Our legs have recovered from the hike (mostly), and we are back into the swing of things. We are rounding off our second week here, with just four more days in Shilongo, and seven days in Uganda. We will be leaving next Sunday at 10:00 pm from Entebbe, but don’t worry, you will hear from us before then!
Our mentor John McCalister, who spent the last week with us left on Saturday to return to his work in Massachusetts. We will miss him greatly this next week as he as been an asset to the team. With his engineering expertise and experience, we were able to gather some very important data, as well as envision the future of our project. We have been having very productive meetings and decisive discussions with the community, its leaders, and its individuals. Through this dialogue and development, we are in the final stages of honing in on the specifics of our project.
Friday we spent the morning in Mbale town, shopping for groceries- which included Matoke (plantains), cabbage, onions, Irish (potatoes), g-nuts, and Jack-Fruit, paying a visit to the FDNC office, spending some time at the Internet Café, and doing a materials assessment, looking at both availability and cost of materials that would be used for our implementation. It was a very successful trip, and we enjoyed the energy of being in town after being up in Nyondo and the mountains for a couple of days. In the afternoon, we ran (literally) around to the three major springs to collect water samples to do more water quality tests, then waited at the village meeting spot for a scheduled meeting with the village council. We were prompt, they were … not; but in the end we had a very good meeting. It was a busy, yet rewarding day. We returned to our house after the meeting and enjoyed the sunlight while we had it, because later that night we lost power- something we have become accustomed to.
Saturday was bitter sweet. We had to say goodbye to John as he departed for Entebbe, but only after he imparted some wisdom about land surveying to us. In the morning, before he left, John tailored our land surveying skills at Nabubolo spring. Later that afternoon we would try to survey Nashiloholo, only to be deterred by the pouring afternoon showers that we thought we could escape. We retired home early and compiled the last of the community health surveys and the new land surveying data. We were lucky to see an amazing African sunset over the horizon before dinner. It was quite a sight.
Sunday we woke early, and even though nobody works on Sunday in Uganda, we dedicated the morning to land surveying the two reaming springs, Nashiloholo and Muswena. They went quite well and we were able to avoid the rain this time. Later that afternoon we had our final official community meeting. We will still be around in the village for a few more days, but the best time for the community to meet is weekend afternoons.
We arrived for the meeting around 3:15 to find a group of people already gathered under the tree at Purunyende, the village center. We waited for a few more people to come, then began by introducing what we’ve been doing for the past 2 weeks, from water quality testing to the household interviews and land surveying. We proposed our four projects and heard the community’s input. The four proposed projects are as follows: storage at the borehole, storage at one of the three main springs, rainwater catchment, and development of a brick-production system as a source of jobs and better housing structures. After thorough discussion and community agreement, our project for implementation next year will focus on water storage at the community borehole. The community further expressed their gratitude and thanks in Lugusi, which was still a very powerful and beautiful speech. We concluded the meeting with overwhelming praises and handshakes as we headed back home. It is amazing how far appreciation goes.
We will be spending our final days in the community collecting last minute information and ensuring that communication lines stay open as we head back to the States. We will be leaving Mbale on Saturday, so we are doing our best to absorb every last bit of village culture before we leave.
Talk to you soon!
Here are a few pictures of recent events!