Friday, December 7, 2007

Nsambya Women's Craft Cooperative

Nsambya is a slum in the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda. The women who have joined the project all have HIV/AIDS and make beautiful jewellery from recycled paper.

Group membership has more than doubled since August 2007. The women have opened a savings account which they use to save money for treatment, to support their children and to support the children who have been orphaned since the project began.

Despite their struggle, the women continue to support their families and community. Their strength, compassion and commitment is an inspiration to us all.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Children

Each one with a story, a dream and the most unforgettable twinkle in the eye. These are some of the children I was honoured to cross paths with in Uganda. May they always know love, peace and laughter.

The following photos were taken during the last class I taught in Kiboga. The boys on the mats were the ones I most connected with at the school during my time there. Some of the funding money was used to pay for Innocent's (far right) school fees for the year. Their beauty and strength was an incredible lesson as was their desire to grow and inspire. You'll notice in the pictures that more and more children from the village began to make their way to the field, the smaller ones loved to join in and follow; always bringing with them a trail of giggles and wide smiles.

Opening the Heart....

Yoga in Kiboga

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

A wave of pink.....

Yesterday Rebecca and I took the softpower truck up to a remote area about 45min outside of Bujagali to visit a local primary school. We went up with some of the day volunteers and did a little painting to fix the outside of the school and make it beautiful and fun for the students. Rebecca and I also went into the Primary 7 class and taught english; they welcomed the break from math.

The school uniform was a bright pink colour and there were hundreds of children running around when we first came. After their lunch, they were able to play for an hour and many of the children began to crowd around to see who the visitors were at the school. It was quite easy to round up a group for yoga because the children would follow you as soon as you stood up! We began to join under the shade of a tree and watch as the group began to grow and grow....

Soon, we came to realise that we needed a bigger space, so I was taken out to the school field, hundreds of children running behind to see what was going on. There was a wave of pink flowing over the field as the children began to arrive. Slowly they were able to form in the largest circle I have ever seen - each student holding hands with the next - we made circles within circles until finally everyone was connected within. The children were incredible - all wanting to see and hear and experience what was going on!

We did some standing stretches and a roar of laughter made its way through the field. As they all joined hands, slowly each child began to use the suppport of another to move into a balancing pose - then bending at the waist moving back and forth until finally coming back to centre. It was a beautiful sight - hundreds of children - circles of pink holding hands moving back and forth in a moving tree pose on the big green field. With each stretch, there was a moment of hesitation. One would start, then another, then more would catch on. We opened the heart that day - raising the arms up to the sky and opening up the chest to the big bright sun. The director came bounding down the field, a big jolly man with a smile that went from cheek to cheek. I promised him that I would be back to teach again - with a few extra hands perhaps!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Breath of life


Looking back at the story, I can now see how it unfolded like the petals of the lotus flower opening the heart. It started slowly, a gradual opening - revealing an incredible need to introduce the breath, a relaxing of the shoulders and a softening of the heart.


Bringing yoga to Kiboga began with the odd conversation, a late night discussion of the history of yoga under the mass of stars in the sky. We read passages from the books I had brought, stopping after each one to discuss their meaning and application to life. And so it began like this - the word 'yoga' was passed from one to another, sometimes with a laugh, sometimes with a question, always with big curious eyes. From here, I started to introduce asana. Very slowly, with one pose at a time. The women in the town watched the teachers and laughed as one or two made their way into downward dog, or attemped a balancing pose. I gave out a yoga dvd and a mat and watched as the recipient then taught a pose or two from what he had learned late at night in the privacy of his home. Sometimes we discussed the yogic life over dinner and spoke of how it would be introduced to the students once they made their way back from holidays.


The first yoga class in Kiboga was held for the teachers of Uganda Martyr's Highschool. The red earth was swept out the door of the office and the mats put down under the soft light that came into the room powered by the generator outside. We started with a discussion and then found the sitting pose that would soon open to a new realisation of tight hips, a hardness held in the body and the location of the breath. The teachers moved through the class flowing from one pose to the next - at one point the night guard came in curious as to the movement coming from the small building. Finally, there was stillness as the students brought their bodies into a laying position on the floor. Relaxation was a process - as was trying to 'let go on the mat' The teachers held their arms tight above the ground, not quite touching the mat. The neck muscles were engaged and the feet held firm. After quite some time, they began to find their bodies - slowly an arm would release, a foot would fall and they relaxed into the mat - as much as possible for the first time.

