As another visit comes to an end we have returned to a situation that has seemed distant and slightly unreal. Empty supermarket shelves, children unable to go to school, workplaces shut and everyone worried about how they will afford to live, or even if they will live!!!

For so many in Uganda this is an everyday reality with no end in sight. There is no welfare safety net. Supermarket prices are comparable with the UK but many are casual workers struggling to earn £1 a day, the elderly and sick cannot earn at all, families cannot afford food let alone the fees or materials for their children to go to school, many, young and old die from easily treatable illnesses as a result of poverty, rendering them unable to access medical care, the church run clinics who treat regardless of ability to pay are empty of drugs. And just in case you’re wondering, toilet rolls are an unaffordable luxury, using leaves from the garden is the norm for many.

So we are not panic buying and, if we are able, we will continue with the everyday activities of CHI.

Our hearts will continue to break for those we met and the situations we encountered. We will remember the faces of those who welcomed us into their homes, who sang, dance and smiled, despite the often tragic stories later recounted to us.

 

But as we remember we will also rejoice, because in communities in which there has been intervention, congregations are growing, many are being baptised, the requests for Bibles are almost as great as the requests for practical aid, and Canon Patrick assures us the work of CHI is directly responsible for this growth. This is only possible as a result of your prayerful and financial support.

We will continue to pray for the projects, for individuals and particularly for Canon Patrick whose heart for his people is so large. We have seen the pain he feels when he is unable to help, the internal struggle that renders him almost unable to face the situations he encounters, and his tireless efforts to do everything he possibly can for those in his care.

So as you pray for those affected by the current crisis, please join us in remembering in your prayers those for whom life is uncertain every day, and pray that the work of CHI will continue to bring hope into the lives of those in need.

 

Our last day in Kijjabwemi and we planned to spend the morning visiting some of the sponsored children at their schools. The 129 children in this project attend a number of different schools, some as day students and some as boarders. These visits highlight for us the enormity and challenges of obtaining the letters and photos we request each year.

 

At school two the rain joined us. At school three, where we saw the open classroom, marginally better than a tree and lovely on a sunny day but not ideal in the rain, Pauline took a tumble, much to Patrick’s dismay.

After meeting the children and the head teacher, and the inevitable signing of the visitors book, it was back to the car. “That’s it, enough” declared Patrick, obviously deciding that the Muzungu in the rain were too much of a liability. And so we headed back to Banda Lodge.

As the most medically qualified amongst us (a retired vet) Ian did a sterling job of cleaning and patching Pauline’s wounds, no health and safety, surgical gloves or accident books here!

With plenty of time to write the blog, type up today’s very short report and repack our cases, we are signing off and taking a short safari in QE National Park.

We hope you have enjoyed following our travels and gained a small insight into the everyday challenges of life in Uganda for those in need.

Please keep us in your prayers as we travel over the next few days. We have no idea whether we will have internet or not, so while Pauline will endeavour to post on Facebook, do not worry if we are out of touch.

Thank you to everyone who has prayed and left messages during our time here.

We hope you will continue to support this work as we return to the UK to look at the finances and prayerfully consider which projects we are able support.

Today we set off with some trepidation to visit Kabwami School, a first visit for us as it is a potential new project.  Why the trepidation? We knew Canon Patrick hoped we could assist in the renovation of this school, a project rather larger than our funds generally allow for. As always we were made very welcome and then we began the tour of the school.

We were advised not to spend too long in the classrooms as there were jiggers in the dusty mud floors (they lay their eggs under the skin between your toes) and the children were regularly bitten by fleas!!! Many of the children spend all day in these classrooms…. Barefoot.

As we moved through the classes it occurred to us that this school was actually in better condition than the schools at Kimwanyi and Kagganda prior to their renovations, carried out thanks to two individual significant donations. Iron sheets are expensive but a large part of the roof is sound and the walls are in a fair condition. Some cement and paint would go a long way to improving this school and motivating both staff and pupils. Of course there is far more than that to be done, but maybe…. just maybe, there is something we can do to help.

We were a little worried about health and safety as we watched the students preparing the ground to plant vegetables for lunch.

We were horrified to learn that this church primary school has just one Bible, that the staff and children often go all day with only a small cup of porridge and the children have to bring their own jerry cans and then walk over 3 km each way to fetch water.

The church congregation here is very small, around 30 adults and children. Having seen the difference such intervention has made in other communities it would be wonderful if this was the start of real growth in Kabwami.

We caused a little CHI and left, with much waving, to cries of “see you” from the children. We hope we will ‘see them’ again on a future visit, hopefully without fear of jiggers or fleas.

On the way back at 1.30pm we made a short stop at the market to purchase some material, then left it with a local tailor. At 6pm we collected the finished garments. A mixed reaction from our families but we are very happy with the results.

The afternoon was spent in discussion with Canon Patrick reviewing our observations and thoughts on the projects we have visited over the last two weeks. It was a very productive time which enabled us to gain a better understanding of all that is going on in this Parish. We shared our challenges, and discussed ways in which the interventions can be made even more effective.

This is our first visit since the work in Kimwany, our first parish project, had largely concluded and lessons have been learned along the way. We are optimistic that the subsequent parish projects will prove even more successful.

