Even grandparents can have adventures!

The birth of Donnez de l'espoir à l'Ouganda

Lydia

Party time Kissekka

All getting nearer December 2019

This time last year we were incredibly apprehensive about going to Uganda at all and friends and family, with the best of intentions, really challenged our decision to do so. 

This time we will be returning to people and places we know and to projects we have started. That said, we are more aware of the real risks and some of what we might witness. 

We will be venturing into different territory too, both physically and intellectually and there will no doubt be emotional challenges as last time. 

Our son will be joining us for the last 3 of the 6 weeks of our visit which will mean a great deal to us. We will also have to turn down requests for help which is not easy to do. 

Need is endemic and challenges are acute in the bush villages and the slum areas of the city.  We have to remind ourselves constantly that we can't help everyone but if we focus on a small number of projects we can achieve more than if we didn't try. 

We are so very very grateful to everyone who has supported us so far and hope to be able to run a number of varied events which you might like to join in after we return from the next visit.  Thank you for your help 

Remaining events before the next Ugandan experience.

Unbelievably we are in mid November and within two months we will be setting off for the experiences Uganda has in store. 

We have a couple of events planned for DEO before that and would like to make progress with a couple of outstanding items. 

 

Lydia's fees will be due in January and we still have £150 to raise towards them and Alex's school needs funding to repair the pit latrine at a cost of about £700.

The two remaining events are the Carol concert we are sharing with the Civray Singers at Savigne Church on Friday 13th December at 7 30pm.  Please share with your friends and contacts in France.  It would be great to see lots of people and you can buy mulled wine and mince pies afterwards to support DEO. 

The second event has very limited places and is a painting, Christmas cake and pink champagne session on Sunday 12th January at 2pm. 

There are only 6 places left so please contact me quickly if you would like to book one of them. 

I will be posting reminders and updates on the Donnez de l'espoir à l'Ouganda Facebook page. 

Looking forward to seeing you all soon 

Joshua at home with us

The end of a busy day for Lydia

School governors discussing the tank and other issues

Alex is happy with the tank

Meeting Joshua in Poitiers

Catch up time October 2019

I have already posted a catch up on the Facebook page but for those of you who don't use that I would like to update you on recent events. 

Firstly I would like to say a big thank you to those who have begun to contribute to Lydia's next lot of fees.  We need to collect £350 for her payment which is due in January. That money will cover her fees until July and when you realise that it covers tuition, a place to sleep and a basic, if incredibly monotonous diet it is incredible value for money. 

Lydia is currently working in a post natal ward in a village hospital and has had the opportunity to learn a number of practical nursing skills. 

One case in particular has upset her.  The girl in question is a 17 year old rape victim who has just had her baby by c section.  On the positive side neither mother nor baby has been found to be HIV positive but the mother is very poor and could not afford to pay for antibiotics so has a suppurating abscess which is currently open and being drained. As a 17 year old herself this is challenging for Lydia. 

Despite that she is very much enjoying working in the hospital and knows she has made the right choice for her. 

Please send something to support her in this. 

The second piece of news is that the water tank at Alex's school is complete and as soon as it rains it will start to collect water. The board of governors has sent their thanks for a well done project and they will be at the formal opening ceremony which we and our son are due to attend in February. 

Alex wants our son to paint a mural on the side of the tank so we hope that can happen and promise to post visual evidence on the site as it evolves. 

Finally, we were privileged last weekend to have a visit, here in France, from Joshua Luyonza, a lovely young man who has a scholarship to study for a master's degree in Berlin.  His subject, International Management linked very well with what Jeremy and I used to teach. So it was a stimulating experience for all concerned. The fact that he was so helpful and appreciative of our hospitality only served to enhance our enjoyment and we hope we will be able to go to his graduation ceremony next September. 

Almost finished with commentary from Alex

Reflections on progress August 2019

This time last year we had taken on a third child to sponsor for his education and had booked flights to visit these children and discover more about the conditions they lived in. 

We weren't keen on the potential risks from the various medical implications to the reputation of central African countries and the reaction of other people to our proposed trip. 

We had to negotiate all of the requirements in French as we live in France except for getting a visa which was very, at least in English. 

We did it but our own levels of trepidation had been heightened by the reactions and advice of others. We were going to arrive at a very foreign airport and we would be meeting someone I had spoken to online but never encountered in the flesh.  Would it be safe? 

