It rained yesterday in Dunga, Kenya...the first time in two months. The 45-minute shower came as 200 Dunga Orphanage School students were entertaining us with songs and dancing. The showers settled the dust in the schoolyard (a place where they play barefoot soccer/football amidst rocks that range in size of marbles to basketballs) and caused great celebration among the people of this community.
Our days since arriving in this small fishing village have been busy -- yesterday, beginning at 7 am, we were given a tour by one of the community leaders, then several meetings with key officials including the medical officer in Fight for the Children's health clinic, then back to the school to observe their lunchtime (a bowl of rice and beans...for many, their only meal for the day), more meetings, and then a formal meeting with the community leaders that lasted until 7:30 pm. I was impressed with the way the group of leaders dealt with challenging issues including the way they showed great respect for differences of opinion.
Today we have taken a tut-tut (a type of taxi with a motorcycle pulling an enclosed passenger space) to KIsumu, a city of 1 million. We considered doing a one-day safari but it doesn't look like it will work out...much more than our streamlined budget can afford. This afternoon we will visit the secondary school students who have received scholarships from fight for the children. Primary school is free in Kenya (and most of East Africa) but secondary school is expensive. We look forward to meeting with these Dunga orphanage school graduates and congratulating them are their fine work over the past term. Hopefully, we will take a small fishing boat (20 foot wooden sailboat) with a new friend to see the hippos at "hippo bay", just around the corner from the Dunga fishing pier.
Fishing is the primary economic engine for this village but because of lake conditions, few families are able to make enough to feed their children. Unemployment is high...you see its effects everywhere. The community, like many others around the lake, has realized the implications of poor environmental practices and has begun taking measures to protect their lake and its fish.
We didn't get to celebrate Halloween here but i can tell you that we had quite the adventure the other night, tracking down a cockroach the size of a small poodle in Callie's room. We hope that all of you had a fun and safe Halloween. We were thinking of you from the other size of the Atlantic. Peace to all ------ Bob
Tuesday, October 30
After an 8-hour bus ride from Nairobi to Kisumu, we have arrived in Dunga, the site of one of our clinics. This clinic is attached to the Dunga Orphanage School in a village of 4,000 people and 1600 orphans. We toured the school this morning and plan to return for the next few days to talk with the clinic officer, the headmaster the teachers and as many students as possible. All are learning English...it is their 3rd language! Their native tongue, Swahili and now English ... impressive.
The unemployment in this area is very high and the HIV percentage is also shocking. Most children receive only one meal per day -- a bowl of porridge -- and they get this at lunch at the school. The teachers seem dedicated but their pay is minimal. We will be taking many photos and some video here for future Fight for the Children presentations.
We are doing well...into our 5th week with maybe two more to go. Got to run. Will not be able to email tomorrow...maybe Thursday since there are not working computers in Dunga.
Friday, October 26
Today was our third and final day in Tanzania. Tomorrow, Callie and I will take a bus to Nairobi, Kenya. Arusha is the most important city in northern Tanzania -- it is in the shadows of Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Meru. Our views of these and surrounding mountains has been terrific.
Yesterday was simply outstanding...and unbelievable. Callie and I traveled north for 90 minutes into the land of the Maasai (also spelled Masai). As guests of the Maasai Women's Development Organization (MWEGO), we met with village elders in the small town of Longido. Later, they took us may miles from the town through the brush to their bomas -- bomas are the traditional Maasai encampments, usually one man, his wives and many children. We were told that no white person had ever been to these bomas.
After meeting with the elders, they showed us the new water project that brought water into their area -- a 5 km pipeline that brought spring water from near the top of Mt. Longido into the village and into a watering area for their cattle, goats and donkeys. According to them, this was a gift from the people of the United States. They took us inside one of their boma homes -- walls made of dung with a grass roof -- and it was clear why so many Maasai suffer from respiratory problems; within the home was an unventilated fire that made it difficult to breathe. Besides respiratory problems, these people suffer from malaria (they call them "the fevers"), problems with skin/eyes/ears, and parasitic worms. HIV/AIDS is not rampant here but it does exist. Developing a clinic here will be quite the challenge but it is desperately needed. Presently, these people walk for two days to reach any time of medical care.
One of the blessings that we received on our way to their bomas was driving next to giraffe, ostrich and antelope. We didn't get to see the elephant, zebra or hyena which also frequent this area.
