3rd week as volunteers

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December 20th 2013
Published: December 20th 2013
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We have had our well earned weeks rest and now it's back to work. The difference being this time that Steve and I were both on the building team and this time we were a small team of three plus our leader Simon.

We were looking forward to new challenges.

Ann and Simon arrived on the Sunday evening at 6.45 so time for her her to settle in and then dinner together and start getting to know each other. How was this 23 year old going to survive two weeks with three people in their 50's? On the Monday morning it was time to hear about the nights plan and then off to work at the school in the morning. When we arrived we met Henry the headmaster before Wilson (the forman) set us to work. The building of the dormitory was finished so we were given the job of painting which I loved even though I seemed to get a lot on myself. We worked very well as a team on our first morning. The afternoon was spent strolling around Rukungiri and buying some material for Ann to have her African outfit made for our farewell dinner.

Tuesday dawned and a very exciting morning. We were to visit three of the disabled children in their homes who would hopefully be attending the school next Feb when it is due to open it's disabled unit. Evas, the occupational therapist, who works for the Chilli Children Project in the life skills clinic was taking us along on her rounds along with the physiotherapist Jones who followed along on his bike. Jones runs the club foot clinic.

We set off in bus out to a very poor area. We pulled up at the side of the road near a banana plantation. No maps or road names here. Evas finds the houses by landmarks mostly. We walked down the hill through the plantations until we came to a small mud house. We had been told that we would be meeting Alice. She had had a brain tumour and this had left her unable to walk without aids, and with very poor eyesight. We found Alice at the back of the house on the mud floor, very poorly dressed. Alice's mother, Evas had told us was not very co operative with enabling Alice to attend school. The project expect the parents to help out where they can e g getting Alice up the hill to be collected for school. It was then that the heavens opened and we were invited inside to shelter. Mum covered crops that where inside with tarpaulins for us to sit on. It was then that we met the rest of the family. Three other siblings. There was no father. They were obviously a very poor family.

We then moved on to house number two. Eric who was 17 with a spinal deformity who could walk with crutches. When talking to his father I found out that Eric was one of 19 children. 13 of who were still living! A very busy Dad and a worn out Mum! We chatted to Dad and Eric outside their very basic mud home. A couple of rooms for all of them. Whilst we were chatting and Eric was being given some therapy advice by Jones some children from the nearby school had gathered at the edge of the property. They were watching with interest. Why had these muzungus come to the house of a DISABLED child they would have been thinking. As we have said previously, disabled in Uganda is the lowest of the low. Considered as no use to society and shunned. This attitude is what Evas, Jones and their colleagues are trying to change in a very small way along with Mission Direct and others.To number three, Arnold, 21, on the autism spectrum and paraplegic. He was very funny. Loved pens and pencils and drawing so we gave him a pack of the crayons we had brought with us which he loved. Again several siblings, family extremely poor. Living hand to mouth but as usual invited us in to their humble home and made us very welcome.

It was so nice to meet the three families. When we are back home in February we will be able to visualise them benefiting from the hard work of all the Mission Direct volunteers. Evas was one of the hard working and inspirational people we met in Uganda and it was an honour to spend time with her.

I had been to the Mothers Union two weeks before with the medical team for some teaching. This is a vocational centre run as a charitable venture with some fees paid by the girls who are able. It is to help young teenage women who have , for many reasons, dropped out of school to get some sort of skill. They teach tailoring, typing and shorthand, home management, computer skills (on pcs not seen in UK for a long time), handicrafts such as basket weaving. Some of the girls are HIV positive, from poor backgrounds, become pregnant. Many problems. They board in basic dormitories with wooden buck beds very close together. They have few belongings. Each girl has a tin box in which to keep the little they have. They get three meals a day. Posho, a type of maize porridge and beans. Every meal the same !! It's all they can afford on the money they have to keep the girls. But the girls have a chance in life when they graduate after two years. Hope, who runs the centre was another strong, warm, caring lady. There are a lot of strong women in Uganda and we have met many of them!

