It's hard to believe our time in Mbale is over. We stayed just the right amount of time and our work is complete for now. Although we still need to monitor and evaluate our projects, we have a good team at both villages to provide us with the support and data we need.
I need to reflect upon what we saw because it's hard to imagine unless you've been to a rural village in a developing country.
As a group, I think we collectively spoke about water the most. In the absence of running water, the women spend a good part of their days walking to water sources, filling bottles and jerry cans with water and carrying the very heavy containers home. Some days we had a trickle of running cold water and some days, they filled jerry cans for us. We worked outside all day sweating, wearing sunscreen and bug spray. We had to be deliberate in our "showering". Do I have enough water to wash my hair? There was no way to get all of the dirt off of our bodies with such a small amount of cold water.
After water, it's hard not to contemplate the scarcity of food: rice, beans, peas and potatoes being staples. But, the remarkable aspect of the food is how and where they prepare it. Both villages had one small coal burning pot. That was the only heat source. They had no counters or chairs and the women either sat on the ground to cook or bent over the pot. Every time they served us lunch and dinner, I marveled at how they could do it - how could they produce enough food for 12 people in that tiny space.
Notwithstanding the basic necessities such as food and water, these villages have no paper or pens. The schools are lacking books and educational resources. They have the unwanted items that we've all thrown in bins in an attempt to clean out the abundance of supplies we all have. We are planning to take bags of resources to the villages on our return in a couple of months. A duffel bag of pens, pencils, paper, geometry sets, educational workbooks and dictionaries.
Books. They have no picture books or chapter books to read.
Balls. Putti Village had never had a real ball to play with. While balls are not a real life need, they make people happy. I realize it is of the utmost importance to help with food, water and shelter, but I also feel committed to also bring some joy and happiness on my return.
They are so resilient and resourceful in many ways. But in others, they rely on our help to spark change. I will always remember these men, women and children. Especially the beautiful, bright eyed, smiling children that we worked so hard to provide a way to access a better education. The hope is that through education, we can do our part to help - even one child - get out of their poverty cycle and have a brighter future.
Written By: Michelle Gilman