As we head out each day to the various projects we are never sure what we will find. Every project has different challenges. Some initiatives work well, others not so well. A change of leadership can quickly alter the effectiveness of the work in a school or parish. Each day so far has brought a mixture of emotions, joy when we see a project working well, sometimes disappointment that the results are not as we would have hoped. We have danced with, and been brought to tears by, those we have met. We have listened to stories of hope and of despair. So as we set off to Kagganda this morning, a little late due to the heavy rain, we had no idea what we would find.

Our work in this rural parish started in 2017 with the refurbishment of the church run school. We had visited in 2016 and found it almost falling down, the 250 children were learning under the tree as the classrooms were unsafe.  Few of the parents were able to pay the fees.

Alongside the work at the school, which included the provision of educational materials, lunch and uniforms for some of those most in need, goats were provided for families as an income generation project. The hope being that eventually these families would be empowered to provide for their children and this in turn would impact the school.

We were greeted with flowers and showered with petals as we walked through the now familiar rows of clapping children.

The transformation that has taken place at this school is astounding, the building is attractive and solid, the majority of the children were wearing uniforms as were the teachers, “it encourages the children” we were told.

In a country where parents do not place education high on the list of priorities we were delighted to see a good number of parents at the school to greet us, wanting to be involved in their child’s education.

The reputation of the school is now such that the numbers have grown to 430. This has resulted in too few desks and rather crowded classrooms, but no one seems to mind too much.

We saw the building that was constructed as a kitchen and store being used as a dormitory, alarming by westerns standards, but perfectly acceptable here. However, there were no bunks and the students simply covered the floor with mattresses and squashed in where they could.

The grounds around the school have been transformed with beds for growing an array of organic fruit and vegetables to provide lunch for the children and staff, hens are kept for eggs, we were startled to see a green chick but were told they are painted that colour to stop the large Kites taking them, apparently the colours scares them off. .

A piggery project has also been started at the school. Most of these children will never go on to senior education, however they will leave primary 7 with a good education and the skills required to farm, and care for livestock. As the pigs breed they will be given to the students to provide a sustainable means of support.

We were entertained by the children, and made to dance, complete with grass skirts!!! Then it was time for some CHI.

After lunch we visited the homes of some of those who had benefited from the Goat Project. The committee that oversee this initiative admitted they had initially had some challenges but were happy everything was now on track. 39 families had originally benefitted with the provision of one goat, the first born female to be given back and passed to another family. Today 44 families are raising well over one hundred goats and the number of families is steadily increasing. All those we visited told us they were now paying the school fees for their children, most had previously been unable to do so. Today around 40% of the children pay their fees, enabling the school to better provide for its students.

Most encouragingly, the church congregation of 38 adults and 20 children has grown to 80 adults and 70 children since the start of the work in this parish.

Our last stop was a visit to Mariam, the elderly lady who took in the two children, Atinah and Imran, who were abandoned on the steps of Kimwanyi church. Her house, built with CHI funds, is simple but sturdy although bare of any furniture. She was extremely happy to have us visit and the children both looked happy and well cared for. She also appears to act as an adopted granny for most of the local children.

There are still needs and challenges here but this was certainly the most positive day we have had so far.

This morning Ian preached at Kitengeesa Church, his sermon came from Matthew 13 v 31:32. Once again he excelled and the sermon was well received. as we signed the visitors book which was first used in 1997 we had a look through, as far as we could see we were the only visitors from outside of Uganda. What a privilege to be asked to speak. No wonder the children were initially a little wary of the strange muzungu.

We had not been able to meet all our sponsored children in this location on Friday and so most of them came to church to meet with us, at the end of the service we were presented with more gifts. It is so difficult to take gifts of fruit and vegetables from children who are luck to eat once a day, it would also be a huge insult to refuse them.

 

Due to the distance these children have to walk to attend Kijjabwemi, it was decided to start a second Saturday Group at Kitengeesa. After lunch the children demonstrated the crafts they learn at the Saturday Project.

Then it was time to say goodbye and move on to visit the Aunt Louise School. Just when we think we have seen everything Patrick springs another heart wrenching visit on us. Having a disability brings it’s challenges in any society, but in a society where at best, you are hidden away and often rejected by the family, where assistance and specialist equipment is almost non existent and education is a luxury many cannot afford life must be almost unbearable. This school is the only one in the whole of Masaka that offers a home and an education to those with disabilities. It is run by Pastor Edward and his wife Louise. They have four children of their own and also care for eleven disabled children. Both having given up their jobs as teachers they educate the ‘children’ in Maths, English, Science and Personal Care. Louise’ sister is the cook, they have no other staff. Sitting in a rural setting this is a very peaceful location, but they have no transport and are some distance from the village.

They keep a few livestock and have a large garden area in which they grow food for the children, however they have no income and we were told; “rely on God’s provision” to keep the school running. Two of their students have been with them since they started 10 years ago, Scovia 25 and Zeitun 24 have spent most of their adult lives in this school and they have nowhere else to go. Most of the students are unable to pay any fees.

Zeitun was happy to see us, she spoke excellent English.
Scovia enjoys making mats but wool is in short supply

Despite their severe physical disabilities both these young ladies were intelligent and eloquent. Zeitun has spent her whole life lying on a mattress on the floor but she was happy and smiling and they all seemed genuinely pleased to receive visitors.

