Tuesday, October 7, 2008


It's a beautiful Sunday morning in Kampala. The Ibis are swooping through the blue sky making their unique and very loud “ha-da-da” sound, monkeys frolicking in the parking lot outside my apartment and from my window, I can watch the steady stream of pedestrians that walk slowly by on their way to church, to visit family, to go to jobs. It is a quiet parade that never ends, day or night. Kampala is never “peaceful” exactly but there are times, like now, when there is a certain rhythm, comfortable and steady as a heartbeat.

Last week, BeadforLife welcomed its newest group of beaders to the fold. They chose the name Suubi for their group. It means hope. Never has a word fit a group of people better that this one. The day of their enrollment, an event that marks the end of successful training and the beginning of their 27-month program with BeadforLife, the new members put on a “fashion show” for the staff where they modeled their newly made bead creations. Of course there was paperwork to be done in the midst of the singing and dancing but it didn’t seem to detract from the overwhelming sense of joy and confidence that permeated the day. AIDS patients, widows, acid survivors, war refugees – each one with their own story of shattering pain and loss – on this day smiling and laughing and eager to begin this new chapter of their lives. How often do we get to witness this level of pure “suubi” and how humbling is it, in the midst of world-wide economic panic, to see people who want only to make enough money to feed and shelter their families? I do not for one minute forget what a lucky woman I am to be in the presence of such … I can’t find a word that nearly describes the depth of a day like that. I’m just grateful to have been a part of it.

Oh, and I also met the Vice President the other day. Someone from his office called and said they'd be picking me up to bring me over there at his request and, remembering the fiasco with the Prime Minister and not wanting this to be a repeat, I asked politely, "Now where are we going?" And the man replied (somewhat sarcastically, I thought), "We are going to the home and office of the Vice President of the Republic of Uganda." This time I was ready. I said (somewhat ironically, I thought), "That's what I thought you said." I'm getting better at this. Well, it turns out Vice President Bukenya wanted us to train some women from his village and he also had some "creative" ideas for new jewelry designs (you can't make this stuff up). So it was fun and very strange and I'm glad it wasn't Dick Cheney. Photo attached.

One last bit of news. I have written before about the little girl I saw at Sports Day with the terrible skin disfigurement. Her name is Patricia and we are now fast friends. She is attending school now and is about to enter the boarding section so her nutrition, health and general safety will improve greatly. I was surprised to see so many boarding schools here and learn that often the very poor find ways to send their children there. It makes sense when you consider the fact that a boarding school provides food, shelter, uniforms and supervision for children who may not get any of those things on a regular basis at home. Still, these schools do not match the image we have of boarding schools in the west. The buildings are often very old, the food simple, and the children usually have many chores they're expected to complete. Still, it is a good educational alternative for families who can find a way to make it happen and costs the equivalent of $160 per term - seriously. Patricia has blossomed since beginning pre-primary school. At nine years old, this is her first school experience and from what the headmaster tells me, she is making friends and having fun as well as learningvery quickly. I could even see a vast improvement in her skin condition the last time she came to visit the office about a week ago. There are photos of that visit at the end of this entry. I hope they convey her bright, loving spirit and her beautiful sense of "suubi."