youdbesurprisedpc

“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you.” -Neil deGrasse Tyson


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AYINET Takes the Sustainable Development Goals to Barlonyo

Hello, and welcome back.

I’m about two weeks into work at the African Youth Initiative Network, or AYINET. My first weeks have been spent preparing for one date: September 25th. This date isn’t just a big day for AYINET, or even Uganda. It’s a big day for every country around the world. Because, on this day, the Sustainable Development Goals will be formally introduced and adopted by 193 countries. In this article, I’d like to tell you a bit about the SDGs, explain how AYINET will play a role in the post-2015 development agenda, and give a couple of options for how you can participate in such a historic cause.

What are the SDGs?

The Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the Global Goals, are a set of 17 targets dealing with international development from 2015-2030. Drafted and coördinated by the United Nations, these 17 goals can be separated into three broader targets: “end poverty, combat inequality, and tackle climate change.” Beyond these 17 goals, there are 169 targets that will allow the tracking of progress.

Has this ever been tried before?

Yes, it has. The SDGs are replacing the historic Millennium Development Goals, which expire in December of 2015. The MDGs were a set 8 goals that were enacted in 2000.

How did the MDGs pan out?

Though it will be years before we can actually determine the effects of the MDGs, you can see the latest report here. Overall, the MDGs have been viewed as a success, regardless of whether every country around the world realizes each of the goals. For instance, MDG Goal 1, which aimed at halving the poverty rate (living on $1.25 a day) by 2015. This target was met in 2008, largely due to progress in East Asia. The MDGs have also had numerous successes in Sub-Saharan Africa, although not quite on the level as other regions. Many development scholars argue this has more to do with the MDGs towering expectations more than the countries, but the criticism of the MDG/SDGs is for a later post.

Beyond the numbers, the Millennium Development Goals did something equally as important: they brought the issue of international development to the forefront of the international scene. Creating  an international development plan issued a consensus on what citizens of the developing world expected from their respective countries. Historically corrupt and violent governments were now being held (eh, partially) accountable by the international community and their own citizens. The pressure didn’t fall just on the governments of the least developed countries; developed countries were also challenged. The MDGs also reaffirmed a former target of economically advanced countries more than 30 years prior, when these countries were challenged to pledge 0.7% of their Gross National Product (GNP) to “Official Development Assistance.” Of these countries, only Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands currently meet the 0.7% mark (do you see a trend…?), while Finland and the United Arab Emirates have met the goal in years past. Every other economically advanced country has set a specific timetable to meet the target in the foreseeable future, except for Australia, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, and the United States.

This is the next fifteen years

Regardless of the criticism, the SDGs will save and improve millions of lives. As of Friday, governments, civil societies, and the development world will be stuck with the SDGs, and it is up to them to carry out the targets to help the most vulnerable populations and communities around the world.

How will AYINET be involved in the SDGs?

First and foremost, AYINET will be involved in supporting and implementing many of the goals. These include, but are not limited to: (1) No Poverty, (3) Good Health and Well-Being, (5) Gender Equality, (10) Reduced Inequalities, and most directly, (16) Peace and Justice. AYINET’s work over the next fifteen years will bring these goals to Uganda.

Secondly, AYINET has been selected to play an especially important role during the launch and lifetime of the SDGs. Victor Ochen, the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated executive director, will serve in two roles: SDG Ambassador to Africa and Goal 16 Peace and Justice Ambassador to the World.

As part of Victor and AYINET’s Ambassador role, we traveled today to Barlonyo, a village about 25 kilometers north of Lira. Barlonyo is a well-known site in northern Uganda, where an internally displaced person (IDP) camp functioned for Ugandans that had been affected by the ongoing civil war between the Ugandan People’s Defense Forces (the military) and the Lord’s Resistance Army. On February 21, 2004, LRA rebels attacked the camp at Barlonyo, massacring civilians and government forces. The official number of casualties is 121, though the amount is thought to be closer to 300. The attack was the largest of its sort in almost 10 years.

The gathering today, attended by thousands of Ugandans, is evidence of the progress made in northern Uganda since the atrocities of the LRA. I can think of three important ways in which this progress was demonstrated today.

1) Victor grew up in an IDP camp near Barlonyo. His story has come full circle as he visited the camp today as an Ambassador for Peace and Justice, even though he grew up in a region that was devoid of these.