As they made their way out of relaxation and back up to sitting, there was a softening, a light had come into the room and right into the heart. We discussed 'the feeling in the body and mind' - It was beautiful.


Once the students came back from holidays, I was introduced to the classes and spoke briefly about why I was there, what yoga was and my excitement to be there. Many came up and asked me questions after their classes. One afternoon, the mats were collected and walked down to the field; students began to gather and a wave of conversation spread out over the crowd. The first class involved eight boys who one by one, placed themselves down on the mats. A wall of students began to build around our space, all curious to see what 'yoga' looked like. Again, we began with a discussion - first about sitting and the strength needed to sit in stillness. We moved into a meditation to bring awareness to the body - shoulders, long held up to the ears, began to release and the tightness in the face softened. There was laughter and a gentle sound that made its way over the field that day. The transition from tightness to the ability to witness the body was slow and curious - the odd arm would straighten, a heel would release. I have never been able to watch this process unfold as slow and gentle as it did with these children. At the end, we discussed the meaning of namaste and the idea of the light within. Slowly, they began to rise and the crowd stepped away to reveal a whole new group of children who came with questions and the desire to participate in the next class. Over the next week, girls and boys of all ages asked questions and wanted to join in.

My last class with the students in Kiboga was held in the early evening. The group consisted of a number of students who I had connected with over the previous weeks - most of them around 15 years old. It was a small class out in the field that night, in addition to the handful of local children who gathered around. The field was quiet as we spent the first while exploring the breath. They moved from one breathing excercise to the next and slowly each student began to find their breath. They went from moving their shoulders up and down to finding the beginning in the belly - Their small fingers falling up and down on the belly with each breath. I introduced the use of a focal point and watched them as they explored what happened when they lifted an arm and a leg - slowly, they began to find and accept their edge and come back up when they fell. I will never forget that last class in Kiboga - under the red setting sun with the mountains and great green trees behind us and handful of children finding their peace within. We took a moment to honour each other in stillness and the class came to an end.

One of my students explained the meaning behind the colours of the Ugandan flag. The red and yellow and black representing the unity of the Ugandan people - so similar to the universal connection that exists within us all - The rise and fall of the belly and the breath of life that unites us all.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

English and French in Kiboga

Teaching at the school is an incredible experience! My french class is senior 1 students (which is grade 7 for us) Most of them are around 13 years old, but they range up to 20 years. There are roughly 60 students in the class (lots of marking!) The students love learning french and are starting to use it outside of class - it took them a while to get used to my teaching style! They are not used to participation, or any activities that involve anything other than listening to lectures. We have been playing games in french, did presentations and even took a step into some group work (which took a while for them to understand) The other students peak through the windows wondering why on earth students in a class are laughing! The students love the warmth and attention - a few of them have taken me back to their homes to meet their families, it was such an honour! So far we have done numbers, greetings and introductions; the other day, they used everything they have learned so far and put it together in a short play. I was able to video one of the groups on my camera which they thought was hilarious!

The english class I teach is for senior 4s (grade 10) The first class I had them take out a piece of paper and write down 5 things they wanted to work on in the class - they thought I was crazy! The older students are just as wonderful and like all kids tried to push my boundaries a little when I first started - they soon learned that they couldn't. I've been able to pull a little goal setting and readings on peace and compassion into the class which has been great. They did a paragraph on their dreams and then a few came to the front of the class to read it out loud. The other teachers were peaking through the office windows to see what was going on!

The students at the school have nothing. I've begun to connect with quite a few and really feel as though I have a handful of children! It is normal for students to leave mid-class due to stomach aches, headaches (there is no water at the school to drink, so we are using funding money to set up a water system), malaria - there are many very sick children! A lot of the children at the school are orphans - many came from Rwanda during the genocide: a lot of the students have missing arms and legs, stab wounds and parts of their bodies that have been burned. They are very inquisitive, gentle and warm. As I make my way through the school grounds in the morning, there is always a path of students to welcome me with "goodmorning madame" The students and teachers are full of love and compassion for each other - you can feel the heart energy when you enter the property.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Kiboga Hospital

Jackie and I headed to the hospital in Kiboga to visit her friend who was giving birth. She had been in the hospital a few days already, so I was curious to see what was going on. She has since been 'allowed to leave' (after spending more that a week 'in labour'...ugh!)

