Even grandparents can have adventures!

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

Of storks and talks

Yesterday was the final rest day before we begin the challenge of the coming week.

The first task, as is becoming habitual, was to write up the blog. The hotel was still noisy and the sounds of various religious groups worshipping in full voice resounded around us outside. 

Yesterday the blog wasn't very long but because there were so many people in the hotel the net was slow. 

When you type in a blog on your phone with one finger it takes time too. 

Blog complete we made our way to our regular haunt and were greeted warmly and settled to enjoy the peace and scenery from this haunt which, we have discovered, used to be Idi Amin's tennis courts and overlooking Land which was his golf course.  This land now provides both a picnic site and a place where local animals can be grazed, a sort of commonland. 

As usual, we mulled over events but amused ourselves drinking in the sights and sounds of people and birds with some amazing displays of aerobatics by black kites, gliding storks and swifts.  We even spotted a bright yellow fronted sunbird, but, just like the one that got away, none of this with the camera ready to roll! 

The time moved on and we had a couple of close encounters with storks, who, it seems, you can stare out. 

And so, punctuated by people watching and drinks the afternoon rolled peacefully on. 

Inevitably, just as we were about to leave, a lady smiled at us and we began to chat. 

This lady, again into her seventies, turned out to be Australian.  She had been coming here for 8 years with the mission of helping children to complete their secondary education. She had set up a small charity to that end and had helped some 60 children during that time. 

So yet again, a fortuitous meeting had led to me being able to ask one unanswered question. Would Joash's education really cost what he was asking. She said that the sum was right but that we needed to check with the school concerned and verify his identity etc. 

Her story, however, didn't end there.  She had worked with the same African contact for 8 years and sadly 3 years previously had begun to suspect that funds might be being misappropriated. 

Suspicion turned into discovery and the dreadful realisation that a massive amount of money.  The equivalent of £6400 had disappeared. 

The poor lady was broken, now had been diagnosed with cancer, she looked very ill and had massive mobility problems and hoped to be able to return one last time next year to see her remaining sponsored kids completing their studies. 

These kids have so much ambition but so few real opportunities to fulfil their potential. 

When Doreen arrived at our hotel later this provided the perfect opportunity to discuss the elephant in my room. 

I could see the process of collecting the money and distributing it to people etc. But what records were kept and how was she paid? 

I told her about the day's s learning journey I had been on and thus, was enabled to discuss producing a transparent system to demonstrate clearly to sponsors, visiting volunteers in future exactly how the money was spent. 

I had already talked about how people in the West are sometimes wary of larger charities because of the money that goes in overheads and staffing and was able to assure her that her small expenses and recompense for her input, she has no other job and a family to support, would be more than acceptable to sponsors.  How else would the money get to those who need it? 

So the next stage will be to document exactly where everything penny of money and donations goes.  And, perhaps the implementation of a system that expects recipients of sponsorship to contribute something themselves so that they can begin to become less totally dependent and jointly engaged in doing something to improve their own lives and the opportunities within their community. 

I would love your views on this especially if you can make suggestions on how we can ensure this can change lives 

 

Different shades of need.

The weekend started with noise too early in the morning and our sleep was rudely shattered by people arriving at their rooms at between 1 and 3am. There seems to be a pattern to new arrivals and the thing that seems to give universal difficulty is the locking mechanism of the bedroom doors. 

It is difficult to open the doors and even more difficult to lock them from the outside. So newcomers announce themselves by repeated loud banging of heavy hardwood doors.  Add to this the echoing of long tiled corridors and loud voices and sleep becomes impossible. From 6am the saga starts again and we will breathe a sigh of relief when Sunday evening comes and the hotel empties. 

Yesterday morning I wrote the blog and eventually we started the walk to Plot 99, Jeremy sporting the feathered hat. 

Before we had walked the short distance to meet Hill Road where Plot 99 is situated we were hailed by a young man who asked for help to complete his nursing studies.  He has completed 4 of 5 semesters of a nursing course. 

He has lost his parents and has only a sick grandmother.  We are beginning to recognise the story sadly. 

The final semester includes clinical assessments and is the most expensive - about £750.

I said we couldn't support him but to take copies of all the paperwork and a letter about himself and his needs and give it in to reception at the hotel and we would look at it and mention it in our blog. 

We walked on and further along this first leg of the walk someone else asked Jeremy to take a photo of him on his moped. 

People greeted us as we walked up the road. We reached our destination and had a series of drinks, spoke to one of our daughters about trying to make a link between one of the schools here and her local primary school and various other matters. 

I contacted an ex-colleague, who had taught marketing, about Brenda and her bags.  Looked for Ugandan wholesalers who might be able to develop outlets for her etc. 

Jeremy and I mulled over the events of recent days and the things that had stuck in our minds. 

His thoughts were about ongoing colonial influences and what he perceives as the mismatch of systems lifted from the UK and imposed here without fitting the actual and differing needs of the people and the economy here. 

I could add a comment about the inadequacy of other political systems here but discretion prevents me! 

My point of focus was Brenda's comment that her father, who had been to school, knows everything. 

My mental retort was I taught in a university and know very little. 

Brenda's father does not work, does not support his family and believes that the land he has been trying to sell for some years is bewitched because some neighbours had him cursed. 

The day meandered on and we decided that if Doreen had not turned up to see us by 4 we would go back to the hotel. 

We were having a last cup of tea, in my case a herbal tea, when 2 elderly ladies arrived.  They were white, spoke English and asked if they could join us. 

We said of course, and our conversation moved as it does here to our purposes for being here. 

The conversation ranged naturally over many of the issues we had identified. This group however had been in operation for 6 years and have transformed a Bush village some 45 minutes drive from Masaka into a co-operative sustainable community with a school, a visiting doctor, crops for sale, craft production, water containers to catch rainwater and solar electricity. 

We were introduced to the lady, a retired teacher who had initiated the project and all agreed that joined up thinking and cooperation could help our village. 

Doreen and ourselves now have an appointment to meet their Ugandan director, Apollo, on Tuesday and we hope to fit in a visit there before we leave. 

Their project is called Planting for Hope and is a small charity registered in England. 

These ladies are all in their seventies!  

In the winter a group of older volunteers visit to bring certain items or teach certain skills whilst in summer holidays small groups of secondary school pupils come to help with certain projects or activities. 

If only we can initiate similar change in our adopted village. Hope is so infectious. 

Back to the hotel, contact details shared with Helen and Pauline and later a chat to update Doreen on the events of our day. 

The shades of need didn't end there as 2 of the lovely waitresses approached us to tell us about their situation.  Both are deserted mums with small children.  They want their babies to attend kindergarten but the wages in the hotel are too low for them to afford this. 

Doreen listened and questioned but basically said that they were not sufficiently needy to be included in this project. 

It does not stop us from feeling sorry for them but life is not easy wherever you live and we all can empathise with wanting something we can't afford. 

Thanks for reading again.  

By the way 6 of the 10 bags I intend to bring home have been spoken for.  Get your order in quickly i

 

 

 

Joash, the young man requesting help for his nursing course

Planting for hope

Planting for hope

Another interesting day...the seeds of hope

Today was programmed to be restful and was relatively calm certainly more relaxed than some of what has happened and is due to happen next. 

As ever though, whilst sitting writing my blog in the bar, Brenda arrived. But what a transformed Brenda. 

After all the discussions recently about what she was doing and what she loved doing, she had arrived to show us the bags she designs and tries to sell. 

She was no longer the bowed, downtrodden little soul.  She talked with assurance and something near to passion. 

She had made the bags to show us. Although she was going to sell one to someone in the hotel. 

We again reiterated that we thought she should develop this real skill which she already had and loved doing. 

She said she had difficulty selling them. 

I asked whether any muzungu shops would sell them, she didn't know. 

I asked her if she could make 3 for me if I gave her some money for materials she said she would bring them on Wednesday. 

If, they are as good as they seem I hope to ask for another 10 to sell to some of you. 

Fired by the change we had witnessed, we walked up to Plot 99 and asked the owner who sells a small variety of native crafts whether he would see her and consider selling some of her bags. 

We have an appointment for that on Wednesday. Please hope that this will bring some success. 