We had a very interesting talk by Clare Peace who is the daughter of John who owns Rondavels where we have been staying. She told us about courtship and marriage the traditional way in Uganda which is still the case in most places other than Kampala and Entebbe. It goes through many stages ending in a traditional White Christian wedding. Two parts amused me. One being the bride price which consists mostly of cows and goats. To get the best price the bride should be a good size as fat denotes having food and money. When the marriage is agreed the aunties keep the bride locked away until the wedding and teach her how to be a good wife. Kitchen, bedroom, giving him plenty of children!! During this time they feed her to fatten her up. The amount of carbs we have eaten in Uganda, being the staple of every meal, I think I could get quite a few cows!

And so week on was drawing to a close. Painting each day at the school. One morning we arrived to be greeted by the nursery children who all wanted to hold our hands and have their pics taken. Wonderful smiles. Quiet evenings with just the four of us. We had some DVDs so watched Star Trek one evening and being two Christians and to non had some really interesting conversations! Less than a month till Christmas but very little sign of it there. One morning with the sun shining in I heard the sound of carols drifting in the open door. Seemed very strange. The Ugandans celebrate the way we would like it to be in the U K. They don't buy presents, even for the children. They all travel back to their home village where all the family get together for a big feast and spend time together after going to their amazing church services! So watch out kids for next year.

We had the deaf children and their teacher visit again and Betty taught us more sign language which I hope we don't forget. Shame it's not universal, just there in Uganda. Had a great time with them. Playing with parachute, footballs which they always love and drawing and colouring when they got hot and tired. It was great to be able to communicate quite well with them.

Steve and I have now been in Uganda a month and the diet is really getting boring. I am craving fresh fruit and veg. It's strange how in such a hot and fertile country the variety is so limited. Even in the local market the variety is very limited.

Whilst here nearly everyone at some time will get a nasty tummy to a different degree and on Saturday of the first week Ann was affected and stayed in bed feeling quite poorly. The main reason this happens in Uganda is poor hygiene standards in difficult conditions where there isn't clean water. Then people handle the money which really is the dirtiest I've seen. We always had alcohol gel with us at all times and became almost obsessive with it. This went on until the Tuesday and she was very careful what she ate after that. As she was ill one of us had to stay back with her and so on the Sunday Simon stayed back whilst Steve and I went off to church. Yes I can hear you all. Me and Steve at church AGAIN! We were to be accompanied by our friend and driver the lovely Columbus who would be able to interpret for us. Well this time as last we were guests of honour and were firstly invited for breakfast with the Reverend. The breakfast started around 10.00. We were invited in to his and wife's house where the table was laid with chicken, roasted ground nuts, bananas, bread, chai and coffee. As usual the chicken wasn't the most tender and a little difficult difficult to chew! The rest was tasty and we loved the chai. In Uganda tea spices are added and it's delicious. The breakfast took at least an hour with people arriving and starting to take large amounts of food and endless large cups of chai and chatting away. Of course we couldn't understand anything. Then James, a guest with us and a cleric himself told us that they were discussing how little we were drinking. Little did they know we were conscious that the service would most likely be 3 hours and I think you can imagine the sort of toilet facilities at a rural church! Think of the worst most basic that you've had to use and you aren't even close! We weren't going to drink any more than we had to!

Eventually at 11.00 the Rev indicated it was time he got over to the church. African time, it was due to start at 10.30! We were shown to seats at the front as guests. Thankfully we were given cushions to sit on. As expected we were introduced and then had to say a little with Columbus interpreting for us. The service as before was uplifting with wonderful singing and the obligatory auction. This time we resisted buying the goat or the live chickens. Instead we opted for some bananas, mangoes, sweet potatoes and Irish. The bananas, along with those Columbus bought, we gave out to the children in the congregation along with the mangoes keeping a few back as a treat. The other vegetables we would distribute to the needy we would meet in the next few days. The service was indeed 3 hours!!! We were just climbing aboard the bus when we were informed we were invited for after service chai and biscuits!!!! It would have been considered very rude to refuse so off we went again. By the time we got back to Rondavels we had been out for 6 hours!!! The first week ended with Ann still not feeling good. Steve and I pretty shattered after our DAY at church. What would the second week bring?


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