Jiggers and jigging

Thursday 16th

Many experienced a morning trip into the hills with Gospel Cross this morning. The new CORPS were seen demonstrating and practicing the skills that had recently learned and passing on their knowledge to the villagers. Hilarious skits (dramas) where used to teach good anti-natal practices.

Ola’s foot clinic saw some of her most serious work and has been a highlight of the trip. She extracted jiggers from one old chap who was suffering greatly. We’ll not put you off your dinner by showing a photo!

Lovely gentleman in need of treatment from Ola

Lovely gentleman in need of treatment from Ola

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In the evening the whole team headed back to Butema village in Nsenge district for a party. Speeches of thanks were met by more speeches of thanks, then thanks for the thanks – let a Ugandan have a stage and try to get him off it! The village supplied us with wonderful food kept warm in banana leaves. People lined up in a queue so tightly you couldn’t see daylight between them! Somehow the food stretched to everyone.

big hugs from the community leader after gifts of soap, sugar and salt

big hugs from the community leader after gifts of soap, sugar and salt

one of the ladies who prepared dinner for us and the whole village

one of the ladies who prepared dinner for us and the whole village

Dancing to drums was enjoyed into the night, with sporadic quiet moments whilst the drums were warmed over an open fire. Simon and Duncan slept in the village to experience village life. They even helped dismantle marquees and return many plastic chairs to their homes. 

children laughing and playing with a plastic bottle

children laughing and playing with a plastic bottle

Premature baby unit, Jinja Hospital

Dr Jan writes on her experience today:

"I have just returned from a visit to give the suitcase of baby clothes to the ' in charge' at the premature baby unit in Jinja Hospital.

Let me paint a picture for you.

We drove through the hospital gates, up through the long, dusty drive and we parked outside the wire fence encompassing the maternity unit. The 'care givers' were sheltering from the sun making best use of the meager shade provided by the trees. They sat on the dusty earth, chatting away, somehow a community always seems to grow as relatives wait for news of their loved ones.

Each care giver had a plastic bowl, a papyrus mat and soap to help care for the new mothers. At night they are allowed on the maternity ward and they simply unroll the mat and sleep under the bed of the new mother - to be close at hand, bring food and help with basic nursing care.

The ward contained about 20 beds, some with new mattresses, other bedsteads were leaning towards the broken or missing bed wheel, and the mattresses were covered by cracked and torn plastic. Less than a half of the mothers choose to give birth in hospital, they stay at home through lack of knowledge or lack of money. The 'traditional birth attendants' help, but many of their practices are dangerous, and the government is clamping down on them.

We walked on through the postnatal ward into the special baby unit.

An air of sorrow pervaded. A mother stood in the waiting room, cradling a tiny bundle in her arms, the face obscured by a rough, red blanket. I tried to glance over, thinking I would see a frail newborn. Even from a distance I could see the grey translucent skin of the tiny babe. Our eyes met 'I'm so sorry' was all I could say. She nodded, lost in her grief. Relatives rushed around - they put a scarf on her head, sandals on her feet and led her gently down the steps to the outside fresh air. 

The 'in charge' explained that her baby had just died and they were taking him home, to bury him on their land. They needed to disguise that the baby was dead; as they could only afford to go home on a public bus- it was too expensive to provide the fare for a car ride.

There are only 10 cots in the ward, including one incubator. No drips, no ventilators - only the strong survive. The babies can weigh as little as 900gm, and a 750gm twin also died today.  Several mums sat with their tiny bundles on their laps, some supported by an older woman, probably the Jaja (Gran)  others looked frightened and alone. The in-charge finished some paper work for the dead baby and she came out to meet us. She was delighted by the gift of clothes and tiny hats from the ladies of the 'Knit & Natter' group of Altrincham hub had spent most of the year making these tiny clothes, they had been transported to Jinja by Ugandaid and now they were to be put to good use.

"Last week" she explained, "we had one mother who had nothing to cover her baby. I eventually found an old skirt, and a T-shirt to help wrap the baby. We have nothing else to help these women. Thank you, thank you, thank you."

So little to work with, so little to give the mothers - but her eyes were gentle and kind, and her smile lit up the bleak waiting room.

I reflected on the work I have been doing with Gospel Cross during the last two weeks, with Helen, Geoff and Eddie. The emphases of the course for the village health workers at Gospel Cross International has been on how to care for the pregnant ladies and help prevent the trauma of the premature birth.

