Since I arrived here and told James we had raised some funds for Joy Clinic he has been busy sourcing materials because as it gets nearer Christmas prices will go sky high, delivery men will not want to work and worst of all there may not be bricks available as the dry season is taking a real hold now and to make bricks you have to have lots of water readily available.
So each morning he goes off early to the different areas where he might find what is needed. The good news is that he has managed to get enough just enough bricks to finish the main structure of the clinic, the small wards at the back and even better news the sister of a friend of mine owns a tipper truck and has offered it to us free of charge to deliver all the materials. We just have to pay the driver and for the fuel. So that will save us a few shillings!
The kitchen is now complete so meals can be cooked without the risk of the fire going out in the rainy season. The wood saving oven is working well too and uses so little wood and the smoke goes up the chimney not into lungs! Both the kitchen and the oven were great additions to St James financed in part by the parents.
Hambridge Hall looks and is amazing with its folding doors dividing it up into classrooms and the 200 desks many of you sponsored look very smart and ready for their pupils! We have employed a local man to paint your names on them. He has no work, a family to feed and school fees to pay.
Today he has been working on the desks all day and is coming back tomorrow to finish the job. We are paying him just 20,000 Ugandan Shillings, £5. James is also going to ask him to paint rings on some of the trees in Ugandan colours black, yellow, red. I’m not so keen, as I love the ‘natural’ look of the compound but Ugandans love to brighten things up for Christmas. I just hope the trees don’t mind!
Actually talking of trees, when I first arrived here this time and James was taking me around the compound I kept thinking someone was throwing stones on to the iron sheet roofs. It worried me but James didn’t seem to notice or was not bothered about it. After several incidents I had to tell him of my ‘discomfort’ but he just laughed.
The sound was of dry pods off a particular tree bursting and spreading their big seeds, some of which were hitting the roof tops! The other tree news is that James was quite sad when his Avocado tree had to be chopped down just as it was about to fruit. It was in the way of the clinic! He loves his flowers and trees which is why this compound is so beautiful, relaxing and shady.
Fatuma is looking after my every need though sometimes we get a little confused as she speaks and understands no English but is beginning to understand my regular requests though I think more through combination of mime and hand gestures rather than words. I bet by the time I leave here she will understand quite a bit of English. Fatuma had very little schooling as unfortunately a lot of Muslim girls in Uganda still don’t; the ‘boy child’ is the important one but not here at St James!
Livingstone, Leevi for short, is learning very quickly so that will be a great advantage when he starts school here in February. He is also very hard working and keen to learn. Single handed he cleans this big compound every day, feeds the chickens and takes the goats to graze. James is beginning to think he will make a very good farmer one day and in the meantime he will be taught everything he needs to know from the Master as he calls James!
Livingstone also seems to know when I have ‘visitors’ that need shooing out of my room particularly the chickens that want to escape Mickey but he always finds them! I’m looking forward to spending Christmas day with him here along with James, Grace and two of his friends. I am planning some surprises! I think first I will get Leevi to start painting paper and making paper chains with it!
I have just noticed through the holes of the lace table cloth my laptop is on, a tiny creature moving and on closer inspection it looks like a baby lizard! It is squirming around. Not sure what is best to do with it. He’s rather cute but doesn’t understand English either! I’ve not been bothered too much with critters this time around though on my arrival I thought I would be. There was a horrible smell coming from a big laundry bag I store my ‘bathroom’ equipment so I opened it with dread and many of the items had chunks out of them. A mouse or two had been nesting in there and it really stank!
I got Grace to take it outside and he and Leevi went through it. The mat I stand on when I step out of my baby-bath had been chewed up and taken inside my small jerry-can making cosy nesting material, my flip-flops had been redesigned, and everything else was nibbled and poohed on! The worst thing of all was that they had chewed around the plastic spout of my little kettle I bought specially to boil water for my early morning cuppa.
Everything was returned to me after cleaning but the kettle still stank and I thought there was no way of me ever being able to use it again BUT with a my old toothbrush and some Uganda ‘block’ soap and hot water eventually the smell disappeared and after boiling the kettle a few times I took the decision that it should be ok and it has been, now many cups of tea later I am ok!