Roll on to January and a long flight, which was late as the wings had needed de icing before take off. We left a snow lined Charles de Gaulle and flew off into the night and the unknown. 

When we arrived eventually, 4 hours late, we weren't even sure Doreen, our contact, would still be there, but she was and after another long and interesting journey we arrived in Masaka. 

You can read about our time in Uganda on a number of other pages on this site. Since that visit our commitment to some of those we met has increased. 

At times I feel we can't do enough and wonder about having hopes pinned on us at all, at other times I am more able to silence the clamour of doubt and think of what we have achieved that might not have happened without us. 

In January we intend to return for 6 weeks and our son will be joining us for the final three weeks of that visit. 

The trepidation is diminished but still there. We hope to see all of the children we and some of our friends sponsor. We hope to visit Lydia at her school of nursing and we hope to visit the schools we worked with and the village of Kissekka. 

We haven't raised much yet for the water supply anfd clinic with village hall for Kissekka but may be able to get match funding for the land purchase and borehole if we raise enough funds to pay for a proportion of the cost. 

I hope people will see what has been achieved rather than what hasn't happened yet. I worry that the expectations on us will be too high. 

We have to officially open the water storage facility currently being installed at Alex's school and I have promised to help with staff training for 2 schools and hope to visit a University. 

These are all challenging prospects but stand to be of value to very needy people or of interest at the least. 

Thank you for reading and if you have any ideas of ways that we can reach more people and raise more funds we would love to hear from you 

 

Of tanks and mattresses July 2019

It has been an amazing week for us all and the fundraising we have achieved recently. 

The money, so kindly donated by Wood U Waste for the water tank for Alex's school has arrived and the work is well underway. 

When we visit in 2020 one of our tasks will be to attend its official opening ceremony and give a speech to the assembled school, parents, education authorities and staff. Something to think care about but also a celebration of what small groups of us can achieve.  We know we can't begin to support every worthy cause but nevertheless we will have achieved this which will make a big difference to a number of people. 

 

The tank is delivered to the school

Please help

Can you help raise £100? July 2019

The old lady in the picture is one we met in a very poor area on the outskirts of Masaka and as I wrote then, she had recently been in hospital and whilst there, had had her mattress stolen. 

I learnt yesterday that she is still without a mattress and no longer has anyone to help her pay for food.  She depends totally on donations from neighbours and hence can go for days without food. 

Her ability to walk is quite restricted by arthritis and malnutrition and apparently she is in an even worse state than when we met her. 

£100 would not only pay for a mattress it would probably pay for food for her for a couple of months or even longer. 

Please email me on Donnezdelespoir@mail.com if you can help.  

Could you run a coffee morning or do a sponsored slim or get someone to pay you to do their ironing?  Could you sell something you no longer use to allow this old lady to live out her final years with the comfort of a full stomach and a mattress to sleep on? 

Please ask your friends or family if they can help 

Alex supervising the delivery of bricks for his new water storage tank

A happy head July 2019

Yesterday, at long last, I was able to send the money for Alex's school to have their badly needed water storage tank. 

The sending of the money, as I have come to expect, was not without angst both on my part and on the part of the unfortunate Post office assistant in our local bureau de poste who found herself on Friday afternoon, being confronted by an English woman who wanted to send money to Uganda and needed to know the exchange rate before she confirmed the exact amount of euros she wanted to transfer. 

This proved an impossible task for the, by now 2 assistants who were trying to help and a telephone helpline to a central number for Western Union was not available. 

I suggested a process of elimination and we gradually moved the number of euros up from 950 to 998 before we agreed on that as the sum needed. 

Did it end there? 

Of course not!!! 

The next hazard was paying with the charity's bank card. Yes I knew the money was there and available and yes the pincode was correct but did the transaction go through? 

You guessed it, it was refused.  Thus we paid on our card risking imminent bankruptcy and I went immediately to the bank and was a rather irrate customer and with the proof of payment and, after collecting a transfer slip from our own bank, eventually the money was transferred from the charity account back into our account.  Phew.... Not a very good afternoon for my blood pressure. 

Perhaps ameliorated by Alex's delight and his plan to hold an opening ceremony with me cutting a tape and giving a speech. 

