I deliberately waited until the last day of our internship for my last journal entry because I knew I would be so inspired by the end. Little did I know how inspired I would be!Today Campus Kitchens hosted a final dinner for all of the LIU families we serve. After frying, sweating, crying (those onions are strong!) and singing our way through the day, Sara and I were about ready to collapse! We cooked for 55 people…and of course, only about 25 could make it! It was such a wonderful day, though. It was like the whole summer flashed before my eyes in one 12-hour period. A youth group that we’ve been working with all summer volunteered this morning and helped take our last run of meals on wheels to the senior center. Then we got to work, chopping, mixing, baking, and everything in between (and man, I am tired of those squash patties!). We stayed in the kitchen ALL DAY (we like to work slowly…). The end of the day was so rewarding. About six LIU families came, Kim dropped by with her family and new puppy, Isha brought friends, and of course, our dear Christine, who really does inspire me, made it there. Our dishes were marvelous. Even though we had tons of extra food, families helped bag it and said they would take it to the families who weren’t able to come. The winner of the day was definitely Jorge, our connection with the LIU families. Not only did he drive us to and from the rec park with all of our food and wash some dishes for us while we were trying to get the food out the door; he insisted on bringing his family into the kitchen afterward to help us clean! Such a huge act of kindness cannot possibly be summed up in words. We were absolutely grateful. What a wonderful way to end our internship. The biggest inspiration for me this summer has definitely been people! Sara, my partner in crime, has been such a good co-worker–we work tremendously well together. Christine, who has done so much to expand the CKGC program, never fails to amaze me. And we wouldn’t have been able to do any of it without Kim, Gretchen, and Tammy, who keep us in line! I’ll miss this internship, but I’m excited to be on CPS staff for the coming year! I can’t wait!
I would say a good majority of the people who have made my experience in Uganda inspiring to me are under the age of 15. All of the students in my class are so amazing. A handful is especially motivated, and I can only hope they keep pursuing their education with the same drive they have now. If they do, they have the ability to go so far. I only hope I have gotten them more motivated for education. I had a heart to heart with my class one day when I got really frustrated with them copying on homework and the fact that there are only 15 regular participators in class. I sat before them and told them how valuable education is, and how even though it can be so tiring sometimes it will pay off in the end, and that it can be really interesting and excited. This is not what they are used to hearing for the teachers. The teachers here instill discipline in them through yelling and beating, and make them memorize sentences and facts. There is not a lot of room for individual thought. I know I got to a lot of them, and after that things have started looking up, more of them are more interested in what I’m teaching. I am also inspired by the energy and joy in each of the students at the school at break times. They have so much they could dwell on, like for many the fact they are very underfed. However, they build community with each other and have keep their energy high. I love watching them run around and use simple things as toys and games. They have this way of making balls with plastic bags, and dolls with banana leaves. I often catch one of my brothers pushing a tire with a stick, or running with an air-filled plastic bag behind him. Spending time laughing and playing with these kids hasn’t gotten old, and it confirms for me how much I love children. I hope I have in turn have been an inspiration to even a few of the kids, and I also hope I have gotten my class excited about learning the English language.
We can hardly believe that the folks in Nicaragua are coming home this week! We are looking forward to having you back on campus and getting back together again to share (non-electronically). Over the next few weeks, we will ask you to write a final letter to Mr. Heston sharing what you did, what you learned and you are integrating this experience into your life. We will send a more detailed “assignment” next week, but start thinking about this letter. We ask that you email it to us by the start of school.
For this week’s journal entry (the last one!):
Sustainable development is hard. That is one thing we can all agree on! Like you all said in your last journals, it can tedious, frustrating, confusing and even… dirty. But, somehow friendship and hope prevail. As you wind down your internships, reflect on who and what has made your experience hopeful and inspiring.
Amy, Hannah, Alex, Christian & Gwen please call or email us when you arrive home safely!
