Poynton’s very own Paralympic Gold medalist supports my work in Uganda!

I have been invited to take part in the St Paul’s Christmas Fair this Saturday in Poynton Civic Hall, Poynton, 10am to 2pm. I’m very excited to tell you that Sophie Thornhill, Paralympic Gold and Bronze Medalist  in Rio will be supporting me on my stall raising money for my work with children in Uganda. She will be bringing her medals and is happy for you to come and say hi to her. Sophie is also planning on joining me on a furture visit to Uganda which is very exciting.

Please scroll down as below and in the following blog, are slideshows of some of the items that will be available on my Uganda stall in exchange for a donation, I have suggested an amount but whatever is realsonable and you can afford. All profit goes to the children in Uganda. If there is anything you really wish to have you can  reserve any before Saturday or you cannot make it, please let me know as numbrs of limited.

I hope to see you Saturday! Come and do your Chrsitmas shopping!

Thank you St Paul’s, thank you Sophie!

st-pauls-parish-fair

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Alex the Private Detective and my last few days in Uganda (Last catch up!)

The story of Alex the Private Detective &

Another few days in Jinja before I head home

I am spending the last few days back with Alex and his girl friend Hannah living in relative luxury in Jinja, the tourist capital of Uganda. I needed to do some shopping for crafts to raise money for my work in Uganda and was very pleased to meet Ezra the son of Esther who makes a lot of the bags, aprons, purses, soft toys and other items I bring home. He is gorgeous. I never get tire of cuddles with babies in Uganda even though sometimes I have found myself rather wet afterwards!! I bought some beautiful necklaces off Madam Susan too. She works in a local orphanage but makes the jewellery in her spare time to supplement her salary.

I am happy to spend more time with the ‘terrible’ 2’s, Johnny and Gracie who Hannah is fostering. There is never a dull moment!

It’s good to see a bit more of Alex too because when I was here at the beginning of my stay he was rather pre-occupied playing the private detective! No kidding! One night just before I came out to Uganda Hannah’s car was stripped of everything worth stealing, along with a very nice pair of boots she had left outside her front door. Also several items were missing from Alex’s home including my internet dongle, phone and my walking sandals that have a sentimental attachment as they were the ones I used when I first came to Africa, the time I climbed Kilimanjaro! They were expensive back in 2001 so will be even more expensive to replace! They also still had plenty of life left in them which is very annoying as I hate wasting money too!

Alex and Hannah had reported the thefts to the police but unless you have proof, or money, they are not interested. So Alex took the challenge on himself to find those responsible! He had his suspicions but never discussed them with us. He kept disappearing for hours on end, sometimes during the night. I had been disappointed when I first arrived as he usually buys me a Nile Beer and we sit and catch up with all our news. This year he literally dropped me and my luggage off and went out. I asked Hannah where he had gone and she just shrugged her shoulders. A couple of nights later he not only went out but stayed out until 3 in the morning! The next morning both Hannah and I were a bit harsh with him and his reply was that we must be patient and that he would tell us everything soon! Neither of us could imagine what he was talking about!

A particular young man had been helping the couple and regularly came to both Hannah’s and Alex’s place, often staying over at the latter. He was unemployed but seemed to have the money for new clothes and the best phone. Alex eventually told us that he had been following this person around, day and night, and gathering evidence which he was presenting to the police that morning and would we, Hannah and I, try to keep the suspect with us! I’m now glad that Alex had not told us earlier as keeping up conversation with this young man and ‘acting cool’ wasn’t easy! Fortunately is wasn’t too long before Alex returned with two men who greeted Hannah and I with a ‘Good morning’ and a hand shake then went over to the suspect greeted him too but added ‘You’re under arrest’ and hand cuffed him. They were plain clothed policemen! This young man and his brothers had been stealing from various venues and people, but our own detective Alex, solved the mystery for everyone! Needless to say Hannah and I felt rather guilty about moaning at him. We’ll never get our belongings back but hopefully this young man and his brothers might learn a valuable lesson! They were released on bail but have to find the money to cover all that has been stolen otherwise they will go to jail for a long time. So their families must be desperately searching for the money needed now!

During this time with Hannah and Alex we went to visit Alex’s brother Paul who is studying for his A levels and another brother Bosco who is studying to be a nurse. There is more details in a previous blog ‘An introduction to my Ugandan family’. I also had a few hours relaxing at the Nile Resort with my family. Its on the edge of the Nile and has a gorgeous swimming pool. Bosco and Mike were able to join us which was great, a treat they cannot afford themselves. Two and a half year old twins Johnny and Gracie loved it but we had to keep a real eye on them as they move so fast! I got some great photos of them though, especially when Johnny pinched my goggles!

Its always great to relax before the long journey home, and to make the most of the hot sunny weather too!

See you soon! Please warm up the weather for me!

Farewell Innocent, Judith and those lovely piglets!

Farewell Innocent, Judith and those lovely piglets!

It was sad leaving Nawanyago where I had been living very happily with Innocent and his mum Judith, but all good things come to an end! Before I left I gave our neighbours mosquito nets as their little girl Gift had been very poorly with Malaria. So many in Uganda still die of this preventable disease, its the biggest killer especially for those under five and pregnant women. I also gave one to Judith after enquiring if she had one. I had bought one for Innocent at the beginning of my stay. It takes so little money to save a persons, or even a whole family’s life!