2) Two Barlonyo-based organizations performed at the gathering: the Barlonyo Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) and Lango Former LRA Captives and Returnees Association (LALFRA). BVTI is a school that was created in memory of the massacre, and many of the students were abducted or directly affected by the LRA. Students are trained in agriculture, tailoring, bricklaying, carpentry, and automobile mechanics. LALFRA is a group that advocates on behalf of other captives and returnees.

3) The plight of Barlonyo, as a community, was acknowledged today. By AYINET, by Victor, by the United Nations, by the SDGs. More than 10 years later, the people of Barlonyo are trying to rebuild. Victor’s success is evidence to this community that the violence and chaos of the past can be transcended. Years later, he has established himself as a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Global Goals Ambassador, but the work doesn’t stop there. Victor, AYINET, and the Peace Corps will continue to play an integral role in repairing the community of Barlonyo, and countless communities like it all around Uganda (through newly introduced projects like this one).

Today, in Barlonyo, Victor raised the Goal 16 Peace and Justice flag and welcomed the Sustainable Development Goals. This means fifteen years of advocating for peace and justice all around Uganda.

What can you do?

Follow along

Be sure to keep up with the news tomorrow, when the SDGs will be announced and accepted in New York. Heads of state from all around the world will be at the United Nations to welcome the Global Goals.

Talk about it

Though the project of the Sustainable Development Goals is a tremendously important, international affair, it is not something that is widely known. The MDGs were not well-known to the general public, and the United Nations is trying to improve on notoriety with the new Global Goals campaign. Part of the SDGs success in the next fifteen years depends on its popularity.

$upport

Popularity often leads to support. Organizations around the world will be working towards these goals for the next 15 years (ahem, AYINET), and they need money to do so. Consider supporting an organization that you feel does good work. If you need help finding one, GiveWell is your one-stop-shop for what’s become known as effective altruism.

Work towards these goals, wherever you are

You might be working in a developing country where these problems are especially pertinent. But if you are in a developed country, that doesn’t mean these goals aren’t applicable. Though the United States is identified as a highly developed country, we still can drastically improve on all 17 goals, but especially with regards to poverty, education gender equality, sustainable consumption, climate change, and peace and justice. We have a long way to go.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to tune in tomorrow.

Reeve

The full Global Goals Poster

The full Global Goals Poster

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The Memorial

The Memorial

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Victor holding both Goal 16 flags

Victor holding both Goal 16 flags

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I had to do one

I had to do one

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“Peace Dance”

“Peace Dance”

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More dancing

More dancing

More dancing

More dancing

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Three Organizations and a Peace Corps Volunteer

Apwoyo dwogo!

Or welcome back.

My apologies on not posting recently— I’ve finally gotten some time to do a happy night, where you can get lots of data for very cheap from 12 am to 6 am. I wanted to give a full update on everything that has gone on since my last post. Plus I have tons of pictures to upload.

End of homestay in Lira

On Friday, July 24th, we took our final language test of pre-service training. The LPI is a one-on-one conversation with the language trainer, where we discuss a variety of topics in hopes of demonstrating proficiency in Lango by scoring an Intermediate Low. We didn’t learn the results until a couple of weeks later at Supervisor’s Workshop, but all seven of us passed! I ended up receiving Intermediate Mid— much to my surprise.

The following day, we had our homestay farewell. This was a large get-together featuring the seven trainees, our language trainers, our homestay families, Peace Corps representatives, and a couple local government officials. We started an hour and a half late, but the ceremony ended up being fairly quick and enjoyable. Somehow, I was nominated to give a thank you to the families in the local language, which was the opposite of what I wanted to be doing a day after taking an important test in that language. It went well, though. After the ceremony, we took about 230850134 pictures, and then ate a huge lunch. The trainees went out after for a much-needed celebratory drink at one of the bars in town.

The next day, we walked into town to Lira Town College, where we were putting a camp on for a group of high school students. These students had participated in projects with former PCVs in Lira, and we partnered with a PCV from Kitgum and her organization, Northern Uganda Hip-Hop Culture, to teach the students about health, agribusiness, leadership, and gender. The camp was a lot of fun, but we were all exhausted from the weekend.

