Mary - The Dancer
Mary was six years old. She came from a slum in Kenya, but she was a lucky one. She was chosen to be looked after. She was chosen to be given an education. She was chosen to have a future. She wasn't chosen because of her smile or because she was better than the others, or needed help more. She was chosen simply because there was too many children to take them all. Mary was given new clothes and fed daily and each Sunday was taken to church. The church was lively, and the Africans liked to dance. One Sunday Mary and the other children were asked, "Have you been to the toilet?" "Yes" they replied, so everyone got on the back of the 4-wheel drive and went to church.
During the service, Mary started to jiggle. At first I thought that she was just getting into the music, but when the music stopped Mary carried on jiggling. When the pastor started to pray and Mary was still jiggling, I knew something was wrong. I leaned forward and saw that she was distressed. Thinking that she needed to go to the toilet, I asked an African lady to bring her. She took Mary by the hand and led her out of the church. I was surprised when Mary didn't return to the church service. After the service learnt that Mary didn't return because she couldn't stop crying. Mary couldn't stop crying because she was so distressed. Mary was distressed because she didn't need to go to the toilet. There was four-inch worm crawling about in her underwear.
Mary had most likely drunk the eggs of this worm, by drinking from a poor water source. What other choice did she have if there was no clean water? I also learnt that the worms only come out by themselves for one reason. Overcrowding. There were too many worms inside Mary and not enough food. Mary went on a simple medication and within two weeks, all the worms where gone.
If Mary had not of been chosen she would be dead. Others not chosen probably are.
Annet - A first time mother
Annet held in her arms a three-month-old baby boy. She didn't have any manuals telling her how to be a mother. She didn't have a video or TV shows, giving advice of how to best bring up her child. Annet, however, was just excited that she was a mother and she was going to do her best. The baby, however, was sick. Her baby had diarrhoea. She did not know why and there was no medical help nearby to give advice. The Witch Doctor had given her medicine and performed dances and chants. He said the evil spirits were leaving the child and the diarrhoea was proof of that. Annet believed him, but her child seemed to be getting more and more sick.
As the child became more and more sick and wouldn't stop crying she decided that she needed more help and would walk to the nearest hospital. It would take about a day. Half way through the night the baby stopped crying. Afraid to look she held him close. The next day she arrived, exhausted from walking
but desperate for help. As she drew near the hospital she somehow found enough energy to run the last few yards. She handed over the baby to one of the doctors, who quickly rushed in to see what he could do. A few minutes later he returned with an African nurse. The nurse had a tear running down her face. She translated the doctor's words. "I am sorry…Your child died from the diarrhoea, he died from dehydration". A simple salt and water solution would have said the babies' life, but how was Annet to know, if no one told her. Many babies die in Africa from diarrhoea.
The beginning of Abaana - The Journal
(in the form of 7 emails home) of Scott Baxter's first trip to Africa and what motivated him to start Abaana.
How did Abaana Start? Well it was birthed when in 1997 an 18 year old went to Africa and experienced for the first time, things that would change his life. He would never be the same again, and he would be determined to help those that he could. The people most in need in Africa. The children………
Abaana (the children) - A beginning
This is a collection of seven emails that Scott Baxter sent his family, from his first visit to Uganda. They contain spelling mistakes and the grammar is not great, (he is a mathematician). These are the written accounts of some of the things that would shape the future for Scott, his family and many African children. Please note that the should not be read as factual, but experiential event from the perspective of a young man's first visit to Africa
I just thought I would drop you a note, to let you know what is going on, here in Africa. Africa is an amazing place. From the time I was picked up at the airport until we got to the house I was in total awe. It was like another planet. Trevor asked me questions, and I am not even sure if I answered. I was so focus on the people walking around with beautiful clothes on. The red dusty roads, which stained the buildings and by the time I arrived, my white shirt. I was so excited! There were people everywhere, walking, cycling, and carrying pots, or wood, or beds on the back of bicycles. I am really going to enjoy my time here. This is Africa. It is much Greener that I thought. It was amazing to see so much green as we flew in. I could see little mud huts and mud trials and people walking, about. So different to the green fields of Ireland with the black and white cows, and the only people about are in sidecars, and too busy to stop or talk.
