Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Update from the Field: Buvule

Upon arrival in our village (Buvule), we pulled up into a dirt drive in front of a modest-sized house with a small concrete porch.  We had been told that our house was one of the nicest houses of all the teams, and so far it has fit us fairly perfectly.  We have four decently sized bedrooms and a common area that we use for meals and meetings.  We also have a shower area attached to the back of the house, and a well-maintained pit latrine about 30 steps away from the back door.  Our landlord is polygamous and we are living on his compound.  Many neighborhood children hang out around our porch, and Ravi built a goal post in the side yard by the kitchen where we play soccer with the kids.  They love to ask us to “okuzana omupiira,” which means to play soccer, and are always looking for the soccer ball through the front door of the house.
                On our second morning in Buvule, we met our village’s VHTs (Volunteer Health Team).  There are five for each village, and ours are named Harriet, George, Alice, Godfrey, and Yakubu.  They have all proved to be very helpful to us so far, giving us tours of the village, helping us coordinate meetings with the community, and teaching us words in Lusoga.  However, they had some misunderstandings at first about UVP’s relationship to them at first, and one of them even said she expected to be given a stipend because she was working with white people.  It was difficult to tell them that we could not provide many of the things they expected (e.g. money and more t-shirts), but once we had a conversation with them, we became close partners.  We work with them almost every day and they have been extremely helpful, even though most of them do not speak much English, which makes it difficult for the internationals to understand them.
                Our daily routine in the village consists of waking up with the roosters as the sun is rising around 6:30, or if you are lucky enough to be a heavy sleeper, maybe 7:30 at the latest.  Then two people go to the bore hole with the bike and the jerry cans to fetch water, which is about a 15 minute walk each way.  Meanwhile, someone helps the cook prepare breakfast while another person washes the previous night’s dishes, and some people also take a bucket bath in the morning with whatever water has not been used from the previous day.  Then everyone comes together for breakfast.  We eat a lot of starch in our diet here, but chappati is the best.  It is a flat bread, kind of like Indian naan, and it is amazing!  After breakfast, we generally plan out our day and then take naps or do more chores.  We leave for whatever activity we are doing that day around 1:30, and then we are home by 5 so two more people can get water and everyone can shower and eat.  Then we hang out with the neighborhood kids or play games inside for a couple hours and head to bed by around 10:00.
                As far as our work goes, so far this week has been mostly about community needs assessment meetings.  We have been meeting with different groups of people to ask them what they view as their community’s strengths, and what needs to be improved.  Generally people do not really have an answer for strengths, but they also say that before anything else, they need better access to clean water.  We have heard this from every group of people, and have been told multiple times that even if people understand issues like malaria and hygiene, they need clean water in order to start to tackle health-related problems.  While I completely believe that water is the most important issue for them, it is frustrating that as an NGO that is funded almost completely by private donors, we do not have the resources to just start building wells all over the village.  It is hard to realize that the problems faced in Buvule can only begin to be solved if we can improve access to water, and improving access to water is too expensive to be a realistic short-term goal for our organization.  While UVP hopes to implement a shallow well in the village sometime in the next 3 years, it is hard to imagine a short-term plan that will be satisfying to a village that just desperately needs clean water.

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