A taste of my journey home to my second home Uganda!

Hi friends, I had a rather bumpy journey here yesterday but not as bad as I thought it was going to be when the pilot asked us all to stay seated with our seat belts fastened low and tight! All’s well though. I was met at the airport by my Ugandan ‘son’ Alex, his friend Hannah and her foster children two year old twins John and Gracie – they are gorgeous!!!!

We spent the night at Banana Village, a lovely guest house in  Entebbe as it’s not good to travel here at night especially if you are a Mzungu!! Then it took us give hours to do a journey that should take half that time. The traffic was horrendous! Even worse than Poynton traffic, haha! Actually a great deal worse!!!

Travelling from Entebbe airport and through Kampala you see the two extremes of life in Uganda. Modern high rise office blocks, tall elaborate mosques and posh housing and not far away shanty towns where you can witness children who should be at school rummaging in the piles of rubbish and in the gutters for anything worth a few shillings. I think plastic bottles make up a bit proportion of their finds! I wish I could help them all but I don’t think I could work in areas like the shanty towns as although the people of Nakabala village are just as poor the area is so much nicer! There’s not a chance to grow your own food or even breath fresh air in the poor areas in town.

It’s always an interesting journey and at the speed we crawl along plenty to witness. Cows grazing on one side of the road as men in smart suits are working on offices. Modern expensive cars vie for each inch of road beside the numerous motorbikes cutting in and out with barely a hairs breadth between them. It’s not unusual for the motorbikes to touch the cars as they squeeze passed!

Pedestrians risk life and limb trying to cross the road dodging between the cars and motorbikes which dodging to avoid each other, are almost bouncing off the car bonnets! There are marked zebra crossings but I don’t think anyone knows what they’re for! The roundabouts are the craziest though, everyone for themselves! I find myself breathing in as if it will help Alex’s car get through easier! I’m not kidding, I don’t know how there are not a lot more accidents! I go very quiet during these periods not to distract Alex but he’s as cool as cucumber! Needless to say Alex locks the car doors as snatching from cars is a regular occurrence in places like these!

The whole journey from the airport to the other side of Kampala is buzzing with small family business selling cheap plastic items from China, toys, kitchen utensils etc etc. All are brightly coloured but none last longer than a few weeks and never come with a guarentee of any sort! Numerous manikins display dresses with slim waists and out of proportion hips, hips are sexy in Uganda!!

I saw one man today carrying a pile of plastic washing bowls on his head, a water barrel hung from one arm and a big waste bin from the other, both tied on with ‘string’ made from torn plastic bags! One guy on the back of a boda was carrying a full size ladder which stretched up high! His t-shirt said ‘Electrician’! I was hoping there wouldn’t be any low hanging cables!!!

As we make slow progress tradesmen carrying tall structures with shirts and ties make their way to car windows. Others with numerous household objects on their heads trying to earn an honest living come right up to the car windows. A bit scary the first time it happens to you but now I just smile and shake my head, keeping the windows closed of course!

Even children as young as 7 or 8 beg you to buy one of their few pairs of flip flops probably picked from the waste tips and slightly older children sell packs of chewing gum and bottles of soda from their small supply. They all make their way up the road between the cars and even when there is a spurt of movement and relative speed they run towards the oncoming traffic to try to sell! Frightening! They should be at school but, young as they are, are probably head of their families who depend on them to earn a few shillings for food. Going to school is just not an option for them! It so annoys me, actually upsets me to know that not far away after members of the corrupt government who live in sheer luxury! I wish I had the courage to go and knock on their doors (that of course don’t belong to them!) and scream at them but I would be thrown in prison without a second thought, and probably not allowed back into the country again!!

Ladies sit right on the verge of these busy roads selling the few fruits and vegetables they have managed to grow. Often they have a child sat nearby hoping to be offered a coin. What a life!

