I’m Anne, I’m a rising junior double majoring in biology and women and gender studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This summer, along with two other UNCCH students, I have the privilege and opportunity to intern with Raising the Village as a representative of our university’s GlobeMed Chapter.
We’re spending 6 weeks in Uganda: a week in Kampala followed by 4 weeks Kisoro and then another back in the capital. At the Kisoro office, my job is to work on monthly and quarterly M&E reports, but we also go on village visits. So far, I’ve been to Grace, Kagezi, Murole, and Rugongwe.
Visiting Murole, was one of my favorite experiences. Getting to the village showed me exactly what Raising the Village means by hard to access, as it required a winding two hour drive into the Kisoro mountains, and then another hour hike filled with steep inclines and sharp declines. By the time I set foot in Murole, I was already gasping for air.
Murole, although considered a village, is a collection of households spread out in the mountains, with a central gathering point that they use for community meetings. This is also the location of their school. When Raising the Village arrived at Murole, the villagers had already constructed a mud classroom for their children. After discussions with the community, it was decided that in addition to Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) training, as well as agricultural support, Raising the Village was going to help construct classrooms for the school.
When we arrived in Murole, we found one RTV building being painted, and another occupied by students. The mud hut that the villagers built is also still in use.
Aside from observing how the construction of the school was, we also went to perform water quality testing on the two water sources community members draw water from. This sounds simple, but actually resulted in a four hour hike, that at one point involved scaling a wall using footholds that were at best 7 cm wide. It was exhilarating. Of the two water sources in Murole, one was an underground spring where someone had inserted a hollow bamboo stick to function as a spigot. The other was little more than an overglorified puddle, and even had tadpoles in it. It was important to see the sources not only to check the water quality, but also to see how feasible it was for Raising the Village to protect these sources. As you may have guessed, the first water source was protectable, the tadpole one? Not so much.
This was decided at the community meeting that we had once we arrived (exhausted) back at the school. There, members of the community gathered and had a discussion with RTV about which would be better, a rainwater harvesting system or spring protection. While Raising the Village had originally planned for a spring protection system, villagers asked for a rainwater harvesting system instead.
It was interesting to watch the discussion back and forth between both sides of the partnership, particularly because both sides were deeply invested in what the other had to say. After seeing the water sources firsthand, it was clear that protecting both springs would not be practical. Instead, Esther, the financial officer at Raising the Village, told the villagers that while one spring would be protected a rainwater harvesting system would also be implemented. This led to more discussion, in which the villagers suggested having three tanks at different hubs of households. Throughout the entire meeting, it was great to see openness in the partnership of RTV and Murole, and watching the RTV staff sincerely consider each one of the villagers' requests. In the end, it was decided that one spring would be protected, and the school would begin a rainwater harvesting system, as it is the center of the village.
One of the reasons I was interested in interning with Raising the Village was because I wanted to learn more about coalition building. Coalition building is difficult work, and in the cause of Raising the Village’s model, a new partnership must be formed with each village it interacts with. In Murole, community members were excited to have RTV there, and were willing to do all that was necessary to see the projects through successfully.
This, I think, is why Murole has been my favorite village visit so far. When you see a school that has no textbooks or furniture still filled with students, and a supportive village providing lunch and offering to carry any materials necessary up and down the mountains, as well as RTV staff members willing to alter their plans for village concerns, there exists a strong partnership. I know that in Murole, due to this wonderful working relationship, all RTV projects will have wonderful impacts on the community.