July 19, 2009

On taking a cold shower in Africa


I am preparing for my last week in Gulu for the summer, and I realize that I have not blogged much at all. I am spending most of the weekdays at school with Okaali, John, the greatest teacher in all of Uganda, and spending most of my weekends and evenings with a great group of American teachers. Somehow, I just haven't found the time to blog. So, without further ado...

On Taking a Cold Shower in Africa

Let me first begin by saying it is quite possible to go for three days in dusty hot Uganda without taking a shower...if you have no room mate or no desire to interact with another human being. The stench emanating from the various body regions may just be worse than locking the doors of the Sistine Chapel on a hundred and twenty degree day , providing a bean and cabbage lunch gratis, asking everyone to do 3000 jumping jacks, and locking the doors to the loo.

So, for the rest of the world, who enjoy some degree of social existence, taking a shower in Uganda is a must. The majority of the country bathe from a wash basin outdoors. The luckier minority actually have running water and, hence, overhead showers. Some few even have heated water. I belong to the second group...tell me I don't know how to live in luxury!

Unfortunately, I definitely do not fall under the third category of heated water. Now, one might think that in equatorial Africa, a cold shower would be a godsend. They would be wrong. After running ten miles in 90 percent humidity on a hundred degree day—cold shower. After working in the garden for eight hours, fighting lobster style sun burn, and drinking only beer—cold shower. Curing the hangover the next morning—cold shower. Preparing for a long day of work and play in Gulu—.......

Before the rains hit in Uganda, the nights and mornings are fairly hot. One would imagine that a cold shower in the morning may just be the ticket for washing off the night sweat and dust from the day before. Au contraire. The morning heat actually amplifies the effect of cold water inducing shivers and muscle spasms at eighty degrees ambient. Now, it is possible to take a warmer shower...after the water tank has baked in the afternoon sun for several hours. However, at just about the time the water reaches ideal temperature, the overhead sun is also blaring down from directly above. To take a warm shower at this time results in extreme sweating that, ten minutes after the shower, brings you back to square one.

In order to counter this tremendous dilemma, I have devised a few fail-safe steps for accomplishing the formidable task of taking a cold shower African style.

1.Standing outside the door of the shower stall, debate just how necessary it is to really shower. How bad can you stink after wearing long-sleeves and trousers all day and sleeplessly rolling around in the evening to try to find the dry patches on your pillow where your neck sweat has not yet stained the pillow case?
2.Suck it up and enter the shower. Upon entering, disrobe, hang your clothes neatly on the bent and rusty nails protruding from the door, carefully avoiding the chipping paint and cobwebs, turn and face the shower, and stare.
3.After about five minutes of absent mindedly staring at the shower knob, do a pit check. How much deodorant will it actually take to cover that smell for another day? Smell again. Utter an expletive, and resign yourself to the truth. You stink.
4.Turn the shower knob allowing the cold water to fiercely drizzle out of the spout, taking care all the while to avoid the drips, spatters and spurts. Stare at the water for another five minutes re-analyzing your previous thoughts for any flaws in logic. Realize that there is now way to escape. Utter another expletive.
5.Carefully dip your head into the water stream making sure that none of the water trickles over any other body part. Cup hands and splash water on face. Step out of water stream. Stare again.
6.Count to three, wait, count to three, wait again, and finally muster up the courage. Count to three one more time, close your eyes as if wincing in pain, and stick your arm into the shower. Use the other hand to quickly wet the undersides of your arms. Upon successful completion of this task, quickly repeat the steps for arm number two.
7.Examining the pea sized goose bumps that have mysteriously sprouted on your arms, Utter a third expletive and step into the shower allowing the water to hit your chest. Gasp for air, lose your balance, fall out of the water stream, and work to catch your breath. Once recovered, place your chest back into the stream of water and make sure to wet down your entire front.
8.Step out of the stream of water. At this point in the shower, I usually ask myself if my simple rinse is enough to clean me off and if my back even really sweats. Unfortunately for me (but fortunate for my friends), I usually decide that I am already committed and must go forward with the last, and most painful, part of the wetting down process...my back.
9.Turn around and stick your derrière out. Slowly inch backwards until the water is just nipping your bottom. Slowly, very slowly, roll your spine allowing the water to make its way up the back. Occasionally, take to long to wet your back, gasp for air (you have been holding your breath since the water touched the small of your back), take another deep breath, finish—much more quickly this time—and step out of the shower.
10.Turn the water off. Regain your composure. Grab the soap and go to town.
11.Sufficiently covered in suds, contemplate the effect of walking around with a layer of soap film on your body all day. It should act as a nice perfume right? Utter expletive number 17.
12.Repeat steps 4-10 while rinsing off, taking only a third of the time that it took in the first go-round.
13.Grab the towel, quickly drying off to keep the small tremors in your muscles from turning into violent shakes, slip on some clothes, and move quickly through the courtyard to your room.
14.Rejoice in how refreshed and clean you feel (while fighting away the shivers from a severly low body temperature).

