Monday, December 31, 2007

Kenyan Election

Kenya held a general election on the 27th of December. For background on the election go here. The election results were released on the 30th that named the incumbent, Mwai Kibaki, as the winner. There has been widespread rioting against the result and the BBC has reported that over 100 people have been killed so far. For pictures of the elections go here and for a report on a government issued media ban go here. Reaction from around Africa here. First Hand News Accounts: So far I've found one first hand blog account (here), but I'm having a hard time finding more, hopefully they should be coming out over the next week. You Tube:

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Situation in Zimbabwe

Mugabe's crackdown on our people leaves a trail of broken limbs, rape victims, torture victims, and dead bodies. Such is the reality of Zimbabwe today.
The quote is from Morgan Tsvangirai, pictured above after being beaten by Mugabe's forces, and who is the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe. This video shows the reality of Zimbabwe today.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Project Update

From Elliot: The past several weeks have gone by very quickly, with many things being undertaken here in the village. Abbas and I have been very busy starting several projects before I leave in mid-December. The projects include finishing the Standard 5 classroom at the Ulonge Primary School, facilitating the construction of 90 desks being built in the village (40 for the Ulonge Primary School and 50 for the Lundamatwe Primary School), fixing the other tire swing at the Ulonge Primary School, and continuing to make check-ups on orphans and other children in the village. All the supplies to complete the Standard 5 classroom and the desks were brought from town into the village to be built by local carpenters. It took a total of four trips and many hours of waiting and loading to get everything to the village. All the boards for the desks had to be planed and cut at a machine in town to be smooth. Also, the bags of cement you see me loading are 50kg (110 pounds), so it makes for a long day, even with help, when they have to be both loaded and unloaded. I hope the pictures will significantly supplement this update. Here is the Standard 5 classroom that is now being completed: Elliot loading bags of cement in town: Unloading the supplies at the Ulonge Primary School: The next two pictures are of desk construction in the village. Notice the OSHA approved footwear: The next two pictures are of the construction of rafters for the Standard 5 classroom at the Ulonge Primary School: Here is Abbas replacing the other tire at the Ulonge Primary School. To see photos of the other swing being replaced go here: Eliot attempting to fix a flat tire on his bike: Abbas and child:

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Update from Elliot

Elliot has spent long hours working to accomplish several goals for Project Kesho. Elliot is continuing to gather information about our target communities so that Project Kesho can understand the complex nature of these communities' needs and struggles, and the strengths present in these communities. He is also working hard to improve both the Lundamatwe and Ulonge Primary Schools before the start of the new school year in January. The improvements include more desks, more textbooks, improved uniforms, a new classroom at Ulonge and working to improve the village heath clinic to better meet the needs of the school children and the other villagers. Not only does this work require Elliot to arranage the purchase, transport and construction of materials, but it also requires Elliot to act as the liaison between the various stakeholders. To secure the funding for the new classroom, Elliot road his motorcycle (with Abbas valiantly riding along) all over the district to meet with various district and village level officials to make sure the new classroom would be ready in January. Here is a write up from Elliot with some pictures:
Information Gathering: Since my return from Dar es Salaam in the second week of September, after Ian departed, my job has been to collect data on several different aspects of the community. I initially didn’t expect this to take as long as it did, but everything seems to take longer here in Tanzania. Abbas and I have been completing interviews in the village: Abbas has been doing the interviewing and I have been driving us to some of the far away areas in the village, some up of which are up very bad and sandy roads as much as 8km (5miles) from the school. There are even children who have to walk the 8km each way to school. We have also had two meetings in the town of Kilolo, where the district headquarters are located. We met to talk with leaders of the education department about our work and funding issues between one of the schools and the district. We collected different data on resources the schools had, such as books, and collected data on the different water sources in the village. Projects at the Schools and in the Community: We have started several different projects at the school and in the community. We purchased some basic supplies for the village dispensary (cotton, gauze, syringes/needles, pain medicine, heart medicine, and anti-fungal medicine), as you can see from the picture. We were not able to buy all of the supplies the doctor requested. He requested penicillin and a couple of other antibiotics that the village badly needs, which cost several hundred dollars. Although the dispensary was only opened in July, it is running out of supplies because the district dispensary has not funded it with supplies. Not to fault the district dispensary, but it has not been supplied by the main dispensary in Dar es Salaam. We also are working to improve the quality of the uniforms at the schools. All students are supposed to have an emblem painted on their shirt, although some could not afford it. So, we arranged to have someone stamp an emblem on every student’s shirt at both Ulonge Primary School and Lundamatwe School. We are also working to have student’s uniforms sewn, but it is taking more time because almost every student’s uniforms needs repairs. The final thing we are completing in the schools is the construction of desks by a village carpenter for the schools. Lundamatwe Primary School will receive fifty desks and Ulonge Primary School will receive forty desks.
The partially completed grade 5 classroom at Ulonge Primary School: Abbas exhausted after a long day of conducting interviews. Hard to know if it was all the walking that made him tired or Elliot's driving. Or he could be depressed because he is sitting on top of clean drinking water that is out of reach because there is no pump. Because there is no access to clean water the villagers are forced to gather water from sources such as this: Donated medical supplies to meet the basic needs of the health clinic: The following are two pictures Elliot took from near his apartment in Iringa:

