SOUL on ground in Uganda. #4

S.O.U.L. stands for Supporting Opportunities for Ugandans to Learn. This doesn't just mean learning in school. This includes learning in all areas. Not only helping the students get into schools, but also to educate the parents on the reason their children should be in schools and not in the fields providing an extra hand. By educating the parents, we are giving their children a greater chance to have the support behind their studies. By teaching the elders, we are giving the men and women opportunities to understand how business works. Help them to figure out that building another soda stand is not a profitable business, but making Mandazi (a morning breakfast bread food) is in demand because there is no one in the village who makes it, and everyone eats it. It is educating the families on how to use their money wisely. The people of Uganda live day to day. It is for survival that they do live. They eat to live, and NEVER live to eat. They don't have a chance to save their money. They aren't educated about even putting away 1,000 Ush (50 cents) per day as that can work to their benefit, when in two weeks they have 14,000 ush saved ($7). They are not IGNORANT. They just don't know. But I can assure you ALL about one thing, they want to learn!

“S.O.U.L. will strive to inspire vision, vision will inspire hope, hope will propel empowerment, empowerment will foster the pursuit of education, education will provide a pathway to success, success will lead to sustained economic growth, and sustained economic growth will perpetuate a sustained emphasis on education.” -Brooke Stern, R.N., B.S.N

Since last writing, S.O.U.L. made the biggest XMAS party for Bujugali Falls Village they have ever seen. It started as just an idea and then the word in the village got out, and the turn-out was huge. The role that I played was getting all the children excited about XMAS. Every women in all my women's groups were informed. All the children (161) in my bursar program were notified. Every child in the village became excited as we all awaited this special day. We all know for us, music plays a large part in someone's lives, as music can inspire, motivate, make one happy or sad in a whim. Music may even be more important here as everything is based around music. Celebrations, trajedies, and day to day life. So when everyone found out I was bringing music, they all said we want the "BIG" music. I had no idea what that meant, but let Fauzi the director, take control of that chore. I thought it would be a big boom box. After many days anticipating, the music arrived. It came with a generator, a computer, 2 massive free standing speakers and 2 DJ's. It was incredible.

The night became more than I could have ever expected. Besides music, like anywhere in the world, food is so important. We bought something like 65 KG of rice along with all types of food as the women gathered at mama's house and cooked from 6am to night over STONE fire stoves. We were able to feed about 100 villagers the best meal they have ever received. It was a great feeling to sit back and watch the happiness and joy as we all celebrated being together and the PARTNERSHIP of S.O.U.L. to Bujugali Village.

I wasn't prepared to have this music setup. and therefore did not expect to have to speak. In fact, there was a microphone. The CHAIRMAN LOC and defense secretary for the village came to open the night! OMG, what an honor. Elders are so so respected here, and those two men are like royalty in the village. To my surprise, i had the opportunity of having them greet me and accept me into their village with open arms. The word about S.O.U.L. must have spread because they felt honored to meet me. Each community has land they try to keep for a project that can benefit the community. I knew about the land as its in a central location, but never even thought at this point to ask.

The night began with the defense secretary opening the evening. He spoke in Lasoga as Fauzi translated for me. The words he said in front of 100-250 people were words I wasn't even sure I deserved. The enthusiasm in his voice as he walked around the crowd, always pointing back to me was mesmorizing. I blushed with sheer certainty that each and every single person in this village is being positvely impacted by SOUL is some way or another. He gave me the nickname "Nabidye", meaning Mother of Many. He expressed that he has never seen a Mzungu (white person) come into the village and have such a high level of interaction with the locals and the kids. So as I now walk or run through the village paths, I no longer hear the children scream "Mzungu, Mzungu, but with a sense of peace, I now hear them all say "Nabidye, Nabidye, Ayotiah!" (My ugandan name then Good Day) or "Mama Africa, Wavilee"! (Mama Africa, WELL DONE!).

I gave a great speech. Lets all remember, I hated pubic speaking my whole life. I always told my mom, I will be able to speak one day when I am really knowlegable about a subject or really passionate about it. I now embrace it and love speaking in front of many. My speech with not prepared, and the microphone was loud as I spoke to not only the one's seated in front of me, but the one's walking down the paths carrying firewood on their head to their homes as they stopped to listen. It was an out of body experience as I had the attention of all and the opportunity to say anything. I spoke of S.O.U.L., I spoke of hope, I spoke of my personal experience and overcoming people's doubt, that I can really do something like this, and I spoke from the heart. Words I was taught by my parents. Simple words of wisdom that we are all accustomed to hearing, but that they have never heard because the lack of support from the families. I gave them the chance to dream, the opportunity to aspire to something bigger and better for themselves that they can ever imagine. There was a moment of silence as one could witness them take the hands of their loved ones. Some with smiles, some with tears and some who got up and did the Ugandan cheer (WOO, WOO, WOOO) as it synchronized in my ear from 30 women standing and chanting. I told them this party is not for me, this party is for ever one of you!

Then the microphone was taken from MAMA, someone who is so shy, but so happy. She speaks quietly but is loved in the village. She stepped up and began speaking so loud and so fast, I was in awe. Never in a million year would I imagine her to do this. This family protects me, feeds me, teachers me, and embraces me. She spoke words of excitement and courage. Words of inspiration for her fellow friends and invited me to be known forever as her "Eldest daughter" and of course, Nabidye (mother to many). I told them my last words of my favorite quote. "Giving is the best high any one can ever get", so spend each day with the thought of giving a hand to a neighbor or a classmate. You don't need money to GIVE. Help a sick dog, or sick chicken move away from the speeding car coming, pick up rubbish in your village, or simply lend an ear to someone who could use it. SPEND EVERYDAY with this thought in your head and Lets DANCE!!

Wow, the party went off with a boom. The dance floor was crowded, the smiles were large, the laughter was contagious, as I personally realized SOUL is here for the long run!!

I was pulled in 500 directions, but when I got a chance, got to the dance floor. I was the only mzungu there. The men and women, wearing traditional wear were dancing up a storm. The kiddos from age 3 up were shacking, and the older kids were in their glory. Never in my life did I dance as much as I did this night. I moved around and got to each and everyone of the people. There were about 350-400 moving and shaking all night long. Danced from 8pm to 3:30am STRAIGHT with a piece of bread in my hand as I refused to stop and eat. Mama and Ali of course were distraught I wasn't eating and only dancing. They just want to feed feed feed. I snuck out at 3:30a, as I left the party still rolling and booming. It continued to 7:20am. What a night!