I could probably move forward in this blog by making some insightful analogy about how the shower is similar to the trials and tribulations that we face in life or about gaining perspective, but I have to be to school in two hours. If I don't go hop in the shower now, I might just not make it in time...


July 6, 2009

finally, a few pictures

So, it took about 2 hours to load these pics. More will be coming in the future...maybe...

Our friend at Backpacker's in Kampala

Catherine and Lisa chilling at Heathrow Airport

Fish and Chips...Actually, I had a falafel burger and, of course, a few delicious pints

Just in time for the changing of the Guard

A Pelican at a pond near Buckingham Palace

Welcome to Africa and Invisible Children (just a little late)

Blog posts:

The following is a "brief" excerpt from the journal that I am keeping here in Gulu. Though it is a little old, I believe that it will give you a good idea of where I am and some background on the organization I am working with. I hope you enjoy.

17 June 2009 (Wednesday)

I was up at about 6 today. Before taking my shower, I strolled outside and stood for a few moments on the front porch. I can't imagine ever not loving the sounds and smells of an African morning. To my right, on Pecce road, a small pickup truck packed with about 20 boys was heading to the big field behind Gulu Secondary School for sports competition. As they bounced along, they were singing in unison and periodically yelling out victory chants. As their noise trailed off, Celine Dion's smash hit, "I'm a lady" could be heard trailing out of the storefront four doors down. At this time of day, people are slowly crawling out of their huts, the women are sweeping the dirt around their living areas, men and school children are slowly filling the streets, and goat bleets, chicken clucks, and turkey growls drift through the cool morning breeze. Hello Gulu, I am home!

I strolled back into the compound and hopped into the shower to prepare for the day. I had forgotten exactly how cold a cold shower really is and I am sure that the gasps and grunts filtering into the courtyard made for an interesting conversation for my colleagues. I only say this because other grunts and groans could be heard coming from the doors on either side of my stall and even I had to chuckle to myself. If ever there were a way to conserve water, this would definitely rank high on the list.

Our first meeting of the day was at the Invisible Children Intern House (I stayed there last year when I was in Gulu town on the weekends), which is about a thirty minute walk from where we are staying. The path is fairly straight, but the walk is anything but as a person has to dodge an endless stream of boda boda drivers, pickup trucks, pedestrians, goats, and occasional burning garbage heap. All along the road there are little shops selling all of the wares that one might need for their stay in Gulu. Women sit by the side of the road on blankets with an endless array of mangoes, jack fruit, bananas, beans, rice, and other food stuffs. Store fronts (advertising shoes, DVD burning, and milk--talk about one stop shopping) are open and usually with two or three people loitering inside and catching up on the past days news. People are in transit, moving in every direction carrying large bags of charcoal on the back of their bikes, balancing baskets of various wares on their heads, and carrying live chickens draped upside down across the handlebars of their motorcycles. The sides of buildings are painted with advertisements for Nido powdered milk, MTN cellular phones, and myriad other big name brands of Uganda. People all along the way walk forward with purpose almost scowling but, when engaged with a friendly hello or nod and smile, slow down to return the gesture as their faces light up with a sense of familiarity and friendship.