Her promise to us, to be monitored by Doreen, is that she teaches her skills to others and uses the experience she acquires to grow her own business and help others to make better lives. That way, this seed could potentially change lives. 

We hope to get her outlets at 2 other craft outlets where tourists go before Wednesday

She charges less than £6 for her bags. If we can get her to produce 10 before we leave and sell them to you at double that she can begin a useful business. 

We don't have the knowledge to find secure ways for her to develop her business over a wider area.  The postal system here is corrupt and slow and theft is common. 

Perhaps someone out there has suggestions we would love to hear them. 

Doreen arrived to collect us just after 2 and we had a catch up on the fast moving events and developments stemming from this blog. 

Money from new sponsors has come through so 3 more children can go to school.  The fund for a prosthetic leg for Judith is growing. 

5 doctors have commented on the umbilical hernia and been hopeful that it may heal itself by the time Suzanne is 5 and money has been sent over for a doctor in Masaka to see her and monitor her progress. 

Should she need surgery at any point the group involved will reinstate their fundraising efforts. 

Judith the 19 year old who needs a prosthetic leg has found a job in a shop in Kampala where she will sit and sell goods. 

Things happen! 

 

Brenda when she asked for help

Showing one of the bags she designs and makes

A different style

And on to Doreen's

Doreen very much wanted us to visit her home and have some food with her. 

As I said before we often use the time together to learn more about life in all its intricacies here. 

Another thing we had done yesterday was to send some ibuprofen we had with us to the old lady we had visited earlier in the week. 

Jeremy and I had been extremely concerned by the vulnerability of old women living in insubstantial huts alone and I voiced this to Doreen. 

Would our visit make the people living around her now think she had money?  Muzungu people are invariably regarded as rich here, which relatively and materially of course we are.  Though I have explained the relative costs and emphasised both how much it costs to live and that poverty and deprivation are very much alive in the western world. 

Would the old lady be safe I asked.  Doreen said that she was protected by the mechanics who worked next to her hut and that they would bring her water. 

Doreen then brought up the surprising and horrendous fact that rape is what these old ladies are most at risk of.  Adding that often this kills them. 

Both old ladies we had met were not supported by their families and neither wanted to give up her home to be cared for elsewhere. 

Doreen felt that the old lady in the more rural area was probably at greater risk of rape because of the relative isolation of her home. 

As we were on the subject, and we had become aware of a campaign in the school we had visited, and on roadside hoardings, to say no to sex, or stop teenage pregnancy. I asked about sex education and whether there was much incidence of rape amongst younger women. 

In a nice semantic twist Doreen argued that at that age it was usually seduction. 

The consensus is that the age of consent is 14,although the newspaper claims it is 18.

Ironically, at the moment the current tourism minister has created a furore by suggesting that a way of promoting tourism here, in addition to the scenery and wildlife, might be a Miss Curvy Uganda competition and television here has shown some footage with overt focus on bums and boobs and women walking seductively round swimming pools. 

How mixed can messages be! 

Doreen's home was an oasis of calm and she had taken care to ensure that the food she provided avoided the pitfalls of my gluten intolerance. 

In return I taught her how to scramble eggs.  She had never known how to cook them

Then, before it got dark, back to the hotel and later in the evening a simple meal. 

Another memorable day, although, without this blog there is no chance we would remember everything!!! 

Chez Doreen

Courtyard of the group of houses

Reflections on life here

When we first arrived we noticed the prevalence of mo-peds, totally overcrowded minibuses and lorries belching excessive quantities of noxious fumes. 

Where there isn't the same prevalence of this, there is the red dust clouds, so pollution is a fact of life. 

Rubbish lies by roadsides and people walk over it, and the accumulation of animal droppings from the various pigs, goats and poultry that free range around the streets and more countrified areas. 

Young children carrying food or water walk along the edge of the road on uneven terrain, often carrying unbelievably heavy loads. 

Animals can run into the road with little warning and once it is dark the hazards remain similar, if anything, exacerbated by the chaotic lack of awareness for other road users of the riders or drivers who don't use the lights on their vehicles. People wearing dark clothing provide a further hazard so the whole thing is perilous. 

By a meandering route this brings me to the ubiquitous bicycle. 

Naively, on my first visit to the village, I perceived this as a recreational item for the children. 

Far from it. Bicycles here are reinforced with extra pieces of wrought iron and are beasts of burden. 

Just like the mo-peds, these bicycles can carry heavy loads which sometimes leave the space for someone to ride them, but more frequently, need to be pushed by one and sometimes two people in order to reach their destination which is often kilometres away. 

The training for these tasks begins before six years of age, and the effort and time involved leave little time for much else. 

Reinforced suspension struts on the bicycle

Dust cloud with pedestrians

Living space

Bicycle in the background

Masaka Central street

A storm, a purchase and two pleasant visits

We said goodbye to Adam and Mark after breakfast this morning with promises to meet up again, perhaps in Kampala before we leave.  Despite it being very dull they thought it was unlikely that it would rain.  The video from the bar at the hotel shows how misjudged that was! 

However, some 2 hours later we managed to walk to Plot 99, though not without mud splatters from the road. 

We had arranged to meet the seamstress who makes clothes and other goods for the restaurant as we had ordered a couple of items for ourselves. 

This transaction complete we indulged in a latte for Jeremy and a hot chocolate for me. 

We had barely finished this when Doreen arrived to take us to Pamela's home for a second time, this time to deliver a few clothes for her siblings, Alan 6, and Pauline 13.

Thereafter we visited Doreen's mum, really her auntie as both her parents died when she was very young. 

Her mum was a lovely feisty lady and between them they cooked us some sweet potato chips and made some guacamole to dip them in. 

Tea to drink was served and to finish we had a banana. 

All delicious and nothing to challenge us too much today. 

Nevertheless we were quite tired when we got back to the hotel so spent some time resting and are now about to order a light evening meal in the hotel

The storm

There is no video clip yet

Pamela and Alan

Taking our leave

The family and a little onlooker

Pamela and Pauline

Pamela Alan and Mum

With Doreen's mum, Kate

Guests with our hostess

Doreen with her other mum according to her

Chilling

At home

A day of contrasts

Today we had planned to meet Kia, the 20 year old volunteer worker for the Danish run childcare organisation and visit one of the projects her organisation is responsible for. 

Frequently babies and young children are abandoned and though this home is housing more than the ideal number of children for its size, they are happy, clean and cared for with lots of helpers and toys, not to mention very necessary hugs. 

They were not fazed by white faces, though not too sure about older white faces. 

We were impressed with the cleanliness and structure of this place, though Kia said she was glad to hear our perspectives as she tended to concentrate on what still needs to be done.

We all went to Plot 99 for a chat and snack after that visit.  Doreen even managed a nap! 

Kia left and we went to visit an old lady. 

The photos tell part of the story but in addition to the squalor and poverty of her existence she had recently been hit by a moped and been treated at the hospital. 

She has been left with pain in her back and shoulder and, just to add insult to injury, some youths had broken into her hut and stolen her mattress so is is sleeping on her bed base. 

She didn't let us inside her house as Doreen says she is something of a hoarder, keeping old tins, plastic bags and a variety of trash which she totally resists allowing anyone to clean. 

She was more than grateful for our visit, saying it would make people think she was important. 

What a sad, sad existence. 

We went to Grass Roots cafe on our return where I had the most delicious gluten free pancake, a treat indeed, though so so coloured by the misfortune of others. 

In the evening Adam and Mark, having returned from Tanzania, took us to the Zebra Hotel, in their extremely comfortable car. 

Adam became concerned about the welfare of a young mother with 2 small, obviously tired, children waiting in the road. He summoned a boda boda and paid the driver to take them home. 

The meal of fish we had was delicious and sleep eventually was sweet. 

What will today bring 

Plenty of helpers

Plenty of permanent staff too

Abandoned baby being cared for.

Toys and stimulating toys

Outdoor facilities

Kia holding a baby

Jaaja's road

Jaaja watching us leave

Jaaja's cooking area, opposite her hut

Sitting talking to us

Outlook from her hut

Jaaja leaving her hut to greet us

Showing the finished product

There is no video clip yet

Monday and an African feast

We didn't get to see the old lady as Brenda, the trainee who needs funding, and Doreen, arrived together. 

