With the arrival of the SEACOM fiber optic cable late this year, many cities across Kenya, Uganda and the East African region experienced higher speed Internet connections at reduced costs. The cable landed on the coast, in Mombasa, Kenya and slowly made its way toward Kampala, Uganda.

Using a local ISP, Uganda Telecom, we received notice that the effects of the SEACOM cable's arrival in Uganda has finally increased the bandwidth we are receiving in Gulu. We were previously using an 256 kbps connection and now we are running at 512 kbps for the same price we were previously paying at 256 kbps.

BOSCO in the news

See a recent article highlighting BOSCO's work in THIS Magazine: http://this.org/blog/2009/11/20/bosco-uganda-ict4d/

An update from Pagak

Click here for an update from Pagak by Chrisopher, director of an agricultural movement in the region and also a BOSCO Web 2.0 training volunteer. As the IDP camps close down, people are reconstructing their lives in their home villages and are once again accessing the land that provides their livelihoods through farming.

New BOSCO sites online

The newest BOSCO sites to come online in the last two weeks include: St. Jude's Orphanage and school (near the Catechists Training Center in Gulu); Lacor Seminary (secondary school for young seminarians); Lacor Primary School (where BOSCO volunteer trainer Jokondino teaches, featured here); and finally, Pabo Secondary school (Government run school) which complements the already connected Pabo Comprehensive Secondary School (Catholic school).

-BOSCO Gulu team

Representatives from Unicef (United Nations Children's Fund) will be visiting the Bosco office in Gulu today and one of our sites in Pagak. For the past number of months Unicef has been helping Bosco to fund some community training initiatives which are documented here.

Bosco is putting together a proposal with Unicef to help expand the network to a number of new sites in the Acholi subregion while also expanding on the effectiveness of our collaborative training efforts in linking local schools, health clinics, NGOs and CBOs and local government offices to our network of solar powered PCs and Internet.


I have been carrying out mobilization for training in Pabo (former IDP camp) today. The good and bad news is about one hundred people showed up on a market day; that was the highest attendance yet for a BOSCO training since the return and resettlement process started. Yet there is only one computer in Pabo Comprehensive Secondary School so we are unable with our current capacity to serve that many people at one time. Even a few distant schools sent members asking to be considered for computer training. The training brought regular lessons in the school to a stop as the teachers didn’t want to miss out either.

The school’s management is of the opinion that their school should get connected since they have two generators—big and small—which is conducive to accommodate the equipments. Solar power is also available here, but is only enough to power 2 PCs.

So far in Pabo Secondary School 16 teachers are registered for training with BOSCO. Unicef is pushing for monitored training and their representative, Richard, is meeting me tomorrow afternoon.

At the Coope community site, there has been a change of leadership: Latifa Monica is now the site Manager and a new structure has been developed. The land lord is yet to meet me and when we do we will sign the Rent agreement so as to open the room, hopefully by tomorrow. In Coope the volunteers are out to mobilize to begin formal training as well.

-David Aliker
BOSCO-Uganda Project Coordinator

A Wikispaces bounce

Wikispaces was kind enough to profile the BOSCO wikispace on their monthly newsletter earlier this week. As you can see from the graph above, the release of that profile on Monday 9/28 coincided with a sizeable increase in visits to the site.

As we learn to get stories and proposals posted more frequently, we can help reduce the harmful isolation afflicting Northern Uganda by getting the word out ourselves.

We recently added an AddThis button --like this one:
Bookmark and Share--to the BOSCO wikispace, inviting the sharing of new posts in various social networking settings. This is an opportunity for all of us visiting the site to encourage others to visit. As the number of visitors grows, so does the incentive for members to post new content. Let's work at imparting energy to this cycle. Isolation is a bad thing; sharing is good:)

Bosco is committed to the mission of overcoming the isolation suffered by the people of Northern Uganda.

I am deeply grateful and encouraged by the manner of cooperation between The Archdiocese of Gulu, Horizont3000 and Unicef. Bosco USA stands ready to collaborate by sharing technical expertise and the search for resources to continue further deployments to the areas not yet connected to our system.We also are building communities through Web2.0 collaboration. These communities already participate in peacebuilding and development.The expansion of Bosco will further expand the reach of these communities.

-Gus Zuehlke, president Bosco USA

BOSCOUganda and UNICEF have signed a funding agreement focusing on the further expansion of the ICT activities in Northern Uganda.

The project “Connecting Rural Youth – ICT for Participatory Development” is designed for a period of 7 months, beginning in August 2009. Its helps BOSCOUganda to further foster and intensify its computer and internet related activities for rural communities.

The project objective reads as follows:
“Creating access to information and communication technologies to girls and boys in and out of school in order for them to share experiences with other young people in Northern Uganda and the world and access international databases and information to increase their knowledge and enhance their learning so that they can participate in the proposed youth forum for the 2010 African Union Summit in Uganda while expanding their opportunities to engage in the future development of their region and country.”

More computer trainings for rural youth
Through the funding of UNICEF, BOSCOUganda can now start enhanced trainings for the computer users, especially for the young people in the rural ICT centers. Furthermore the project will involve a total of 8 sites who will be fully connected to the wireless internet network, equipped with computers and solar power, and participate in the Web2.0 training programme.

BOSCOUganda proofs its reliability
“The new partnership with UNICEF has proven our reliability and shows that we are ready to cooperate with international organizations”, says Fr. Joseph Okumu, Executive Director of BOSCOUganda. It’s a great success for BOSCOUganda and also a strong signal towards the quality of the work of the organization in ICT for rural communities – and hopefully just the first step of more support and partnerships coming up in the future.

It all started early 2007 when a civil servant from Austria was sent to Gulu through HORIZONT3000 in order to support BOSCOUganda and the rural ICT project.

At that time the first phase of the wireless internet – solar power – computer installations in rural Northern Uganda was almost done. People in several displacement camps started using the new technologies to get in contact with the outside world and read newspapers through the internet. But it was also clear that more local support for maintenance and training was necessary in order to make that great idea of ICT in Northern Uganda a success in the long run.

HORIZONT3000 is the biggest Austrian Non-Governmental Organisation for Development Co-Operation, working in Uganda, Kenia, Tansania – and several other countries around the globe. Its main strategic areas include rural development as well as peace building and conflict transformation. And beside financial support to local organizations, HORIZONT3000 is running a personnel program – providing technical advisors and consultants to support capacity building of their partner organizations.

BOSCOUganda has become one of the most successful partners of the capacity building program of HORIZONT3000 in Uganda.

