DAY TWENTY-SEVEN

DAY TWENTY-SEVEN

bomboUkcwomen

Corruption rears its ugly head in all parts of the world -often hiding behind a heavy veil of religion, spirituality and/or charitable organizations.  Donor mistrust and donor fatigue are not new challenges that face organizations working to share skills or to make a difference to the lives of those needing a hand up. Wealth, race, country of origin, tribe, sex, religion, opportunities … we are not given a choice at birth.  What motivates an individual to give and/ or receive.  When an individual decides to help another individual to see and to access the many doors and windows in the world -why do some individuals feel it is their right to place restrictions on who receives this opportunity and why do some individuals give not from their hearts but give based on their own personal agendas.  Be it love, passion, greed, jealousy, sense of entitlement  or survival that motivate these individuals  -I continue to see that education is vital to help change how our kids see the world.  They must see through the eyes of the informed and not only through the eyes of entitlement/poverty and other stereotypes perpetuated by the media.

Recently, I have had the pleasure of meeting corruption face to face not only in  Uganda but also in  Canada.   Corruption does not necessarily  lack wealth nor does it have  a race, country of origin, tribe, sex, religion or less opportunities in life.  Corruption comes in many forms and disguises and can often walk comfortably next to us.  When Corruption rears its ugly head, in the form of defamation, theft and blackmail, it hurts not only those targeted but the innocent and the vulnerable women and children we are working with. In military terms, the innocent lives lost are considered collateral damage and it is heart breaking to see how easy it is for some humans to sacrifice innocent lives, and lives of loved ones, for their own greater good.  Actions and in-actions … do not think for one second that no one is watching.

Truth is not always well received and it has been entertaining to see the intricate stories woven to silence me and to take me out of corruption’s picture.  I am not the first nor will I be the last, I am told by those who have out danced corruption, but I will not be silent.  I have been warned by friends that lives are lost at such chance encounters and I have always taken heed. With time – truth, integrity and strength always prevail. It is time. 

I am constantly reminded, in my line of work, that “all that glistens is not gold”* and sad that the weak often choose the cowardly dance steps of greed over friendship and growth.  Today – corruption chooses me as his unwilling dance partner. Fortunately, I am a quick learner and perhaps today -it will not be my toes that will be stepped on. Let the music begin.

 

(*Shakespeare)

 

Advertisements

DAY TWENTY-SIX

Image

Chris Brown and Beyonce

KAMBUGU and LETICIA  aka CHRIS BROWN and BEYONCE lovingly pet named by the children of Sosolya Undugu Dance Academy

Ok. For those who have been following my posts -you may have wondered what happened to the last 5 days of my 30.  For those looking at dates -you will be wondering what the heck happened to the year : )   Well… it certainly was not a boring year.  It was filled with great projects,  strong connections and the best kids ever to work with. Just to spice things up a bit – it was also a year that periodically threw me up into the air, spun me around and spat me out.  Thankfully, I always landed on my feet -back on track and a little disheveled with a little bit of “wtf just happened”  -but grateful that my rose tinted glasses got kicked off my face along the way. 😉

As I have mentioned before -the path I have chosen attracts both hearts and cons alike and that the best way to truly see what is on the ground – is to be on the ground.  Time and time again I am reminded that everyone can be anyone in the virtual world and everyone can be anyone -even when they are the ones walking the closest to you.

No one can really prepare you for what comes your way.  There were times when I found myself questioning my decision to travel this path  -disappointed at the many glass walls I found myself slamming into and surprised at the doors that banged shut.  Definitely all blessings and lessons in disguise.   Once in a while I do have to pick myself up by the collar but focusing on the kids that I am so fortunate to work with, and supported by strong individuals not motivated by spotlight nor greed, helps to keep me moving the most amazing projects forward.  Nothing like a little bit of weeding to move with the best.

