A New Challenge!

Since I started visiting Brain Trust, a small school in Nawanyago, Uganda, I have made it my priority that when funds are available, to use them to try to give the children a healthier and therefore happier life. At the end of 2017 with your support, we rebuilt the latrines (toilets) which were totally inadequate. In fact if you remember, there were no latrines for the girls or the teachers at all and the boys ones were just a pile of rubble! We also provided a hand washing facility outside each latrine block and just as important, one near the kitchen so the cook could wash his or her hands when cooking the daily maize porridge ‘breakfast’ for all the children and staff. At the same time we put a roof over the school hall, which also acts as a community church, where previously there had only been bits of old sacking to protect the users from the rain and hot sunshine. (Please click on photos to enlarge)

We also started the mosquito net project in the September of 2017 and now every child who attends the school is provided with this life saving gift.

Head teacher Charles has emphasised to me several times what a difference these improvements have made to the health of every one. Sickness and therefore absenteeism has been cut dramatically. It feels really good to have this confirmed and to know we have made such an impact! THANK YOU to you all for you’re credible support. Nothing would have happened without it!

This February/March I carried out more mosquito net deliveries which include the ones given to any new children at Brain Trust, hitting the 1000th only a few days before I left Uganda! AMAZING!!

Also Poynton Rotary as well as donating for many nets, financed the re-roofing of the classrooms that house the older pupils, protecting them from the blazing sunshine and torrential rain storms. The flimsy roof had blown away in a storm shortly after I arrived in Uganda in February.

The new desks many of you sponsored have made it much better for the children to do their writing when before many would have sat and done their work on the mud floor or at best, have had to kneel on the mud and lean on rough wood benches.

Now I have a new ‘health’ challenge! It’s quite long but please read to the end.

This health problem came to my attention during my recent months stay in Uganda, when I experienced first hand the hot dry drought season while working at the school. I suffered with a sore throat, cough and the feeling of a permanently dry mouth, despite sipping at my water bottle all the time. This was the direct result of the dust that was swirling around and I was breathing in constantly. Every movement anyone made kicked off another cloud of dust and twice I even saw small whirl winds of dust moving across the school compound! I am only at the school for a short period of time each year but I can just imagine what breathing dust every day must do to the health of the children and staff.

The classrooms for the lower school, and the hall, are open to the elements and have mud floors so even when the children are sitting in their lessons they are breathing dust! Charles says many of the children regularly suffer with what he calls flu-like symptoms coughing, sneezing, watery eyes which I’ve noticed myself and also suffered! And I quote ‘breathing in high concentrations of dust over many years is thought to reduce lung function in the long term and contribute to disorders like chronic bronchitis and heart and lung disorders’. Not good!

Despite these conditions Head Teacher Charles and the teachers work hard for the pupils in their care. In fact last year the P7 class attained 9 first grade, 13 second grade and 3 third grades in the Uganda National Leavers Exams. All the children passed which means they qualify for secondary school, if of course it’s available to them.

We cannot do anything about the Uganda climate, and there are two dry seasons every year, but what would make an enormous difference to the children’s health and welfare is if they had permanent classrooms with brick walls and solid concrete floors. So this is what I am asking, do you think we could rise to this challenge to build a block of permanent classrooms? Please don’t stop reading here, the cost is very reasonable!

To reduce costs the plan would be to use the new roof and concrete pillars of the hall and extend lengthwise to create the four classrooms. By providing ‘partition doors’ two of the classrooms will have the capability of opening up into a hall for the school or for use as a church and for other community activities.

A rough estimate for the building is 24,000,000 Ugandan Shillings, £5000. (Please see the more detailed estimate in the attached spreadsheet.) This would give the four youngest classes, the most vulnerable pupils at Brain Trust, classrooms with brick walls and concrete floors reducing the movement of dust enormously. Metal shutters and secure metal doors would have the additional advantage of being able to leave educational charts and children’s work on display with much less fear of theft.

Do you think you could help me in any way to achieve this challenge? I think it will need the help of everyone who has been reading, ‘liking’ and feeling in any way interested in what I’ve been up to in Uganda to achieve this.

Maybe by spreading the word amongst your relatives, friends, colleagues you could find additional interest and support?
Or holding some sort of fund raiser specifically for this project?
Or getting your children’s school involved?
Or if you belong to a group or society invite me to speak about my work (and play!) in Uganda in exchange for a donation?
Or if you know anyone in the building trade, roofing, concrete, doors or similar type of industry who might be interested in making their company’s mark on Africa by sponsoring the building of these classrooms?