Today, while in Arusha, we spent time with Dr. Tim Gallimore, an acquaintance of mine and a good friend of Dr. Kurt Jefferson from WC. Tim works for the United Nations in the Rwanda Genocide trials occuring in Arusha. He is the spokesperson for the prosecutors -- prior to this he was a journalism professor at the U of Missouri. Tim is on his way to the Hague tomorrow for meetings regarding this international tribunal. I talked with him about speaking at Westminster sometime this winter when he returns to Columbia for a few weeks...he was very open to the idea.
That's all for now. We continue to be healthy and excited about the remaining weeks of our visit to East Africa. Our next site visit is Dunga, Kenya where Fight for the Children has a clinic at the Dunga Orphanage School. Once that is completed...and perhaps a short one day visit to Masai Mara National Park...we will return to Uganda for a few days before we return to the U.S.
Peace to all, Bob
Wednesday, October 24
Hello from Arusha, Tanzania.
Flying over Lake Victoria and then the Serengetti was incredible in our twin-propeller plane as we made the trip from Kigali, Rwanda to Arusha, the main northeast city of Tanzania. Making it more impressive was the sight of Mt. Kilamajaro and other surrounding mountains that are not far from this city.
It was difficult leaving Rwanda -- we had been there for two weeks and really loved the people that hosted us along the way. Our goal of finding potential clinic sites was more than accomplished -- one is a new project for 600 street kids sponsored by the African Evangelistic Enterprises (AEE) group -- one of the real "movers" here in East Africa; the other is a children's HIV/AIDS project in Kibungo, home of Nancy McCue who lives in Fulton when she's not working for the Anglican Church of Rwanda. Both projects are innovative and could become pilots for other areas to copy.
For those of you who have read Mountains Beyond Mountains, the story of renegade doctor Paul Farmer, you will be interested to know that I visited the brand new Partners in Health hospital in Kirehe, Rwanda. There, I met Michael Rich, the director of the Rwanda PIH projects. If you haven't read this book or don't know anything about Dr. Paul Farmer, I encourage you to do so -- a real servant-leader in action.
We visit Longido, TZ tomorrow as guests of the Masai Women's Development Organization. They are interested in Fight for the Children partnering with them to develop a clinic in the center of this Masai region. This connection was made possible by WC's own Mark Hiza and his mother who works with USAID. Mrs. Hiza has worked closely with MWEGO and this part of Tanzania. Thanks to both of them for helping make this happen.
It is very hot and dry here...better put on my ball cap! Best to all, Bob
Sunday, October 21
How often does one enjoy a 4 hour church service? I went into this morning's special Anglican service with some apprehension but it turned out to be very special -- 1,000 people from all over the district came for the ordination of 6 priests. 30 or more priests, 6 choirs and van-fuls of family and friends were greeted by 8 drummers. The most memorable parts of the service were the joyous, energetic and moving songs from the choirs, the communion (for all 1,000...it took awhile!), and the ordination ritual itself.
We plan to wrap up our Rwanda part of this trip on Wednesday when we leave for Arusha, Tanzania. Our plans to visit a potential clinic site (and get some R&R) at Gisenyi, Rwanda were canceled due to fighting near the city. It sits on the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and has a sister city -- Goma -- just over the border. This is the town that was half buried sometime in the past decade by lava from the nearby volcano. We were told that we probably would be safe but the word "probably" was not the guarantee that I wanted to hear.
We hope to visit the genocide trials that are taking place in Arusha, TZ. These are the trials for the major offenders during the genocide. Most "trials" for genocide participants take place in the local communities in what are called "gacacas" in which community residents bring charges and evidence against perpetrators. If the perpetrator accepts full responsibiloity and admits his/her guilt, the penalty is far less than if s/he refuses to accept responsibility. I was fortunate the other night to have a long talk with one of this area's judges who told me about the process and why it has been so important for people in the community to be directlly involved in these open-air trials.
Before I sign-off, let me express my sadness about the resignation of President Lamkin. He has been a true servant-leader; one whom I have always respected and enjoyed working with. I wish the best for him and his family, and for the college which, I'm sure, will find its way through this challenging time. Peace, Bob
Friday, October 19
It's been a glorious morning here -- bright, cloudless skies and a very comfortable temperature. In this part of Rwanda the rainy season should be upon us but it has been very dry -- the locals are concerned about global warming, even those farmers (called cultivators) who live in remote areas.
Our work in this district has included visiting three potential clinic sites -- Kibungo (where we could partner with the local district hospital in a children's AIDS clinic; Gahima (a small village with a primary school of 1200 kids and a secondary school of 72); and Karama (the site of a church and school that was destroyed during the genocide. Meeting local elders and community leaders has been part of our work, making sure that we work with them on meeting their goals for the community. Everywhere we have gone, with one exception, we have been welcomed and strongly encouraged to work in their community.