FSV

Next on the schedule was Future Site Visit, where we go to our organizations for a couple of days to meet the staff, see the office, and learn more about the organization and our fit within it. My visit was complicated by the fact that I didn’t actually have a definite site. PAG Health Unit, the organization I was originally supposed to work for, had called Peace Corps a week earlier and explained that they were no longer able to take a volunteer. PC staff worked to find a new site and ended up deciding Boroboro Health Centre III, just outside Lira, would be a good fit. I was able to go and tour the clinic one day during FSV, but I mostly just hung around my homestay house and went into town. More to come on this craziness later in the post.

Tech Immersion

Technical Immersion comes next, where trainees head to different regions to stay with current volunteers and gain a better understanding of the activities of volunteers. Health trainees were split among four towns— Masindi, Mbale, Jinja, Mukono. The latter three are all relatively near one another, so trainees from those three locations spent a night in Jinja to debrief our homestay experience and prepare for tech immersion. It was a nice time to unwind and play some pool.

After the debrief, our group of six headed to Mbale, where we were staying in a hotel in town. The health tech immersion required each trainee to give an individual presentation to a group of locals. I presented to a group of youth on the cycle of malaria, detailing how malaria is spread from a mosquito to a person to another mosquito, and so on, as well as the ways to stop the cycle. Other teaching areas included HIV/AIDS, maternal health, WASH, self-esteem, and emotional health. On one of the days, we had a scavenger hunt among the trainees, who were split into three pairs and given seventeen different objectives that took us all over the town. The objectives were split between health outcomes, such as asking Ugandans about hand washing and malaria net use, and more fun goals, such as taking a selfie with a baby goat. Our week in Mbale came to an end, and we were off to Jinja again for another night, before heading to Kampala.

Swearing-In

There’s not too much to discuss concerning Supervisor’s Workshop. At this time, I was still planning to work in Boroboro. My supervisor and counterpart from the health centre were not able to make it, so the midwife, Dolly, came in their place. As you can tell by the foreshadowing, this was all in vain. It was still great to have all forty-five trainees back in one place.

FSV leads up to the big day, Swearing-In. On August 14th, all of the volunteers, supervisors and counterparts, and Peace Corps staff boarded buses for the U.S. Ambassador to Uganda’s house a little further into Kampala. It was a wonderful time. We heard speeches from trainees Miles, James, Katie, and Aruna, Loucine Hayes, our Country Director, Elioda Tumwesigye, Uganda’s Minster of Health (!), and the Ambassador, Scott DeLisi. Two language groups even performed dances from their regions.

Back in Lira

The next day after swearing-in, our language group was headed back to Lira in an overpacked matatu. We all had the weekend to shop for our houses before officially starting work on Monday. A problem remained, though: I didn’t have a house (and I still don’t, technically). The health centre was not able to find a house that didn’t need a large amount of renovation. So I stayed with Robert and Karina, who live in a compound together, sharing a wall. We waited a couple of days while Peace Corps and Boroboro worked on the housing. Unfortunately, they were not able to find a back-up, and we were on the hunt for another organization again.

After a few days of searching, PC found a worthy substitute: African Youth Initiative Network, or AYINET. Honestly, it was all worth it to end up working here. Based in Lira, AYINET seeks to help Ugandans recover from the physical, emotional, and economic violence that has taken place over the past decades due to war. They support citizens by providing medical care, implement peacebuilding efforts, and teaching about transitional justice, gender equality, community empowerment, and youth advocacy. AYINET mostly operates in Northern Uganda, where most of these atrocities have occurred, but they also work many other regions in Uganda.

http://www.africanyouthinitiative.org

http://www.enoughproject.org/content/victor-ochen

http://www.voanews.com/content/ugandas-victor-ochen-ayinet-are-joint-nominees-for-the-2015-nobel-preace-prize/2678740.html

As you can see from the third article, the organization and its executive director, Victor Ochen, have been nominated for the 2015 Nobel Prize. Wow. We’ll see what happens on October 9th, which happens to be Uganda’s independence day.

For now, I’m still living with fellow volunteers Robert and Karina, but I should be moving into my new home in the next few days.

I’ll write more about the aforementioned wars in future posts, but here are some resources in case you want to know more.

http://www.warchild.org.uk/issues/the-lords-resistance-army

https://www.hrw.org/news/2005/09/20/uganda-army-and-rebels-commit-atrocities-north

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/adf.htm

A few housekeeping notes

Once I get settled in with AYINET and my housing, I’m hoping to update this blog more often and begin getting a little deeper than simple updates of what I’ve been doing.

