African Gothic

Because I can’t WAIT to get started on this blog, even though my first official trip isn’t until January 22 when I leave for Guatemala, I’m writing this post from my Heifer Trial Run in Uganda, in November 2011…which was amazing!

Augustine and Anna Turyamyomwe are part of the same Heifer International Kinkizi Piggery Project as Ruth, whom I wrote about in the last post. Augustine is tall and dignified, with perfect posture, a serious mien, and a dazzling smile. Anna is rather shy, but with a penetrating gaze when she talks.

Anna and her daughter Kenema Berina

Like most families in Uganda, Augustine and Anna have lots of children: 3 boys and 3 girls. Before the Heifer piggery project, they had a plot of land but it was barren, and they never seemed to be able to get ahead of their immediate needs of putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their heads. Paying their children’s school fees (about $250/year per child) was a daunting hurdle every year.

Neat as a pin: the latrine, animal sheds and utility rack!

But in the Heifer trainings, they learned some lessons that would change their life. They constructed the sheds necessary to keep their pigs robust and reproducing like .. well, rabbits. They learned to dig a pit latrine far from the house and to grow bananas and nutritious crops like napia grass, that would keep their pigs in the pink of health. And of course, the pigs’ manure could be used to fertilize coffee, beans, and pawpaws that would also be sold for income.

Once the door of possibility opened for Augustine & Anna, they added their own ingenuity, creativity and drive. From raising pigs, coffee and fruit, they branched out to bees. Augustine invented a clever bamboo beehive that he used to coax even more honey out of his hive – and then produced dozens more to sell in the village.

Augustine & Anna's house (new wing is on the left)... see the bees painted on the wall above the bamboo hives!

With the money he and Anna have earned from their pigs, bees, coffee, and bananas, the family is sending all the children to school, and their oldest to university. Augustine was able to bring his mother to live with the family and give her a bed of her own. And they’ve also been able to make a dream come true and build a second wing on their house.In the sitting room, as he and Anna are proud to relate, every member of the family has a place to sit.  They even have a radio (their second most prized possession, besides the Bible).

Sitting in the new sitting room (with the Bible and radio).

“The new wing of our house comes from the Heifer piglets,” says Anna, as George, the Heifer extension worker, and I follow Ugandan protocol and gravely sign our names into the Guest Book that every home, no matter how humble, possesses.I think of my name living on in that simple paper notebook, with its lined columns and beautiful formality. I think of Augustine and Anna sitting proudly in their plain wooden chairs, listening to the radio in this room with their children. And it makes me happy beyond expression that I was here, and I got to sign my name.

Categories: Animals, Heifer International, Poverty, Uganda | Tags: , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

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20 thoughts on “African Gothic

  1. Hi there Betty

    I think you are practising what folk call ‘ post disipline’ here… posting on a frequent and regular basis to keep your readers attentive. I myself am more a case of ‘post avoidance’ but I am trying to try.
    Anyway (yes there is an anyway) I like your post,especially the bit about the guestbooks. It is a lovely thought to know that your name is there and respected and remembered.
    In our own lives… I guess that our actions and relationships are the equivalent of signing a guestbook … people will certainly remember and sometimes judge us by the ‘signature’ we leave.
    All the best

    • Chris — whenever you write, I enjoy it, so just do it at your own pace. Sometimes I am afraid people get tired of my posts, so we all have our insecurities about blogging frequency! I’m so happy that you appreciated the description of the guest books because I found them so terribly poignant, somehow. I guess it’s because we move around so fast and have the ability to be in so many people’s lives, it isn’t really important who comes to visit us. But these families take the signing of the book very seriously – and cherished the signatures and comments there, even when they couldn’t read. I’ll never forget that.

  2. I think I’m going to have to keep looking at these photos and reading this over and over today.

    • Aren’t they just beautiful people? Augustine had the best smile — really “ear to ear” is the only way to describe it! And how much do you love his mom??

  3. Simple…yet happy!

  4. Wonderful Betty. Reading of these simple, meaningful lives, causes me to look more closely at my own. You are making a difference. What an amazing thing !

