Friday, June 22, 2007

Bad Beans

On Monday, we were just completing what we thought was another successful food distribution when things turned unexpectedly ugly. None of the babies who had been tested that day turned out to be HIV positive (hallelujah!) and the story of the feeding of the 5, 000 had been told - most hearing it for the first time - reminding us all of the God who loves us and whose resources are limitless. Following this, 130 women each received 20 kilos of beans, a 1/2 kilo bag of salt and a 5 liter jug of oil, but just as we gave out the last ration of food, Scott and I were almost mobbed by 40 disgruntled and unhappy recipients. It turns out they had received beans that had been left over from one of our previous distributions in March and the beans had become "old". In comparing their beans with those who got fresh, newer beans, they were angry with us. The old beans would take longer to cook - one woman even demanded that we give them charcoal - and would be less palatable. It was a very discouraging moment . We found ourselves suggesting that since the beans were a gift, they were free to refuse them.... and at first many of them walked away leaving their bags of beans on the floor. But in the end, the women relented and took them home, reluctantly. It was a lesson in the importance of equity in this culture whenever gifts are concerned and it was a lesson in humility for me. For though I may not know the difference between fresh beans and 3 month old beans, women who are farmers and who grow them in their own gardens certainly do and they are not to be underestimated.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Binyobwa Bisemeye Mu Bana!

Groundnuts are good food for children! We have started a new "Peanut Butter" Project, hoping to eventually create a high-protein nut paste for children in the decentralized nutrition programs. We also hope to promote this paste for children in general, to decrease the incidence of stunting (low height-for-age) in Bundibugyo.

We brought back 3 hand-powered nut grinders from America, and 2 Universal Nut Shellers, donated by the Full Belly Project ( Geofrey and I were trained on how to use the Nut Shellers in Iganga District (see pictures). This project is part of our vision to transition to using local foods to care for malnourished children.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Alice - one month later

On Sunday, I returned from a month away and had been back just over 24 hours when I was coming home from visiting friends and found that Alice was on her way to see me. She looked sadder than usual with her eyes large and heavy, and I soon learned why: her 3 month old, Kansime Edina, had died 2 weeks before. Though Edina was her 5th child, she was the 3rd child Alice has buried. What grief she must feel. She fought back tears as we talked through our translator, Pauline, who is an extension worker on the Matiti project. To make matters more complicated, as her baby's health had deteriorated, she had borrowed 70,000 Ugandan shillings (about $38) to pay for Edina's medicines and then ultimately used what was remaining for her funeral. Funerals are a big community event here. Since Alice personally didn't have this money, she used her goat as collateral and now she needed to re-pay the goatkeeper in order to get her goat back. I offered to cover the cost of getting her goat back, but until she is in a less "urban" situation, the goat, which was a gift from World Harvest's Mattiti project, will be returned and kept at the goat farm on the mission. Alice was less than pleased about this, but right now its really the only (and best) solution. She has nowhere to keep the goat and trying to care for it in the middle of overcrowded Nyahuka Trading Center, she risks losing it to sickness, death, or even theft. Then, though the baby has been buried, at the end of this month are the final funeral rites. This is another community-wide event where family and friends gather to pay their final respects, and involves feeding those who come. Understandly Alice wants to give her baby girl an honorable send-off from this world, but how brutal this seems. Not only is she grieving the loss of her third child, but she is struggling to find the money to bury her with dignity. I will assist her in doing so ( by providing a gift in the way of cash), but was reminded by Donato, my Ugandan colleague, that there are others in our Kwejuna Project just as needy as she is. Oh, for the wisdom to know how to best help these needy and vulnerable ones....