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Archive for July, 2009

The Margots arrive!

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Margot (Ssubi Director) and her family arrived in Uganda this morning and after a very short stop at their hotel were quickly whisked to a ceremony at Lilly Kindergarten and Primary School.  Last year Margot and Rick were our first volunteers to come and help build on site, they also donated solar lights to the schools Ssubi supports.
Unfortunately Rick is no long with us and today we paid tribute by inserting a plaque in his honor on the building he helped to construct. The children performed for us with traditional dances and Margot and family painted the plaque’s frame.  Tomorrow we head back up to Gulu to visit and help complete the Richard Theriault Memorial Library as well as the teacher accommodations.

Margot and family, Dusman looking very smart in suite with Phil’s mom and sister behind

Margot and family, Dusman looking very smart in suite with Phil’s mom and sister behind watching and listening to children welcoming us to their school.

Colin, a Ssubi sponsor child getting ready to play the drum.

Colin, a Ssubi sponsor child getting ready to play the drum.

Traditional dancing at Lilly School in Kampala during a memorial to Rick.

Traditional dancing at Lilly School in Kampala during a memorial to Rick.

Lane and Sydney painting frame on plaque

Lane and Sydney painting frame on plaque

Put down the guns, pick up the books

Friday, July 31st, 2009
Symbolic statue at round about in the middle of Gulu town

Symbolic statue at round about in the middle of Gulu town

This statue is a statement of peace with gun skeletons crossed laying on the ground at the base and a tower of books overtop.  No more war in Northern Uganda.

Things continue to progress but just to make absolutely sure we are ready on time, we hired a generator so the boys could work in the evening. In addition we are now preparing for the hand over the ceremony with the school administration. The hand over ceremony takes place on August 4th, only 4 more days to go.

Laying the library concrete floor in the dark with the help of a generator

Laying the library concrete floor in the dark with the help of a generator

The cook houses for the teachers houses are coming along, this picture was taken during plastering of the walls and framing of the roof.

The cook houses for the teachers houses are coming along, this picture was taken during plastering of the walls and framing of the roof.

Madame Openy and Teacher Patrick preparing kids for the handover ceremony

Madame Openy and Teacher Patrick preparing kids for the handover ceremony

We are looking forward to Margot and her family who are arriving today.


Talk talk and more talk

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

The last few days have been very busy for Phil and Dusman. Progress is good but the boys are on top of everything making sure things move efficiently.  It is difficult to fully describe their efforts unless you are here to witness.  They are either on the phone talking, talking with the engineers or Lela Obaro administration, ferrying goods to the site or working on the school. Dusman says people management has been immense for this project (too much talking) as we are working with two new engineers and teams from Gulu. The engineers are learning the Ssubi speed and quality mantra and Phil and Dusman have learned a lot about building structures.  Clay and I on the other hand are having a lovely time, wandering around site helping here and there and enjoying some of the local culture.

While on site we spotted a man burning grass, when we asked him what he was doing he showed us how to roast ground nuts fresh from the garden. He then picked a bunch up from the smoldering ashes and gave them to me, they were so hot I screamed and threw them way up into the air. They rained down like little hotcakes. After we stopped laughing and they cooled off, we sat around and enjoyed roasted G-nuts. We also enjoyed lunch on site, made by a mother who was nursing and caring for a 6 month old boy. She has a beautiful spot under a tree where she cooks lunch and dinner on an open fire for 30 workers.

The library windows were installed today and the teacher quarters are on finishing touches.
teacher quarters

teacher quarters

Before we left site today, we spotted a new friend.

A praying mantis checking us out while we take its picture. It was about 15 cm long.

A praying mantis checking us out while we take its picture. It was about 15 cm long.

Today we also met Beatrice (Ssubi sponosr child) and Evelyn (Caregiver of Beatrice) for dinner.  Evelyn has just completed her course work for a degree in developmental studies from University of Gulu and has been volunteering for NGO Forum. Her work is very hard to hear about, she recently just returned from interviewing survivors of the Pade massacre where rebels cooked and ate their victims. How do you heal from that and yet we do see healing around us from the trauma left behind from a 20 year civil war. Beatrice was being raised by her father, a successful man in Gulu, who had helped Evelyn by paying for her school fees. When Beatrice’s father died four year ago, Evelyn took Beatrice in, but being a student herself she found it difficult to pay school fees for her. The Ssubi Foundation pays Beatrices school fees.

