This past week Pete and I had the privilege of traveling to Uganda to look at many of our water projects there. Because of the generosity of our Board we were able to fly the 40 minutes and not the overnight bus which takes about 14 hours. Liz stayed behind because she was heading to Australia, so there was a lot to do to organise two totally different trips.

Downtown Gulu

Downtown Gulu

Going to Uganda was great for us. It’s been a long 5 months adjusting to life in Kenya and as they say, a change is as good as a holiday.

A holiday it certainly wasn’t.

Our vehicle to get around Northern Uganda - much needed!

Our vehicle to get around Northern Uganda – much needed!

We traveled long hours with our driver Rodney, who had been kidnapped when he was a child by LRA soldiers. We got to meet his dad as we drove around Northern Uganda.

Uganda and Kenya are like chalk and cheese in many ways.

A deep bore well about an hours' drive from Kitgum

A deep bore well about an hours’ drive from Kitgum

The roads are way better in Uganda than in Kenya. However, Kenya is more developed economically. In Kenya you can get around $400 out of an ATM, in Uganda it’s only just over $100. Imagine when you have to pay everything in cash how many international bank fees you’re paying!

And Uganda is about 5 degrees warmer than where we live in Nairobi. One of those places that as soon as you’ve had a shower you are bathed in sweat again and ask yourself ‘Why did I bother?’

One of the many memorials around Northern Uganda

One of the many memorials around Northern Uganda

Alice from Pader stirring lunch for hundreds of girls

Alice from Pader stirring lunch for hundreds of girls

There was a real downside to going to Uganda and that was we had to rush from one place to another. Next time I would love to spend time just taking photos, especially of the Northern Ugandans. Of all the people I’ve seen in the world, I really love their faces. Their eyes are deep, they say everything just by looking at you. You see their pain, their history, their hopes.

Got to love the kids!

Got to love the kids!

For the first time we weren’t staying in $10 a night guest houses or hotels. Not that we went overboard but it was great to get a decent nights sleep without paperthin walls. Mind you, I told a friend up north that $80 was the most we were prepared to pay for a room, so he put us in a $15 place. It had no water or a door on the toilet, but it did have electricity, which was surprising.

Alice and I under the tree she started her work in Pader

Alice and I under the tree she started her work in Pader

We visited hospitals, schools, churches and remote communities. While I was there 18 months ago, it’s been 4 years for Pete, so he was really excited about visiting the friends we had made.

Pete and a mate at the school opening at Kituso

Pete and a mate at the school opening at Kituso

In Kampala at the opening of the water project

In Kampala at the opening of the water project

Seeing all of your hard work of organising water projects is a real highlight, but more so, meeting the people whose lives are changed forever. That’s why we are here in Africa, to change lives.

Uganda was great, but now it’s time to get back to work.

The Curse of Poverty

At the moment I’m reading two books. One is for prepping to go to Kenya, the other one is just for pleasure.
‘When Helping Hurts’ (Steve Corbett) is about how not to do missions. It’s aimed at the American Church, as if they’re the only ones doing something. It’s taken me about half way through the book before I didn’t want to throw it away.

If you’ve seen The Blindside then you should read ‘I beat the Odds’ (Michael Oher). The Blindside is on my top 10 movies to watch but the book gets inside the life of Michael which isn’t portrayed in the movie.

The thing about both of these books is that they look into poverty and how we think we should ‘fix it’. I’m not going to discuss that as much as what the curse of poverty does.
While we all go through times of not generating enough money, abstract poverty is way more than that.

Here’s some of my thoughts on it, and I look forward to your comments.

1. Poverty gives you no options.

Probably one of the few options it does give you is which child will go to school. Beyond that there isn’t much else to tell. Even though you know that fruit is better for your children, you can’t afford it so you buy something full of sugar. Coke is cheaper than water in Kenya. The quality of what you can buy is low, which actually means you spend more on replacing them. You are forced to work two jobs, leave your children unattended, and can’t ensure they’re actually going to school or doing their homework. If there is one meal a day, regardless of how hungry you are, there will be no more food.

2. Poverty does not allow you to create a future.

When you are stuck in the cycle of poverty, you cannot foresee a future because all you are worried about is surviving today. The thought of going to university or some form of training that will increase your chances of earning more are not even thought of. Your next meal or the next rent payment is all that can consume you.

3. Poverty is a cycle that goes around and around.

Just when you think you might get a break, something else happens to steal away an opportunity. When you’re in this cycle there is no option for saving for a rainy day, the present consumes all resources. For those whose income is derived from agriculture all it takes is for the rains not to come or be delayed for months. This may go on for years. A sick child may take all the money you have, and because in places like East Africa you must pay all before they are discharged, you have to borrow the money from other family members.

4. Poverty steals your dreams.

While you may want to follow a certain profession, the reality is you will never get there. Not an if, but or maybe, just a never. That’s because the education system culls students who don’t make the grade, or your parents have to pay a bribe to the teach to let you through. Even if you get qualified there aren’t enough positions. There are many taxi drivers across Africa who are qualified engineers. Unemployment rate in such countries is often 50% or more.

5. Poverty is a curse.

There is nothing good to come from poverty, there’s no upside to it. It keeps children from attending school, is a cause of death for unborn babies, creates an environment that encourages corruption and makes people desperate enough to do things that are morally wrong. There are desperate parents who watch their family members die off because they don’t have a way to get to the hospital nor the money for medication.

I am so looking forward to getting my hands into training young people to help them get themselves out of poverty. As Michael Oher states in his book, the odds even though they may be stacked against you, can be beaten.