Tom Herriman's Journal
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Arrived back in Seattle April 2 after 6 months in Uganda. I feel like Uganda is in my blood now, and I am making plans to go back in 2009. There are many projects I left unfinished. 1. The radio station. It's virtually impossible to get a broadcast license withing 50 km of Kampala. But I formed an alliance with some radio minded people there, and they are investigating other possible locations for a station. So the radio station is still alive, and that's the first thing I want to work on when I go back. 2. The art consortium, is up and running, and I think it will continue with only minimal involvement from me. 3. Kisa school is thriving in every way except financially. I'm hoping I can find some ways to help improve the physical facilities and stabilize their finances. Which leads me to 4. Gretchen and I are creating a small investment fund to help some select Uganda businesses get started. Our return on the investment would be channeled to Kisa school, or other education and child welfare activities. We see this is one step up from micro lending. Most micro lenders are financing small retail shops or farming and gardening. We'd like to help kick-start enterprises that provide jobs and and returns to investors. We have 3 or 4 prospective enterprises in mind. More on this later. 5. Two other areas of interest for me are the labor movement and press freedom in Uganda. The labor movement in Uganda is weak and tiny suffers from corruption like all other parts of the economy. But workers rights are clearly and forcefully laid out in the Constitution and labor laws, and there are substantial opportunities for organizing if the resources could be found for staff and start up costs. This bears more looking in to. So far there is no presence by U.S. Unions in Uganda. Press Freedom: The Uganda govt. been making half hearted efforts at media intimidation. They call editors in for conferences with presidential assistants; last year several editors and reporters at Daily Monitor were arrested and charged with libel for a story about the Attorney General's wages; in Western Uganda, two radio stations were shut down, then re-opened by the courts. Its a consistent campaign to keep editors looking over their shoulders and worrying about whether their next story will land them in hot water. I'd like to do some reporting on the issue when I go back. Its something I just didn't get around to while I was there.
Its really good to be home. But big chunks of my heart and mind remain in Uganda and I think I'll be returning there mentally, physically, emotionally and electronically many times in the next several years.