Mostly good news from St James. Thank you for helping me to raise enough money to purchase the materials to put a ceiling into Hambridge Hall, the block of four classrooms at the school that open up into one big room creating the hall. James tells me that three out of the four ceilings were now complete and that shortly the fourth one would be too. This means that the children will be able to have their lessons in more comfortable dust free surroundings and will not be deafened during the rain storms!
Our next challenge for the hall is to install solar power and then James will be able to hire it out at weekends and school holidays for weddings, graduations, clan and council meetings etc. which will earn much needed funds for the school. James loves flowers and has got the hall surroundings looking very attractive with lots of shade and colour which enhances the building for the children, and to make it more attractive for the various events. There are no similar facilities in the area.
The school had a major problem in May. The drought had gone on for much longer than it should have done and then suddenly the area received very heavy rainfall. With the ground being so hard and dry none of the rain was absorbed, it just created flash floods in the area. Unfortunately a river of water swept through the Nursery and Year 1 classrooms and caused quite a lot of damage. We repaired the damage but to prevent this happening again we needed to divert the water as it comes down the hill and install culverts to enable access from the lane that runs alongside St James. The cost of this was assessed at 1,150,000 Ugandan Shillings (£290). I was invited to run a stall at St Paul’s Catholic Primary School Summer Fair here in Poynton at the beginning of July. I was welcomed so warmly by everyone at the school, parents and teachers buying the Ugandan items and my greetings cards. At the end of the day I had raised just over £300 so with the cost of the money transfer to James, St Paul’s enable this crucial work at St James to be carried out. I have to call this another of our ‘little miracles’! As you can see by the photos the culvert was installed and now the school is saved from any flooding in the future. Thank you St Paul’s!
I spoke to James recently. He sounded happy though once I started asking questions I realised that he has many worries which I wish I could help him with but unfortunately all I can do is raise money for material improvements, and be there in spirit. He is the one who has to cope with the every day situations on the ground. Subjects ranging from not having the money to pay the teachers because the crops of the parents have failed to produce enough to pay their child’s school fees, to criminal gangs going around stealing anything metal, including our new school sign to sell for scrap metal! Fortunately they only managed to dig it out of the ground and it was found beside the road, this time! James has taken it back to the school and now intends to make one out of concrete instead! It’s such a shame that all the effort we make is still vulnerable to criminal gangs. Of course this happens in the UK too but somehow it seems worse when James is making such an effort for the community! James is one pretty amazing man!
Joy’s Clinic has also seen some progress. Through Geminy Maw’s sponsored bike ride to Berlin and Back, the shell of the two small wards are complete. We are hopeful that we might get some assistance with the clinic from another source too, but have some enquiries to make first. I’ll keep you posted!
My favourite time to go to Uganda is February through to March at the beginning of their school year but I am booked to go fly out on Boxing Day instead. The main reason for this is because Alex, the eldest of the family of boys my family have been supporting through their education (with the help of several good friends!) is getting married at the beginning of January and that is one wedding I will be so proud to attend as since we first met Alex in 2007, destitute and trying to look after his younger brothers, he has grown into such a lovely caring, hard working young man. I am so happy for him. His youngest brother Paul takes his O Levels next month. When I met Paul in 2008 he was an undernourished, lethargic child, couldn’t speak any English but now, through our support, and his hard work and determination he has succeeded way beyond our expectations.
As it is I would have avoided going to Uganda in February/March next anyway as it is the Ugandan National Elections and not a good time to be out there. I was returning home via Kampala on my way to Entebbe Airport, the Saturday before the Thursday elections in 2011 and I was very scared. There was much rioting on the streets and being a Mzungu made me feel very vulnerable. I actually kept myself low in the car seat to avoid being spotted. So I am happy to be going in December, returning on 30th January.
As Christmas approaches I will asking for your support once again. I have my St James Christmas cards for sale as usual, but this year I also want to promote sponsored gifts to give your friends and relatives for Christmas. I will be giving you more details in my next email but please keep this in mind when you are thinking about what to buy your loved ones. There are opportunities to sponsor animals and we need more desks too!
Once again the biggest thank you to all of you who have supported St James. From one week to the next I never know where I am going to get the money for the various challenges from but I am always surprised and humbled by your generosity. I’ve been told many times the reason for this is because you know that every penny you donate goes to St James, nothing is taken out. When I child gives me their 50p pocket money I can promise them that it will be spent wisely to help their friends at St James!
This year I have talked to the Poynton Luncheon Club about St James amd most I recently enjoyed an evening as Speaker at the Stockport Lamplighters Rotary Club. If you know of any group that would be interested in me telling them about my ‘adventures’ in Africa be it my climb up Kilimanjaro or the amazing place that is St James, please get in touch.
Also please keep in touch with your comments, opinions and ideas. I really appreciate your involvement and support.
Love and best wishes
from Gerry, James and all those children in Uganda you are helping