Thursday, April 4, 2013

“30 Sites and 30 Nights”—April 4, 2013 (Day 16)



Name: Chelsea Milko

Home Town: Las Vegas, Nevada

What she did before Peace Corps: Finished her masters in Public Administration at Rutgers University. She is a Master International student.

Program Sector: Economic Development

Number of months spent in Uganda: 31

Host Organization: Radio Pacis

Site location: Ediofe Village, Arua District

Language spoken at her site: Lugbara

Chelsea is a third year extended volunteer. For her first two years she was living in Soroti working with St. Francis School for the blind. With the school she was working on VSLAs (Village Savings and Loan Associations) and she also worked on a poultry project for the school. They even named the poultry unit after her before she left. Even though she isn't living there anymore she is still in contact with the people there and she is still working with them on a limited basis.

Radio Pacis was named Africa's best new radio station in 2007
Now for her third year she moved to Arua to work with Radio Pacis. She is helping the news room journalist assisting them with their news stories. She even does some of her own stories for the newsroom. She does 3 to 5 stories a week. She is also working with the drama school. They usually create one or two dramas every week that are performed during the week on the radio. Last month she was working on a women's day essay contest and now this month she is fully involved in World Malaria Day events.

Chelsea's favorite thing about her site is the professionalism of the staff at Radio Pacis and the important role the radio station has in West Nile. Her favorite moment was when she was leaving her old site. One of her VSLA members said to her when she was leaving “You didn't give us a fish, you taught us how to fish.” I think this gave her great pride in the fact that she has accomplished the general goal of Peace Corps of teaching people instead of giving them something.

Chelsea's biggest challenge at site is how her level of community integration has changed. “I talk to the staff every day, but here I don't interact with the community.” She doesn't speak any Lugbara, so she isn't getting to talk to people in the local language. She also misses speaking Ateso all the time. “I also miss knowing everyone.” I think, in general, as well as things are going here in Arua, she still misses her old site.

Radio Pacis is a really unique organization to work for. They have a huge impact on the community and they are even able to moderate local problems. “It's really cool to see the media impact that it can have on people's lives.”

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Chelsea with many of the Radio Pacis staff
I came out to Chelsea's site this morning and I got here in time to be able to sit in on her morning news room meeting. This is where all the journalists gather and everyone brings forth the story they have to work on for the day. As a news lover, I really found it interesting to see what stories people had pulled out of the local papers, the things they have heard about happening in town, and other international news they found interesting. One story that was brought to the table today was about a female boda (motorcylce taxi) driver. In Northern Uganda it is not too unusual to see a women riding a bicycle or a motorcycle. But to see a women driving a motorcycle taxi or boda boda is something I've never even heard of in my two years here.

After attending the news room meeting, Chelsea showed me all around Radio Pacis. She showed me everything from the news room and the broadcast studios to the accounting offices and the cleaning ladies. After touring the facilities here, Chelsea took me to her house which is right next to the radio station. She has a very large house with all kind of immensities. She has a hot shower, a refrigerator, a TV, and even a microwave. Chelsea also has a roommate, Alex. Alex is a 19 year old girl from the U.S. who is on a gap year between high school and college. She is spending a total of about 4 months in Uganda, volunteering here at the radio station. She intends to start college in the fall.

Once I saw everything at the radio station and Chelsea's house and after I met everyone who works here, Chelsea and I decided to walk into town. Our first mission in town was to find this female boda driver. So we went to one of the first boda stages in town and we started asking around. They told us that she was out driving someone, but she would be back shortly. And sure enough, she was. Her name is Fatuma and, yes, she drives a motorcycle taxi in Arua Town. So Chelsea introduced herself and explained that she was working for the radio station and asked if she could interview her to do a story on her. Fatuma agreed and proceeded to tell us her story. She told us about her first husband and how she bought a boda for him to make money. We heard how he abused her and eventually left her without any repayment for the boda. Then she got a boda for her brother and again, he ran off without repaying her. So finally she got herself a new husband and a new boda and she herself starting driving it to make money for herself and her family. If this wasn't one sure sign of women's empowerment and gender equality, I don't know what is. It was amazing getting to hear her story and it was also fun helping Chelsea work on a news story for the radio.

Later we went to lunch at an Indian restaurant in town. We sat and relaxed and enjoyed the cool day while eating some amazing Indian food. Afterwards Chelsea had something she needed to pick up at the market and I needed to get my bus ticket for tomorrow. Then finally we made our way back to Ediofe and Radio Pacis. Right now Chelsea is off working on her story and she set me up on the free wi-fi here. So I am relaxing and working on my blog for a little bit, because Alex is teaching until 5 PM today.

Tomorrow I have to leave Arua and I'm heading to Luwero. I'm sad to be leaving here. This is the one town I'm spending the longest time in and its been really nice. Many of the volunteers who are here are very close to town so I've been seeing many of them throughout the week. Its much different than seeing one volunteer for my entire stay in one place. Arua Town itself is a nice little town and it is really interesting because it is close to South Sudan and the Congo. So I feel there is definitely a different atmosphere here than in the rest of the country. Anyway, I'm heading back down south tomorrow and this may very well be my last time in Northern Uganda. It is definitely a great place and to some extent I'll miss it.

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