Helen had said she would like to meet Doreen and proceeded to demonstrate how she works with individuals to produce change.  Her strategy is to give people hope, skills and a purpose. 

In this way she transforms live and thereby communities. 

Doreen and Brenda listened with interest though not without trepidation as the conversation was challenging. 

Having worked in a management department of a University, I appreciate the concepts of seed funding, reskilling and mentoring and the significant changes it can produce. 

Hence this chance meeting may help me to introduce Doreen to different strategies for developing this very poor community.  We can hope so. 

Jeremy and I both felt tired after the intensity of this session and rested for a while after it, before going down to the bar for a drink and to meet Adam and Helen and their nephew Mark for an African feast Mark had organised for us. 

As usual the promised starting time slipped and the meal was later than planned. 

Very surprisingly Mark had sourced the meal externally and arrived with it to the hotel demanding plates platters and cutlery for all of us. 

The pictures show the meal and yet again invitations of hospitality in both Uganda and Tanzania were offered. 

The events of today follow

 

Doreen in the discussion about enabling Brenda

Helen talking to Brenda

Brenda a 16 year old who has no money and no hope

Discussing life

Cheers

The feast arrives

A problem solving night followed by a visit to a school

I spent chunks of the night trying to work out how to initiate change in girls like Brenda and in the wider community.  Not change that makes the community dependent on continuing sponsorship and thus in a state of dependency. 

Already the concept of providing education to equip people to initiate change and thus to support others, themselves and ultimately their communities. 

Helen's approach both frightened and inspired Doreen and, perhaps shell-shocked Brenda but it made total sense. 

Brenda was asking for £330 to complete the final year of a catering course.  Under Helen's questioning she revealed that her brother had been sponsoring the fees but Brenda had recently got a boyfriend and her sponsor had refused to pay any more. 

Brenda does not want to be a hotel worker really.  She would really like to design and make bags to sell.  None of her family work and the family ethos is thus of impoverished helplessness. 

Helen's passion is to work with people like her, as individuals and to equip them with a skill that they can share and in return after they have acquired hope and a purpose, as well as a skill they enjoy, they transmit and support, or even employ two others who learn from them and in their turn help others. 

She argues that with sponsorship money for the initial training, someone who has achieved this change, mentoring the individual and showing communities that shifting their mindset can achieve miracles from within a society. 

Doreen argued that she had attempted to get the village community to do this but could not shift their view of themselves and their capability. 

This morning I linked what Helen said to parables and a reinterpretation of such things as casting pearls before swine and the use of talents--referred to in biblical terms as a sum of money but possible also to mean skills.  Store up your talents and don't share them and you don't help anyone, including yourself, share them and you change lives. 

Doreen is making connections both, through us, with Helen who is willing to mentor her, and with the notion of planting and nurturing seeds of ope in individuals and seeing the growth that can produce. 

So what could grow from enabling adults to value themselves and what they can do. 

With relatively tired grey matter we left the hotel at 11am this morning and went to a primary school where we provided more wallpaper and the pencils, crayons and pens to produce some more drawings from a second print donated by our friend Peter which, again we left as a gift to the school. 

Every child in the school took part and enjoyed the experience as I hope the photos and videos testify. 

 

We got back to Internet availability to discover that 2 more little boys had found a sponsor through Gill and a small group of people wanted to set a fundraising team to provide a prosthetic leg for Judith.  Whilst Gill working hard to raise funds for the child with the umbilical hernia to have life changing surgery. 

 

Even grandparents can assist in changing lives

There is no video clip yet

There is no video clip yet

There is no video clip yet

Trip to school

Working with all the children currently in school

Maternity leave - a fallacy

Completing the drawings

The new starters

Peter's visual aid

Art lesson

Finished artworks

Saturday evening and the beginning of an important friendship

Update Saturday evening to Monday morning

If we imagined that we would have a restful evening and night after our marathon day we were mistaken. 

After a rest we came down to the restaurant and had a small evening meal. 

I noticed a large African gathering trying to take photos of the their celebration and offered to take a picture of the whole family together. 

This was accepted gratefully and we were thanked. 

We didn't tarry long after eating and went to bed hoping for a peaceful night. 

We fell into a deep sleep only to be awakened at around 2 15am by the amplified sounds of an evangelical rally in full flood.  Singing and drums dragging us into reluctant consciousness. 

This was followed by the sounds of the sounds of voices and footsteps as an influx of guests arrived back at the hotel. 

We resorted to closing the window and putting on the fan and trying to to sleep. Now, a combination of my stomach feeling uncertain and thoughts about the previous day meant that it took a long time to get back to sleep. 

On waking I found myself in need of imodium and a rehydration drink but felt well enough to go downstairs and have enough breakfast to take my antimalarial. 

Here, Helen and Adam joined us and we chatted about what they did, arranging to meet up with them to eat in the evening. 

Brenda, the trainee who had approached us for help to finish her studies approached us again and had no progress to report as yet. 

We had a lazy morning though I spent much of it writing the blog from Saturday and continued that after we walked up to Plot 99.

We had loosely arranged to meet up with Adam and Helen for an evening meal at the hotel but had ordered before they arrived. 

They joined us and our conversation continued until almost midnight, our latest night so far. 

We slept quite well last night and I ate the biggest  breakfast I have managed to date whilst having a fascinating conversation with Helen who works with needy groups and motivates and inspires them to make something of themselves and live their dreams by providing a learning opportunity and enabling them to pass on their skills to others. 

We are now invited to visit them in Tanzania next year. 

I mentioned Judith the girl whose leg had been amputated and the perilous state of her family.  Helen wants to meet, mentor and reskill her. 

Brenda, the trainee came back to see us and Helen spoke to her about her circumstances and has agreed to mentor her if we can find support for her to complete her final year of training.  Brenda really wants to be a chef. Her training could be completed with a cash injection of £350.

 

Instalment 2 of the amazing day

Leaving Junior back with his mum we set off, with the parting gift of 4 mangoes, and headed on to visit the church and donate a variety of things to the people there. 

We arrived, to great excitement as before, and were escorted to the church with numerous little people clinging to our hands and an adolescent boy carrying the suitcase containing clothes from our girls, ourselves, and a French friend, into the church, on his head, effortlessly. 

Again, we were escorted to the most comfortable seat, but this time mobbed by children wanting to hold us, or touch us. Here, Alan, Deo's younger brother, aged 4, was my little adoring follower. 

I had brought the church the gift of the print of painting of a lion, painted by my friend Peter. 

This, I had already decided would be my art class aid for the day. 

First, however, came  the task of distributing exercise books and other school requirements, all taken very seriously by all the children and adults watching. 

These school related items duly distributed, we moved on to donating clothes. This proceeded slowly and most of the children received at least one item of clothing as did the female adults. 

We felt sorry for the adolescent boys and men who were not very well catered for but who, in a heartwarming way were grateful for what had been given. 

Next, came distribution of school uniform to some of the older children and then children and adults appeared wearing items they had been given. 

The following pictures will describe it. 

We finished the donation of items by presenting the doll to Liberty. Again, she screamed and wouldn't look at us or the doll. 

We kept away whilst a group of women and girls helped her to touch, hold and feel the doll. 

At this stage she wouldn't look at its face but gradually looked at the back of its head, then held its hand. 

Eventually Doreen managed to get some photos of her looking at it and holding it. 

After she had eaten, with it beside her, I caught some long lens video of her walking out of the door with it.

Before this final minor triumph food was brought for everyone, starting with the children.  This had all been prepared by the women who had disappeared earlier. 

We didn't have a fan club surrounding us when food arrived and peace reigned save for the sound of eating and swallowing. 

After all the children were served, food was brought for us accompanied by cutlery. 

We were were given rice with matoke, based on green bananas with a spicy sauce containing beans. 

Very tasty, but neither of us managed a great deal of it, though what we left would be used to feed someone else. 

Before leaving for Uganda we had been in England and had begged the Range to give us a couple of end of series rolls of wallpaper. 

The friendly helpful man we spoke to there had been the charity project controller for another well known store and we explained our purpose and promised pictures of what we did with it. 

We spent the period directly after eating in cutting the paper in two down a central line and then divided each long strip into a number of pieces so that 32 people would be able to draw, after joint input from myself and my trusty translator. 