We learned how their solar power had broken and so they had no lights and only a couple of the children had mattresses or mosquito nets, they use clothes and cloth in an  attempt to soften the bars of the metal framed bunks, we could not imagine how these children could get a comfortable night’s sleep.

As we bade them good bye we left our food gifts with them, we had already decided we needed to do something. We estimate about £2500 would give them electricity, mattresses and mosquito nets plus four goats to provide milk, manure and a small income going forward. Relatively little to improve the lives of these youngsters, who suffer so much every day.

Is it really Saturday again already, where did that week go? It seems like only yesterday we joined the children at the Saturday Project and yet here we are again.

As always we started with a time of worship, hymns, bible readings, and memory verses, Abdul, one of the older sponsored children explained very clearly the reading from Matthew 5:v43-45

We were asked to choose a hymn, Shine Jesus Shine seemed like a good choice, unfortunately, the children didn’t know it, and the three of us are probably the worst singers you could ever imagine. We tried to teach them but they probably regretted asking!!!

Then it was time for porridge. As many of the children were sitting exams today there were far fewer at the projects and so they received an additional treat of a Mandazi (a type of doughnut), these children who have so little to eat wanted to share these treats with us.

Then it was CHI time and we spent a wonderful couple of hours just playing games, we taught them some of ours and they taught us some of theirs. We had no idea what was going on but it was great fun, and Ian played wrestling games with Emmanuel who seems to have adopted him as his Jajja (granddad).

 

 

 

All to soon it was time for them to leave for their homes, as we said goodbye it was hard not to shed a tear, knowing what some of them were returning to, how uncertain their futures are, and knowing we would not see them again on this trip .

After lunch it was time to visit some of their homes. A tiring afternoon walking through the local community gave us a real insight into their lives, however dire the conditions they live in, there is a real sense of community, doors are open, children wander between the houses, and neighbours help those less able.

We also met with Leticia and her mum at their market stall. We were told that since Leticia became involved with the Project her mum’s mental health has improved as she now feels there is hope for their lives.

We arrived back at Banda Lodge tired, dusty and with a real sense of having shared in something that is making a very positive impact in the lives of some of those in most need.

Now we just need to encourage YOU to sponsor a child, to enable more of these youngsters to benefit from this support and come to know Jesus in their lives. http://www.christianhope.org.uk/kijjabwemi.html

Kitengeesa was our destination today, a short 10km drive from Kijjabwemi and we arrived at the school which sits next door to the church.

   

Around 20 of our sponsored children attend here and assistance has also been given in this community to provide two water tanks, educational materials, school lunch and bibles as well as setting up a piggery project.

The first thing we notice is the play equipment and the nursery age children jumping and dancing as they learnt their vowels, their teacher was joining in too.

As we met with Mariam the Lay Reader and the head teacher Paul, we quickly realised this was a far less formal school than is the norm. A warm welcome but no speeches, a quick tour of the classrooms but no formal introductions, we felt like we had been transported to another universe. As the children gathered under the tree, no formal lines here, we were briefly introduced and then invited to say a few words, it was time for some CHI (causing havoc intentionally).

 

This followed much the same pattern as yesterday but this time we divided the children into age groups to avoid the little ones getting crushed in the ensuing havoc. The teachers joined in and a great time was had by all.

Then as the balls were gathered in the drums arrived and an impromptu song and dance was quickly arranged, no table and chairs for us today, as we sat on the grass with the children watching anyone who felt so inclined join in (teachers included), singing songs to thank us for our visit and some traditional dance, we were moved by the lovely relationship between the children and their teachers. We couldn’t imagine the stick wielding discipline we have become used to happening here.

After a traditional lunch of luwombo (meat cooked in banana leaves) at Mariam’s house, we said a sad farewell to the children and headed out to see the pigs and visit the homes of some of the sponsored children.

The pigs are held in three locations, each group being the responsibility of some of the youth in the church. In this way they are learning to take responsibility for them and as the pigs breed, they will be distributed amongst the community and provide an income for the church. On the whole this seems to be working well and some have given birth to piglets.

One group of pigs were being housed in the garden of a church family. Both very active in the church, he taught primary 7 students in the school, Maureen teaches the Sunday School. She was delighted to show us her 14 day old baby girl, the youngest of 5 children, she then told us how her husband died…. 17 days ago. There were no words, we stood by his grave, a few yards from the pig pens and prayed.

We visited a number of homes of sponsored children. We met Joyce, a delightful elderly lady who cares for her 12 year old grandson Akram. They were also the recipients of one of the solar lamps recently provided. She took us inside the two room home she had built herself to show us how well the lamp worked. There were no windows they cost money, the only chinks of light filtered through the holes in the walls and roof. In the first room the fire was lit under the pot in which she was cooking dinner, the room was full of smoke, through the curtain the room was full, it contained a small dining chair and the single bed she shares with her grandson. She told us: “He cannot sleep on the floor because of the snakes that enter at night”.  As we returned to the garden (with one eye on the ground) she thanked us for visiting her, she could not imagine how we could ever visit her home. We shared a hug and then a dance, which still needs practice, before moving on.