Once we had made it through the town center, we left the main roads and continued on the path past Awere Secondary school, one of the partner schools of the Invisible Children Schools 4 Schools program. Awere is actually a village some distance outside of Gulu that was displaced during the conflict in the north with the LRA. They are currently making preparations to move back to the original school site soon, leaving the Gulu school behind. The buildings, like many of the schools in the north, are temporary buildings (Awere displaced site is on railroad land--though there are no railroads or train cars in sight--and is forbidden to erect any permanent structures). The walls are held up with timber poles fixed into the ground, and the sides of the building are covered with boards (from the first cut of the tree-slightly rounded and minus the bark) that aren't always straight creating more of a transparent screen than an opaque wall. The roofs of the buildings are corrugated steel, and the sound of rain pelting the roof is deafening, stopping classes for the duration.

The path continues on into a small market where you can buy various food items, have your maize ground into flour, or stop to "take a beer" and play billiards. The scene is similar to walking through the main section of the town, but the buildings are typically no bigger than a small walk-in closet and are constructed even more poorly than the temporary schools. Beyond the market is a water pump where it is not unusual to see a line of thirty jerry cans waiting to be filled and several women pumping water and laughing. I often say hello to the women who respond to the greeting and then make jokes in Luo with each other, elevating the laughing even more. After walking through the field behind prison primary, where we often see children playing European/African football with wound up plastic bags, we crossed the road to Lacor and arrived at the gate to the IC Intern house.

When I walked through the door, I was greeted by Michael, the incredibly nice guy who works around the IC volunteer house doing general maintenance and upkeep. He was in the middle of mortaring some bricks for the new guard room off of the from gate to the house. He was on a break from chopping a large tree into small pieces with a machete... I walked around the back of the house and saw Doreen, the cook for IC staffers in Uganda, and immediately sung a big "Doreen, so glad to see you," in my best baritone voice. Doreen greeted me with her huge smile and a very quiet "Matthew, so good to see you." I gave her a hug, and she settled back into her morning rituals.

Our slate at the IC house was pretty full. Our morning started with a conversation with Erica-the IC Public Relations person in Gulu, Jolly Grace Okot-The IC country director for Uganda, and Jarred-Director of programs on the ground. Jolly started with an introduction to the teaching situation in Uganda. She described the plight of Ugandan teachers as a way of explaining some of the complications with the school system in Uganda. Teachers are employed by either the government, or the local PTA. Government teachers earn about 200,000 Ugsh (about $100) a month. PTA teachers earn significantly less. Often, teachers have to maintain houses in multiple villages because they (teachers on the government payroll) can be transferred to any school in Uganda by the government at any time and are allowed to spend a maximum of ten years at any one school. This often forces teachers to maintain a home in their home village as well as their teaching village. When that is compounded with the fact that the public perception of teachers in Uganda is that they fell into the profession because they were unable to complete studies and achieve a better job, motivation is not plentiful.

Jarred followed with a discussion of the why IC chose to support secondary education system in Uganda. He pointed to the Invisible Children's philosophy of "do one thing, and do it well," as the reason why IC has chosen to focus on secondary education in Uganda. Most of the NGO's in the north are providing assistance to primary schools. This year, IC is one of three programs that support secondary schools. The need for this support is great. Currently, only 7% of the population of Uganda graduates from secondary school (the proportions are heavily weighted towards the south), and only 1% of the population currently continues on to study at university. In order to have the most sustainable impact, IC wants to elevate access to and quality of education in the north so that they can create a system of sustainable change from within. In order to achieve this, IC has created several programs (along with the teacher exchange program) to meet this end. IC has a visible child program that sponsors several students by paying school fees. They currently sponsor 60 students at University and 590 students at the secondary level. They also employ about 30 mentors (who are professional teachers) to periodically meet with all of the sponsored students and assist them with their studies and life counseling. IC also has the schools for schools programs that pairs partner schools in the U.S. with schools in Uganda (there are currently 11 Uganda partner schools) to create fund-raising programs to support infrastructure projects. These projects range from building new classroom blocks and science laboratories, to providing textbooks and science materials, and even the construction of dormitories for partner boarding schools. Of the money raised in the Schools for Schools program, 90% of the funds are put back into the schools with only 10% being used for administrative purposes--very respectable.

