Category Archives: Business Chicks

A Magical Trip to Uluru

Like most Aussies, I had the amazing Uluru (once known as Ayres Rock) as a place on my bucket list.  But realise too, that few have had the opportunity to visit.  And it is in the middle of our really big country, that’s sometimes a bit tricky, expensive and time consuming to navigate.

When the opportunity arose for me to attend a conference in the amazing spiritual heart of Australia (and hosted by the amazing Business Chicks) I jumped at the chance to go.  For I knew both the content and the location could only be brilliant.

Our first glimpse of both Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) and Uluru was granted on the plane ride in to Uluru airport, and it’s pretty special.  I’m not sure the size was ever really quite abundantly clear to me, until I saw it rising up from vast flat lands dotted with mulga.  And it’s actually the Olgas site that holds a deeper spiritual significance for the traditional owners, the Anangu people.

For some idea of scale, it’s twice the height of the Eiffel Tower and three times that of the Statue of Liberty – that’s 348 metres high!.  It’s 9.6 kilometres around to walk the base.  Yes, it is a really big rock!

My stay was at the Accor run, Sails in the Desert resort and it’s not far to any of the viewing areas available for sunrise and sunset picture opportunities.  The resort is great for singles, couples or families and has a pool onsite, along with a restaurant, bar and conference facilities.

Some said they felt Uluru to be a truly spiritual area and being there affected them deeply.  I was awed by these majestic mounds of sandstone that make up both landmarks, oxidising before our eyes.  Incredibly, both extend for kilometres further underground.

It’s hard to tear your eyes away, and long after we swapped our cameras for champagne glasses, we were dragging them out again as the light and colours constantly changed before our eyes.

A few of us treated ourselves to a sunrise tour with Ayres Rock Helicopters, and it was worth every cent.  Our wonderful Venetian pilot Julio was a fabulous tour guide and took us on a 36 minute extended tour for fabulous photo opportunities and filled us in on fun facts throughout the flight.

Funnily enough, Aboriginal art also made a whole lot more sense from above.  I can’t say I’ve been a huge fan of the traditional dots and stripes style of art, but from above, it’s clear that this is exactly what you see.  The dunes of a former inland sea snaked across the landscape and shrubs and bushes literally dotted the remaining space.

On our return from our flight, we headed to the watering hole area at the base of the rock that is a holding pond for water that pours down the sides of the rock during the rains and gathers at its base.  Depending on the heat and the seasons, it can quickly dry out.  Further up exists another collection hole that we couldn’t see, but is said to be up to 10 metres deep.

There’s a painting cave to visit, and a few signs along the clearly marked paths around the base of this amazing landmark.  Getting up close and personal was a fabulous experience that will leave a lasting memory.  It was only when standing at its base and staring up that it’s sheer amazing height and presence was truly felt.

If you ever get the chance to head out please do, or if not, make the opportunity happen.  It shouldn’t be left to just the hordes of European and Asian tourists to make the effort to visit this amazing natural treasure and take home the pics.  You owe it to yourself to see first hand just how spectacular this place really is.

A Visit to a Child Bride in Mbarara

The Mbarara Epicentre was our next stop on our tour with The Hunger Project (THP.)

Set in lush green hills flanked by towering mountains, it’s a spectacular backdrop for the centre.

Daisy, the Country Director of THP told us that this was where God sat when he made the rest of the earth. I’m inclined to agree.

After a winding walk through magnificent country not far from the Epicentre, we found the home of Rosette (now 34) and her husband Christoph (41.)

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Rosette was 15 when she was married to the handsome businessman, then 21. She is a strikingly attractive woman, dressed in a matching blue top and skirt and was obviously quite house proud and not shy to share her story with us. A dowry of 750, 000 shillings changed hands (about USD$250, or the value of a cow.). Her first child Edith, was born when she was 16 followed the next year by Victor.  Asked if she was afraid of marriage so young, she said that she wasn’t really as she viewed it as the end of her childhood and the start of life as a married woman.

