Scoops by Colin McEwen, reporter

Editor's note: Stow Sentry Reporter Colin McEwen and his girlfriend, Kelly Flamos, are visiting Sub-Saharan Africa in Uganda for one month. The following was written soon after their arrival late last week.

Kelly and I finally reached our destination in Uganda after several roadblocks, including flight cancellations and lost luggage.

However, we have not lost our motivation for what we plan to accomplish here.

Last year, Kelly came here to work at The AIDS Support Organisation, and started the TASO Mbale Smallholder Poultry Project for Vulnerable Youth, a self-sustaining poultry project to assist 21 child-headed families.

During this trip, we plan to follow up with that work, and begin other similar projects.

We met with Margaret Muzaki, a co-founder of TASO Mbale and senior counselor for the clinic, which serves eight municipal districts. She said there is an average of 240 new HIV/AIDS patients every month, and many of them need more than treatment for AIDS. Many families lack basic human needs such as suitable drinking water or food.

Muzaki will coordinate with Kelly and I as we work on the poultry project for the next month.

"If people are even able to care for the chickens, it will be a success," she said, adding many of the families have had great success from the chickens, turning profits into goat purchases and financial stability.

Last year, many of the 84 hens purchased for the project died, perhaps due to the local climate change or lack of vaccinations.

The exotic breed of roosters survived, so this year we will replenish the supply of hens for the project after hosting a training workshop to assess how the project fared individually for each family.

We also have started working with John Busolo, a guard at the CURE hospital in Mbale, where we are staying.

He founded an organization called Poverty Reduction Initiative for Development, where he volunteers his time and resources in the village where he was raised. Last year, during Kelly's visit, Busolo took a dying boy named Wycliffe to a local hospital for treatment when he was dying of severe malnutrition and anemia.

He started several coffee projects, planting coffee trees, to benefit orphans in his village.

We plan to assist Busolo in starting a fish farm, a self-sustaining project to help local villagers and orphans.

We visited his remote village of Kimaluli, located approximately 15 miles from the Kenyan border, to meet with the PRID board members. We examined 3.5 acres of land donated to Busolo by an elder in the village and determined the best place to put a fish farm. We will be meeting with aquacultural experts for assistance in the coming weeks and begin work on that project.

"This is something I have wanted to do from the bottom of my heart," said Busolo, who was orphaned as a child. "When I looked at my life, I realized that orphans have the hardest lives. There must be somebody to look after these children, and love them."

We have met many people on the trip including: Justin, a British medical student working on his internship; Miriam, a social worker from southwest Uganda who plans to come to Ohio to get her master's in social work at Case Western Reserve University; and Robert, a counselor at TASO who was the original inspiration for the poultry project.

I have met hundreds of people, and as the Ugandans have an affinity for shaking hands, I have shaken hands a thousand times in four days. The people here are kind and quick to greet with a smile.

The road to Mbale was a bumpy ride, but we anticipate a smooth ride for the next month.

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kellio.