The one exception was a hospital in Nyamata where the hospital superintendent was worried about the site being "private" and not part of the existing gov't system. Every other community feels like the gov't health system is overwhelmed and unable to meet the health care needs of its people.
We visited a children's ward in the local hospital yesterday and met a young woman with HIV who has passed the infection on to her newborn child. The medical options here -- given availability of medicine and technology -- are limited. The Chinese doctor (the hospital was founded by the Chinese gov't over 30 years ago) says that babies in this situation do not have a great chance of survival.
Other random thoughts:
The Rwandan hills are beautiful -- a patchwork quilt of gardens and pastures for their goats and cattle. Columns of smoke can be seen drifting through the valleys -- signs that people are clear cutting areas and making charcoal for their home use.
- Community sewage systems do not exist here...only pit toilets. Even in cities like Kampala, only 3% of the population use toilets connected to a waste system.
- The "refugee" situation is a big topic of conversation here. Many Rwandans who left the country before and during the genocide are returning to this country, sometimes by force. "Refugee" camps have been created by the borders for these people.
- Hot water -- not much of it here. We are lucky to get a hot shower once per week. The electricy often goes off...sometimes for a day or two at a time.
- Cell phones -- EVERYONE has one.
- Mosquito nets - a MUST for us every night but many families don't have any. Support the "nothing but nets" project led by Kiera Jarvis and the Student-athlete Advisory Committee"
That's all from here. Callie and I wish all of you well. Bob
Wednesday, October 17
It is early Wednesday morning in Kibungo, Rwanda where we are staying at the Anglican Guesthouse as guests of Fultonian Nancy McCue who is a missionary here. The past five days in Rwanda have been very special -- interesting site visits, the development of new relationships that should go beyond this trip, and acquiring a beter understanding and sensitivity to what happened before, during and after the genocide.
As I wrote before, we visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial -- a high tech and information-oriented experience that also was quite emotional....on Saturday we visited the Nyamata Genocide Memorial and it couldn't have been more different. It was the church where 10,000 Tutsi's were killed and not much had changed since the genocide. The bloodstains on the alter, the walls, and pews told the story in a very different way than the high tech screens in Kigali. The mass graves and the cellar that stored thousands of skulls, bones and the clothes that were worn that day have haunted me since I left. Seeing the machete and club damage on most skulls is not something that I will ever forget. The widow that gave us the tour --we were the only ones there that afternoon -- told us (through a translator) about what happened that day. Her sad eyes told much of the story.
The Rwandans frequently talk about the genocide and how it has changed them personally and as a nation. They have used it as a reminder of how communities must talk, celebrate and work out differences, and raise their children with loving values. There are signs everywhere that remind people that they are one nation, one people, and a community with one purpose. I have been impressed by Rwandans and their resolve to deal as positively as they can with the tragedy.
I'm off to meet the Bishop this morning and will try to post another message tomorrow.
Peace to all of you. Bob
Sunday, October 14
We are now in our second full day in Kigali, Rwanda, the capital city of 800,000. We visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial yesterday and, as usual, I'm lost for words to describe what we saw and the emotions that were triggered. The sight of the many mass graves containing hundreds of thousands of people killed during the genocide will stay with me always.
We will visit the Nyamata Genocide Memorial tomorrow after meeting with members of the Rwandan Partners staff to explore this community as a potential clinic site. Despite what happened in 1994, the Rwandans that we have met no longer see themselves as Hutu or Tutsi...just Rwandans who are deeply shocked and ashamed of what occurred in their country and in their communities.
This morning we attended a church service in a very poor area of town -- another experience that will stay with me for a long time. The singing and dancing was inspiring, as was the sermon about hope. This church takes care of 300 orphaned and street children.
I will write more later...the computer is about to shut down.
Take care, Bob
Thursday, October 11
Before we leave for Rwanda tomorrow, we took a little R&R at Lake Bunyoni just outside Kabale, Uganda where we have been for 5 days. It is a gorgeous lake with 29 magnificent islands. We canoed across the lake in a 17 foot dugout (eucalyptus tree) canoe with our guide, Stephen who is trying to make enough money to pay for his kids' school bills. Elementary is free but secondary is quite expensive, especially for these subsistence farmers (bananas, beans, sorghum).
As it turns out, we uncovered a potential site for a children's health clinic -- a school at the top of one of the "mountains" overlooking the lake has 600 kids but absolutely no health care even though 1/3 are HIV+. The kids have not received any vaccinations and have no place to go if they have a major illness. The Edrisa Project has built a preschool next to the primary school and would love to cooperate on a clinic. They have a website...check it out. It is a remarkable Ugandan run community development program.
