Feeling happy, but with tears in my eyes!!

I had just posted the last update to you when I received a WhatsApp voice message from Nurse Bosco living and working in Jinja. It was almost as if it was in response to my post, but it was just a coincidence. What it did do though is bring tears to my eyes, tears of pride and happiness! If anyone wonders what the reason is for my involvement in and love of Uganda, then this says it all. I hope the message shares ok. X

Sometimes it can be a bit difficult to understand Bosco but basically he was telling me how many of his patients who need their treatment for IVF and other problems are unable to get into the clinic now because the government have banned all public transport during the pandemic including the use of the boda boda motorbike taxis. So Bosco has used some of the money I sent him to buy food for his own family to repair bicycles so he and his colleagues could deliver this service personally! How unselfish is that? X

He goes on to say ‘I know they (his patients) appreciate us but a lot of that appreciation goes to you because you are the initiator and the beginning of everything we are here. We are what we are because if you. You gave us encouragement ever since we were young. You encouraged us to persist and you are seeing the fruits and we appreciate so much. Thank you from the family. I pray to God that we pass through this situation and we meet again. I love you so much. Say hi to everyone at home.’

My heart bursts with pride for these young people in Uganda. OK with help from my family and wonderful sponsors, you know who you are (!), we have given them the finance to get an education but each of them has had to decide personally how to make the most of this gift and which paths to take along the way. They are the ones who have to put in the hard work which for all, has never been easy. They are the ones who have a final say in the decisions they make.

But wow, it’s still a great feeling that we have been able to give each and every one of them the opportunity to have that choice!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, which is feeling very squishy squashy at the moment!!

Helping to educate a child is never wasted. Education IS the route out of poverty!

Sorry the message didn’t share but if you’re on WhatsApp let me know and I can share it with you  x

The virus changes lives in Uganda.

Dear Friends, it’s been some time since I wrote to you. I wrote this message in particular for all the sponsors of the students, my ‘ family’, we support in Uganda but I hope you all find it interesting too.

I’ve been busy rearranging life for the young people in Uganda we support. It’s getting terrible out there though they are only at the beginning of  the virus spread. So many people are being beaten, whipped and worse and that’s not because they have the virus!! There is a 7 pm curfew and the police are beating people young or old, male or female (and heavily pregnant!) even if they just leave their doors open!

Basically it has became a police state overnight. The police are poorly trained and very poorly paid and seem to love the opportunity of throwing their weight about, unfortunately violently!

Thankfully most of my young friends are now home in their villages where I’m hoping it will be  safer but that wasn’t easy to achieve as all public transport was suddenly cancelled! The Ugandan government never seem to care what happens to the ordinary people, just those with money. It’s really upsetting me. Before long there is likely to be starvation in many areas too. I’ve sent money out for them all to buy in sacks of grain and beans to last a couple of months but even that is a problem as food is going to the highest bidder, and theft follows those who manage to buy. It’s horrendous!

Innocent had to close his bar two weeks ago and no motorised travelling is allowed unless you are delivering something essential, beer is not essential! He is keeping a close eye on his bar but we both know it will be ransacked sometime! I’ve just told him not to risk himself fighting anybody away. Life is just too precious. He, Betty, Alex and little Norman are working together on some land they rent to grow more crops both for themselves and their animals.

The small earnings Innocent made from the bar helped with feeding but now who knows when it will open again or if any of the local people will have any spare money to go there!

At the moment Innocent is trying to get Nico, the young man we started sponsoring this year, who is profoundly deaf, back from Kamuli. Nico is doing a carpentry apprenticeship and being helped with learning to communicate with the hearing by a wonderful teacher for the deaf who he is also boarding with. It seems the only way is to bribe one of the delivery trucks on their way back to Jinja to give Nico a lift back home to Nawanyago. Hoping he makes it back soon.

During this time at home I’ve asked Innocent to talk as much as possible in English to Alex, rather than their local language. Alex is the son of a distant relative with mental health issues who abandoned his family, whose wife then fell on very hard times not able to feed or educate her children. He now lives full time with Innocent, and has recently been sponsored by another wonderful lady, to go to secondary school. He is 16 but knows very little English which is crucial as all teaching, books and exams are in English. With Innocents help during the time of this virus I hope his English will improve so that he is able to get on better with his studies when he returns to school.