Although it started with a lot of challenges: When I came in as a Technical Advisor in 2008, there was still no real local structure, no staff beside the director Fr. Josef Okumu, no office, no transport, etc. My own “office“ was just a table and a chair at the veranda of the CTC Guest House in Gulu – nothing else. And it became worse: In August 2008 one of the main towers through which the project was connecting the rural internet centers, was bought up by a telecom company and could not be used from BOSCOUganda anymore. And as if that wouldn´t have been enough already, the main server in Gulu got hit through lightning as well – the whole internet connection to the rural sites was cut off.

But since then a lot has changed:
  • the whole internet network has been build up again and expanded to new locations,
  • the organizational structure of BOSCO in Uganda has been defined,
  • the organization is now operating with 5 local employees who are officially contracted by the Gulu Archdiocese,
  • a Strategic Plan has been developed, defining the way forward for the next years,
  • BOSCO has got a fully equipped office,
  • new partnerships have been established,
  • an accountability system has been developed providing regular update of the organizations financial status,
  • a local technician has been trained and is already doing further wireless installations on its own,
  • and so on…

HORIZONT3000 will continue supporting BOSCOUganda at least until the end of 2010. The Advisory Programme of HORIZONT3000 always focuses on strengthening local structures and training their staff. Our success is defined by the level of external support needed by our local partners: The more independent a local organsation can operate, and the less personnel support they need from outside – the more successful is our own work.

And BOSCOUganda is on its best way to proof being a success story of our advisory programme.

Stefan Bock
HORIZONT3000 – Austrian Organisation for Development Co-Operation
Technical Advisor of BOSCOUganda

BOSCO-Uganda and War Child Holland are partnering in Pagak (former IDP camp) site to establish a joint ICT training and education center.

Today a community meeting was held (see photo on left) where a structure and leadership team was established by the community. Mr Jokondino Okema was elected "Site Administrator" by his fellow community members at Pagak. About 30 community members attended the meeting. Jokondino was previously the site manager for Pagak at the BOSCO site within Pagak Primary School.

The new joint site will offer wireless Internet and PCs powered by solar. There is no electrical grid power in Pagak. Also, there will be a number of laptop PCs provided for users to train on.

-Kevin Bailey


It was noon, the sun was extra bright and bitingly hot that which makes a European turn pink, the wind was strong like it could lift a crawling baby. Seated next to me was my eldest brother Richard, on my right was my mother freshly widowed and opposite where I sat was Moses a brother I followed not only in birth but most of the ways of growing adolescent boys. Rays of sun light passed through gaps of the main door to the sitting room with clear images of an aging door. Then there was this puzzling silence that was reminiscent of our last family meeting after burying my Dad only for the hissing beans being fried some distance away by my eldest Sister and the aroma of the dreadful K20 beans I have eaten for a good part of my life. I could tell because a mourner had offered a sack of it during burial to support the struggling family in grieve after burial.
Richard then cleared his voice so heavy with spittle of anger and bitterness to start the meeting. I could tell I was about to be told some sad news. My mind synchronised itself really fast but could not identify the subject of bitterness but my mothers face said it all. I then realised Richard sat on my fathers seat in a manner that he always sat before addressing us as we got back to school. He then continued,
“We have called you here to discuss your studies, we all know you have passed to the University but since government only pays for 4000 students we are here to see how you can pursue your dreams”
Talking of my dreams I could not withhold a smile but this was short lived by facts about the family’s status.
He continued “all of us know of your childhood dream to be a lawyer, we also know Dad promised you he would rather walk naked than see you fail to be a lawyer because poverty has been inscribed on his back for all to see but now he is no more and we have to move on. We have discussed and agreed that due to financial constrain the nearest and affordable institutions and where our late Dad at least had friends are Unyama National Teachers College about 500km away from here or Aduku Uganda Chamber of Commerce, so that in difficult times they can be there to support. You only take two years to complete your diploma and you will be here to support Mum. For Unyama you can walk that distance and with Aduku, missing requirements can be sent easily later on. What do you have to say?”
I sat back quietly in deep thought of the time, energy and hard work I put to become a lawyer and now fate seems determined to define my destiny. In the eyes of my mind, I could see my fathers face brimming in joy looking at my end of term results and calling me learned friend suddenly I felt my heart sink deeply to the bottom of my stomach with bitterness as if I had taken local herbs in my culture for reconciliation (Mato Oput) as I cursed death and poverty that looked like twin brothers and complement each other. In a blink of an eye, I saw mums shoe had slanted and taken the shape of one suffering from polio, she had barely worn any new dress over time and she was looking older than her real age then my words came to haunt me, words said decades ago to my teacher of English Edward and it was much more audible in my mind in the silence;
Edward had a canvas shoe he loved so much, little did I know that it was not love for the shoe but poverty dictating terms to my teacher whom we referred to as “Master”, he had visited the cobbler so many times and the shoe had taken a different shape and now looking like Mums and his I nicknamed it helicopter and it became his name to which he got to know and now it looks like he cursed me to the same profession where helicopters were fashionable and stylish.
Again, my memory flashed on the day I told our new young and beautiful teacher who taught Divinity and the topic was CHOICES OF MARRIAGE PARTNERS and with intent to pull her legs I raised up my hands and the sad words came out of my mouth;
Marry a teacher for she can not ask for what she can not get and this sent the whole class laughing and in anger she left the class. Now I am to face the same students who are as wild as I was or even worse.
In tears, I declared I would not take any of that and can not go for anything less than Law at the University, I told them our literature discussion group all made it and will go for Bachelor of Law I just can’t take anything less, above all a diploma in education is what not even in my life’s worst nightmares did it ever future in my dreams and now all you are saying looks like am having a bad night mare at noon.
Mum then chipped in, “My son, I am a widow left with equal number of my children as dependants from the extended family what do you want me to do? I have lived to see the poverty in this house from the time my breast had never suckled to now that my long beautiful hair that attracted your father has turned grey and I never turned back but now I feel weak and unable please understand our situation” with tears dropping down her cheek as she continued, “We can not send these dependants away for you to study because the little education your father had and made him meet me was sponsored by the extended family. You can still attain a diploma in education then personally pursue Law, what matters is not when you get there but how you get there. Your dream of being a lawyer was not only your dream but my dream as well. It will cost us five times more to study Law than to study education more so for five years, it’s a dream we are not blessed to have.”Dead silence ensured as Moses looked at me lost of what to say.
Moses in a slightly tough and authoritative voice then called me with my sir name “Aliker, the culture of death in our clan is that its abrupt and painful because it comes with responsibility and it never leaves one the same, it brings change, as you can see there is nothing we can do, as elderly boys to our remaining brothers, sister and step children you carry the responsibility like all of us here to make sure we give them an appropriate future, its what society will use to judge us in the future or else we all become a laughing stock to our graves. The hope of all these children are in us, there is need for us to sacrifice until it pains and most important in this trying moment for the family we need to unite, we can only be consulted but some one has to take decisions here, so like Richard said we have discussed and agreed that you go to any of this institutions and get back to support the young ones. Is there anybody with what to say?”
I then begged them to at least send me to Makerere University for any of the courses they can afford and pay the basics; I will fend for my self.
Richard then accepted without faith that, “We will try but should we fail don’t blame any body.”
The meeting ended and lunch was ready, I was so heart broken and a hopeless feeling filled me. My mind got saturated of good and bad thoughts. I excused my self not to take lunch not even my best dish of chicken could bring back my appetite I left for the boys’ bed room and thoughts resumed its dominance of my mind as tears rolled down my cheek. Lying on my bed starring at the roof my eyes came across a very old wall picture of Mary the mother of Jesus with a bleeding heart and suddenly some words came to my mind, “many are called but few are chosen” as these words were soothing my ego another Christian sentence cropped to my mind of the early days I used to take the church reading, it says “the lord is my Shepard there is nothing I shall want.”
These biblical allusions were very consoling and made me begin to look at fate optimistically. I reflected on the children I met in the internally displaced camps who did not have what to eat even when they had appetite and here I was with what to eat but no apetite, nothing to cover their nudity or where to lay their head and get good rest. I thought about the children who were denied their childhood, born in poverty natured in poverty and destined for poverty I felt lucky I could take decisions on my own but the fate of my fathers children could be like the children am reflecting on. Then I asked my self what is my mission in life? How can I get satisfaction in life?
I then saw my self as a responsible citizen and a parent with a small well managed family, so that I have more time for the children of my community, I saw my self inspiring many young ones with life full of values and I could see the respect and dignity in life I could achieve as a teacher. Its then that I coined a philosophy to guide me in pursuing my new dream “To spend the rest of my career building young peoples careers” Sleep then made me lay peacefully with a comical smile and a short sweat dream of students crowding around me in excitement as they consulted and called me “Master” Only to be woken up for super in the evening, using some humour and wit I teased worried Mum not to spoil a teachers good sleep just because of food, and all laughed really hard and their ribs arched in pain and guess what Mum had prepared the only remaining chicken for me to make me happy again.

