Interning in Uganda: First Village Visit

I cannot imagine living my entire life without ever owning a pair of shoes.

Yesterday was our first village visit day with the Kibo Group workers. Me and one other intern joined David and Steven as they visited a village the organization had been working with for nearly four years. As soon as we arrived, a boy walked out form his home and set four blue plastic lawn chairs in the shade for us to sit in. He greeted us. He was wearing an oversized Ohio State T-shirt, torn in the right shoulder and stained from the red dirt.

A majority of the people in the village were barefoot and wore tattered clothing. The barefoot preacher with dirtied khaki pants greeted us with a smile, and the chairmen of the village were sure to tell us to switch chairs to move away from the sun when it peeked through the trees. The rest of the people sat on the ground in front of us when we sat.

We were able to walk around the village and see Kibo efforts that have succeeded, and we also witnessed areas that needed improvement. All of the people in the village were glad to see us white folk (muzungus). They smiled, and the women knelt to their knees as a sign of respect. They shook or hands and said, “You are welcome.” Ugandans are probably the most hospitable people I have ever met. They were all so joyful, laughing and greeting one another.

The Kibo staff members were visiting the village to hold a meeting. The village wanted Kibo to repair a community well, but the people were not abiding by Kibo’s health and hygiene prerequisites.

Kibo teaches communities how to build dish racks, stoves, rubbish pits for compounds and hygienic latrines and wash areas. It is nearly impossible for me to comprehend a lifestyle without knowing proper hygiene. Many people in Uganda do not understand how disease is spread, and sickness only fosters more costs and poverty. Kibo understands that people’s relationship with creation and with one another, and that broken or misunderstood relationships are the basis to poverty itself.

Kibo’s philosophy is based much on the book “When Helping Hurts” by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. The basic idea of the book is that poverty is more about broken relationships and only way to truly relive it is by empowerment — don’t do for others what they can do for themselves. Love people, teach them, and most importantly, walk with them. Be patient with them. Don’t hand them material items that an affluent believes to be a solution to a misunderstood problem. Be patient with them as they fail and celebrate with them as they succeed.

David and Steven were very patient with the people as they discussed their concerns at the village meeting. They greeted people and talked with them. They knew the people they were serving, they were walking alongside them as they slowly improved and learned new ways of living. Imagine how difficult it would be for someone to tell you that you shower incorrectly or that your stove is the reason so many die from deadly diseases and organ failure. Lifestyles are not easy to change, especially when you do not know how to use resources easily available to improve the situation.

Poverty is very complex, and at it’s core, it’s not about money, shoes or nice homes. No amount of material items could ever solve the issue of poverty, but teaching and empowering families to live healthier and more efficient lives, that is a start. And, maybe, less people will suffer from disease (and the costs of medical care and lack of income without ability to work) and die from preventable causes (and the costs of a burial).

At the end of the village meeting, the people promised to show initiative n improve by next week. When a chairman asked who wanted Kibo to continue working in the village, every person rose their hand.

This is just one example of Kibo’s health, hygiene and sanitation project. There are many more, and I cannot wait to tell you more about them.







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