Lauren Halloran (Uganda)

Lauren Halloran is a graduate student at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) where she is earning her Master’s in International Policy and Development and focusing on conflict resolution. Prior to MIIS, she worked with Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity, as an AmeriCorps member and, after two terms of service, as a staff member in the Volunteer Department. During this time she worked on volunteer engagement and building homes for families in Milwaukee. Through this work Lauren became interested in local, community-based advocacy and aid. While working with Habitat, she travelled to Guatemala and El Salvador and has previous experience studying abroad in Nigeria during her undergraduate degree. Lauren received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in International Relations and African Languages and Literature. Lauren spent her 10-week Peace Fellowship working with the Gulu Disabled Persons Union in Uganda. She summed up her fellowship in the following statement: "This opportunity was an incredible experience to not only get experience in my field but to learn about an area of work that is does not get as much attention as it should. I'm coming out of this summer with a new perspective to use for my future work and with a better understanding of disability rights. I hope that I can continue to advocate for these communities and that I am able to carry with me all that I've learned this summer. Thank you for the opportunity!"



One Goat Please

15 Jun

“We are done excavating. We need a goat.” Prior to this announcement I had been taking photos of the people below who were busy excavating the pit for the Ogul Primary School accessible latrine. However, upon hearing this, I put my camera down to understand, “…You need a goat,” I repeated dumbly.

“Yes! We need a goat to sacrifice!” The crowd gathered around erupted in laughter, likely at my stunned expression. I went over the conversations I had with the school and GDPU, no one mentioned a goat sacrificing…wait…did they say they need a goat or they have one and are about to sacrifice it? Wait, wait, wait – why in the world do they need to sacrifice a goat? All of these questions went through my head but I asked the last one. “Why do you need to sacrifice a goat?”, the man speaking to me smiles broadly, “so that the pit will never be full!”. Everyone laughs again and the head teacher comes over giggling, “So, you will provide a goat, yes?” I finally get that they are joking and no one actually expects me to bring them a goat so I respond, “but I have no goat! What are we to do?” The headteacher roars with laughter and repeats what I said in Acholi to the gathered parents, their laughter disperses as they put the final touches on the pit for the new latrine.

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Ogul Primary PTA hard at work

The community and parents associated with Ogul Primary School are incredible. Their commitment to their children’s education has shown itself time and time again when they’ve taken up manual labor to support the school. Whether through build housing for the teachers, excavating the pit for the boy’s latrine, or now, picking up shovels and pick-axes to do the same for an accessible latrine – they’ve been consistently involved. Their ability to mobilize almost at the drop of a hat and their enthusiasm in accomplishing these tasks makes me wonder if this is typical in Uganda or unique to Ogul Primary. The reason I think it might be unique is due to the fact that the day before I visited Tochi Primary School where the 2015 accessible toilet was installed.

The school buildings and grounds at Tochi Primary are in much better shape than those at Ogul, however, it does not seem like they have the community support and backing like Ogul does. There have been some issues with vandalism of the accessible toilet at Tochi. The school has had to take a number of things down so that they aren’t stolen by members of the community. The main problem seems to be the 100 meter paved pathway leading to the accessible latrines. Although, the walkway does help disabled students reach the accessible toilets, it has also encouraged boda drivers and others in the community to use it as a short cut to the road. This means that the community has taken down the hand rail that disabled children use to access the toilet on one side (can be seen in the picture below). There will be an update on the Tochi Primary School toilet soon, but I felt it important to mention this as a contrast to the strong commitment at Ogul, which I hope translates to less vandalism attempts.

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The Tochi Primary School Latrine and paved pathway

The Ogul head teacher, Madam Prisca, tells me that the support from the parents for this recent excavation was massive. There were so many community members who showed up that they had to split into three groups. One group worked each day to excavate the pit, starting Saturday and working Monday, Tuesday, and finishing on Wednesday. Their ability to mobilize and enthusiastically accomplish hard, grueling tasks was incredibly inspiring and uplifting – although a bit disconcerting when you think they might sacrifice a goat on the spot. Because, honestly, these parents could do anything.

For more photos of the excavation, check out the flickr album here! (I promise, no goat sacrifices.)

Posted By Lauren Halloran (Uganda)

Posted Jun 15th, 2017

84 Comments

  • Sue Pokwinski

    June 17, 2017

     

    Just got my laptop. Finished reading your “goat” story. Sounds like you are very welcomed into this village. Great community involvement! Will look forward to your next posting.

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