East African News

Here are some links to current events in East Africa: Kenya will hold national elections this December. Peace may be coming to Northern Uganda. Fighting has raged between a rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan Government for nearly two decades, with civilians caught in the middle. The documentary Invisible Children shows the plight of thousands of children in Northern Uganda as the attempt to avoid being kidnapped and forced to become child soldiers or sex slaves. An article from the Seattle Times reports on the benefits of technology for the rural poor. The situation in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continues to deteriorate. The region has been unstable since the mid 1990's after many of the Hutu perpetrators of the Rwandan Genocide fled to the region to hide. Fighting between various Hutu and Tutsi groups have in turn destabilized the region. Fighting has intensified since the end of August and has caused about 200,000 internally displaced refugees with an additional 13,000 refugees fleeing to Uganda. For an in depth look go here. The US has recently stated that it will begin to train the DRC army. An article from the BBC about the non-governmental response to the violence and an overview of the issues.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Little Angels

Elliot and I had a good time going to Uganda. We met with the leaders of two private schools there. The schools could not be any different, while at the same time both attempting to improve their communities. Mityana Secondary School is run by a competent local government official who used to be a school teacher. The school has quite a bit of building infrastructure and has about 400 students who all pay a decent amount to attend his school. He hopes to one day run his school for a profit while at the same time providing a top quality education for a low fee. Unfortunately the school lacks textbooks and books for their library. I have been, and will continue to, work with another individual to secure outside grant funding for the books. The second school that we visited was a private primary school called Little Angels Primary School. The school is run by a local woman, who also used to be a school teacher. She stopped teaching school several years ago because she, correctly, identified her local community as not being able to deal with the growing number of AIDS orphans and others children who are not able to afford the cost of school. She runs the school out of her home and several adjacent buildings. There are about 20 orphans who board at her house, and there are about 200 students who attend the school on a daily basis. The school lacks pretty much everything, including school supplies, adequate infrastructure, a clean water source, their latrine is about to overflow, and the orphans that board with her have to eat millet porridge twice a day with some sugar cane for lunch. Uganda was on a school break when Elliot and I were there so the only kids that were at Little Angels were the orphans that were staying there. They were quite shocked to see us, but warmed up to us fast! They put on a little show to welcome us to their school: The classrooms at the school, which has about 200 kids that are enrolled, are small and are constructed of a hodge-podge of reeds, wood and aluminum, which is I was told is better than the large tree that were using, especially in the rainy season. The classrooms, however, are not water proof and many days during the rainy are cut short due to heavy rain. This is a shot of the room where the girls sleep: Both the boys and the girls that board at the school sleep 2-3 per bed. A couple of beds did not have mattresses, but rather old clothes that were laid out like mattresses, and none of the beds had bed nets, so malaria was a problem. Elliot and I were able to address those problems for the kids. Elliot and I also got a couple soccer balls for the students to use. Here are some pictures of the game Elliot played with the students from the school: A shot looking from the school back towards the town of Mityana, with their 'water source'(really just a stagnant pool of water) at the bottom of the ravine.

Update: Uganda Bus Riding

Here is some video of our bus ride to Uganda. Keep in mind that you drive on the left side of the road in Uganda. Also pay attention to the guy on the bike who somehow makes it out alive. This is how our driver drove after our first flat tire, but before our second, not that that slowed him down or anything. All the shaking is from the road, the camera was braced on the seat in front of me.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Update: Traveling to Uganda

Here are some pictures of when Elliot and I took his bike to Dar to catch the bus to Kampala: It started sleeting on us shortly after these pictures were taken.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ulonge Swing Set

One of the last things that Elliot and I did before heading North was to fix the swing set at the Ulonge school. The problem was that the U-bolt that the chain was attached to had worn out. So after purchasing a new U-bolt in town we figured the rest would be pretty easy. However, the first problem was getting up to the top of the swing set. After scrounging around we managed to find this ladder: It was mostly rotted but it did the trick, as I managed to claw my way to the top of the swing set. First I removed the old U-bolt... ...and then Elliot brought the tire... ...and after some grunting and groaning the new swing was in place. Then Elliot tried out the swing to make sure that everything worked out ok and that we wouldn't injure any kids. And finally my graceful dismount... Here are the kids playing on both swings:

Bike Trip to Ibofwe

Here are the videos from when Elliot, Abbas and I attempted to ride Elliot's bike up the steep ridge to the village of Ibofwe. The video doesn't show how steep the road really is, but it is quite steep. So steep that the bike was stalling out. After the bike continued to stall out, Elliot convinced Abbas to help him push it through the sandy part. The transcript is Elliot asking (in an exasperated tone) "Are you pushing?" Which is followed by my laughter. They eventually did manage to push the bike through the sandy part while I watched.

Neighborhood Kids

Here are some pictures of some of the kids that Elliot and I lived near once the rest of the group left and we moved into Iringa. We moved into a small apartment complex that had 5 apartments, plus a latrine and a cooking area with a courtyard in the middle surrounded by an exterior wall. Abbas lived in the apartment next to ours in the compound. These kids greeted us with great enthusiasm everyday as we returned home from being in the village. The little girl in the yellow is named Rosa and she also lived in our compound. The girl in the middle has on the goggles that we wear when we ride on the motorcycle, and that is her little brother in the picture as well(They live down the road from the apartment). It is a sign of respect for children to carry the belongings of an adult, which is why the children below are carrying our helmets into our apartment. It is of such importance that children do this that they would insist on carrying whatever we had, no matter how heavy, all the way to our door. As a result we needed to be careful how many bottles of water we purchased at the store so as to prevent the little children from developing hernias.