It didn’t rain last night.
But driving over the muck and debris, it was hard to tell. The streets were so waterlogged, we eventually had to get out of our car and walk.
Kawempe is a slum situated in the lowest point of Kampala, the bustling capital of Uganda. When it rains, Ronald told us, all the water ends up here. With the water comes all the sights and smells of human waste, making it a prime spot for disease to fester, I imagine.
Winding through this vast network of small homes requires the balance of a dancer. You must squeeze through alleys and dodge puddles of muck and sewage. Children dart past, kicking a dirty soccer ball made of rags, laughing and poking fun at one another.
Irene told us, as she bounced 7-month-old Faith on her knee, that when it rains at night her family doesn’t sleep.
“That's our bed, over there, Irene said, pointing to a large foam mattress, slumped over two chairs to dry in the sun.
Rain means their home floods with a few feet of water.
Irene told us that it rained on Saturday.
Today’s Tuesday. Her mattress is still soggy.
If you’re living on one dollar per day, thriving is nearly impossible. We asked Joy, a health care promoter for Living Goods, about her experience here.
Years ago, Joy’s husband had been stationed in the army. He died fighting in Rwanda. He left her widowed with a toddler, a baby and pregnant. Thus began the period of her life she called “survival.”
SHE WALKED 10KM TO A CHARITY OFFERING SCHOLARSHIPS FOR THE CHANCE TO ENROLL HER THREE KIDS IN SCHOOL.
Her walking paid off but only for one child. To eat, a kind neighbor who was HIV+ forged his test results in her name, so she could register at a clinic for free food. She traveled around Kampala and registered herself at five.
“I have always been skinny, so everyone believed that I had HIV,” she says, raising her forearm and gently circling her wrist with her index finger and thumb, so they touch in the middle. She was ashamed, but with three young children, she was desperate. For shelter, Joy and her children took refuge in an old storage container. The space was so small, she couldn't stretch out her legs at night.