Erica was the third to speak, and she talked about IC's other programs that less directly impact the schools but also work towards facilitating economic independence in Uganda. IC's newest program is the organic cotton initiative. At one time, Uganda used to produce very high quality (ranked 3 in the world) cotton, but because of the war in the North and the move to IDP camps, the cotton farming industry and infrastructure went away. The program, still in its initial stages, has signed up approximately 4,000 farmers for the program. These farmers will receive training in organic and sustainable practices so that they are able to produce high quality cotton that meets current public demand. IC has paired with cotton industry partners in Uganda who will buy the cotton at a fair wage price and process the cotton before sending it out to be fabricated. IC has also partnered with Eden, an organic cotton clothing line developed by Bono. Not only will this greatly increase the marketing power of the cotton initiative, but Eden will open facilities in Uganda to create the textiles allowing the entire process (from seed to finished product) to occur in Uganda. IC has also successfully launched the MEND program. One of the major vocational skills training programs in Uganda provided by rehabilitation programs for war affected youth as well as by NGO's is tailoring. Unfortunately, the market in Uganda is so saturated with skilled tailors, that many people who do receive this training are unable to make a living wage in their trade. MEND takes women who are war affected, provides them with design training, and produces designer handbags and messenger bags that are currently marketed through IC's website. MEND hopes to promote a global demand for this high quality product. The third economic initiative that IC has developed is the bracelet campaign. This was one of the initial economic programs that was developed, and it involved employing several hundred (at its peak) bracelet makers from various IDP camps to produce a product that not only provided them with a living wage income, but also created a product that would help to promote Invisible Children internationally. Purchasers of bracelets also receive a DVD depicting the life story of a child in the north. They are able to wear the bracelet and share the story with anyone who might ask.

One of the coolest components of all of these initiatives is the Savings and Investment Training Initiative (SITI). Participants receive training in all aspects of running a business including budgeting, accounting, investing, and saving. After they have completed their tenure in one of the financial initiatives, participants are able to use this knowledge, and the money earned while a part of the program, to start business ventures of their own (some of the participants earnings are held aside until the end of the program). Many of the participants have started their own micro-finance programs, and quite a few successful (and creative) business adventures have resulted.


If you have made it this far, I commend you on your persistence. I will continue trying to update this blog (hopefully with more frequency than I have been updating with so far), but I will be changing from my traditional format. Instead, I will write about my collective experiences as I feel so inclined. Stay tuned for posts like "Toads, Cats, and Flying Ants," "Billiards Beer and Best Buds," and "On Taking a cold shower in Africa."

Best to all,

June 22, 2009

a few pictures to tide you along

I am finally settling in to my routine in Gulu. I have just completed my first day of classes with my fantastic teaching partner Okaali John and was able to find a few minutes to visit Cafe Larem near where I am staying. Not only is Larem an internet cafe, they serve real coffee, brownies (who would have thought you could find brownies in Gulu!?), and even drive ice cream all the way up from Kampala! I am sure you will hear more about the cafe (and its owners Justin and Rita) in a later post.

I have been journaling about my trip and my experiences thus far (including eating a real salad made with actual lettuce at a formerly exiled politician's homestead outside of Gulu Municipality), but am falling terribly behind when it comes to typing them out. Now that I am settling in to my routine, I am going to make an effort to find some of the juicy stories in my journals and post them here.

For the time being, I hope that I can supplicate your desire to read all about my adventures with a few silly photos from the trip so far.


...So...the photos are not loading so quickly here...I am sure that the pictures in your mind are even better than anything I would plop on this page anyway. Take care!

June 15, 2009

Travel Travel Travel

I have had a little excitement since we last chatted. Of course, the plane rides were tedious. 3 hours to JFK, 8 hour layover, 7 hours to Heathrow, 9 hour layover, 8.5 hours to Entebbe (Uganda), and then a one hour drive to Backpacker's hostel in Kampala.