On a happy note, we gave Beatrice a doll purchased by two very sweet Calgary girls; she loved it and has already named her Pretty.

Beatrice with her new doll, looking at a picture of her new friends from Calgary.

Beatrice with her new doll, looking at a picture of her new friends from Calgary.

A nice way to end the day, Good night. Tracy

Gotta respect those termite mounds

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Our last few days in Kampala focused on getting things ready for our
trip to Gulu. Oh and Phil’s sister got married in a spectacular
wedding that included a local artist singing live and fireworks- wow-
anyone looking for a wedding planner, here they have wedding
committees made up of family members and friends that meet once a week
for a very long time to ensure the event is pulled off and pull it off
they did.  Wow.

Anyway, as for Ssubi we also managed to pick up the text books and
readers we ordered from the publishers. There is quite a tedious cross
checking process to ensure we receive all the books we ordered that
took about 2 hours.

Tracy hard at work cross checking book order

Tracy hard at work cross checking book order

Dedicated to – fashionable Ssubi directors.

Dedicated to – fashionable Ssubi directors.

Today we drove up to Gulu and stopped by the school to check on
progress. The structures look fantastic, but Phil and Dusman thought
we were a little behind schedule. So there was much talking and
jestering back and forth between Ssubi and the engineers. Imagine no
one including most of the workers (expect our Kampala crew) have ever
seen buildings go up so fast and yet here are these crazy Ugandans
insisting on faster still. The last of the building have been started
– the cook house for the teacher accommodations. Despite this, Phil
did manage to find a few moments to play soccer with some of the
school kids.  We can’t be that far behind.

A unit of four cook houses for teacher accommodations, built away from the living quarters.

A unit of four cook houses for teacher accommodations, built away from the living quarters.

One of the activities Clay and I play on the long ride up to Gulu is
counting termite mounds. Well we found the biggest termite mound to
date on site and had to take a picture for you all. These
architectural creations are impressive in size and hardness- old ones
are like cement.  Dusman told us that they had to remove one the same
size near the teachers quarters and that it was very hard work indeed.

That’s all for today. Tracy

Times are a changing

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Hello everyone,
Today we will start with an update provided by Dusman from the Lelo Obalo construction site up North. I think the photo’s speak for themselves……

Plastering the outside walls of the library.

Plastering the outside walls of the library.

Library with iron sheets in UN blue.

Library with iron sheets in UN blue.

Teacher accommodations receive plaster, windows and doors.

Teacher accommodations receive plaster, windows and doors.

Private toilet and shower blocks for teacher accomodations.

Private toilet and shower blocks for teacher accommodations.

Front view from teacher accomodations.

Front view from teacher accommodations.

This photo may seem insignificant but is actually symbolic – this was a front line battlefield, the trenches from the civil war have just been filled in and are replaced with school buildings and level ground for play. Take back the school.

While Dusman has been holding fort up North, Phil and I have been running around Kampala and occasionally partaking in local traffic jams. Which are way more fun than Canadian traffic jams. Here it is survival of the most creative drivers and there are no rules except biggest wins and if you happen to be the biggest you can do what ever you like until something bigger comes along. Cheeky.

Here are some of the things we have done the last 2 days in Kampala, banking, banking and more banking, meeting with headmistress from Lilly school, checking on furniture order, ordering the plaque for new buildings, delivering invitation letters for the hand over ceremony and ordering books for the new library.

Ordering books was my favorite part. The books we ordered include text books from the local cirriculum and readers. The readers are based on local culture, for example there is a whole package on AIDS awareness, a scary reality in Uganda where many children have lost parents to AIDS. Imagine our primary school children reading books entitled “Merinah says no to sugar daddy” or “Don’t die young”. Many of these children are dealing with very different and difficult realities.

On that note I shall run in. But remember fill in the trenches, do something creative in a traffic jam and appreciate most of us are there to read a bedtime story at night.



Saturday, July 18th, 2009

Good Morning Africa
Here are some recent pictures of the ever so hansom Philipo helping frame the roof for the library.