 

Our last stop was to visit Mary, as we approached Patrick quietly told us “she is positive”. Her husband had died of HIV/AIDs, of her 10 children 8 had died. After learning she had been infected she made a promise to take in any child that came to her. She is currently caring for nine abandoned children, at least two with disabilities. Currently three of them are sponsored through CHI. Gift is 9 yrs old and a sheer delight, a very bright outgoing child who has a problem with her legs, walking on the uneven ground is a challenge which causes her to fall often.  Mary had a small plot of land on which she grew bananas to feed the children, however on returning to it recently she found it had been ‘taken’ by others. She now has no means to provide for the family and told us they live by God’s grace.

Mary with 8 of ‘her’ 9 children

Another day of two halves that has moved us to tears and left us humbled by the faith of those we have met.

Ugandan society is, by our standards, fairly formal. The discipline in schools is strict; classes are very formal and structured and the children are not encouraged to relax or have fun. But today we had FUN as we visited Kikonge School.
Children walk 2-4km to get to this school of 262 pupils. Uniforms, school equipment, water tanks and electricity were provided during 2017/18 and livestock and seeds were distributed in the community. We were told how the children no longer had to walk the 4km to fetch water at the start of each day.


Ritah, the new head teacher has only been in place for one month, she appears to be a force to be reckoned with and the children certainly seemed to toe the line. Having not been in post during our last visit she obviously did not know what was about to transpire in her school today.


A tour of the school and lunch was followed by the usual round of speeches, then some lovely song and dance by the children, to welcome and thank us. More speeches and then it was our turn. We kept it short and told the children we would teach them a song. Time for some CHI.
As they formed a circle around us we showed them Head & Shoulders, Knees & Toes, and then told them they must keep up with us. As we got faster and faster the Havoc increased, when we were all out of breath we opened the boot of the car and threw tennis balls and inflatable beach balls into the throng. By this time Ritah was hiding in her office, possibly having a nervous breakdown. Then Carmen joined in the drumming (the boys thought this hilarious), followed by our poor attempts at Ugandan dance. By this time any thought of discipline was long gone.

    
Eventually it was time to let the children have their porridge as we headed back to Ritah’s office where we were presented with gifts, including a live chicken!!!!


Then it was time to say goodbye as we headed off to meet with some of the recipients of the livestock.
On the whole this has been a very successful project, lessons were learned from challenges faced in Kimwany and most of the goats have been a blessing to the families who received them. We visited nine homes including that of Helen, she looks after seven grand children, their father has died and their mother is bed ridden with HIV/AIDs, all the children are in school and she is now able to pay some of the required fees.


Many of the children in the school require support to purchase uniforms, the fees which range from £3 to £10 per term depending on the class, include lunch, but many are still unable to pay.

The classrooms could do with a lick of paint, but on the whole the school buildings are sound and well maintained. We are told pupil numbers are rising, but more importantly, since these interventions, so is the church congregation.
All in all an uplifting day, although we are not sure we will ever be allowed back to the school.

Only a short drive to Kimwanyi from Banda today. An impressive welcome to the school by a huge line of clapping children accompanied by dancers in traditional dress. As ever our dancing skills left a lot to be desired!

Then onto the home of Pastor Dickson, his charming wife Linda and delightful little son Theophilus (one of 5) for a second breakfast, which included liver which we politely declined!!,
Headmistress Peace has only been at the school for a month, having transferred from Kikonke but is already making her mark. She was rightly proud of her school as we toured the classrooms, before the traditional welcome and energetic singing accompanied by more dancing. It is always a delight to hear the children sing songs about CHI with words they have put together themselves.

Then down the hill from the school to see the water pump and eucalyptus plantation (no carrying water up the hill this time though, as the pump is out of action!). A distraction was a column of safari ants which did not appeal to Carmen.

The whole school gathered to meet us, a sea of pink uniforms, even if some were torn and worn out. One little boy in his ragged tee shirt approached us afterwards, touching Pauline’s hand and pointing to the holes in his tee shirt, he was obviously desperate for a uniform so he could be the same as his peers.

We then met Imran, one of two abandoned children taken in by elderly ‘grandmother’ Mariam. He was a bit frail as he was just recovering from a bout of malaria. Lunch followed and thankfully Imran was included to sit with us – a rare treat for him.

In the afternoon we visited the Health Clinic, and caught up with Prossy, our sponsored nurse, and the newly appointed senior nurse Agnes, only one week into her new post. As ever the clinic is short of medicines (apart from HIV treatment available free from the government), but they are still doing sterling work in their community with blood tests and vaccinations.

One patient was in the labour ward, where Carmen and Pauline listened to the baby’s heartbeat using a Pinard. As we were typing this blog we received a message to say the mother had given birth to a baby girl.Thankfully she did not need the incubator seen in this picture.

A small child was receiving treatment for malaria, she was yelling as apparently it is painful.

It was great to catch up with old friends including Sister Mary whom we met in 2013 and 2016 as she came back from retirement for the day.

Kimwanyi has had its challenges since Canon Patrick left but is on the up again since Reverend Dickson arrived, and now approximately 120 attend church. So many places in Uganda have similar challenges to Kimwanyi but with Dickson and Peace at the helm we feel that this community has an exciting future.

A slightly late start saw us arrive at Kijjabwemi Primary School to find the entire school lined up ready to greet us, all 600+ of them!!!! We could only apologise as they had probably been standing in the sun waiting patiently for longer than was comfortable. We were greeted and processed through the lines of children by dancing students in traditional dress. Our attempts to join in were met with laughter and clapping.