It is always great to take a step back once in a while from both pain and pleasure to see things and myself from a different perspective.  To “see the forest from the trees” -so to speak – but never losing sight of the beautiful trees.  From where I am now looking -I can not help but be grateful that doors have shut behind those who were not meant to move with me.  “Sometimes a door must close for other doors to open,” I was told by two wise Ghana men, at a stopover in Amsterdam, en route home to Canada.  Yes.  A few doors have shut but many doors have opened, many more are opening and I feel I am still riding an incredible wave… and a song continues to play in my head, “look all around, there’s nothing but blues skies.”  ♥

DAY TWENTY-FIVE

DAY TWENTY-FIVE

Gayaza, Uganda

“Here Maylynn -You can drive,” Kato tells me a few moments after we pull away from a home full of beautiful memories and people. Kato doesn’t miss a beat -the sadness was overwhelming as I had to say goodbye to Jjajja, and the children she took care of, and he knew driving was a good way to get my mind quickly onto other things. Driving in Uganda was especially a distraction 🙂

Jjajja is grandmother in Luganda. It is not uncommon to see these strong women taking care of their grandchildren and children of other family members. Many of these children have lost their parents or have been left with them by women who have had affairs with their sons. What may initially seem as coldness, on the part of the mother who abandons her own child, quickly becomes understandable. If the mother is unable to take care of her child, for whatever reason, she knows instinctively that Jjajjas will treat her child as their own if not better than the angry wife of her lover.

“OK!” I laughed and jumped into the driver’s seat to take on Kato’s playful challenge. I welcomed the distraction and it wasn’t until a little while later, once my thoughts were no longer on what I was leaving and suddenly on where I was going and what I was actually doing, did i realize that my sadness had not gone unnoticed by Kato’s attentive nature.

Kato is my friend’s driver. Her husband insisted and even though my friend has mastered the roads -she still relies heavily on Kato’s skills. In Luganda, twin boys are always called Wasswa and Kato. Wasswa is the firstborn and Kato is the second-born. Kato knows how to maneuver through the Kampalan roads and he’s THE man you want by your side when it comes to shopping. He can bargain for the best deals if you need something and if the traffic cops stop us or parking attendants push for more money -I am always amazed at how smooth Kato is when it comes to getting us out of situations or bringing down the fees. “Kato has friends everywhere!” the young girls giggle as they tell me about their friend. “Everywhere you go -Kato is talking to someone.” So I started to pay attention and sure enough whenever we were ready to move onto our next destination our quiet Kato was always deep in conversation with someone.

For the most part Kato is quiet yet every morning he would smile and shake his head, laughing at me as I would race into the car, often juggling my breakfast with all that I needed for the day. Nothing gets past Kato and he is always laughing along with me when I race back to the car to secretly turn around potentially embarrassing moments -like shirts inside out or flip flops instead of sandals for important meetings.

Kato speaks Luganda, Kurwanda, French and English..oh and Swahili. Kato knows that I am determined to learn Swahili so every morning I am thrown new words and tested through the day as he throws on cool new Ugandan tunes to listen to and helps me remember my favourite artists. Kato loves music, he loves to play the guitar and takes care of his son and his father. He dreams of heading back to Rwanda to visit his mother. Till then – he would love to own his own car and run his own driving business. I know he will one day because he is a mover and a shaker. Within a week of suggesting that he should have business cards made to pass around -Kato proudly handed me a small pile of business cards!

KATO +256 776898469

My friend’s children love him and quickly as the days whip by and he tells us he will miss us – I realize we will miss him, too. Especially when we jump into our cars in Canada and no one is there to take care of us and to laugh along with us as we move through our crazy days.

Bet you’re wondering how I fared on the Kampalan roads? No Ugandans lost their lives that day and no boda bodes were ditched! Surprisingly not as stressful as the first time I got behind the wheel with my friend but the roads in Nansana were not as forgiving as the roads in Gayaza. I was pretty proud of myself that I made it through their roundabout without crashing into anyone but when Kato finally said he would take over -I did not fight him off. That was enough high for me for one day!

DAY TWENTY-FOUR

Image

DAY TWENTY FOUR

Kabalagala, Uganda

“Open up the window. trees dancing for you, birds singing for you, I told them to do so because I love you. Good morning : )” Life is hard for many … but I am faced daily with smiles, laughter and beautiful words such as this. Everyone moves effortlessly and happily over the uneven grounds of Kabalagala many barefoot and not looking down.