I met an interesting gentleman on the way to Heathrow from JFK. He was heading planning on spending a week in London and then continuing on to Calcutta where his family lived. He had been living in the states for the last twenty years, but was born and grew up in Germany. After staying with his family for a few weeks, he was going to be moving to Hong Kong for work in the finance world. If only we could all be so traveled. After our conversation, I was able to catch a few hours of sleep.

When we arrived in London, the group decided to go out into the city. We took the tube (“mind the gap”) into town, getting out at piccadilly square to explore. About twelve of us started the journey. So far, all of the other travelers seem like pretty cool people. We walked for a while through St. James park and wound up outside of Buckingham Palace just in time to see the changing of the guard and snap a few photos (I'll try to post when I am more permanent). Afterwards, we had dinner/lunch at a pub called “The Rose and Crown.” I am told that the fish and chips was fantastic. The falafel burger was fine too. Of course, the beers were fantastic!

After lunch, we were all pretty tired, so we headed back to the tube. At one point along the ride I must have fallen asleep (I was still standing—holding the hand rail) because I snapped back to consciousness after a loud “owieeee!.” My elbow had somehow made contact with the forehead of some poor Asian man as my limp upright body bobbed back and forth with the bumps.

We got back to the airport, relaxed for a while, and caught our next flight. I stayed awake long enough to eat dinner and take in the first thirty minutes of a film, and then drifted in and out of sleep for most of the rest of the flight.

Once in Kampala, I breezed through customs (Ha, little do they know...!) and hit the baggage claim. Unfortunately my bag did not hit the baggage carousel at all. Apparently, checking your luggage from Chicago all the way through to Entebbe with British Airways isn't a smart move. For some reason, my bag decided to take a detour on a KLM flight and will hopefully arrive in Uganda tomorrow. Thankfully, most of my essentials were in my carry on baggage, and I will be able to survive even if my bag decides to extend it's vacation. Rest assured, I'm going to have a stern talk with the bag when it does finally arrive.

The track record for our group isn't so hot either. Two others lost their baggage and had to file claims at the airport, one member left her wallet at a bar in London, and another lost her wallet earlier today. Hopefully things will only get better from here.

The rest of the day has consisted of a trip to Garden City to change money and pick up a few supplies and a visit to Luberi S.S., one of the top performing schools in Uganda. They have a student body of about 3,500 and well over 100 teachers for all six classes (S1-S6) of the secondary school. After Luberi, it was back to Backpacker's for a little R&R, which brings us up to now. In a few short hours, I will head out to Sam's, the best Indian restaurant in Kampala, where I will chow on some delicious bhargain bharta and swish some Bell's lager before returning home to my very welcoming bunk.


June 13, 2009

It has been a while...

Hello all!

I write to you from the "Atlantic Bar and Lounge" in terminal 7 of JFK airport. If you haven't guessed, I have begun my journey to Uganda. After hurrying up and finishing finals at school yesterday, I payed three months worth of bills (ouch!), partyed sown, woke up early, and hopped on to a plane at O'hare this morning. When I arrived at JFK, I met up with my good friend (and Cardinal's fan--what a weirdo) John Magee, who was on the trip last year, and sat down and waited. Soon I will be boarding a flight to London (Heathrow), and tomorrow night I will begin the final leg of the journey to Entebbe Uganda. The people in the group seem to be great, an I am prepared for another awesome trip.

The situation in Uganda is still relatively stable, and Kony has been fairly innocous. There have been a few attacks in the DRC, but he seems to be staying away from Uganda. For the best updates, check www.invisiblechildren.com.

I'll be updating periodically about my adventures this year. Since I will be staying in Gulu this time, I should be able to update more frequently.

Take care,

March 9, 2009

It's a bird. It's a plane. It's a Baby Doll!

Grand total raised to date-$1630! Funds remaining to be raised-$2370!

A huge thank you goes out to everyone that has helped me achieving my fund raising goals so far. I just sent out my first program payment, and your checks should be cashed soon!