He received the money this morning and will get the work started on Monday. He has promised to ensure that it is done as well as possible and will send photos of the progress and completion of the project so watch this space!!!! 

Thank you so much to Wood u Waste for your kind donation for this w

 

Lydia ran in the Masaka marathon yesterday

June 2019

I am still in regular contact with several people we met in Uganda, and through them with news of others. 

Lydia the girl who we are seeking your help to support to do a nursing course, is in very regular contact and continues to demonstrate that her desired career will be perfect for her. 

You will possibly remember that when we were in Uganda we visited an inspirational charity called Planting for Hope. 

Apollo, the Ugandan director of the charity has been extremely supportive of Lydia and of our efforts to help her. 

Recently a 3 year old child from the village Planting for Hope supports was in the wrong place when her 7 year old sister was lifting a container of boiling water. 

As a result her face has been very badly scalded and she has subsequently been sent to hospital for further treatment which her single mother cannot afford. 

Lydia spent her one day off of the week visiting the child, at personal cost and attempting to support the family. 

I know that certainties in life are never guaranteed but I am sure that Lydia is very motivated to follow her course and succeed. 

The marathon she ran in yesterday was designed to raise money the education of underprivileged children in Uganda. 

If you would be willing to support Lydia and her training please pm me for bank details. 

I will not post a photo of the baby's face but half her face is blistered and it has become infected so she is in a dire condition. If anyone would like to send anything towards her treatment I can forward it to Planting for Hope. 

The other news is that I discussing the provision and installation of a new water tank for Alex's school with a small charity.  It seems I will need to have my small charity set up to apply for the funding but I am nearly ready to submit the paperwork for that and hopefully that will lead to a number of events this summer to raise funds.  More news on that later. Meanwhile please consider supporting Lydia to help her people.  Even a first aid course could have reduced the damage the poor baby has suffered and a nurse running a series of village clinics and training sessions could do this. 

Life is hard enough without life changing scarring

What is happening? Late March 2019 

I'm sorry not to have added any information for a while but life has intervened. 

I hope to set up an association, here in France, called Donnez l'espoir à Ouganda.  (Give hope to Uganda) 

At the moment we are trying to support Lydia to follow a nursing course and then to work with a small UK charity to provide water to Kissekka and a school in Kissekka. 

Life has intervened for me recently and I have had a variety of personal issues to deal with and some more enjoyable events as well. 

However, the plan is to pursue a variety of strategies to support young people and the village of Kissekka.  We value your support 

 a

 

African meal with Helen, Adam and Mark

Helen and Adam March 2019

I couldn't write about the people we met without mentioning a lovely couple we met at the hotel and who played a significant part in our enjoyment of the visit. 

Adam is Ugandan and his wife Helen comes from Tanzania.  They are based in Dar es Salaam but seem to spend a fair amount of time in Masaka. 

Helen is a pastor but is passionately involved in skills training for underprivileged women, although the training she offers is more broadly based. 

Adam is a farmer who has many other skills and experience in a wide range of other areas including the military and logistics.  He shares some of Helen's aims but has a particular interest in helping underprivileged and orphaned children.  A powerful couple who shared time and meals with us and have invited us to visit them in Dar es Salaam next year. 

It was Adam who took us to visit his family's farm in a valley to the west of Masaka towards the end of our visit and who took us to Kampala the day before our flight and to the fishing village on the shores of Lake Victoria in the hours before we flew back to a cold morning in France where 2 coffees cost us more than an evening meal for two in a good hotel the evening before our flight. 

What I haven't mentioned was our arrival at the airport and it is worthy of comment as it indicates a lot about Adam. 

Adam drives a black Japanese car, not a model we had ever seen in the West, and it has tinted windows.  It is very similar to the cars driven by government officials and Adam is aware of this and of the respect this can gain for him. 

On the way into the airport, cars are allowed to drive through the security check but passengers are expected to get out and walk through a barrier, all probably a very sensible security precaution.  Doreen got out and started to walk through, telling us that we should follow her.  Adam had other ideas and told us to stay put. Adam is a big guy so we stayed put and the security official was also quick to accept his explanation that we were elderly and shouldn't have to walk.  Not anything either of us would have tried on but he got away with it and topped even that by following the route for VIP passengers and getting us a security guard to help us with our luggage and get us to the right check-in desk. A completely uncharted realm of experience for us!!! Carried off with practised panache by Adam. 