Poverty and sadness is the Africa our media has played over and over for us.. yet I do not see the sad faces. “Bye Muzungu!” “How are u Muzungu?” “Jambo!” I see them, I hear them ..they cover their mouths with their little hands and giggle with each other as they mimic my, “Jambo mukwano!” response. Beautiful welcoming eyes and smiles – they stop whatever they are doing to quickly run to the side of the road, waving hello, to catch my eye. I can not help but smile today. Children are resilient and resourceful… they only know what is in front of them. What we deem as dangerous in the western world is the norm for toddler and adult alike here in Uganda. We have been pampered because our standards of safety are so high and it takes a while for me to navigate through and around the large holes and fast moving boda bodas and vehicles without clenching my toes as vehicles whip by as I try to keep my focus on the ground at the same time. Many of these little ones maneuver effortlessly on their own walking at the edges of narrow roads and my African friends smile in disbelief as I tell them that our pets can not eat chicken bones and fish bones as their African pets can.

In both of our worlds, our children see the joy and wonder in everything around them. In our world, we have managed to loose that sense of appreciation as we are bombarded with what the media tells us what to have, what we should wear, how we should live, who we should love and what we should do without. The African world is now bombarded with western values that have been trojaned into their world via the world wide web and television and slowly we are getting to peek into their lives as our media slowly shows us that not every African lives in poverty and despair.

How different are we at the end of the day. Sadly, We need not look farther than our own backyard to see poverty and despair. Many of our First Nations people in Canada are living in what we deem as third world conditions. In both our worlds – we have pockets of incredible wealth. We point our fingers at ourselves for being a wasteful society but move up a notch in the economic ladder of Africa and I am taken aback when I see what food makes it to their garbage. How different are we at the end of the day when money is no object.

DAY TWENTY-THREE

Image

DAY TWENTY-THREE

Sosolya en route
Kabalagala, Uganda

“70 Children Rescued.” My friend reads the headlines out to me and shows me the article in the daily newspaper that exposes an NGO. “It’s people and NGOs like this who make things so hard for the rest of us trying to do our work on the ground,” she comments. I don’t miss the frustration mixed with sadness in her voice.

CBOs, NGOs and INGOs -community based, national non-governmental organizations and intergovernmental organizations. I am fairly new to this world of private organizations that support a cause but not new nor blame the skeptics who no longer want to reach into their pockets as yet another charitable organization is found to be corrupt. Truth somehow always prevails -so bought, bribed or built from the ground up… there are no short cuts for anyone at the end of the day.

We are not new to the questions of why we are doing what we are doing and assumptions that we are trying to save the world because of colonial guilt and/or feelings of first world superiority. It no longer comes as a surprise when yet another person voices their opinion that they believe we are arrogant enough to impose our beliefs and culture onto their people and children. We are no longer surprised by assumptions that many people still think that the lighter our skin colour the deeper our pockets -filled with quick-fix band-aid support and that in Canada and abroad -money “grows on trees”.  Coming from Trinidad and having friends from China, India, Jamaica, Ghana and even my Ugandan friends, who now live or study in Canada or abroad, face this assumption of wealth.

I find it amusing when I have to remind my African friends to hide me around corners when haling down a boda boda or a taxi or when they laugh and quickly bury me under hats and gear in buses when traffic police are seen up ahead. Most often than not -fees are raised no matter who’s colour is having to reach into their pockets to pay.

I know that every African friend who walks beside me has been changed a little as they have changed me. The little ones are surprised and question the difference in treatment. They are so cute when they then take on the role of my protector. My older friends smile and know that they must play this game of hide the muzungu and seek the ride, meal or item. I find I step back and play the supporting role by falling back or secretly passing money to my African friends to pay for my purchases -especially when prices are not openly displayed. Supermarkets and malls are not a problem but markets are. Sadly, I love markets -everything about markets. I am not angered by this treatment as I realize that we have endless years to tear through stereotypes on both our parts.

Why are we here? Why am I here? Yes -a cultural exchange program of photography workshops and micro businesses.. but why am I really here? For my friend, “You have lived in the other world – you know what reaching out is. I trust you more than someone who just wakes up and decides to save the world,” she is often told.

My friend is giving back. I, on the other hand, am not. However, I did not wake up suddenly and decide to save the world -I am not here to save Africa. I am not here to make myself feel better or superior because I am not able to do that in Canada. I am not here to become the next Ghandi or Mother Theresa. I am not selfless nor selfish and I am not stronger or happier than many of the lovely people I am meeting or working with here on the ground.