On the wall of the premature baby unit, right behind me was a small poster encouraging 'kangaroo' care. That is nursing the premature babe on the mother's chest so giving skin to skin contact whenever possible. This keeps them warm and they are fed at least every 2 hours. We have been teaching that very technique this morning, and it felt so good to be 'on message'. We have also been learning about good nutrition, the need for rest and preparation  for birth . The 23 health workers have learnt so quickly and Sam, Betty, Aggrey ,Harriet and Mary have developed such good training skills too.

We drove back in silence to continue the Gospel Cross course.

"Betty, how do you stop becoming discouraged when the need is so great?" I asked. 

Betty smiled gently, she looked across to Dr Sam " We all try and do our little bit, we don't give up, we must keep trying to help and God keeps us strong."

I think she noticed the tears in my eyes, but she was wise enough to say nothing."

Snakes and ladders

Wednesday 15th

After a few days of not feeling too well with a tummy bug, it was good to see Julie H back in the fold.

We headed today to a village in Nsenge district and saw projects in progress and even helped out mudding a mud hut wall, which was just an excuse for adults to play in mud!

We met some of the project recipients, including Gertrude who lost her husband in 2008, and has been raising the 7 children alone. Now through funds raised by UgandAid, she was being built a brand new brick house by NVI. To round the story off beautifully, one of her daughters, Jacqueline, has just started studying catering at NVI as one of the UgandAid students. This opportunity gives the whole family a chance to change their lives.

Gertude's current house

Gertude's current house

There's a blog in December 2016 with a full description of all the projects. Thank you so much to everyone who fundraised and donated. 

one of the lovely village children - she cheered up once Naomi B got the bubbles out!

one of the lovely village children - she cheered up once Naomi B got the bubbles out!

A lovely lunch cooked for us by local ladies and followed by six groups playing games of snakes and ladders designed and made by Sue. The games provided an interactive way to discuss good health care for pregnant women and the importance of the health clinic. Great fun was had by all.

Ola once again had a queue of needy customers at her wonderful foot clinic.

The village had such a great community, it was very humbling. 

From Bridgewater to Nile water

Monday 13th

A week ago today we left home and flow south for the winter – well a couple of weeks of it.

Two degrees has become 30 degrees, and the Bridgewater canal has been replaced by the Nile – I can’t think why I came really!

Joking apart – the reasons we care became crystal clear today, as 25 of us split in five directions to learn, teach, share and encourage others in projects that covered over 150km of Uganda.

A trip to a primary school in Walukaba, a return to NVI for a formal tour, a 2 ½ hour trip to Passala, teaching at Betty’s with Gospel Cross and a laptop fixing session with Nigel.

At the primary school Naomi proved she was a secret West Ham United fan as she was forever blowing bubbles.

At Gospel Cross Eddie learnt and then taught what to do if and when his waters broke.

At NVI Judith saw chairs being made in the carpentry classroom out of wood from the old roof.

And in Passala Duncan and Peter met and inspirational lady called Francis whose determination and vision is now helping feed her old village through simple but effective irrigation and education.

To add to all that fun, Simon and Phil learnt how NOT to weld, then how to hack saw and weld it again the right way round. It all worked out well in the end.

Night night, zzzzzzz.

Chicken, chicken, dog

A wonderful day with NVI (Nile Vocational Institute), where we were the guests of honor at their Sunday service. Front row seats at the most joyous and musical Sunday service I have ever attended with one particular singer, better than anyone I have seen on any talent show.

Old friends met old friends and new became new friends – it was a special morning.

Then organized chaos took over in the afternoon as under the eye of school teacher Naomi T led us and all the UgandAid students in games. From egg and spoon (expert cheating again), to the more energetic and mad “chicken, chicken, dog” – ask me for rules later!

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The students had a whale of a time, as did we, and the treat of cake, sodas and ice cream put the cheery on the top. Add to that a view to die for over the source of the Nile and it was a very splendid day indeed. 

Ultraviolet light

Saturday 11th

Your starter for ten… how many letters in the alphabet? Not the Greek alphabet, or the Russian, just the plain and simple alphabet that runs fromA for apple to Z for Zebra? 26 right?

Not if you are Marshie who in his design of the alphabet mural used only 24! Was it his fear of too much Ugandan sunshine that made him leave out U and V (Ultraviolet – for anyone who needs the joke explaining)?

Luckily it was spotted by mike (obviously a man of letters) and corrected by our resident touch up artist Annabel. Kathy’s Centre is painted! Well done to everyone.

