What a feisty, dedicated person is Geraldine!
Walking between our three visits today, she accosts a group of men lounging outside what could be a beer hall. She clearly knows them and they return her greetings with broad smiles. One old man invites her to come to his house one day.
“Yes,” says Geraldine. “But on condition you stop drinking first.”
There is much hilarity and banter.
“But drink is my fuel,” he says.
“What do you think my fuel is?” she counters. “My faith fuel is all I need.”
We pass another group of men in the village centre playing pool, before we go to see a grandmother who earns a fair amount selling local banana-brewed alcohol. But Geraldine is non-judgemental.
Three generations live in this home, (no men). The Kabubbu Development Project already sponsor one child, and we are here to confirm sponsorship of a second. Dora, the thirty year-old widow tends a rented plot with her mother, and sells woven mats. She doesn’t want to marry again. Her greatest fear is AIDS and her greatest wish is for men to attend seminars about the need to care for their wives and children. She is a beautiful woman, and wears a wig.
Geraldine orders two mattresses for the children who sleep on the floor, three blankets and two mosquito nets. The nets make a big difference, she tells me.
Our next house is rented by a lady in her thirties with braided hair, wearing a striking red dress. There is no electricity, which costs the same as a month’s rent in this area. My eyes have to grow accustomed to the dark as we sit on the single bed. Her three children sleep on the floor. She turns down the radio and tells her story as Geraldine completes the Home Visit Report. She married young, and after having a couple of children, her husband moved on. She found another partner who wanted her to live with him at his place of work, but he didn’t want her two children; he would only accept her youngest which was his. She tried it for a week, then left him.
“Good for you,” Geraldine interjects with an approving nod.
He does not contribute for his child. Her parents were well off when she was small, she tells us, but now her circumstances have deteriorated. Though Uganda has improved over the years with regard to freedom and safety, she wishes men wouldn’t play so much pool.
Our third lady, a 23 year old mother nursing an 18 month old child, is also worse off than when she was little.
“Most are the same,” says Geraldine in reply to my question, “which proves the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.”
“What do the people think of Europeans?” I ask.
“Africans resented the white colonialists,” says Resty, “who kept themselves to themselves and never visited them in their houses or tried to learn about them.”
This mother’s husband lives with her and their three children and also pays for their food, which is rare. She is content with her life. But Geraldine and Resty warn me that when children grow older and schooling becomes expensive, the men find it hard, and become difficult.
She doesn’t have an idea of how Kabubbu can be improved, so Geraldine asks Resty the question.
“Better Local Councillors,” is the prompt reply.
Geraldine explains to me that Councillors haven’t changed in twenty years, and they don’t do anything for the village. The Government won’t provide funds for local elections.
Resty is one of the mainstays of the Project. She’ll be telling me her story in next Friday’s instalment.