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Editorial Comment

Why We Should “Love Thy Neighbor”
By Angela Forcier

Why I Do What I Do: Life in Bududa, Uganda
By Barbara Wybar

HROC and the Batwa Ethnic Group in Rwanda
By Theoneste Bizimana

Living Abundantly
By Deborah Dakin

A Bumpy Road to Mediation By George Brose

Applying These Teachings: Testimonies from Congo
By Zawadi Nikuze

Reconciliation?
By David Zarembka

Reaching a Common Reconciliation
By Adrien Niyongabo

Welcome Back
By Dorcas Nyambura

 

 

Why I Do What I Do: Life in Bududa, Uganda
By Barbara Wybar

Barbara Wybar, a Canadian living in the United States, attended three AGLI workcamps in Bududa, Uganda and returned on her own two more times. In October 2007 she decided to move to Bududa in order to put the Bududa Vocational Institute and the Children of Peace orphans’ programs on a firm footing.

Why do I do what I do? Why is this work I am doing in Uganda such a good fit? I keep asking myself these questions. It has been such a serendipitous journey. I first came to Uganda during the AGLI workcamps from 2003-2006.

The journey seems to divide into chapters. The first chapter would be about an old school friend, Jane Horner Delange. Back in 2003 I stayed with her on my way to Uganda for the first time and she seemed inspired by the story and lived the adventure vicariously. She decided to submit my name to our old school, Study in Montreal, Canada for an alumni award. By some strange turn of events, her candidate won and I was given an award of $1,000 to take to the Bududa Vocational Institute, the school that we had worked so hard to start and build. For most of my adult life, I had been a mother, a housewife, and a second grade teacher – nothing out of the ordinary. So at the age of 60 to be given an award for the work I loved to do in Uganda seem like an exciting opening to a new chapter in my life. It gave me an opportunity to speak to the whole school at an assembly in Canada. I showed slides and spoke about my passion. Fourteen of my old classmates came from as far away as California and Vancouver Island. We all spent an amazing weekend together. I felt supported and, in some small way, I felt that I had captivated my old pals with this new twist in my life. In 2007, I rented out my house, packed it up, and planned to move to Uganda for a year. Simultaneously, I sent out hundreds of fundraising letters to literally everybody I knew or had ever known and all my many friends and relatives.

The next chapter was not quite such a happy one as I arrived in this lovely village to find that the school that we had worked so hard for was not functioning well. It was a lonely and difficult time for me. I had to face my fear and stand up to the person I had trusted but who was mismanaging the two programs. I did and in so doing, learned that I could stand up for myself with nothing bad happening to me.

To resolve this situation more fully, I decided to stay in Bududa with my African friends. If I left, there would be no more money going into the project, the teachers would all be out of jobs and the students would be without a school. We found another geographical location to have the school and we held a workcamp to prepare it. We opened our doors a month later and we have not looked back since.

Over the last sixteen months that Bududa Vocational Institute has been in operation, there have been fifteen volunteers from Canada and the USA. With each volunteer, I have learned new skills and opened doors for the institution. Each volunteer brought his or her own gifts, talents, and perspectives. For example, one amazing couple, Paul Hogan and Geri Fitzgerald, came in February 2008. Paul is a lawyer and Geri is a banker who I met through my neighbor. They worked tirelessly for five weeks to put policies and procedures in place, draft contracts, and set up the school accounting system. Geri put in 12-hour days and the finished product was a document we use daily and from which we can make budget projections and summaries. We have been truly blessed with all the help we have received: college students, high school students, sixty year olds, businessmen, an actress and a nursery school director. They have each brought their individual skills and their interest to the village. Like me, they have all learned from these villagers about life and another way to live it. It is a win-win situation, especially with the younger students. The North Americans learn a lot and the Africans are simply delighted to have their interest and friendship. In fact, the real story lies with the Africans who bring so much to me and to all of us who visit.

I find myself growing as an individual because of the people I work with and the situation I find myself in, overseeing the Bududa Vocational Institute and coordinating the Children of Peace sponsorship program. More than at any other time in my life, I find myself totally engaged and focused. I eat to live, not live to eat. I work seven days a week, start before 6:00 am and end after dinner. It is a challenge. It is helping in the simplest ways, feeding the hungry, teaching, and nursing the sick. I like the people and, for the most part, the people like me. I accept my own company. In fact, I now relish the few hours that I can claim as my own on a Sunday, if I am lucky.

