How to make a friend in Uganda. business consultant, NGO worker, former Peace Corps volunteer, activist: searching for sustainable solutions to eradicate extreme poverty

June 18, 2011

when a teacher beats a child

Filed under: Peace Corps,Uganda — Jeff @ 1:05 am

Hearing a loud commotion behind me, I turned to see a teenager girl curled up on the floor. My eyes bulged and heat crept up my face as the teacher continued beating the child. I quickly told her to stop. Yet, not sure if she would, I walked over and grabbed the switch out of her hands; snapped it in half; and threw it out the door. Calmly as I could, I resumed my conversation.

June 7, 2011

the post in which I talk about actually doing something

Filed under: Peace Corps,Uganda — Jeff @ 12:16 pm

or alternatively titled: “I was not lazy today.” How do I know this? The (new) acting bank manager and loan officer told me so.

I wrote several months ago about designing a new front office for my organization. Guess what? It’s complete. The renovation provides members better access to staff, space for newly hired staffers to complete their work, and, most importantly, safer control of cash. Plus it allows tons of light into the office and greater freedom of movement. Throughout the task I have tried to make the new space as functional as possible. That was the goal. However, what’s wrong with gallons of bright blue paint to make it snap?

The project is one that I have been championing for such a long time that people are forgetting that it is my counterpart, Wycliffee, that first proposed it. After a lot of back-and-forth with the board, my budget was approved and I asked to manage the project with volunteer help rather than contracting it out. They acquiesced. Originally scheduled to take place over two weekends, my acting manager and I decided to just go for it and complete the work as quickly as possible.

On the first day, I worked with the staff to move all the furniture to the back office and boardroom so that they could continue serving customers during the week-long renovation. I then disassembled a few wood partition walls and the built in furniture. I was hoping to get at least one of the new partition walls built on that Friday but the first of my helpers arrived at around 3PM to rescue me from the frustration of sawing through dry 2X4s with a Western-style hand saw. After a bit of sight-seeing, Sinead and I travelled back to my place and cooked up some potato masala — a new variation to one of my favorite foods. We talked about her service in Ethiopia and the frustrations I am currently experiencing with my organization.

The next morning, we met Jesse and Tom — 2 current volunteers — at the community bank. They worked their asses off. In just two days we smashed out a brick wall and then repaired the damaged walls and floor with concrete. We also built a partition wall and reinstalled the teller desk and window. Staffers got involved pounding nails and cutting plywood. Two long, hard days of work. Yet, we ate well that weekend. Barbecued pork, pasta, french toast, and matoke were all on the menu. Shout out to the manager of our newest hotel! He serving us beer after each long day of work, even allowing us to take two or three for the road.

After the last of my visitors left Monday morning, I remained alone to finish some minor construction and paint out the entire office. Maybe, just maybe, I was starting to feel that I had taken on two much of this work myself. On day 5 of the project, I painted the walls with four or five coats of white but the yellow still peeked through! The next day I discovered my mistake: I was trying to cover an oil-based paint with a water-based paint. Props to the professional painter that stopped by to confirm my suspicion. One coat of oil-based paint and a few touchups and I was ready to paint the floor.

UPDATE [19/06/2011]: We’ve moved in even though there is still a bit of finish work and painting to be completed. Members and staff seem to be somewhat appreciative of the new space. +finishing this project has helped me gain more respect with the board; I am currently helping the new human resource committee to choose a new manager and loan officer.

[right click on any of the images in the gallery below to open full-size in a new tab.]

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