Mum picked her only bed sheets and half of the average amount of money needed for the university to include tution, feeding and accommodation and living allowance and handed it over to me and told me “My son try your luck You have our blessing” This was meant to be the first degree in the extended family from the Prestigious Makerere University one of Africa’s best Universities.
After staying at a family friends place for two days I realised I was not the only struggling student and poor students from north and eastern Uganda resided in a nearby place call CHIKONI a.k.a CHIKS.With a few old boys I got easily integrated in to the ghetto of the University. For some one of my background it was easy to adopt, at least my difficulties were not written on my face and with an outstanding humorous and intuitive character, I easily got integrated and related well in my new found home. Every body was needy hence cooperation was by instinct and naturally we improvised our own type of fun that attracted even the financially stable who were referred to as MY LORD
My house was under a tree with the size of an extravagantly built toilet, trenches passed right in front and when it rained it washes sewerage, dustbin wastage and all types of dirt through the trench and it was normal. Our toilet that was shared by about 30households and because other houses did not have was left ever open becoming a public toilet as survival dictated in Chikoni.When you squat to use the toilet your knee protrudes past the door hence unable to close so it faced a wall for privacy. One could not stand up straight less his head touched the rusty dirty roof. The bathroom was extra dirty with mucous from spital, soap and dirt all over the wall. So one showered bending at the posture of one on parade standing at attention and it also served as the urinal just adjacent to the toilet. There was never any duty roster to clean it but depended on who wanted to use the sanitation next and how hygienically sensitive you were.
Necessity is the mother of invention but the father of crime, when it comes to feeding, my Chikoni inmates had a number of provisions;
First was to buy meal cards of the University from children of the rich at a “go away price” since they could afford meals from descent restaurants or buy them from dubious students who were either influential or had contact with University kitchen staff or those who had stolen them. At times you had to pay the University in charge who cross checks meal cards to avoid defaulters so that he assigns you a signal to use e.g. the American thumps up sign whenever you wereto receive a meal, if there are any changes then you miss meals that day. Some times those who sold out meal cards and are influential come first when its meat and by the time you reach that number has already been served so you miss. Others paid prostitutes, sluts and extremely poor single mothers who were inhabitants of the Ghetto to make sure they prepared any palatable food for survival for months ironically this characters were so honest and reliable since it was a way of making ends meet for them and could not quit their homes so that town was easily accessible for night missions. A few friends morally lost the struggle to HIV/AIDS there and sold their souls for a plate of soup. I had great friends both in the university and the nearby Mulago paramedical which hosted the hospital and where the medical students also did their practical, at the same time the paramedical hosted different medical diploma courses like pharmacy, orthopedics and laboratory technology. The few number of students at the paramedical as a government institute enabled them to always have enough to eat so whenever I ran out of cash I had to walk for 600m to have a meal I was so often there that other students thought I was part of them so much that I had developed confidence to move alone to the dinning to have food without my friends help. One day a student walked up to me and asked me why am not campaigning for a position in the institute because I carried my self like a leader not realising it’s because of deceit that am at their school.
Leadership is a calling and its divine in nature, it’s a gift that however much you run away from, you could find yourself racing towards it. One of the most vicious instructions I came with from home was to keep absolutely away from students’ politics, because it’s expensive, demands a lot of time needed for reading and very dangerous since people also die in the process. To me it was like convincing a dog to avoid bones. But the manner in which I was warned kept me quiet in the University up to my second year until events in my department made me break the silence.
The question of corruption, greed and fear of the biting fangs of poverty amongst those who taught us was affecting mostly the children of the poor especially those residing in Chikoni,We knew best the actual value of every coin we gave the University.
When we joined the University we inherited a problem between lecturers from faculty of Arts and that of School of Education, they were rivalling to have more lessons and since they are paid by the hour they spend with private sponsored students, it was worth fighting for and above all to claim credibility in the institute while School of Education lecturers felt those in faculty of Arts were not professional teachers and can not train students to become professionals since they were not. The Dean faculty of Arts and School of Education had failed to resolve the issue and students had missed lecturers for almost two months so the student leaders decided to invite Administration for a meeting with affected students and it turned rowdy, when all were not allowed to speak, against the advice of friends who knew the potential of my speaking power and the potential of it bringing me problems, I raised my hands to be given an opportunity to speak, suddenly there was silence and surprise as the boy who had never said anything in class for two years now had ideas to solve such a complex issue. Energised by the pain of a peasant I gave a spectacular speech identifying the problem,diognising it and making prescription, by then students were already shouting at the top of their voices and I concluded by warning our leaders that if they can not solve the problem we are going to take charge. That was how the problem till today was solved.
It was from this speech that I got nominated for the president for the students’ leadership against my conscience, against my family’s will and against all odds. Students’ leadership were a very costly venture my living allowance then was less than $5, the ladies paid for my registration for the contest. After getting registered I moved back and addressed fellow course mates why I will turn down the offer to contest. I listed them as lack of funds, lack of interest, not residing in one of the halls which was a prerequisite for one to win, coming from the wrong tribe to win an election, not being able to speak the language of the area i.e. Luganda, not being known etc.It was then that I saw first hand the power of the poor mans revolution. Its then that I believed those who have less are more willing to give than those who have more for a reason. Including the lecturers whom I talked against, offered support to my surprise apart from a few who took hatred to another level like trying to clandestinely deny me my degree. For one to win an election of that level one needed funds for logistics,postors,dress code, presidential life style, and above all the looks.
Interestingly, volunteers whose names I don’t know up to now offered money, I didn’t even have a suit neither did I ever put it on one day in the University but volunteers offered suits which I accepted to borrow thou they were not classic but second hand suits(suits worn in the west then sold to Africa) turned out to be a sense of identity with the poor man’s course, a few old boys offered their parents vehicles to take me around.
I ran out of logistics yet my chances of winning were getting clearer desperately I asked for logistical support from Mum that she could offer, my mother wrote me the smallest and most painful letter of my life in which she said they missed a meal for the first time and asked me to make her proud amongst other women by attaining that degree and not even a coin was enclosed. I felt so low and had to hide from my agents for two days and my volunteers circulated information that I had been abducted by security men, only to come out of hiding and agree to the lie and concocted the abduction story, this made me so popular and won the election. Sometimes in life things move so fast that they get out of your control I regret the lie because I tried my best never to be deceitful in my campaigns and unfortunately got compromised to lie. I won because I was believed to be opposed to government who are responsible for our sorry state of education and poverty stricken life.
The elections costed millions of shillings, so much that it was more than my tuition fees in the tree years at University. As President School of Education I got a lot of priviledges, respect, allowances and opportunities for workshops that covered up nicely for my living expenses.
The quality of education also left a lot to be desired, and it was on this ticket that I wrote my manifesto, the congestion was more than an amalgamated Universal Primary Education class in the internally displaced camps, cheating of exams were ramphant,the rich bought exam from the secretaries and copy typist while the poor looked for the answers, thigh power was the most certain way of passing exams to female students, deceit and deception was the order of the day and those were my responsibilities in the country’s most prestigious manufacturing unit of teachers. The question then is why would a student teacher who has never been loved show love to his students when he has no ingridience of love, how would the teachers give what they don’t have and didn’t acquire in teacher College. Where was the professionalism supposed to come from when college leaders are not ethically professional in their duties? Acholi have a saying, “the behind legs of a cow follows the front legs.”
Certainly, Uganda needs a model Teacher College that does not rely on only performance, economic status and its survival but a College more perfected in values and aspirations of its citizens, with a well redesigned College curriculum that enhances one to realise its fullest of potential and produces inspirational characters to motivate and attract its students to the profession. It’s only then that the profession will realise the dignity and respect it deserves from both parents and students. This is exactly what the early missionaries did and that’s why there is a big difference between the post office box teachers and the dot.com teachers