James has assured me that there are no mice around now as he has a cat. I laughed when he introduced me to Mickey – he wasn’t much bigger than a mouse and to look at him he hadn’t caught any lately! He’s a lovely little kitten though and follows James around everywhere and when James is out he comes to me.
I love watching him amongst the chickens and goats as he plays with their tails and feathers. He’s not frightened of them and they seem to tolerate him. James is a real Doctor Doolittle. He befriends all the animals and talks to them gaining their trust and respect. Honestly he really does, it’s amazing! I will have to try and get hold of the Doctor Doolittle film and bring it to him next year! Jonny and Joy James’s grandchildren asked their Dada to name the kitten Mickey after their rabbit that got stolen.
James has also purchased two ‘guard dogs’ but they seem to be as soft as the kitten and they love James, though to begin with barked at me each time I went to the bathroom! They are tied up in the shade of a tree during the day and once I am in my room at night James lets them go. For a few minutes I hear them barking, I think with happiness of being free then they go quiet for the rest of the night hopefully doing their job if someone strange comes to call. It’s a good thing I have ‘en suite’ facilities as I would hate to chance my luck by walking to the latrine at night as I might find the dogs are angels in disguise!
There seems to be very few mosquitoes at the moment but I still take precautions as one bite can be so irritating. At dusk I bathe in cold water, surprisingly not too cold as I expected it to be straight from the borehole, just cold enough to make me jump when I pour the first jug full over my head! Then I cover my exposed skin with high strength insect repellent, 50% Deet which is horrible stuff and makes me choke but I know it is not worth the risk not to use it. It also melts plastics and synthetic substances so I have to be very careful to rub it in carefully and wash my hands thoroughly afterwards as in the past I have melted laptop keyboards, cameras, spectacle frames etc. No wonder it keeps mosquitoes at bay!
I still get tiny flies coming through my brand new treated mosquito net but they are harmless. As I type they are buzzing around my head torch and laptop screen. Actually not buzzing, they are silent! I occasionally squash one that gets a bit too annoying but most of them just disappear once the light source has gone off.
Today we have had a visit from one of the teachers who has 1 year old twin girls, they are so cute and don’t seem to worry about my colour. Aisha came specially to greet me and is staying the night as her home is a long way from here. When I went to bathe earlier they were wondering around stark naked except for their pretty beaded hair extensions. Oh the freedom of the young! I can’t remember if I told you that I cooled down one day under the running borehole – must send the proof!
James has changed his mind about painting the rings on the trees realising the money for the paint could be better spent. Thank goodness!
Before I finish I must tell you about an email I received from the Head of St Pauls Primary School in Poynton. I have added it below. I am sure Nora will not mind me sharing it with you. It certainly gave me a lump in my throat and brought tears to my eyes. I am so lucky and privileged to me involved in St James and to know all of you who have helped in so many ways.
ST PAUL’S PRIMARY HEAD
Marley Road, Poynton, Cheshire, SK12 1LY
Telephone: 01625 383040
‘Aspire not to have more but to be more’
Archbishop Oscar Romero
Dear Gerry and James
I am bursting with happiness as I write this email.
At the start of each of our Christmas performances I showed a PowerPoint presentation and I spoke to the audience to highlight the wonderful works that are going on at St James and I also listed the cost of the build for next stage of the new medical centre.
As a school, we have raised £407.66!
But the good news doesn’t stop there…
I was approached by a child’s relative yesterday who attended a performance and saw the PowerPoint and heard me speak…
He has said that he wants to donate anonymously, the difference between the money the school has raised, and the £750 needed for the next stage of the medical centre!
I have received a letter from him this morning confirming our conversation!
SO YOU NOW HAVE ALL THE MONEY NEEDED TO BUILD THE NEXT STAGE OF THE MEDICAL CENTRE!!!!
Although the gentleman wants to remain anonymous, I can confirm that he is not a wealthy man, but a man who has been moved by the good works you and Mr James are doing for the children and the community.
I shall get a school cheque to your husband as soon as possible for the school amount and then arrange payment of the anonymous donation once it has been received. Please ask your husband to make contact with the school so we can do this before we finish on Friday.
God is good! 🙂
My love and hugs to you all
Nora Armstrong-Boyle (Mrs)