join in on saving Lagutu village – or at least get to know where it is!

People, please help me find Lagutu Village in northern Uganda so that we upload its actual location to Google Maps?

See, when I googled them earlier all I found was this:

Can't Find Lagutu

I am not saying that Lagutu village does NOT exist, because my life is not ordered by or around Google and the internet.

What got me was the fact that the first time I had heard of this village it was because of a string of American (of the United States) charities trying to keep the village together with phrases on the internet such as, “This village was reeling from war and on the verge of extinction. But with support from Sports Outreach & Lifepoint Church, this village has been reborn. Wells for fresh water were dug; a school and church were built; and most importantly, children were fed.”

It started with this story titled, ‘Lifepoint Church preps for Uganda Mission Trip’ which stated that, “…in 2010. The Lagutu Village, at that point in time, was on the verge of collapse.”

I can almost imagine how a village can ‘collapse’ – like if all its young men left to ride boda-bodas in towns elsewhere, and the young women followed them then wedded people from other villages, and all the old people died of grief and buried each other till the last old person found himself alone at the last lumbe of the village.

How does a village “collapse”? Especially a village that went through the twenty years of the Lord’s Resistance Army war and survived till 2010?

So I googled it, since we’ve just come out of these massive elections during which we documented A LOT about the villages of Uganda and various categories of people with statistics that have been the talk of the country for MONTHS.

Of course the village exists, since the story quotes a Pastor at Lifepoint Mission of Wilmington, North Carolina, USA who has visited it and dug wells, built huts and distributed medicine there since 2010. There is even video evidence of the village school, church, fields, and people.

They even … well, read this for yourself:

Lagutu Got Goals

Yes – Lagutu didn’t even have goalposts, they were so wretched!

Thank God for all the Americans doing stuff to keep this village alive.

The other event I noticed was this one:

Lifepoint Uganda 5k

From that event, “100% of the proceeds from this race will go to supporting the 30 member team traveling to Uganda on June 20, 2016.”

And by the way, 123 people ran that fund-raising race.

Of course, these Americans are neither victims nor perpetrators of some elaborate scam – that cannot be possible.

It would just be useful to know where, exactly, Lagutu is. We need to hold people to account for the existence of lack of existence of this village that was about to disappear until the Americans came to its rescue.

How are we drinking single malt whisky, watching Superman Vs. Batman and eating gourmet food here oblivious that an entire village is collapsing to the point that there are people in the United States of America running kilometres so they can raise the funds to come here and save the village?

We (in Kampala, at least) are just 400kilometres from where Lagutu presumably is.

Yye, where exactly is Lagutu? Who are the Local Council and District officials there? Who is the Resident District Commissioner?

I checked the Electoral Commission list of Polling Stations and Voter Registers and failed to find mention of it in Abim, Amudat, Amuru, Arua, Gulu, Kitgum, Kumi, Lamwo, Lira, Moroto, Moyo, Nebbi Ngora, Nwoya, Otuke, Oyam, Pader and even Zombo!

Maybe the Americans have it right?

I went to to see whether it had been allocated money in recent national budgets but that was too much work over a mere curiosity, especially considering that there are Americans coming to save the village if enough money is collected during the fund raising.

On is a video that labels the village “Lugutu”, but I was too tired to go check for THAT name instead of the more commonly used Lagutu.

This gofundme video also says that Lagutu was “on the verge of extinction”. At 2:19 of that video a Ugandan gives testimony about sports and it’s importance, and another Ugandan after him, and you Ugandans out there can tell that these people are NOT from northern Uganda but that’s alright since it should not be an issue.

It is not likely that the people in that video are scamming the Americans, with their Kiganda accents…

The fundraiser is for US$3,200 to enable one Melody to come to Uganda to help Lagutu village by doing some social work.

When I was almost pulling my hair out I appealed to Twitter and some friends there told me of Laguti, not Lagutu:

And @samagona gave me clear directions: “Abt 15 mins drive to Awach Sub County. Lagutu is a village in Awach. From Gulu approx 28 kms LOS shd take you 30-40 mins.”