Please private message me with your comments and any suggestions you may have, and also what amount if any you are willing to pledge. I will keep you up to date periodically on how the appeal is going.

Please send NO MONEY at this stage as I will only be going ahead with this project if the whole cost of it is guaranteed in advance. I have promised myself and my family that I won’t take on any more long term projects in Uganda so I will only go ahead with the building of the classrooms if I can raise the funds within the next year and have the building completed while I am in Uganda next February/March or at the very latest February 2021, twenty years since my family challenged me to climb Kilimanjaro for my 50th birthday which ultimately led to me going to Uganda!

Please note I have not made any commitment to the school as I don’t want hopes raised then everyone disappointed if I don’t manage to raise enough to cover the costs of the new classrooms. Obviously my greatest wish is to be able to give these children the classrooms they deserve where they can learn in a healthy environment.

Thank you for reading this very long but important appeal! Please have a think about how you might be able me to help the children at Brain Trust Primary School in Nawanyago, Uganda!

I look forward to your reply and would appreciate your comments.

So proud of my Ugandan friends Patrick and his wife Kevin – please read on!

So proud of my friends Patrick and his wife Kevin! Just received this message ‘Guess what is going on here?’

Can any of us, female or male, imagine what it must be like for girls and women not to have sanitary products easily available and affordable, for their monthly cycle? Well for the majority of females in Uganda, and I imagine other 3rd World Countries, it is the norm! Instead they have to use old rags, dried leaves, grass or paper – school girls sometimes tearing pages from school books.

Menstruation can be a life-restricting monthly event for women & girls, and the reason that girls do not attend school during their period in Uganda and women find it extremely difficult in the workplace. Also when girls start missing school they are far more likely to be exposed to other risks such as early pregnancy and marriage, and contracting HIV/AIDS.

If you remember, on the last day in Uganda, on my way to Entebbe airport, I visited Patrick in Kampala, where he and Kevin have a project teaching ladies who have had little or no education, the basic 3R’s. They also learn skills that could help them earn a living such as hairdressing, tailoring, basic computer and the latest knitting (many of you donated wool and needles!).

Before I left the UK for my trip to Ugandan in February I had seen on the internet the idea of reusable sanitary pads and had spoken briefly to Brain Trust head teacher Charles who had confirmed all of the above. Primary schools in Uganda have classes up Year 7, pupils of 14 years and sometimes older so the problems were very familiar to him.

My daughter Nicola sent me the downloaded instructions of how to make disposable ‘feminine pads’ and I decided to speak to Patrick about it thinking his group could make some. I showed him the design, the pattern and instructions and he was really interested.

It was strange but very refreshing to listen to him discuss maybe what we would call a ‘ladies problem’ openly with the other lunch guests Innocent and taxi driver Charles, none showing any sign of embarrassment. The menstrual cycle is just another part of life in Uganda but one that causes millions of women and girls big problems. They have no money so buying sanitary towels is out of the question.

So I left the idea with Patrick and today the short message and photos were waiting for me. Brilliant! The last part of Patrick’s message read ‘It’s a good beginning, with time we will be perfect.’

I know quite a few people in Uganda but over the years the ones who impress me and therefore I stick with are those like Patrick who do their best with whatever they have. Of course as in all countries there are always people who sit and wait for handouts or take advantage, but fortunately the number has been few.

If any of you are sewers and you fancy making some ‘fempads’ I will happily take them out to Uganda next year. I’m sure ou can imagine how grateful girls and women will be to receive them!

The link is:


There are similar ones to view on the internet.

Happy times at Brain Trust PS

Hello friends! I’ve come across some photos of the happy times I spent with the children at Brain Trust PS, only a few weeks ago though it feels a lot longer!
As I think I’ve mentioned previously I only spent half a day at the most teaching at the school as my energy levels are not what they used to be when I ran Hollies Pre-School and 3rd Poynton Guides for quite a few years! Also the heat and the perpetual movement of dust around the school was terrible! I often coughed and had streaming eyes, feeling too uncomfortable to really enjoy what I was doing some of the time . The reason for the dust was the long dry season when the drought in the area dries everything up and this year it was prolonged! People were unable to plant their crops as they should have been doing, which means that some might have difficulty feeding their families! At school the fact that the classrooms have dry mud floors, open sides and no windows or doors everyone was suffering with the choking dust! I hate to think what all the dust is doing to the lungs of everyone particularly the smaller children! Anyway more about that later.
The fact is I did manage to give each of the seven classes (5-14/15 year olds) plus three nursery groups a portion of my time, and I tend to forget the bad bits when I remember those gorgeous children, without exception, really!
Hope you enjoy my memories too!

