Joyce Meng's Blog

Day #5 - Supplies and a Campaign Workplan

December 26, 2009

Today, Jia and I spent a very productive morning figuring out what project we want to do with the kids that can be used as a campaign back at home. Sometimes I feel very helpless because as a student, I have so little money that I can give myself, yet I’ve seen the immense need. So, we’re trying really hard to brainstorm ways we can raise funding and awareness in the USA using the work and footage that we capture in Uganda. As a graduate of art school and advertising professional, Jia has proposed some truly innovative and refreshing ways to use the children’s art as a medium of expression in a coordinated campaign.

As a really general summary, we set a target of raising $20,000 for the Peace School through two different initiatives. First, we planned a “What would you buy with 100,000 shillings ($50)?” drawing campaign with 200 kids to raise $10,000. Second, we want to publish a book with the personal stories, art, and photos documenting the lives of some of the young people we have met here.

[On a side note, in my previous post with the two videos of the Peace School, I mentioned that the children really loved to see themselves on camera. Here’s a photo of the children playing with Jia’s equipment! Courtesy: Jiashan Wu]


To purchase supplies, we went into town and found a supply shop. As it is Boxing Day, only a few stories were open. To accomplish our project, we bought some cardstock, yarn, and A3 drawing paper. The experience was really stressful – I intrinsically dislike bargaining, the mixture of Luganda and English confused me greatly in the negotiation of the prices, and the crammed space of the shop felt suffocating. Frankly, I wasn’t sure what to buy in the store – given the very limited selection and even more limited space, we had to select on the basis of our eyes, rather than actually browsing the materials. All in all, we spent 500,000 shillings (about $27) for not too many supplies. Our hosts expressed dismay at the prices, as the proprietor definitely overcharged us, but alas, there’s little we could do rectify the situation and precious time had already been wasted. (It takes about 1.5 hours to get to the city with the traffic, even if the distance is not far!)


[Jia took some really interesting photos of some of the signs that we see when driving in the city. Rather than printed signs and graphics, everything was hand-painted, but with exact precision to mimic all the relevant logos and trademarks. The above sign relating to fair elections was particularly intriguing. All photos courtesy of: Jiashan Wu]


[Alas, Obama greets us right outside of the Peace School Complex. Photo courtesy of Jiashan Wu]

The entire experience left an acrid taste in my mouth, but a tasty lunch followed by downtime and games with the children soon restored me to my normal mood. I’ll provide more details about our specific projects later, but we’ll be using the supplies to create a fundraising campaign in which each student draws what he or she would want to buy with 100,000 shillings (approximately $50), and then we’ll give every donor who contributes $50 to the Peace School the student’s original drawing, a photo of the child, and his or her story. In addition, we’re using the A3 paper and the yarn to sew handmade journals to distribute to the kids, along with disposable cameras, for the book project.

Today, Amina wasn’t feeling well so we spent a day with a her sisters, Aisha and Mariam. Both girls are really smart and engaged with the world, and share a lot of the same mannerisms of Amina! The sisters made many beautiful friendship bracelets while Jia and I finished binding the books. (Well, more like Jia binding the books in a wonderfully dexterous manner, while I struggled to disassemble the A3 books by peeling off glue with my fingernails.) For the rest of the afternoon and evening, Jia and I set a work-plan and framework for completing the two projects, along with a list of footage and interviews needed for a documentary we intend to film. We really have an ambitious schedule ahead to make the best use of our time here!

Tomorrow, we leave Makindye village (the location of the school in the suburbs of Kampala) to the village of Chaguey, far in the remote rural villages. Some of the boarding students at the Peace School come from Chaguey, substantially poorer than their counterparts in the city. I’m really looking forward to this trip, as I’ll see a part of Uganda and the Peace School I haven’t yet seen. As the kids are all on their summer break (winter = summer in the southern hemisphere), we’ll have a chance to visit these students in their home village.

The one comment I’d like to make is that I appreciate the kindness of the Bbaale family so greatly, and worry consistently about troubling them. Each day, we have the best foods to eat and can eat to satiation, drink bottled water, and live in the main house. Members of the family actually gave up their beds to make space for us. Sometimes this hospitality feels overwhelming, as the children and the household handle all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry. I am deeply grateful, but I honestly feel very bad for not contributing to the work – alas, I have consistently offered my help, but my hosts are too gracious to accept.


[Here’s a picture of the mosquito net that we sleep under. The one phrase in Luganda that I’ve retained is “Nakowa Enseli” (wrong spelling), which translates loosely to “I hate mosquitoes”. Despite all my precautions, I’ve still gotten tons of mosquito bites – seems like they are very good at picking out fresh blood. Courtesy: Jiashan Wu]


[Here’s a picture of Madina, Joanita’s eldest sister, in the kitchen. Madina is really kind and truly hospitable – she takes good care of everyone in the household! Courtesy: Jiashan Wu]

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