The hospital in Kiboga was unlike any I had seen - In all reality, it was just a large structure with walls. Jackie and I went looking for her friend in the birthing room. As soon as we walked in, I was overwhelmed at the amount of women! There were so many beds in the room and many were on the floor waiting to meet their babies. We were directed to another room, where we found her friend along with the friend's mother-in-law. In Ugandan culture, the mother of the husband is now the wife's mother and must support her through birth.

She was in a little discomfort, but definitely not ready to give birth. She really shouldn't have been in the hospital - I think she felt the baby moving and thought she was having sensations. The nurse had told her that she had to stay in the hospital because she was in labour and had no water in her body which was why her water had not yet broken! (So, she was convinced that she was in labour and there was something wrong) - It was a way to keep her in the hospital paying the fee. There was no water anywhere in the hospital to drink.

I brought out my massage oil and massaged her back and legs, then got her out of bed for a walk in the fresh air. Once we were back in the room, she had many questions which Jackie translated. She was worried that the baby wasn't coming because she had had sex while she was pregnant (Here, many midwives tell the women that they will kill their babies if they have sex during pregnancy!) So, the poor woman had sat there for a few days thinking that she had killed her baby! Jackie even said that many birthing women have been yelled at when their babies come out with "white stuff" - the nurses say it is a result of sex during pregnancy! I explained to her that all babies are born this way - the baby was kicking. Once I finally found some water, I added a vit supplement to the water and we left.

She has since come back appears she is not yet in labour : ) She lives just around the corner, so I have been able to visit adn see how she is doing.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A day in Kiboga


Many of you have been asking me what the average day is like here. Though it changes all the time, this is my current schedule:

Monday: OFF
morning: I teach french
afternoon: I teach english
evening: Yoga for the teachers
afternoon: I run a frisbee game
late afternoon: Yoga class with the students
morning: I teach french
afternoon: I teach english
morning: I teach french
afternoon: I teach english
evening: Yoga for the teachers
afternoon: I run a girls healing circle using group counselling, art, goal setting, breathing, affirmation work....
evening: I do individual healing sessions with students
Sunday: OFF

I also visit the local health clinic, or hospital in Kiboga and at any moment have hundreds of young children to play with in the village! I would love visitors if any of you feel like doing some work in Uganda for a while!

live, laugh, love...


Current Needs

The following are some of the needs of the highschool, clinic and baby home. Please contact me at before sending for directions and a mailing address.

Uganda Martyr's School

-Yoga mats
-Science lab supplies/equipment
-textbooks: math, biology, physics, chemistry, languages, English, history... (high school level)
-Sports Equipment
-Running shoes - for playing sports
-Solar power system
-Medical supplies for first aid room
-Sponsorship: It costs just under $225 per student including tuition/room/board/uniform
-Volunteers: teaching, health, building

Medical Clinic in Kiboga

-Medical books
-Birthing Supplies
-Vitamin Supplements
-Birthing Massage Oil
-Volunteer midwives, doulas

Amani Baby Cottage

-Infant to 4yrs clothes: socks, shoes, underwear, clothes, cloth diapers
-Baby Carriers: slings, backpack carriers
-medical supplies
-Someone to tackle the Canadian adoption system!

The Amani Baby Cottage

"Since all living beings - animals, birds, insects and human beings - are worthy of compassion, the realm of compassion is very vast. The pilgrimage to the domain of compassion is an auspicious one, because compassion also embraces strangers - not just those close to us" Swami Shri Kripaluanadji

The moment you walk through the gates of the Amani baby cottage, you can hear laughter float through the yard. Amani is home to the many babies, toddlers, house mommies, garden keepers and volunteers who share their love in one family. It is run by an American woman who has made Uganda her home and opened her doors to over 60 babies ranging from newborns, to babies with AIDS, to young children with developmental disabilities - everyone is loved. Many of the children come in severely malnourished and ill and find medical care, love, food and a home. The gardens look out over the Nile River in Jinja - a beautiful oasis! The drive to Jinja was like coming home - somewhere I had seen before in my dreams.

I spent a few days in Jinja last week visiting my friend Rebecca who is volunteering at Amani. It was an honour to meet the babies and learn their stories. Many had been left behind, some had parents in prison, one baby was recovered after the mother had tried to put her down the toilet. Steven, a young autistic child ran through the garden trying with all his heart to communicate through sounds - his father left him once he found out he had a developmental disability. All run on donations, they try to find homes for all of the babies.