The legal age for marriage in Uganda is 18, but child marriages are still common, especially in rural areas.

They now have 6 children, having added Darius, Owen, Jonan and another to the family. Edith is now 16 in P7. She likes maths and wants to be an accountant. Victor wants to be a Doctor.

When asked if she’d like Edith to be married young, she replied that no, she wants her to wait til she’s finished her schooling at 28!

Happily for Rosette, things have turned out well. Christoph sells coffee beans to a factory and can provide a basic lifestyle for his large family. They have a modest but clean home and raise poultry amongst the banana and coffee plantations lining the hills. When asked if Christoph loves his wife, he replied ‘too much’ leaving us to all awwww at his admission.

Another woman seated in the crowd there to welcome our arrival was Caroline. She too was a child bride, married at 14 and is now 24. Her husband is four years older than her. Her first child was born when she was 15 and she was nursing baby Henry, her 4th child, while we spoke. Like Rosette, she too was excited to be a married woman.

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These concepts that seem so foreign to us are ‘just another day’ stories here.

Thankfully THP is in the area now, and providing Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) classes, a health centre, food bank and Microfinance for those also looking to improve their lot. Rosette and Christoph are thinking of joining soon.

Kiruhura Epicenter lays it on for the visiting Business Chicks

Well it’s not often you arrive to the energy, colour and fanfare of a brass band welcome but this is exactly what awaited us when arriving at the Kiruhura epicentre in South Western Uganda.

Despite the light rain, hundreds from the local community in the local catchment area of The Hunger Project epicentre, were there to welcome the Business Chicks from Australia, and more kept arriving throughout the day.

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Dancers from the Functional Adult Literacy classes sang their thanks to us for funding. Other dancers expressed welcome and joy at our visit. Small children clambered to sit on the laps of the visitors and quickly stole our hearts.

imageWe split into four groups to meet with committee members and be given a tour of the amazing work THP is doing for the area. This centre also has the added distinction of being the first to head to self-reliance, likely meeting this target in the coming twelve months.

A few years of the girls and I were assigned to the group to learn about IGA or Income Generating Activities and we discussed the 9 ways that are utilised to create profit, most of these being agriculturally based. The centre grows and sells food, seeds and is even planning a hostel to charge visitors who come a long way, a modest fee to stay.

The committee members all personally introduced themselves and explained the volunteer nature of the work they do at the Centre, as animators, and farmers. All were rightly proud of the part they’ve played in the area’s success.

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This centre is truly something special and their greenhouse, irrigation displays, piggery, grafting facility, milling rooms and farms were an example to all the area.

This centre also houses a rural bank for Microfinance and a health centre, food bank and meeting rooms.

Around 1000 from the local community turned out for speeches to farewell the chairman of the past 8 years and gift 20 animators bicycles to help assist them reach further in their work.

More celebrations, group dances and song wrapped up an amazing welcome for the visiting Business Chicks to Kiruhura.

A visit to the Namayumba Epicentre in Uganda

Well, today we started our trip on the road to visit the Namayumba epicentre, a couple of hours west of Kampala.

We jumped on the bus in high spirits ready to finally see firsthand the work that all our fundraising monies have been put towards, and it was really rewarding.

We split into three groups to tour the centre, first visiting the nurse’s quarters and the health centre. These lovely ladies assist with vaccinations, HIV counselling and basic treatments required. The centre itself is equipped with rooms for a children’s wing, male and female wards, treatment wings and counselling rooms. At present, one Dr Paul is on duty and the recruitment process is underway for more healthcare workers.

Our next stop was the nursery school, but many children are currently on holidays. Little Josephine was the only girl amongst all the boys but they were happy to break into song and do an impromptu dance as well. Their friendly faces and curiosity were gorgeous. We sang Twinkle Twinkle little Star for them to say Thank You.

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Tearing ourselves away from their epic cuteness and their 15 year old volunteer teacher, we next stopped at the rural bank to see Microfinance in action.