The pictures and video clips will explain the day and just look at the last one to experience our thanks. 

 

Mzungu are warned not to be out after dark, but we arrived home at 8pm after a journey that necessitated negotiating all the hazards of road, the potholes, people, animals and cars and scooters without lights. 

Additionally, we had an extra passenger with us and, her mattress in readiness for school. All of this had to be stuffed into the already crowded boot. Another day to remember.... Good job I am keeping the blog or any chance of sequencing this amazing adventure would be negligible in those who can have the odd senior moment. Enjoy the pictures 

 

Our fan club

Look what we got

New clothes for almost everyone

Delighted with my top

My new clothes

Exuding happiness

New school uniform

Everyone enjoyed the clothes distribution

Sharon 9 and her grandmother asking for a sponsor.

Beginning of acceptance

I can look at look at her back but not her face

Scared of us and the white doll

Food time

Art lesson in deepest Uganda

Finished artwork!

There is no video clip yet

There is no video clip yet

What an incredible day

Well here comes the marathon be prepared for a series of snapshots of the rich, and treacherous, tapestry of every day existence for a variety of people. 

Joseph was due to leave at 10am this morning so we got up, showered and took pills, applied sunscreen and insect repellent and made our way down to breakfast and thus were able to bid a fond farewell to him. 

Unbelievably Doreen arrived at 9-30 with the same purpose in mind. 

Just after 10 we waved goodbye to Jo and left ourselves to get a quantity of water and some elements of the 'requirements' for the children to go back to school. In a nutshell each child is required to provide everything they need for the year including exercise books, soap, foodstuffs, sanitary protection, loo rolls etc. 

For some of the families this is prohibitive. 

So our first visit of the day was to a stationery shop to buy 48 exercise books each containing 96 pages and some soap and salt.  This cost us a whole £10. So even if people feel they can't afford to help £10 can make an unbelievable difference to someone's life and chances of getting an education. 

As so often we drove on towards the village in pensive mood. 

The road was the least busy we had seen it and some of roadworks had been completed. 

I had been wondering why Doreen had a pelt of faux fur on the dashboard of the car as it produced glare in the windscreen.  This is there apparently to absorb heat and, given the heat, I now appreciate it much more than I had done. 

I will post a couple of pictures of the road and some video.  Note the red dust which is everywhere including on the leaves of the banana trees

Dusty vegetation and young children doing family tasks

The road to village

The road goes on

Persith at last!

Whilst we were hoping to speak to the mother of the baby with the umbilical hernia Persith and her cousins were waiting for us by the side of the road. 

We noticed that the house where we had seen the baby was shut up and locked so wondered how we would proceed now. 

Persith, on the right in the photo greeted us and we began to give her the gifts from Debbie and Andy. 

Her auntie, who was looking after them and who lived next-door greeted us and insisted that we went into the house. 

This house seemed slightly more affluent than many we had visited as it had an electricity meter. 

The house is nearer to Masaka and thus nearer to an existing supply.  The auntie told us that she had had electricity for a year and it had made a big difference. 

Persith changed into her new clothes and posed for the camera. 

Her aunt told us that she was 39 and her husband had died 2 years ago as he was killed in an attack in Somalia.  He had been a soldier. She has 3 of her own children aged 6, 4 and 2.

The youngest of these, Junior, sat on my knee during the visit and almost went to sleep.  I could kidnap him he was just a delightful little boy.  He later accompanied us to visit Judith, the 19 year old who had had to have her leg amputated in December in order to slow, or even halt, her cancer.  More of that later. 

On learning why we wanted to see the baby's mother auntie said she would get a message to her as she was at the home of a relative who had just died.  She was duly summoned and within 20 minutes arrived with her little girl. 

Persith and her cousin waiting for us to arrive

New clothes. Thank you Aunt Debbie

Inside Persith's Auntie's home

Super model Persith

Seeking Suzanne

Amazingly, today, time seemed to be working predictably and Suzanne, as we were now told was the name of the baby, and her beautiful mother arrived. 

With Doreen to translate, I explained that her baby needed to have surgery and that one of friend's, Gill, who had just sponsored Liberty, had seen a photo of her baby and said that she would try to get people to raise the money to have her tummy repaired.  I added that the longer she continued without the procedure the more likely it would be that she would be very ill and the bigger the cost would be. 

I said that to raise money we need to know how much this will cost and asked her if she could see a doctor. 

Again I am not sure of the cost of that but will try to find out. 

Another amazing show of thanks and gratitude for what we were trying to do and we moved on with a gift of eggs which we gave to Doreen and we got back into the car, Junior insisting on coming with me and Josephine, Suzanne's mum and Suzanne accompanying us as the funeral was happening in the Bush quite near to where Judith lives. 

Josephine and Suzanne

Happy with the news

And so to Judith.

The road we now took was easily the worst so far. Imagine all the strange routes that sat navs try to send you on and multiply that by 10.

How Doreen got down this track and turned the car, as well as getting up and out again defies belief.... Well certainly anything I might have believed. 

At a certain point where even Doreen accepted that we could not go further Josephine told us not to go further and left us taking a track to the right. The next bit of the track for us was to cross a 3 plank bridge which the car would have demolished and where would we have been then? 

Pictures to follow after the trip to Judith itself.

We climbed the track past a skinny but scary looking cow that bellowed at us.

Up another track to the right and we arrived at a mud brick and bamboo shack, Judith's home. 

Doreen entered on hand carved wooden crutches and we greeted her. 

In December I had been given some money for a painting I had done and had told the friend who had bought it that I would use it to send some money to help with Judith's treatment. Another girl who is a good friend of one of my daughters contributed a small sum.... She has no bank account but gave me a little money which I added to my donation at the time and explained to Doreen just what a big thing that donation was.  She was delighted. 

Judith was extremely happy to receive some clothes from those we had brought from home and my daughters are as humbled as us by seeing their clothes giving such pleasure to so many people. 

Judith wanted to show us her leg which was a big thing for her as she is still very aware of the extremity and irrevocability of it.  And she is only 19.

Judith, in such a horrendous quirk of fate, is, or was, the sole carer for her father who is unable to walk without massive difficulties following a birth defect. He can sit on a bike with someone else pedalling it, but it was Judith who went for water and dug groundnuts for both of them. 

We met her father later at the church. 

Then back down the track as the photos will show.  This experience will stay with us for ever! 

 

Meeting Judith

Wildlife

Back to car

Leaving the car behind us

I could steal Junior he is gorgeous

Non paying guest in the hotel!

Relaxation and a few hours of calm.

After writing this morning's catch up on the blog we walked in the heat to Plot 99 and after the puffing and pausing up the hilly dust road, passing one of the presidential palaces, we arrived in search of a shaded breezy spot in the garden of our favourite nearby watering spot. 

Here we chilled out until just gone 5, talking to each other and watching the swifts, hawks and stork flying above us and simply appreciating the availability of drinks, tasty snacks and chilled drinks or lemon and ginger tea. 

We had arranged to meet up with the lady who makes the clothes and other sewn craft items as we had decided to order some specific items for ourselves which we were able to do. 

Now we are back at the hotel where we have had a rest in our room before packing up a variety of things to deliver to the village tomorrow and art materials for an art session with up to 32 children of various ages.  It promises to be a long hot day so we declined the proposed charity barbecue despite it being Joseph's last night, as our energy levels are still quite low comparatively. 

So here we are, waiting to have something to eat, and writing tomorrow morning's blog. Don't expect the same tomorrow 

Chilling at Plot 99

Jeremy's favourite food

Taking in the view

Breathing in the beauty.

Sunset from our balcony

There is no video clip yet

Visiting Pamela, à girl we sponsor

Pamela and her mother in their home

Necklace and bracelet Pamela's mother had made for me

Pamela opening and wearing gifts

Our 2 visits on 31st January

This morning the unfortunate coincidence of no running water in the hotel and a bout of African tummy made me extremely uncomfortable but also brought me up short with the reality of no sanitation in our village.  Not an experience I would wish on anyone! 

Courtesy of immodium we ventured out to visit Pamela the first child we sponsored. 

We took some gifts and were greeted warmly though this family was noticeably shyer than either Shanitah's or Deo's. 

When I manage to load the videos we took you will see what happened. 

