Thursday, November 12, 2009

Look at me, I am Good! (Part 2)

In the past few months several new people have joined the team living in the house here in Mbale. Among them, Joel and Brad really hit the ground running. Before they arrived, I had spent months talking about how we should organize a neighborhood trash pickup. Within a week, they had taken on the project and developed a far reaching framework bringing in the local government and community groups for a monthly neighborhood trash cleanup.

They worked through countless ludicrus frustrations, for example one meeting with the Mbale Industrial Division Municipal Council: They waited an hour before a single councilman showed up. After an hour and a half of waiting, they finally managed to get the meeting underway. Ten minutes later the group had reached a consensus: another planning meeting with the same group of people in 3 weeks- the day of the proposed trash cleanup they were meeting to plan. It took them weeks of no-show meetings and gallons of waragi, but eventually they got the project rolling with the personal backing of the Mayor, the Minister of Health, and the Chairman of the East Africa Corporate Club.

The big day rolled around; another cloudless, sunny day in Africa. Perfect for rooting around in other people’s refuse. The speaker truck with music and a PA showed up, so we were all set to get noticed. The neighborhood secondary school showed up in full force, so we had man power. The Rotarian doctor showed up, so we had surgical gloves. The mayor didn’t show up unfortunately, so we had a keynote timeslot with no key note speaker. MAPLE dance-off anyone? All in all it was a smashing success, and we are excited for next month when we will have a Coca-Cola sponsorship and TV/radio advertisements. Mwebaale nyo (thank you so much) Brad and Joel! Mujebaale (well done)!

(Trash is bad)

Building on the huge success of Brad and Joel, the rest of us are currently developing their own community projects:

Tree Farm
Our MUBS intern Denis and I have begun rallying the populace to start a community tree farm. So far, we have secured 7 acres of land in the village from our surrogate Father and MUWA member Mr. Mungoma. Recently we spent a day slogging through the mud and beating back bushes to check out the land. We verified that the land in fact does exist and is most definitely fertile.

(Trees are good)

We have grassroots support and a pool of free labor in the kids of MUWA members who will be home from boarding school for the holidays with nothing to do and a semester worth of chores to make up for. Next week we will be meeting with Denis’ dad who owns a commercial tree farm to absorb some knowledge. Soon we will begin talks with the powers-that-be in local and regional government and academia to get buy in from the top. The plan is to combine this program with a series of small trainings focusing on environmentally friendly entrepreneurship and sustainable cooking methods. With a little grit and determination, and a lot of the Ol’ Marple luck, hopefully we can build on the success of the trash cleanup.

The women of our house aren’t slacking either. They are hard at work organizing a Girls’ Empowerment Slumber Party. They have a date set with the lovely ladies of University Link Highschool, and are getting their nail polish all organized. Jokes aside, they are going to start a weekly session giving the girls some sort of “You are beautiful, you have a future” talks or something. I’m not really sure what they're actually doing, but I’m sure it will be cool.

(Hooray for feminism!)

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