The poverty is Unreal. Everywhere you go you can see it. I thought the city would have been more developed but there is no doubt that even here you are in a third world country. Most houses and shops are run down. The selection is not much. There are sewers everywhere and children play by the sides of them, with nothing on, or maybe just a tattered shirt.
The mosquitoes are everywhere too. Apparently it is very unlikely that I'll get through without being bit, but so far I have survived. Mind you I am still wearing the hat scarf and gloves and carrying a fly swat everywhere with me. I actually broke Trev and Ruth's swat so I will have to buy them a new one. I've killed 34 mossies but there just seems to be more and more and more. They are everywhere. In the cupboards, behind the curtains, under the toilet seat! That is one place I will always check. Don't fancy a bite on the bum. This is a war that I will not lose!
I started painting today. It was very hard work. Very tiring in the heat. We were painting the new school by the farm. It will take maybe three weeks to finish. It is very basic for our standards but compared with a lot of Ugandan schools it is high class. We really don't realize how lucky we are? I met a girl called Rita. She was going to school but couldn't afford a scientific Calculator. What hope do these kids have; yet they are so advanced in their curriculum. P6 learn parts of the cow, the male and female reproductive system, and a lot more we don't touch till secondary level. Can you send over my calculator for her? They are hard to get here and expensive, and I can show her how it works.
We had a local man help with the painting. We started by treating the wood with a diesel mixture. He had three children, all attending the school, but he is poor and can hardly afford the school fee's. I was talking to him and he was saying he went to school and was doing well until he became sick and couldn't attend any longer. He said he wanted his children to get what he missed out on.
So he would help Painting to get money for school fees. He started at 9 am and worked non-stop until 5pm, without a break. It wasn't easy work as we were painting above our heads but he kept at it. His guts and determination would put us to shame and this was only so he could pay his children's school fee's. We might be lucky to work that hard for our own pleasure. I really felt compassion for this man. I really felt it even more when the ladder slipped on a patch of diesel and he fell to the ground, and the diesel poured over him. I could have cried for him. But he picked himself up. Cleared up the mess the best he could, apologized and went on working. My heart went out to him at the thought that he might only have a few set's of clothes, one witch is now ruined, and he would go back to his hut after finding some water from a near stream and try to wash of the stain left on his feet and up his arms by the diesel. That sums up life here.
Another side of life can be seen two. They are such a happy people. I went for a walk along a mud road with mud huts and mud shops on the sides, each family with something to sell from a broken glass to fruit. As I walk the children would call out " Musungu (white person), how are you?" and they would run up to hold your hand. The children carry such joy and innocence even though they maybe naked or half dressed. This is a contentment, which we miss back home. We have so much but still want more. They have so little, and just want to survive. We really need to do something to help when I get back.
Well I'll finish now, as it is late. Can you find out if I can change flights and how, just in-case I decide to stay a little longer. Also can you tell me how much money I have in my accounts?
Here is the latest. I asked you earlier to see how I could change tickets etc. This is just Incase I decide to stay longer. I haven't decided yet.
Trevor has started a child sponsorship scheme to help the kids attending his school. It is 12 pounds a month with all the money going to the kids. I went out with Ken (the farm manager and the person who looks after the Sponsorship) around the village to the homes of the kids who are sponsored, or to be Sponsored. I took some video of the sponsorship. Trev says I can help by getting some children sponsored if I want. I have already chosen the first child. Her name is Katy. She is very cute but her background isn't. Briefly she lives with her Gran, Her father lost both his legs in a car accident, her mother is a prostitute. I have her on video. I was asking about how much money I have is to do with this. I know I have enough for Katy, but I was thinking how much easier it would be to get sponsors if they saw the children on the video, Instead of a picture. I have chosen the five kids if we go for it. There was a literacy program her and many children turned up in hope that they would get to attend school. Why were there so many kids not in school? Each day the kids would come back just incase they were accepted and each day they would be sent home. Two weeks later there was still five children coming back. We have taken their names. If I could film these five kids, the first five sponsors could see the kids on video. The problem is what I would need to commit to sponsor these children until I found a sponsor for them. What do you think? I need to decide quickly. As It would be a good opportunity but if no one sponsored them for the first year it would cost me about £870. I think they would be sponsored however. I want to do this but it would take a large chunk out off my Budget, If it is slow to take off. Lastly I would like to raise money for over the next two years to build part of the school. The need here is so great!