In order to continue raising funds for the teacher exchange, I am getting a little creative….
One of Emily’s friends (Thanks Jennifer Ruhe!) was looking at my photos from Uganda and absolutely fell in love with the photos of the children from St. Jude children’s orphanage in Gulu. She was so enamored by their bright faces that she decided to make the beautiful dolls pictured below as a gift for them. When I travel to Uganda, I will be hand delivering these dolls to the children at the orphanage. There is just one catch... The dolls aren’t free…

In order to offset the material costs and “delivery fees” (read: program expenses), I will be “selling” the dolls for a suggested donation of $30.00 (of course, feel free to give more...). You don’t actually get to keep the dolls, but for your donation, you will know that you are bringing joy to the beautiful children pictured below (Yup, that cute girl is actually one of the kids who will receive these precious dolls) by allowing me to deliver one of the dolls pictured to the right. Payment can be made in any of the ways mentioned in previous posts (Check to IC, Check to me made out to IC, Check to me made out to me, Credit using link below, Credit by calling IC). If you send a check to IC (or make a CC payment over the phone), let me know by shooting me a quick e-mail. That way, I can make sure to bring a doll in your name.

Also, I would love to collect any gently used infant and children clothing and shoes that you would be willing to donate. Most of the children at the orphanage have only one or two sets of clothes, and almost none of the children wear shoes. Unfortunately, I can’t accept adult clothing as it takes up much more space (which is very limited) and could send my luggage weight dangerously close to the 50 lb. limit. I will be bringing a few soccer balls for the orphanage, and will also accept gently used sporting equipment to keep those boys out of trouble. Feel free to mail clothes to me (c/o John Hersey High School, 1900 E. Thomas St., Arlington Heights, IL 60004), or give me a call if you live close and I can pick them up.

Now, what will you get for your donations (other than that deep down warm and fuzzy feeling that comes from knowing you are awesome for making a little kids day special)? I promise that I will do my best to take photographs of the children enjoying your dolls (or clothes, or soccer balls...), personally scrawl a note on the back of the photos thanking you for your generosity, and maybe even throw in something extra...(I should have plenty of room in my bag on the return trip)!

I had better stop asking for donated items now; otherwise, I might not be able to bring any of my own clothes. I don’t think that the headmaster at my partner school would care too much for a naked munu teacher in his classrooms (though I might be able to do a pay Matt to put back on his clothes fund raiser…).


No news is...

There is little in the way of news coming out of Uganda currently, but there are a few stories of note. President Kabila of DRC and President Musevini of Uganda met last week to discuss the ongoing operations in the Congo. Uganda, who was supposed to pull its troops from the DRC by the end of February, struck a deal with the DRC to allow Ugandan troops to remain in the Congo through March. There have been a few reports of capture or surrender of top LRA officers, but many are skeptical, and the Ugandan government has yet to provide any concrete evidence for its claims.

Also in the region, the International Criminal Court, the same authority that has issued arrest warrants for Kony and other LRA officers, issued an arrest warrant for Omar Bashir, President of Sudan, last week. Unfortunately, Bashir has responded by kicking out all of the foreign aid workers in the country. During my time in Uganda, many in the North expressed fears that this might happen. Some even went so far as to suggest the possibility of Kony and Bashir forming an alliance and attacking Northern Uganda and southern Sudan. With both men wanted by the ICC, they would have nothing to lose, and thus far, the ICC has had little more than a big bark and a short leash.


February 28, 2009


With my first payment due date approaching, I figured that it was about time to share some more trip details...and then ask for your money.

My Itinerary for the Exchange
June 12--Last day of school--Woo Hoo!
June 13--Depart Chicago for NY, switch planes, Depart NY for Uganda
June 15--Arrive in Entebbe UG (after a layover at Heathrow in London)
June 16--Drive many hours on dusty and VERY bumpy roads to Gulu Uganda and rub my buns to try to regain some circulation
June 17-19--Orientation and Workshops
June 20-July 24--Observing, Planning, and Teaching at School sites.
July 25--Begin making our way back to Entebbe with a stop in Jinja to tempt fate on the Nile, and a stop in Kampala for one final celebration dinner--shisha anyone?