Pamela has a number of siblings and her younger brother Alan was rather subdued and listless and we learned that he had very recently been treated for malaria and didn't feel very well yet. 

We were given bananas and chopped pineapple which we shared with the children. Mother also provided chilled bottles of water, a first for us and very generous gesture.  When Pamela's mother presented me with a necklace and bracelet she had made for me, it was hard to contain my tears. 

We then went to visit Teacher Isaac and the school he is building after being ousted from the premises he had worked in for several years. 

In order to find the school building we again were hailed by excitement and smiles by groups of children on the road as we asked for directions. 

A teenager walked in front of the car for perhaps 200 metres down a very steep bumpy track and we were greeted by a large group of children who were delighted to pose for pictures. 

Then Teacher Isaac and his wife and baby greeted us warmly and showed us the school... Farewell to another assumption about readiness for the beginning of term! 

This was the hottest day we had had so far and behaving like a mountain goat scrambling down the road to the building was strenuous, especially a stomach that was still unreliable. 

We couldn't find any shade as the structure had neither a roof or a cleared floor space, so the visit was, perforce, quite curtailed. 

We did manage to speak to a number of people including one elderly man who was delighted to learn that I was older than him. Perhaps he wasn't so old after all!!? 

We took our leave after children crowding round me at the door of the car had laughed and crowded round to look at some of the photos we had taken. 

We were thanked for visiting the school and Uganda and moved back to hotel, where there was still no water, and rested before going to Plot 99 for the evening and where, apart 2 cubes of fresh pineapple at Pamela's House I had my first meal of the day, a bowl of pumpkin soup. 

As we left the hotel, Grace the receptionist informed us that tankers were delivering water as a temporary measure and miraculously we managed to flush the loo and have a warm shower. 

Grace also arranged, after Doreen had spoken to her, to bring a fan to our room where we spent a while before going to sleep and sleeping quite well for here. 

Just now, I'm writing this whilst sitting in the bar where air is flowing through the windows and my small breakfast has not yet caused any stomach cramps. 

We are deliberately having a more restful day today as tomorrow is going to be busy with a return trip to the village with a variety of tasks to perform. 

Enjoy the photos and thanks for reading this. 

Excited village children

Leaving the school with promises to return in term time.

First view of the school building

Picking a coffee bean

Ready for school on Monday!?

Village people

Teacher's wife and baby

Teacher Isaac

Yellow shirt

Sunset at the hotel

Evening meal at Plot 99

Paddy, Doreen's brother

Arriving with gifts

The new look footballers

What a difference a doll makes

Drawing lesson

Back to the orphanage bearing gifts

We spent a quiet morning writing the blog and responding to messages and then walked up to Plot 99 where we met Joseph and Kia, a beautiful 20 year old Danish girl who works with the charity connected to the hotel where we had the barbecue.  She works for the charity and is going to take us to visit a baby home they run sometime next week. 

After we had had a wide ranging discussion with them we went with Doreen to witness the process of collecting the sponsor money with Doreen. 

This involved her proving her identity and getting a piece of paper from one desk before standing in a long queue to pick up the cash then putting it in a wallet to share it with the particular payment to a school or hospital or other purpose. 

We then went to buy a football and some football strips and a pair of goalkeeping gloves for the three boys and dolls for the 2 girls.  This involved  a search for possible outlets for these rare products. 

When eventually found the process involved more than a small amount of bartering by Doreen although when I told the man selling the sports products that they were gifts for children in an orphanage he gave us a gift of 3 huge avocados. 

And so back to the orphanage where we were welcomed exuberantly and the gifts were an immediate hit.  I have never seen a group of boys change into different clothes at such speed. 

The baby Oliver, loved the baby doll and when we discovered that it could laugh it delighted her.  See the videos.  

I told 2 stories, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Matilda telling lies. Then we had a drawing and colouring session trying to look at proportions on a face and expression and colour that suggests different emotions. 

They loved it and rewarded us with yam and cassava followed by jackfruit. 

My stomach was feeling rather upset so by 6pm we were back at the hotel trying to relax but feeling the heat quite a lot. 

Catching up with messages in the bar we were greeted by a group of African guests who were a rally team in their leisure time and teachers in real life. 

They urged us to visit some schools in Kampala during our visit they didn't need money they wanted advice. 

They said that the curriculum was quite rigid and largely delivered orally with little interaction with individual needs.  So Mrs never stop educating launched into learning styles, fostering learning etc etc. Talked about how you could enable people to learn to learn, fish not being able to ride bicycles etc. 

Again an exchange of contact details and great thanks from the whole group who, having been raucous when we first entered the bar, turned down the television and all sat quietly and joined in the discussion. 

The challenges keep on coming and it seems that virtually every aspect of our past lives is of value to someone here. 

As this is a shorter blog than some of the others, just ponder this.  In Uganda a 5 year old child is expected to do household tasks like sweeping the floor and washing dishes.  By 8 a child is regarded as an adult for several purposes including being left in charge of younger siblings so the baby on the little boy's back on our first trip to the village was probably his responsibility. 

Once you have a child of 8 or over you can go to work and leave your kids and your 8 year old can care for them and feed them until you return. 

Mind boggling stuff for people used to the nannying cocoon of western culture. 

African tummy has hit me and grottily has coincided with the water being off in the hotel. I'm crossing my fingers that immodium will fix it, drinking bottled water and nibbling on some dry gluten free crispbread from home and taking the antimalarials as instructed Josiane!! 

Getting money

Document check

Patiently waiting

Eureka

Jackfruit

Peace with her doll

A day off?

This was planned to be a day of relaxation and we certainly needed it. I had a frustrating morning producing the blog from yesterday as loading slideshow seemed to become increasingly difficult. 

By the time of posting this I think 2 days ago will be more or less intact but it all seems to be taking longer. 

Just about 1pm we set off for Lake Nabugaboo à Lake which is connected to Lake Victoria. 

Today we took Doreen's 2 boys Dan, 13 and Nathan, 6 with us as well as Joseph who has provided information, inspiration and comic relief to us.  We will miss him when he returns to the UK on Saturday. 

6 of us piled into the car and set off on a road which provided us with a couple of hours of back seat African massage. 

Doreen had been before but has not driven there so we had frequent stops to ask the locals if we were on the right road. 

We got there having negotiated some lumps and bumps that nearly put us into orbit and clouds of red dust that obliterated our view and didn't do our lungs a power of good either.  Eventually we arrived and found a little paradise with an amazing number of birds, greedy monkeys and various dogs and a beautiful cat. 

Joseph, Doreen and the children swam in the Lake and we sampled African style fish and chips. Very peaceful and followed by a quick shower back at the hotel followed by a meal at Fricadell, the same restaurant where we had had the barbecue on Friday. 

We returned to the hotel and decided to try to produce the rest of Monday's blog then have an early. 

But and, isn't there always a but!  We got into conversation with a young ugandan businessman who had come to present at a conference about financial management. 

He spoke very good English and our wide ranging conversation drew on our motives for being here, insights from him on things Ugandan through the education system and the changes needed to, eventually, him tell telling that he was soon to be marrying and that he was aware of how many marriages failed and what would our advice be.  So we talked about assumptions and problems, listening and communicating as he continued to question.  It felt like teaching interpersonal relationships and eventually he has become a Facebook friend. 

Our early night became our latest yet and so to bed!!! 

Town road

Easy driving in town

Doreen and Nathan

In the lake

Joseph

Joseph

Doreen and her boys

Taking news and gifts to Kissekka

We set off later than expected but not later than expected as we become accustomed to Doreen time! 

The journey to the village was along the same marram road:a dirt track. I would love to make a video style commentary on the road as we go but we are not connected to the Internet so it is not too simple. 

This journey this time didn't follow a rainy morning and so each time a vehicle passed us a huge cloud of red dust obliterated the view completely. 

On arrival at the village area we had to find the homes of the various children we and our friends had sponsored.  We had planned  7 visits but only managed to find 5 children and hadn't time to visit 19 year old Judith, who had had a leg amputated to slow the development of her cancer, not long ago. 

The first port of call was Shanitah a 9 year old girl we sponsor and whose mother was delighted to welcome us.  See Shanitah photos 

Arriving at Shanitah's house

Shanitah, who we had met on Saturday beamed with delight when she met us.  Her mother, a young and beautiful woman was trembling with delight.  It was incredible to witness her total joy in meeting us.