A group visited MVA led by Julie and Nigel and had great fun playing games with the children. Some very expert cheating occurred in musical chairs, and there were no intact eggs left at the end of the egg and spoon race.

Finally for tonight, a story of my own. Eddie and I (Duncan) were almost arrested today for taking a photo of the old colonial police station in jinja, complete with frontage a la Dixon of Dock Green. We were eventually allowed to go on our way by pleading ignorance and stupidity, both totally believable.

In the evening Naomi T had great difficulty preparing the team for game with the UgandAid students tomorrow. Adults are far harder to tech than children!

Night night, zzzzzz. 

Friday Fish 'n' Chips

Friday 10th

And so today many went their separate way – the majority however returned, on the excuse of a road, to Kathy’s Centre. The team worked hard doing the final painting, cleaning and the design and creation of a mural courtesy of Naomi T, Marshie, Annabel and Sue, in a colourful and clever kite shape. Tomorrow we just need to finish the mural and paint the kindergarten floor.

Ola’s can-do attitude led her to driving the mini-bus for the first time, navigating post holes to rival craters on the moon. She also set up a foot clinic at NVI for the day, dealing with a queue of corns, line of limps and a curious collection of other pedal problems.

The day was finished with a great curry in Jinja – this is apart from Geoff who chose good ol’ Fish ‘n’ Chips – well, it was Friday!

Man City V Man U

Thursday 9th

Another full day at Kathy’s Centre for most of the team saw all the walls and windows painted – so we felt very pleased with ourselves. We had broken the back of the work – a precursor for the journey back!

While there, Eddie kitted out two little ‘uns in tops and shorts of Manchester City – he has since been reported for child cruelty!! Come on you reds!

Jan, Helen and Geoff have been doing planning meetings with Gospel Cross for training programs, and Christine and Steve spent many hours in meetings at NVI today.

In the evening we all re-grouped and met with Joseph, the UgandAid coordinator at NVI, and pastor Alfred from Nile Baptist Church. Both shard a bit of their inspirational stories, and how much difference is being made to lives through sponsorship.

Only a short blog today because it’s been a long and hot one. 

News from ex-students

Wednesday 8th

Today we learned what Ugandan irony is – speed bumps on a road that is impossible to go aster than 10mph on!

If yesterday’s journey was a traffic nightmare, today’s was a tarmac (or lack of) nightmare. It did, however, take us to a very special place – Kathy’s centre.

A women’s centre for social and physical health care built in the memory of Kathy Smedley (see earlier blog).

Kathy and her husband Martin, started Act4Africa to use drama to educate the populous about the dangers of AIDS and other such illnesses. Kathy was part of the very first ABC trip, but sadly passed away in 2014. Kathy would have been thrilled to see her dream project in full flow and with many of her old friends with paint brushes in their hands.

Two students of NVI, Yuda and Bonny, where proudly working on the build under the watchful eye of their boss Japheth – also an old boy of NVI. Yuda and Bonny were sponsored through UgandAid, and expressed sincere appreciation and thanks for the way UgandAid has changed their lives.

Julie won the right to a special mention by ending the day with as much red paint on her as the door she was painting. She looked like an extra for a 1960’s horror film!

One last piece of joyous news was a letter written to all of us by another ex-student. Juliet – now working at the hotel and so very grateful for all UgandAid has done for her.

We’re back at Kathy’s Centre tomorrow – really looking forward to the journey!!

M6 - the road of distant dreams

Tuesday 7th

All 25 of us arrived safely in Uganda (actually Peter was already here) – which is more than can be said for Tony’s camera which only made it to Belgium.

On arrival in Entebbe, we had remarkable success in the “name everyone’s name” game before a well-earned sleep.

The 50 miles road trip from Kampala to Jinja took a mere “bum-numbing” 3 hours, making the M6 seem like the road of distant dreams! All local drivers obeying the Ugandan rule of the road – this is, he who has the biggest vehicle rules the road!

A few drinks in a bar overlooking the Nile and the sauna of the bus ride became a distant memory.

Blog written, time for bed! 

Apple Pie

As the team do their final preparations and get an early night before flying tomorrow morning, here's a story from Peter who is already in Uganda to whet your appetite for what's to come. 

Whilst in a cafe in Jinja, I asked for some apple pie. "Just a moment" said the waiter, I'll go and get it.  

He returned a few minutes later: "It's not working."

"Excuse me?" I said, "what do you mean?"

"It's not working", the waiter said again, "it's due to the rain." 