Innocent’s neighbours had a brick maker some in to make mud bricks which they will fire in a home made kiln and then sell to supplement their income. I got a couple of photos and a video which I showed him and he found it all quite weird seeing himself on the screen but I had asked Innocent to get his permission beforehand if it was OK. Not sure he really understood until I showed him!

https://youtu.be/y-j-6z1CwGc


I spent a while chatting to the pigs, as you do and took some great photos, especially of my ‘husband’. He is becoming quite friendly! Also photos of two others named after Anna and Holly who gave Innocent the pigs. Innocent has written a beautiful letter to you and his other sponsor Ruth in the UK, which I will be happy to deliver as soon as I get home. You have made such a difference to his life. Thank you!.

I have been very happy and comfortable here and look forward to coming again next year.

Standing up to bully conductors on the local ‘suicide’ buses!

Standing up to bully conductors on the local suicide buses!

I had to go into Kamuli Town several times during my stay with Innocent, travelling on the awful taxi buses – I call them suicide buses and really have no choice but to use them. It’s too far to travel on a motor bike which I would actually feel slightly more safe on! It is illegal to have more than 14 passengers on these public buses and when you get nearer to Jinja town or Kampala the rule is enforced strictly but heading into Kamuli the drivers and conductors don’t care and they fill the bus up and fill it up again! Several times in the past I have made a stand and did it twice during this stay.

The first time, although the bus was overfull, it stopped for a passenger and the conductor indicated that I should move over to make room for her, so that we would have to share ‘my’ seat. I decided not to move and fortunately he gave up the fight quite quickly. I did feel a little sorry for the lady but the buses come along frequently.

The second time it was a bit more difficult. The bus was full and the conductor stopped to let a man get on who tried to push me over. I just sat fast and stiff in my seat, which was really uncomfortable as the cushion had disintegrated and I had a metal spike sticking in my bum, but I was determined not to be bullied! The man and the conductor laughed and were obviously talking about this mad Mzungu the whole time and didn’t give up insisting I should share me seat. In fact the man ended up half stood and half sat on me!

I could see I was not going to get my way so I told the conductor out loud that I would only pay half fare as I only had half a seat to sit on. He laughed and then ignored me until I got out of the bus in town and handed him 1000 Ugx instead of 2000 Ugx! He was furious so I offered to call the police, reminding him that it is against the law to overcrowd your bus. He asked Innocent to ‘sort me out’ but Innocent, though surprised at the stand I made, supported me. The conductor refused to take my half fare so I walked away across the road, not looking back. Next thing he was at my shoulder saying he would take the half fare! Great fun! Innocent told me the rest of the passengers said they wished they could have a Mzungu on every journey! I don’t know why these people won’t stand up for their rights. These men are just bullies! The buses are dangerous enough without being overcrowded!

 

The return journey was slightly more comfortable, not that comfortable is a word I would ever use for those buses, but at least no one challenged me! In fact they couldn’t have been more helpful as the reason I had come to Kamuli was to buy some cushions for Innocents furniture as I was finding them rather hard and low for me! We searched out the best bargains with the help of his cousin John Baptist and they were tied to the back of the bus. I did have to pay another 1000 Ugx (25p) for the service though. They look really good in his home and my back is happier too!

 

A big surprise at school for Emma!

A surprise at school for Emma!

My annual visit to Alex’s home in the village of Kasozi is always one I look forward to and enjoy immensely. The home has seen a gradual change over the years we have been involved with the family and not just because we helped them financially in the beginning. The improvement to their home and circumstances has been mainly due to hard work by their mum, Alex and his brothers. While their mum was away after their dad died, a big portion of land was claimed by a neighbour and Alex had to do a lot of negotiating at clan meetings plus the sacrifice of a few goats to return it to their rightful ownership! Now Mum Monica, (they call me Mum Gerry to differentiate!) farms the land often single handed if all the boys are away, and tries to provide for the family’s food as well as grow enough to sell to enable her to have money for extra necessities like medical expenses and to send her youngest son Emma, step brother to the others, to school. This year has been a bad year for everyone in Uganda as the prolonged drought has lessened the harvest considerably. I often wonder how these people survive and I admire them so much. They have no help from the government or churches. They just have to get on with it and often go hungry when luck is not on their side.

I’m quite well known by the neighbours and always go over to greet them. They were busy making a meal as you will see by the photos.

Monica’s youngest son Emma was at school and as I had a gift and letter from his pen pal Joshua in the UK I asked if we could take it to him. The school was very quiet when we got there, the children busy in their lessons but we were soon spotted and a teacher came to greet us, recognising Mum Monica of course. He got a very surprised Emma out of lessons. Emma was a little shy and very quiet but his face lit up when he was told why I was there. As you see by the photos he was a very lucky boy. With Mike’s help I read Joshua’s letter to Emma. Thank you Joshua. Emma will write back to you when his big brother Paul comes home for the Christmas holidays.

At break time the children crowded round us excited for Emma. I didn’t mind as it felt good to be surrounded by them after the quietness of St James. The whole school followed us to the car and out of the blue I asked the teacher if he would like me to sing to the children and he jumped at the chance to have a Mzungu sing at his school. Of course I did the Jambo Song and the children soon got the hang of it repeating my words and actions. Always a hit! Then we played the Hokey Cokey! It was brilliant and reminded me why I love to come to Uganda. I’ve promised to come back to the school when I return to Uganda and do some more singing, games, arts and crafts. I’m looking forward to it already!

It makes me realise when I go to one of these village schools, just how much we have all done for St James over the years and maybe, now that St James has got good infrastructure we should spread our love and generosity elsewhere. I will certainly give it some thought.