Emily's Spotlight

“My focus throughout the trip has been with Nile Vocational Institute (NVI).  Before leaving to come to Uganda, the company I work for (RSK), showed a phenomenal amount of support and encouragement for the projects Ugandaid are doing.

This has lead to organizing a meeting with RSK’s East African projects team and NVI to discuss ways to fill any gaps in the current curriculum so NVI can meet the standards required for students to go directly into industry, as well as possible appointments for industrial placements and hopefully create lasting connections.

Alongside this, the money raised by RSK has been enough to sponsor a student through a two-year training course at NVI.  The student is Amos Ssewonkambo, who is just starting on the welding and sheet metal work course.  It was such a joy meeting him on Sunday, hearing about his life and heart warming to see how happy and gracious he is about having the opportunity to study and to achieve his dream to work and see distant countries through this.”


Day 7 - Rafting and the Haven

Helen and Jan arrived in Jinja yesterday to complete the team.  We are now 24.

Today is officially a day off so 8 intrepid adventurers headed off to brave the Nile rapids: Eamon, Emily, Isaac, Laurie, Paul, Peter, Richard and Stuart.

Phil, Yvonne, Christine and Ness paid a quick introductory visit to Walakuba East Primary School while Tony, Naomi and Ritchie went into Jinja. Pauline made more phonic resources; Gill, Sheila and Angie wound skeins of wool into balls.  Jan and Helen sorted out cases full of clothes, Steve worked on the accounts, Andrew worked on his sermon for Sunday.

Most of the non-rafters spent the rest of the day at The Haven – a beautiful spot with an amazing view over the first set of the rafters’ rapids on the river Nile.  A temporary office was set up on the outdoor tables and lots of talking, discussion, planning, preparation and blogging completed.

Day 6 - Worship at NVI and Games at the Source

Today was Sunday.  On Sundays it has become a tradition for the Ugandaid team to be invited to attend the weekly worship service at NVI with the students.

This was not your ordinary service.  Although it was lead by NVI’s pastor, Rev. Luke, the students played a large part which involved a dazzling array of music, dancing, singing and skits (drama sketches). We were blown away by the colour, vibrance, noise and total freedom of expression in the students’ worship.

A visiting bishop delivered a powerful message on the importance of holding on to what we know to be right and not to compromise our Christian beliefs because of pressure from others.  He told us to ‘do what God has put in our hearts to do.  God is looking for men and women who can stand up for the truth’.

It has become another tradition for the team to organize a games afternoon at a local beauty spot over looking the source of the Nile.  Angie did a brilliant job of planning and organizing games for 150 students.  They were split into 8 teams (of roughly 16 in each) and led by 2 of the team.  We played duck, duck, goose, ladders and relay races of various types.  One game involved dressing one from each team in a hat, scarf, gloves and flip flops, undressing and then redressing them – in the form of a relay race.  Another took a little more explaining and involved collecting balloons (water-filled) and then stealing from other teams with the aim of ending up with one of each colour.  The competition was rife and some teams even resorted to cheating.   The games ended with balloon bursting and football.  The 150 ice-creams arrived still frozen  and were handed out with a cake each as well.

We all had an absolutely brilliant afternoon full of fun and laughter.  It was wonderful to have an opportunity after the games were finished to spend time chatting and getting to know (or reconnecting with) the students.  It is very moving to hear their stories and expressions of gratitude for the opportunity they have been given by Ugandaid and NVI. Many of the students have a strong Christian faith and tell us how thankful they are to God, assuring us that they will work very hard and achieve good results.  It has proved to be the case that Ugandaid students consistently perform very well in their studies.


Day 5 - The Grand Finish

A busy morning adding finishing touches – cleaning the floor, completing the gloss work, polishing windows, repainting the blackboards and finally preparing the floor with acid and then painting with floor paint.  We are all very pleased with the finished result.  We lunched on bananas and nuts.

There are lots of plans being made for next week – it looks like the rest of our time here is going to be very busy with team members involved in a variety of projects.

We are really excited about the NVI Sunday church service tomorrow.  We have heard the students practicing their very lively worship songs. 

Day 4 The Big Gloss on a National Holiday

Today is a National Holiday in Uganda.  The traffic was thankfully quiet, especially on the bridge across the Nile leading to Nile Vocational Institute.

It was heart warming to see the staff at NVI, on what should be a holiday for them, still providing us with the warmest hospitality, which included a hearty lunch of fish and chips (Ugandan style).

Another day of painting the mechanics classrooms was at the centre of our work.  Now the walls of the two classrooms and small offices had received a generous undercoat, the final gloss layer could be applied.

People spent the afternoon in various ways – some went into Jinja, some made resources for a teacher training session at NVI next week using 100s of plastic water bottles.   Meetings were held to arrange the student picnic/games afternoon on Sunday and church services.  The core team have many other meetings and arrangements going on in the background with the common aim of improving lives.