Four women had arrived at the centre for the first time, and we’re waiting for loans to improve their small businesses. The local branch manager Stella gave us a great tour of their small facility.

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We then met in the epicentre directors office, checked out the clean water facilities, viewed the crops on site and planted our trees, leaving our permanent gift to the Namayumba epicentre – mine was an avocado tree.

Next followed a fabulous welcome to their meeting hall with energetic dancing and music, where many local committee members, animators for The Hunger Project and government officials welcomed the Business Chicks in an official ceremony.

Focus groups were next on the Agenda and I landed Women’s Empowerment – and it was brilliant to see how proud the girls were of their accomplishments; share their hopes and dreams for their children and future and we especially loved how the men were so supportive of their wives efforts.

The other group covered HIV/AIDS and the Ugandans were surprised to learn the disease occurs in Australia too. Much is being done to promote testing, and provide counselling. Health & Sanitation was the focus for the final group which discussed its services in educating the community to hygiene issues, nutrition and maternal health.

Finally, it was time to cuddle some babies, board the bus and say goodbye before the epic ride of six and a half hours to Mbarara, our home for the next few days.

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The Gang’s All Here! Let the Adventures Begin…

Well, yesterday saw the arrival of all the gorgeous girls joining us on our adventure with The Hunger Project.

All have undertaken a personal journey to be here and have had to commit to raising the $10,000 in fundraising… No mean feat.

We shared a lovely welcome dinner last night and settled in for a big sleep prior to kick-off today.  A club over the road however blasted away til about 4 am making a full nights’ sleep a little difficult.

After another great breakfast and gorgeous sky started our day, and we headed off for our leadership program to begin.

Today started with a brilliant dance session by a talented Ugandan group who had us all shaking our tail feathers after receiving our gorgeous gifts of scarves and skirts.

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We then settled in to learn lessons in leadership, forged closer bonds with our fellow travellers, and heard from the local country director, Daisy who inspired us with the work done in the epicentres around the southern part of Uganda, some of those we’ll visit on our travels.

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We’ve been encouraged to dream, confront our fears, be mindful, respectful and challenged as to how we truly listen.

Making the most of this journey will involve being open to the new, letting go of past beliefs and future expectations and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable.

“To understand the immeasurable, the mind must be extraordinarily quiet, still.”  Jiddu Krishnamurti

After the confront of yesterday’s paper, today’s ran a 20 page feature focussed on Mother’s Day – reminding some of us of the babies we’ve parted with to be on this journey and restoring faith that motherhood is a gift, and a usually, a universally appreciated one.

And we’re all completely loving the buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner! It seems so surreal that surrounded by such luxury and comfort that we’re actually here to visit some of the most marginalised people on earth… not that far away…

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The Countdown is On!

Well it’s only a week til I board the plane and head off to Africa to participate in the Business Chicks Immersion & Leadership Program.

Yesterday saw me in ‘freak out’ mode with a missing passport and cancelled flights, but all’s well that ends well.  Passport found including Uganda visa and yellow fever certificate, flights rebooked and all back on track.

A lovely little parcel arrived today too with a handmade notebook by the village partners to use as our journal on our trip along with the details of our Immersion Program and introductions to all the gorgeous girls who will accompany me on our adventure.

Business Chicks, like those going on this trip, and The Hunger Project believe that by supporting developing women leaders and creating a space for them to connect and stretch, they can make a difference in the world.  Empowering women to be leaders in turn can help solve one of the biggest humanitarian issues of our time, hunger.

Hunger isn’t just a problem for those suffering from it, but a global issue that requires new ideas, thinking, partnership and ways to solve the underlying issues.

I’m so looking forward to being part of this journey, lending a hand and learning from each other, being part of something bigger, and finding a place where it’s safe to give anything a go!

I’m sure I’m going to learn so much more than I can possibly bring to the table on this trip.

Bring it on!