"The rain?", I enquired, "the apple pie?" 

"No, I can't give you the code because has broken the wifi."

Wifi... apple pie... I guess they sound similar! Very Faulty Towers. And after all that, they didn't have any apple pie anyway! 

Kathy's Centre

We'll be supporting our friends at Act4Africa whilst we are in Uganda in February by decorating Kathy's Centre and taking donations for the kindergarten. 

Act4Africa are building Kathy's Centre in memory of their co-founder, Kathy Smedley, who died in August 2014. Kathy’s Centre will provide a kindergarten/early years education facility and access to advice, counselling and health support for women. Kathy’s Centre will effectively draw together all the issues that mattered most to Kathy Smedley under one roof. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate her life.

Act4Africa's website has everything you need to know about the centre, the build progress, fundraising and partnership with EFOD (Engineers For Overseas Development). 


Where is Kathy’s Centre being built? 

With the money raised already Act4Africa have purchased 3 acres of land on which to build Kathy’s Centre.  The site is on the outskirts of Uganda’s Mayuge town, not far from where Kathy spent many years working with the local community.  It is in an ideal location, next to the main road and within easy reach for the local population.

Why does Mayuge need Kathy’s Centre?

Gender inequality in rural Uganda, as in much of rural Africa, is entrenched. This leads to both health problems and poverty, which together create a degenerative cycle from which women find it difficult to break free:

– Women lack the knowledge and ability to control their own sexual and reproductive health

– Many are not using modern methods of contraception

– There are high rates of teenage and unwanted pregnancies, leading to unsafe abortions, or death in childbirth for girls simply too young to bear children

As a result women are three to five times more likely than men to be infected with HIV

– Most women are involved in subsistence farming, an existence ever-vulnerable to the adverse effects of drought or illness

– Many leave school early, with little to no chance of ever finding waged employment

– Poverty and lack of opportunity lead to high risk sexual behaviour and limit access to health services

Village projects for February 2017

In February, the UgandAid team will be supporting the work of Nile Vocational Institute's Community Based Training (CBT) program. 

The community of Butema has been identified the focus for February 2017's fundraising efforts. Through various village meetings, vulnerable and needy individuals have been identified that will benefit from the support. The community has pledged to support the process by providing labour during the project process.

The six people and projects are briefly below. 

Brick House for Nakandha Esther £1150

Single mother Esther was abandoned by her husband and left to care for five children. She practices farming on a small scale and desperately needs a new brick house as her current home leaks during the rainy season.

Brick house for Aguti Gertrude 

Gertrude is a widow with six children, ranging from 10 to 30-years old. Her eldest daughter suffers from HIV, and is too weak and frail to work. The community has pledged 2000 bricks to contribute to her new home.

Pit latrine for Mzee Mudambi Muhammed

70 year old Muhammed is married with seven children. Only three children attend school: four have dropped out of school due to lack of fees. The village would like to dig a pit latrine to support the family. 

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Local House for Nabwire Rose £545

Nabber Rose is 54, a widow and lives with her grandchildren and sister. She lived in a rented house until the death of her husband meant she couldn't afford the rent anymore. The community has recommended her for a house and small piece of land donated to her by her sister. 

Pit Latrinee for Butema Church of Uganda £685

Butema Church Nursery School is run by the church to provide affordable early childhood education. Crucially, the school lacks a pit latrine and has therefore been selected by the community group for help from the CBT and UgandAid teams. 

Pit Latrine for Muwanguzi Aisha £575

25 year old Aisha cares for 6 children, 3 of her own, and 3 step children ranging from three to 10 years old. Her husband left her to care for the six children so she rents out part of her home to tenants as income. The community recommended Aisha for a pit latrine. 

If you'd like to contribute to any of these projects, please donate online: https://www.justgiving.com/UgandAid

NVI graduation 2016

Nile Vocational Institute – Graduation Day 7th October

October 7th was a day for much celebration at NVI as over 400 students graduated from their two and three year courses, with their excited families or guardians watching on proudly.   The occasion was celebrated with presentations, music, dance and even a student gymnastic display.   The acrobats not only made a human pyramid, but also a number of them jumped through a hoop of fire!

We are delighted that 45 students sponsored by UgandAid graduated that day in a whole range of subjects.  Most are already employed or have progressed to further study.

Congratulations to all of you!  We are very proud and wish you much success in the future as you go out into the world of work and self sufficiency.   Also, a massive thank you to all the sponsors and supporters who made this possible, and changed lives forever.