   

Some of our sponsored children attend this school and it was good to see them in class and take a look at their work. Every child seems to have exemplary hand writing and the standard of their lessons is a credit to the school. The standard of discipline in Ugandan Schools is high, it needs to be with 85-90 children per class, and this is reflected in the level of work and behaviour of the children.

As we toured the school we were impressed with the improved condition of the building since our last visit in 2016.This has been achieved by the PTA and local community working together to raise funds. This was something that had been previously discussed with our partners. The desks provided by CHI were clearly marked. There are however still urgent matters that need addressing, not least of which is a new toilet for the boarding students!                                              

Having visited the kitchen the cooks now have even more respect than they did before, their working conditions are hot and smokey but we didn’t realise they also needed to have muscles like Popeye. We could hardly lift the paddle used to stir the Posho, let alone move it in this very thick, gloopy mixture the children eat for lunch.

   

We met with one of our sponsored children who had not been at the Saturday project as she was in the west of the country visiting her terminally sick mother, her father is already deceased and we had already been informed she had recently tried to commit suicide. Patrick hugged and spoke quietly to this young child aged about 10 years, who was probably one of the saddest children we have ever seen. Such a simple act of comfort that could never happen in the UK today. He took her by the hand and she joined us for a mid morning snack of boiled egg, banana and bread.  Then she joined the rest of the sponsored children as they filed in to greet and entertain us with song and dance. Several voluntarily stood and told us how they felt about their sponsorship and the difference it had made to them. The school choir and dance group then came and entertained us all, we refrained from joining in!!!

We were delighted to see Michael who we had met at his home. We had been told he was a ‘naughty’ boy and often skipped school. He seemed more spirited than naughty to us when he climbed a tree to pick Jack fruit when we said we had never tasted it. It was good to see him in school and so smart in his KOP uniform.

We know we should not have favourites but this is so hard when a child pops up round every corner with the biggest smile we have ever seen. You may remember Emmanuel from our Saturday post, we visited his home where he looks after his bed ridden father. In school he is hardly recognisable in his smart uniform; school is where he goes to get away from the realities of his life. Without sponsorship he would not have this opportunity.

Emmanuel at his home
Emmanuel at school

Another emotional roller coaster as we enjoyed the entertainment, but knew the heartbreaking realities of the lives of these children. We also saw the real difference sponsorship makes.

Then it was on to the senior school for a quick look round, a couple of our sponsored children attend here. The school is supported by a bigger charity and is reasonably well equipped.

As Patrick had a meeting with the Bishop we had an unexpected afternoon off, after the busyness of the last week we were very grateful for the change of plan.

 

Prayer and contemplation is a good way to start a day, and knowing we were off to Kaleere, something we needed.

Kaleere is a remote and needy parish.  When we visited 4 years ago the school consisted of groups of children studying under various trees around the church, and a mud and banana leaf constructed classroom.  They still have 2 classes under trees and use the dilapidated old classroom.  However they also have a fabulous new classroom block, built by the community with the roof, doors and windows funded by Christian Hope supporters.  It was a glorious day weather wise and the children studying under the trees appeared to be in the best place – but thinking back to the torrential weather last Friday I guess it isn’t always so good!  We looked at books and classroom displays, their handwriting is excellent, and they are learning words I have never heard of in their biology lessons – did I mention this is an infant/junior school?  Uniform, clothing, and shoes appear to be optional and ragged at best.

  

Whilst on tour we saw members of the community – many of whom are pensioners but still helping build foundations and flooring for new classrooms in progress.  We were presented with banana leaf sun hats in case we wanted to join in the labour!  We resisted that urge but wore the hats – much to everyone else’s amusement.

  

School rules insist the children speak English at all times in school which must pose some issues for the younger ones!  I was assured by the Headmaster (a mere youngster in my eyes) that the punishment was not too severe!

We were then taken into the church, the whole school of 326 children crammed in too, accompanied by their brilliant teachers, where we were welcomed by the youthful Headmaster, and then entertained by the Kaleere School Talent Group to a fabulous show of singing and dancing.  They made the songs up themselves, welcoming us “the visitors they cannot forget”, thanking us for CHI support, for books, fees, desks, water tank and the building help.

   

It was nearly time for lunch break as we came out of church so, as usual, Carmen decided it must be Havoc time and she and Ian proceeded to throw footballs and tennis balls into the throng of increasingly excited children.  I think they were almost engulfed by the enthusiastic children, but no one was hurt too much in the mêlée!

Reverend Canon Eriab was quick to rescue us and we were whisked off to visit the shallow wells which CHI  supporters have also funded.  Enos who has helped oversee the various projects in Kaleere accompanied us too, along with Samuel – Eriab’s son who does a lot of voluntary work within the Kaleere community.  Both Enos and  Samuel have a very in-depth knowledge of the community so their input was invaluable.  The shallow wells are used constantly, two of the wells serve approx 400 families, and at the moment one has been out of action for a few days awaiting repair.  The alternative of a mucky pond is no competition.  These wells have helped with health and sanitation issues in the community.  Another shallow well would not go amiss – oh for bottomless funds!

