Over the past two weeks I have written about my travels in East Africa last year and what poverty in Africa is really like and shared the views of folk I work with on the ground. In the last thread I wrote about the folk in Ruhanga and the search for clean water
Leaving Ruhanga behind I headed to Kampala the capital city of Uganda and I reflected on a statistic, I had read in that days’ paper
it said “the gap between the rich and the poor has widened in Uganda and life expectancy has dropped to 43 due to HIV and AIDS
If that is the case where is the country headed I wondered and being 43 myself (at the time) that means I am considered very old here whilst the UK where I live I potentially have another 30 or 40 years of life ahead of me!
Once in Kampala I called in on the Mbuya Charity who are based in the slums of Kampala and support women affected by HIV and AIDS.
Mbuya is a suburb of Kampala and on the face of it is pretty affluent, it is home to some in the expat community, local celebrities as well the rich of Uganda. But dig deep and you come across appalling slums especially with an area referred to as zone 6.
The Chair person of Mbuya charity Jolly Wako lives in zone 7 this too has pockets of slums especially where Jolly lives incredibly her house borders a trendy bar is separated by a fence ironically called Zone 7, this bar belongs to a local celebrity and his brothers.
Jolly’s husband died in a motor accident and she has had to bring up their children single handily and against all odds 2 have made it to University and she expects the third to follow suit.
I came across this charity through an online registry calling itself Uganda Women’s network. As it was not possible for me to visit in person a company representative went to check them out and reassured me that this is a group that we could work with
I am therefore here to meet the group for the very first time and learn about their work, hopes and fears, successes and challenges. When arrive Jolly is at home alone and explains that this being a Wednesday it is a day for outreach work and as such most of the women are out in the field.
I ask what is involved in the outreach work.
Jolly: most of the 120 women are HIV positive and are on medication as well as receiving counselling. The out reach workers ensure that the women take their medication correctly, are well fed as well as encouraging slum dwellers to go for HIV tests.
The group aims are to encourage peer support especially as regards to income generating activities. Jolly informs me that they have no support from anyone.
I ask her what sort of support/help the group is looking for?
Jolly: our biggest challenge is lack of counselling skills! Most of the women we work with need a trained counsellor to help them come to terms with their diagnosis. We do our best but we are hardly qualified for the task at hand. It would be great if we could access such training so that we can do the much needed work.
We are grateful to our friends who are helping us access external markets with our handcrafts and beads. Are aware that as soon as people realised that we were making beads suing old calendars and magazines they started selling them to us?
No I wasn’t aware I was surprised but realised too how naïve I was. Of course old calendars and magazines are raw materials for Jolly and her group who require them in their business in order to produce beads for sale and quite rightly those that have this raw material would sale it to them as this is income for them too. This got me thinking about all the magazines and old calendars that are thrown away in the UK perhaps a subject for another article
Before I left Jolly, I put in a call to a contact of mine at the Saatchi and Saatchi branch of Kampala who agreed to give Jolly and her group the free paper they need for the beads.
He was surprised when I told him where I was calling from the owner of the trendy bar next door is his best friend but he had no knowledge of the poverty beyond the perimeter wall!
The contrast between the homes of the poor and the rich here is astounding. The rich people’s homes are set in large grounds with perimeter walls along with large dogs to keep the undesirables out. over the fence are rusty tin houses with no running water or inside toilets, the people in these slums share a communal latrine, (the two door shed in the above picture) children run around with shoes on their feet these are the very people that clean and scrub the homes of the rich they are grateful to have such work as it brings in a much needed income and they are fed
It is hard not to be overwhelmed by some of the things I see during the course of my work, but my visit to this Ugandan Charity pulled a few heart strings. As an individual there is very little I can do to change these women’s circumstnaces. What they asking for is simply someone to shae skills with them is that too much?
If you would like to help Jolly and the Mbuya charity please get in touch. If you have views or thoughts you would like to share regarding any of the issues raised here, it will be a pleasure to here from you