The weather here in Uganda these last few days has been very sunny but extremely hot, even for the locals.  Our dedicated tam leaders; Christine, Peter, Phil, Steve, Tony and Naomi, made sure everyone drank enough water and kept out of the 35°C heat as much as possible.

Over the last few days we have heard many inspiring stories from ex-students and staff and NVI, mainly the stories of Joshua, Joseph, Emanuel and Simon Peter who came to our hotel especially to share their experiences with us.   We will be sharing some of these stories on this blog over the next few days.


Day 3 - More Hard Work at the NVI

A hard day’s work by all scraping and painting undercoat, punctuated by a very welcome lunch provided by the catering students.  The 2 classrooms are beginning to shape up and we hope to finish the gloss work tomorrow.

We all feel so welcome and appreciated here.   Many of the people at NVI have been expressing their gratitude for the long-term commitment, shown by the Ugandaid team, to the work at NVI.  Deep loving relationships have been built up between core members of the team and staff and students and this is very evident.

It has been fantastic to meet former students and hear their life stories about how NVI has changed their life.  NVI is a truly wonderful place with a visionary leader who aspires for NVI to be the best.  As well as providing 3-year vocational training courses, NVI also offer basic skills training for vulnerable young people. 

We have all been struck by the strong Christian faith of the teaching staff and how this is evident in the love and care shown to students.

Day 2 - Nile Vocational Institute

Our first day started with Prayers and Reflection led by Andrew, our resident pastor.  He encouraged us to think about the things we are thankful for, which was an easy task.


The teams first visit to the Nile Vocational Institute of the 2018 trip started with a warm welcome from Edison, the acting director, and his staff; Robert (Finance and Accounting Director), Prossi (Human Resources), Rogers (Student Welfare), Reverent Luke (Pastor and French and Swahili teacher), Judith (Accountant) and Joseph (Industrial training and Ugandaid coordinator).


It is evident that NVI live out their Christian beliefs and ethos in everything they do. Despite their lack of resources Edison gives thanks to God showing his deep and living faith.

The team was provided the most delicious late breakfast, prepared by the wonderful students studying Catering and Hotel Management.   This consisted of samosas, fresh fish fingers, chicken thighs, potatoes, chapatti’s and freshly made coleslaw.

We were given the grand tour by Edison where we saw the Institute’s students hard at work in the welding and sheet metal application, plumbing, carpentry, catering & hotel management, textiles, secretarial, agricultural, bricklaying & concrete practice, hairdressing, early years childcare and electrical installation departments.  The appreciation, shown by the Institutes staff, for the hard work and dedication of Ugandaid was overwhelming.

The dedicated Ugandaid team spent the afternoon cleaning the Motor Mechanic classrooms in preparation for painting – a hot and dirty job but with 22 at work son accomplished. 

Ugandaid 2018 Journey Begins!!

After a very long flight, late night and early start the Ugandaid 2018 journey finally began.

We were expertly driven by our dedicated Katenda, through the bustling streets of Kampala and onward for 4 hot, sticky and bumpy hours to our final destination of Jinja.

A well earned rest at the beauty spot, the Nile Palace, was had by all before an evening meal and the surprise appearance of Eddison, the acting director of the Nile Vocational Institute, whom we are very much looking forward to seeing tomorrow when the hard work really begins. 

Bags loaded.  Waiting for the off!!
Stretching our legs.  Getting hotter every minute!!
Taking in Uganda as we drive along.
Journey down to the Nile with Isaac
Hard earned rest after a long day of travelling.

Pot holes in the sky

Tuesday 21st and Wednesday 22nd

As we prepared to leave, we reflected on what has been given this trip, and more importantly, what we have received. The overwhelming feeling was that we have received far more than we’ve given. The friendships we’ve nurtured over the years are really worth celebrating as they provide the trust needed to make a positive change in Uganda. We can offer resources, knowledge and hope, but it’s the Ugandan people who drive change

Christine talked of the student she and Peter have sponsored at NVI for four years. His father died many years ago, leaving the family to struggle in poverty. What he did receive was a piece of land, his inheritance. The student is so thankful for the training he’s received at NVI and opportunity given that he offered the land to be used for UgandAid, for training others in useful skills. This young man has very little in life, and is prepared to give it all away.

We’ve been touched by the sincere thanks and stories of hope throughout the trip, and were reminded of the time Geoff and Julie’s student’s family gave them a bic biro. They have nothing, this is all they could offer in thanks, but the gesture is so special.

Going back home to a place where we have so much, I (Naomi B) feel immense gratitude for what we have, and also sometimes that I could do and give more. 