If you are interested in sending a care package, I now have a P.O. Box in Lira! Just shoot me an email or Facebook message, and I’ll give you the address.

Have a great day!

Reeve

Maybe one day

Maybe one day

Homestay farewell

Homestay farewell

Speech in Lango

Thank you speech in Lango

Thank you poem

Thank you poem

Pre

Pre

Post

Post

Pre

Pre

Post

Post

Ceaser Aaron, my homestay brother

Ceaser Aaron, my homestay brother

Pre

Pre

Post

Post

Celebratory drink

Celebratory drink

Camp the next day at Lira Town College

Putting on a camp the next day at Lira Town College

Playing Ugandan

Playing Ugandan “Life” for financial literacy

Message breakdances from Northern Uganda Hip Hop Culture - the rest speak for themselves

Message breakdances from Northern Uganda Hip Hop Culture – the rest speak for themselves

Breakdancing 4

Breakdancing 3

Breakdancing 2

Breakdancing 1

Mbale town

Mbale town

So close

So close

Mbale

Mbale

Mbale

Mbale

Mbale

Mbale

Molly's site

Molly’s site

Doing some gymnastics

Doing some gymnastics

Backflip

Backflip

Backflip

Backflip

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Miles teaching on mama kits and being prepared for birth

Miles teaching on mama kits and being prepared for birth

Teaching on the cycle of malaria

Teaching on the cycle of malaria

Teaching on the cycle of malaria

Teaching on the cycle of malaria

Akiiki playing computer knowledge jeopardy with aspiring nurses

Akiiki playing computer knowledge jeopardy with aspiring nurses

Best use for the Confederate Flag yet

Best use for the Confederate Flag yet (photo cred to Stephanie)

Pre-hike scenery

Pre-hike scenery

The crew and my mustache hiking up to a community center

The crew and my mustache hiking up to a community center

Scenery from the hike

Scenery from the hike

Scenery from the hike

Scenery from the hike

Scenery from the hike

Scenery from the hike

Scenery from the hike

Scenery from the hike

Teaching about self-esteem

Stephanie teaching on self-esteem

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Onlookers

Onlookers

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Becca teaching on emotional health

Becca teaching on emotional health

Teaching them how to roll down a hill

Teaching them how to roll down a hill

So many kids

So many kids

Katie teaching on WASH - building a hand-washing station called a Tippy-Tap

Katie teaching on WASH – building a hand-washing station called a Tippy-Tap

Mackenzie teaching on HIV/AIDS

Mackenzie teaching on HIV/AIDS

Scavenger hunt with Mackenzie

Scavenger hunt with Mackenzie

Scavenger hunt - talking to a security guard about hand washing. We had to bribe him with condoms we had bought as part of another step of the search

Scavenger hunt – talking to a security guard about hand washing. We had to bribe him to take a picture with us with condoms we had bought as part of another step of the search

Scavenger hunt

Scavenger hunt – we talked to her about birth plans

The aforementioned goat selfie

Scavenger hunt – the aforementioned goat selfie

Scavenger hunt - at Molly's homestay

Scavenger hunt – at Molly’s homestay

Tight fit

Tight fit

Biggest dog I've ever seen

Biggest dog I’ve ever seen

For pespective

For perspective

Bedroom in Jinja

Bedroom in Jinja

Ninja Take Two

Ninja Take Two

Nile

Nile River

Nile River

Nile River

Nile River

Nile River

Monkeys eating dates

Monkeys eating dates

Asking for more

Asking for more

R&R

R&R

Mama and baby

Mama and baby

Mama and baby

Mama and baby

Traditional dance from the north western region

Traditional dance from the north western region

Traditional dance from the western region

Traditional dance from the western region

Miles

Miles

Aruna

Aruna

Uganda's Minister of Health, Elioda Tumwesigye

Uganda’s Minister of Health, Elioda Tumwesigye

U.S. Ambassador to Uganda, Scott DeLisi

U.S. Ambassador to Uganda, Scott DeLisi

Loucine Hayes, our Country Director

Loucine Hayes, our Country Director

Health volunteers

Health volunteers

Charlie

Charlie

Akiiki, my hero

Akiiki, my hero

Bebe Cool (famous musician from Uganda) and the Ambassador

Bebe Cool (famous musician from Uganda) and the Ambassador

Ru

Ru

Crew love

Crew love

Market buddies

Market buddies

Basketball courts in Lira <3

Basketball courts in Lira ❤

Organization #3

Organization #3

View from AYINET balcony

View from AYINET balcony

AYINET

AYINET

Home for the next two years

Home for the next two years


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Homestaying in Lira

Welcome back!

