Dear _________. There are many reasons why mushrooms makes sense in Kabale. One, protein deficiency (leading to malnutrition) is sky-high here, especially amongst children under five. Eggs, chicken, beef, goat – are culinary pipedreams for the poor. Mushrooms are packed with protein and serve as a less costly alternative. Two, land is scarce and scattered. The population of Uganda is greater than the population of Canada, and yet the country’s size could fit into Alberta oh-so-many times. You don’t need land or soil to grow mushrooms – just innovation. Three, mushrooms can be grown from waste productions like sorghum husks. People drink a lot of sorghum porridge here. Four, many people are really ill here. Try to imagine tilling/harvesting your land, by hand, when you’re sick. Mushrooms don’t require a lot of physical effort. More on mushrooms later, that’s a promise.
Digging My Omusiri
Dear _________. You don’t plant your garden here. You “dig” it. The day we dug the seedling nursery, my friend and colleague, Alphonse, spotted a chameleon hanging out on a dried brown and yellow corn leaf. It’s a good sign, he said, of a healthy system – indicative that no chemicals had been used on the site before. The chameleon migrated up the stalk and transformed into a green shade. He was a little sweet blessing for my new “omusiri” – Rukiga word for garden. In the nursery we planted eggplant, green pepper, tomato, kale and Swiss Chard. Up higher on the garden plot we planted directly into the iron-ore soils: carrot, more kale, sunflower seeds that had ‘accidentally’ journeyed with me from Canada, corn, and climbing beans that we nestled into the soil beneath the stand of plantain trees. Now praying for the skies to darken and bless my omusiri with rains.
Blessed by Movers & Shakers
Dear _________. I’m doing the work here in Kabale that I’ve always dreamed of…collaborating with a community organization that is really “moving” as Dr. Geoffrey, my new boss, mentor, and pseudo African-father, often says. Scribbling down ‘field notes’ has become a daily reality for me. Interacting with people who are pushing against injustice and trying to “walk their own way out of poverty” using whatever resource and tool available to them. Some stories are difficult to listen to, most dealing in hunger, suffering and death. But the humanity never drains from people’s eyes and mouths as they’re sharing their reality with me, not even for a second. These people know what they need – they don’t need experts from the outside proposing outside solutions. Maybe this is the greatest learning lesson of all. Instead, it’s about tapping into what people are already doing, getting a feel for the way people live, speak, struggle, relate, love, dig, dream. And you can only really achieve this at the grassroots level.
I feel a part of something big and blessed here. I’ve met so many movers and shakers from the leadership of this organization. Many of my colleagues, in three months, have become close friends and inspiring collaborators. Faith, partnership and positive action are helping people move forward here. And I can write, with certainty, that it’s been helping me to “move” and get closer to living out my dreams, too. As I remember reading a quote from a friend’s book whilst in Cuba last year…you don’t need permission to live out your birth-right in life, what you were born to do…you only need the present breath, and the guts to say: this is the life I want to live.
If you want to get closer to the reality of my work today – click here.
Thanks for listening and loving me from afar.