by Frank Mubiru, CulturePrep/On Uganda partner in Uganda

During the first week of September 2008, the Masese community was blessed with the presence of Peter Vogel and Joe Petrovic, visitors from Colorado, USA, who are working with H.E.L.P Uganda to raise funds for, among other things, building a Vocational Training Centre.

Having been in Masese more than a couple of times, Peter is already a familiar personality in the community and most people know him by name. For Joe, it was his first time to come to Uganda. However, he was admired and swarmed by the youth and children who wanted to have a closer look at, and quite often, a touch of his muscles. In Uganda, it is not easy to find a teenager with that kind of athletic build that Joe has.

Everywhere we went visiting in the community, we were followed by children eager to be as close as possible to a “muzungu”, (which means “a white person”) touch his skin, hold his hands, or even, as Peter will remember, pull the hairs on his arm.

During their stay in Masese, Peter and Joe carried out several interactive activities with the youth and children as a way of raising awareness among the community of the ongoing work of H.E.L.P Uganda. One poignant moment was when they were handing out t-shirts and candy to the participants after a soccer game. Interestingly, every one of the spectators – children and grown-ups alike wanted to get a t-shirt too. Small a token as it may appear to be, in Masese, it is much more that. Most people can’t afford to clothe their children and getting a free t-shirt is an opportunity no one would want to miss.

Just over two months ago, the computer lab was opened and has been a centre of activity for the youth especially during the school term holiday which ended on the 15th September. The computers and furniture in the lab was part of a major shipment of assorted items donated by H.E.L.P International of Colorado.

Our next challenge is to set up and open a tailoring lab. In store, we have two electric sewing machines and an assortment of textiles for use during the tailoring training classes. We are also still looking for a volunteer to teach the first batch of youths. It is from this first batch that a trainer will be identified to continue with training subsequent beneficiaries.

As you read this, efforts are on-going to raise funds in various ways. To begin with, the youth in Masese make greeting cards with banana fiber artwork depicting the logo of CulturePrep. All proceeds will be used to finance the continuity of H.E.L.P Uganda.

Joe Computer
Joe checking out one of the computers in the new lab.