Thursday, April 11, 2013


She sits curled up in the doorway her bare feet caked with dirt.  A long stick rests beside her.  As we kneel in the dirt and offer our morning greetings, her wrinkled hands grasp ours tightly.  We have arrived at Jajja's home to continue building her latrine.

She laughs at our attempts to speak Luganda and then with surprising agility grasps her stick and pulls herself to an upright position. I scurry to follow her as she moves off behind the house. Her back is bent and she walks on the toes of one foot her leg twisted inward.

 A young boy following her, motions for Margaret (a girl from David family) and I to come.  "We're getting fire wood," Margaret explains.  Sure enough within a few minutes I see the tiny figure of Jajja point to some fallen branches and see the young boy quickly gather up some sticks.  Margaret and I follow suit picking up what we can.  I glance around for Jajja but she's gone.  After taking our load up to the house we walk back in the same direction and then I spot her.  A tiny figure, walking stick in one hand and a massive tree branch in the other.  She calls out for the young boy and he rushes to take the branches from her.

Half an hour later we're back at the compound and Jajja begins breaking the branches into smaller sticks.  She pulls herself along the dirt to the shelter of sticks and rusted iron sheet that are her kitchen and lays the wood between four stones.  Then she calls to the boy and he rushes off again. "He's gone for fire," Margaret explains.  Minutes later he's back with some smoldering wood carefully balanced on a small piece of iron sheet.  Jajja quickly adds them to the wood and chin on the dirt begins to blow on the fire.  The air is soon thick with smoke as the wood ignites.  Then, motioning to Margaret for the jerry can, she pours the water that has been fetched from the bore hole into a large pot.  As the water slowly comes to a boil, we begin the job of sorting the beans we brought for lunch.  Another fire is started out in the open for the beans.


 Maize flour is added to the first pot for our porridge.  Preparations done, jajja retires to a pile of stones to watch the progress on the latrine.

This old woman has cared for many children over the years and the young boy and an older teenage boy now share her home.  These old women are often the only ones left to care for children in communities devastated by Aids. 

Throughout the day I watch her tenaciously attack each household task, from washing her clothes, to binding up the wound on her leg.  Exhausted by the late afternoon she falls asleep curled up on a mat on the cold floor of her house. 

She is oblivious to the happy shouts of neighbouring children who play with our wheelbarrow. 

Their faces full of curiousity this little group of children munch away on cassava roots and giggle hystarically when I show them their pictures. 

 Around 5:00 Jajja stirs.  She pulls herself up and begins to peel cassava for the evening meal.  The children gather around her anticipating some food.  She pulls a crying toddler beside her and stirs the pot.  As dusk falls and we gather up our tools she wearily lowers herself down on her mat to watch our departure.  There's still work to be done on the latrine but it will have to wait for another day.  Jajja settles down in the doorway again and I catch a glimpse of her as we drive away; head in hand, bare feet curled up underneath her. She has survived another day.

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