Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Month 1 in Uganda

It’s been almost a month and I’ve gotten started at work, moved into an apartment and I’m really settling into life in Kampala. Work is coming along, I’m much more familiar with the project and my role here now which is officially called “Recruitment and Training Manager.” To give you the gist of it, Barefoot Power is here to establish a Ugandan joint venture, which we’ve decided to call Base Technologies. Base will be setting up an training a network of local entrepreneurs who will go around to rural communities to make the Firefly lamps and solar panels available to the people in order to replace the kerosene they are currently using for lighting. After 2-3 months, the lamp will pay for itself in saved kerosene expenditure and it’s obviously cleaner, safer and brighter then the lanterns. Beyond the lamps, Base is aiming to make appropriate technologies to the population at the “bottom of the pyramid” (the poor who make up the vast majority of the population in most countries and world wide). We’ve been meeting with various NGOs and other organizations who may be interested in working with us and through them we have plans to take on a few entrepreneurs to start out and take a test run with the training, the entrepreneurs and the product actually in the field. The feedback we’ve been getting on the product has been overwhelmingly positive, so it’s looking promising and hopefully, from our experience here, we will be able to develop model to use in other countries in the future. I’m now working on developing the training materials and resources, along with other odds and ends.

I’ve moved into an apartment that is shared with two brits, Malcolm and Samantha. Malcolm is a freelance journalist mostly working for Al Jazeera and Samantha has been working on some television programming and films here. The apartment is out of town a little ways, toward Lake Victoria – I can actually see a small sliver of it from my balcony. The neighborhood is quiet and very green. That balcony actually overlooks a swamp of sorts, though from what I can see, it may as well be a nice green field.

Kampala has proven to be an astonishingly livable city in my first weeks here. There are many more western amenities than in Dakar. There is are a couple shopping malls, a movie theater where I was able to see “Sex and the City” a couple weeks ago, alhumdulilah! Several great restaurants; Indian, Japanese, French, Ghanaian and an Irish pub where there is actually pub quiz every other Thursday – yes! We showed up to the quiz after a long day of driving to the southwest corner of Uganda and back, the pub was crowded with ex-pats and Ugandans, but we joined a team and won. We got the prizes of t-shirts, a case of beer and the honor of writing the next quiz – oh and free drinks all night long for the night we host that quiz. Can you guess where I’ll be every other Thursday from now on?

Finally, I have a P.O. Box and phone number now so if you’d like them, or if you have any questions about what I’ve written, just shoot me an email. Becca[dot]Schwartz[at]gmail.com

Here are a few of the many monkeys that hang out at a hotel we visited in Entebbe(and a couple of my co-workers).