From there we visited some homes, where they had benefited from a parish project where they were supplied with livestock and garden tools and seeds.  Charles has made such a success of his garden that their family room is full of sun dried corn cobs which need to be stripped and ground by hand, in a pestle and mortar, to make maize flour.  He has 9 children aged 4 to 14, hopefully they will help him. I certainly think his wife deserves a rest and should be let off this chore!

We visited other homes, that of Teresa, who looks after 6 orphans, Clement who looks after 4 orphans, and Jalia who looks after 4 orphans.  All these ladies are well into their 70s and possibly beyond, but they keep pigs and chickens, grow crops and look after young children, housework comes last on their list of things to do! They truly are the unsung heroines in this community – but there are many more who do the same.  It appears from their testimonies that their lives have been helped immensely by Christian Hope input but still so much more could be done to help this impoverished and remote community.

The sky began to darken so we had to hot foot to our next appointment – with the younger members of Kaleere who had benefitted from the small loans projects, the three we met were all young Mums with 16 children between them, two had set up food stalls, each selling different fruit and veg, and the other had a general shop, all sited along the main road.  They all said they were doing well but would like to expand their businesses, but this could only be done with a further loan, and the waiting list is long!

Suddenly the heavens opened and we had to leave quickly.  The road had been impassable last Friday after the storms and so we knew we could easily get stuck!  We had a young and skillful driver for the day, also named Eriab, and thankfully he negotiated the flooded roads, the potholes and ditches and brought us safely home.

    

Tired, full of thoughts, saddened by the seemingly insurmountable task of deciding where our limited funds could be best used,  and knowing that our best option is to pray and leave this with God, we hope you will keep this community, and our decisions, in your prayers too.

A two hour drive found us in Kaleere today, thankfully the road had dried out and was passable, if a little rough.

The songs and dancing by the elderly, dressed in their Sunday best, as the service started were a delight.

Ian preached, and Canon Eriab translated, to a full church on Ephesians 1 v15:23, as usual an excellent sermon which appeared to be well received by the congregation.

As is normal in Uganda the offering consisted largely of vegetables, eggs and coffee beans. Once the service ended everyone remained in church and the produce was auctioned off, a strange experience but it provided food at an affordable cost for the community and funds for the church.

We had been presented with a large number of gifts of fruit when we visited the homes yesterday and this was added to the pile. The bananas were not terribly popular but were bought by various members of the congregation to be given to the children. We followed them outside but it soon became clear that we would not have nearly enough for everyone. We had something of a Loaves & Fishes experience as we broke each banana into three and each piece was given one between two, barely a bite each but they all received something.

Then it was time for some CHI (Causing Havoc Intentionally) as we ‘stole’ a banana leaf football and played soccer with the children, after Carmen tried to kill a couple of younger ones with badly aimed kicks a game of catch seemed a better idea. Much high fiving and a game of scary muzungu (white person) and it was time to go back into church and meet with the elderly who are supported by our Parish Project.

We learned of their successes, failures and challenges, then spent some time meeting with them outside the church. We didn’t need words to understand their gratitude for all that has been done in this parish or their joy that we had returned to visit them. Despite warnings about not shaking hands for fear of spreading the Coronavirus, much hand shaking and hugging took place, like people the world over, these folk just want to be loved and cared for and we were not about to deny them this show of affection.

    

Requests for glasses and dental treatment were made by some and we ended our visit with a house call to one of the elderly ladies who was in bed sick, she needs an operation but her family do not have the means to either transport her to the hospital or pay for the treatment. She is just one of many, it is heartbreaking that we cannot offer this form of assistance to individuals. The request that the health camp be held twice a year to enable seasonal treatment to be given was made, we will consider this, along with the many other proposals once we return.

Ian praying for for Jalia

All too soon it was time to leave, but we will be back tomorrow to visit the school, homes and wells that have been supported in this community. Everyone has agreed NOT to pray for rain tonight!!!

Oh dear, it’s 8.30pm and it just started to rain.

The Saturday morning project is a time of worship, play and crafts for the sponsored children. We joined them for worship and were then entertained as they sang a song they had written especially for us.

Letters and gifts from sponsors were distributed to those who were lucky enough to have been sent one, and then we received gifts from the children.

As the children were taken out to be given porridge we gathered the tennis balls and inflatable beach balls we had bought with us; time to CHI (Cause Havoc Intentionally). You would not believe how excited these children can become over a few balls. The cricket set and parachute we bought on our last visit came out and a wonderful time of play, fun and havoc ensued. For these children, whose lives and circumstances are so hard opportunities to simply be children are few and far between.

Then back inside as some of the older children were taught tailoring skills on the sewing machines purchased by CHI, and the younger ones showed us how they could weave mats and make beaded items.

As the children left we were given lunch, then it was into the car to visit the homes of some of the children.

When we receive details of the children requiring sponsorship the information is fairly standard, poor home, unable to support the family, etc. The reality we see when we visit these homes makes us realise just how inadequate word are to describe the lives these children live.