We were welcomed into her home given a bench to sit and we proceeded to watch Shanitah open the gifts we had brought for her. 

We were at the point of leaving when Doreen told us that 'Mama Shanitah' wanted us to eat with the family. 

À plate of matokee with beans was placed on a bench in front of us and we were provided with 2 forks. We ate whilst the family watched and we passed the plate to the four or five children who had been sitting watching and they, African style began to eat the rest with their hands. 

This meal was, apart from salt, made totally with produce they grew and a part of the very small range of locally available dietary options. 

Our visit at an end, we left with a gift of 2 hands of bananas. Hugged, blessed and humbl

Shanitah and family

Shanitah's home and hospitality

Doreen

Doreen opening her gifts

Meeting Doreen and her family

 Doreen is a child who is sponsored by Debbie, her mother had actually shown us the way to Shanitah's House and now we returned with her to meet Doreen.  There is a slideshow about that in today's update. Again delight and again hugs, blessings and cries of complete excitement 

À gift of 2 large bunches of bananas and on to find our next child when I reminded Doreen that we were supposed to find the child whom the new donor had agreed to sponsor.  This time Doreen our contact borrowed 3 children from Doreen (child's) mother to help us find Liberty aged 4.

Finding Liberty

Breaking the news to Liberty's grandmother

We arrived at Liberty's home courtesy of our additional passengers and were greeted warmly.  The grandmother was stunned by the news and did not respond as one might have expected,becoming very quiet. The old lady sitting with her in on of the slide show pictures was the local pastor who talked to her in lugandan. 

I then told her that the donation would also include enough for a mattress at which she whooped and looked very relieved.  I said that her new sponsor had asked for some pictures and she tried to persuade Liberty to look at us but she continued to scream.  I told the grandmother not to force her and it was quite upsetting to think of it.  Blessings were heaped on us by the pastor before we left

Magret on the road side by chance

Meeting Magret

Magret a chance encounter

We didn't have any additional passenger guide to take us to Magret's home.  Pat sponsors Magret and had sent us a gift for her.  The postal system is both unpredictable and things frequently disappear en route so the system seems to be that any gifts for children are given to a muzungu, or white person, travelling to visit a child or help with a project take small gifts with them and this is how you can be sure that the children will actually receive the gift. 

We met Magret by the side of the road and gave her her gifts there and managed to find some clothes to give to a few other children who were with.  She hugged us and thanked us and went on her way with the ubiquitous plastic bag containing her newfound riches

 

Deo, a child we sponsor

Meeting Deo and his family

Deo showing his happiness

Meeting Deo's family

We had met Deo on Saturday and had already had a letter from him and his school report previously. 

He, and his family were delighted to see us and showed immense gratitude for what we were doing for them. 

We had brought Deo a hat and some tee-shirts which had belonged to our grandson Theo and the hat was his star gift.  Once on his head he and it were inseparable.  He also showed massive pleasure in the pack of 10 pairs of underpants and no doubt they would be shared with other family members. 

Again we left blessed by all and I was escorted back to the car with Deo holding my hand all the way. 

Next we would search for Persith one of Debbie's sponsored girls. 

 

 

Not finding Persith

Persith's area of the village

Not finding Persith

We found the area where Persith lives but she was apparently visiting her Grandmother so we looked at the area and spoke to some other children. The baby with the dreadful umbilical hernia in the first picture really touched our hearts and again we would really like to be able to help alleviate her condition. 

We are beginning to expect the varied reactions to us ranging from stares to wide grins to shouting 'muzungu' and alerting all their friends.  We had similar reactions in this area. 

Here relations of Persith, from a neighbouring shack promised they would tell her of our visit and gave us a big bunch of the green bananas used as a staple ingredient in matokke a savoury dish.  And so back to Masaka and a meal at the hotel.  An emotionally challenging day yet again

Back to Masaka

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Sunday 27th January

Recording yesterday's events for this blog ended at about midday after which I posted a picture of a little girl, in desperate need of help, on my Facebook page and within 5 minutes of that a friend had asked how she could sponsor her and has sent some money already. We will visit the grandmother today to give her the news that her little one can go to school. 

Yesterday again was more than overwhelming at times.  

We walked to the cafe at Plot 99 which has become our favourite place to relax and had a snack.  Doreen had been to church all morning and was cooking for her 2 boys. 

Joseph who was visiting a friend who runs an orphanage for street children had gone on ahead.  We were to follow with Doreen. 

Doreen arrived sometime later but we couldn't go to see Joe's friends as she didn't know how to get there. 

Joe had told us that when he first came to Masaka 6 years ago he had been very concerned by the number of children roaming the streets and sleeping rough.  He had rented a garage and bought some mattresses and given the children a space that they could lock at night.  These 2 friends had become involved and had eventually raised sufficient funds to build an orphanage which now houses over a hundred children 

So an opportunity we couldn't follow up on this occasion. 

We therefore went instead to an orphanage that has faced some difficulties recently and is going to have to be modified. 

Here we met only a handful of people.  5 children and a woman who was looking after these children until alternative premises can be found. 

Here the children spoke more English and we were able to interact more easily. 

Lawrence the eldest boy was charming and the group was interested to hear about us and various aspects of our lives including what it was like in an aeroplane, what snow was like etc. 

Jeremy, who has zero interest in football managed to dredge up the names of teams and link this to geography.  He really enjoyed it and we both laughed later at the irony of this being such a highlight for him. 

I showed the fascinated children photos of our family, our home and buildings in several European countries which they loved.  When they saw some pictures of my paintings they asked if I could teach them art...? So we are going back on Wednesday when Lawrence has promised to cook us cassava and we will take them some football related gifts for the boys and dolls for the baby and the young girl. 

Peace, a 10 year old girl sang us a song, in English, to welcome us and the touching of our skin and hair began again accompanied by many hugs. 

Lawrence acted as a father to the group and his combination of maturity and innocence was amazing for a 16 year old.  

Another incredible experience. 

The evening again at Plot 99.

Today we will meet the families of the children we and our friends sponsor and take them the gifts we have brought for them.  To be continued..... 

 

Lawrence 16, Ssouna, 13, Hababu, 12, Peace 19 and Oliver 2

Breakfast View 28th January 2019

26th January 2019 and the first trip to the village

I have already posted a number of photos but I am sure you will be interested in the details of the visit. 

As I have already mentioned the storm yesterday disrupted our intended starting time. 

So, eventually it was afternoon before we left. 

We bought petrol for the car Doreen has been lent and biscuits and lollipops for the children and left Masaka on a mud road leading through an area of marshland to a variety of little settlements and mud or tin houses

We now became more than aware of why setting off in rain would have been impossible. 

The road was misshapen with deep ditches at both sides and a number of ruts and potholes in it. 

The same variety of vehicles as we had witnessed on the road from the airport, were competing for road space and motorbikes bearing huge wide loads, for example we saw 2 bikes following each other and both bearing 2 seater sofas. 

Sometimes the distances between vehicles were miniscule both in terms of length and width. 

We progressed past banana and coffee plantations and 2 pauses for roadworks and eventually reached the home of one of the elderly ladies. 

We were invited to enter her home and greeted her with the luganda words Olie otiya, perhaps not the accepted spelling, and she grabbed our hands and shook them for several minutes. 

She was humblingly delighted to meet us. A friend and helper of hers arrived and repeated the intensity of greeting. Doreen delivered some food and some money to the old lady and we left. 

The same humbling feelings were to follow us all day. 

Outside her hut some local children arrived and stared at us.  Then, wooed by lollipops, they decided we were OK, apart from the baby clinging to his brother's back who screamed in terror at the white ghost in front of him.  He was probably about 6 months old and unlike many of the local children would never have seen a white person before

 The journey continued until we got to the village and met some of the children including the 3 we sponsor and those sponsored by Pat and Debbie.  We will see all of these children individually later to give them their specific gifts. 

The children sang for us as greeting and I took photos and my camera was passed to both Doreen and Jeremy to take different shots as the time went on. 

A bench had been brought out of one of the huts and carried out onto the field so that we had a seat and events moved on. 

Doreen had warned me that she would ask me to tell a story so I told them about my family and telling stories through the generations. 