Every teacher tends to teach in the way he was taught is a philosophy I realised during my teaching practise. I never applied for a job in an economy where unemployment was as certain as darkness followed sunlight. With a good leadership track record in high school and University, my former head teacher and friend did not hesitate to give me the job. My first day as a teacher I arrived and the teachers were for a staff meeting, excitedly and innocently I took a seat next to my former teacher, she smiled and greeted me. Then she asked “what have you come to do” and I responded “I have been given a position in the school as a teacher of Economics and Christian Religious Education “She smiled again and asked
“do you remember what you told me in class during one of my lessons” my reply was sorry I forgot, she laughed and said “marry a teacher she will not demand for what she can not get” That hit me hard and I felt it was a very unfortunate induction to the profession. I apologised to her and we continued with the meeting. Paradoxically my induction was full of discouraging remarks and experiences of those who taught me about the choice I have made to be a teacher, surprisingly for all this years they had not left despite their concerns. To them they could not tell whether their lives were an achievement or not. One sunny day, a teacher walked up to me and said “young man if you clock six years in the classroom just know its unlikely that you will leave the poverty trap” One female elderly and respectful Geography teacher in one of conversations said “the worst mistake you can make is to marry when you are still teaching, it would be certain you have gone for less”. These words stigmatised me about my second dream and the prospects of realising it.
In my first two years in what seemed to be early job excitement I was so motivated having been made the boys Administrator and a teacher in the School. The very sweet dream I had after the family meeting became a reality sooner than expected.
The headmaster was an inspiration in my teaching career, his reward system was exceptional, he was hardworking and didn’t believe in one who slept for more than six hours, he was a good orator, God loving and a parent to young teachers, very exemplary of a successful teacher. He was a well traveled and experienced man with a great family. The students love for him made them call him Daddy; he would use his humble background to inspire students about the hope for success if you worked hard and remained disciplined. He would take meals with the students to make sure staff and student fed on good meals.
Later, when prosperity and fortune came in, he turned to be the shadow of himself; he was so different from the person I met as a student and as a staff. Every time I felt like calling him Daddy my tongue felt strange in my mouth like one who wanted to confess to the lady of his life how much he loved her.(OUT OF RESPECT I WILL AVOID DISCUSSING HIS PERSONALITY SINCE THIS IS BASED ON A TRUE STORY)
As the years came to pass by I began experiencing what I had always been told. Teachers were so poor that they pretended to be busy in School to take free supper at School and reduce cost of living. Many times they asked students to help them with edibles brought by their parents to make the food tasty. Most of them were not married and complained they were too poor to marry descent women other than fellow teachers which to them was dating poverty with a daring courage; others described it as a blind man leading another blind one. In one incident the head teacher met a team of young teachers and asked us what are you talking about and no body could answer and he chipped in “young men I have given you jobs, employed more female teachers and I meet the cost of your daily meals why can’t you marry?” We all burst out laughing then one of us responded “Sir we are too poor to marry” the head teacher then added “get the problem if you don’t have a problem you don’t look for solutions” again we all burst out laughing. Now, are you surprised why a teacher’s life is like a fire extinguisher always doing away with his unending problems? What do you expect if you are mentored by one with such a philosophy, it means don’t plan, take the risk and expect to get out of it safe. Secondly it also means private investors are better off with struggling teachers because they are easy to manage and demand less. Government is on record saying we can never increase teachers salaries because it will cause inflation in the country, certainly this is lack of political will from a government that does not regard education highly its agenda, As if that was not enough government never raised the teacher ceiling for more than ten years meaning no new recruitments on teachers to get on payroll. Corruption and mismanagement has had teachers who have been dead for 10years keep on receiving salary implying there are ghost teachers receiving that money. When government was put under pressure to increase teachers’ salaries towards elections it was so minimal that it only helped to elevate them to the next tax bracket like its said in the bible to those who don’t have more will be taken away from them and to those who have more will be added unto them.
School administrators devised a time table that was too tight for progressive teachers to do other business to make ends meet. To many who had fallen out with administration their salaries were either delayed or denied. Allowances were given once a year for work done monthly hence forced saving, as if that was not enough you were not given your full due so that if you quit teaching you forego that money and the teachers were too poor to sue any one in court and sustain the cost.
One of the most depressing things in teaching was managing depression. Parents had a low opinion of teachers and despised them especially when students perform badly or get into disciplinary problems, yet when students perform well then they say the student worked hard, a teachers hard work is rarely acknowledged like the African proverb goes the monkey also sweats only that the hair on it prevents one from seeing it. So many low cost items like airtime, Small cups in the market for measuring grains and cereal were named after teachers. During courtship the most plausible reason for rejection was the profession not offering hope. One of the teachers shared with us how he was rejected after dating a university lady for 3yrs only to be told “I honestly just don’t look at my self as the wife of a classroom teacher living in the staff quarters at the inconvenience of students.” At university a friend also told me they competed with a fellow student pursuing Bachelor of Quantitative economics in convincing a lady pursuing Medicine for marriage, when he felt he was taking the day, the student of Economic opened up to the lady and said “can’t you see that by the time this guy will be riding a bicycle and sweating profusely going to class I will be working at the bank in an air conditioned room and you will be a doctor?” On these words he lost to the banker in the making.
Many times teachers have been accused of being the greatest abusers of Alcohol I don’t believe teachers drink more than others, its not so often that you find Alcoholic teachers abusing beers, its always the low cost gins or spirits that they can afford for leisure and can’t afford to address their hangover effect hence poverty and frustration determining their taste and preference and the after effect is a bad reputation, unfortunately the low cost drinks are much stronger, many refer to them as “kill me quick”
In my forth year, January 3rd 2007, as I sat in the staffroom students were still on holidays but there were teachers from all over country marking national exams in our school, I came across a an old news paper, on one page a number of celebrity characters were being interviewed of their new year plans and whether they had met their dreams last Year, none of them was a teacher and many of them had achieved a lot even those with minimal educational backgrounds. When I looked back whether there was any thing I should be proud of, I realised in four years not much of my life had changed in any case I was still waiting for a free meal from the school. When I looked out the teachers marking were moving for lunch and none looked like what I wanted to be at their age. The Church bell was sounded to imply it was mid day; it’s at this hour that I conceded defeat to my second dream. I picked a piece of paper and resigned from my teaching position. Again I felt like darkness at noon, my eyes were open but I was lost in my thoughts WAS IT RIGHT OR WRONG TO QUIT TEACHING is a question I will answer in the future.

