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By Jessie Stone

I am finally back in Uganda after a long time away. Its great to be back and there is lots going on. We have had 4 long-term volunteers, three of whom are paddlers, Morgan, Anna, and Annie. Morgan has volunteered with our inner city kids camp on the Rogue River and paddled on the Nile before. Our fourth volunteer, Shannon has worked for the UN and wants to learn to kayak, which is great. We also have a returning volunteer, Juerg Ruf, from Switzerland who has been a Mr. fix it for the clinic, which we desperately need. Its great to have so much enthusiastic good help with our project. After doing a number of net sales and family planning sessions right in Jinja and Kamuli districts, we are now headed back to Bwindi in southwestern Uganda. We have been working with the Bahoma health center there to do malaria education and nets sales for people surrounding the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, home to the largest population of Mountain gorillas in the world.

Bwindi is also home to the Pygmies or Batwa people. The Pygmies were displaced from their homes in the forest when Bwindi was turned into a national park. They are some of the poorest Ugandans we have seen so we are looking forward to helping them with their malaria prevention at the very least. Since the Pygmies live in lean too like structures, regular size nets do not fit their sleeping arrangements. We are hoping that the single bed size mosquito nets that we do have will fit a whole family’s sleeping situation. It’s been a year since we have been here and it’s a wonderful place to return to.

Last weekend saw the biggest social event of the year in Bujagali Falls, the Nile Kayak Festival. The Nile Festival happened this year over the weekend of December 1-3. The event included the freestyle competition on Nile Special wave, the endurance race down 42 kilometers of river and the Silver Back Boda- Boda race. This year saw the largest turnout of paddlers from around the world thus far. Perhaps the ongoing construction of the dam at silver back explained everyone’s excitement to participate. Thanks to the Queen of England’s visit to Uganda just prior to the event, there was high water. Nile Special was a perfect level for the competition and many talented paddlers showed their stuff. In the end, Sam Ward and Steve Fisher were in a close duel for men’s freestyle winner with the Judges having trouble deciding who would win. On the Women’s side, Michele Basso took first, Morgan Koons was second, and I was third.

The endurance race was on one of the hottest days and the contestants had to be fit and well hydrated or the failed to finish the race. Local Woman paddler Prossy Moremba finished first with her partner and Local men’s team Ibra and Henry finished first. The boda boda race was also close and luckily this year, the boda course was dry which added an element of safety to the race. Ana Bruno finished first for the women and Ibra finished first for the men. During the weekend and the awards ceremony, much beer was consumed by all especially Nile Special. Next year looks like it will be the last festival, as the dam at Silver Back will be completed in 18 months, so start planning your trip to the Nile now! If you have not been to this magical river, you are missing out.



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