Doreen translated as I went on and the news that I had 4 children and 13 grandchildren there was a huge ullullation from the group and the 3 adults who had joined us. 

Then Doreen asked me to organise a game.  My mind was blank so I got the children into 4 groups and asked them to get into order of age eldest at the back of each line. 

I then pointed to a tree and said that the groups in turn would move to it, round it and back to their place.  The first group were to move like monkeys and make monkey noises, the second, lions, third, crocodiles and 4th wild dogs. Then come back to the line. 

They loved it.  In the second half each team chose 2 representatives to move to a different tree, again making their team's noise 

Lollipops and biscuits again were gratefully accepted and that and a bottle of water delighted children and adults alike.  Normally all water has to be drawn from the local well and isn't clean and certainly would make us ill. 

Now the children really began to warm to us, touching our hands, feet and especially finger nails and, after disliking my feet for as long as I can remember, was told I had beautiful feet. 

Finishing these activities we were invited to go to the church and meet some of the adults. 

To children, now swarming round us and all trying to hold our hands, led us to the church and installed us on the most comfortable seat where we sat and some of them did a dance for us. 

Then we were invited to eat. People were dispatched to find a knife and fork each for us and another bench miraculously appeared.  The locals eat with their hands so cutlery is a rare luxury. 

The meal arrived a single plate of beans, cassava and matoke. Doreen and the 2 of us shared it. 

Then, we needed to meet some of the villagers and then, the next bombshell, we were going to speak to everyone with a loudspeaker. 

We made the brief statement of who we were and how special it was to meet everyone.  We said that we could not provide more than we are currently sending but that we would tell our friends and their friends about the village and hope that they might be willing to help. 

Just before we left an early lady, the mother of the local minister, arrived and gave me a handful of rafia bracelets she had made and wanted me to wear and to give some to my friends. 

Before we left I put on 2 of her bracelets and got of the car to show her.  She beamed, wrapped me in a hug which moved into a dance which the children applauded and an ullullation erupted. 

What a day! 

On the way home on a frighteningly high mound of roadworks mud we had an extremely near miss with a motorbike and skidded frighteningly but miraculously remained on the road. 

In the evening we went for a light meal and a drink to Plot 99 and thence to bed back at the hotel and with the aid of a lovely warm shower and a little white pill I had the best sleep since arriving here. 

We will see what today holds.  

 

Into the church and offered food

Meeting one of the elderly ladies in her home

She was so delighted to meet us

Meeting à few local children

And terrifying a baby who hadn't seen any white people

My impromptu game was well received!

Meeting the children we sponsor and others in the village

First trip to the village

Through roadworks and swamps coffee and banana plantations to the village

Noises in the night and our first full day

Unlike some of the places we have visited Uganda is only GMT plus 3 hours so we didn't anticipate jet lag would be much of an issue. Wrong!  Despite our journey and very little sleep on it we went to bed on our first night at 10pm local time and after dismantling the bed, as unbelievably it had a blanket and a heavy quilt which are very likely to spend a month in the bottom of our wardrobe, we wrapped ourselves in a sheet and ensured that mosquito net had no gaps and didn't come into contact with us. 

At about 3am we were awoken by the sound of earnest talking from a loudspeaker situated somewhere to the left of us down in the town.  This continued unabated for over an hour and just as we were going back to sleep it was succeeded at 5am by a loudspeaker from a slightly different direction giving a Muslim call to prayer which was repeated 3 times at 20 minute intervals and followed at 5-50am by the dawn chorus Masaka style of the hawks from the roof of the hotel noisily greeting the sun.  Then Jeremy who had slept between these night time delights decided to exercise his allergic response to something by sneezing repeatedly to herald the dawn.  "Oh what fun" I commented in a slightly less courteous way than that as I had to remember where, in my knackered pre sleep state, I had put the antihistamine.  Grrrr. 

Then I went back to sleep and managed about 3 hours before breakfast! 

Internet connection is much better near reception than in our room so my contact with the outside world including anybody here including the hotel reception desk is restricted.

Despite writing some blog on 2 occasions yesterday and this morning now we are dependent on messenger to contact Doreen and she is not always there. 

Yesterday she arranged to show us round Masaka but didn't arrive at the expected time so we sent her a message and ventured out alone. 

Someone had recommended Plot 99 a cafe nearby.  We left the hotel having left a message for Doreen at reception and ventured down one hill and up another asking 2 people at various points whether we were going in the right direction for Plot 99.  The first asked us which road it was on.  Of course we had no idea we had simply been told to go down the hill from the hotel and turn right and go up the big hill.  We did so and a second man near the top of the hill confirmed that we were nearly there. 

One surprise as we arrived was the offer of free Internet for customers and the second was to see a soldier in full uniform and carrying a rather large gun walking around just outside the cafe. 

The cafe provided some welcome drinks, allowed Jeremy to have some cake and prepared me a delicious fresh fruit salad of mangoes pineapple apple and watermelon. 

The Internet allowed us to contact Doreen and she arrived and took us to do some basic shopping meet Joseph who is a frequent visitor to Uganda and who has supported a number of young people here in different practical ways. 

We enjoyed another cafe stop with him and subsequently moved back to the hotel and some quick freshening up in our 3rd floor room which has no fan or air con and a shower which is often too cold for hot bodies. 

But this is undoubtedly the third world and poverty is brutally apparent as instance immediately to us by 2 young girls on work experience at the hotel who approached us and asked if we could help them to finish their education as their parents couldn't afford the fees for their final year of school.  To pay for both of them for a year's education would be 1 million shillings about £250.  We said that we would make enquiries but that we could not do it. 

Both Doreen and Joe said that it was only our first full day and this would be a regular feature of our stay.  There are so many various needs for organised and structured support groups here and so much potential to give money that will not get to the actual need. 

What we did do yesterday evening was attend a charity barbecue that has been setup by a Danish hotelier here from which all the money goes to support UCC à charity set up to support those under 18 who need support with educational needs along with other things. 

Covered in mossie repellant we passed a very pleasant evening and went to bed at about 10pm.

I slept with some difficulties until  2am and then wired by 2 caffeine rich coffees during the morning and feeling too hot heard the call to prayer and the hawks and the howling of dogs, the bass thump of distant music and all the various noises of a town whilst mentally replaying the events of the day. 

I went back to sleep around 6am and wasn't too ready to respond to the alarm set for 8 and breakfast in order to meet Doreen at 9.30am for our first trip to meet a group of the children she helps there although not yet our sponsored 3.

In the morning there has been a storm and as we have to wait for the mud road to dry we are now in the hotel and I have brought this blog up to date.  It is now 10-43 Uganda time and many of you will still be cosy in bed. 

More when it has happened 

 

 

View from our room

Mother and baby outside their business in Masaka

Working and walking on Kampala main road

View along main street from a shady balcony

Back to the hotel and more storks

Stork nesting in the grounds of the hotel

The journey continues

Eventually after going through the immigration process and reclaiming our luggage we walked out of the airport and searched the waiting faces for Doreen and then we recognised her, hugged her and found the taxi she had organised for us at an amazing price less than half of the price white people would usually have to pay. 

So the final phase of the journey took us eventually to Masaka. 

The initial section of the road was very Western and a real surprise to us.  Then came reality and a real melee of vehicles in various states of repair travelling very close to each other on a road lined with people selling a wide range of fruits, vegetables and everything from coffins to batteries and burning evil smelling substances. It challenged all our senses. 

On our way we stopped a couple of times to find a functioning atm which took our bankcard and eventually after several false attempts found one that took and dispensed the necessary currency. 

We then drove to a supermarket for water and whatever drinks Doreen and the driver wanted and then continued on our journey. 

We did not stop again until we reached the equator where we did the tourist thing and acquired a certificate duly stamped by our guide. See the photos which follow. 

We then drove on still feeling vulnerable at the absence of seat belts in the back of the car and the 2 cm distance between vehicles travelling at scary speeds for the quality of the road and eventually arrived at the hotel where Doreen negotiated another deal which saw the price of our hotel halved. 

The hotel boasts Internet access in the public areas so we could communicate with the outside world again and reassure people that we were here despite the various delays. 

The evening meal in the hotel was very tasty and so to bed in a room with a functioning toilet, a shower and a comfy bed under a copious mosquito net. 