We have not received our official placements yet, though I do anticipate working more closely with Amy Cordileone on research projects this year. My guess is that this will keep me nearer to Gulu. I do, however, plan on making a trip out to Pabo to visit with old friends from last summer's trip.

Now comes the beg for money part...

On March 1st, I will be making a payment of $2000 dollars to Invisible Children. If you are able to help support my service in Uganda, you can make a donation by doing the following:

1. Use a credit card by clicking on the link to the left titled "Chip-in." You won't be able to make a tax deduction, but you do get the distinct pleasure of seeing the little thermometer go up a bit ("It's getting hot in here"...but only if you help).

2. Send me a check made out to "Invisible Children." I will send this check in with a future payment and you will receive a receipt from IC for next year's taxes. My address is

Matt Michelin
104 Burr Oak Ln Unit B1
Schaumburg, IL 60193

3. Send a check directly to Invisible Children. Make sure that on the memo line you write "T/EX-Matt Michelin" Send the check directly to Invisible Children. You will also receive a tax receipt if you use this method.

Invisible Children
Mission: Teacher Exchange
1620 5th Ave, Suite 400
San Diego, CA 92101

4. If you are not a check writing person (but still want a tax receipt), then try donating with your credit card! Donations may be made by calling Invisible Children directly at 1-619-562-2799 or faxing your CC information to 619-660-0576. If you use this method, please ask for Cara Pryor and mention my name and that I am a part of the teacher exchange. Cara will be making sure that all funds are documented and managed appropriately.

Thank you to everyone who has already donated! I have collected just over $1000 towards the trip so far because of your generosity!

Stay tuned for more fund raiser maddness...St. Judes Dolls, dinner party, summer celebration, auctions and raffles... If you have any other fund raiser ideas, or would be willing to make a donation of an item to be included in a raffle at a later date, please contact me through the e-mail or comment link below.


February 26, 2009

Uganda Update

It has been a while since I posted last. Unfortunately, there have been few major developments in Uganda's hunt for Joseph Kony and the LRA in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Here is the most recent update from the Invisible Children website:

Ugandan Army to End Operations in DRC
After two months of hunting Joseph Kony’s rebel army through the remote jungles of Garamba Forest in the DR Congo, Uganda will end the deployment of its forces to the region leaving United Nation peacekeepers and Congolese troops to hunt the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and to protect civilians. “Operation: Lightning Thunder,” the joint offensive a multi-national force against the LRA, has been the target of sharp criticism in recent weeks as the civilian causalities, which many experts believe a reaction by the LRA to the “Lightning Thunder,” have grown to an estimated 900 Congolese civilians in the four months alone. These developments come as African leaders have begun to call on western governments to directly take part in arresting Joseph Kony and end the atrocities of the LRA in eastern Congo. Archbishop of Sudan Daniel Deng told officials in the United Kingdom that the governments of the United States and the UK should support and participate in efforts to “bring (Kony) to the book” as Kony’s capture seems beyond the abilities of regional governments. The Rwandan government began to pull their forces out of DR Congo over the weekend of February 21st.

UN Secretary General to Visit DRC

Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, will visit DR Congo this week will to meet with President Joseph Kabila, leaders of the United Nations peacekeeping force in the Congo and with the victims of the recent displacement and sexual violence in eastern Congo. On February 19th, the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) estimated that 15,000 Congolese are externally displaced in South Sudan, 150,000 Congolese are internally displaced within DR Congo while another 900 civilians have been killed by violence perpetrated by the LRA. UN spokesperson Hassan Yusuf gave a dire depiction of the growing internal displacement crisis in the region telling the international press corps, “we have seen the worst in recent months, seeing thousands of new refugees both externally and internally.”

To read this post in its original format, click here

Though there have been few recent news reports (Some take this as a sign that the LRA has been unable to make any progress in their escape and rebuilding efforts), Newspapers today are reporting that the LRA is moving even further into the heart of Africa based on attacks committed in the Central African Republic. We will all have to sit back and wait to see what happens when Ugandan troops pull out of the DRC. Let's pray that some resolution comes to this situation soon.