I figured an update was necessary. Our group of trainees left Mukono at the end of June, and we are about two weeks into our homestays.

I’ll start with a quick point about contacting me, just in case you don’t make it to the end of the post. After a long bout with technology, I have finally gotten my phone unlocked. This means my iPhone now has a Ugandan carrier, and I can be more accessible if you want to talk. I have email and Facebook, so feel free to contact me through those. However, I’m mostly using WhatsApp since it takes up less data. If you want to talk on WhatsApp, shoot me an email or FB message so I can give you my new number.

So since I last posted, we finished up health (and agriculture) ‘boot camp.’ Throughout this time, the twenty-four health trainees were split into five groups. Our group of five presented to the other health trainees on HIV/AIDS, water and sanitation, and malaria. Our final presentation was on sexual and reproductive health, and we first conducted a community assessment by interviewing ten women at a nearby health center. Then we presented to the same women based on our findings from the assessment. It was really great practice for the next two years. This concluded our stay in Mukono. Our different language groups all packed up and departed for our homestay regions.

Lira has been great so far. We have language training from 8 until 4ish, Monday through Friday, and sometimes Saturday. We have seven PCTs in our group: Karina, Meredith, Anna, Robert, Pam, Rachael, and myself. Our language trainer is Steven, who has been a hoot so far. Lango, the language we are learning, has been both interesting and challenging. We are learning new things every day and constantly practicing, and it can sometimes be a little overwhelming. At the end of our homestay, we will take a test, know as LPI (language proficiency interview), which is basically just an individual conversation with Steven. Trainees are expected to score an intermediate low by the end of homestay, which isn’t really too hard.

My homestay family has also been wonderful so far. My dad is a lawyer (of course), and my mom owns a boutique in town. They have four children, but I’ve only met two: Aaron, who studies business at Makerere University in Kampala, and Junior, who teaches English in a neighboring district. Miriam, Katie, Clara, and Francis are cousins who also stay with us.

The family is very flexible with everything, especially food, and a lot of fun to be around. They often laugh at the ‘small’ portions that I eat, and ask me why I am fearing the particular food in question. Yes, sometimes I get smaller portions on some of the things I’m not as fond of, but I’ve been eating more at homestay than I have in a really long time. Lots of eggs, bananas, Irish potatoes and goat meat. It’s all really good.

We go to a nearby Pentecostal Assemblies of God (PAG) church. During the first service I attended, I had to get up and introduce myself, as well as dance in a group on stage. Not really my forte, but I had a lot of fun. I was also able to go to a wedding this past Saturday, which was a great cultural experience so early on in my time in Lira.

One of the best things about the church is the fact that it is right next to PAG Health Unit, the health centre where I’ll be working for the next two years. I’ve been able to walk around, and it looks really great. It’s pretty big and within easy walking distance of the main street. Pictures are attached. More to come on that after future site visit.

With regards to my schedule up to swearing-in, we move around Uganda a good bit. I’ll be in Lira at homestay until around July 26th. After that, we have what’s called future site visit, where we are able tour our organization and meet our counterpart and supervisor for the next two years. Next, we have a week-long technical immersion. We are split into different groups, and I’ll be in Mbale in the east. I’ll spend a day or two in Jinja between future site visit and tech immersion for a get-together with other groups. After tech immersion, we come back together as a cohort for supervisor’s workshop. And before you know it, we will be sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteers on August 13th.

Feel free to contact me through email/Facebook/WhatsApp! I miss everyone back home and would love to hear how you’re doing.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day,

Reeve

View from Mukono

View from Mukono


I always find the puppies

I always find the puppies

Puppy

And the kitties

And the kitties

Kitten

Lira

Lira


View from Sankofa Cafe

View from Sankofa Cafe


The big market that will be finished soon

The big market that will be finished soon


Markets

Markets


Another view from Sankofa

Another view from Sankofa


Food market

Food market


My homestay house

My homestay


Where I'll be working

Where I’ll be working for the next two years

PAG 2

Where I'll be working for the next two years

Where I’ll be working for the next two years


Where I'll be working for the next two years

Where I’ll be working for the next two years


My family's church

My family’s church


Uninterested in church

Uninterested in church


Sunset

Sunset


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The Site is Right

We received our site placements on Friday– these are the towns and organizations where we will be spending the next two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer. As a recap, there were 41 placements for around 24 Health trainees. We sent in our top three and bottom three, along with a couple of sentences on why we chose these.