We visited eight homes of children sponsored and awaiting sponsorship today, and more than once we were almost bought to tears. The poverty is unimaginable, one room homes no more than 7ft square, accommodating families of 5, with a scrap of cloth for a door and no windows. Sick or disabled parents, unable to work to provide food for their hungry children. Emmanuel’s home was one of these. Emmanuel is an only child, his mother abandoned the family when he was a baby, his father has cared for him but is now bed ridden with a broken leg, he is probably around 60 but looks 80+ and, we suspect, may not be around much longer. Emmanuel does all the chores and cares for his father, but they have no means of income. He is a happy smiley boy, and yet he has so little to smile about, and we cannot help but be concerned for his future. Sponsorship ensures he has an education, attends the Saturday project where he receives a breakfast of porridge, learns crafts which may one day enable him to earn some money, and has the opportunity to simply be a child, most importantly he learns that God loves him and has a plan for his life. We doubt his home has an address but if it did it might go something like this; off the main road, past the tip, down the mud track, the house on the end with the boarded up window. Beyond sponsorship we are at a loss to know what we can do to help, just heartbreaking.

       

Despite the challenges these people face we were welcomed, invited in (it was a squeeze), hugged, and given gifts. We sat on the floor on woven mats laid down just for us, and could offer nothing but a prayer that by some miracle their lives could be improved.

By the time we returned home we were all emotionally drained, certainly a day of two halves

Today we were scheduled to visit Kaleere in Rakai Parish about a one and a half hour drive south. After a night of heavy storms the rain was in no hurry to let up, we set off a little late with some trepidation. The last half hour of the ‘road’ to Kaleere is something of a challenge on a good day and today was not a good one. During a short stop to change up some money (we are now multi millionaires in Ugandan Shillings) a phone call from Canon Eriab in Rakai advised us the road to Kaleere was not passable it had been washed away, and our schedule would need to be adjusted.

After meeting with Canon Eriab, and a very muddy stumble to the ‘facilities’, we headed up the hill to Rakai School instead. Of the 257 students, 50 of whom are orphans, virtually none are able to pay their school fees. A meeting with the head teacher and some of his staff explored the possibility of an income generating project to involve the Church, school and community.  We await their proposal with interest.

It was cooler than normal for Uganda and, whilst we found it quite comfortable many of the children in their thin and thread bear clothes were visibly shivering. all we could do was hug them to try and warm them up.

As we came out of the meeting the children were leaving their classes for lunch, at least, some were, many others simply waited around at the top of the hill, they could not pay and therefore cannot have lunch.

We heard how the CHI provision of water tanks following our last visit means water is no longer a problem and the children do not have to walk to the lake, and brave the hippos, to collect water.

This school are also in dire need of new toilet facilities as the existing pit is full!!!

By this time we were nearly as wet and muddy as the children, so we carried on down the hill to view the Eucalyptus Trees funded last year. There have been problems with drought and termite damage but around 7,000 of the original 10,000 trees are growing well. In another two years these will provide a cash crop for the benefit of the community and can be pollarded each year.

Then it was back to the office for further discussions with Eriab where we handed over the camera we had bought out for him. His previous camera had been stolen, which made providing the required photographs of the projects something of a challenge. He seemed very pleased with his gift.

With the rain finally easing up we bade farewell and headed for home with a prayer for better weather over the next two days, Ian is preaching at Kaleere Church on Sunday, we really need to be able to get there.

A good night’s sleep and a leisurely start to today saw us all feeling a lot better than we did last night.

After a short walk to St John’s Church, Kijjabwemi Ian and Carmen felt like they had never been away. A tour round the new ‘House’ being built for Rev Canon Patrick (or so we thought). The building is enormous, is this something of a extravagance we wondered? Until Patrick explained how; two of the rooms and one bathroom are for families who need temporary accommodation; one is for visiting dignitaries; one room is for church meetings and conferences. The area of the building for his private living consists of one family bedroom with bathroom and a living area. Patrick has four children of his own and two adopted children!!!!! This building is a Parish resource, not an extravagant private home. Once again our western assumptions have given us cause to eat humble pie.

We met with the ‘staff’ who administer the Sponsorship Project in Uganda Field Assistant David, Harriet who assists him, as well as working as a teacher at the senior school and running Sunday School, and Patrick’s admin assistant Talent. Their enthusiasm and commitment to this work is a joy to see.

We saw the piggery project funded by CHI. The local youth are assisted to care for these pigs, they learn animal husbandry skills which serve them well in these largely rural communities, as the pigs breed they are given to local families in need to help them become self sufficient. They in turn pass on their first born piglet to another family. Throughout this process they are supported by the church and as faith grows, many come to know God and His love for them. We also saw the sewing machines purchased with CHI funds, these  are used to teach sponsored children, and others who attend the Saturday project sewing skills a means of providing for themselves in the future. For security, when not in use, David stores the machines in the small room he calls home in a building on site.

  

We were shown the vegetable patch which provides food for the project and training for the children. Every opportunity is taken to give these youngsters the skills required to provide for themselves in later life.

After lunch we set off to meet with Bishop Henry Katuna Tamale and his Diocesan admin team. A relatively new Bishop this was our first meeting with him, we were made very welcome and will forgive him (eventually) for making us sing, we don’t think he will ask us again!!!! We also met his wife Rev Canon Elizabeth Katuna and had very interesting discussions surrounding her work with Mothers Union.

Meeting Bishop Henry and his wife Elizabeth

Then off to Bexhill High School to meet with some of the sponsored children, this is a senior school and these children board here as it is too far to travel daily. Although very shy they assured us they were enjoying being at this school, and their head teacher told us they were all very good students. We also met a very eloquent young lady named Pauline who told us she hoped to become a doctor. Her English was exceptional and we have no doubt she will achieve her goals.

