Another day in the office

I was in Uganda for a week before finally making it to our office in Gulu. We definitely took the long way around this time. It seemed like we saw every region before finally making it to the north. We have a lot going on right now!

I was so happy to see everybody at the office compound. The women were growing corn and sweet potatoes in the vegetable garden and it looked beautiful.

Some generous person from Disney sent around 35 awesome Disney backpacks for the kids. Although 35 is a lot, you still have to be strategic in giving them out. You can’t really take them to the schools, where there are hundreds of kids. So we decided to have a little party and invite the neighboring kids over. I ordered pizza and sodas from a place in town. None of them had EVER eaten pizza, except the girls who live in the office compound. I introduced them to it last year and it’s now one of their favorites. I also brought some of those extra-large bubble wands that the stores were selling around Easter. I knew the kids would love playing with big bubbles. Everybody came over around lunch and the kids were decked out in their Sunday best.

The kids ate, drank and played with the bubbles. Then we brought out the backpacks. These were not like any backpacks these kids had ever seen and no two were alike. Some rolled, others had hidden rain hoods, and many had a beautiful black Disney princess on them. Starting with the little ones, all the kids came up and picked out one. They had a blast. Then, to top it off, my friend Mary back in Los Angeles, sent a DVD player and DVDs. So we connected it up and everybody watched Disney movies the rest of the afternoon. So fun!!

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I had a busy week in Gulu. I spent the first part organizing reports for the Prime Minister’s office. Before I came, I compiled full reports for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). But when Jacob went to submit the reports, we learned that UNOCHA had left Gulu and now the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) was handling the coordination of all NGOs (along with the Ministry of Water and water offices, etc). I feel like there are a lot of coordination efforts in Uganda (which means writing a lot of reports) but overlapping of projects still occurs. Anyway, now the OPM wants the information reported in their formatting so I have to do the work all over again.

I brought a dozen packs of flower seeds from the US and planted them in front of the office with the girls. Then I unpacked a box of art supplies and spread them out on the office floor, with hopes of keeping the children occupied while I tried to finish the reports.

My bedroom is connected to the office so I worked late. The city eventually turned the power off and I ate my dinner to candlelight, eking out what bit of power was left in the computer before going to bed at 10PM. There was a serious storm overnight.

Next day was a Water and Sanitation sector meeting in Gulu that we were asked to attend. World Vision, UNICEF and other NGOs doing water were also there. The Ministry of Water had plans to do rehabilitations on broken wells and they were looking for a financial commitment from partnering NGOs. UNICEF was the first to speak up, offering a vehicle and fuel for one day. I offer the same, just in time. Then they began asking the others for cash money.

The entire team was slamming for the remainder of the week. We did follow-ups on completed projects in Gulu, met with school officials about some upcoming projects and prepared to hand over two sanitation systems. We sent Wilson to Kampala to pick up the solar pump and deliver it to Lira Secondary School. Katosi Women’s Group was doing assessments for their five projects in the south. We had five wells under construction in the Lango sub-region (having just finished 10 others, so there will be 15 total that we need to see over the next few weeks). The Loo Crew was finishing the toilet at Alela Modern Primary School and about to begin solar installation at Lira Secondary School. The team in western Uganda was finishing up the last of their drilling. Jacob was doing assessments in northern Uganda and I was preparing to leave for two weeks in South Sudan. Whew… that was exhausting.

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Author: Stacey Travis

Founder and Executive Director of Drop in the Bucket a water charity building water wells and sanitation systems at schools in Africa.

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