Living in Kampala is not what I expected “living in Africa” to be like. Friends working in other African nations or even other parts of Uganda tell me stories of the foods (like grapefruit) that they desperately miss, or of the fact that they only have electricity at night (sometimes), or of the time they rode a bizarre safari animal and hung on for dear life. Instead, I lead a rather normal life: I wake up, drive to work, go to the gym, make or go out to dinner, see friends, etc. Yes, the power goes out, and I eat a lot of rice and beans, but I can find almost anything at my local Shoprite, and I (almost) never see a camel walking down the street. As the Technical Writer at Plan Uganda, I do have the chance to go to the field and experience the more traditional and stereotypically “African” Uganda, but the majority of my time is spent getting an in-depth look into the business-like NGO side of development and communicating with donors in the U.S. and Europe.


In addition to this, probably what has made Kampala in many respects less “African” than I imagined are the several thousand expats that reside in the city, hailing from all parts of the world and here to work in everything from investment banking and mobile phone companies to the more usual (and far more prevalent) NGOs. The most amazing thing about this environment, and the part of Kampala that has become the most meaningful to me, is the incredible variety of friends that I’ve made and what they’ve taught me about their home countries. I expected to come to Kampala and learn about Ugandan food, but I never expected to attempt making chapatti with a Somali friend, to become a South African braai connoisseur, or to frequent a Cuban hangout. Therefore, in light of the very unique East African situation in which I find myself—an Africa-meets-the-world amalgamation—I’ve put together one list of things I’ve done in Uganda that were completely unexpected and one list of the more charming “African” qualities that remind me that I’m not in Texas anymore.


10 Things I’ve Done in Uganda That I Wasn’t Expecting To:

1. Teach Spanish to two Kenyan-Indian girls who go to the international school.

2. Buy a car and then proceed to successfully drive on the other/left/wrong side of the road.

3. Master a manual 4-wheeler on the banks of the Nile. And go white water rafting.

4. Realize that I’m remarkably good at roulette, or just very lucky.

5. Watch all 7 seasons of the West Wing and see Harry Potter 6 the day it came out—  in a near-empty theatre.

6. Improve my tennis game at the local country club.

7. Attend weekly Shabbat dinner.

8. Go to an R. Kelly concert.

9. Start to understand Afrikaans.

10. Get less sleep than I did at Princeton during reading period, mostly as a result of Uganda's animal kingdom—dogs/chickens/roosters/etc.—and its lack of a 2am last-call.


10 True Things in Uganda That Remind Me Where I Am:

1. My friend’s askari (guard) guards the house with a bow and arrow.

2. Ugandans can and will eat an entire bunch, or at least 15, bananas in a single day. That’s not including their national dish, matoke, the center of every meal, which is    made from a non-sweet cousin of the banana.

3. Flying white ants are a typical afternoon snack. Just stop off at your local field or roadside bush and start grabbing and munching-- if you can catch them.

4. Every time I’ve traveled to Tororo (a town in eastern Uganda) for work, we have to slow down and attempt the obstacle course of a troupe of baboons that prefer to sit in the middle of the highway rather than in the surrounding forest.

5. In my backyard, I have an avocado tree, a coffee plant, a guava tree, a rooster, and two chickens. I live in the middle of the city.

6. In November, the city water company decided that they had to do work on the purification plant, so they shut down the entire city’s water indefinitely. In my neighborhood, we had it back within a couple of days, but there’s still something disturbing about reading in the newspaper that the city is taking away all your water, and they don’t know when they’re giving it back again. At least they told us.

7. Hawkers will sell anything to you from the window of your car: maize, towels, sodas, maps of Africa, chickens, goats, puppies…

8. Ugandans will run (athletically, for exercise) in sandals and will absolutely be faster than I am.

9. Ugandan cell phones have a flashlight on them, so that you’re never stuck in the dark when the power goes out.

10. More often than not, roads are like Swiss cheese-- capital city or not. The roads division of the government, a.k.a. the Ministry of Inefficiency, solves this problem (sometimes) by filling the holes with dirt...which then quickly washes away when it rains that afternoon.

Blog   of  the  Month

Fellows’ Flyer

February/March 2010

News and views for and by Princeton in Africa Fellows

In this Issue:



It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been in Gaborone for 6 months now, and I am already halfway through my fellowship. For me, working at the Botswana-Baylor Children’s Clinical Centre of Excellence (COE) has been the experience of a lifetime! The COE is a pediatric HIV/AIDS clinic, currently serving over 1,800 children and adolescents throughout Botswana. From day one, my time here has been full of fun and amazing learning opportunities. The children and adolescents at the clinic are great and I love being able to work with them day-in and day-out.


I’ve had so many incredible experiences in the last 6 months that it’s hard to choose a few to highlight. But I know that I cannot go on without mentioning one of my first experiences working at the COE. During my second week in Gabs I was already off to Camp! I had agreed to volunteer as an adult counselor at Camp Hope 2009. Camp Hope is a camp for HIV+ children, aged 10-12 years.  Many of the children that attend Camp Hope each year face a number of psychosocial issues at home that often lead to poor adherence on their antiretroviral therapy (ARVs). And so Camp Hope provides these children with a fun-filled week away from their troubled home life, in addition to providing them with directly observed therapy (DOT) so as to get them on track with their medication adherence. At camp I was put in charge of the Purple Group, a fabulous group of 12-year-old girls whose company I enjoyed tremendously! We had so much fun with a bonfire, a talent show, arts and crafts, dancing, sports, and so much more. I also learned a little bit of Setswana, the local language, because that’s all my kids would speak when they got together.


