Even grandparents can have adventures!

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

Catch up time

We are back! I have days of news to share but I am not going to do so now.  I will instead just post some photos and videos 

.Two challenging but very different days. After writing my blog yesterday morning we walked into Masaka, taking a route across the common land I have already mentioned. We needed to visit the atm to get some cash because today's task was to get the mattresses, bags and other items that sponsors had promised to buy. We were to meet Doreen here in order to find her usual suppliers, not an uncomplicated task in itself. We met in a cafe called Grass Roots which we returned to 3 times during the day as it was hot and the collection of items invandolved a lot of shanks pony! I will not go into massive detail but each purchase involved bargaining and negotiating often over ridiculously small amounts. For example mattresses bags, at two different outlets, involved seeing what was available and then haggling over pennies. My suggestion that we bought the 2 mattresses we needed together and try to get a better price for two met initially with scepticism from Doreen but saved us some precious shillings. We managed to find most of what we needed and also discovered an outlet for Brenda's bags. No cash upfront to her but a potential place to reach tourists wanting a souvenir. Now we need to see whether she will turn up with the goods. We wanted to buy art materials and other educational items so when Doreen was summoned to a meeting we braved the stationers alone with success. We walked almost 5 kilometres in the heat and my fascination of the day was people and children carrying various items on their heads. The deportment of these beautiful people is incredible and the manual work they do is very humbling. Our day was long and we relaxed over dinner back at the hotel without meeting anyone who challenged us. Our companions a clutch of clergymen were occupied with their own issues and we were relieved when sleep eventually came not to be disturbed by banging doors. Morning brought a bit of a rude awakening as, as if summoned by the Muslim call to prayer at 6am they got up and made what we perceived as an unholy noise at the other end of the night. Morning came and the routine of breakfast. The next bit of what has become my routine normally involves getting on with the blog. Frustration ensued and yesterday's difficulties were magnified and I was forced to give up. Today we have visited and been totally amazed by the co-operative village project set up by Kate Oakley and Apollo her Ugandan director. I think our visit there today has been a really significant event both for ourselves and Doreen. The sustainable farming co-operative and thriving school amazed us. We have learnt so much today and found people who already feel like old friends and sincerely hope to be able to work together in future to bring some of the magnificent changes we found there to our village of Kissekka. I can't use high enough praise for that village and the welcome from both children and staff at the school they have set up was incredible Some of the pictures and video footage speak more eloquently than mere words. What a day! 13th February Sat trying to access the blog again this morning and failed miserably felt both frustrated and that I was letting people down by not being able to continue the story. In general the net was difficult everywhere we went. Brenda arrived with the 3 bags I had ordered. These immaculately finished and we are delighted with them. As promised we took her firstly to Plot 99 where the bags excited the staff. One girl even going so far as to ask Brenda to teach her how to make them which Brenda is willing to do. We spent some time teaching Brenda a few techniques connected with managing a business whilst having a drink. We couldn't contact Doreen so walked down into Masaka with Brenda and getting her another drink and some cake and again showing the sample bags. The upshot is that both outlets will put her bags on show and tell people about them. Neither place pays her up front but she gets the money she asks on each item sold. Both of these places are tourist haunts so Brenda has hope and will pursue her passion. We paid Brenda for the bags she had made and gave her money for materials for the bags we want her to complete for Tuesday evening. We also gave her a sketch pad and pencils we had brought from England with which she was totally delighted. Then we parted and walked back up the hill to Plot 99 where Doreen met us after a difficult day as her car had given up the ghost just after she'd left us last night. The next arrivals at Plot 99 were Kate, Apollo and the current volunteers from Planting for Hope. I have promised training sessions for the teachers at the school we visited yesterday for next January and we discussed further details of the village and its development and Doreen was able to listen and learn from this dynamic team. A good day! 14th Feb Valentines day now to known as mad muzungu day! The plan had been to visit 3 schools but sadly we did a very productive visit to one and called briefly at a second. The third had said it would be closed for Valentine's day which seemed unlikely! So we duly arrived late, something we hate, at the first school and met Alex the Head. The children were primed for our visit and excited. Muzungu are as rare as hen's teeth in this area and some of the very new entrants were frightened to approach us. We had an initial welcome in the head's office before venturing into a large classroom where over 50 children from primary 5 and 6 were eagerly awaiting us. We entered the room as they all stood up and chanted their greeting. 