NOTDEC isn't Nottingham or Leamington. It's in Uganda, not UK. So we must not expect it to conform to our norms and preferences. As a taster here, we go shopping — under the watchful eyes of the security guard, keeping order in what closely resembles a dusty field.
NOTDEC: the punchline
NOTDEC Uganda is in SW Uganda. It was set up there by Ugandans, for Ugandans. And it is now, and always has been, managed and run by Ugandans. So don't be surprised: it should be Ugandan!
We want children at NOTDEC Uganda to be fully part of Ugandan society – not misfits, raised by or under the dominant influence of “muzungus”, with attitudes, standards and expectations that don’t fit Uganda. In its origin, the word “Muzungu” has nothing to do with white skin. It refers to a dazed, lost look – and we certainly don’t want NOTDEC children to be dazed Ugandans, lost in their own culture and not at home in the UK either. That’s why NOTDEC Uganda is and must be run by Ugandans, local people who understand the culture and constraints, people like Dorothy, Milly, Tom and Paschal who can provide appropriate role models for the children in their care.
NOTDEC Uganda: the images
This is cooking at NOTDEC Uganda. What did you expect? A ceramic hob and double oven?
Try living on the Equator — some evenings like a sauna — and you'll appreciate cooking and eating al fresco. It might even be worth humping water, getting firewood, and breathing smoke!
It's not glamourous, but there's a sense of "family" with the house-mothers relaxing, chatting and enjoying the cool of the evening.
NOTDEC Uganda bungalows are cooler than most, but it's still good to get up and cook porridge in the open air. Some pictures are a bit posed — you wouldn't stir much porridge with a mug balanced on the edge of the bowl! But the realities of outdoor food preparation are still there — soot stains, clutter, and lack of cupboards. Yet the house-mothers preferred this traditional Ugandan set-up to an indoor alternative.
Acceptance of Ugandan choices isn't always easy for Europeans. It is hard not wonder whether washing up on the yard is entirely hygienic, and whether it might play any part in NOTDEC Uganda's elevated rates of diarrhoea and vomiting. But bacteriologists aren't keen on the good old British tea towel either. So we listen not lecture, and try to ask helpful questions pointing in what we think is the right direction!
Young girls start trying to lug around younger ones surprisingly early. It's easier the traditional way, with the baby tied on the back. Putting things on your head is an even more efficient way to carry weight (but not babies!) because it's directly over your centre of gravity.
No church bells here! It's drums that call you to Sunday service in the chapel. The children are into drumming too — with very young ones managing a very competent beat and attracting quite a following.
This is how it should be — Ugandan children being themselves. At NOTDEC Uganda, the Ugandan way is alive and kicking — whatever globalization might suggest to the contrary.