Breakfast with Adam

At the family farm

Gift

In the hotel

Lydia, February 2019

Those of you who have followed the blog regularly will have read about Lydia, the young waitress at Plot 99 who chatted to us regularly and who, indeed communicates with me daily now we are home. 

Lydia has a grandfather living but as far as I know, no other relatives. She has long held the ambition to be a nurse and from our month long acquaintance I would say that she has the necessary characteristics. 

Those of you who follow this  story on Facebook will know that we have started an appeal to help Lydia to achieve her dream.  The total nursing course will cost her about £2500 pounds over its 5 semester duration. 

Our appeal on Facebook has almost raised the £250 she needs to pay by 26th March to ensure her place on the course.  We are determined to help her to get her place and complete her training. 

We are currently trying to set up a small charity in France and hope to be able to have a series of fundraising events to help her cause as well as our bigger aim of making a difference to Kissekka and enabling the impoverished population there to work towards a sustainable future. 

À crazy aim for people of our age perhaps but if we don't try we won't know how much could be possible and anything is better than nothing! Some of the requirements Lydia faces both financially and personally to complete her course follow this update.  I have not included all 14 pages but you get the picture.  A little bit monastic for 21st century students I'm sure you will agree 

Offer of a place but at a high price

Bill for the whole first semester

Personal additional needs for Semester one

List of rules and regulations

More rules

Rules for 18 year old students

The Headmasters:Reflections March 2019

We visited 4 different primary schools and met four different heads, all male. The belief in Uganda being that men are better disciplinarians than women, so we were told. 

As you can probably imagine, that didn't entirely gel with my beliefs about equality, but that wasn't the purpose of the visit. We were there to learn something about the school set up and to give the children a chance to do some drawing which does not normally feature on their syllabus. 

Each visit commenced with the heads welcoming us into their offices, where they had one and telling us something about the school. 

Usually the office wall had some form of reference to the results achieved in the previous year, some statement of rules or regulations, usually a religious picture and some comment on what constituted a good student or teacher. 

Otherwise décoration was sparse and furniture functional.  All but one of the heads had a desk and chair and often a lockable cupboard but often little else and in one case no office. 

The first school we visited wasn't finished when we first saw it, with only days to go to the beginning of term.  Photos follow.  The head, Isaac, seemed very young but was obviously dedicated as was his wife. Indeed, they had run a school for some years before but something had happened which had brought an end to that school.  We didn't really understand exactly what. 

However, Isaac didn't want to give up on the children in his charge and so this second school was being erected to continue the work. 

I will return to Isaac's school in the next section of the headmasters

 

 

Isaac's wife and baby

Classes on Monday?

Classroom 2

Children waiting for school to be built

Isaac in yellow

Heads continued Reflection March 2019

The next school we visited started term on the appointed date 4th February and has already been discussed earlier in the blog. 

We met some pupils before meeting the head and were swiftly escorted to his office. 

This school was called Nasanaeri Muliira Memorial school and was the first functioning school we had entered. 

The head told us a little about the school but was quite busy and so we soon were shown into a classroom to get on with the job in hand. 

Doreen was also busy that day and disappeared to the bank to set about paying school fees for some of the sponsored children and spent the next several hours queueing in the bank to pay stranding us at the school. 

So in retrospect this was the school about which we learnt least although we were very interested in our first taste of school life and shaken by the dearth of equipment. See the slideshow which follows. 

The third school we visited was the amazing school at the village development where Planting for Hope had brought such change to another very underprivileged community. 

Here, the headmaster who was a very impressive figure in his own right, worked closely with Apollo the man who has worked with Kate Oakley to bring skills and sustainability to the village of Kititi. 

We really hope to be able to be involved with Kate and Apollo in the future and have offered to help with some courses for the local women on basic book keeping and do some staff development with the school.  They have offered to help us to achieve some implementation of sustainability for Kissekka.  It seems silly to try to reinvent the wheel when what they are achieving is so important and impressive. 

Apollo and Kate make the dream team and if we can aid Kissekka to achieve even a little of what they have done we will be very happy, and, far more importantly Kissekka will be better for those who live there. 

Africa has so much and so little.  We could be totally overwhelmed by the plethora of needs but we can see how people can aid the development of individuals and small villages and are intent on the benefits of this. 

