Uganda is located in Eastern Africa. It is landlocked, bordering Kenya, the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania.
There are 24.7 million people living in Uganda. The population of those under 15 years of age is 13 million. Of those, 2.2 million have lost one or both parents to war or AIDS.
Uganda was, at one time, at the epicenter of the AIDS pandemic, but it has achieved a dramatic decline in its HIV prevalence rate to 6% from over 20% in the late 1980’s. This sounds like great news, but even as new infections decline, the number of orphans rises because of the time lag between infections, sickness and the death of parents. According to a UNAIDS report from 2004, the whole of Africa has 12 million orphans today and will have 18 million by 2010.
Having gathered this kind of information, I have decided that the photographs I make during my two and a half week stay will focus on an AIDS orphanage in Kampala, the capital city, and the city in which I will be based. I have made a connection with a school there that houses about 100 orphans. The director, Michael, has been welcoming, helpful and kind as we correspond via e-mail, and is willing to let me make in-depth images of some of the children. In exchange, I will provide the school/orphanage with some of the photographs I make so that they can use them for educational and promotional purposes.
Because the emphasis of the workshop is documenting NGOs (non-government organizations) I have also made contact with an organization called “Concern for the Girl Child.” This NGO works to improve child welfare, equal opportunities for women and children, and deals with sexual abuse and other forms of exploitation. I have begun a dialogue with Richard, one of the social workers there, and he seems to think I could do some work with their group, as well. Both he and Michael seem to be incredibly warm, thoughtful and generous, and I feel as if I am about to meet some truly amazing people.
Thanks to all of you who e-mailed me with travel- to-Africa tips! I have started a new list of things to pack now, including toilet paper, granola bars, peanut butter and Pepto- Bismol. Thanks to my good pal Mary Jo, I have made reservations at a lounge at Heathrow so that my eight hour layover will consist of a comfy sofa, good food, a gym and, yes, spa treatments!!