Hi I am Alfred Kilama, the new member of the BOSCO Team here in Gulu working as a technical assistant. I graduated in Information Technology from Kampala International University in 2005. I then joined Caritas Gulu Archdiocese to do database management.
During my time with Caritas, I was handling data from Displaced peoples camps as they are the main composition of the beneficiaries of the community service that Caritas work with. This helped me in getting close to the displaced people and even returnees of the LRA insurgencies. Now with BOSCOUganda, I think it is also a better way of reached closer to the people with trainings, use of the intranet website and with the internet one is sure to have helped the local person connect his/her life to the rest of the world since northern Uganda has been left behind from any developments for up to 21 years of the LRA insurgency.
I did a lot of sports both indoor and outdoor sports like table tennis. Badminton, hockey, lawn tennis, football, rugby, and basketball. Though I liked to try out as many sport as I could, I failed to try boxing because of fear of losing my teeth or breaking my nose by somebody’s’ heavy blow. Basketball is my favorite sport though I am not going to take it for a career like Kevin was suggesting because by the time I may not be working at BOSCOUganda I would not be of the age bracket needed for the drafting.
Working with BOSCOUganda is very interesting in a way that you interact a lot with the people who are using the BOSCO infrastructure and also meet new people who are interested in joining the BOSCO family every day. Computers and the Internet where seen by the rural people as something unreachable, others even thought computers were like supernatural beings that knew everything on earth. I sometime hear people murmur in the backgrounds during field visits “computer ki internet ne weng enoni?” meaning “is that the whole computer and internet?”. With this level of illiteracy about computers and the outside world, BOSCOUganda is and will continue to be a fundamental knowledge provider to the people who have been left behind in almost all aspects of life during the insurgency in the region, through the training of trainers for faster and more efficient ICT knowledge dissemination and peace building .
Long live BOSCOUganda/USA.

Typical Information and Communications Technology (ICT) projects in developing areas of the world focus simply on delivering computers for educational and community use. This basic and simplistic approach has often been tried and the results are varied. Organizations have been committed to sending “refurbished” computers to schools while others have helped start Internet cafes in towns like Gulu, where access to the Internet had only recently been available for the last few years.

An environment like Gulu, however, presents a few basic obstacles to the traditional and tried approaches for bridging the “digital divide” with ICT and computer solutions. For example, one organization we’ve come across is refurbishing old computers in the United States and then shipping them to schools here in northern Uganda. These desktop personal computers (PCs) were built for the 1990’s and consume large amounts of power. Unfortunately, most Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camp schools in northern Uganda don’t have access to a power grid. Consequently, these PCs require use of expensive generators (fuel costs over $8 per gallon in Gulu, Uganda)—most schools can’t afford this and thus can’t use their “refurbished” PCs.

Other locations across northern Uganda do have access to grid power and are at a distinct economic and social advantage. But what good is a PC in these locations if the infrastructure for accessing the Internet is not there and the cost of other solutions like satellite service is prohibitive? In today’s world, providing computers to groups without access to the Internet is like providing a car without wheels—the computer provided is not going to take its users anywhere.

However, BOSCO overcomes these difficulties by providing low-power PCs that can run on a 12 volt battery charged by a small solar panel. On top of this we leap over the gaping infrastructure holes by transmitting our Internet signal over a radio wave that can reach sites as far as 60 miles away from our hub in Gulu. The expensive cost of high-speed Internet service is then shared over the whole network because all of our sites are connected with one modem located at our Gulu office. Each rural or IDP site ends up paying only about $15 per month for access to the Internet.

