By Frank Mubiru, CulturePrep/On Uganda partner in Uganda

October in Uganda, is one of the rainy months of the year and everywhere you go, you get an immediate sense of what it means to live by the labor of one’s hand. People are always in a hurry and try to do everything as quickly as they can. Usually, they are not hurrying to avoid the rain, but rather to go to their gardens and dig up the ground or sow as much as they can before the next downpour. The ground is covered by deep green natural growth.

Unlike in the developed countries where farmers use tractor to work the land, in places like Uganda, most farmers (or call them peasants) till the land by hand and hoe. They sow seeds and seedlings such as corn and potatoes by hand and foot. It is hard work. But it is work that they look forward to when the rains come.

The rain comes and everything grinds to a halt – including public transport. The most common means of transport are a motor-cycle taxi which carries up to three passengers and a mini-bus or van that carries about a dozen people. Every shelter is swarmed by people trying to stay away from the rain.

Unfortunately, in Masese, only a tiny proportion of the residents have anywhere to dig at all. They live in tiny shelters made of mud and wattle, roofed with scrap iron sheets, or plastic sheets, or simply, dry long grass and reeds.

For these people, rain is not welcome.

It makes their living quarters a squalid mess. In some cases, the roofing leaks and the inhabitants have to put a bucket on the mud floor to trap the water while they hurdle into one of the dry corners of their house. These dwellings moreover, are usually rented from the slum landlords at about US 4 dollars per month.

What caused all this in the first place?

Masese is a suburb of Jinja town. Jinja, many years ago, used to be the industrial and manufacturing town of Uganda. It attracted skilled and unskilled workers from around the country. However, during the turbulent political times of 1971 – 1986, most factories closed, leaving behind hordes of jobless “migrant” workers. Most never returned to their original homes.

This environment is where His Everlasting Love Prevails, Uganda (H.E.L.P) is focusing their intervention and change the way the young people here perceive life.

H.E.L.P among other things, wants to bring hope to this despairing population by giving them the opportunity to be equipped with life skills such as dress-making, brick-laying, hair-dressing, cooking and baking, computer use, woodwork and carpentry, small engine repairs, etc, that can enable them earn a living and change their lives for the better. Our approach is: do not just give them fish to eat. Teach them to fish what to eat.


By Gerard A. Cox, Associate Professor in the School of Liberal Arts, Marist College, Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Retired in 2001 as an executive administrator after spending ten years as an associate academic dean (1969-1979) and then twenty-two years (1979-2001) as the college’s chief student affairs officer

It’s never too late. It’s true. We often try to convince ourselves that nothing will change. Not so. As sure as the seasons glide from one to another, change occurs on a regular basis. As an old acquaintance used to say, “Just wait. Change is coming ‘round the corner.” Sure, we can see ourselves in seasonal changes, but there are more dynamic changes waiting to happen all the time. The other day I came across a “tip sheet” on the Internet. I wasn’t looking for it. It was just there. Written by CulturePrep’s Peter A. Vogel, it seemed to be awaiting my attention. It was both short and had the nerve to boast, “10 Ways to Get Started Establishing a Diversity-Friendly Environment.” I couldn’t resist the challenge to read it. What appealed most to me was it began by hitting me between the eyes. Vogel wasted no time in telling me that change begins with me. To start I need to “conduct a personal cross-cultural inventory” of my own prejudice, intolerance and assumptions. This also includes admitting to cross-cultural skeletons hanging out in my closet. Don’t just point your finger at them he advises. Resolve to bring about change. Get rid of them. Change will not come until I can forgive others and myself for harmful attitudes and behaviors. Trying to make these changes is rough. “Habits never give up without a fight.” But I need to move on. Progress will come from continual cross-cultural assessment of personal behavior and thinking. Leave the past. Concentrate on how I think and act in the present and how my future is different because of the ways in which I change my disposition. Together with colleagues I should encourage activities within our community, especially with students that help to bring about interaction with people of difference. It will take time. Change will come, if I persist in facilitating intentional change. If I have the courage, I’ll ask a valued other (friend, spouse, or colleague) to help me monitor my attitudes and behaviors over time. I’ll ask that valued other to hold me accountable for what I say and do to help trod underfoot the vestiges of greener days.

There are things “the workplace” (college or corporation) can do to help create a diversity-friendly environment of each of us. But, as significant as such activities are (an internal oversight committee, ongoing assessments and evaluations, recognition for individuals and departments for achieving cross-cultural objectives) real change begins with me. How I change will ultimately help define the working community of which I am part. Ah, yes, John Donne, “No man is an island.” Thank you for always being there to remind me. We are indeed all a part of the mainland, a fact for which I’m grateful.