This week in Uganda, just like every other, was memorable. This week we worked at the children's gardens. We headed first to Restoration Gateway, then to Otino Waa and finally to Calo Me Lare, which is the "Village of Redemption."
Calo Me Lare was my favorite visit this week. We arrived early on Tuesday morning and awaited the students in the garden.
We enter the gate to Calo Me Lare.
When they arrived, they were all too shy to speak to me. I even spoke Luo, which is their native language, and they still just stared. I said to them, "I am speaking English and I am speaking Luo, and you all are not understanding me." Then, all together, they all began to laugh. I said, "Finally they understand me."
Irene, who is a garden adviser for Field of Hope, instructed the students on the plans for the day. Since it had rained the night before, everyone removed their sandals to begin their work in the garden. Since I was also wearing sandals, I felt that I should do so as well.
Irene explains the garden duties for the day.
We began our work in the garden, which was to transplant cabbage.
The students prepare the beds for planting.
Irene directed the children to dig holes and plant a cabbage in every other drip hole of the irrigation system.
Irene demonstrates how to space the cabbage.
On their own, the students quickly began forming a line. One student dug a hole, another student prepared the cabbage for planting, and a third planted it.
Two students dig holes for the cabbage.
Students plant cabbage.
These kids were so organized and thrilled to be working in the garden and worked so efficiently that as much as I tried to get my hands dirty with them in the garden, I mostly ended up standing as a planting and spacing guide for them.
I guide students with spacing and planting.
While we were planting, I asked the students whether they knew what we were doing. Some responded, "We are planting." I answered, "Of course we are planting, but what else are we doing?" With eyes staring straight at me, I continued: "Yes, we are planting, but we are doing so much more than that. By planting cabbages, we are contributing to help feed ourselves and others."
When we finished planting, we gathered in a circle and joined hands in prayer for the garden. We concluded with a group photo and a slow clap.
We prepare for prayer.
Next the children led the way to the water so that we could all wash the mud off our feet.
We pose for a group photo after planting.
As I was heading to the vehicle to depart, I noticed some students following me. A little girl began to hold my hand as she said she didn't want me to leave. Another asked whether it would be OK if she came home with me. My heart melted, as these kids who were so shy at the beginning had grown attached to me so quickly. I assured them I would be back to visit their garden very soon.
The children followed me as I walked back to the vehicle when it is time to leave.
Iliana Rodriguez is a 2018 MIAP-Noble Fellow serving in agricultural development roles in Uganda. Rodriguez is from Laredo, Texas, and is a student in the Master of International Agriculture Program at Oklahoma State University, where she focuses on agriculture outreach, extension and education. This fellowship is sponsored in part by the Noble Research Institute.