homes I visited this time is the water treated in any way or boiled and, in some of the poorer homes, the cooking is done right next to the cow shelter.
Neither Sabia nor I had sore muscles as a result of our 7-hour hike. Evelyn woke me at 7 a.m. by banging on the metal door of the guesthouse and I awoke from a sound sleep and hurried to draw back the huge metal bolts to let her in. Until breakfast I did chores. Washing my own clothes gave me a taste of one of the most common and arduous tasks of a Ugandan housewife. Although I was only washing light clothes, I took a break for tea between each rinse! Finally, today the weather was fine and there was practically no rain so I actually got the clothes more or less dry. The ones I had hung up before our climb were so wet they had to be wrung out again. Barbara’s room, which was vacated only a few weeks ago when she left for a holiday in Eastern Europe, smells strongly of mould due to the humid weather, as do the clothes I left in February. They all need re-washing.
As today teacher Hellen is to give us a lesson on how to cook sweet potatoes in groundnut (peanut) sauce, Sabia and I started the day with a trip to the market. She tempted me to buy a badly needed new outfit and I got some fabric for serviettes for a present in Kinshasa. Sabia is an excellent bargainer. When dissatisfied with a price, she will say “that’s a mzungu price,” and stalk off with a toss of her head. Sometimes the seller gives in and calls her back. Because of her appearance, Sabia is called an “African muzungu”! (She is of Ethiopian origin and much fairer than the Bududans.)
Two Visitations – M— T—and M— P—M— T—acquired a sponsor following Barbara Wybar’s visit to Coldstream in September of this year. He is a bright child and is doing well at school – he came 2nd out of 25. The grandmother
he was living with died, and he and his four brothers and sisters are now living with a neighbour who has three children of her own and no husband. M— T—has been given a bed net and a mattress by the project. Like all the children interviewed, he needs a school uniform (also supplied by the project) and shoes for the next school year. Hellen and I also recommended that he be given supplementary food at Saturday school, which he attends regularly.
M— P— was away when we visited. In February his mother had complained that he was “disturbing” (i.e., being disruptive) and not attending to his schoolwork. Somehow the parents have found the means to send him to a private school and he is now doing much better. Living conditions were poor; the cooking area was just a fire outside and the latrine hole was nearly full.
New Mattresses for M— A—and K— C—
Hellen had arranged to have the mothers of M— A—and K— C— meet us with their children at the mattress shop. Their sponsor had given me some money to spend on them at my discretion. The owner’s daughter roped the mattresses together and M— A—set off with his mattress on his head. I photographed the children and their mothers with the mattresses and then the mothers gave me such a hug of gratitude that I nearly dropped the camera. Hellen did point out to them that the sponsor had provided the funds but I fear they may think that I paid for the mattresses. It often seems that intermediaries are thanked for something for which they cannot take credit. Hellen and I took a pickipicki to the BVI and we passed M— A—striding along easily with the huge foam mattress on his head. We also passed a pickipicki with no fewer than three mattresses strapped to it. Children who go to boarding school often have to supply their own mattresses, as well as other items such as brooms, a bag of cement and their few personal belongings.
Hellen’s Cooking Lesson
Back at the guesthouse, Hellen showed me how to cook groundnut sauce with a tiny quantity of grated mixed vegetables sautéed, to which groundnut paste dissolved in water is added. The result is delicious and far superior to any recipe made with peanut butter.