While it is hard for me to believe, I am preparing for my first trip to Uganda! I guess this year’s trip for me started with some improvisational performance between Christmas and New Year’s Eve for the Watatos Got Talent curriculum. From there, like other years when I was not traveling personally, the May fund-raiser on Pittsburgh’s Southside, Beers for the Bush Bar Crawl was next. We had a great turnout and a lot of fun while also raising funds towards an additional deep water well and support for the Watatos Got Talent competition. Heidi and Erin (see below) hosted a Cocktails in the Garden party on a beautiful Friday evening in Sewickley which proved to be the best single fundraiser for VCAYA! More importantly the time we get to spend with others talking about our work in Africa really expands our world view and allows us to both anticipate the trip and reflect on what wonderful opportunities we have been given. 

In early June I went to the County Health Department to get my shots (Tetanus booster, finish up my Hep B, etc) and also to get Typhoid and Malaria pills. I’ll be taking the Typhoid this week over the course of 4 days, and then starting the Malaria pills a couple of days prior to our departure on the 19th of July! I have a bag packed already with formal gowns for the women who have started a rental business last year and am just starting to get my personal belongings together including clothes, some insect repellent, etc still on the list are some protein bars and travel coffee supplies 😎

In addition to being with Susan the past several days as she prepares to leave, we got to be with our son Dane and my sister Erin who are also coming with us, so we have all been getting excited. We had a chance to go whitewater rafting on the Youghiogheny River, which was our ‘warm up’ for the Nile. Although we have been assured by Susan and Patrick Spencer (a previous traveler to Uganda & Nile River rafter) that we are in for a much wilder ride at Nile River Explorers! Can’t wait to head out next week!


July 8, 2019

Almost ready! We have many moving parts so to speak this year which has made our preparations a tad bit more complicated! If you're reading this, you have probably participated in this preparation in some way or another... attending one of our fundraisers, working on our GBV curriculum, contributing to fund drilling in Matata (the village of Osanyuk), collecting used eye glasses, helping with publicity, or you have an awareness of the needs in developing regions and are interested in finding out more about our efforts. Whatever your reason, we welcome your ideas and thoughts around our projects. 

I have one suitcase packed full of eye glasses, vision assessment materials, and school supplies. Yesterday and today I finished my shopping to include items that schools in Bukedea and Opucet will value - colored chalk, colored pens, white boards, rulers -  but the majority of our school materials were donated by a teacher that Cindy met at an appointment! Flash cards, puppets and books will all be put to good use and appreciated in these schools.

The drama coaches in Bukedea have been working with the children in 6 schools over the past couple of months to prepare for the Watotos Got Talent competition that will take place on July 26th. Kevin seems to think that he has all of the details taken care of - I'm kind of terrified because of all of the unknowns. We'll try to upload some videos if we have the bandwidth when we finish. 

But before we begin our work in Uganda, Kevin and I will be attending and presenting at the International Association of Special Education (IASE) conference being held in Tanzania this year. We planned our work in Uganda around the conference to reduce some of our travel time. We miss seeing friends and family when we travel extensively so this reduces our time away from home a bit. Our presentation topics: 1) The development of the Watotos Got Talent Curriculum and 2) our psychometric investigation and development of the CPR Analytics Scale that measures student's progress through the arts in five dimensions. We are looking forward to hearing about other initiatives around the world designed to promote inclusion for children with disabilities.


Improving the lives of vulnerable children

July 21st

Today we visited the AirTel Store to see about purchasing a hot spot so that we would have more reliable access to the Internet. This in itself could be a short story, but I'll let Kevin tell that one since he had to deal with most of the challenges. However, the connection seems to be fast which will allow us to post updates, photos and maybe even a video or two... but maybe we shouldn't press our luck.

The rest of our team arrived too after significant travel delays. But we're on the road to Jinja and are looking forward to the peaceful environment of the Nile.

Yesterday we distributed about 80 pairs of glasses that were donated over the last year. Cindy and Kevin were given a ton of readers that were really appreciated! Harriet (our friend who organized the event), manages a sewing studio for women who otherwise would not have an income. Many of the women are aging and without these glasses they would not be able to continue to work. We also distributed some donated sunglasses that are so  helpful for eye health in this climate.

A few days ago we were introduced to George, a boy of about 3 years who has cerebral palsy and was abandoned at the hospital. Parents often find it too difficult to raise a child with disabilities in Uganda and given the stigma associated with giving birth to a disabled child, they are often left to die. The police brought George to Victoria at Bright Kids Children Home a few months ago. She has been nursing him back to health with regular feedings and he is now healthy enough to benefit from therapy. She will arrange for an assessment and regular PT and SLT sessions. I believe that this child has good potential if given the right kind of interventions now. We reached out to our therapist friends through facebook for ideas to share with the nurse and his care providers.

Watotos Got Talent UPDATE:  T-shirts for the children and other printed materials have been completed including the 10 meter X 4 meter banner that is now displayed on the main street through Bukedea! Kevin has been in touch with national media for wider coverage of the event's message. We will meet with the production team on Tuesday and visit the schools for dress rehearsals. We are really looking forward to hearing what the students have to say!

DATES: July 9 - 31, 2019

2019 Team: Margo Dolgos, Dane Morris, Erin Barringer, Sean O'Rourke, Kevin Spencer, Susan O'Rourke