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baskets baskets
these are made out of plastic waste material. I saw them in a gift shop in Oregon. I wonder if any Ugandans have tried this craft?



Friends, take a look at this beautiful work that is being done in the COU Rakai home in Uganda. In a day and age where the environment is a dreadfully dismal topic, the effects of global climate change are beginning to be more obvious, and all we seem to do is complain about it -- CHILDREN OF UGANDA is stepping up to the plate!
They are working to become more sustainable, to be better guardians and farmers of their land, to protect the environment AND to teach others. Take a look at their new blog for some good stories.

News from Rakai

Well, sitting around in America is great, and I shouldn't pretend that I'm just "sitting around" because in fact I am quite busy... but I still wish I were doing the tons of work we did in Uganda. We've left http://sarahinafrica.blogspot.com/ and http://melodyinuganda.blogspot.com/ (very creative blog titles, we wonder in fact if we were trendsetters) doing good work there.

One of the sad facts of life in America is that I spend much too much time in un-real interaction, by which I mean email, facebook, and blogging rather than singing, dancing, and talking face-to-face with people. But last week on facebook I was overjoyed to receive a message from that same melodyinuganda giving me an update on something I dearly wanted to know.

In August, during the madness of our last few days in Uganda, we all traveled back from Rakai at different times to do different errands. Tim and Jillian visited a school for the deaf on their way back to Kampala; Cassie left early, escorting a group of children who were supposed to go to Kiwanga and a student whose home she wanted to visit; and I stayed at Sabina for another day to make a special visit.

A friend of mine, "Mercy," had been one of the singers in the music and dance group training in 2005. That was when I got to know her well. This year, when we visited her secondary school, I was extremely sorry to find that she wasn't there anymore. When asked, her classmates simply said "she is at home." I found out from the COU staff later that she had dropped out, pregnant.
So after many promises to escort me there, on my last day I finally made a schedule with Grace, our social worker, and he rode me on the back of his motorcycle to her home. We were happy to find her on the road as we drove up, because the first time he tried to visit her, her family lied and said she wasn't around.

"Mercy" was about six months pregnant then, huge, and busy helping her sister take care of her children. The two sisters live together in a small mini-village not too far from the main town Small children were running around everywhere, and a small group of men was loitering around with nothing much to do. Some of the people she introduced as relatives; others were just friends. None of the houses were particularly big, or nice, or clean.
We talked for a while. She was clearly embarrassed and shy, but after a while of awkwardness we picked up with friendly conversation. She spoke with passion on the topic of HIV testing, saying how she needed to be tested and she knew that everyone in her village would also want to know their status. I told her where she could be tested for free and encouraged her to have it done before the baby came. She said she would do it.
I left with a heavy heart knowing there was not very much I could do for Mercy. When I got to town I bought her a baby mosquito net and some diapers for when the baby arrives, and I left them with Sarah. Sarah was away from Rakai for a few weeks while the children were on holidays and training for the US performance tour, and she went back to Rakai two weeks ago with Melody.

Melody writes:
[Mercy] asked if Sarah would go with her to the clinic so that she could have some test results interpreted. We went along, and I didn’t really consider the weightiness of the moment as the man explained the codes for testing positive or negative for HIV. They don’t put the results in plain writing in case someone comes across your information booklet. As he showed us that the code on her chart meant she was HIV negative I almost started crying, realizing the huge implications of the news.

And I got this message via facebook -- she wanted me to know -- and all but had to stuff my sweater in my mouth to keep from waking the whole house up with my shout of joy!

"I'm still walking around with four million shillings in my pants..."

Quote by Tim. Took him a day to realize it... True story. Also, we found a 1.5 million envelope in Cassie's bag a few days before we left. And Talitha had a lot of fun entering illegible receipts on a spreadsheet.
this is...

We wanted to report to you, our donors, telling you what your money bought in Uganda. Thanks to you we had more than $10,000 to use for the children, and it went far. That is exclusive of the $1571 that bought Talitha's plane ticket. Here are the results, broken up by categories. The numbers are approximate, because of differing exchange rates throughout the time we were there, and a shortage of electronic records (we left a couple of piles of paper in Uganda and had to reconstruct them from memory.) But we promise, the office in Kampala kept us accountable, and all the receipts matched the money spent. And all pants pockets were emptied before we left.

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Shopping list -- further explained

Our shopping list may seem an odd one. In fact we had a lot of discussions and arguments over its contents. Some articles are clearly neccessities and show a monetary return to the organization: a mosquito net will prevent malaria and reduce medical costs. A textbook will enable students to succeed in school, keep them from repeating classes, and give them opportunities to win scholarships. These make sense. But we had to argue it out over whether or not to get our children sandals for casual attire, thermoses (to keep tea in), nightgowns, or powdered milk. We quickly nixed the requests for leather suitcases and badminton racquets and spent a little more time deciding to refuse the requests for sports shoes. They'll all do without the leather suitcases and continue to play football barefoot -- those were expensive items. But we did get nightgowns (in Owino, for a dollar each) and many students received sandals as well. There were eight students at a vocational institute who used to play football, but since they arrived at that school (which doesn't have a team) they've been bored -- so we bought a football for them to entertain themselves. Another set of eight students at a very high-quality secondary school wished they could look as "smart" i.e. tidy as the rest of the students there, so we bought them an iron to share.

As we purchased and gave these items, the following verse from Psalm 123 came to my mind over and over.

Have mercy on us, oh Lord, have mercy,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our souls have had more than their fill of the scorn of those who are at ease,
of the contempt of the proud.

One thing we can give to the students of COU, in some small measure, is the ability to hold their heads high and to be respected by their teachers and classmates.
-- Talitha