'You are welcome dear our visitors.' And so it started. Another of Peter's artworks serving as teaching material and being left as a gift for the school. It was very hot and challenging. The translation issue was ever present but with a combination of time, my drawing to demonstrate size shape and spacing and the various translations going on resulted in all the children working into their lunchtime and being pleased with their efforts. Two of the teachers joined in on this session and gained a lot. We finished this session with photos and then for some unaccountable reasons every female member of staff wanted a photo with me. Sisters unite!! Over lunch which the head insisted we had with them we discussed some of the issues facing the school. Building work needed and no funds, resources and the extreme poverty which sees some children coming to school and collapsing through starvation. One child had been taken to a doctor by the head and the diagnosis had been long term malnutrition. When given food she could not stomach more than teaspoonfuls without vomiting as her stomach was so tiny. The end of lunchtime was marked by a walk round the buildings all in need of funds and tlc. The afternoon session to 32 children and the head and maths teacher was delightful. I mentioned how art was sometimes quite mathematical and pointed out the angles and proportions involved. This sparked Mr Maths and he gave gasps of surprise at my quick sketch to demonstrate the angle, size and proximity of the birds in the picture. He started to try to draw them on the blackboard as, not to be outdone, did the head!! They both found it more difficult than they had imagined and the atmosphere lightened and became competitive as some of the children began to realise that even these 2 could be challenged by something they had been asked to do. Mire photos and promises to return and try to do more next year. The staff actively saying that they would like to put art on the timetable. What a triumph!! Then to a school where most of the sponsored children go. Only time to meet Dickson the head and photograph some of the sponsored children including the two little boys who Jacqueline has sponsored. We promised to return and spend more time with them next year. This place gives us so much more than we give them. I came back with a neat little line of flea bites which itch more than a little in the heat but hey, I could have a shower and food unlike so many of them. In the evening we were more than tired but had a drink in the hotel bar with Doreen and she met someone she had met some time before. He works with the Masaka marathon, now an international affair with big name sponsors. They are developing bricks which will be cheaper than concrete and made from recycled plastic. They can take any sort of plastic and pay good money per kilo of waste plastic. We are going to push the case for our village and apply for funding for solar power and or.water storage facilities but wouldn't it be amazing to get a team together to compete in the Masaka marathon in June 2020 and get sponsorship for each of the team to do something to bring hope and self sufficiency to our village. Friday already and the sad réalisation that this time next week we should be at home noticing the reduction in temperature and the delights of getting back to reality. We had various purchases to make and wanted to find a few souvenirs to take home. As always the sheer variety of outlets amazed us. On the way to Masaka a group of workmen, who we had greeted on a couple of occasions, asked Jeremy if I was his wife and how long we had been together. When he said 30 years they all clapped us. Wow. We walked quite a long way and sheltered in Grass Roots for a while as the rain fell torrentially for some 30 minutes. The street cleared quite quickly though not with the speed we had witnessed in Thailand. Doreen didn't join us until after 4 as she couldn't drive on the muddy roads near her home until the rain had dried up. We bought the final few purchases and went to Plot 99 for a drink before returning to the hotel where the evening passed uneventfully. Today, rain willing, it is our final visit to the village where the plan is to deliver some of gifts from sponsors as well as take more photos and attempt to do some painting. Could be a marathon!

The school at Planting for Hope

Watching the assembly

Children at school

Planting for Hope

Spacious compound

How it was

The favourite place

Baby class

Primary 1 class

School buildings


The redoubtable Kate Oakley