Callie and I worked on the clinic in Kabale yesterday -- painting the floors and getting it ready for its opening in the near future. Two nurses have been hired but the doc has backed out....something pretty common (I hear) in this country due to the extreme shortage of doctors and their tendency to take more lucrative offers; however, I understand that they will stay at least one year once they show up.
Tomorrow, we are off to Rwanda where we will be hosted in Kigali by Rwanda Partners, a reconciliation program that would like for FFTC to establish a clinic in Nyamata, a historic area where a "concentration camp" for Tutsi's was developed during the genocide and where almost all prisoners were killed. We certainly will visit the memorial there as well as the Center for Champions program which works with street kids.
Take care, Bob
Sunday, October 7
We are in Kabale after a engine breakdown yesterday that put us in a small village for 6+ hours. It was a blessing in disguise for us (not Dr. Tumwine who had to pay the bill) because we were with the villagers for all that time, interacting as much as we could and just plain observing what was going on -- from the butcher who had goat and pig hanging from ropes so he could cut off pieces with his machete whenever someone wanted some, to the mothers taking care of their children while they cooked and did other household tasks, to children taking a mile+ walk with large jerry cans to fill them with water at the creek over the next hill.
Callie was terrific with the kids, teaching them and being taught different clapping "games". They gravitated to her immediately and kept her busy for the 6 hours. It was also interesting to watch mechanics take apart the car engine, replace the gasket below the pistons, and put it all back again. A major engine job with no electricity, no power instruments...nothing but basic and handmade tools. They say Ugandans are hard workers and ingenious...I saw both of these firsthand.
We couldn't drive to Kabale so we ended up sleeping in Masaka, then getting up early this morning and driving the rest of the way. It was to take 4 hours but James stopped several times because he recognized relatives along the way, including his aunt and sister. After a short visit with them, we took off again to Kabale through the Kabale province known for its beautiful mountains.
We arrived in the city of Kabale, site of our second clinic (to be opened in a few days), looked through and was impressed by the renovated four buildings, met the groundsman/security guard, and observed Dr Tumwine interview the clinic officer (nurse practitioner) who will be joined by one other nurse and a doctor.
We are staying at the Amaraga Guesthouse about 3 blocks from the clinic. It has Internet. We plan on staying here for a few days while we inventory equipment, paint the clinic floors, set up the clinic beds/desks/examining tables and help in any other way we can. We will also be finalizing plans for our journey to Rwanda which will take place at the end of this week (a guess).
My internet time is running out so I must go. Peace to all of you...thanks for the thoughts and prayers -- we feel them. Bob
Friday, October 5
After a day of touring the Mulago Hospital (for me) and rafting the Nile (for Callie), we were to travel to Kabale today to set up the new clinic; however, this will wait until tomorrow since it took longer than expected for the truck to be filled with clinic beds, furniture, equipment and supplies.
The visit to Mulago Hospital was memorable -- I can't find the words right now to express my reaction. Perhaps a combination of shock, sadness, guilt and appreciation for the attempts to save lives, even without technology and adequate facilities. Callie survived the Class 5 rapids on the Nile yesterday...she went with a good friend of hers from Jefferson City (Senator Carl Vogel's daughter, Kristen) who is here working for the HALO Foundation.
We have made some excellent contacts for Fight for the Children and hope to involve others as we network across East Africa.
Got to run. Bob
Thursday, October 4
Today is our second full day in Kampalla, the capital of Uganda. Yesterday, I met with Dr. James Tumwine at Mulago Hospital, the largest hospital in the country. He is partnering with Fight for the Children to build the clinic in Kabale, Uganda. After we interviewed a candidate for the pediatrician position at the Kabale clinic, he gave me a grand tour of this sprawling complex.
It is difficult to explain my reaction -- the technology is relatively primitive, the numbers of patients overwhelm the staff and the facilities would shock most westerners. However, the staff seem dedicated, hardworking and competent. The children's wards were particularly heartwrenching -- malaria, HIV and malnutrition are the leading diagnoses. Each child has family members sleeping on the floor next to them since family are to take care of all food and bedding. The lawns outside the wards are filled with family members washing clothes, sleeping and, in many cases, crying.
Tomorrow we head out for Kabale to help move beds and medical supplies into the new clinic that will open next week. We will drive with Dr. Tumwine and his wife, Lynette, who is a pathologist at the hospital. After a week there, Callie and I will go south into Rwanda where we will visit Fultonian Nancy McCue, as well as visit 5 potential clinic sites.
Time to run -- my internet cafe time is running out. Peace to all, Bob