Well that is me up to date. Now that I can write easily, I'll write again ~ I'll be sending Letters soon for other people too.
Luv you loads, your son
((Abaana now sponsors over 60 children!))
Dear Mum & Dad
Thanks for everything. I just got your E-mails today. I have been looking after some children this week from Kenya. They are all from slum areas and I have had to move to stay with them. The food here was rough. The conditions here was more like typical Africa. No hot water, electricity going of every so often, many rodents and a group of Kenyan kids running around whose English isn't great.
We played a football match last week. It turned out to be a second division team we where playing against. The pitch was terrible. I'm talking about termite mounds, rabbit holes and numerous cow deposits. It was in the back of nowhere. The whole village turned out to watch. There must have been more watching that day than the usual Bangor Fc turn out (not hard you say). We drew 0-0, it was quite a good match, apart from when I kicked the termite mound stead of the ball. Man those termites can build hard houses. I thought I broke my foot. We play a first division team on a good pitch soon. That will be scary. They have 300-400 watching them when they are training. The heat here is so immense. I couldn't finish the match it was so hot. I think Uganda is quite high above sea level so that tires you out too. It's good fun anyway.
I sent you two copies of the letter because I was having real problems here getting it through (or I thought I was) I kept getting it back in the return mail. I guess one actually got through.
About phoning: The best time is Saturday. If you get this in time I should be available all day Saturday.
Dear Mum & Dad
I have no plans to extend my stay presently. I was just asking how to go about it, if I did want to. Dad sorry to hear you got no fish. We will have to go fishing when I come back. Uganda is amazing. It is so beautiful but at the same time it is so poor. If you take us as example. If we lived in Uganda, we would probably live in a house with no running water. Maybe electricity and probably no windows.
Do you remember Scovia? At the choir academy she caught a grasshopper the day before leaving for America. She then wanted to cook it and eat it. On finding that the cooking coals where out she decided that she would eat it raw. Nice!
I’m sure they eat worse than that here. Anyway, when you are sitting down to Mum’s cooking don’t complain. At least it is cooked and nothing is crawling out of it or over your plate!
Sorry this is a short one. I am much tired.
Bye for now
Dear Mum, Dad and Sister Karen
Just a small note here on my latest update. It is now Monday night. All is well. We went for dinner last night in the top hotel in Kampala. Supposedly 5 star, but I don't know. Meal was nice and the band were good although they didn't know my request of "Danny Boy", which wasn't all bad because I was being pressured into singing it if they played it. That would rock Africa! HE HE
Tomorrow I go to Luwero, the place that is so well known for all the killings. On Wednesday I'll be back on the farm laying foundations, which will be a new experience. They are actually for the School and not the farm. At some stage I will milk a cow by hand. I'm learning new skills out here all the time. I've put up several shelves and even that was an experience in itself. Putting up the shelves was easy although I'm glad I got practice at plugging walls back home. It was buying the wood that was fun. Its not like Haldane Fisher, were you are in and out in 20 mins. Here you walk along a mud street with wooden Shacks either side each one being a different shop. As soon as you enter the street you are surrounded by men trying to convince you that their wood is better and cheaper. Each sales man trying to steel you away from the current one you are engaged with. Finally when we choose the wood we where going to buy, and you walk up to the shed for a final inspection "The Man with the Key has Gone" The infamous saying, which I think soon will be the anthem of Uganda if not Africa. I couldn't believe it. We had to stand on a box and look through a window to just get a glimpse of our treasured wood, soon to become shelves.
I got a little burnt today where the sun cream ended, on my arm, but all in all I haven't been burnt badly at all. I haven't had much of a chance to get a tan either. Not that I tan anyway. Just lobster red for me!