I’m so excited to announce that I’ll be spending the next two years with PAG Health Unity Lira. Lira is considered being in Northern Uganda, though it seems pretty much right in the middle on a map. I’ll post more about the North as I get to know it, but most of what I know now revolves around the civil war started by the Lord’s Resistance Army, led by the infamous Joseph Kony. If you are worried, the LRA is no longer in Uganda.

As the fourth biggest town in Uganda, Lira is about a 5-6 hour drive to the capital city of Kampala. This is exactly what I wanted: an urban setting working with an organization that is larger and multi-faceted. The job description lists HIV/AIDS, nutrition, and maternal and child health education and outreaches as possible options, though I’ll learn more once I get to site in August.

Here are some helpful sites:

http://www.paghul.org

https://cotni.org/where-we-serve/uganda/lira-uganda

https://businesspartnershiphub.org/organizations/view/206/#overview

The final moment before site placements

The final moment before site placements

A close-up of the sign

A close-up of the sign

The celebration after

The celebration after

One Week Down, 100+ to Go

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Greetings again, and thanks to everyone who has signed up/followed/visited this site since I started it last week.

I know it’s been about a week since my initial post. I’ve finally gotten the opportunity to post one in-country. I’ll try to recap everything since we left staging in Philadelphia a week ago.

Our two-day staging was basically a pre-orientation to Peace Corps goals and expectations, cultural challenges we might face in country, and logistics for getting to Uganda safely. There were also many get–to-know-you games, or “ice breakers,” which happen to be my mortal enemy. I survived. Most stagings are one day, but we had an extended time due to Peace Corps Uganda’s participation in Let Girls Learn, a very cool White House (specifically Michelle) initiative dedicated to increasing girls’ access to education around the world. More to come on that later.

Tuesday morning, our group of forty-six hopped on two buses and made the trip to JFK, where our flight would be leaving for Brussels. Our entire trip from Philadelphia to the training site lasted around 36 hours— Philadelphia > New York > Brussels > Kigali, Rwanda > Entebbe > training site outside of Kampala. Exhausting.

Our training site has been great. We are in the Mukono district, which is a little east of the capital city of Kampala. It’s an agricultural compound that has lent its services to the Peace Corps and other organizations. I have a roommate, Aruna, who is originally from South Sudan and more recently Maine. All the guys are in the ‘Tokyo’ dorm, which has a twin bed and a mosquito net for each trainee. Hot water goes in and out, but ours has consistently been better than the girls’ dorms. There is electricity throughout the compound, though the WiFi has been messing up because there isn’t enough space to acquiesce forty-six Americans who just left home for two years. The biggest issue is the noise in the morning– whether its the choir of birds and insects or the man across the street who blasts a radio station so that the entire compound can hear it at 5:30.

So we’ve been in Pre-Service Training since Thursday. PST goes from 8-5 everyday. We are learning everything about serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uganda. Though 8-5 sounds awful (my parents would say welcome to the real world), we have tea breaks at 11:00 and 3:00 everyday (Uganda was colonized by the British), which breaks up the days nicely. PST has covered everything from Safety and Security, Medical, Monitoring and Evaluation, Project Frameworks, Uganglish, and many many others. We’ve also had a couple of activities during the night, including trivia and other activities. Last night, we watched God Loves Uganda, a very interesting documentary focusing on the role of Christian Evangelists and their role in supporting anti-homosexual attitudes in Uganda (I think it’s still on Netflix if you want to check it out). Each trainee has also had an opportunity to sit down one-on-one with both the Country Director and his/her Sector Programming Team.

On Sunday, we ventured into Kampala to get a sense of familiarity there and buy anything we needed. This was especially nice because I was able to order a large pizza and a coke at a restaurant and subsequently finish everything in about four minutes. We will be going back this weekend, and I have similar plans.

