Autumn 2012 Newsletter

Dear Friends of St James

Autumn 2012 Update on St James Primary School & Orphan Care, Uganda

I can hardly believe that it is now six months since I returned from Uganda after another very happy and successful, though exhausting, visit where I witnessed St James Primary School literally growing brick by brick! I am sorry it has taken me so long to write this update.

Mr James, the teachers, the children and in fact the whole community of Nakakabala were very grateful for the wonderful contribution that we made towards the start of the construction of a four-classroom block. Your money was put to good use as soon as I arrived. The hardcore, bricks, sand and cement for the first phrase of the building were ordered straight away. This was important as it was the end of the dry season and the ground was firm enough for the trucks to get up the lane to the school which soon becomes impassible when the heavy rains arrive which they started to do before I left!

As usual the children played a big part in the building work, keeping the costs of labour down to a minimum. They helped to dig the foundations using hoes, spades and even bare hands! Whenever the builders needed any help the children would assist, even during the school day when each class took their turn! They cleared the land, moved hundreds of bricks to wherever they were needed and collected many, many jerry cans of water from the borehole for use by the builders. All the builders were local men who were grateful to be given much needed jobs.

All the materials for the building were sourced locally, so locally in fact, that one day Mr James appeared with a gift for me in a cardboard box. He put it down on the ground at my side and when I opened it up it was a brick, still hot from the village kiln! This special brick was kept aside and it was the one I cemented into the wall of the new classroom at a special ceremony of thanks to you all, especially Vernon Primary School who had raised a big proportion of the money for the first stage of the building. The ceremony was attended by many members of the local community who support the school as much as they are able.

The day before I left Uganda Mr James intercepted me between classes to inform me that the District Inspector of Schools, Mr Kanakulya Abraham was visiting and he would like to meet me. The inspector told me he was very impressed with the new buildings and with the ‘management and organisation’ of the school and he wrote in the Guest Book that he had enjoyed his visit and St James Primary was ‘a school with vision’. It certainly is and with our help and Mr James as the leader, the vision will be accomplished!

Another visitor that day was the Parish Chief whose job it is to monitor any development in Nakakabala. It was good to see that St James is really ‘on the map’ now. Many people know about its progress and in particular the magnificent National Primary Leaving Certificate Results. The school came top of all the schools in the area and only in its third year of entering the exam! So all of you who have helped in any way should feel very proud!

I have been kept busy sharing news of my visit with many of you either individually or talking to groups, as well as going into schools that are excited about their continued friendship with St James. Vernon Primary School has played an enormous part since 2002 in helping me to help many children in Uganda and over the past two years Lower Park P.S. has joined in with enthusiasm.

Before I went to Uganda in February, Prospect Vale P.S. came on board too! Then while I was actually in Uganda, I was very excited when I received an email from the Head Teacher of Cheadle Heath P.S. who asked if her school too could get involved! Last term I spent time introducing all the children and teachers at Cheadle Heath to St James and I am very pleased to report that they are very keen to add their support. Last but not least the Hollies Pre-School here in Poynton continues to do their bit and is building a bond with the Nursery Class at St James.

It is wonderful that so many schools and individuals, want to be involved with the development of St James. We have made a fantastic difference to many children who live in the village of Nakakabala but we still have a very big ongoing challenge, that is to complete the building of the permanent block of four classrooms. By the time I left Uganda in March the solid foundations had been laid and the walls stood at six feet high but then the money ran out.

Inflation has hit Uganda too with building materials doubling in price over the last year! To complete the classrooms it will take a further £12,000. By UK building costs this is not a lot but it is an enormous amount for the local people in Nakakabala to find and of course for me to raise by holding various events. I depend entirely on the continued generosity of so many people including the very valued donations from the schools who have befriended St James. So I hope that with the help of you all we can see the completion of the classrooms so that the children at St James can have a safe and comfortable environment in which to learn, just as the children at our schools do.

There is still a long way to go but together we have made a wonderful start to what will be a fantastic asset to the school and the local community, and will create funds for the school too, as the two middle classrooms are designed to open out into a hall which can hired out for other uses such as clan meetings or weddings.

Other news with the sections in italic taken from my letters from James

George’s Den – Called after George a pupil at Lower Park Primary School who very generously donated his birthday money to build the chicken house. The three turkeys and twenty-five chickens have moved in and are doing well. “The three turkeys are doing well except that they are shy, they keep wondering around in the jungle eating insects. They have made nests and will soon be laying eggs. The 25 hens – Oh! Very fine. They are  use to me, they even jump on my shoulders asking for feeds and I have  a common language with them and they are loyal to me, I have named the cockerel George!”

Other animal projects – All are doing well – some of the young goats and pigs were sold to buy food for the orphans as the region has suffered another drought so the crops at St James have not produced enough. More of the animals were sold to raise money to help pay the registration fees to enable the P7 children to sit their National Leavers Certificate in November. The surplus was put towards the purchase of more cows which James explained to me is like having ‘money in the bank’.

His letter said “I respect Great Norman (my husband) very much so I have named  one of the small bulls I exchanged with the goats, Norman.” He goes on to say “This season has been very favourable to the animal projects! I have named other animals after some of my good friends in the UK.” He named the only female cow Anne Sallaway after the teacher and Uganda Co-ordinator from Vernon and the other young bull cows after Vernon’s Head Teacher and one after Portman Manchester the firm where my daughter Sara works! I hope they are happy with this ‘honour’! James goes on to say “I am very sure after some time, these animals would have increased in size so we can earn good money when we finally sell them. In other words, it’s a good way of banking!”

New kitchen – All meals have had to be cooked on an open fire which was a constant danger to the children and became useless when it rained as the fire went out! So a simple brick building was erected to house a kitchen. Parents who can afford it are asked to pay a ‘Development Fee’ when their children first start at St James and this financed the kitchen.

I donated money to have an energy saving smokeless oven built inside. So now Hadija, the matron, is able to cook meals for the thirty plus children in safety and comfort. James tells me that “Ugandan health officials have come to copy the fashion so that they can sensitize the community about such firewood savers so St James is becoming a model in society.”

James finishes Warm greetings from the orphans, they are always chanting your songs and games, especially the old woman who swallowed a fly!! They all like you so much and they are looking forward to seeing you again to share the games and lessons. God Bless all of you in the UK and the twinning schools. God Bless the Queen”. I teach them at least one song each time I visit and they loved this song and found very dramatic and amusing ways of pretending to die. Great fun!

So its all good news from St James. Thank you all so much for your support, both financial and in the friendship you are building with everyone at St James. I am returning to Uganda in February 2013 and would really love to raise lots of money for the classroom build before then. Here’s hoping!

I would be grateful for any ideas you may have to raise money for this wonderful school. I’m making and selling Christmas cards to raise money for St James. I took Santa hats to Uganda and let the children play with them. They had no idea about Santa but had lots of fun trying the hats on, and their smiles resulted in the wonderful photos that I have used to make the cards.

I’m selling the cards for 50p each or five for 2.40. I donate an amazing 43pfrom every 50p to St James! A much bigger contribution than is made towards good causes when you buy other charity cards! I am able to do this because I am very lucky to get all the card donated, and my husband and I make up the cards between us!

Please consider buying some of these Christmas cards. Maybe some of your friends and relatives would be interested in purchasing some too! If you would like to see the full range of cards please email me on

I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for your interest and support.

Love from Gerry Hambridge and all the children at St James!

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