    On a mundane level are you using a new font ? Not sure if it’s just me, but it’s as if the letters aren’t all there. It’s a bit hard to read — but well worth the effort ! 🙂

    • THANKS, Sybil — I so appreciate your comment! But now I’m frantic about this typeface issue. I did change fonts because a few people said it was breaking up on their computers … and they’re okay but now apparently your computer isn’t reading the new font properly. I am really particular about typefaces, so I don’t want to settle on one I don’t like — but how annoying that it’s hard for you to read!
      Caramba! I have to get the wordpress Happiness Engineers on this!! Thanks for the alert!!

  5. Marcie Elliott Forster

    Loved your blog and pictures. A friend and fellow parishioner, Debi Frock, started a non-profit called Ghana’s Mother Hope five years ago after a mission trip to Acra, Ghana. She’s raised funds for a pre-school and medical center along with a well. She recently won an award from the king of Ghana and last year an award from the Maryland Episcopal Church for her leadership. Check out Debi’s Facebook site.

    • I’ll definitely check it out, Marcie — SO happy that you shared the site with me! That is SO impressive that she got an award from the King of Ghana — I’ve heard a lot of good things are going on in that country, and one of the professors at Larry’s school, Oglethorpe University, is doing a lot of work there as well. Hope I get to go!!

  6. A simple thing like enough chairs for every member of the family to sit down, a guest book, and a radio all thanks to the folks at Heiffer International. Wonderful.

    • Don’t you just love that room? It was totally empty except for the chairs and Bible and radio, but they were SO proud of it, and obviously got so much enjoyment out of having that extra room. When you look at the size of the house and think of 9 people living under that one roof, it’s really remarkable … and in Uganda, that’s kind of palatial! Really gives you a different perspective, and I loved being there.

      • When I mentioned the photo of the empty room with the chairs and radio to Mr F it reminded him of Bela Fleck’s trip in Africa where he searched out the roots of the banjo. Did you know that the banjo’s an African instrument?…

        Flecks’s an American and the documentary of his trip is called “Throw Down your Heart”. We saw it a couple of months ago -it’s wonderful – and it is on Netflix.

        Here’s a link to his site

      • Dear Rosie —
        I am totally going to watch that film on Netflix! (I hope it’s available on the instant queue!) — I love Bela Fleck and this reminds me of Ry Cooder’s gorgeous work in Cuba on Buena Vista Social Club! I really love when these gifted musicians go in search of the original roots of the music they love & try to preserve it. Thanks to you AND Mr. F!!

  7. Heifer could not have a better Ambassador in you! I am so excited about your upcoming journeys and adventures. I’ve known of Heifer for years but now you’re writings have already educated me more than the marketing material I’ve obtained in the past. And to think you haven’t even officially even started!!! 🙂

    • Julie== that is such a sweet comment! And I’m SO jazzed to be able to share the stories of precisely what Heifer is doing, because it goes so much deeper than merely an animal. And boy, just wait til I get started!! (:

  8. Betty, thank you for your posts and reminding all of us how little some people have, yet how happy and thankful they are. I worry so much about my own financial situation, but I know we would still be thought of as rich by beautiful, humble, simple people such as these. I have a daughter living in South Africa, so I have been able to witness for myself so much of the poverty that many people live with every day. And thank you for highlighting the wonderful work that Heifer International does all over our world. Good luck and God bless you.

    • Thanks, Anita — I have to remind myself all the time of how fortunate I am with all the abundance I take for granted .. and it’s a total privilege to see these Heifer projects in action and to be able to meet and talk to the beneficiaries. They really give you hope for the future of the world! Thanks for commenting!!

  9. The core of your writing while sounding reasonable initially, did not sit perfectly with me personally after some time. Somewhere within the sentences you actually managed to make me a believer but just for a while. I still have a problem with your leaps in assumptions and one might do well to fill in all those breaks. When you actually can accomplish that, I would certainly be impressed.
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    • I am glad that you wrote, and I am glad that even on some level, my writing resonated with you — I would be very curious
      what leaps of assumption you are referring to, so I could respond to your suggestions. While I can’t even begin to pretend to be an expert on any of the countries I visited, I did try mightily to understand and respect and reflect those cultures, and god knows,
      I certainly loved the people I met in those agricultural villages around the world. Feel free to email me if you’d
      like to correspond further — I appreciate you taking the time to write!

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