I think that in every culture, there are beautiful ways of life that we can learn and build on. With my Athropology background, I think I will always be one to take an observatory approach, delving into the culture and current ways, before judging or acting.There have been many people who do not believe this, and think that a western model is the only model. The problem with this, is in fact, that a model that works and is functioning in one society, culture, and political system, will not flawlessly overlay onto another that is very different. Having seen this first hand in Uganda, we, as embraceKulture strive to create a model for Special Education that is culturally relative and sustainable for Uganda.
If riding on a boda boda in Kampala wasn’t exhilarating and adrenaline-rushing enough, I got extremely excited when another boda driver drove by wearing an Autism shirt. I tried to pay my boda driver to chase this boda driver so I could get a photo for you guys, but the rush hour jam in Kampala makes it hard to keep track of people! It also made me realize the language barrier with my inability to communicate in Lluganda. Living in another country, I feel it’s extremely important to at least attempt to learn the native language and not expect everyone to know English, so, I have been trying to learn new words and phrases every day.
As mentioned above, I have been trying to learn more about the culture and history of Uganda, East Africa, and Africa in general. This studying through books and conversations with others, has really expanded my mind to think more about how current situations, globally, are very related to their histories and cultures. Here in Uganda, migratory histories, the history of colonization, slave trade, recent civil wars, etc. There are over 52 local languages, many different districts, tribes, clans, and political borders. These things all are extremely important in the work we are doing and developing trainings that will need to adapted to each culture, language, and educational level.
With that being said, my first few weeks have involved a lot of visiting existing schools, reading local school books on culture, history and dynamic of Uganda, meeting with the National Curriculum Development Center, having conversations with locals, and brainstorming ways of integrating trainings in a creative way.
Meeting with the National Curriculum Development Center has been inspirational as they are finishing up curriculums and manuals for the Blind and Deaf, and soon will be collaborating with us as embraceKulture, to start creating the curriculums for Intellectual Disabilities, starting with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
I was extremely inspired by a school, “Teens and Tots” who have Occupational and Speech Therapy programs, Vocational Trainings, IEP systems, a high parent involvement, and more.
I was also very impressed by the work of Mango Tree, who has a well-run process for creating interactive educational tools through the use of local and easily accessible materials.
I have been extremely inspired by the work of The Special Children’s Trust, Mukisa Foundation, and The Dawn Center. Seeing these well-established places, collaborating on ideas, and agreeing that we all need to work together to advocate and promote awareness for people with disabilities in Uganda, has been amazing.
Meeting with smaller grassroots organizations that are just taking off, and working on smaller, local levels, has also been inspiring that so many people are working to change this.
Hawa, our social worker, and I have been on the search for an office space, and hopefully after elections, we will be able to confirm a space!
Vince, who does all of our media, videos, and pics, and I were talking of possibilities of larger advocacy projects related to the media, and it is so inspiring that someone so involved in the media is so supportive of us. Very excited to continue working with him.
In addition to all the work with embraceKulture, I have been involved in working with a group of amazing women, Helen, Irene, Anne (tall) , and Anne (short), in rolling out "Rugby.Tackling.Life" which is working with spreading Rugby around Uganda. Currenly we have over 2,000 girls and women playing rugby. Our goal is to spread rugby to more areas, empowering women to have the ability to make an informed choice for their life in terms of education, occupation, marriage, having a family, etc.
We have been working with Great Lakes Roasters in order to come up with our new product, "COOFFEEE" which with every purchase, a portion goes back to Rugby.Tackling.Life to help with costs invovled with this mission. For all those in Uganda, feel free to contact us to purchase some. For all those outside Uganda, hang tight and keep an eye out, because we may have some exciting news for you soon!!
Needless to say, my time here has been extremely powerful, amazing, beautiful, and inspiring. There is nothing more powerful than being on the ground seeing things first hand. There is nothing more inspiring than hour long conversations of empowerment over endless cups of coffee. There is nothing more beautiful than a culture centered around dancing, music, happiness, and love. There is nothing better than waking up knowing you are doing the work that you are passionate and born to do.
Happy Friday everyone! Thank you for your endless support and encouragement. Please stay tuned for more updates. I love and miss every single one of you!!
Musiibe Bulungi!! (Have a great day!)