Go Philipo Go

Go Philipo Go

The library roof is framed, Philip and Madame Openy standing in the doorway

The library roof is framed, Philip and Madame Openy standing in the doorway

Teacher accomocations

Teacher accommodations

With Dusman remaining in Gulu to supervise construction, Phil returned to Kampala to take Kenna to the airport (she is returning back to Canada to teach Tae Kwon Do summer camps- thank you for all your help Kenna) and pick up Tracy and Clay. While dropping of and picking up, Philip is also having furniture made for the Library in Lelo Obalo and desks for Lilly School. Apparently it being the rainy season and all, finding dry wood has been an issue.  If the furniture is made from wet wood it will warp while drying. Finally Phil has found a reputable company in Kampala with a stock of dry wood for building and things are now in motion.

Over and out… Tracy

Making progress

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

While back in Kampala Philip and Dusman met with the Lilly School administration (The Ssubi Foundation re-built Lilly school last year) to identify maintenance needs. The school is currently receiving a fresh coat of paint both inside and outside. Kenna meanwhile headed out west to spend some time with our close friend Julia, who lives just outside Kibale National Park in Western Uganda. Unfortunately, Kenna just missed the elephants that visited Julia a few nights after she left.  Julia no longer has a garden, as they consumed her sweet potatoes, maise and anything else they found yummy.  This year, Ssubi will donate solar lights to the Discovery Primary School which Julia supports. We will post pictures of the school once the solar lights are installed.

Phil and Dusman then headed back up to northern Uganda to Lela Oblao Primary School to check on progress and were thrilled to find things continuing to move at the pace they had set prior to their short stint in Kampala.  Here are some pictures of the structures from yesterday. Go boys Go.

IMG_4073 (Large)

IMG_4060 (Large)

Chairman Mao, rhinos and spin the bottle

Friday, July 10th, 2009

We’re back in Kampala arranging for Lily Kindergarten to get a fresh coat of paint and organizing furniture for the Teacher’s Quarters back in Gulu.  However all work and no play would make Ssubi a dull group so on the way back to Kampala we visited the Rhino Sanctuary!

It’s a 75km squared park with seven rhinos of both the black and white variety. We arrived and picked up our guide at the front gate and after no more than 10 minutes we were out of the car and wading through the elephant grass. It was so tall! Definitely over my head at times. We waded through the grass until our guide said we’d reached the rhinos. I was confused because you sure couldn’t see them at first. They were laying down in a row and wow were they ever big.
Ssubi 023
The three we saw were Bella and Cory – both female and very pregnant – and then Hassan, who was younger and male. We got so close to them… it was incredible! Just standing there, without a car or a fence between us, the rhinos were no more than 5 meters away. There’s also a brand new baby rhino, but because the only fence at the facility is the electric one used to keep the rhinos in and the poachers out it wasn’t safe to be bothering them. His mother is still aggressive and protective, so we left them alone. There’s a good story for the baby rhino too; his mother is from a zoo in Florida and his father is from a park in Kenya, so they named the little guy Obama. Appropriate, isn’t it?
Earlier when I mentioned the care the rhinos are given, I wasn’t joking. Even with the fence all seven rhinos have a park warden with them 24 hours a day, every day. If they aren’t watched around the clock like that poachers get them.

On the on the 7th, I was invited to teach again! The P7’s have excellent English and their proficiency made it much easier to communicate with them. The gaps in English skills year to year are pretty big. Mostly with the P7’s we did word games to review their vocabulary and grammar. There is a national exam at the end of your P7 year in Uganda, if you don’t pass, you don’t get into secondary school. They loved the games. One of them involves accurately describing to someone how to perform a task. In this case: opening a bottle of water. If they say ‘To open the bottle you must twist off the cap.’ then I would stand at the front of the class with the bottle on the floor and twist the cap with one hand, merely spinning the bottle in circles on the cement. They had to be specific and give one direction at a time. So ‘To open the bottle you must grasp the bottle tightly with your left hand.’, ‘To open the bottle you must place your fingers firmly on the side of the cap.’, and so on. It was an absolute riot, much of the vocabulary for that is so mundane that it’s not often used. It was a good review for them and it’s so satisfying to see these serious kids laughing and having fun at school.

Ssubi 161

The P6’s were excited to have me back again as well. They had become more accustomed to my accent and I made a point of speaking less ‘rapidly’, hahaha. I would ask a question and 30 hands would be up. At the end we played another vocabulary game and as the period started to end kids from other classes were coming in to watch at the sides of the classroom, curious about the noise and the laughter. I could absolutely spend a summer here working with them, they’re so much fun. I was told that if I came back for that next summer I’d even get my own refugee hut as a teacher’s quarters. Pretty swanky.
We also had time to meet up with Chairman Mao (Gulu District Chairman) on the way out of Gulu. He was introduced to us at the Inn and was keen on having us drop by and say ‘hello!’ before we left. It was a good chat, and before we left he signed two of his little campaign leaflets and gave them to me. Very cool! He’s been such a good friend to Ssubi helping us make things work on the ground.

