Update from Kampala – or how Becky is spending the coffee morning donations……….

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Dear Readers, As I am sure Celia has previously mentioned I am currently in Uganda doing volunteer work for an organization called CALM Africa. It works with the local community to aim to relieve suffering and assist families, with their main focus on children, ensuring they receive education that will reduce the likelihood of a future of poverty. It’s been quite a whirlwind of activities and emotions here, within the first week a woman had already asked me to name her baby! The main aspect so far has been the outreach programme, this involves visiting families in their homes, normally recommended to CALM Africa by a local councillor, to assess their living situations and come to a decision on what aid they require. The aim is to provide a long-term solution, for example giving them a starting capital to start up an income generating activity (IGA), normally provided as a loan, this encourages the guardian, normally a single mother, that it is not responsible to just provide for their immediate needs as they will at some point need to pay the money back. This also means the money can go on to provide for other families in similar situations. Something that has really jumped out at me here in Uganda is how citizens with disabilities are treated, there are no benefits provided by the government and the community often seen these people as cursed, or even demons. I can honestly say it has been heart breaking to see how this has affected the families. We met with a woman who has set up a programme for mothers with children with disabilities, who in most cases have been deserted by the fathers, where they can make some crafts to sell to help provide for their children. This is just one example of a project helped by CALM Africa. We were then taken to the two largest slums in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, where I met Namutebi, a 27 year old single mother, the slum often floods up to waist height, which as I am sure you can imagine would be especially difficult to navigate if you had no use of your lower legs and a number of other physical disabilities. She previously had a wheelchair which was stolen, so with all the donations we managed to raise at the fundraiser and in the run up to my trip, we got Namutebi measured up for a modified wheelchair that she will be able to fold up and keep inside her house so it will not be stolen again. Another similar case I encountered last week was Nasif, a 12 year old boy, also living in the slum; he has hydrophylis and other physical disabilities which mean he cannot walk. He was telling us that he was often left behind when his brothers, sisters and friends went to play because they could not carry him. He has also never attended a normal school because his mother has to work and cannot transport him there. Again, thanks to all the donations I received we have been able to provide him with a wheelchair so he will no longer get left behind and will be able attend school with other children his age. I just wish that all of you who donated could have been there when I told him that I would be more than happy to fund him getting a wheelchair, he looked like all his birthdays and Christmas’ had been rolled into one, we couldn’t have wiped the smile off his face if we tried! Another project we have started to set up is for teenage mothers living in the slums, we are setting up a hair and beauty salon that will host ten teenage mothers at a time. The women will be trained and encouraged to save up so when they are ready they can go out to set up their own salons and another group of teenage mothers can come in and also be set up with a IGA. We met the 10 teenage mothers, who would be the first group to start out on the project, women of my age, 19, with children of up to 4 years old. Their stories were deeply upsetting, most of these women were forced to drop out of school due to extreme poverty and seek the company of men often a lot older than themselves to earn a small amount of money to provide themselves and their families with food. Another example was a woman who has no hearing who was raped and was unable to identify the man responsible. Many of the families disown their daughters who fall pregnant at a young age due the shame it brings in the community, they are also terrified that it will set a bad example to younger siblings in the family. This makes it twice as hard for the poor women in this situation. That is why this is such a good project; the woman can make money to provide for their children and be surrounded by women just like them who know and understand their unfortunate situation and the challenges they face every day. I have also been lucky to do some teaching at one of CALM Africas main projects, Jolly Mercy Learning Centre. This is a school set up in Nangabo. I must admit I wasn’t entirely sure teaching would be my cup of tea but the children are so amazing and so keen and excited to learn. The feeling of knowing I had helped even a few of the children’s educations was really worthwhile and I am glad I did it, even though it was a little on the stressful side! The culture here is Uganda is really such a constrast from that of the western countries. Some things I have fallen in love with and some I am finding a little more difficult. The people here in Uganda are the nicest I have ever come across, they are so welcoming and are so happy to have us Mzungus (a non-derogatory term for white people) here. We have been stopped on the streets just so people can have a chat which is really lovely, I feel a bit like a celebrity! Another thing I love is just how beautiful the country is, I had an idea in my head that Uganda would a be a dry country not dissimilar to that of northern Africa. But I was mistaken, thanks to Lake Victoria, it is an incredibly green and luscious country. One thing I am finding a little harder to deal with is having no running water in the house, and this may sound like I am being an absolute drama queen but it is tricky! Try it for one day, or 2 months if you have the guts! The food, majority has been pretty tasty, some things less edible… First example, posho, this is maize flour mixed with water; imagine a really hard lump of mash potato, but with no flavour, yummy! The second is their “porridge” so it looks like wallpaper paste, smells like wallpaper paste, and guess what? It taste like wallpaper paste too! Thank you so much for spending the time to read this, can’t wait to get home and see my friends and family and share with them even more of my stories but at the same time I never want this experience to end. Becky (Rebecca Flook) (Budding Ugandan)

Author: Celia

The Rambler, AKA Celia Dulieu
Celia has been sharing food, wine, recipes and friendship with Simon and Sue Gale for more than 15 years.
In a former life she was a mass caterer, working for large companies such as Selfridges, London; but after moving to the countryside with husband, 2 kids and dog, she resurrected her love of food, - particularly by entertaining her large extended family to lunches ,sharing informal get togethers with friends, and developing her small but productive kitchen garden. She is passionate about all things to do with food and wine; from where it is produced to how it arrived on her doorstep.
Celia’s love of meeting people, visiting places and trying different things has culminated in being invited to get involve with writing up the experiences of the Heart Kitchen and sharing her love of food with you through her ramblings.