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Back from Uganda

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  • Bram Moolenaar
    After I returned from my trip to Uganda I had a big pile of mail waiting for me, both paper and electronic. I have now finished dealing with this. If you
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 29, 2005
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      After I returned from my trip to Uganda I had a big pile of mail waiting
      for me, both paper and electronic. I have now finished dealing with
      this. If you expected a reply from me but didn't get it, please send
      your message again. It might have been caught by the spam filter.

      Now about my trip, visiting Vim's charity project in Uganda. You can
      find my visit report online here, with pictures:

      http://iccf-holland.org/news.html (English)
      http://iccf-holland.org/newsn.html (Dutch)

      I'll include the English text below.

      We are currently looking for donations and sponsors to help the children
      that are finished at our school and want to continue at advanced level,
      university or a professional training. This costs much more, not only
      for the school but also because the children need to rent a room in the
      city and pay for their meals. This part of their education is very
      important, it turns them into skilled workers. So please consider
      helping them.

      If you are going to do your Christmas shopping at Amazon, use the links
      on this page: http://iccf-holland.org/click1.html
      It doesn't cost you anything and will help the children in Kibaale.


      Progress and complications

      In the past years Uganda has seen an economic growth of about 5% per
      year. This is very noticeable in the streets. You can see more vehicles
      driving around, new shops, and better dressed people. Kibaale now has a
      real petrol station! It is operated manually, since there is still no
      electricity, but it works. Now we don't have to drive to Rakai to get
      petrol and diesel.

      The Kibaale Childrens Centre has grown a little bit. There is one new
      block of classrooms and a big rainwater tank at the primary school is
      almost finished. This will provide clean water for the children. Water
      has always been a problem in this area; last year I reported the
      borehole was fitted with a filter to improve the water quality. It still
      works, but the amount of water is not enough for the 700 children at the

      Last year about a dozen of the children sponsored through ICCF Holland
      finished secondary school and are now doing advanced level, business
      school or another form of professional training. This means these
      children have to move from their simple house in Kibaale to "the big
      city" and find a place to live there. We need to pay for their housing,
      food, education, books, etc. Obviously that is quite expensive; and
      since they are far away from Kibaale and in many different places it's
      difficult to keep track of these children.

      The office at the project is currently struggling to manage this. Most
      of the issues can be solved with money, but we need to make sure it is
      used for the right purpose. There have been reports of a school where
      money went missing and a student that faked a letter. We need to verify
      the requests, which takes time and effort. I hope this won't result in
      some of the honest children being slowed down in their studies.

      I interviewed Namate Rose. She first studied in our school in Kibaale,
      continued at advanced level in Masaka and has now finished university in
      Jinja. She is confident that she did well and her exam results will be
      positive. That will make her a qualified secondary school teacher. It is
      very good to see one poor orphan that we helped become an educated
      person; I hope many will follow.

      Ssese Islands

      One of the children I wanted to visit is in an agricultural school on
      Ssese islands. Friends of Dave and Ruth Frith sponsor a couple of
      children there, and so we planned to combine work with pleasure: visit
      the children and have a day off at the nice islands. Well, it didn't
      work out as planned...

      We managed to get to the ferry landing site quite early, and noticed it
      was coming in. But instead of letting us aboard they brought in welding
      equipment and started to fix the ferry. At first they said it would take
      a couple of hours, but it turned out to be five! In the meantime a lot
      of vehicles arrived that all wanted to go to Ssese islands. When they
      finally started boarding it became a race to be the first on the ferry.
      This involved a lot of brutal driving, resulting in scratches and broken
      lights. We didn't want to risk damaging the vehicle and failed to get on
      board. Oh well, maybe next year.

