- Tim Lyden
- Fr. Bob Dowd, C.S.C.
Today we set off for Nkozi to visit with administrators and faculty at Uganda Martyrs University and, most importantly, to meet the people of Nindye (NIN–Dee) village with whom Notre Dame and Uganda Martyrs University will work to fight extreme poverty, and to learn the lessons that help us promote human development more widely. It is with the people of Nindye that Notre Dame and Uganda Martyrs University will participate in the Millennium Village Project.
A wonderful spirit filled the meeting at Uganda Martyrs University, Uganda’s largest Catholic university. Besides administrators and faculty of Uganda Martyrs University, the meeting included representatives of the United Nations Development Program and local governmental officials. Father John and Fr. Peter Kanyandago of Uganda Martyrs University expressed their desire to work together to provide students and faculty with opportunities to learn the lessons of human development from the people in the village and from each other, and to build relationships that promote human solidarity for years to come. The meeting was followed by a tour of the Uganda Martyrs University campus that included the chapel, the library, academic facilities, and dormitories. It is a beautiful campus, not unlike Notre Dame’s campus in many ways. There are wonderful facilities and well–maintained buildings. It is a peaceful place, built on a hill overlooking Lake Victoria, conducive to learning, teaching, and research.
Finally, the time for us to meet the people of Nindye arrived; a moment for which we have been eagerly waiting. Nindye is located in Nkozi sub–county and Mpigi District. It is a 20–minute drive from the Uganda Martyrs University campus to Nindye, about one–and–a–half hours from Kampala along the road between Kampala and Masaka.
First, we were led to the village clinic, which was about the size of two dorm rooms, with dirt floors and chipped walls. The nurse’s aid who runs the day–to–day operations of the clinic told us that she and her assistants do the best they can to treat the sick without electricity or running water in the building, which we consider essential for the administration of health care. She was obviously moved when she talked about the sick people who go without the basic treatment that most people in our country take for granted. She informed our group that the community, the members of which generally make $1 to 2 per day, pay to rent the clinic at a cost of $150 per year.
From the clinic we went to a primary school, which had a dozen classrooms for seven grade levels: about 900 students altogether. To illustrate, 90 first–grade students squeeze into one small classroom that has no desks and only one blackboard. The headmaster, Francis, told us that each year more boys and girls drop out of school. Usually, these children begin working jobs in an attempt to increase the income of their families.
After visiting a few other sites within the village, we attended a gathering that included at least 300 villagers. This gathering was certainly the highlight of out visit. We were warmly welcomed with smiling faces and rhythmic clapping. After introductions, Dr. Johnson Nkuuhe, country coordinator of the Millennium Village Project in Uganda, thanked all present for gathering together and welcoming us. Dr. Nkuuhe went on to explain why we were there and the basics of the Millennium Village Project.
One interesting question he posed was what each villager would do if they were given one million Uganda shillings, or about $600. One woman said she would use it to expand her small business of selling fruits and vegetables. Another woman said she would use it to send her children to school. A middle–aged man said he would use it to improve his farm. Another man said he would use it for fishing equipment. Although they answered in different ways, they all said they would invest in their work, support their children, and share with the community. These people are obviously hard working, but they often lack the resources that would make more from the work of their hands. The meeting ended with words of thanks and a prayer by Father John.
For the two of us, this day represents the beginning of something wonderful, yet challenging. We still have a great deal to learn from and about the people of Nindye. However, we believe we are off to a great start. One very old woman with a rosary around her neck came up to us as we prepared to drive away after our hour–long meeting under the tree. She said to us, “Let us be family!” Yes, let us be family!