In my last post, I jokingly asked Kim and Gretchen for a second training–a training that would provide us with solutions to the problems we’ve been facing this summer. But to be honest, I don’t think they can provide us with a “one size fits all” solution. Everyone has come face-to-face with different aspects of the sustainability problem this summer. For Sara and I, it’s been food community and food waste. For Geoff and KC, it was poverty and a long history leading to internal barriers. For Kate and Tesia, it’s been working with children who have been forced to grow up too fast. For all of us, in some ways, it’s been connecting a world of privilege with a world of pain, oppression, and knowledge we’d never dreamed of. The only common aspect of every problem’s solution–the only one I’ve seen, anyway–has been conversation. Through conversation, we build relationships. We tear down barriers. We address the things that cannot be talked about. And we come closer to agreeing. My ideal has always been two-fold: let’s make a plan, then carry it out! But I’m learning that nothing is quite as simple as a quick plan. The plan-making process is long and often tiresome; and when you finally get down to implementing the plan, you must be open to diversions and the possibility of conflict and disagreement. It’s almost as if you must plan for your original plan to change; you must plan for the unpredictable. It sounds so self-contradictory–how can you plan for something you know nothing about? As usual, I don’t have any answers; just more questions. But a conversation couldn’t exist without them.
Sustainability is solving the problems of today in a manner that
adequately prepares for a transition to the future. Development should
come from within the community and the ideas for development should
emerge from all the stakeholders in the community. True development
reflects the needs and experiences of all marginalized groups: the
HIV+, single women, orphans, vulnerable children, the elderly, the
very poor, the disabled and anyone with special needs or considerations.
I’ve experienced multistakeholder forums here in Uganda and I’m
impressed with some of the creative solutions villagers have for
While my organization embodies some of my ideals of true
development and sustainability, I’ve noticed and confronted several
problems that will affect whether or not I recommend LUGADA to receive
another intern. The conclusion I’m struggling with is whether or not my
organization can sustainable develop if it continues in its current
direction. LUGADA has a great mission statement and a strong
constitution describing its values and views for an improved Masaka
area. But the organization is ahead of itself in so many areas and so
scattered that I really wonder how they can develop.
Sustainability is solving the problems of today in a manner that
adequately prepares for a transition to the future. Although FSD argues
that education itself is unsustainable, the results of education are
entirely sustainable. Improving access to jobs, increasing income,
increasing health awareness, improving sanitation and teaching local
populations how to help themselves in such areas:
these are sustainable activities. LUGADA has great momentum towards
sustainable activities. The revolving fund I’m working with fits the
definition of sustainability perfectly. It arose from the community to
address a specific need and provisions allow it to strengthen with each
successful rotation. The fund is distributed and then repaid with
nominal interest, then redistributed to increase income-generating
What concerns me the most about LUGADA is that it seems to be
the pet project of the Naggombwa family. I adore the Naggombwas and they
have adopted me as a daughter (Namugwera of the monkey clan!), but I’m
uncomfortable with their level of involvement in the organization. We
use the family’s stationery store for all our needs, the family’s
catering business for all events, the children and relatives of the
family are benefiting from the child sponsorship program and they have
all used the revolving fund several times. My supervisor uses the LUGADA
computer as her work computer. No other members of LUGADA have a problem
with this arrangement and they reminded me that they are all volunteers
and should benefit from their work. (I asked discreetly, I think).
Another small concern that has snowballed into a larger concern is my
own involvement with the family business of the Naggombwas. I’m a quick
typist and over the last few weeks, my supervisor has asked me to assist
her in writing official letters for her business. Lately, personal
business affairs have been taking at least two hours of each day. I
don’t mind helping her, but I’m concerned that I’m not seen as the
LUGADA intern, but as the Naggombwa family intern.
I’m struggling with confronting these issues because they seem
so microscopic, except when I lay them out for another intern or in this
blog. My supervisor is a warm, friendly, affectionate woman who has
welcomed me into her family and home. However, I’m not sure if I can
confidently recommend another intern to be placed with LUGADA. Not
having an office or any employees at my organization has been a true
struggle and I’ve created all the work for myself with little to no
The sustainability issue of LUGADA is also a problem. Many of
the projects are sustainable, but my supervisor wants to augment her
child sponsorship project in the future, which is inherently
The project relies entirely on foreign donors and would constantly be
influx. I’m really torn on whether or not I should recommend another
intern to be placed with LUGADA: it is a difficult work environment, but
another intern could chose instead to focus on specific groups of LUGADA
and work with them instead of trying to strengthen and work on the
entire organization, as I did with my time here.
If the photo sends, it should show a moment from the workshop LUGADA ran
yesterday. My project was organization this workshop to strengthen and
educate members about borrowing and repaying money from the revolving
fund and developing financial responsibility.