But besides the technical side of BOSCO, what makes it truly innovative is the philosophy behind what we are trying to do. BOSCO, while delivering ICT resources that leap over the holes in the infrastructure, operates on the premise that the local community has the power to articulate and communicate their own needs better than any outside actor. So, with the help of the Internet we are diving in to a training program at each of our sites that throws the traditional curriculum—heavy on theory and light on practical experience—out the window.

We, instead, begin with small groups of local users, led by volunteers who have prior computer and Internet experience. These groups train together, helping each other learn by biting right into the meat of ICT in today’s world—the Internet. The first thing we do is get them on email, then we let them navigate our simple Intranet site which connects all BOSCO sites to a high speed internal network, useful for posting photos, blogs, and other educational content. After these groups gain competence navigating the web, we point them in the direction of our BOSCO Wikispace so that they can begin collaborating immediately. Collaboration between previously isolated communities can help them reconcile with each other, share information, and articulate local solutions to community problems. Check out the chart below which gives a visual of how this kind of Web 2.0 collaboration can work.

Step 1: User groups formed at BOSCO sites with ongoing competence training (represented by block of people holding hands on each blue space)

Step 2: Local user groups sign up and begin posting their own content on BOSCO Wikispace from their respective school, community center, or IDP camp. (Solid blue lines between blue boxes represent user collaboration on Intranet between BOSCO sites; Dotted black line represents posting of material on BOSCO Wikispace for rest of world to view)

Step 3: Collaborators from within other parts of Uganda and across the rest of the world log onto the BOSCO Wikispace and view user content directly from IDP camps and schools in northern Uganda: Stories are shared, war-ravaged cultural practices documented, community development project proposals are posted.

Step 4: Collaborator input is returned from across the globe as people develop a vested interest in the plight and recovery of the people of northern Uganda. For example, one collaborator funded a small community proposal for $100 dollars to help a youth group of former abductees carry out traditional reconciliation practices. This proposal was posted by the youth group in one of our IDP camp sites.

See image below of what the Pagak camp Wiki site looks like. Notice that various users at this site have links for educational proposals, farming proposals, journal sharing, and a community notice calling for sign ups to partake in computer training at the site.

Please visit our Wikispace site at bosco-uganda.wikispaces.com to begin exploring what is happening on the ground and begin learning how BOSCO is turning the keyboard over to the people who know best what the needs are on the ground: the Ugandan’s themselves.

If you would like to begin responding directly to users at each site by adding your own content to the pages (a wikispace site is by definition a community site where anyone who is a member can edit and add content to the pages) please send your email address to me at kpbailey3@gmail.com .


After a few months of struggles finding new tower alternatives to restore Internet connectivity to our IDP camp sites, the BOSCO technical team has reestablished connectivity at at least 4 of our 6 IDP camp sites which will go back online in the next couple of days.

We had previously been using an old 30 meter TV tower to send a long-range WiFi signal to all of our sites. When we were forcibly taken off of our tower, we scrambled, without much luck, to find a new tower location. After experimentation with NanoStation radio technology, however, the team was able to restore connectivity by mounting the radios to a pole attached to the roof of the Catechist Training Center, our network hub. From this location, we established a connection to our Coope IDP site which then relays the signal to Pagak IDP camp, Jengari IDP camp, and Pabo IDP camp. Confidence is high that we will also be able to reach and connect Lacor IDP camp and Unyama IDP camp using NanoStation radios.

In the future we will also be partnering with Radio Maria for tower use. In exchange for providing their Gulu office with connectivity, some of our equipment will sit on their Gulu tower (see photo above). Radio Maria will also be constructing a tower in Opit, to the East, which will allow us to use that space as a relay point for reaching Pader and Kitgum districts in future deployments.

The Project Team is currently organizing all of our site's volunteer users so that they may resume our Web 2.0 Training of Trainers program. This will allow users to again be collaborating on community development proposals while documenting and sharing their lives with fellow Ugandans and collaborators from around the world. More to come soon!

Meet David Aliker!

Read BOSCO staff member David Aliker's story at here.

It was Friday morning; I sat restless in the staff room starring at the wall deep in thoughts and reflections about what life is all about. The bell goes but I could not hear even when other teachers are complaining of the time keeper hitting the bell so loud that makes a lot of noise.

A few minutes late a class prefect enters the staffroom standing next to me and calls out three times and am still lost in my imagination of life, suddenly a teacher calls out in a loud rude voice”Mr.Aliker, are you not going for your lesson?” its then that I realized that the prefect was calling me for my lesson, after yawning and feeling tired I got up and left for my lesson.

My topic was LIFE IN THE CHANGING SOCIETY, leaning by the window of my classroom I apologized to my students for having been late and they all laughed because it had turned into a habit for me to be late for my lessons and leave early.

Mid way through my lesson as I told my students about the hopeless situation of life in the camps in northern Uganda; where I come from compared to life in the city in central Uganda where there is relative peace, these only provoked arguments from my students about how peaceful Uganda is and how life is what you make it explained a student.

He went further and said “the people in northern Uganda are killing themselves like cockroaches and expect government to stop them!

Then there was a mixture of frowning and laughter but because he was a good joker all the students ended up laughing, coincidentally he was my student and friend and my students knew I could withstand all forms of stigma.

Suddenly a tall dark gloomy faced student call Komakech (meaning am unlucky) stands up and leaves the class, I could see wrinkles of tears in his eyes so I didn’t stop him and I looked on as he left the class.Realising the problem, I stopped the discussion and began to dictate notes. I kept on hearing words soundly loud in my mind like “the truth is the first casualty of war”. Again I find my self leaving the class before time to attend to the one lost sheep as students kept on giggling and murmuring.From a distance he looked like he was praying, yet he also looked like one who was reflecting on an idea.

As I got closer he asked me to leave him alone and I didn’t hid to his idea. When I approached him and asked what the problem was he didn’t answer back, and then I switched to our local language and asked him what the problem was. He then retorted “Master, why are you pretending that you are with us in our suffering?”.” You are friends and an accomplish of those who castigate us, who call us names and those who hate us that’s why you never get offended of bad things said against us. “He retorted

I then told him I was sorry if I offended him in any way but insisted on asking what was wrong, after a minute he said he was praying to God to forgive those who forsake them. Again I asked “what is the problem?”“Don’t you know I am a former child soldier?” (this) was his response - “Teacher, look am not as handsome and acceptable as my fellow students because of the scars of the war which I can’t explain and don’t understand how I found myself in it .I wonder why there was no one to save me from this acts of violence, am not only physically ugly but mentally shattered because I hear their voices and see them in my dreams crying and asking for help from their persecutors. I am full of guilt, it pains me to see other children being loved and hugged yet I have never been hugged in life.”

