When I'm In Uganda I stay at a center where the Comboni Sisters live, and while these good Italian nuns look very nice in their tan habits, socks and crocs, that is not what this post is about. This is about the Saturday morning when my two dear Ugandan "daughters," Diana and Effie did me the favor of modeling the many many necklaces that the bead ladies had made. But first, the setting:
This is the view from the wide terrace right outside the door to my simple Catholic room (bed, desk, chair and crucifix). With its lush garden, colorful trim, and thick walls, it was a great place for a photo shoot.
Effie's nephew Katuga came along with Effie, too. He is what is called "stubborn" in Uganda. See it in his eyes? He demonstrated his stubbornness by occasionally ringing the nuns' little bell rather loudly and pawing through all the jewelry. Diana and Effie had brought along a variety of outfits from their wardrobes to mix and match with the jewelry, and they pretty much figured out what to wear with what, and I shot the pictures on my video camera, because my water bottle had spilled all over my regular camera.
sodas...whatever needs to be done, this girl can do it, and do it in four-inch heels, too. Besides working full-time as an accountant, she helps pay school fees for the kids in our education program, and sometimes ends up taking them to the doctor (though that's not her job). She sings in her church choir, too.
These beautiful women are real Ugandan young women with hopes and dreams. Effie had to quit secondary school early to care for her mother, who has since died. Diana lost her mother at age nine; her father, a photographer, was able to provide her with an education. Effie is building a house next to her grandma's house near Gulu, which she hopes to rent out for income. Diana dreams of someday owning a hair salon, or a shop selling clothing from Kampala. Both have applied twice for visas to the US, and been denied every time. We're going to try again, in hopes of bringing Effie for Christmas, and Diana on a student visa next fall. So, look out, Midwest! The Omiyo models are goin' places!
But what about the other eye? The night before, we'd been walking around the city, and Gerald pointed out a golden lion on top of a distant building. I was pleased that his vision was that good, and in the preliminary eye test, Gerald read all the way down to the second to the last row. So it was looking like he was just going to be a one-eyed guy. Then the doctor looked into the good eye with his big, fancy machine, and then he called me over to look. Deep down in the eye, it looked like someone had spilled a bit of milk. The doctor explained that this was the beginning of another cataract, which would surely get worse. That was also bad news. We will have to watch that eye very carefully, and take action when it gets worse. But with good care, that eye should easily be saved.
All this was taking place in English, so I asked the doctor, who had some fluency in Gerald's native dialect, to explain it to him. I wasn't sure how much he understood. I watched his face as the doctor explained. It was impassive. But then a single tear rolled down his cheek, and I knew he had understood. That single silent tear really got to me. How scary it must be, to think you may lose your sight, especially when your parents have died, your aunts and uncles have died, and you and all your cousins and your old grandmother are living in a mud and grass hut far from town and any doctors, and you have no way to contact this white lady, and anyway, is she really going to stick with you?
I decided to find a clinic where Gerald can have his eye checked regularly, and take him there for a baseline check-up. So the following week, I took him to one in Gulu, the town nearest his village. As we got off the motorbike, he said "Mum, this is where I had the surgery done before." This did not bode well, but we were here, and really, how can they mess up with an eye chart exam, right?
I started telling the doctor that we were here for regular checks, but that when his eyesight began to deteriorate, we were going to go to the hospital in Kampala for surgery. She said, why don't you have the surgery done here? We can do it." I'm not always the most diplomatic person. I pointed to his blind eye, and said, "because that eye was done here." She got quite huffy and defensive, and finally I said, "I can save your feelings, or I can save his eye. I choose his eye." So she tested him, and she looked into her big machine, and guess what? She did not see any spilled milk in the back of Gerald's eye. She said that eye was just hunky dory. Do I believe her? Not a chance. I am so glad that we have raised enough money to take Gerald to a good doctor and a well-equipped hospital when the time comes. As I keep telling him, we are lucky God gave us two eyes. Losing one is hard, and we won't let him lose the second one. Thanks to all who have given to save Gerald's sight.
I'm Sally, and I've worked in fair trade for years. I started Omiyo when my kids, born adventurers, got me involved with women making things in the places they have lived.