Karen would love it here with all the Mice and insects. I caught three mice on the glue. I think there are rats in the roof too. You can hear them at night, walking across. I think they bogey when the nightlife starts. Then off course there is the gekos'( have no idea how to spell that) They are small Lizard like creatures which arm harmless, and eat mosquito's, but also leave deposits on clothing. As they are on my side in the war against the flying merchant of doom (the mossy), I decide to let one stay in my room. He has taken up his place on guard on the ceiling. I'm not convinced that he will ever catch a mosquito though. He hasn't moved in about three days. May he is dead? Never the less he is there on guard. The Mossies are everywhere. I am really surprised I haven't been bitten, especially when out ignorance I lock myself in “my mosquito net with them”. Yes clever Scott, finds a way of totally defeating the purpose of a mosquito net. Speaking of mosquitoes I am going to finish of now because They are hovering above my legs, and although believe the just don't like my smell, I'm not going to tempt them by sitting here bear legged. I'm away to cover up.
Speak to you soon
Dear Mum, Dad & Karen,
Thanks for your fax. I'm sorry to hear about Mr Moore. I guess I will meet him in heaven. Life plods on here in Uganda. I've had quite a busy week. Tuesday I went to Luwerro and saw most of the kids. They are doing very well. Anton was sick and I didn't see him. Harriet was sick and I only saw her briefly. Eva and Linda go to different schools so I probably wont see them. The Luwerro school is very good in Ugandan standards.
Last week I had an interesting experience in church. The living condition from which these Kenyan kids come from is so bad. A lot of these kids come from the slums in Kenya. Due to poor Hygiene they pick up a lot of diseases and virus's like Wring worm, Malaria and Typhoid. One of the scariest and most uncomfortable for them however is worms'. I'm not talking about the small worms that kids get at home. I'm talking about worms that can be six inches Long. They enter as eggs, in the food and in the stomach and grow until they get passed out.
They have also been known to kill children. If they stay long enough inside they grow big enough to start draining the blood and it is quite common for children to die from these. Quite often the family don't know what they are or what to do if they did know. Sometimes they just can't afford to do anything.
On occasion if there are a lot of worms inside a child. The worms would decide to move out due to over crowding. Basically what happens is the worm works its way through the child's system until it comes out, much to the surprise and fright of the poor child. This happened at church on Sunday to poor Mary. Right in the middle of Worship she turned round to Auntie Pricilla, in a lot of distress. I immediately though that she was just leaving it late to go to the toilet so didn't worry but later was informed that a worm had moved out and was wriggling in her underwear. Can you imagine what it would be like for a small child to realize that this big worm was living in her body. This happens to many children, when a simple course of medication would prevent the worms from growing and doing damage.
Well I will leave you with that , enjoy your tea!
Dear Mum, Dad & Karen
Well we played that football match. It was in Kampala, against a team called New Vision. I don't know how they are rated and I can't work out their league system over here. We beat them 2-0, and got a write up in their National Newspaper. The fact that we brought on a woman didn’t go down to well. I think we have a match tomorrow. I can't stick playing in this heat, or on these pitches. After having to run around tress and falling over termite mounds it makes Bloomfield playing fields seem like Wembley.
Another week gone. Time really goes by quickly. This time next week I'll be home. Well as it stands now I am not extending my visit, so I will see you all soon.
We continued to work on the foundations this week. I spent most of the last two days shoveling sand, cement and stones. These stones are not like the ones you add to concrete back home. They would actually fall nearly into the class of rocks with the on average being about the size of an official snooker ball. This makes shoveling very hard. The size is somewhat understood when you learn that they are all broke by a man with a hammer. Just before we started, the African workers reckoned 3 of them could work faster mixing on the ground with just shovels, than Trev and me using the mixer. They didn't have a clue. They thought it would take us at least 2 days to use 20 bags of cement. We finished the 20 bags by 4pm. They were surprised. Today we had used thirty bags by 2pm. On Monday we will have 40 bags waiting for us. It is hard work however. I'm going to bed early tonight. Their attitude towards the cement mixing shows how the Africans without education can be skeptical of the simple things that make life safer and easier. Many don't believe that Aids actually does kill. One of the workers has aids. He is the first person that I have know to have aids. (Henry - The worker with aids died a few years later)
It has rained a little this week, which is strange because the rain season is over. If it rains tomorrow, I will not play football as I have no boots, and I'm having problems standing as it is.
