Monthly Archives: August 2013

Relating and Negotiating with our Kobulubulu Partners

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I had only met with these women for a couple of hours a year ago. Long before the first conversation with them via our future project liaison Anne had occurred. Now we would find out if our cumbersome communications were truly on the same wave length. First task: meet with their chosen executive committee, a group of women made up of their current chair, Beatrice; their founder and project director, Judith; their treasurer, Monica; their facilitator and last year’s chair, Proscovia; and our liaison Anne who would also serve as our translator.

KRMA leadership group: Judith, Proscovia, Lindsey(USPartners), Lois, Beatrice, and Monica

KRMA leadership group:
Judith, Proscovia, Lindsey(USPartners), Lois(USPartners), Beatrice, and Monica

After some sharing, we got down to business.  First we reviewed the budget, which this group had proposed and there were few questions. While I had hoped to go over the proposed Memorandum of Understanding, we quickly realized confusion existed around a core piece of the project design.  All were in complete agreement that a major portion of the revenues would be used to pay for educational expenses, especially for the girls. Our figures were incorrect however on those costs. While public education is available, by the time children reach secondary school level, the feelings are strong that to get an adequate education children must go to one of the private alternatives: Catholic or Anglican. This involved uniforms, textbooks, fees, transportation, and often boarding.  These costs are significant enough to use up all the revenues, and our contributors are committed to this project becoming self-sustaining within 5 years. That requires that a portion of the revenues be used for capital improvement.  For example, that instead of U.S. Partners paying for renting plows and oxen in Year 2, that a portion of Year 1’s revenues would go for the purchase of plows and oxen so that the women could actually go in to the rental business themselves by loaning out the use of their plow and oxen to other farmers in the area.

While the agreement we would sign the next day protects the use of revenues by the women to increase their responsibility for making capital improvements, it also encourages the support of girls’ educational expenses which is so important to KRMA and to us here at USPartners.

By the end of the meeting Lindsey and I realized we needed more than the week we were in the village to do all the work we believed would be most helpful. We had identified some areas which would need attending on our next trip.  However, we felt good about the talents and abilities of KRMA’s leadership team and were encouraged that we had begun the slow process of building an honest and open relationship with each other.

Lois, Pres. of USPartners holding hands in solidarity with Beatrice, Chair of KRMA

Lois, Pres. of USPartners holding hands in solidarity with Beatrice, Chair of KRMA, with our leaders

Next on our agenda: Attending the weekly KRMA savings and loan meeting for the entire KRMA group, and reviewing in two languages the Memorandum of Understanding — paragraph by paragraph.

Singing, Drumming and Dance Welcome Us to Kobulubulu

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Before we could see anything in the beams of our van’s headlights, we heard the women ululating in magnificent high trills which I cannot duplicate despite my best efforts.  Then there, right in front of us, the unembodied white flags waving in the darkness, and finally our vehicle’s high beams shone on women, dancing and waving, welcoming us, finally. We had arrived.

Ululations and waving flags

Our driver, unknown to me, knew the women had gathered in mid-afternoon, to prepare their welcome. They had practiced their dances and songs, and as the hours went by, may have wondered what their men and children would say when they didn’t return home before dark to prepare the evening meal.  But the 7 hour trip to the village from Kampala had lengthened into 10 due to unexpected car trouble and the compound was dark with just a sliver of silver light in the distance as the high beams on the van swept over the narrow path which served as the road at this point.

KRMA women dancing

KRMA women dancing

These jubilant women startled and awed me as I realized they were calling my name. The group I had met almost exactly a year ago were so solemn, weighed down by hardship and memories of a past that had come close to crippling this part of Uganda. Veronica had told me that the project had instilled hope; that my returning inspired expanded visions of a too predictable future. But I suppose I had dismissed her words as the kind of thing one says to a friend who has undertaken such an endeavor as this project represented. But here they were, singing, dancing, and welcoming me and my friend and colleague from the States, Lindsey.

Veronica’s compound had a generator which was used for a couple of hours each evening when she had visitors to her tribal home, and now the yard in front of the building where we would be housed allowed us to see these women whose names I did not yet know, but whose homes I would visit before completing this trip. Lindsey and I alternated between sitting in chairs provided for us, and joining the dancing. But dancing was not the only activity for this welcoming ceremony.

Songs of Welcome

Songs of Welcome

There were prayers of thanksgiving. A celebration of Veronica’s return to her home village from her work travels in Sudan and South Sudan. More dancing and song. And then the welcoming gifts.  Two lovely young goats were led out. One for me, and one for Lindsey.

The First of Many Gifts, Our Goats

The First of Many Gifts, Our Goats

There is an expected action in receiving gifts, to let the giver know you find the gift acceptable, that is, to touch the proffered gift.  Lindsey and I had no hesitation in stroking the beautiful animals. We both understood the value of all livestock in the lives of these women. We were honored. Overwhelmed really. And this was only the first night.

Lindsey, left, and Lois, right

Lindsey, left, and Lois, right, with Beatrice, KRMA chair

Greetings from Kampala, Uganda

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I am sitting at an internet cafe in Kampala.  Lindsey, my colleague, and I have returned to running water, electricity, and clean clothes!  I cannot write but a few words because the computer at the internet cafe requires more work than my brain can entertain just now.  We are safe. We are healthy. And we are very happy.  A very successful trip that i look forward to sharing with you day by entertaining day when I return on Tuesday.

Until then, thank you all for your support. For your caring. I carried you in my heart as we walked to each home of the 20 Kobulubulu women. We have been gifted by many chickens and goats, a few fresh eggs, and several baskets and woven mats.  When the two project supervisors received their new bicycles which we brought to them from Kampala, they were so delighted and commented that usually such a gift is called “my husband loves me.”  Their new bikes are being called “Lois loves me.”  Well, I do. And I am so delighted to have Lindsey with me.  The women gave her a grand welcome, and she has been such a help to me every step of the way!

I hope all of you are well.  Since I cannot upload photos and my phone does not work here so uploading from it is also not an option, I will sign off for now!

Gamboling Grace, aka Lois Helena Grace Stovall, President, KRMA-U.S. Partners