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Real World, Uganda Style

June 27, 2011

       I decided it was time to write another post this morning when I found
myself on the floor of my office surrounded by open books/magazines/
website pages about how to teach micro finance to children and how
kids are psychologically affected by their HIV-positive statuses. I
realized after about two hours of this that I no longer read aimlessly
about “infected children in Africa,” rather, I am thinking in terms of
each child I have had the pleasure to get to know here. The issues
have grown SO much closer to my heart and it makes me a million times
more determined to do whatever possible to even put a smile on these
children’s faces. For the first time I am truly able to apply what I
read and learn more than a book can preach. I keep thinking about the
classic line parent’s give their kids at home during dinner “kids in
Africa are starving and you won’t eat your broccoli!!” I know I was
most likely that kid who got sassy and said, “Well fine, I’ll mail it
to them.” I hope someone slapped me. These children; Ruth, Brian,
Stephen, Teo, Brenda and more, can’t even afford school fees. A
boarding school here costs about 28,000 shillings a term, and if a
student can’t pay, they are sent home. Children beg daily for help
with school fees, a fee equivalent to about $12. Many can’t even
afford the transportation costs to pick up their ARV’s from Kitovu, a
cost of about 30 cents. I don’t mean this to be justifying the image
of Africa as destitute and poor, but there is some truth to it many
people’s lives. Anyway, the point is, no longer do I research HIV/AIDS
and think about a general population, but I see my kids faces. I have
realized more and more how grateful I am for this opportunity to truly
be able to create strong relationships with families. I know I have
said it million times already, but it is being in people’s homes,
holding their hands, laughing and crying with them that I value beyond
belief. In these homes color, gender and race play no role. Once you
have broken that initial awkward barrier, a friend is a friend,
nothing more, nothing less.

        I went with my facilitator to her workshop series that she
and her department run called Education For Life. They sensitize
children on trauma, scare them with the reality of STD’s and teach how
HIV/AIDS is spread and how to prevent transmission. These kids were
ADORABLE. I’m pretty sure I have a problem, I kept distracting them
throughout the workshop making funny faces, I got to lock that down.
Back to the point. My facilitator was so good with this room of about
35 children. They were totally engaged as they all shared what they
knew about HIV/AIDS. She asked them how boys convince girls to have
sex with them. They wrote on the board things like pancakes, rolex’s,
money, soda etc. None of the items were more than fifty cents in
value. Then the boys said how girls entice them: mini skirts, low
shirts, and their walk. The kids were laughing the whole time, but the
message was still getting across.

         A big issue in Uganda at the moment is research showing that
men that are circumcised are less likely to spread HIV. Hospitals and
clinics are therefore starting to offer free and safe circumcisions
for all who come. This is being advertised everywhere, which is all
good, but the problem is that the message is being delivered
completely wrong. People now believe that if a male is circumcised he
can’t pass on HIV and doesn’t have to wear a condom. AHHHHHH SO WRONG!
SUCH A STEP BACKWARD! The worst part is children are hearing and
believing it! One of the boys raised his hand in the workshop and
said, “I heard on the radio that because I’m circumcised, I can’t pass
on or get HIV.” Good thing my facilitator jumped on it and gave a very
eloquent explanation.

        After a long week, and a longer one to come, FSD brought us
all on a midterm retreat to Lake Nabugabo (spelling??). It was the
perfect get away. We had no responsibilities but to read, swim and
wear whatever we wanted!! It was only one night, but it was just
great. It’s crazy to think that we are half way done. The weirdest
part is I’m not ready to leave. If you asked me three weeks a go if I
wanted to go I would have replied “GET ME ON A PLANE!” But I really
love it more and more! It’s the little things that help me get through
the rough days after seeing too many children suffering. I have
created a little “survival kit” in my room for these nights; it
includes a handful of bootleg romantic comedies, a bottle of wine,
Pringles and mass amounts of chocolate…. Typical, I know, but hey, you
to do what you go to do.

Pictures: All of the pictures are of home visits to my Peer Support
Group member’s houses, the workshop I wrote about and Kate and I at
the lake this weekend!!! ☺

Miss and love you all!!!!
– Margot



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