At the school every day a man comes in and sells Simoses (That might be a wrong spelling. It is an Indian food). Anyway they are small, kind of triangular pastry things with a filling. Initially I was reluctant to try them as I was worried that the meat he used might be bad, but I later found they where filled with Peas so tried one. He sells them for 100 Shillings, which is about 6p, which isn't expensive at all. However the kids at school can't really afford them, so he doesn't usually sell them all. When we work at the farm we just eat rice that the teachers cook. It is rather tasteless so the simoses was a pleasant change. The last few days the man has went home happy because I bought all the ones he didn't sell. He was so happy to make in total 2500 shillings, which is about £1.50. And that was before the flour etc costs where taken out. It's a different world.
All is going well. I haven't got sick lately, however Ruth is in Bed sick at the moment. We think it's just a tummy bug. Still no mossy bites despite one flying around my head at the moment. When I first come I was so paranoid. I sat with a fly swat in my hand, and anything that flew within a four foot Radius died. I couldn't even be in the room with a mosquito. If I was going to the toilet I made sure I was Alone in' the bathroom before progressing. This has changed. If I get bit I get bit, although they don't seem to like me. Maybe it's the deodorant. I don't hunt them any more and we live together in harmony. In fact I have never got to use that bite stick you bought me. Every one has used it apart from me.
Well My dear family. I have to go. I do miss you all. Dad's smelly feet, Karen's pleasant smiles after a late night on the town, and Mum chasing me to rinse my Glass and turn off my light. Soon it will all be back to normal. I am rally determined to do something to help these people. I don’t know exactly what and I don’t know how much support I will get but I will try. There is so much I haven’t told and I will when I see you. I type so slowly, but as you know I talk fast. Looking forward to getting back
Thanks, and I will see you all when I get home.
Abaana was started in Sept 1997 and registered as a charity in Jan 1998. It now sponsors over 55 children and has raised over £40,000 for various projects. Scott is now working full time voluntary for Abaana after obtaining a First class honors in Mathematics and Computer science. His goal this year is to raise over £45,000 for children in Africa.
Give us this day our daily bread!
We who live in the West for the most part have no idea, what it means to be without. To have food just for today if we are lucky. In many countries of Africa people only eat one meal a day, if that. Getting that food, finding money for it, if one lives in the city is another story.
Unemployment is high and if you do work you are fortunate to make 50 dollars a month. Rent for your dwelling might be 30 so what you have left is money for a few days of food and the rest, well that means as many a African has told me faith, hope and lots of luck.
Rita, was a woman of 30 some years old, she did not remember exactly when she was born, "what does it matter, I am thankful that I am alive" she said. She was a Muganda with brown skin, a nice shining face, a big smile, the eyes however were surrounded by years of struggle, and yet she could laugh at life. I was walking by her dwelling the way back to my car. She had her charcoal cooker blazing, I could tell she was making matoke (bananas 85% water and then some starch, they are green and are peeled, mashed and steamed under banana leaves inside of a steel or aluminum pot). There were also some red beans that due to the moisture and rain had little white spots on them signifying that some maggots had come and taken residence in them.
I stopped and greeted her; she welcomed me and invited me to eat with them. I declined but engaged in a conversation. Her husband had recently died of AIDS, she was taking care of three children from the marriage and two others that were orphans and had been born to her sister who had died of AIDS.
I asked her what she did to buy things and live here. She told me that she at times worked cleaning house and ironing for a well to do African woman and at times received some food from her mother who lived in Masaka out in the country and had a plot of land on which she could grow maize for posho (a what I call a glue like substance that fills your stomach) and also had some Matoke plants, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, and other things like beans.
All she had tonight was matoke and beans, I saw some bread by the door, that was it. No milk, no meat, just enough to fill for the night. I asked her what she would eat in the morning. She smiled and said something about Chai (tea with milk, she had no milk and sugar). And tomorrow what will you eat during the day. She laughed again, and said something about "God will provide." My mind was thinking, "How could I go home, take a shower, settle down to a nice meal and even have a sandwich before I went to bed?"
I told her I would be back and back I came after visiting a local supermarket. She looked at me and said with a big smile, "I told you God would provide." She made me smile....jon
Each night many African's go to bed with the reality that they don't know where, or how their needs will be met. They pray asking, for God to provide. Will you be his hands. Will you be the answer to their prayer?