The children are beautiful - as soon as an adult comes their way, they try to get their attention - a result of severe neglect...most of them suffer from extreme attachment issues! One day we took a couple of the babies and toddlers and Steven down to the Source of the Nile - They love getting special attention.

Many of the babies have gone to good homes in the US, however, it is currently very difficult for Canadians to adopt children (unless you have a lot of money, or connections in the Canadian system) As of now, a Canadian must live for 3 years in Uganda with the child before they are able to obtain adoption papers. A few Canadian families have managed to find loopholes in the system and avoided this residency.

The babies at Amani really need someone in Canada to sort this out and change the Canadian system. It is possible with enough dedication! The more babies they can find homes for, the more babies they can bring in.....they are waiting at the gates!

Rain in Uganda

Last night the rain came. It fell upon Kiboga like a painting in the sky and sent everyone running for their buckets to fill (free water!) and then away into their homes. I too brought out my bucket, then found a place to sit outside to watch the beauty of it all. I was in awe; sitting there, looking up at the storm.

The lightning lit up the sky, each time spreading through the darkness like the branches of a tree. I have never seen lightning like that in my life! So I sat outside in the stillness of a village-in-hiding, listening to the rain pour down and wash through the streets. Through the stillness, came the thunder and in the darkness, came the light in the sky. A reminder of all that is Uganda- In darkness, there is always light...

Once again, the peace talks have come to an end. Ending the hope in the north and through much of Uganda. So the war rages on - the killing, the suffering, the hurt, the children who carry the burden on their bodies and in their hearts. All because the Lord's Resistence Army wanted the peace talks to be in Kenya or South Africa instead of Southern Sudan and the government wouldn't budge. (In the past, talks in LRA territory have meant an attack by government forces during meetings for peace - so the LRA have since learned to demand the talks be elsewhere, somewhere government forces won't attack) The players fit together like the pieces of a puzzle - the leaders, the past tensions, the politics, the arms dealers, the so-called american war on terror - exect the last piece is missing - the one which represents the children. All those forced to kill, all those killed and tortured and assaulted and taken as wives, taken from their families, forced to kill their families - the ones who wanted nothing to do with the puzzle in the first place.

When you walk through the streets of Kiboga, there are children everywhere - because most don't go to school. After many late night talks with the locals, I've learned that the government implemented a program for free primary education. Which sounds good in theory, but in reality is not as powerful. On the ground, the average family can not afford to send their children to school - even though the schooling is free, the shoes and books and uniform are not. Costs that are far too high for most. When I asked the teachers about percentages, their guess was that only about 10% of Ugandan children graduate from form 6 (grade 12)

As a result of hte well-known structural adjustment programs that ran through Uganda at the hands of the World Bank, Uganda has become largly privatised. Even water has been controlled. During times of drought, costing up to 1100sh/per fill (a container about the size of a gas can) - more than most make in a month. Even in Kiboga, it costs 50sh - the impact is seen everywhere. Even in the local hospital, there is no water available due to costs. And now the government is trying to implement a program which will destroy traditional agriculture and wipe out the small-scale farmers. The government has been approached by a major corportation wanting to make mandatory the use of DDT!

And yet, everywhere in Uganda there is light. Everyone has a story: the teachers, the students, my friends. The stories are haunting - lives of neglect, death, loss and stuggle. But always there is strength, courage and inspiration. Everyone here has a dream - for a better Uganda, that future generations not experience what they did. They have nothing, yet still give to help the next generation of hope. From the struggle comes hope and through the darkness, light. It is an honour to hear the stories, love the people and see the glimmer in their eyes - for here they truly live and breath the light.

....And today the nurses finally let our friend leave the hospital. It seems they have agreed...she is not in labour : )



Saturday, February 3, 2007

The Health Clinic

The Agape Health Clinic here in Kiboga is run by a nurse and her husband who opened the clinic in memory of the daughter they lost a few years ago. When I first arrived in Kiboga, I explained to the director of the school what a doula was and my desire to work with the birthing women in the community. He brought me to the directors of the clinic and first introduced me as a doctor. After trying to explain that no, I was not in fact a doctor, I realised that in a town like Kiboga I would be more involved than I had originally intended.