I am not so spoilt. Cabbage beans and rice twice a day is okay with me. Pit latrines, no running water, and no electricity do not spell hardship to me. I am learning to know myself, to know what I stand for and what I believe in. Somehow, in this environment, where simplicity is the order of the day, principles are adhered to more easily. One’s values and morality, brought from the West, sometimes fly in contrast to those of the village. Therefore, since one’s ideology is always questioned, one becomes more certain about one’s stand.

But why am I doing this? Why do I love it so much? Does it have to do with my Christian upbringing, I wonder? People ask me if I came because of a calling. I am perplexed. I say I came out of a spirit of adventure. I have a friend in Canada, Malcolm Evans, who is a minister in the Anglican church. He is convinced it is God’s work I am doing. I explain that I love what I am doing, but I would not call it “a calling.” He says, “God moves in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform”. I know the hymn well. This takes me up short. Is he right? Maybe. Have I been led to this by God and I just do not know it? What I do know is that these early teachings in Sunday school are still with me.

As a child, I wanted to help the poor. My Dad helped me. Then I got caught up in the life that was set out for me: McGill University, graduate school, marriage, children, then no marriage, and fulfilling work as a teacher. Then came volunteering in Bududa with AGLI, then Africa full time.

I think I like it because it is a challenge. How do you help people with so many difficulties, usually revolving around money, health, food, education, crime, promiscuous sexual activity that leads to pregnancy or AIDS?

In the two programs that I oversee, I have met with so many heart rending problems, it is sometimes hard to focus on anything else. Here are a few of the children who are on the front burner at the moment.

One Saturday not too long ago, 12 year old Ivan was not with his class. He said he was sick and so I left him to wait to see the medical officer. He never did, but one of the fine teachers reminded me that he was not well. We talked to him and I saw silent, embarrassed tears flowing as he tried to look at his belly button. He said his mum had gone to Kenya and he was living with a stepmum and he did not have enough to eat. Sure enough, under his jacket he was skin and bones. He was starving and he had so many jiggers in his feet he could hardly walk. My friends at the guest house worked for two hours to remove the jiggers and I fed him everything I could. Then the program kicked in and we attempted to get his full family involved in rectifying the situation.

Here is another example: Four lovely orphans’ (orphans in Africa are children with one or less parents) mother died suddenly at Christmas time and they are left with a very seriously alcoholic father, who turns into a thief when he drinks. The two older children, twins aged 13, were in the Children of Peace program before Mum died and then when I returned after Christmas we added Simon (age 5) and Sylvia (age 7) to the program. There is also Cyrus who is 2 years old, but we have no facilities to handle him. We have hired a local woman to care for the kids and do their washing, and we give her food to feed them and soap, but the system does not work perfectly. Dad gets drunk and sells off the provisions we have given. The local woman gets sick, at times, and needs money herself. The oldest girl, aged 13, wrangles with her hopeless father and he threatens to marry her off so he can get a bride price for her. It takes constant monitoring to oversee this family.

Bududa Vocational Institute is not without its own set of harrowing stories of problems and here is one about Margaret, a mature student we sponsor. I think this one tells best what we are trying to do and how sponsors’ money is spent. In November, the headmaster of the school and I walked the hillsides surrounding Bududa and spoke to as many people as possible to recruit new students to enroll in the Bududa Vocational Institute for the new school year. On the way down, it began to rain hard. We took shelter in a peasant's home and waited for the rain to stop. It took an hour. We sat with Margaret, a woman of about 50 years with a sad expression on her face that spoke of one who is resigned to her lot. After a while, the headmaster began to get Margaret's story. She had five children and they had been in private schools when her husband decided to take up with a much younger woman, had two children with her and built her a house just across the clearing. Margaret has to look out her door everyday and watch this as she and her children are ignored and the children, had, unfortunately been pulled out of school as there was no money.

We suggested to Margaret that she come to our school and learn a trade. She came the next day walking for four miles barefoot in her best dress. She comes everyday to learn to be a tailor. We have made her a uniform and she wears it with pride. Best of all, her teachers tell us that she is a very good student and, although she has not been educated beyond Primary Seven, she tries hard and is able do the calculations for garment cutting. Now Margaret can be seen with a smile on her face and it comes easily which makes me happy.

I am not sure that I have explained adequately why this work that I am doing in remote Uganda is such a good fit, but I know in every fiber of my being that it is and that I am helping in some small way. I feel a sense of purpose. I have made many new friends and old ones have come out of the woodwork to support me. Now my task is to see that what I have begun goes on long after me: My goals are to register the school, to see that it is well established and that it runs as any fine North American institute and then to find big foundations to permanently fund the school.

Next article: HROC and the Batwa Ethnic Group in Rwanda By Theoneste Bizimana