Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Yeah, but...

Now that this meeting (read the post below this one) is over, all that is between me and Stateside is 4 days.  LETS DO IT!!!

I am freekin pumped.  Being in Uganda has made me such a proud American in so many more ways that I would have thought.  I realize that the U.S. has its fair share of problems as well---but when you give it some perspective, it truly is amazing all of the amazing things we've accomplished as a group in such a small amount of time.

So--America, get ready.  Bring out all the UNC grads, the XY alums, the Bod & Graham clans, the Suite 5 members and groupies, the Spanky's workers, The Squids bar crew members and regulars, the whiskey drinks, the blue skies, and...can I say this?...the short skirts.  

Truth be told...I'm not sure if I'm prepared for the 1st world life, after having gotten so used to all that the 3rd world brings with it.  My speech has gotten slower, timing more lax.  When it rains, I now mentally cancel everything I had planned, until the rain again ends. I get sleepy when it gets dark, and rise before it becomes light (most days). Everyday I wake up with "hopes," but have accepted that 3/5 of these hopes won't be completed...only the first, or the second, or the 15th step will be taken towards its completion.  I bathe out of a bucket if I want hot water, and do so only as a treat to myself.  I eat street food 3 times a day to supplement the 3 huge meals I get fed everyday....and I've still lost 15 pounds since leaving America. 

If there is anything that you have been dreaming about getting from Uganda, now is the time.  Speak up or forever be without.  By the way---this includes your very own Ngora Parish Harmack!  



Today the NPHC and I met with the Small Grants Coordinator from the U.S. Embassy, who has us short-listed as a candidate to receive funding come October.  The funding will be in large part for a Permanent Structure (capital P and S) for the company.  The rest will go towards solar panels, a couple computers, and mosquito net fabric.

In order to get ready for the meeting, the company did quite a lot of work.  We became officially recognized as an NGO within Uganda (!), we worked out a land agreement (you are now looking at the beneficiary of 2 acres of land), designed an AutoCad-esque reprensentation of our proposed building (on paint, mind you).  We got recommendation letters from companies selling our hammocks, the Local Chiefs on three different levels, and from the CAO of Ngora (Chief Administrative Officer)(Pronounced "cow"---yeah, really.)  We wrote our official constitution, outlined our progress thus far and made 6 month, 1 year, and 3 year goals for ourselves.  It is awesome!

Our idea for the grant is to scale up the company in a fairly big way.  We would be buying 25 sewing machines and adding on 30-50 interns onto our company.  These interns are all OVCs (Orphans/Vulnerable Children) who have come from P7 (basically, 8th grade equivalent.), but who aren't able to make it to Secondary Education. 

The system set up in Uganda is such that attending Primary education is fairly manageable.  There is a UPE (Universal Primary Education) in place that makes it "free" to go to school through P7.  I say "free" because it is what every politician calls it, yet expenses like uniforms, books, pencils, food for lunch, etc. still exist.  Unfortunately because some people call it "free," and because of the huge problem with corruption, when parents hear that they have to pay for things at their school, they just assume that someone wants to smuggle money and ignores it completely.  And the kid goes hungry. 

Anyway, while USE (Universal Secondary Education) is technically also in Uganda, it is much less widespread.  I personally have never seen a USE secondary school.  Schools are pretty expensive to attend--anywhere from 200,000UGX-700,000 per term, three terms a year.  That means a minimum of about 222 (sweet) dollars for every student, every year.  Consider this for a family, which on average makes at or below $1.00 a day (85% of homes here hardly have any income at all; they live off the land completely, but have nothing extra to sell in the market).  Add on the fact that a woman in Uganda births an average of almost 7 children in her lifetime.  The math is getting fuzzy.

Thus, "Vulnerable Child" is a pretty easy-to-assign term here in Uganda.  We will be searching for the kids who are the most driven out of all of these to join us at the NPHC for a 1 year internship.  During this time, they will spend time learning about finance skills, entrepreneurship, public speaking, savings and loans, as well as the vocational skill of Tailoring.  The small amount of money (no less than 10,000(4 bucks)--no more than 100,000) that they put in to be apart of the company each term will be held for them, and given back at the end of the year.  Along with this, they will be given the portion that they have earned through their work with the NPHC during this year.  With this money they will be encouraged to go back to school, or if they so choose, to set up their own business with the skills they've acquired within the school-like atmosphere. 

While the kids are interns, they will be given the option of accommodation within the structure we hope to build.  There will be a screened in porch around all sides of the building, with poles in the middle to support the very hammocks we are trying to sensitize the community about.  These will be strong, netted, and will act as an emergency shelter for the kids in need. 

This project is something that is evolving every day.  It has ignited the creativity within the two most committed workers in the NPHC, which has been such a great thing to see.  Everyday they come to me, nearly running, wanting to tell me about their new idea they have.  It's the same with me, too---I'm still trying to stay in the background, though, and let the kids figure it out on their own. 

This really was meant to be a blog about being DONE with the interview from the Embassy, and all about me being excited about going home to America.  I guess I was deceiving myself; what I'm excited about is happening all around me.  Right here, right now.

Monday, June 4, 2012

America, NPHC, Mango Fly

In a week I'll be stateside with some pretty lovely people.  That'll be nice.

In the meantime, all kind of stuff is going on!  We are a registered, certificate holding NGO within Uganda (that is, the Ngora Parish Harmack Company is), and I along with the company are also official landowners.  Pretty cool.

In 2 days time, my boys & girls will be meeting with the U.S. Embassy Small Grant workers, who are making a trip to come and see the NPHC and see if it is worthy of their funding.  We are hoping to scale up the project in a big way, and we're hoping that we can do it through the help of a grant rather than a big nasty loan.  Finger's crossed.

Forgot to mention this in the last blog post.  I just recently had my first Mango fly.  A mango fly, for those of you fortunate enough to need an explanation, is a fly that lays eggs...into...a person.  Basically the imbed themselves into you, lay their eggs, and peace (I think that's the gist, anyway).  It looks like a big zit for about a week...and then it just gets bigger.  I started wondering what was going on, because there was a big red circle on my left calf.  After a while, it become more swollen and it looked unnaturally dark in the center of the abscess.  It didn't hurt too out of curiosity,  I started squeezing it around the edges to see if it was in fact just acne.  Out popped a 1cm or so little guy, and I was looking at it on my finger.  Then the damn thing started to wiggle around!  Don't worry---I took a video of the little dance he/she was doing, and a couple pictures of where it came from (i.e. a hole in my calf).