After flying from Phoenix to

by francine Hardaway on February 19, 2005

After flying from Phoenix to London (which is unbelievably expensive in the airport, and from what I’ve heard, everywhere else)to Nairobi to Entebbe, I am now in Uganda. All I have is a first impression, but upon first impression Africa makes India look like Beverly Hills. I think there is a real difference between third world countries that have been the beneficiaries of manufacturing outsourcing, and ones that have not. Clearly, no one has located a plant of any consequence in Uganda, and therefore the infrastructure is sorely lacking — except for cell phones. (I have been told that even on the game preserve we are going to next week we will be able to communicate with the States through SMS.)

This afternoon we went to a Babies’ Home to present it with a check from Phoenix Rotary and Rotary International for $20,000 with which to start an Internet cafe as a revenue-generator.At another location, the nuns who run the home also run a guest house, the proceeds from which go to support the Babies’Home. They are enlarging the guest house, at great pains and labor, so they can have five more rooms to rent out. The Babies’ Home is run entirely by five nuns and a lot of volunteers who take care of at least a hundred babies from age 1 day to 6 years that have been abandoned. No government grants, no Social Security, no Aid to Families with Dependent Children. I held a 7-month-old girl, Mercy Grace, who had been found in a dust bin at one day of age. They take these kids in and find ways to keep them alive and get them medical attention.

The kids live in rooms of 4-6 kids per room, and the home supports itself by raising chickens and cows and selling off the extra milk and eggs. The local Rotary chapter helps the Home by supporting the poultry project. The nuns are more entrepreneurial than anyone I have ever met. They also rent out mattresses and chairs, and sell used children’s clothing. Anything to make a dime to support the babies.

We met one of the Rotarians who help the home, an orthopedic surgeon who trained and practiced in London until he went back to Uganda (the place of his birth) four years ago.He said he came back to Uganda because here he feels like if he does something, he really saves a life or eliminates pain, and that no one could do it but him. He’s probably correct: there are only four orthopedists in all of Uganda. He said he does things with his bare hands that surgeons in other countries have instruments to do; he uses a Black and Decker drill to cut into bones, for example. But he says it keeps him inventive and creative.

After age 6, the kids from the Babies’ Home have to go to another orphanage where they have a primary school. We will visit there today. At the Babies’ Home, we met two men who grew up there and are now adults coming back to volunteer.

Africa is very lovely, but it is incredibly poor and lacking in basic necessities. And unlike many other countries, Uganda has not been able to capitalize on the ecotourism boom that has helped most third world nations, because Africa has had so much war.

Fortunately, we are now in a period of peace, and technology has connected it with the rest of the world.

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