Saturday, July 21, 2007

Mzungu Mike??

This is a blog to document my experiences doing charity work in Uganda. It started when my friend Gordon Nicol, through his early work with Children of Uganda, got me to support my daughter Winnie, who in turn came into contact with MADE Uganda. After several years and two trips there, lots of tales to tell and great people to describe. What you won't find here is a tourist's description of the sights of Africa.

Why 'Mzungu Mike'? Mzungu is a Lugandan word best translated as "White person, presumed rich". Some aid workers in Uganda resent the word, but it only becomes a slur if our actions turn it into one. My goal would be to make it merely a descriptor.

Why Uganda, out of all the places in the world to do charity work? Why not? It has the advantages of a fairly stable government, tremendous need, appreciation of charitable efforts, and- best of all to a lingusitically-challenged person like myself- a population where most people with any education speak English at some level.

It is a country and a people under much stress. AIDs, a small barbaric guerilla war in the North, refugees from nearly all surrounding countries that have more conflict than they do, basic poverty. These stresses forge the character of a people and I have found most Ugandans have been forged for the better. I learn more from them than they will ever learn from me about what makes a good person. I'm honored to be considered family by some special people over there, most of all my daughter Nazziwa Winnifred, shown above.

Upcoming sections will describe many of the people and will, no doubt, embarrass a few of them; but nearly always in flattering ways. But they are great people and I would have others realize it, despite their own denial of it.

You will note that many of my associations are with the older girls. Just to clarify any stray, dark thoughts that might bat about out there, the reason is simple: Teenaged orphan girls seek out father figures wherever they can find them, far more so than boys. Most volunteers in Africa are too young (and too predominantly female) to fill that role, so I am a rare exception. It is an honor to be an aid and advisor to these proper young ladies and it is great to be old enough and much-married enough that this role comes easily and naturally. I am officially at that 'comfortable' stage of life and embrace it readily, with only the smallest regret for the lost youth that indicates.

2 comments: said...

Mike..we ran across and really enjoyed your blog and hope you are still involved in Uganda. We are serving 18 months here as the Humanitarian Service country Director's for the LDS Church for Uganda, Rwanda and Southern Sudan and live in Kampala. I have been "Uncle Muzungu" for 9 months and love the title. Our blog is at Thank you for all the good work you have done here. You have clearly blessed the lives of many. said...

We have enjoyed reading your blog.