I am often sensitive and can be moved to tears from hurt, anger or happiness and sadly my sensitivity and compassion are mistaken, by some, as a weakness and assumptions are made that I am here to be protected. I am not here to be protected from the truth nor am I here to resolve world issues nor here to solve personal problems. My pockets are not deep and I am not a charity. Do not come to me with the intent to reach into my pocket and do not tell me how my pockets are the answer to your problems nor the reasons for your unhappiness. I am here for my children and I to see past the sadness and the poverty that our media throws at us and to see and share your beautiful traditions and culture starting with our friends  and, in turn, I hope that I can share the rich and diverse cultures we are so blessed with to have in Canada.  Together we can build tolerance and appreciation for our differences and our similarities.

Growing up in a working class  immigrant family  I was fortunate to have all that I needed but not all that I wanted.  Having lost my father at the age of eleven, I watched my mother raise seven children on her own.  My sister, Mary, was only twenty-three and at the time I didn’t realize that the older ones took on the difficult roles of both parent and sibling.   Looking back, I realize that not getting everything we wanted made us grateful for the little extras that did come around and made us aware that initiative and hard work paid off.   Am I giving back? Yes, I guess I am -To all of those special adults and siblings in my life who took the time to tell me that I could make a difference in the world if I believed I could. As a child, the most important thing was that they believed in me and I continue to keep their words close to me and share them with the children and youth I am so fortunate to work with.

This trip has opened my heart and closed it at the same time. I had begun to question my judgment of character and had begun to find it hard to trust as I found our line of work was a target for cons and hearts alike. I found that I had begun to doubt those that came close as I had judged a few people so poorly. Yet I look around at those who have been keeping pace with me and know that I have chosen wisely and will again.

I still try to shake the sadness I feel of lost closeness but realize that it is more important to see them as blessings in disguise and that I can no longer blindly trust those who seemingly wear their hearts on their sleeves. The string of cliches fill my head and rings true more so now than ever before. Necessary lessons as I move deeper into this line of work. As I move each project forward with those I trust implicitly and with those new hearts that join in -I realize that the lines between work and play have blurred once again.

DAY TWENTY-TWO

Image

DAY TWENTY-TWO

watching grass grow in Gaba, Uganda

Watching paint dry
Watching water boil
watching the grass grow.. all Canadian expressions used to describe maximum effort with minimum return. arg -I am watching the little dot go around and around on my laptop -telling me to be patient… I will be connected! I laugh as I see myself growing crazy with impatience : )

Mother Africa is teaching me patience… and reluctantly I sit back and distract myself by opening several other pages on a second search engine -Juggling all that along with sheer jealousy that my friend beside me is smiling (at my pain) and is moving fast and furiously on her laptop.

I look back at my screen … arg i am faced with more dots going around and around lol! ok… i surrender to the forced moments of rest. Yet I fail to stop my mind from quickly racing to all that I need and want to do before I leave. My days are numbered and my sadness to leave Uganda is softened by thoughts of seeing my children, kaia and wyatt. I smile as I remember Wyatt’s words on the day I left Toronto.  He saw the disappointment on my face as I had to keep taking things out of my suitcase at the airport that were tipping the scales past my limit.  “Don’t worry Mom – You will take it next time you go.”

Ok…. I convince my friend to take me to water and I will drink..…If I am to still my thoughts and my spirit let it be by one of my most favourite spots in kampala.

DAY TWENTY-ONE

Image

DAY TWENTY-ONE

Photography Workshop and Water Project
Kiwafu, Uganda 2012

Today KIDS CANADA takes our water project one step farther with the generous support of our friends at Tiva Water Kampala. Webale nyo/ thank you Daniel Ololia and Wilter Ololia for training our youth in marketing, sales, assembly and distribution.

2 hour classes for 3 days will ensure all purchases of Tiva biosand water filters, through fundraising not only from Kids Canada but from Kids Uganda themselves, will be assembled by our youth. The commission earned will help them with their school fees and business initiatives. Representatives from Sosolya Undugu Dance Academy, PTMOF, Great Valley Children’s Centre , Undugu Family Drummers and Step Up Uganda will be meeting with Daniel and his team leaders, Lilian and Charles, this morning.

Thank you Mark Quan for the inspiration and Sara Cohen for getting the project flying off the ground by recommending Daniel Ololia. Mark is already on the move with Daniel to get Tivas to the schools Mark volunteered with in Kenya July 2012. Webale nyo danx0x