I spend much of the day at the clinic - the director called in the local midwife and nurses and together we sat and discussed birth in Kiboga. Though traditional birth was at home squatting, the birthing culture in Kiboga has been very much influenced by Western practices. However, the learning process stopped many years ago and what remains is a birthing culture which reflects many of the medical practices and mistakes which were forced into our own medical system some time ago - minus the equipment, supplies and available treatment.

Women in Kiboga come to the Agape clinic for prenatal care (a program they have recently been encouraging) and go to the hospital for birth. Far too many women experience birth by cesarean section and there are no drugs available at the hospital while performing the operation. When I asked the midwife why there was such a high cesarean rate, she explained that it was necessary because many women were not built to deliver and were too small! My heart fell a little. (they either perform an episiotomy or cesarean for each birth, so either way the birthing experience involves cutting)

I brought out some sheets I had brought on prenatal anatomy, we talked about the position of the pelvis and even used a piece of paper and scissors to show the integrity of the perinuem once cut VS left intact. We discussed the movement of the baby's skull bones and the natural adaption of both baby and mother. I then invited some of the nurses to move into a variety of birthing positions (including on the back, strapped to the table-which is used in Kiboga). After taking quite some time to go over all of this a silence fell over the room...followed by much discussion in the local language and finally the director responded, "Women's bodies were made and adapt for birthing. Are you saying that intervention is not required for every case?" It was a beautiful moment, one which I don't believe I will ever forget.

I took out some of the personal lubricant from the birthing package donated by mama goddess birth shop back home ( and explained how to use it during birth. I also gave her the pregnancy calculator and together with the nurses, we played with it using various conception dates.

Later, we went over some breathing suggestions and even did a little prenatal yoga. The midwife was unaware of the importance of pelvic floor excercises during pregnancy and had only been instructing women to use them after birth. I left some of the vit + min supplement packages with the midwife along with a package of gloves.

As our day came to an end, the director who ownes the clinic came in a said in fun, "didn't you bring anything for men?" I reached into my bag and pulled out a photocopy I had made on an information package I got from Gloria Lemay on the importance of an intact penis. I handed it to him telling him that he might find it interesting and said goodbye to the staff. I left the information package with the director to read over and decided to leave that topic for my next visit. I am hoping to work with the midwife once a week at the clinic and at the local hospital.



First Week in Kiboga


I have now been in Uganda for over a week and am amazed by the beautiful green landscape, the gentle nature of the Ugandan people and the creativity of the children here in Kiboga. Starting monday, I will be teaching french, english and a morning yoga class at the highschool I am working at. I will also start a healing circle for some of the local children and work at the local health clinic.

The last week has been spent preparing for the new school term. I have used some of the funding money for the school and they are constructing another building for classes. I have also paid for an internet connection at the director's house that the teachers can use to help prepare for classes and further the growth of the school and their own learning. Their ultimate goal is to construct their own community surrounding the school. Most of the teachers at the school were either neglected, or orphans themselves, so they have come together to give back to the community and children who live here. It is a beautiful, heart centered place!

We are coming to our last month before the beginning of the rainy season. The first day of rain was a shock as it fell so hard on the roof (made of sheet metal) that I couldn't hear my friend talking! The teachers thought it was quite funny when I ran outside to stand in the rain! It was unlike anything I have ever experienced!

While on holidays, the days here are quite relaxed so it was a good time for me to come - learn some of the language, get to know the area and the Ugandan way of living. I spend much of the day preparing meals with the director's wife (which will change come monday when we will eat at the school) In traditional Ugandan culture, women make all the meals, go to the market and sit on the floor to eat.

The teachers at the school are mostly men in their 20s and 30s. We spend a lot of time going to the market, taking long walks to find ripe fruit on the fruit trees, playing cards and frisbee and talking about Ugandan history and politics. In the evenings, we sit under the moon, or walk around town.

The children in Kiboga run bare foot, are incredibly creative and are slowly starting to lose their fear of me. We now play games and colour - I usually wake to a group of children under my bedroom window yelling "muzungu" (white person)

I have been teaching some yoga to the teachers - some of them want to learn to teach once I leave. We have spent many nights talking about the history and philosophy of yoga. I am certain the students will also enjoy learning about yoga as a lifestyle - we even did some candle gazing the other night

love + light,