The markets we pass are full of stalls packed with bananas, mango, sugar cane, and vegetables like matoki, cassava, sweet potatoes, cabbages. The sellers will have come from the villages surrounding the capital. You see men with back barrows of watermelon pulled high and others with pineapples hanging from their bikes!

In the very centre of town you get the big banks with notices outside such as ‘Reserved parking for real people’! Not sure if I qualify!!

Overcrowded Mututu taxi buses (I call them suicide buses!) surround us with signs on the back saying things like ‘Sit back and relax’ and ‘Real men love Jesus’. I know when I have to use these vehicles I just close my eyes and pray! As the Mututu stand in the jam near by many faces peer down at me. I smile and either get a return smile or a swift turning away!

A cheaper ride can be obtained by hopping on one of the open topped trucks but standing room only! I think you need this form of transport crowded so the passengers support each other!!

Rows and rows of Boda men, the local name for motorcycle taxi, sit in rows on their bikes waiting for a fare. There is now a rule that they have to wear a helmet but many wear them not fastened or just on their handlebars! One boda man wore a t-shirts with the sign ‘Safe Boda’ but he wore his helmet on the seat in front of him!

Along all the main roads as well as the roundabouts, women dressed in high viz jackets and safety helmets but with no shoes, were brushing the kerbs right beside the sometimes fast moving traffic! Horrendous!

When we pass the Mandala Stadium where the Cranes, the Ugandan National team play, I knew we had escaped the worst of the jams. Its always a relief to leave the city and head towards Jinja where the roads were surrounded by tea plantations and sugar cane fields. By now we were all tired and hungry so stopped at the road-side service station we call the BBQ. Now this is an experienced in itself!! Usually Alex reminds me to put my window up as we are approaching but forgot this time. All of a sudden young men and women dressed is a blue uniform pushed handfuls of roasted chicken legs or beef on long wooden sticks into my face! Also roasted banana, freezing bottles of soda and water all crammed through the window at the end of many arms! I sat back and very still and demanded that Alex place the order and do the bargaining! Five chicken, five banana and three Coca cola. Total cost 25 Ugandan Shillings, £6!! And they were yummy but I had baby wipes at the ready!!

One consistent thing about Uganda is that there is always a layer of brown dust over everything. Even the smartest car or poshest building does not escape the dust! I call it clean dust as it is not a sign of unhygienic practice’s, is just the way it is in Africa!

I’m now staying in Jinja for a few days where the breeze off the Nile and Lake Victoria is filling the air a little. Tomorrow I travel to St James to assess the situation then I have meetings with the School Management Committee on Monday evening.

I have Alex and his  friend Hannah for company along with two gorgeous twins who ate keeping me on my toes!

I feel as if I have been here for more than a week not just a day, as I feel so at home. Missing my hubby though, always do but we’re in touch every day.

Thanks for all your support for St James , especially during the difficult time this year.

Love
Gerry

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WOW, WOW, WOW we’ve done it!!!

WOW, WOW, WOW we’ve done it!!! We have raised enough to complete the latrines at St James! What an enormous relief (in more ways than one!), and so amazing!

I wrote in my last newsletter that I had been invited into Lower Park School here in Poynton to take part in their Harvest Festival and to supervise a coin trail around the corridors in aid of their friends in Uganda, which was sure to help towards the latrines. Well today was the day. The Harvest Festival was led by Key Stage 2 children and was centred round what harvests mean in different places around the world. They sang wonderful harvest songs which I was happy to join in with and after I gave a short talk about St James and the way the children harvest rice up to their waist in paddy fields, we finished with the Jambo, of course! At the end of the Harvest Festival I was presented with several lots of money from different groups of children or individual families so I was feeling very grateful even before we started the coin trail!

The children were so excited placing their offerings along the corridors which stretched the full length of the school and back again! Tonight I had a message from Mrs Gallagher the teacher in charge of the event and she gave me the amazing news that the school had collected a total of £530 which along with other donations that have come in since I wrote to you last has taken us above what we need to finish building the latrines. This is such a relief and means while I’m out in Uganda they will be completed which will allow the children to return to school in February the beginning of the next school year. Absolutely wonderful!