The pizza brings up the elephant in the room: food. I’m alive and well so far, but I suppose I’ve got around 110 weeks left until I return home for good. I’ve been surviving by eating some of what the compound cooks every day and supplementing with some Ritz crackers and granola bars I brought from home. More updates on if I expand my diet.

If you are wondering about weather, it has been lovely. I haven’t been checking the actual temperatures every day, but it’s been about 75-85F during the day, which is just pleasant coming from Mississippi/Alabama. There’s usually an afternoon shower that cools things down and only lasts ten minutes.

So I’ve made it through one week of training, what’s next? Well, tomorrow is the next big milestone. We receive our site placements for our two year service. Everyone is anxious to see where they are going and what language they will be speaking.

** A note on the process of site placement in Uganda. As a health volunteer, I was provided a list  of 41 sites to choose from. These descriptions listed the organization, what district it is in, whether it was urban or rural, what language is spoken, and some of the possible job duties available to a PCV placed at that location. About a week into PST, each trainee turns in an application that lists his/her top three choices and bottom three choices, along with a couple sentences on why these were presented. This is supposed to be a simple process that demonstrates our priorities. In trying to put forth the best possible six for myself, I ended up complicating the process and using some minor game theory to try and solve it. Oh well.

After learning of our site placements, we will continue with more cultural and sector training. Then, for most of July, we will travel to the regions where we were placed for Homestay with a local family. This will also be our opportunity to learn the local language and customs. After Homestay, we will come back to Mukono for more training before being sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteers some time in August.

So, in conclusion, I’m doing well. PST has been a really fun time, but I’m excited to finish and begin living and serving in the community. It will also be nice to shop for food on my own and try my hand at this thing they call cooking.

One more note about contacting me. I brought my iPhone, and Peace Corps has provided a burner phone that we can use. Both of these are basically inoperable at the moment (other than playing Solitare and Snake). I am waiting to learn what region I’ll be serving in before I commit to a sim card, provider, and overall technology plan. Once I learn my placement, I’ll be able to figure out the best system using the phones and get that done in Kampala over the weekend. More to come.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day.

Reeve

Nice view of Kampala

Nice view of Kampala

Another cool view of Kampala

Another cool view of Kampala

Our PST site in Mukono

Our PST site in Mukono

Our PST site in Mukono

Our PST site in Mukono

My bed/mosquito net

My bed/mosquito net

Learning how to wash clothes

Learning how to wash clothes

Cute little piglets on the way to breakfast

Cute little piglets on the way to breakfast

 


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The Twenty-Seven Months Starts Now

Well hello! Whether you are family, a friend, or just generally interested in Uganda or the Peace Corps, you’ve stumbled upon my blog. I’ll be spending the next twenty-seven months in Uganda as a community health volunteer, and I’m hoping to use this space to update anyone who is interested on my time in Uganda.

I’ve spent the past two days in Philadelphia participating in Staging, which is like a pre-orientation before our actual 10-week training in Uganda. This allows our cohort of around 46 trainees (we will become volunteers after PST) to get to know one another, our country of service, and the Goals and Expectations of the Peace Corps. Our staging was a little longer than most because Uganda is one of eleven countries where Peace Corps has partnered with the White House, and specifically the First Lady Michelle Obama, to implement the initiative, Let Girls Learn. We have the wonderful opportunity to use this project throughout our service to expand access to schools in Uganda, where education can help females increase nutrition, postpone marriage and pregnancy, improve career and salary opportunities, mitigate the prevalence of communicable diseases, and encourage better family planning and maternal health outcomes. More to come on that later.

Tomorrow will be the dreaded travel day. We pack our hopefully sub-50 pound bags and take a two and a half hour bus ride to JFK. We fly out around 6:00 in the evening for Brussels, where we will have a three hour layover before departing for Entebbe, Uganda.

The next ten or so weeks will be Pre-Service Training, where we will have safety, language, and sector training, along with a homestay mixed in there somewhere. This is also the time in which we will provide the Peace Corps with our preferences for sites and subsequently receive our own site/organization/project for the following two years. These upcoming weeks will be very intensive, and I’m not sure how much availability there will be with text/email/Facebook/blog. So, if I don’t respond or don’t post, please do not think I’ve forgotten about you. I’ll probably be in class, sleeping, reading, or loading my food with seasoning and missing Pizza Hut.

Thank you for reading, and if you want to follow along on this adventure, look to the right side of the screen where you can follow by inserting your email address. You will be updated every time I post through an email.