But I am not driving there just yet – I am still marvelling at how I got to hear of this village through the Americans and that it is not even on Google Maps!

Yet this Lagutu Village gets a lot of attention – I found another project that has been there, the ‘Amazzi Project’, whose online existence is now compromised –, but which had tweeted about Lagutu before:

Amazzi Project
“Water to all of Uganda”

Amazzi Project Tweets

“Water to all of Uganda”.

I am currently reading ‘Uganda and the Mill Hill Fathers’, which tells the story of how the missionaries and colonialists came over here. There are some things that simply won’t change if more of us don’t change the way we think and do things…


eclipsing the graduation party

LAST weekend’s solar eclipse somewhat overshadowed the graduation ceremony that took place in Kampala at around the same time, and as I was driving back from Masindi I laughed at how similar both events are in Uganda.

I expect that the graduand with the hangover the morning after normally sits down to ponder the expense and activities of the night before and asks whether the party was really worth it.

Uganda knows that the money spent on the eclipse activities in Pakwach itself was worth it in terms of the publicity we received from it alone – including publicity driven through people’s personal tweets, emails, blogposts and whatnot.

Of course, the graduand might stop and think how much more benefit he would have gotten out of his party if he had taken the money for food, drinks, venue hire and whatnot, and used that to spruce up his wardrobe, buy a laptop, pay for a short course in project management, and other such things.

The government might be doing just that roundabout now, at the post-Eclipse Committee Meeting.

During the ‘Lessons Learned’  or ‘What Could Have Been Done Better’ segment of the meeting, some Commissioner from the Ministry of Tourism has probably asked, “Madame Chair, maybe next time we should start publicity efforts earlier for such events so that we get very many people to come and visit the country?”

Because, that could have brought in more benefit for Uganda overall, besides the hiring of tents, chairs and so on and so forth.

I asked one graduand last week why he had to throw a party and fund-raise to fund it when he didn’t even have a personal laptop off which to write his own CV or use for  research to make himself the most attractive candidate for any job he would be applying for, and he was licked.

But I couldn’t begrudge him his celebration, so I gave him moral support and wished him on his good way; a few days later I realised that I should have advised him to go ahead with his party but use it as a campaign rally for a job.

See, that’s what the eclipse was for Uganda; a campaign rally for northern Uganda as a tourism destination – which we hope the world saw in one way or another as they made their way there to catch the eclipse, even just because they could get there.

I should have told my graduand pal to go ahead with his party but ensure that he dresses up as the smartest guy in the room. And not to host too many relatives, but instead invite people who are likely to offer him a job or recommend him to people who offer jobs.

Then, pack a solid speech that blows everybody away and makes them all talk about him for the next few months or so with everybody they meet, so that people try to meet him just to get a feel of this amazingly impressive chap.

If he had been a Comms Graduate, for instance, he’d write out his invitation cards in flowing prose so that all the invitees know that he is a good communicator; a lawyer should invite people in legalese or, better still, have them sign indemnities as they walk into the party venue, saying they won’t blame him for their eventual hangover the next morning.

That’s what the eclipse was or should have been for us.

The surface-thinkers among us thought only of the ten-second or one-hour event that the actual eclipse is, just as they do graduation ceremonies, making them the highlight of one’s education, instead of considering the education itself.

See, even the eclipse itself, the act of one orb obscuring the sight of the other, was viewed differently by different people. Where I was, in Masindi, some people were waiting for the few seconds when the moon was over the Sun, while others enjoyed the entire cycle from the time the moon began to overshadow the Sun from the bottom right hand corner.

Same as graduation – many people find it interesting from the time the first drink is popped open, yet it begins with you going to primary one twenty years before…

The gradation is a one-off event after years of study and work, as the eclipse should have been; and it isn’t the end of everything. Even today, we should go on showing the world images of Uganda from last week and going forward because we are now on the map for this.