January 9, 2019
A Day in the Buhoma Community
I woke up with very sore leg muscles from the hike yesterday. Trust me, a hike up steep hills on muddy paths through the jungle is NOT a walk in the park! I was a bit worried that I wouldn't be ready for our next gorilla trek coming up the next day, but a gentle walk through the local village just outside the park helped me return to normal by the end of the day.
Rob and I browsed through the village looking through the shops filled with homemade crafts and wooden carvings. Naturally, we had to buy a family of carved gorillas to add to our collection of African animals from previous trips, and I also purchased some trivets made from recycled, felt-covered bottle caps.
|The road from Bwindi to the village|
|Buhoma craft shops|
One of the shopkeepers told us about various programs, such as Bike4Women, that provided instruction to the local people in traditional crafts. This is the traditional tribal land of the Batwa, known to us as Pygmies, which is now considered a disparaging term. These people were driven from their lands in the mountains, sadly in part because of the efforts to save the mountain gorillas whose numbers by the early 1900s had dwindled to less than 300. The gorilla conservation program has been a success, but the Batwa people, an ancient tribe that had lived side by side with the gorillas for centuries, were marginalized. As forest dwellers who clung to traditional ways, they were looked down upon by their own countrymen and discriminated against by some government policies. Some of the local programs were developed to offer skills and aid to the Batwa people, who often live in extreme poverty.
Rescue Africa Uganda and the Rescue Grand Orphanage Program
A highlight of our day was our visit to the local orphanage. The school leader, Pastor Nixon, introduced us to a group of the children who performed a song and dance for us and shared some of their artwork. He also showed us the current, and woefully inadequate, housing for the children and described their on-going efforts to build better schools and dormitories. Rob and I pledged to send some help to them, and we have since learned that our contributions have been used to make the adobe bricks to build more school rooms. Through our ongoing correspondence with Manase Twinamatsiko, the Director of Rescue Africa Uganda, which oversees the orphanage, as well as the elementary school, the high school, and a program to support women, we have been able to follow their progress.
|A performance by some of the orphans|
|Rob with the orphans|
|Building new school rooms|
|Manase with his community|
|Manase with two of the children|
Below are more of the programs supported by Rescue Africa Uganda.
The covid pandemic struck a year after our visit, and it was devastating to learn how badly this already poor community was affected. The loss of tourism meant the loss of jobs for the young porters on the gorilla treks, the loss of sales opportunities for the craftspeople, and the loss of the usual government contributions to the community. In normal times, the government of Uganda shares some of the income from the tourist visits to Bwindi National Park with the people of the area.
I was very affected by the news from my friend Manase how badly the community has been affected. This led me to create a GoFundMe page to support the children of this community. If my readers are interested in helping this effort, you can donate any amount, large or small, at this link: Support an Orphanage and Schools in Uganda!
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