I've been here for eight weeks launching the program and in that time, I've interviewed more than 50 families to potentially enroll their children in the program. Home visits have been a one-of-a-kind learning experience.
Most of the children live in huts. One hut I evaluated housed about 14 people; they were like sardines. Their villages reside over an hour outside of the closest city and the majority of the families live off of their own crops, only ever selling for a mere bar of soap or an attempt to scrounge up just enough shillings for school fees at the very last minute. (Here, children can attend school initially without paying their fees. Eventually, near the end of the semester, the ones who have not yet paid are sent home.) The interviews are held under the shade of tress surrounded by chickens and goats at my feet. I shake very dirty hands that have just come from attending children, animals, or working in the field. And today, I ran out of hand sanitizer. Sigh.
The home visits have allowed me a brief glimpse into the daily routine lives of my students. I've met their students. I've met their families. I've seen their living conditions; I've witnessed their simple life raw and up close.
In the interviews, I ask certain questions to later assess a family's level of poverty. The list of questions include inquiring about the source of their drinking water. Today, a family told me they drink from a well. I've yet to see a traditional well in Gulu, so I asked where it was.
"You passed it on your way here; you crossed it," the family told me.
"Well, (punny) by golly the only thing I passed and nearly fell into on my way here was a dirty pond, AKA a glorified giant standing puddle!" I thought.
"We passed it? We passed a pond." I decided to say instead.
"No, it is next to the pond. You will see it on your way out." They assured me. On their evaluation I checked the "safe drinking" box and wrote "well" as the source. There have been about four interviews in that area of homes.
After the interview, we left to venture back to our car. The entire time I was checking around my feet and was ready to leap like a Broadway ballerina because an hour before, I watched a black Cobra cross my path. Talk about a rough day. Venomous cobras, nearly falling in dirty ponds, empty hand sanitizer...what would be next?
We reached the pond (glorified puddle) as Titus helped me across the rotting logs. I wasn't seeing the well, so I asked where it was, guessing it could be behind the tall African grass. "It is here," he pointed to another pond, an actual pond, but one clearly infested with bacteria. The pond is what they were calling a well. Their "well" was a small spot where people bathe, wash their motorbikes, and collect drinking water from the murky, brown H2O with green bacteria hovering on its surface.
"This...is not...a pond." I slowly contemplated out loud. My team laughed at me. "Sandra, pull out those evaluations and change them to unsafe drinking water, source, pond, please." I required of my assistant.
We keep a first-aid kit in the car because home evaluations are where we witness the most unfortunate situations. Multiple times, I've gone back to the car for clean water, gloves, alcohol, Neosporin, and Band-Aids to care for an open wound.
I once called over a little boy who appeared to have pink all over his skin in the distance. As he came nearer, I realized it wasn't a skin deformation or anything biological, but instead it was a series of open wounds and scars all down his face, neck, chest, and arms. "What happened?" I asked. "He was thrown from a Boda-Boda (motorcycle)," his mother told me.
This family lacked any minor form of treatment to care for his wounds. His skin was peeling off like a severe sunburn and awful, make-me-queezy things were coming from underneath.
I don't think Live It Everyday needs to just be an inspiring "go do this" or "feel this" kind of lifestyle. Sometimes, living life and living it to the fullest is plain awareness. Sometimes, living it everyday is silly knowing that you have it made. Your life is most likely surrounded by clean water and a fully stocked medicine cabinet, things that make a difference between life and death in other areas of the world.
So today, just live it out knowing that you're blessed. Live it out in awareness that other parts of the world are suffering, but to them it's just normal life. Live today as passionate, or compassionate, and do something about it. Be aware! And feel blessed.
Still hiding from the cobras, Cara