      But the day wasn't finished yet. On our way back to Kibaale we found a
      huge python. Someone apparently killed it and left it stretched on the
      road (see the pictures page ). There was no way around it, I had to
      drive over it. After taking a couple of pictures we continued driving
      back to Kibaale and had two flat tires! Makes you wonder whether it was
      caused by driving over the snake. To make matters worse the vehicle had
      no spanner. Friendly Ugandans stopped to help us, even though it was
      already dark.

      Fortunately there was a second chance to make a trip. We went to lake
      Mburo national park for a weekend. I'm glad I could see some of the
      beautiful nature that Uganda has. Lake Mburo is the smallest park and
      the only one that has zebras. I enjoyed driving around and seeing many
      wild animals, including impala, buffalo, hippo and topi. No flat tires
      this time!


      Last year I failed to setup e-mail at the project, but I did learn from
      the experience, and this time I came prepared. I brought several phones,
      a special antenna and a bag with cables. Last year I found that with
      this antenna it is possible to get a good signal for a mobile phone. I
      had heard that the phone provider MTN had started to support GPRS, but I
      was not sure if it would work in Kibaale, so that was the first thing to
      try out. I visited an MTN service desk in Kampala before going down to
      Kibaale, and they entered settings in the Nokia 6310 that I brought. The
      first day in Kibaale I managed to make this phone work to connect my
      computer to the internet. Great!

      The cost is reasonable, 5 shillings per Kbyte. A big advantage is that a
      slow or failed connection will not make sending data more expensive. The
      disadvantage is that browsing the internet quickly costs a few thousand
      shillings (1500 shillings is a US dollar). Thus I had to find a way to
      do e-mail efficiently, avoiding webmail. This kept me busy for a few
      weeks, because several attempts failed. I finally figured out that MTN
      has a firewall that blocks many ports. Fortunately my friend Cor in
      Kampala could setup a simple POP/SMTP account for me on standard ports
      and that worked. Hopefully it keeps on working the coming year.

      This still isn't ideal, a flat-rate connection would be preferred.
      Therefore I also tried another system, called CDMA, but could not detect
      any signal in Kibaale. The progress in Uganda continues, hopefully a
      more cost effective solution will become available soon.


      At the project many of the usual activities continue. Arleen had
      restarted her work to improve the quality of teaching. She does teacher
      training and curriculum development. Trying the improve the quality of
      education is something that will never stop. The clinic was busy as
      always. I joined the nurses on a immunization trip. It continued until
      late, and we had to drive back in the dark.

      We worked hard to get the children make a Christmas card for their
      sponsor. It's quite a challenge to help them write a good letter. Each
      year I ask them to write in a way that the sponsor gets useful
      information. I was in the S1 classroom for this, and now know how hard
      it is to explain to these children in remote Kibaale how to write
      something that a person in Holland would like to read. The cultural
      difference is huge. They often end up writing a "thank you" note,
      instead of relating important things that happened in their family.

      Photos and text are quite limited in what they can show about what goes
      on at the project. I brought a video camera, interviewed several people,
      and filmed the children in the classrooms, on the playground and in
      their homes. The coming months I will edit the four hours of video into
      to a short documentary. People with sufficient bandwidth will be able to
      download it.


      The coming year the center will concentrate on quality improvement. That
      means we do not start new activities but do better at what we are
      currently doing. A problem is that this isn't popular with people making
      donations, as we will not be able to show a new building; but we do need
      to invest in better guidance for the older students, repair some of the
      buildings, continue teacher training, get more books for the library,
      etc. We are helping 700 children, and we will do our best to help them
      grow and become responsible adults.

      Bram Moolenaar

      hundred-and-one symptoms of being an internet addict:
      244. You use more than 20 passwords.

      /// Bram Moolenaar -- Bram@... -- http://www.Moolenaar.net \\\
      /// sponsor Vim, vote for features -- http://www.Vim.org/sponsor/ \\\
      \\\ download, build and distribute -- http://www.A-A-P.org ///
      \\\ help me help AIDS victims -- http://www.ICCF.nl ///
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