So I should find out what the Schools Management Committee mean about me ‘commissioning’ the latrines!!

I want to thank every one of you for your help! Any surplus money will be put towards completing Joy Clinic which has been put on hold while we replaced the latrines. You cannot run a clinic without facilities being available for the patients.

I’m almost packed and will be leaving Poynton at 3 am on Thursday for my flight out to Uganda. I cant wait to tell them the good news and to see the money put into action.

I will be keeping in touch while I am away via the website so do send me messages as I do appreciate them!

Asante sana from all the children at St James to all their friends here in the UK. Love to you all.

GREAT NEWS & THANK YOU!

GREAT NEWS & THANK YOU!

Dear Friends

Since I wrote the previous newsletter on 28th September when I was asking for your support to finish the latrines so that the children of Nakakabala can look forward to going back to school, I have raised another £500 made up from a donation from the Hazel Grove Rotary Club after I gave a talk to them, and kind individuals. Tennis club friends, friendly neighbours and friends further afield. So THANK YOU to you all! This was enough to pay for the corrugated metal roofs which have now been put on! Also the slope up to the latrines for the disabled students has been put in place. See the photos below. So only another £600 needed so that we can buy and install the doors and complete the finishing touches, plaster and paint etc. so the latrines will be ready in time for the new school year in February. The family made me laugh when they suggested I ‘commission’ the latrines while I am with them this time! Not sure how I do that!!!

I have been invited into Lower Park School here in Poynton on Monday to take part in their Harvest festival and to supervise a coin trail around the corridors in aid of their friends in Uganda, which is sure to help towards the latrines. Also I think my choir friends might donate towards the cause too when I sing with them on Tuesday. In addition to these I have a mum from Vernon Primary calling this evening to do some Christmas shopping from the items I bring back from Uganda so hopefully she will find what she is looking for! You are welcome to come and browse too! Just message me on here.

Are you able to help me in some way please? I hope you don’t mind me asking you once again!

I have booked my flights to Uganda leaving next Thursday 20th October and returning on 8th November. So coming up very soon and only a short trip this time as there aren’t the children at St James to teach. Also I cannot stay at St James as his family say James is not reliable – keeps disappearing and doing things out of character which is very worrying! I fear the sickness, Toxoplasmosis, has left him with a form of mental illness, maybe the start of dementia. I will spend as much time with James as I can to assess his mental health as much as I am able as I have no medical knowledge. In my last blog I spoke about James having gone back to part time teaching but I’m afraid there is bad news on that too as he had a fall and has injured his knee and elbow. Poor James!

During my stay I will be working with the family and Schools Management Committee to put plans in place for the future of a St James without James, which is so sad. We also need to help promote the school again as the local people have become very superstitious of the school because of James’ sickness. So many adults still lack the education and understanding about mental illness or in fact any illness. For instance I have a young friend, only 25, who has epileptic-like fits and when one occurs most local people run away from him so he gets terribly injured, and even believe their food will be poisoned if his attack happens near their cooking pots!

I hope having me visit St James will give the locals confidence in the school again and start registering their children for the new year. Only time will tell. All I can do is to go on supporting St James by completing the latrines so that the District Education Officer passes the school as fit to open again in February.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Love and best wishes to you from me and from all those children who have been helping for the last eight years since we started to build St James!

I am also selling my Happy St James Christmas cards once again if you would like to purchase some packs. I will give you the information in the following blog.

roofs-on-but-still-needs-doors-plastering-and-painting

The roofs are on but still need doors, plastering and painting. Please note that the septic tanks are as deep down beneath ground level as the building is high! See photos in previous blogs.

the-slope-for-the-disabled-is-now-in-place

The slop for the disabled students is now in place.