The forth school was run by someone called Alex and was situated not far from where Judith, the young lady who had to have her leg amputated, and her father lived. 

One sponsored boy attends this school and Alex was quite personable and very keen to show us round his school. 

This school boasted quite a number of buildings but few resources in any Western notion of what a primary school needs. 

It had some staff accommodation, as teaching staff frequently live at the school where they teach, and male and female latrines. 

Some of the classrooms were completed, others not, although all were in use.  There was a rainwater collection system and a couple of large galvanised water tanks, though only one was functional and there was no money to improve facilities. 

This was the school I mentioned elsewhere where a girl had passed out causing Alex to take her to the doctor 25 kilometres away on his moped, only to be told that she wasn't ill just needed food which by that stage she was unable to keep down because it was at least three days since she had had a proper meal. 

Our art lesson there is documented elsewhere but this is another school to which we will return and offer some staff development. 

Before we left Masaka we asked Alex to meet us in Masaka and gave him a book on the basics of drawing and some art materials in the hope that he might incorporate some art into the curriculum to give the children a little light relief from the unmitigated chalk and talk that seems to dominate the educational system.  Different styles of learning is on my staff development agenda!! 

 

The next school was programmed for the same day but the art lesson had run away with the time and by the time we reached our second school and met its head, Dickson, there was no academic day left.  

This is the school where most of the sponsored children go and we regretted deeply that this had happened. 

However, we were able to see many of the sponsored children in their uniform and next time we will spend more time there.  It was unfortunate that we didn't know that this was the school most of them attended before we got there, or indeed when the day was being planned. 

This was just one example of our style of organising things and Doreen's way of getting there.  A lesson learnt for the future! 

So finally, as our final school visit we went back to Isaac's school and taught our final drawing lesson there. 

He spoke more to Jeremy than to me and seemed a very quiet man. One of the girls we sponsor attends this school along with her siblings and she seemed delighted to see us. 

Again the children enjoyed the drawing but it was a very different experience to be in a school which was so unfinished and here it seemed the noise levels were excessive at times largely because of the crying of a baby in the as yet roofless reception classroom next to the one containing the rest of the school. 

The dedication of the staff is high and education is well regarded but the conditions sometimes beggared belief

Finished artwork Isaac's school

Isaac and Doreen in school

Isaac talking to Jeremy

Inside the classroom

Second visit to Isaac's school

At Dickson's school

Dickson with two newly sponsored pupils

Some of the sponsored children

Dickson's pupils

Dickson with his charges

Alex's school

Organisation of the artists

The head as learner

Alex

In Alex's office

Cornerstone school Planting for Hope

Réception classroom

Year 2 classroom

School grounds

Churchillian influence

Classroom poster

Children having a drawing lesson

Introduction by the Head

Posted in the headmaster's office

Headmaster's office wall

Saying goodbye for now to Golf Lane

The hotel staff February 2019

We spent our month at the Golf Lane Hotel in Masaka which was one of the places recommended by Doreen as a suitable place to stay. 

The staff were friendly and generally efficient and we will stay there again but, it was Africa and we had to put certain western expectations aside. 

Amongst the staff were some people who really stood out and went the extra mile to ensure our stay was as good as possible. 

Doreen had one friend on the reception desk called Sarah who was pleasant but the star receptionist for us was a young woman called Grace who was highly efficient, polite and helpful. 

Grace became a bit of a lodestone for us.  If there was an issue Grace seemed to be able to solve the problem. 

It pained us to see people being rude to Grace, or indeed to any of the staff. Sadly it was rarely westerners who were overtly rude to the staff, probably to be honest this was because many of the westerners we met were involved in some sort of humanitarian visit, or on safari and there simply for an overnight stay en route to different destinations. 

Grace appeared very quickly after our arrival and took us to see two potential rooms we might like. 

Thereafter she helped us with a number of things and it was quite distressing to learn towards the end of our stay that Grace had got malaria and was really quite poorly although after 3 injections spanning a week or so she appeared much improved if quite weak. 

During the first ten days of our stay a number of students were doing an unpaid work placement at the hotel and we couldn't serve ourselves to anything from the buffet breakfast because a bevy of eager girls insisted on serving everything to us. 