The journey home was not without it’s funny stories. From Ola accosting a stranger in Entebbe airport and embarking on a conversation only to realize when he turned round that it wasn’t marshy, to Naomi T hitting another passenger in the head with falling flip-flops from the overhead cabins. The prize of the day must go to Julie C for setting off the smoke detector in the plane toilets by spraying deodorant and being met by 4 cabin crew who were less than impressed! After some significant turbulence between Entebbe and Kigali (even in the sky you can’t escape African pot holes!), and a long journey back, the team all arrived safely in Manchester on Wednesday morning.

Over the next few months we’ll start putting together names for next years trip. If you’re ready to have your heart moved and cry with both laughter and sadness, please get in touch with Christine Booth. 

Missing blog entry - Tuesday 14th

Tuesday 14th - apologies, this one didn't get published at the right time

Today was a day off for most of us – although Jan, Eddie and Helen still did a full session at Gospel Cross, continuing the teaching around pre and anti-natal health.

Others chilled in the resort, went into town or visited a nice hotel on the Nile called Haven. The mad ones went white water rafting.

15 miles of rapids, falls and beautiful scenery with amazing birds and even a river snake at the start to add a little extra nervousness to the already nervous.

Here's a few pictures that will either put you off for life, or make you sign up to do it next year!

So thrilling, so tiring and so very wet. I never thought I would spend so much time up to my neck in the Nile!!


Moaning and groaning

Sunday morning we were at NVI, where we saw the UgandAid choir in action, martialled by Geoff and Julie, they belted out some traditional songs, in complete contrast to the high energy raps and gospel songs of our hosts.

We provided the students and opportunity to laugh at us as we attempted a skit of the good samaritan involving Nigel dramatically moaning and groaning on the floor. He literally lay there are said “moaning and groaning”. Geoff interviewed Unis, showing the students his immense positivity and determination to succeed through adversity. After the service we ate lunch under the mango tree, chatted to students and even taught Unis to play dominos.

In the afternoon, it was our turn to host as friends from around Jinja came to Hotel Paradise for an early evening party and families enjoyed the food available. We were touched by some of the personal stories told over food, and by the strength of friendships developed over the years.

As the guests left, the team chatted into the night about all we had experienced.

Tomorrow a few people will go to Kathy’s Centre to look at the finished job, others will wrap up with Gospel Cross, and a few will go to say goodbye to staff and NVI. 

Kingfishers and Fish Eagles

Saturday 18th

A strenuous drive through the Masese slum came to a halt when the busses could go no further. The breakfast was delivered the last 500yards on foot, by the students. Over 170 students were given sandwiches, bananas and a drink. Teams entertained the children with games and teaching and all enjoyed another eye opening morning.

The afternoon was spent on a river boat taken to the bubbling spring that Speke discovered to be the source of the Nile. Birds of all shapes, sizes and colours from a tiny but beautiful Kingfisher to the majestic African Fish Eagle with its 8 foot 6 inch wing span.

An evening meeting some old friends including Rev Neal Stanton who was last in Jinja with the team 10 years ago, and two friends of Nigel and Julies from Sheffield.

We met Unis, a polio victim, who told us his amazing story. We first met him 3 years ago in one of the villages where we’d funded a new house to be built for him. Over the lat few years Unis has always made the effort to walk with his crutches to where we are working, and often acted as translator for us. His unwavering positive attitude and smile are captivating. In October Peter travelled to Kampala with Unis to buy special shoes needed with his calipers, only to find the shop had a workshop and training scheme. In January Unis embarked upon this training and hopes to set up shop and train others in Jinja. He’s a remarkable man, and I can’t do his story justice in these few sentences.

Stable doors

A little anecdote from Naomi:

In Uganda it’s fairly common to walk into a bathroom only to find the door springs back into your face having bounced off some inappropriately placed item such as a sink or toilet. I’ve seen my fair share of quirky bathroom arrangements, locks made out of a bent nail or a twig holding to door shut, but what I found today was totally new, and really made me giggle.

There’s a café called the Source on Jinja high street. I popped to the ladies and pushed the cubicle door open. As the door swung open, I realised someone had cut the bottom foot off the door so that it just cleared the top of the toilet seat as it swung inwards! It looked like just the top half of a stable door! 

Netball in the rain

Friday 17th

In the school bus we headed to a love pizza restaurant overlooking lake Victoria for lunch. The route took us past the old golf course where colonials played and were allowed a free drop if the ball came to rest in the footprint of a hippo!

The restaurant was across the road from Gospel Cross, where Betty and Chris have been hosting Dr Jan and her team all week. As it was the last day, certificates were presented to the CORPS, and doing what Ugandan’s do best, giving speeches.

The afternoon took us back to NVI to meet the new students and to take part in a sports afternoon with a game of netball in the rain (how very British!). Amazingly, we won 8-7, but I have no idea how. The UgandAid students also beat the staff at a football match, making it a clean sweep for UgandAid!

The day ended with a few relaxing drinks, but not until we had made hundreds of jam and peanut butties for breakfast at Masese tomorrow morning.


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.