I can´t say that I´ve come to any specific conclusions at this point. Partially, because it´s really hard to come to a conclusion when you´re in the thick of things, and don´t have the time or composure to look at it from an outside perspective. But also, because sustainable development, I´m discovering, is never concluded. There is no perfect mixture of social, environmental, and economic elements. There is no exact balance, no exact recipe that will end up as “sustainable development”. Sure, there are lots of things that end up working and you do end up combining the three, with successful projects, but the work just can´t end there. We can´t leave here saying “that was a sustainable project”, and then let it disappear. Sustainable development is a process, and one that requires constant vigilance. Sustainable development is tedious. Some days you wake up and don´t want to get out of bed to face the frustrations at work. Some days you can´t wait to get to work to continue your project. Some days you´re on the same page with your coworkers, and you´re making great progress, and other days they just want to sit around chatting and eating gallo pinto all day and make you want to scream. While I tried to come to Nicaragua without any expectations, I don´t think I really anticipated how frustrating development work is. About halfway through, I found myself doubting that this is the kind of work I want to spend my life doing. The endless frustration, the failed projects, the time wasted, the miscommunication (of which there is definitely a LOT). But within the last week, I´ve come to realize that of course this is going to be hard. But somebody has to do it. And why can´t I be the one strong enough to take this on? Because through the tedious mornings and frustrating afternoons, there is hope. There is creativity. There has to be a lot of patience, with your host communities and with yourself. But through these almost 9 weeks, I´ve definitely discovered a lot about sustainable development, a lot about Nicaragua, and a lot about myself. And I can´t wait to share it all with you when we´re back in the burg!–Hannah- Masaya, Nicaragua (And IXCHEN´s doing great!)
Journal on waste: One of the most difficult things to adjust to here in Uganda is the smell of burning trash. Its every where, and you can’t escape it. Every day is burning trash day. It is difficult to see, especially coming from a country where recycling and caring for our environment is a top priority for most Americans. Throwing trashcan the ground is one of the few cultural commonalities that I refuse to accept or take part in. Despite this promise to myself, it is extremely difficult to find a trashcan anywhere! Waste management does not exist here-both my family and my organization don’t own or use a trashcan. Thus, my waste collects in a small bag and is brought weekly to the one trashcan I know of, which is held in the FSD office in Masaka. The strange thing is: there is a daily report on the disastrous state of the environment here in Uganda. The daily advice of the news anchor: turn off your computer when not in use. How does turning off your computer (if you even have one) help to stop air pollution and deforestation?! How about spending the money to invest in a waste management system?! I recognize and understand that Uganda may have more important things to worry about- like corruption or the war with the LRA in the north. But seeing as the environment is fast becoming a main concern, why wouldn’t we or shouldn’t we address the issue of waste management? This issue is one of the most frustrating issues that have dealt with during my time here in Uganda. Journal on reflections: It will take a great deal of reflection to truly sum up the experiences I have gained here in Uganda. As many before me, I came to Africa with these ridiculous ideas about the work I was going to Africa to do. Upon realizing that my fantasies of development work were extremely far off, I did take a small amount of time to reflect on my thoughts. While my work here has not been what imagined it to be, and while every minute has been far from fantastic, I think what I have learned is far more valuable to me than what would have gained if I had loved every minute. I learned this very quickly, and I think the best way to prove this is to tell you a short story about my first day working at the orphanage. I warn you now- it is a little gross. In my first hour of work at the orphanage, I cleaned about three kids’ poop from the ground with a banana leaf. It was really gross, but I quickly learned that by accepting this as a part of everyday life here in Uganda, everything was still going to be ok. So- clearly picking up poop with a banana leaf was not my idea of development work in Africa. But I have learned that development work anywhere is different, and it doesn’t always mean easy work and quick rewards. You have to get your hands dirty (literally) and work hard. But in the end my experience has been that much more rewarding. And, while I still frequently clean up ‘waste’, I have grown to love the kids I work with and to understand that even if I am not working to directly develop Africa, I am making a difference. Even if its just one small kid, I still have given what I can to this organization. I look forward to continuing this work in the future, and I am grateful for this experience- I have learned a great deal. I am sure that with greater reflection and a little more time, I will come to recognize even more how valuable my experiences here have been. –Ashley