Day 10 - Saturday 15th July

Our Day 10 report for Saturday 15th July is written by Bryony.

Today we visited the Kabale Rotary group and they took us to four of their current projects that are scattered around the Kabale area. The first project they took us to was a secondary school called Muko High School, they had provided the school with two water tanks that collected the rain water and then provided the school with water that is safe for drinking and is used for showering, washing clothes and cooking. Walking around the school it was clear that this school wasn’t very well off and it needed the support the Rotary was giving them. Walking around you could see broken windows and missing doors but they still tried to show us the best parts of the school and exhibit only the parts of the school which were most western including the ten computers they shared between over six hundred pupils. After looking around the school we found that the school had several musical instruments, they had two cellos and a couple of violins. Richard and Thomas then gave an impromptu concert to any pupils that had come to greet us when we arrived; it was nice to be able to take a little bit of what we do at Humphry Davy to a school on the other side of the world.

The next project we visited was Hornby High School. This school had two parts, one was primary and the other was secondary. The special thing about this school were the VI groups they had at the school. VI stands for visually impaired and the school caters for children that are deaf or blind, however, they didn’t call the children blind as they felt this made them stand out and be labelled with something negative. Most of the children had been abandoned by their parents at the door of the school and for what? Being blind? Being deaf? In African culture it is seen as a punishment from God for having a child with a disability of any kind and most are dumped at orphanages or at boarding schools. But the number of children being reported with a disability is tiny when you look at the number we should be seeing within such a large population. Where are all the other children with disabilities? What happens to the children with Downs syndrome? Or to an autistic child? Do they get hidden away never to see the light of day?  The harsh reality of the situation is that having a weakness in a place that is already so hard to survive and thrive in doesn’t let you live very long but with schools like Hornby high school that is changing. Children who before would have been forgotten and discarded now have a chance to read and write. They have a chance to become something just like a child with perfect vision does. They have hope for a better tomorrow.

We next visited a government funded secondary school called Kigezi that also had an Interact Group and we got to meet them and see differences and similarities between our groups. However, for a Government school, this school was very well off and had everything and more that a private school does. It was clear that this school got more than its fair share of the government money or maybe that’s too cynical and they just manage their finances better? But does the fact the current President is a former student of this school have anything to do with it? The rotary paraded us through the school and showed us two water tanks that were built in 1989 and then couldn’t answer any questions about what they were currently doing to support the school. It made us a little suspicious and ask more questions. In this small corner of south-west Uganda, I am faced with a decision to make: are these people genuine and doing all they can to help, or do they sit in a room once a month eating and drinking while not really doing anything? Even as a young person I have the desire to help and to make a difference just like every other person on this trip, but we have all ended up with questions as to the effectiveness of the work that the Rotary Club is doing - I think we all want to know more precise detail. After what felt like hours of long, frankly boring speeches we finally got to interact with the other interactors but just before we could, several of the members of the Kabale Rotary Club had to leave for another event full of speech after speech. Doesn’t that defeat the objective of interact and rotary? We have come over 4000 miles and when we finally get to mix with young people just like us they leave? I love the way the people over here use dance and music to express a very warm welcome and the emotion of joy. I would have preferred it if we had done this sooner and then the Rotary Club members could have seen this interaction. All of us got to know each other by dancing and laughing in one big group, it doesn’t matter what colour your skin is or where you come from. We all are connected by one main objective: being able to help those in need. 

The last project we visited was a primary school this one was a private primary school and that in itself raised questions for me. Why would a private school need help from a charity organisation? What work could the rotary possibly be doing at this school? From what I can gather they aren’t doing a lot. The school itself was lovely and all the pupils were absolutely brilliant they all had nice uniform and shoes on their feet. It was nothing like the ACE primary schools we visited and you could clearly see that these children were healthy and well looked after. I am by no means saying that these pupils were as well off as a primary school pupil in the UK is but they all have a good chance of being able to progress to secondary school and maybe even university while some ACE pupils will not be so lucky. We were never made aware of why the rotary took us to that school and we weren’t shown any of the classrooms or dormitories but we were given a lovely welcome by all the students.

Personally, I am finding it difficult about who to trust and who not to. As overseas visitors, a lot of the time we are shown only the best parts of a school or organisation, and never shown where the real work needs to be done and that for me is something I find difficult to put up with. I came to Africa because I want to see what we can do to help and I want to see the bad parts as well as the good but. even when we do see something we can help with, the people we have to work with to get it done aren’t as honest as we would like. It is becoming increasingly obvious that we are treated completely different because we foreign and some of the people we have met like to think we can have the wool pulled over our eyes a little bit. The majority of people we have met have been amazing and I am loving every minute of being here but the way today went felt like we were openly being asked for money rather than being given the chance to meet like minded Interacters from another country. Is there a more effective way for support groups such as Rotary in Africa to support less fortunate people? However, do we as westerners get to judge how honest someone is based on our social rules and expectations? Do we even have the right to be interfering in the affairs of how the Rotary here works? And if we do have that right how do we fix the problems we are seeing? Are these things just a little too far out of reach for us to help? Or do we have the power and strength to change the Africa we see in front of us today?