I then asked him “do you believe in God?” He answered “some times I feel I have faith but at times I don’t see any sense in believing in God.” he answered” I wish I had died!”Before I could answer him, the bell went and he asked to leave promising me he would open up later.

The next day was one of my saddest moments as a teacher; he had escaped from school leaving behind a note for me that he had abandoned studies because he felt he could not make it. He left his properties behind and until today I have never seen him again.

There are lots of myths about his where about which tells us of his perspective of life.During my December holidays, I got an opportunity to do research in pader district. The research was a continuous one for three years assessing the poverty level of people in the satellite camps and ways of improving their livelihood and monitoring their progress.

The research required that we interview the poorest of the satellite camps.In one home we met a woman who looked old but could have been the fangs of poverty adjusting her age. A story is told of this very woman that she loved to pray and take care of her three grand children, yet records indicated she was not as old as she looked. That she loved to pray so much that one time she kept away from the church for one week and all realized her absence including the priest who asked for her in a sermon and no body could answer, only until the next prayer that the priest was told she refused to pray in church because she was too poor to hide her nudity in church so she preferred to remain home to look after her grandchildren,

later that day the offertory was dedicated to her to buy clothes.My two colleagues who didn’t know the local language introduced themselves and since I was the interpreter I introduced self last.

On hearing my name she looked on motionless and chuckled then asked her grand children to leave and go to play. She then started narrating how her only son and daughter in law died in the war and left her with those grand children, and how she had hoped he would take care of her in old age.

Now she could not dig but collect fire wood for survival and that her son was also called ALIKER.It really touched me so much that I offered her the only money I was paid for the survey, my colleagues were also moved and offered her 20000 or 10 US $ each making 60000or 30 US $ .

In disbelieve she could not remember when she last held such money, she asked me to offer my hands for blessings from our ancestors and spat on it asking them to give me back in plenty and so did my colleagues, after hesitating because they were from different cultures and didn’t have faith.

That evening I went to our place of abode hungry and kept awake in the night reflecting on my latest experiences tears kept rolling from my eyes yet I felt great fulfillment in serving those in need and all I received was gratitude.

Here, I had come face to face with the effects of the 20 year old war on my people. Then I remembered my student and how he felt that day during my lesson. I then realized that in life there is pain that words may not describe but experience can make you appreciate their affection.

As I reflected on my students pain sleep caught up and I woke up with one resolution. QUIT TEACHING AND COME HOME TO SERVE MY PEOPLE

Opportunity strikes for those who are awake. I resigned from my teaching job on 3rd January 2007; I left the city very skeptical if what I was doing was the best. I imagined the nice people in the city, the quality social life in the city, opportunities but in all this I had faith in my conscience.

April 23rd 2007 I got an opportunity to serve Invisible Children as a volunteer; this was one of my greatest moments, joining a reputable organization with an educational background.

The motivation was so much that in four months I had got two promotions, from Education assistant to Education officer. Just as all seem to be fun with a pending visit to my childhood dream, visiting America my conscience called “what is your sense of purpose?

I adapted really well to my new found values that seemed exciting with great people and great works, most interesting was that all this was being done by young people. I then realized fulfillment is one virtue you can’t lie about and it can never be compromised with life’s favours.

My interest was with the people communicating with the suffering people and getting feedback, directly associating my self with them and here I was in a an enclosed office where you sign a form to see me doing desk work, you comfortably communicate in the white man’s language with all your guest or forever facing a computer for the rest of the day.

Yet every time I had opportunity to move out I paid a visit to my mentor Fr.Joseph to listen to his opinion about the suffering of the people and the role of a few educated locals like us especially young cadres with strong Christian upbringings on how to bring social change in our society and he always moved me.

He spoke passionately about a BOSCO project I took long to conceptualise;and why it was important to give our people an opportunity to generate information from their experiences and share them with the world, the importance of communication in the post war erra.

We often agreed and even hoped one day we could do something about it.Finally one day, under the mango tree Fr.Joseph requested me that as a product of the church it was imperative that I gave back to the church through service to BOSCO.

He had told me of my father’s role in the church and knowing him for more than a decade I had never turned him done nor doubted him yet faced with the challenges of a new organization compared to an established reputable organization made it a difficult decision.

Reluctantly I accepted without giving it serious thought. Again he placed the request to me to get on board, my worry was my small family and how it could affect us but eventually I told him” am not certain of the future, but since I have never doubted you in the last one decade, I will take it up without any more thoughts but with faith in his credibility” He only retorted “come and be lead by an old man for you to make the difference.”

Many times we are called to realize our dreams but we abscond because of fear of the unknown. We walk the path of realizing our dreams innocently and ignorantly but if there is any thing that will never break our hearts, it’s our conscience.

In BOSCO, I met a silently humorous team of work mates so respectful in thought and ways, so dependable in private and public, a true manifestation of my teachers common saying “simplicity signifies the magnanimity of the soul,” great personalities yet so simple in their ways, with a cutting edge sense of freedom and responsibility, a team of wise men never acknowledged by the community yet consulted often by the publics most intelligent brains and above all the team is a family making our fraternity a great home to live in.

This is the home of my fulfillment where virtues and values in all you do is a priority, where am directly in touch with my people both in prayer and at work, where satisfaction is not only got from earthly pleasures but ideals one stands counted for.

I feel so privileged amongst my peers to be engaged by my church at this hour in my life. Not forgetting the honor to serve an organization committed to a new concept in our generation of providing communication and information technology to foster social and economic development and peace building in rural communities using a collaborative web based approach.

I thank all those who have made it possible for me to be part of the BOSCO fraternity, I promise to give it unwinding service to the best of my ability and at all times, I further ask God to bless my action in serving humanity through BOSCO.

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One of the challenges of trying to launch an innovative non-profit organization in a former war zone is that on any given day, you can run into serious and unexpected problems that can impede your progress.
One story from a couple of months ago best illustrates these surprises and challenges:

One morning, I received a call on my cell phone in Uganda: it was one of our regular users of the BOSCO network, named Jokondino, in Pagak IDP camp, a fairly large and congested camp of over 15,000 people. As an aside, Jokondino is a primary school teacher and has been using our network to find educational information on the web to enhance his knowledge of the school subjects he teaches—many teachers in northern Uganda do not receive adequate training and almost none of the primary school teachers have received a university education. Jokondino also journals about his experiences in Pagak as a primary school teacher on our BOSCO collaborative wikispace workpage (See http://bosco-uganda.wikispaces.com/Jokondino%27s+Journal).

Anyway, back to my story: Jokondino called me and told me that the network was down, he was not able to access the Internet or the central server we use to remotely store user files. At this particular time, our technical assistant was on vacation in Austria so I was left—without many technical skills—to try and figure out what was going wrong with our long range wireless computer network between all of the IDP camps. That morning I received a dozen or more calls from users in other IDP camps wondering why their access to the outside world had been cut off.