One of the most impactful parts of my time at camp was watching the children take their medications during DOT. I had spent my first week at the clinic learning about dosing for HIV medications and the pill burden of those infected with HIV, but it was shocking to see just how many and how big the pills really were.  Many of the kids were taking four pills and some of them were quite large. I couldn’t even begin to relate to this burden, especially when I tried to think about how they had to take all those meds at the same time, day and night, EVERYDAY (anything below 95% adherence can lead to drug resistance). It made me realize how incredibly strong these children had to be. Camp Hope was an experience to remember, and since then I have had a number of other powerful experiences with the children and adolescents I work with at the clinic.


As a member of the Teen Club team, I have been lucky enough to travel all over Botswana helping to provide psychosocial care and support to Botswana’s HIV+ adolescents through life skills and recreational activities. From driving to Francistown to help the teens there manage the loss of a beloved member, to flying to Maun to help the with Teen Leaders team-building camp and watch as the Teen Leaders learned more about themselves and each other, my life has been enriched by the stories of these teens. I cannot easily forget how privileged I am to hear their stories, because hiding them is one of the greatest burdens these teenagers face as a result of their HIV status; and for this I am grateful to Botswana-Baylor COE and Princeton in Africa!


In all, these last 6 months have been a ton of fun and I have learned so much about pediatric/adolescent HIV and how to provide care and support to those infected and their families. I must say it’s been an amazing 6 months in Botswana and I look forward to the next half of my fellowship!


Agatha’s fellowship is sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Notes from the Field

Agatha and Teen Club members preparing Club activities

The Botswana-Baylor Children’s Clinical Centre of Excellence in Gaborone

Agatha with children from Ghanzi, Botswana

by Agatha Offorjebe, ‘09-’10 Fellow at Bristol-Myers Squibb/Baylor Pediatric AIDS Initiative in Botswana

PiAf  Turns  10


This year marks our 10th year of PiAf Fellows in the field. We’re pleased to have sent over 200 Fellows to work in 28 countries during that time!


Click here to read an article in the Princeton Alumni Weekly magazine about our history.


Please stay tuned for more details about upcoming events to celebrate our anniversary!



Name of blog: Morgan’s Year in Cape Town


Written by: Morgan Goheen, 2009-2010 Fellow at mothers2mothers in South Africa


From a recent posting: “… I left Cape Town early on a Sunday morning heading to Lilongwe, the capitol of Malawi. The purpose of our trip was to conduct a country evaluation of our m2m Malawi program, a new endeavor considering m2m has never a country evaluation before… The client tracking tools are paper based (we don’t have endless electronic resources here, mind you!), thus there is a lot of client outcome information that is not routinely collected in a central database. Part of our mission was to get out to all the Malawi sites and transfer that information from site logbooks into Excel format so it could be analyzed…”


Read more of Morgan’s blog here!

Fellows  and  Alumni  Gather  in  Africa

PiAf staff traveled through Africa in February and March, visiting Fellows, alumni, and partner organizations in Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania. It was wonderful to see PiAf Fellows in action and to catch up with alumni who continue to work in the field as well. We also worked to build relationships with current (and new!) partner organizations. Thanks to all who hosted and hung out with us! Click to see more photos from Aili’s and Cordelia’s travels.

In Kenya

In Botswana

In Benin

In South Africa

In Senegal

On a recent visit home, I found myself explaining to a group of friends the sort of research 2iE performs on its campuses in Burkina. The two conclusions they reached were that, first, the amount of work 2iE is trying to accomplish is impressive and, second, that I characteristically chose the only 2iE-run project with ‘gray areas’. Indeed, carbon assessment normally requires extensive lateral-thinking, a dedicated staff, and a setting conducive to data collection.


Carbon assessment involves the estimation of all carbon emissions resulting from the use of fuel, electricity, water, refrigerants, and vehicles by 2iE and for 2iE-related activities. It also requires an estimation of the embodied carbon in 2iE's fixed assets, ranging from buildings to office furniture, as well as the cost of getting these materials on-site and the actual construction. I am also trying to establish a blueprint for calculating the CO2 emissions associated with waste collection and disposal, and with the preparation of food in the university's restaurant, its handling, and its eventual disposal. Gathering and analyzing data for such a project is difficult under the best of circumstances, and circumstances here are less than ideal! It is a tricky business, but it is rewarding for the curious person who is interested in learning a bit about every system that makes an organization like 2iE run. Fortunately, the professors, as well as the students I have interacted with, have been extremely helpful.


