Tuesday, April 29, 2014

One Man's Trash...

Last month, I was asked to help create some materials for the pediatric physical therapy clinic at the regional hospital in Mbarara. My desire was to create toys from local materials that promote physical and mental development and are easily reproducible. 

Babies and toddlers can find fun in just about anything. Boxes, cups, containers, keys... you name it! It doesn't have to be an official toy to provide entertainment and valuable learning opportunities. Your recycling bin is probably the perfect place to look to start creating your own set of homemade toys. I, along with the help of others in our community, collected all sorts of bottles, containers, tins, lids, boxes, and tubes. Everything was put to use. 

Here are some of the toys I created for the physical therapy department:

Sensory bottles provide plenty of visual and auditory stimulation for young children. Oil and water is always a fascinating combination, especially when foam bits are riding the waves. Watching strips of shiny wrapping paper twist and twirl in water is a calming experience. Dish soap and water make for lots of bubbly fun, and colored rice and toothpicks sound just like falling rain. 

This I-Spy jar makes a nice sound when shaken about and is full of surprises. It encourages numeral recognition for older children and promotes problem-solving skills as the child must move the jar in a way that allows her to find all 10 numbers.

These posting toys encourage hand-eye coordination as well as fine motor development in order to put the bottle caps and pipe cleaners into their containers. The lids can be removed for children who need a bigger target. The bottle caps in the tin also teach about object permanence as once the bottle caps are inside, the lid comes off, and they're discovered again! Young children also delight in putting things in containers and dumping them out again, so these toys can be used for a variety of ages.

bottle caps are a choking hazard!!
please only use with direct supervision and older children.
we use what we can here...

This oatmeal tin, covered in shiny wrapping paper, has a few grains of rice inside. When it's rolled, it makes an enticing sound. A toy like this could encourage motor planning as a baby learns to reach out toward an object of interest while keeping his balance or crawling after it as it rolls away.

For this ribbon pull toy, I punctured some holes into the sides of the container and made sure there were corresponding holes at the same levels on each side. I passed pieces of ribbon through the sets of holes and tied a variety of large, knobby buttons to the ends. When the ribbons are pulled, they make a surprising zipping sound and offer some light resistance. This toy offers a variety of sensory experiences and teaches cause and effect... when one end of the ribbon gets longer, the other gets shorter.

This is a similar toy, made from pipe cleaners and a strong paper towel roll. It has a nice combination of textures with hard, smooth cardboard and fuzzy pipe cleaners.

This simple toy offers so much fun for toddlers. Strips of fabric are tied together to form a long piece, which can be pulled through a hole in the lid of the container. This gross motor activity also teaches about cause and effect. As the child pulls the fabric, the portion outside of the container becomes longer and the portion inside is visibly reduced.

 Finally, this sensory bottle contains multi-colored rice and strips of reflective wrapping paper. For young children, a toy like this can encourage visual discrimination as they view the contrasting objects inside and offers an interesting auditory experience when the jar is shaken or rolled.

Please be praying that these toys are put to good use in the pediatric clinic. Children in Uganda with disabilities and physical challenges are often hidden away and not given a chance at living a full and productive life. The clinic at the hospital is ready, and the therapists are eager to serve and teach. Pray that families are moved to action and seek assistance on behalf of their child.

Supervision of babies with toys:
Babies put everything in their mouth, so any homemade toy can potentially cause choking – no matter how well you have made it. Super glue all lids shut, and keep an eye on baby at all times.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Rainy Season

There are basically three seasons here in Uganda:

Really hot,
kind of hot,
and rainy.

Right now it's rainy season, which is my very favorite. On those overcast mornings with dark clouds rolling in... if you can ignore the howling dogs, squawking birds, squealing pigs, shouting children, and you close your eyes tight... it feels a bit like a cool, fall day back in the Midwest. Granted, the equatorial sun is bound to break through and shine as hot as ever within a few hours, but I enjoy the cool weather while it lasts!

Rainy season brings all sorts of joys and challenges that are unique to these months. Some of the best rainy season things, in my opinion, are waking up to the sound of pouring rain and hot drinks in the middle of the day. Some of the worst things, in my opinion, are out-of-control hair and getting stuck in town during a sudden downpour.

In the rainy season, you can also expect...

... layers of warm clothes you don't get to wear any other time of the year. Who knew a cloudy 70 degrees could feel so cold?

...wrapping up in blankets and actually wearing socks.

my teammate, Cheryl

...flooded walkways and muddy puddles that require careful planning and washable shoes.

...deteriorating roads, washed away one torrential storm at a time.

...laundry that takes forever and a day to dry.

...traveling everywhere with an umbrella just in case you get caught in a downpour, like I did today.

...or calling your favorite boda driver, who also owns a boda umbrella, to come and rescue you from wherever you're stranded. Like I did today. (Yes, these exist, and they're brilliant.)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Drinking Water

This is such a small detail of my life that I don't think much about it anymore, but some people might be interested to know how I get clean drinking water. There are various options like boiling your water, UV sterilization, iodine tablets, and even bleach. I'm fortunate enough to have a water filter that does the work for me.

There are many great water filters out there... ones sold here in Uganda and ones that people bring over from the States. Most of them are very expensive and require extensive cleaning or filter replacements. When I arrived in Uganda, I heard about a new filter called TivaWater. While it's not the most beautiful one out there, it's sold by a locally owned and operated franchise and only costs 150,000 UGX ($58), which is hundreds cheaper than most others. Sold. 

I purchased one in Kampala when I first arrived in Uganda, and now it lives in my kitchen(ette).  

How does it work? The website gives great details, but the basic premise is that a cloth filter catches large debris and dirt, and 20 pounds of bio-sand "removes parasites, worms, protozoa, and viruses from the water. As water passes through the sand, the bacteria die due to a lack of oxygen, light, and food."

See that white cup in the bottom section? It's used to keep sand from flowing out the straw into the clean water. And guess what it is in real life. ... A red Solo cup.

And now, for those of you who are really interested: a not-so-exciting but very informative assembly video.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Road Trip

Yesterday, some team mates, Sevious (a friend from church), and I traveled to Kibito to visit our friend Doreen. She and her family recently moved away, and one week ago she gave birth to her second child and first son! We were eager to visit Doreen in her new home and meet the new baby.

Kibito is a small trading center about 25km outside of Fort Portal, and I couldn't find it on any map. Turns out Google does fail you sometimes. I know it's about 220km between Mbarara and Kibito, so here's the best map I could do for you:

Not a day goes by where I don't think to myself, "Uganda is such a beautiful place." This particular stretch of road (if you can still call the pothole-filled, washed away section through the National Park a "road") offered some incredible views!

The tea plantations.

Queen Elizabeth National Park.

The Rwenzori Mountains.

3 hours and 20 minutes later, we arrived in Kibito and found Doreen's place. It was a joyful reunion!
And now what you've all been waiting for... Meet Jeremy! He was just one week old on the day we visited.

Big sister, Jemima, and I admiring her little brother.

Beautiful mama.

Sweet friend.

Our little road trip took us straight through Queen Elizabeth National Park, which meant we had some fun wildlife spottings on the way. Baboons, kob, elephants, and even a lone water buffalo:

It was a brief trip but so special to see Doreen and celebrate the safe arrival of Jeremy!

L to R: Paul, Di, Jemima, me, Sevious, Doreen, Helen (mother-in-law)