Monday, April 1, 2013

“30 Sites and 30 Nights”—April 1, 2013 (Day 13)

Name: George Maher

Age: 61

Home State: Illinois

What he did before Peace Corps: Had a farm outside Chicago and did Real Estate. Also worked for the Diocese of Chicago for 20 years.

Program Sector: Community Economic Development

Number of months spent in Uganda: 20

Host Organization: St. Joseph’s Vocational Training School

Site location: Ediofe (just outside Arua), West Nile region

Language spoken at his site: Lugbara

George works with St. Joseph’s Vocational Training School. The Marian Priest and Brothers are a Ugandan religious order founded by the first bishop of Gulu. So far in his service he has written two grants through Peace Corps to work on projects. The first one he wrote was for a hydraulic brick machine, which assists as part of the school’s curriculum. He also has another grant that is pending approval for improvements in the school’s carpentry shop to produce bee hives. The curriculum will also be offering Honey Industry classes. George is also a member of the Peace Corps Agriculture Think Tank.

George's Garden
George’s favorite thing about his site is his general way of life. “I like my work and the many diverse projects I work on. I have a large garden and 4 bee hives; I get a lot of exercise. I live with 6 brothers and 2 priests. I cook on Sunday.” And his favorite moment at site so far is watching the 4 boys that he nominated for the Northern BUILD Camp load up on a matatu (taxi).

One of George’s biggest challenges here in Uganda is the distance of his site from Kampala (Uganda’s Capital). “The 9 hour bus ride to Kampala is wearing on me.”

As for food, George sometimes eats with the friary staff where they cook beans and rice. Otherwise, he does his food shopping at the local Ediofe market and the larger market and shops in Arua Town. George does not boil or treat his own drinking water. It is done for him by the staff at the friary. “At first I tried to help, but culturally it is not the way it is done.”

One of the things that George has found most interesting about the culture he is living in is how much he can relate with it. “Even though we’re culturally different, we are all a lot alike. I do great with little kids in America and it really translates well here in Uganda.” George also interacts with his community members a great deal. He is very integrated and he gets along well with those who live in his community. “I have a cold, cold beer every night at a small canteen on the Diocese’s campus. There is usually a regular group there. I cook for groups of locals here.”


This morning I went back out to Ediofe to visit George's site. Ediofe is where I was yesterday when I went to Betty's site. So I got out there around 10 this morning and George began to show me around. One thing I can say about George is that he knows everyone and he has his hand in a little of everything. His primary project is working with a boys vocational school, but he is also working with a few other schools, an orphanage, a bee hive project, and, in general, the diocese in which he is living. And he showed me everything!

He took me all around Ediofe and he showed me all the land that the bishop owns and how it is or isn't being utilized. I got to see all the diocese offices.  They even grow grapes at George's site and make wine.  He also took me down to an all-girls school that he was working with. And we ended the tour with seeing his house (or room, I should say), his office at the vocational school and the 100 year old cathedral.

The grapes they grow and make wine out of

George makes wreaths our of the vines from the grapes

The cathedral from the outside

The cathedral from the inside
I was really glad I got to go out and see George, because I feel like he has a wide variety of projects and he is really doing a lot of good work at his site. As we walked through the community George was always greeting little kids and everyone seemed to know his name. The whole tour of Ediofe took about 3 hours and then we went back into Arua town to have lunch.

Now I'm back at Marcy and Tom's house and later today we are going to a goat roast in town. I'm almost half way done my time in Arua and I already know I don't want to leave. Over the next few days I'll be seeing a few more volunteers in and around Arua Town and I'll be leaving here on Friday.

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