The first thing that strikes the visitor to Burkina Faso is how peaceful it is. The Burkinabe are the most benign and affable people I have ever met. They are truly gracious: they enjoy life and never miss an opportunity to have fun! I have attended nighttime get-togethers with colleagues that lasted well into the next morning and, while I was cantankerous by the time I got home, my Burkinabe friends were still saluting everyone they walked past and initiating conversations with strangers, all while laughing and dancing to the music blaring from the myriad stereos in the stalls lining Ave Charles de Gaulle.


The Burkinabe are not a materialistic people: people own few amenities and, to many students, 2iE's running water is a much-coveted commodity. What people do cherish here is color in life – both literally and figuratively. People wear clothes that have the most intricate patterns and the most vivid colors imaginable, and personal relationships are cherished. Because 2iE is pan-African, I have made friends not only from Burkina Faso, but also from Chad, Mali, Niger, Cote d'Ivoire, Cameroon, and Mauritania. These people have exposed me to their unique cultures, to their languages (I knew nothing of Mooré, Djoula, and Lingala before coming here), and to their music (I have respectable Soukos and Ndombolo collections now).


Burkina Faso is Africa’s best kept secret, and I am stunned both by its culture and by the caliber of 2iE’s students. I am not so sure it is possible to export the former, but integrating the latter into the world’s knowledge economy can do great things for Burkina and for West Africa, if not for the world.

by Ahmed Abdulla, ‘09-’10 Fellow at the International Institute for Water and Environment Engineering in Burkina  Faso

Notes from the Field

Ahmed giving a presentation on his topic of research to a group of 2iE students and professors at the English Language Science Forum

Ahmed and friends at the Gorom Market in Burkina Faso

Avenue Kwame Nkrumah in downtown Ouagadougou on a lazy Sunday morning (motos outnumber cars manyfold in francophone

West Africa)

Sierra Leone in many ways is a land of contrasts and juxtapositions. It is a country where it rained almost daily from July until early November (with more than a meter of rain in August alone), but has yet to produce a single raindrop since. It is a country that is lushly green, perhaps ones of the most fertile places in the world, yet is forced to import its onions from Guinea. It is a country where traffic is so bad in the capital city that one could walk further in a hour than drive during the morning rush, yet there is nary a traffic light in all of Freetown. It is a country so rich in natural resources that Kanye West raps about its diamonds, yet 70% of the country lives on less than $1 a day. It is a country where the physical and psychological scars of decade-long civil are seen daily in burnt shells of ruined buildings and in the amputee communities scattered along the main roads, yet the spirit of its people is warm and welcoming, and the children in the villages chase after me, yelling “Pumwi! Pumwi! [White man! White man!],” or “I want you for a paddy [friend],” laughter and smiles erupting from them when I wave in return.


Here in Sweet Salone (as the posters in Lungi Airport proclaim it), I work for the International Rescue Committee, a large international NGO that started its work here in 1999 with the refugee and IDP population created by the civil war and the violence in neighboring Liberia and Guinea. IRC has since moved from emergency relief to post-conflict development, but while Sierra Leone is no longer the war zone it was ten years ago, it is still third-to-last in the UN Human Development Index rankings, in large part due to the breadth and depth of poverty and the shockingly high maternal and child mortality rates. IRC’s programs run the gamut from training community-based health volunteers to revamping the national junior secondary school curriculum to helping youth start their own micro-franchises to providing services to survivors of sexual assault.


My main role as the grants and information volunteer is to help prepare reports for donors on our existing projects and help write proposals to donors for new ones, but I’m a Girl Friday of sorts, running and organizing meetings when necessary and performing the other sundry tasks any big office needs. In addition, I do a fair amount of communications work, from writing little blurbs that are compiled into weekly updates by IRC headquarters in NY to in-country newsletters and briefings.


While ensuring compliance with donor regulations and going through budgets line by line with our finance staff is not what I see myself doing in the long run, my time here with IRC has been truly eye-opening, even if it sometimes takes a day away from my computer and in a rural village to remind me of that. The simplicity of life in Kenema town (a town by my New Yorker standards, but technically the third biggest “city” in the country), juxtaposed against the complexity of the issues that haunt this country’s past and shape its future, is something almost impossible to describe. When I arrived one of the first things that struck me about Sierra Leone, even at the height of the rainy season, was its physical beauty. However, after more than half a year here, I realize that Salone’s beauty lies not just in its white sand beaches or the green hills that jut out behind them, but rather in the indomitable spirit of its people, which pulses equally beneath the strains of Akon and P-square thumping in nightclubs in Freetown at dawn, the laughter and chatter of children as they walk home from school in the afternoon and the voice of the muezzin echoing through the harmattan dust at dusk.

by Jing Ren, ‘09-’10 Fellow at International Rescue Committee in Sierra Leone

Notes from the Field

Jing with members of an IRC-supported Women Action Group (against gender-based violence)

in Kenema District

Jing in Sierra Leone

Sunset over Franco’s Beach, on the Freetown pennisula

by Abigail Smith, ‘09-’10 Fellow at Plan International in Uganda

Notes from the Field

A Village Savings and Loans Association in Tororo

Abigail worked with these women and children at a PMTCT-Plus project in Tororo, Uganda

Abigail, during a visit to Nairobi

Abigail at Nakawa market in Kampala