This is my seventh trip to Uganda, and only one was really hot. Usually jeans are fine, and I wear a sweatshirt in the morning and evening. Not this time, at least so far. It’s hot and dry and there’s red dust everywhere. Just down the hill from Father’s House they are burning, and the house is filled with smoke. Stephen and Bosco are outside to make sure the fire doesn’t jump to the property, as one did last year on the other side of the house.
I had a good – and speedy! – day in Namuwongo today. One of the ladies, Isha (pronounced Eye-sha) led us around after we visited her house, and she knew all the faster ways to get to the other women’s homes. Consequently we were done an hour earlier than usual! This was great since it was so hot. Some of those rooms and houses were like ovens, too, my goodness. I don’t know how they take it.
We visited about eight women today. The first was Morette, since she has a little stand near Ray of Hope where she cooks and sells beans. I guess it’s technically a “restaurant”, but it’s one pot on a charcoal stove, homemade benches and a picnic-type table, and a tarp strung up for shade. But she gave a very generous helping and she had a half a dozen enjoying her food, so that was great.
Isha found us after this, so we went to her house next. Her kids (a 14 month old and a 4 year old) were fascinated by this mzungu in their house (that’s what they call white people — but most of the time they mean it nicely!) and both sat on my lap. A tad problematic since they don’t wear diapers… but no harm done! Isha has a stand similar to Florence, but she only sells food at night, starting at 6pm and going until about 10pm. We actually met her husband, which is amazing.
Next we visited Miriam. Miriam sells second-hand bras and shoes. She hawks the bras around to businesses and homes nearby, and then sells the shoes at the railroad tracks when she gets tired. I know her husband is a boda driver, and they must be doing pretty well. They’d just build a one-room house when I met her last year, and they’ve added a room, with an actual window, since.
Next we saw Joyce, a grandmother with 1 son still in primary and 4 grandchildren she cares for (their parents died of HIV/AIDS). Last May we gave her a grant for a little store, which her son was helping her with. She’s settled now, and has avocado and other veggies, lovely greens (called gobe’ and dodo, they’re delicious!), a huge sack of silverfish, and a nice safe interior to store her goods when she’s closed. She had a stall before, but her things were getting stolen, so now she’s doing better.
Rosemary was home on our second pass and is doing well. She is going from market to market hawking second-hand bras and other undergarments. She’s finding that she does better going to the markets, although she has to travel some each day. She had been at the Oweno market last year, but it burned down in April. I’m not sure if it’s been rebuild, but she seems to have decided that going to different ones each day is more profitable. She looks great, though. When I first met her a couple of years ago, she was really struggling with her ARVs, which she takes for HIV, and was exhausting herself by walking long distances hawking. Now she is doing less walking, and is on a different medication, so she’s doing great.
We met a new lady who has just started with Nawezakana named Fererri. Her husband has abandoned her and she was evicted from her place for not paying rent, so she and her children are currently living in a church. (Don’t picture your own church – this is a room with some rough wooden benches and a makeshift podium, and no glass in the windows.) Her 16 year old daughter was there doing laundry. The daughter had been working as a maid and was raped by someone in the home and is now pregnant. These cases are virtually impossible to prosecute, as the employer has money to pay bribes while the servants have no one to fight for them. It is, unfortunately, not at all uncommon. Anyway, we’re going to help her find a place to rent for 50,000 shillings and leave 3 months rent, and help her with some capital to start a business so by the time she needs to pay the rent, she can.
We saw several other ladies quite quickly. One likes to dig… Yep, she LIKES to DIG. Her daughter is at university studying micro-finance.
Finally, we got to Nulu’s stall, which is the farthest away we go. Her husband was working there (the second husband, a minor miracle!) but Nulu wasn’t there. She’s taken a job cleaning the community for the government, a dirty, nasty job that she seems to like. (She has got a ton of energy, that woman!) And her husband likes working the stall, which is amazing, since he’s been unemployed for probably 10 years, so I guess that’s working out for them. The husband texted her and she came running down the railroad tracks to meet us, so we did get to see her. Her stall is, as always, doing great. She’s on a super busy corner — we almost got run over by a half dozen bodas!
So that was the morning, and while it was very hot, we did get through quickly. Tomorrow we’ll visit some new ladies that I haven’t met yet, and go to a secondary school where some of our kids go. I’m not sure what I’ll do after — I guess I’ll see what time we’re done. There’s a place down at Quality that makes really good pizza…. hmmmm…