FOR months, I have been bumping into stories on the internet about people in places I have never heard of running projects and missions to save Ugandans.We are really in need as a nation, these stories all say. A couple of months ago I found teenagers on Instagram organising a car wash in San Diego or somewhere to fund their “humanitarian mission” in Uganda. I asked for more details and offered them US$10 each but they didn’t respond to me.
Eventually, I found them again and discovered that they had raised $400 for their charity, but before I could jump down anybody’s throat I discovered that their organisation was bigger than it first appeared and these weren’t teenagers using our national name to cop a free holiday.
One of those updates took me through a Portland, Oregon church site to http://www.aholyexperience.com where I found a June 2013 entry titled ‘A Letter To The North American Church’ that started, “Dear North American Church, After a Sunday morning in Africa, you don’t look the same to me. You look hungry. Hungrier than anything I’ve seen in Africa. Because after I watched that Ugandan woman…That one woman with no shoes and no husband and 7 kids, walk up to the front of the church and put this bag of beans into the basket as her love offering to God…”
First ignore that, “Hungrier than anything I’ve ever seen in Africa” because it has clearly joined idioms such as “White as snow”, “Green as grass” and “Bright as day”; BUT there was a Ugandan woman who handed in beans instead of money in church?!
Yes – of course. It’s on the internet. And that Ugandan woman is YOU.
Looking at the photographs on that site, there is no question that those were Ugandans in Uganda. Little children in torn clothing standing outside mud-brick houses, adults in second hand clothes smiling brightly in front of dirt compounds…
Images we see every day and drive by in our second hand cars, raising dust or splashing muddy water as we trundle along. Images of YOU.
Then, I landed on Durango, which you won’t have heard of unless you are from Katosi village in Mukono. Durango is in Colorado, the United States of America, from where a couple once visited Uganda and donated US$200 to a project in this Katosi village to “save” women there.
(Read as, ‘YOU would not have learned those skills elsewhere.’)
Visit the website and you will see shiny clean Ugandan children playing soccer in their Durango-donated t-shirts from the Durango Youth Soccer Academy.
That’s YOU in those free t-shirts.
Mind you, this is a very different project from that featured in the article, ‘Durango Man’s Mission Is To Build In Uganda’, which details how 26-year old Riley King has built a school and clinic in Mweruka (I don’t know where that is) at the behest of brothers Solomon Muteb (sic) and Benon Kizito. Riley King raised the money by playing in his band, holding events at his local bar and showing movies in Durango.
Says the website entry about Bukunda Health Centre, “People are being treated and helped by professionals; receiving care and medications never available to them before…”
Yep – Riley King is out there saving YOU with care and medications never available to you before.
Just as ‘Threads of Blessings’ does, a US programme that teaches Ugandan women embroidery skills that they never had before but now saves their lives by giving them a living. This programme holds an annual workshop and “more than 100 women from seven regions” attend.
Reading this report conjured up images of groups of black people sitting around in dusty patches chanting songs and waiting for a white woman in a safari suit to show up and teach them how to sew, saving their lives.
And so, I tweeted when I came across the embroidery story, “This is about YOU, Ugandans” because the positioning that the story writer gave us put us all in one pot: you and I reading the story, the woman in Gulu and the one from Mukono who took a 12-hour bus ride to learn embroidery at that workshop, the celebs photographed drinking whisky in nightclubs, the political leaders in four-wheel drives, everyone who is Ugandan. Because YOU don’t know how to embroider things to sell them to the US – in spite of our having had AGOA I and II running for years (what happened to that, by the way?), and your great, great, great grandmother used to make barkcloth.
Even off the internet, in our very own newspapers we have evidence of our being saved; you might have missed the story in The New Vision this week titled, ‘Envoy lauds school gardening project’ where the Netherlands Ambassador to Uganda, Alphons Hennekens, applauded parents and students in Nebbi District for “embracing school gardening as a strategy for food security and retention of children in schools”.
We are obviously too stupid to think of this ourselves, so thanks to donors such as the government of the Netherlands, we now have gardens in some schools in Nebbi.
The story, of course, did not say how large the gardens were or how much is under crop cultivation, but that “…over 50 primary schools have embraced the gardening programme…”
That US$200 here and US$400 there makes you look poor, with photographs of you ragged and in dusty patches. But then again, You are poor.
Still, You should compare that US$200 here and US$400 there sent to ‘save’ you, with the money that You send over there by spending on finished goods, designer labels, second hand clothes, visa fees.