Katelin is a Newport resident and currently an intern with the Bead For Life organization in Kampala, Uganda. I will be following her fascinating story periodically on this blog. This is an excerpt from her recent e-mail:
"Ugandan’s take Easter very seriously – everyone even gets a four-day weekend. (I’ll try not to rub it in!) Sunday morning Barb and I went to Mass at a local Catholic church, The Church of Africa. Why was it called the Church of Africa? Because all of Africa was there. For 9 a.m. Mass, we walked up the steep hill to the church. A mass of Africans flooded the streets, dressed to the nine in their most colorful clothing. Grandmothers wearing their traditional dresses, like something a fairy princess would wear. (Think 1980s prom dress.)
"We made our way through the crowd of parishioners, who were leaving as the 8 a.m. service had just ended. Once again, another chaotic moment in Africa, vendors set up along the road selling Easter hats, church magazines and even posters of the American rapper 50 Cent. People of every shape, size and age, smiling families looking proud, moving there way out of the church and down the narrow road where cars were quickly creeping around them.
"We eventually made it up to the church, which had a view overlooking Kampala. We sat in the back, as it was very humid, even by that time. The architecture of the inside seemed to revolve around the preacher’s stand, above the ceiling went up in a point and the pews formed around it in a semicircle. The service was in English, yet a few of the songs were in Luganda, which included dancing and clapping, of course. The main point of the preacher’s message was this: you can’t defeat a defeated man. Along the same vein it was this: you can be poor or rich, and you can still walk with victory. He also spoke with great enthusiasm as he danced and told others to join him. He gyrated and said, 'dance your problems off!' Each time he spoke, he repeated it several times with confidence and charisma. And I could tell by the end of the service the people had been lifted up...
"Later in the week, I went with the group of American visitors to the second largest slum in Kampala. To describe the smells of that place: the rafting odors from the un-cleaned public toilets, wet goat and dog hair, the landfill-sized trash piles, the crispy dead fish, the freshly made buttery popcorn, the rain on rich the soil. The photos didn’t capture the loud pounding taps on the tin roof on Mangada’s house as buckets poured down, or children singing in Luganda and shouting,'Mzungu, how are you?'; the boda-boda engines buzzing around us, or the silence that filled between the loud spaces. We were quite the spectacle in a slum where few mzungu’s entered. Children were happy to greet us, and eager to touch our skin.
"And it was literally a challenge to capture the place, because many people did not want to be photographed even after Irene our Ugandan guide politely asked them. One woman who was loved us was Mangada. A BeadforLife success story, who built a home in Namuwongo, and has sent all her children to school. Mangada was so happy to see us, she gave us each several hugs. Irene told us when Mangada started at BeadforLife, she had a lot of challenges getting the colors right. At her home, she had a bag full of jewelry BeadforLife didn’t purchase and handed a piece to each of us. Irene joked that at the beginning, Magna brought baskets to BeadforLife, she thought 'if my jewelry isn’t good enough, my baskets will be!' In the end, Mangada became very successful at rolling beads and lives a very comfortable life now. When BeadforLife found her, her belongings were being washed away from the rain and she was crying. She was living in a small mud home, and when the rains came it flooded and sent everything with it down hill. She says with joy and tears in her eyes, 'how did I deserve this good life!'"