The two Paulines

We arrived back at Banda in time for a quick swim before dinner. How very civilised.

 

 

We have arrived safe and well if a little ragged round the edges 26 hours after leaving home. Ice on the wings at Stansted followed by too much wind in Dubai resulted in both flights being delayed and very little sleep achieved. We made up some time en-route and were met by a slightly concerned Pastor Patrick. Finally, a four hour drive to Masaka, with a quick stop at the equator for a picture (it was Pauline’s first time to cross), and we have arrived at Banda Lodge, our home for the next three weeks.

Surprisingly enough we are going to bed. Tomorrow we meet the Bishop, we need our beauty sleep!!!

 

Posted in CHI


It seems like only yesterday we returned from Rwanda, can two years really have passed that quickly?  As we think back on all we saw, and all the projects we hoped to support on our return, we can only thank God for your support that has helped achieve so many of those aims and more besides.

And so Ian and Carmen are off again and Pauline is on her maiden visit, this time to the projects in Uganda. Our flights and accommodation are booked, vaccinations done and malaria tablets bought. We have a busy itinerary but we are looking forward to meeting our partners again (they have become firm friends over the years), and making new friends as we visit the communities where your support has changed lives and bought many to faith.

The travel challenges are not so extreme in Uganda, and the accommodation is delightful, despite being the most economical we can find, however, we will greatly value your prayers for safety and stamina, and for God's wisdom as we visit, evaluate and discover new challenges along the way

Posted in CHI

After three weeks of travel around Rwanda WE ARE HOME.

We have been;

  •  welcomed and offered hospitality by those who have so little.
  • inspired by the people we have met.
  • moved by the stories we have heard.
  • encouraged by the progress being made in Rwanda.
  • challenged by the work that still needs to be done.

Now we need time to;

  • process the information
  • decide on the projects to be supported
  • raise the required funds

As our partners kept reminding us, plan, pray, do what we can and God will do the rest.

Please pray that our decisions will be guided by Him and the funds will become available to meet the needs.

Thank you all for your messages and prayers during this trip.

 

 

Today we attended the consecration of the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kibagabaga, Kigali. How to get there was our first challenge as we have now said goodbye to Emmanuel & Jacques. But God always has a plan, so when we met Bishop Augustin of Kivu Diocese at the guest house last night it seemed only fitting to ask for a lift!!!

As the very formal service came to an end and the Bishops processed out of the cathedral Archbishop Onesphore trailed behind high fiving the children.

The 4 1/2 hour service was followed by cake and a drink. The cake had a firework on it and, after the cutting of the cake by Archbishop Onesphore he served the children.

   

Then Bishop Augustin offered us a lift back, what he actually said was “come we will go together”……. We found ourselves at a rather posh hotel eating lunch with 7 Bishops, an Archbishop and their respective wives!!!!

Today’s Bishop spotting completed our full house of Bishops for the eleven Diocese in Rwanda.

Tonight we dine with Archbishop Onesphore, Archbishop elect Laurent and their respective wives. A somewhat surreal day all in all.

We are all checked in for our flights home tomorrow as our journey comes to an end. Tonight’s prayer will be for warmer weather in the UK.

The size of the areas covered by each diocese here is staggering. As we head off to visit the home of one sponsored child (Ian’s) we are told the journey is 2 1/2 hours  each way.

The rain has damaged many of the hill roads and the journey was not easy, even in the 4 wheel drive Land Cruiser we have been using. Thanks to the skill of Jacques, our driver for the last few days, we arrived safely.

Ian was pleased to meet Gedeon his sponsored child and his family in their very basic home.

It was explained to us that sponsoring children in these remote areas is important to show the people living here that they are not forgotten and to give them hope and encouragement in their daily struggle. Once again it was our visit more than the practical support that had been given that meant so much.

After an unscheduled stop at the pastors house for a meal, the rain arrived before we left. The drive back was more than challenging and it was dark before we left the hill tracks and arrived back. If we were tired it is hard to imagine how Jacques felt.

This morning a mercifully short drive found us taking the footpaths to the homes of Paul’s two sponsored children

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The first a remote location that was not served by a road, where we met Placidya – a charming young girl who proudly showed us the hens she had bought with the gift she had received.

There were some vertical challenges for those of us who are not too keen on sheer drops!!!

The second location should have been a drive but the rains had made the road impassable. Eric has been sponsored since 2003 and it was clear to see how his life had improved as he proudly showed us his cows, hens and pigs as well as the plot of land he was cultivating. He hopes to be a farmer when he leaves school and we think he is well on his way to success. We not only met his mother and brother but also his 98 year old grandmother. It is hard to imagine all the things she has seen in her life.

All together we walked about 4 miles at around 8000ft, up and down the hills of Byumba. We considered the need for a base camp and oxygen was required by the time we returned..

Then it was back to the church to meet with a number of the sponsored children and hear their testimonies. Once again CHI stood for Causing Havoc Intentionally as we distributed the remaining tennis balls.

A quick cup of tea and we headed for Kigali. Said farewell to Jacques and settled into our rooms for the last two nights of our trip.

 

 

 

Posted in CHI