Molly in Africa

Saturday, October 28, 2006

CRO- Child Restoration Outreach

When I went to CRO on Tuesday for my meeting at 10, I started working there that very day. I will be here until the end of November-ish…the ending date is not for sure set. Originally I was thinking Thanksgiving (the other students in my SIT program and I are all going to celebrate together in Kampala), but now I think I will want to return to Mbale after Thanksgiving for the remaining week of practicum time. We’ll see about that though.
At CRO on Tuesday, I was received warmly and Christine, the national coordinator, was excited about my interests that I had expressed in my email to her. I explained my psychology studies, my soccer (football here) experience- including assistant coaching, my experience with children and my love of music. She said that I could help with the sports program here- football, volleyball, table tennis and netball. Since then, I’ve talked to Moses, the project manager for Mbale and he thinks that I might be able to help with the girls’ football team. I’m excited about that because I think that I would be a good female role model for them in the sense that I am already someone they look up to (just by nature of my skin color), but my interest in football for girls is huge and I think rare here. I met one of the girls yesterday and she was really excited about what skills I can teach them. I’m a bit nervous about this expectation and told her that (she’s in secondary school) and she laughed and agreed that they would teach me anything I didn’t know as well as me teaching them anything they don’t know. We’ll see how it goes.
For music, I have been asked to teach the kids some easy songs. They just hired a new music teacher this week, so that’s good because it means that I won’t be pushed into the classroom just yet. I have thought of some songs and my pops sent an email with lots of suggestions, but if any of you have any great ideas of easy songs- I’m trying to go for not so cheesy- please feel free to email me. Also, it’d be good if drums could be played along with it because that’s how most of their music goes so I think they’ll like that better.
For psychology, I will be working with the social workers very closely for about half the day each day. Every morning, two social workers walk the streets of Mbale and talk to any kids on the street. The social workers do this everyday because they see this as the only way to keep kids off the street. I’ve gone three times this week (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) and each time we’ve seen at least on new kid that the social worker had never talked to before. There are a group of street boys who do not want to be part of CRO and there are a number of other street children who aren’t interested either. Mostly it is because they can make a little money on the streets and they need that money to buy some little food for their family. I also helped with the intake for two of the new kids on Wednesday (with the help of another social worker who translated for me) and that was really interesting- asking about what brought them to the streets and then what their plans are for the future. It also seems that I will have the chance to ask those same intake questions to older kids (who speak English better)- I’ve done it so far with one girl and that went well.
In the down time, which I know you can’t believe exists since that sounds pretty hectic, I get to play with the kids. On the first day I played volleyball with some of the older boys (approx. ages 14 – 24) and that was really fun. Since then I have played cards (although I don’t really understand the rules), a game like sharks and minnows, cats cradle, and have had some fun singing and dancing time with the kids too. It’s fun because now they are getting more used to me and I’m opening up (in my silliness) to them so that’s good.
Also in my down time, if the kids are in class, I’ll go in and help them with their lesson. Sometimes this means that I go from table to table and help with math (which I really enjoy) and other times I’m thrown into the classroom and asked to teach. I’m not as big of a fan of this because I have no idea where they are at in their lessons, how much they know, how they are learning or what aspect of English they are learning. The other day I had to fake an English lesson for five minutes until someone else came in and saved me. Today I just stood in front of the class and read from their book and they repeated what I said. It’ll be interesting how much more of this I am expected to do.
Some exciting news: I’ve made some friends here!!! First, there are two Norwegian boys who are working at CRO for the next 6.5 months (they’ve already been here for two weeks) and they are nice. One is 20 and one is 22 and while we don’t know each other that well, it is nice to be in a similar situation with them and to have each other as allies. I think that the 20 year old and I could be good friends but he’s been kind of quiet with me so far, so hopefully with some more time he’ll open up a bit more. My closest friend here in Mbale is Charles. He’s 23- a former CRO kid who did really well for himself and is a great testament to the effectiveness of this program. He went to a specialized secondary school for catering and then went to one of the Ugandan universities and got a degree in catering. He used to work for the American Embassy and had an interview this morning with a local hotel so hopefully that went well. Another friendship I’ve formed is with Mike- I think he’s 24. He was in the original class of CRO kids back in ’92. He now helps with sports here and is very nice. Mike and Charles are going to help me learn some of the languages spoken here- yes that’s right- Languages plural. They speak Ki-swahili, Lugisu and Luteso, along with English and some Luganda. I have gotten to practice my Luganda some as we’ve traveled through the community a bit and that’s been really rewarding because people are always so flattered and happy when you are putting forth the effort to try to communicate with them.
After spending my first three nights at a guest house, I moved into Esther’s house on Thursday. Esther is a woman I met when my SIT group came through the Mbale area and she was really fun and confident at the meeting we had with her. So, I am now living with her here in Namatala (which is the local slum area, but I’m in the outskirts- in the nicest area of the slum as far as I can tell). I live in a brick house with screens in my window!!! Screens are something which I have not seen in Uganda at all and yet, it would make a lot of sense for screens to be a hit in Uganda with all the mosquitoes etc. I lock the door to my room each day and therefore my belongings (including my laptop) are completely safe. Since I’ve only been here two days I do not know that much about Esther yet, but I’ll let you know more about her next time.


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