Ssubi 008
It’s been a busy few days, I’m sure there will be more!


Ssubi in Uganda

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Hey everyone!

Wow have we ever been busy. Both the library and the teachers’ quarters have been framed in with bricks and the cement has been poured and leveled for what I believe is the floor. It sounds like they’re going to start on the roof frame tomorrow. It is truly awesome.

Phillip and Dusman have been working hard at both crunching numbers for the total cost of construction and at digging up anthills and breaking rocks.

Breaking the rocks with the hammer is by far the most entertaining part of construction. You are handed a very heavy hammer, pointed at the foundations of the building, and told to make the rocks level by smashing them until they crack and slide together to make an even surface to pour the cement on.

Admittedly I have only been a very small part of the actual construction work,

and mostly my time seems to be spent in English class with the P6 and P7 kids at the school. The English teacher (Teacher Patrick) is very friendly and offered to let me team-teach with him.

What a blast! The P7’s are easiest because their proficiency with the language is so high. The P6’s are a lot of fun too, but they definitely have a bit more trouble with my Canadian accent. During my first team-teach with the P6’s we were working on synonyms. So for example ‘good’ can be replaced with ‘nice’, ‘very good’, ‘better’ or ‘excellent’ depending on the sentence.

Well… one of the words we worked on was ‘fast’, and during class the kids were making sentences with the synonyms. When he was chosen to speak one of the littler fellows stood up and said “Madam Kenna speaks very rapidly.” The class roared with laughter. I tried to slow down after that, hahaha!

This morning we woke up early – at about 6:30am – and went to visit one of the Ssubi Sponser Children. Beatrice is a shy, quiet little girl with a shy, quiet little smile who sees the world very, very clearly. We went to her house and picked her up for school, which is across town from where she lives. Being so quiet she doesn’t say much, but what she did say is worth listening too. Her logic is precise and irrefutable, it’s amazing! She speaks like an adult and is immaculately neat and patient. Her goal is to become a doctor one day, and I can actually imagine her calmly standing at a surgery table in green scrubs, completely at ease. What an incredible girl.

The kids in P6 and P7 say ‘hello!’, and I’ll be sure to keep sending news home.

- Kenna

Ssubi Day 1

Monday, July 6th, 2009

The Ground Breaking Ceremony took place with all 728 students present. There were speeches given by the District Education Officer, an honoured guest by the name of Jacob who is a high standing member of parliament, and of course Phillip and Mme. Openy.

There are two building sites this year, the first is to be the housing units for the teachers. Four staff members will be living in the unit, fully furnished with a bed, sheets, coffee table and cooking area. The goal is for the teachers to be able to stay on site to decrease teacher absenteeism. Laleobaro school is 30km from Gulu, and there are some pupils walking that distance every day. The same distance applies to the teachers. With the teachers staying onsite it is much easier for them to attend class during the rainy season. One missing student is a problem for the student, but a missing teacher is a problem for all the students in their class.

The second building site is between the grass-roof classroom and the P1 classroom, and that is where the Richard Theriault Library will go. The library will be equipped with solar panels so that there is electricity for the lights, and later the computers that we are hoping to install. The idea is that the students in the upper years, year 6 and year 7, will be able to come and study during the evening, when there is not normally enough light to read. There will be many books in the library as well, both the Uganda curriculum textbooks and teacher aids, and fiction for the kids to read outside of class.

As I write, I have an audience of children looking over my shoulder, most fascinated by my computer. I think perhaps they should try typing, if they would like?

My name is ooladaniel
I am in year 2oo9
My school class is primary seven
My favourite subject in school is science
The best part of my day is sunday

My name is opiyorobin
My school class is primary six
I am happy when I eat food

The English levels of the students are drastically different year to year. I can communicate quite well with the students in year 6 and 7, but any younger than that and there is not enough common language between us to do more than say ‘hello’ as we pass by.
That’s all for now, we’ll be sure to keep you posted on the building!

- Kenna, Ssubi Volunteer