Please click on first photo to work through slideshow and read descriptions

Thank goodness for Poynton Rotary!

Thank goodness for Poynton Rotary! Yesterday I received a message from Innocent in Uganda saying ‘We just had a very heavy storm, houses have lost their roofs.’ I asked how his home had fared and that I hoped the new roofs at Brain Trust PS had stood the strain of the storm too. He said ‘We are ok thanks, and the school but I bet had it not to be for your help, the two roofs would be flying to UK!’ The phrase ‘in the nick of time’ comes to mind!’ Thanks again Di Penny and members of Poynton Rotary for acting so swiftly to the emergency when much of the original school roof blew away in a previous storm soon after I arrived in Uganda in February. I’m now hoping that the weather calms down to a rainy season useful to crop growing rather than the devasting storms and drought of recent weeks where the crops and the people don’t stand a chance of survival! Enjoy the short videos!

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, crowd and outdoor


More of my family in Uganda

Another branch of my Ugandan family are the Kasenke brothers who, since 2008, my family and wonderful friends who have joined us along the way to help give assistance to the brothers at different stages of their education and careers. Before I met them their father died and their mother was ‘chased away’ from their village because ‘uncles’ wanted the family land, leaving the six boys to fend for themselves. Something that seems unthinkable to us but was, and probably still is, common practice in some communities.
During my recent visit to Uganda you ‘met’ four of the brothers. Firstly Bosco who, though only gained low grade A levels, last year qualified as a nurse with extra skills in dentistry. Bosco was so surprised and very grateful when I took out to him many dental tools donated by dentists in Poynton, mainly from Doctor Lisa-Marie at Chester Road Dental Care who wants to keep updated on Bosco’s progress, and also Doctor Arde from MyDentist. A big thank you to both dentists. Your gifts have given Bosco opportunities he would otherwise not have had.

Bosco showed me around the hospital where he now works and this is where he carries out his dentistry skills

Mike left and Bosco right with their mum Monika who we persuaded to come back home where she is no longer under threat

Elder brother Mike has a job working in a restaurant in Iganga, a big town in Uganda, and always travels to see me on a Monday, his only day off. He is now head of the family since his big brothers Alex and Robert moved away.
Paul, you will have heard me speak about a lot, as I spent several days helping him deliver mosquito nets in the very poor and inhospitable environment of the outskirts of Kasozi where he had surveyed the area previously.
While I was in Uganda Paul received his long awaited A Level results and we were so pleased he had passed them all, Chemistry, Biology, Maths, Agriculture and General Paper. Incredible! These results qualify him to go on to university to study his chosen course of Clinical Medicine & Community Health, so long as he receives the financial support necessary.
In 2008 when Godfrey, a very good friend of mine who I depend on for advice at every corner, found Paul hungry and alone in the homestead, he could not read or write and certainly couldn’t speak any English. Amazing to see what a little help from us and his own hard work over the last ten years has achieved!
Without financial help none of the young people I talk about would not have had the opportunity to gain a decent education. With this help they have been lifted out of the never ending circle of poverty. The boys as I still call them, though most are now in their twenties, are all so so grateful as you can imagine! It’s been a privilege to be with them as they took their different paths knowing we had a small but very important part to play.
Lastly there is step brother Emma (Emmanuel), who we only started helping last year, with help from another kind donor. Emma is a bright boy and I’m sure with the love and care from his family and a little help from us, he will do well too. I enjoyed spending a few hours visiting him at school during my stay.

Taken from a post by Paul on Facebook: You might have something that seems minor to you but when you grant it to another person, it means a lot to them. Gerry Hambridge, it has been my pleasure working with you, and to all those that have made it possible. Thank you so much, may the Lord God reward you for spreading smiles across this beautiful pearl of Africa.
When Paul wrote this he was referring to the mosquito nets but this quote can be used in many contexts where giving is concerned. For the price of a new coat or pair of shoes that we probably don’t really need or the cost of a few meals out we can all help a child gain a valuable education. I’ve loved and still love going without that coat!