|Ruhanga Village and The Community
Uganda Lodge is situated in the heart of Ruhanga village in south-west Uganda and strives to develop community projects such as providing running water access points and education to an impoverished local population. Here we want to tell you a bit more about village life and how your contribution to our Uganda Lodge can make a real difference.
Most of the people living around Uganda Lodge are subsistence farmers. They have a very basic home, usually consisting of two or three rooms and built with locally made mud bricks and a roof of either thatched banana leaves and grass or rusting iron sheets. If the inside rooms have been plastered at some stage in the distant past, any paint on the walls looks like it was added at the same time! They have no power and rely mainly on candles or oil lamps.
You will find a couple of chairs and a bench with maybe a table in the main room and a peek into the bedroom sees an array of unkempt mattresses and torn mosquito nets and a few clothes hanging on a nail. They usually cook on an open fire which will be outside of the house and may have a roughly made plate rack and a board on which to prepare the food.
Latrines, depending on if they belong to one or several families, are in various stages of cleanliness and disrepair but the welcome you will receive if you enter their house (don’t forget to take off your shoes!!) more than makes up for their meagre possessions.
Having a small plot of land around their house on which to grow a few vegetables and maybe keep a couple of goats and chickens occupies much of a village person’s life. Sometimes they can rent extra land from a big farmer if they are lucky. Their day is spent fetching water and wood (jobs often relegated to children before and after school) tending their gardens, preparing and cooking their food and perhaps looking after a sick or elderly relative. Many families also care for one or two extra orphan children in their midst.
Crafts and Trades
Only a few people have any skills such as weaving, tailoring or carpentry and this is the area in which our proposed craft centre/workshop will be of great benefit. Learning a trade can help support a family by giving an extra income for purchasing such items as oil, salt, candles etc. Our idea is to encourage these already skilled village people to pass on their knowledge by offering the free use of the workshop and tools that we already have waiting. We hope that volunteers will come along and enhance this project with new ideas and innovative ways of marketing their products
Weaving Mats and Baskets
Some of the village women have joined together to hold weekly sessions for weaving baskets and mats from locally collected papyrus and grasses. However, although they are of a very high quality they tend to only make things to sell amongst themselves, as they have no experience of business marketing skills.A volunteer with a love of crafts could perhaps introduce new ideas to them such as batik, tie dye, jewellery, banana pictures and small items suitable as souvenirs
Some women in the village are able to make basic pottery items for home use by hand, and for each batch they build a pit in the ground to make a kiln and fire them. The local clay is only suitable for brick making, so they have to save enough money to buy a truckload of clay from the next district. We have identified a different area in Uganda where we could bring a potter and teach our villagers how to build a kiln and a potters wheel, plus make items to sell to visitors staying at Uganda Lodge. Maybe a volunteer could bestow the cost for that?
Music Dancing and Singing
A group of about 20 women have joined together to sing, dance and play drums at village events such as church gatherings, weddings, parties or funerals. Our own school children also perform and when available, will sing at school events or to wish volunteers a safe journey home. Any donations for this help provide instruments and costumes etc.
There are two churches quite close to Uganda Lodge Cell and both welcome visitors (in English) inviting them to stand up and say a few words about themselves. A tip: if you do not really wish to listen to a 2 or 3 hour service in another language – time it to enter half hour before the end! When the service ends you may be invited into nearby homes to take a drink – some sort of local brew. There is also much to see locally:
This is the cell or village in which Uganda Lodge is situated and the village boundaries run up to the top of the hills on both sides of the road. It offers many opportunities of hill-walking, with stops to visit homes, farms and plantations on the way.
There is a small trading centre in this village, just a few hundred metres from Uganda Lodge. Here a few very basic commodities such as sugar, cooking oil, maizemeal, rice, local sweet bread, bananas and ‘airtime’ can be bought. There are couple of small local bars with a pool table and music, if you need a change from Uganda Lodge. There is an Adventist church and its interesting to join the service and meet everyone for a short while late on a Saturday morning. There two large government schools attached to this church, and the senior school has many children who come from outlying areas and stay and board.
This village is less about one km along the road and here is a Ugandan Church with an attached primary school. Its an interesting experience to visit the school on a Friday afternoon and watch the tiny children ’smearing’ wet cow dung on the floor to prevent jiggers getting in their bare feet. Half way up the hillside at the heart of the village you will find a warm welcome from all you meet, and there are a couple of shacks selling a soda – Coke, Pepsi and many other flavours, or you are likely to be offered local brew – probably made from some type of bananas.
Ruhanga is the Parish that the immediate villages around Uganda Lodge lie within but no trading centre save for a few basic shops selling essentials only. The homes are very spread out over the hillside and there are beautiful views in all directions along the valley; it is possible to go all around these tracks either walking or in a 4×4.
Itojo Trading Centre
This is a trading centre about 4 kms back towards Kampala and a it has about 20 or 30 shops – mostly local basic type shacks, many of which also house the whole family. Quite a variety of goods can be purchased here at a price, and there is a police station and a small local savings bank.
The main ‘attraction’ here is a large hospital; it usually has many patients although always seems short on staff, medicines and equipment (unless you need treatment and happen to have a white face!!!) Local people are generally quite ill before they are taken here, as the concept is that ‘you go to hospital to die’ Not surprisingly for this reason many do die, and here is one area in which small amounts of education from volunteers could change this perception.
This small town is about 10 kms further west from Uganda Lodge and has many shops selling most things you would want to buy. It takes about 15 minutes in a taxi; but if you stand outside the gates & wave any vehicle down they will likely stop and you may get a free lift (to pay its about 30 pence)
There is a very large market every two weeks, and a small permanent one selling fresh foodstuffs. Internet access is possible here – if the server and the power are both not off!
The Stanbic has an international ATM, and now one of the other banks is a Western Union agent which is useful. From UK Western Union does a next day service and to send out £300 it only costs £10.
This is a large town 50 kms back towards Kampala and it usually takes about 45 mins to one hour on a taxi (14 seater minibus) They will stop outside the gates for you and you will find it an interesting journey. There is quite a big permanent covered market here selling a wide range of commodities.
In Mbarara you can buy most things that you will be needing and there is an good permanent market in town. Although some shops are local in style, still selling basic foodstuffs loose from sacks, there are several supermarkets where you can find many western treats such as cornflakes or tinned fish at a price. We find building materials are cheaper here than nearer to the Lodge but of course you have to cost in transport.
There are several banks, the main interest being the two that now have ATM machines accepting most international cards; Stanbic and Barclays being the most reliable. If they appear to be not working , just pop inside and ask, they have probably run out of money if you are requesting large amounts.
Some cap a withdrawal at about £250 at a time, so if you want to be a Ugndan millionaire or even a multi-millionaire its advisable to carry several cards – $500 will make you a millionaire. This amount of money will go a long way for food, public transport and accommodation, but it soon goes if you are buying building materials, fuel and airtime.
There are several internet cafes with access speeds ranging from acceptable to terrible! They do vary and depending on which server they are using.
You can find some quite expensive hotels here and they serve western food on request, if you want a change from the local fare. There are also places like the bakery selling cream cakes etc. Of course you are always welcome to buy some different ingredients and teach the staff at the lodge a new dish.