The fact that on some days during that period the number of students exceeded the number of guests only added to the scramble to be useful. 

Language was something of a problem at times.  One of our early assumptions was that English is spoken in Uganda.  After all it is the language of education there.  Unfortunately there could still be gaps in communication and often these went unacknowledged so that we could ask for an item of food and be told that it was unavailable rather than that the staff member didn't understand what we wanted. 

In the foyer of the hotel were various notices saying that all major credit and debit cards were accepted, but unfortunately, on questioning this, it transpired that the machine wasn't working, and we suspected that this had been the case for some considerable time. 

Some of the waitresses were really sweet. One had expressed concern about the small breakfasts I was eating. I should say at this point that at home breakfast is not part of my routine.  Since my discovery in the early stages of secondary school that skipping breakfast equated to an extra ten to fifteen minutes in bed, breakfast has taken second place to extra time snuggled up in the warmth of a duvet. If you experienced a North East coastal childhood without the benefits of central heating, or indeed, any bedroom heating, coupled with single glazing and winter you will understand exactly what I am talking about. 

Admittedly Uganda wasn't cool and even a single sheet could be thrown back, but breakfast is not my thing.  I ate more than I ever do but was visited by the hotel accountant to give an account of what they could provide to help me eat more. 

I tried to explain that I was only eating to take my antimalarials and would only have a cup of coffee at home so really to get through some fresh fruit and an egg was a huge breakfast for me. 

I had already had a battle to attempt to explain my need to eat gluten free food but wasn't sure even by the end whether that had been understood. Why would it be when some people have to go hungry? 

In the end two of the waitresses in particular seemed to adopt us and went over and above to serve things they knew we liked and often slipped extras onto our plates, hence I was often served mango or extra pineapple frequently the single egg was served with a companion or two and Jeremy frequently was brought a second cooked breakfast after finishing the plate he had been given. 

Another pair of characters were the barmen whose names we never discovered. 

The one à slight bespectacled lad whose mobile phone regularly rang by playing 'Swing low sweet chariot', held some money behind the bar from us and looked after the box of wine we kept in one of the drinks fridges. 

His alter ego, who wasn't in evidence as frequently, took us literally when one evening we said we had finished with the wine and we didn't see it again! 

OK perhaps it did only have a couple of glasses left in it but we had finished for the meal not permanently. 

 

 

Mother and baby Masaka

The tale of a watch. January 2019

Whilst, during our normal everyday existence in rural France neither of us wears a watch regularly, Jeremy usually takes a watch, that we bought round about the time we were married 30 years ago, if we go on holiday. 

Recently he has been having some trouble with said watch and had broken the glass face.  During our last trip to York in December he tried to have the glass replaced at a couple of jewellers in the city centre. 

The first, which shall be nameless greeted him with barely disguised sneers and told him to buy a new one because it really wasn't worth it. Not the right approach for him!!

À second outlet quoted a price which was almost what he had paid for the watch originally and which could possibly be higher.  They would have to see what they found. 

Life being too short we gave up the struggle and came back with the watch unrepaired. 

Just after Christmas he took the watch to the local market and the stall that replaces watch batteries took 45 minutes to replace and check the glass and charged a princely 10 euros, less than a fifth of the cheapest price we had been quoted in York. 

So what, you ask, has this to do with people in Uganda? 

Roll on a couple of weeks and said watch joins us on our maiden voyage to Uganda, where on our first night in the hotel it stops.

Jeremy diagnoses that it needs a new battery so asks Doreen, our guide, contact, friend and unofficially adopted daughter, if she knows where he can get a watch battery replaced which she does. 

Doreen hasn't got the most amazing sense of direction we have ever encountered so our first trip into Masaka centre was punctuated by a couple of minutes of indecision about the exact whereabouts of the man who could change batteries. 

The lady pictured at the beginning was very hospitable and provided us with seats while we waited for him to return. 

On his arrival he duly changed the battery but the watch stopped each time the second hand reached 7.

Undaunted he opened the watch and explained to Jeremy that a part that Jeremy couldn't even see, had failed but that, if we left the watch he could get the part and repair it by the next day. 

So the watch was left.  On the next day when we called to collect it, not only was it repaired and working but it has been cleaned and serviced, cost less than £5 and the man thanked us effusively for giving him the business.  One of the many humbling experiences we were to experience