Our network uses a 100 foot TV tower to broadcast the long range WiFi signal out to all of the camps using directional antennas. The government of Uganda’s Ministry of Communication had given us written approval to broadcast from this location free of charge. After doing some preliminary testing of the network to find the problem, we were able to determine that the camps were not receiving their signals from the TV tower our equipment sits on.
I asked Fr Joseph Okumu, the Director of BOSCO-Uganda in Gulu, what we should do and he instructed me to drive out to the TV tower to see what I could find.

When I arrived at the tower—with its rusty chain link fence around it—I found a couple of security guards watching over the property, armed with AK 47 guns. In the corner of the property, lying on the ground was a large wooden box with yards of cable coming out of it—The box was labeled with the logo of the Ugandan government telecom company.

I was a bit confused, confronted with a “coup” of sorts of our TV tower. And I was certain that we never previously had used armed guards to protect our equipment. I ended up approaching the two guards and made casual conversation with them. Eventually, I inquired about what was going on and who had moved into the tower property. They informed me that it was the government telecom company. They had purchased the land and wanted to erect a cell phone antenna on top of the tower we were using to transmit our long range WiFi.

I then asked them if I could take a look around the property and they agreed to let me. I looked up at the tower through the glaring sunlight and counted the BOSCO antennas, still mounted 100 feet up—they were all accounted for. Then as my eyes followed the long, thick black cords coming down the tower from the antennas, I noticed that there was an abrupt cut in the wire, which left the wires hanging precariously five feet off the ground with nothing attached to them.
Someone had cut the wires which were attached to a couple of pieces of equipment on the ground, including a solar panel and batteries which powered the antennas on top of the tower, enabling them to transmit the Internet WiFi signal to the IDP camps. It was clear then that someone had stolen the equipment on the ground—equipment totaling almost 2,500 dollars.
Later on, we would come to find out that the government telecom company had purchased the land that the tower sat on. They wanted us to remove our equipment from the tower—it’s still not clear who actually stole the equipment we had on the ground. We did climb the tower to remove our antennas and spent the next weeks trying to figure out a way to redeploy our system on a new tower—either renting space on another tower or building our own.

Since that time we have been in discussions with the government telecom company and have come close to resolving future disputes regarding the renting of tower space for our equipment. The difficult part about this incident, from the perspective of our organization, was that we had a legal right and permission to be there and no recourse or funds to contest such a large government entity in a court of law.

Last week, we had just finished discussions with the government telecom company about the legal arrangements for renting space on the tower they had taken over for us. We went into the discussions with a clear understanding of a potential partnership: We would be providing Uganda’s poorest and most rural areas with Internet access (people who would be unable to afford a regular Internet subscription) and the government telecom company would benefit from this because we were training their customers of tomorrow. Our preliminary rental discussions had us renting tower space for about $40 a month—a reasonable rate we presumed.

Well, after going to Kampala to finalize the legal documents, we discovered that the government telecom company had inserted a price in the contract calling for rental space on the tower to be charged at $700 per month—per piece of equipment. We have 6 small antennas to mount on that tower so the total price would have come to $4200 per month! Keep in mind, building our own tower would cost between $12,000-$15,000. Of course, we didn’t sign this contract and came away a bit disappointed.

The work carries on, however, as we try to find a creative solution to this problem. We have permission to use a Catholic radio station tower in Gulu Town as a short-term solution and then are experimenting with new technology that may allow us to skip large towers all together. We hope that as we learn and overcome these challenges that we will be able to accomplish our mission of reaching all of the most rural and war-affected areas of northern Uganda.

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A long overdue update!

It’s been a long while since I have updated my blog here. A lot has been happening with BOSCO since I last posted about our human rights monitoring initiative that we are doing.

In fact, you may not have known this, but between the last time I posted and now, I spent about 7 weeks in South Bend, IN working with the BOSCO board of directors and folks at the University of Notre Dame on our initiatives.

I arrived back in Gulu, Uganda last week to continue my “on the ground” efforts, working with people in the IDP camps here to find useful ways to connect them to the outside world with our solar-powered Internet PCs.

Maybe I’ll just start by giving you all an update of where the project is at now and then where I hope it will be going:

Right before I left Gulu for the US at the end of October, we had just found funding to support local capacity building. We realized that if this ICT project was going to be sustainable in the long run, we were going to have to have local, Ugandan, staff available and trained to carry out a lot of the technical computer networking tasks, especially as we expand to new sites in northern Uganda.

We were able to hire two new Ugandan staff, one as a “Technical Assistant” and the other as a “Project Coordinator.” This brings our team total in Gulu, including myself, to 6 people. We now have four Ugandan staff—our Executive Director, Fr Joseph Okumu, (seen here talking about the project) is a local Diocesan priest who is very politically and socially connected in this area and brings a ton of development expertise.

The next piece of big news is that we were able to secure an agreement with a group of local partners to expand our network to 12 new sites east of Gulu into Kitgum and Pader Districts (map of northern Uganda here). We will provide connectivity to a local NGO looking to setup ICT resource centers for youth who were formerly abducted by the LRA and have returned home. Also, we are connecting the local government offices and a couple of vocational training schools to our network. It is hard to imagine that until now, even the local government offices in district headquarters (a district here is like a state in the U.S.) still do not have access to Internet or the infrastructure for reliable service in the year 2009. We are hoping to setup an e-governance concept whereby people in rural outposts will be able to communicate and collaborate with their elected officials at the district headquarters.

We hope to begin deploying at these new sites in the next couple of months. We also will have the help of a Notre Dame engineering student this summer who is being sponsored by Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns in a summer service/internship capacity.

As for what is next on the horizon: Much of what I have begun here on the ground in Gulu and at Notre Dame will require my continued involvement into next year. Last December, when I began raising funds to support my involvement, I originally had committed to one year of service with BOSCO. As I grew comfortable with my role it has taken on something like a full-time management role. I am very invested in the future of the organization and I was lucky enough to have great support and prior experience in Uganda which made for a smooth transition into my work in Gulu.

As a final note, I came across a reflection I was reading on how we can always strive to be more compassionate with those we interact with and those we are serving. This reflection basically says: compassion is not a gesture of sympathy for those who are less fortunate or who grow up in places of violence or destruction; compassion is not a bending toward the underprivileged from a privileged position; it is not a gesture of pity either; compassion means going directly to those people and places where suffering is most acute and investing a part of your life with them; it is about learning from them and listening to their stories while reaching out to offer your own story, giving a helping hand where possible. I think that is what I’m striving to do and I hope that is what the BOSCO project is ultimately about.


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