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February 8, 2006

After an epic journey west to see the gorillas in Uganda Jessie and I settled into our beautiful hotel in Bwindi; which is essentially Gorilla Town. This little village seems to derive all its income and energy from the fact that 4 troops of semi habituated Gorilla live in the forest that the town is located in. It is in this village that you can buy your “My Mom went to the Gorillas and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” souvenir. On our way to visit the local medical clinic (I did mention I was with Jessie) we came across a very nice boy named Simon who was carrying a very large bag of seeds on his head. When we asked him how far he had come he announced “I think, very far” he had left early that morning and it was 4:00 when we saw him. There was no complaint in his voice. We gave him a Power Bar. We figured he needed it more than us. It is part of these children’s everyday lives to have to walk miles to meet the basic necessities of life. Watching 3 year olds carry jugs of water miles is not unusual. I played for hours with a 5 year old and her baby sister; who she was watching and seemed to really enjoy. I commented on this to another volunteer who added; they love their families and it shows.

The next kids we met were Winton and Brian. They are the same age as Dane and are orphans. They were 2 of the best mannered, well spoken kids I have ever met. They spoke excellent English, were genuinely interested in who I was and had amazing ambition. It was from them that I learned that there are almost 200 orphans in Bwindi. Most of them live in foster care and their schooling is paid for through donations and a small shop. The kids make Gorilla carvings, baskets and pictures to sell. They made it apparent to me that they were looking for sponsors to help them pay for their schooling (primary school is free but secondary school is not). They need $40 a month each to pay for their school. Winton wants to be a doctor; Brian a lawyer and they want to work in the United States. When they found out I was from Tennessee they asked be about the TVA (yes, they actually said T.V.A.). I was thoroughly impressed. They never once asked me for money (which is very unusual). When I asked them what they liked to do “surf the internet” was on the top of the list. They told me that most of the parents died from Malaria or Aids and because there was no medical clinic they could visit. (one has since opened up) “Do you like school?” I asked; “I LOVE school” they enthusiastically replied. They were on their summer holiday and were counting the days until they went back; extremely grateful for the opportunity presented to them. It changed me.
I was even more impressed to find an e-mail from Winton when I arrived home.

Watching what Emily did, meeting these kids and the kids in Kaibura that made me realize that with a little bit of help can have a huge impact on hundred of kids lives. For less than I spend at Starbucks in a month a kid can get an education and have a chance of making it. The infant mortality rate in Uganda is close to 40% and the average person makes less than $2 a day. It is not unusual for a family to spend a weeks wages every month on medical care (usually from Malaria). I was incredibly gratifying for me to meet kids that I could help directly; all the money I gave would go directly to them. The problem was that I met hundreds of kids I wanted to help. I have come up with some ideas that I think could help some people. It would be small repayment for what those kids taught me.

Kristine Jackson



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Jessie and Simon

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Winton Jessie and Brian