I will leave the events of the night and today's events until tomorrow but there is much more to follow... Photos next and then to bed.  Goodnight 

In Masaka but what journey!!

We left home with the temperature standing at an amazing 2 degrees C. at 10.30am on Wednesday 23rd after farewells from our lovely neighbour and were driven to the railway station in Poitiers by another helpful neighbour. We are privileged to have some very kind near neighbours in every sense.

From Poitiers the journey to Paris by the lgv or newest train took us to Montparnasse in 79 minutes for almost 200 miles.  As we travelled north the snow became more apparent and we consoled ourselves with the prospect of future warmth. 

From a cold frosty Montparnasse we took a taxi to the airport and then, as became a feature of this journey, a few hours of limbo between checking in and actually flying anywhere.

The flight was delayed as the wings had to be sprayed to de-ice them.  Eventually however we took off from Paris and left the cold behind us.

Before take off I chatted briefly with a lady just over the aisle who was involved in a project to educate girls in Western Kenya about such issues as menstruation and sexual health as HIV infection and teen pregnancy are quite linked to poverty in some of the most impoverished and vulnerable areas. A fascinating insight and doubly interesting as she and her husband had researched malaria for many years.

As the flight got underway the full moon through the window of the plane attracted a lot of attention as it looked so huge. 

After eating and watching the new film 'Christopher Robin' whilst we tried to rest, though didn't do more than doze, the hours moved on and, after being offered breakfast at what must have been the equivalent of 2-30am in France, we landed late in Nairobi and dashed through the airport to what had been billed as our connecting flight. 

The girl at check-in was charming but said that all of our flight's connecting passengers had been booked into the next flight to Entebbe at 11.30am... despite the flight being on its final call it went without us. 

We were however given a voucher for breakfast and spent some time in 2 or 3 areas of Nairobi airport. 

Just before the flight was due to board a lady opposite us seemed to be speaking in an increasingly distressed way to a number of people and at one point was crying. I sensed her pain and asked her if she would be OK. She told me that she had lost 5 family members, all children, in the past year aged from 4 to 12.  The call that elicited her tears had been the news of the most recent. I was left wondering whether she had been en route to visit the family. 

Then, at last we boarded and flew over Lake Victoria to Entebbe. 

In a final quirk of fate once on the ground we had to wait, ' just a few minutes' for 3 more flights to land before we could taxi to the arrivals area  The journey between Entebbe and Masaka can wait for this evening but this will continue

On the ground in Entebbe view of Lake Victoria

Flying to Entebbe

On the ground in Nairobi

The moon from the plane

Three more sleeps...

This will be the final blog before we leave in some seventy hours.  We are still hovering between excitement and apprehension.  I don't think this is being neurotic I think it is the effect of considering the difference between life in a culture which is so different from our own. 

We can exist very contentedly in our normal bubble, can both achieve pleasure not only from our own surroundings, hobbies and relationship but also from the interaction with our dear family and friends. 

However, we are going to move outside of that bubble and experience a totally different way of life.  We are not setting off thinking of this as a holiday at all.  We are viewing it as an opportunity, a challenge and a chance to contribute something of ourselves and our time to a group of people from whom we can learn and with whom we can make connections and create shared memories. 

Doreen has been supportive in answering my concerns and questions and we both look forward to meeting her in the flesh.  She seems to have boundless energy so I hope she will benefit in some way from all the efforts she is making on our behalf. 

If you are reading this I hope you can follow our journey with us as unless the Internet isn't functioning at the hotel I hope to post photos and descriptions of our stay on a daily basis.  Just click on the link or check on Facebook.

I hope you will not be disappointed! 

Ready to discover

A little bit of background

Why did we decide to pick Uganda as our destination? 

To be honest we are still asking ourselves that. I suppose it stemmed from a variety of different influences.  The immediate cause was a chance meeting with someone who had spent 6 memorable weeks at an orphanage there and who introduced us to someone called Doreen who works with needy families in Masaka.  This led to us sponsoring the first of three children whose education we now support. 

That and regular communication with Doreen whetted our curiosity to see this for ourselves. 

 

One of Debbie's sponsored girls

Debbie's other sponsored girl

Preparations

Today has been spent choosing which cases to use given the amount clothes and art materials we are taking for the people benefiting from the project we will be visiting....not to mention our own need for clothes and lotions and potions! 

I am also half way through ironing little garments and sorting them into gender and age group piles.

The countdown is on.  The new year is almost here and with it

23rd January becomes ever nearer. 

To be continued 

 

Introduction to some of the children.

As I have already mentioned we sponsor 3 children and I have added photos of them. 

Two of our friends sponsor children too.  Debbie sponsors Doreen and Persith and Pat sponsors Magret. We will be meeting all of these girls and the young woman called Judith who has just lost her leg to cancer. 

 

Magret sponsored by Pat

Deo one of our sponsored children

Pamela, the first girl we sponsored

Shanitah our second sponsored girl

One of Debbie's 2 sponsored girls

From agreeing to sponsor Pamela on June 1st 2016 and after receiving photos letters and school reports we moved to sponsoring Shanitah a year or so later and this year added Deo to our sponsored family.

We have always enjoyed travelling to new places and meeting new people and enjoying or experiencing different cultures.

Our family became nomadic during the long summer holidays and we drove to various places in Europe staying in many places in France, Italy and Czechoslavakia when it first opened its borders to tourism.

As the elder children ceased to join us for summer holidays we extended our scope to include other more exotic destinations and always ventured off the tourist trail.

Work took me to the far east several times and our eldest daughter's period in Thailand increased our experience of other cultures.

Why then does this feel different? 

The short answer is twofold: disease and uneasiness. 

So far in our travels we have avoided malarial areas and thus have not had the need to have yellow fever jabs or take antimalarial medication.  I am on medication for atrial fibrillation and that can abreact with other drugs so is a concern.  In the same vein mosquitos adore me and seek me out for succour whilst shunning my spouse.  Another concern.  Does anyone know of a product trial for successful insect repellents that I can join? 

Enough of disease!!!! 

In terms of uneasiness that largely comes from other people and if they didn't matter to us it probably would not concern us too much. 

However when your children all express their concern for your safety and don't quite convince you that the joking about launching rescue missions isn't slightly more than a joke you do have to think about what you intend to do!!!! 

The countdown continues

4th January today and, for us, quite a lot of preparation has been done.  Our largest case has been packed with art materials and clothes for the children and others. 

À second case contains clothes for us and we are currently sorting through medicines lotions and potions to dissuade biting insects other nasties. 

I think we are beginning to be a bit excited but in a nervous kind of way.  Certainly we won't mind having warmer weather as currently you couldn't describe what we have as warm although the sun is shining and the sky is a wintery blue. 

This will be the first time we will cross the equator and one of the photo opportunities we want to include is the monument on the road to Masaka where you can place one foot on either side of the equator. 

I intend to post again, once, next week and probably again the following week and once we set off more regularly. 

À bientôt mes amis! 

 

 

Journey plans

As we should be in Uganda 2 weeks from now I have been reflecting on the coming journey.  

Our flight is due to leave Charles de Gaulle Airport at 7 45pm on 23rd and arrive in Nairobi at around 6am the following morning.  A shorter flight should then deposit us at Entebbe Airport at around 8.30am.  

We have got on-line visas which will have to be validated at that point and then after the repossession of luggage we are due to meet Doreen Kanyunyuzi who liaises with the children and their sponsors.  

This is going to be very interesting obviously but also rather strange as whilst we have seen photos of each other and exchanged lots of information we have not yet met which seems odd when I feel as if I know her quite well. 

She is organising a car to take us to our hotel, via the photo opportunity at the Equator monument where you can stand with one foot in each hemisphere. 

Two weeks from now, if all goes smoothly we will approaching our hotel. 

And now to plan a dozen art sessions for a group of 32 children aged between 6 and 16.  Anyone got any suggestions? 

Uganda.... The countdown

This blog is intended to be a record of our forthcoming trip to Uganda. It is written for our friends and aims to tell the story of our visit warts and all!!!

So many people have asked us to let them know how it goes that we thought a blog might be a good idea 

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. I'm a great place for you to tell your story and let your visitors know a little more about you.