After TASO, I took a walk with one of the participants to see the World Food Programme Storage facility - where tons and tons of food are stored in huge tents behind barbed wire - this is the distribution facility from which food aid is distributed to the camps. After seeing thousands of kids with swollen bellies in the camps, it's pretty surreal to know that there are enormous tents of food just five kilometers from their squalid camps. Conditions in the camps (as far as congestion) have improved since the last time I was in Gulu, but if you haven't been following the news, you should know that the peace talks are in limbo once again, as the LRA has demanded to move the talks from southern Sudan to either Kenya or South Africa for reasons of insecurity. This is another major setback.
I've spent a significant amount of time on the balcony of the Hotel Kakanyero, reading The Places Inbetween, by Rory Stewart - a Scot who walked across Afghanistan amidst the fall of the Taliban. Our last day in Gulu I visited Janet, a 19-yr-old Acholi massage therapist at a health club (highly recommended by Josh, our summit coordinator). My massage was an hour and a half (and the best I've ever had) and followed by a body scrub -- total cost? 15,000 USH, which is about $8. YES! I have to get in my little luxuries here and there.
- Promote the restoration of local culture and break dependence on foodaid by encouraging development of agribusiness tied to resettlement. By participating and sharing knowledge gained from agriculture-based training, youth will be prepared to lead the rebuilding of a peaceful northern Uganda.
- Facilitate increased access to capital and markets through expansion of microfinance to rural areas and improved transport and communication infrastructure. Integrate practical and entrepreneurial training into educational curriculum to develop a generation of job creators
The students are going home tomorrow, and I will miss them a lot - but I'm really looking forward to spending the next 10 days experiencing Uganda at a slower pace. Lots of students have been really sick this past week with the typical travelers stomach afflictions, and one participant seems to have malarial symptoms - we visited health services yesterday for a test, which came up negative. One student was robbed at an ATM in town and another student decided to spend the entire night out without informing us. I'm getting some seriously stressful leadership challenges, and now I know how my parents feel when they worry about me!
Also, Godwin Ortega, one of our Ugandan participants that lives in Namuwongo was robbed this weekend, losing all of his money, documents and possessions. Ortega is only 22 and takes care of his 3 sisters, one of which - Judith, age 7 - he's been bringing to spend the days with us. She's adorable and I've been spending lots of time with her teaching her how to use my camera and giving piggy back rides and tickle fests. I gave her the Hello Kitty purse from Auntie Paris, which she LOVES and carries around with her everywhere (she even wrote her name on the back and keeps a 100 shilling piece inside). The American participants have really bonded with Ortega and are contributing some funds to help him keep his sisters in school and get documents back. Once the students leave I'm going to take him to try and open a savings account and pick up some things - and we're taking Judith and some other girls from Namuwongo to spend the day at Munyonyo Speke Resort for swimming, slides and ice cream.
To my delight, Katie - my American co-leader, has decided to extend her stay and we'll be traveling together.