Paul, who is studying Clinical Medicine and Community Health at uni, travelled 400,000 km back from Western Uganda and arrived in his village just before the public transport was cancelled, so did his little brother Emma. Now they are at home busy helping their mum Monica with the garden (garden is what the Ugandan villagers call their fields). I’ve also asked Paul to give Emma English lessons to help him improve, as his lack of English language and reading is holding him back a bit at school too. Both Alex and Emma’s previous education was of a very low standard but they are very bright boys and love school.

Paul’s family get updates on the virus over the little battery run transistor radio I bought their mum years ago. Only problem is that the info is often rather worrying! The Ugandan government are telling everyone the emergency will be over by the end of April and that schools will reopen, which is only a few weeks away now, but I can’t see that happening without risking many more lives. Though they do not have many confirmed cases so far. I’ve warned my young friends they might not be back at uni/school any time soon, and also informed them about ways to keep safe. Fortunately they believe me and take my advice, though of course with no running water washing your hands regularly is more difficult than it is here!

Bosco was unable to get his wife and toddler back to the village so they are staying with him in Jinja town where Bosco is a nurse at one of the hospitals.

Mike who was working in a restaurant is now also working in a hospital as a ‘deep cleaner’, such an important job at the moment.

As well as being good friends I rely on these young people to look after me during my visits to Uganda.

Innocent, Paul, Mike and Bosco have also all helped me deliver the 1700 mosquito nets you have funded over the last two years too!

I am very proud of my family in Uganda and it’s all due to people like yourselves who help us to give them an education that they all desire. Thank you 😊

The virus spreading across Uganda is a great worry to me, I feel so useless sometimes but there’s no more we can do, except pray and hope, just as we’re doing for everyone here in the UK.

Love and hugs to you all and please, stay safe xxx Pease click on first photo for slideshow and captions

Since writing this I have received more news of Nico. He has gone to live with his teacher and his family so he can continue to have his lessons in communication. He is so happy as this is the first time in his life he has someone who understands him! He looks forward to returning to the workshop when things return to normal.

Also the government have taken steps to curb the police violence!

Some good news!

Dear friends I promised you some good news and here it is. With all the talk of the terrible Coronavirus I hope it’s welcome distraction for a few minutes!

Do you remember me visiting Good Luck Junior School in the village of Nawantumbi, during my visit to Uganda 🇺🇬in January? It was where one of my mosquito net deliveries was based? I showed you photos of the classrooms. They had walls made of mud and a roof made of thick rotting grass and so low that I could hardly stand up in the classrooms. Inside they were very dark and damp.

The people I met in the local community really impressed me and I felt I  wanted to help the school if I possibly could. To avoid any expectations I asked my friend Innocent to assess what was needed discreetly during one of my visits to the school.

Then I started wondering where to get the necessary finance, to at least replace the roof. I turned once again to the wonderful Poynton Rotary Club and was very pleased when they gave me a donation towards the work. THANK YOU POYNTON ROTARY CLUB!

Once I knew this donation was available Innocent got a builder to give a more accurate estimate. We had assumed that a corrugated iron roof could just replace the thick rotten grass one but was advised that the mud walls could not support the weight of the heavy sheets especially as the mud needed replacing regularly. We were then given two options with estimates. One was to erect wooden supports on the outside of the mud walls to hold the metal roof, the cheapest of the options. The second was to build a completely new classroom block from scratch using wood poles for the uprights and rafters which would hold the roof sheets, and timber pieces for the walls, both available locally, and would make a much more substantial classroom block. This was a simple yet much more practical solution than the original one with the mud walls that need constant repairing, and the dark damp claustrophobic atmosphere inside, where the children did their studies, was unexceptionable to me once I’d experienced it!

The second idea also had the advantage of being able to relocate the classroom block further away from the road for the safety of the children, in particular the very young ones. This hazard had come into my ‘health and safety’ head when I had driven the pick-up to the school on two occasions.

Both quotations were more than the original one which wasn’t surprising. I considered the alternative structures and decided that the newly built and relocated classrooms were far more sensible and much longer lasting, but quite a lot more than the Rotary donation which had been for the initial estimate. However I was able to make up difference from my project funds.

There has been a bonus for the school too as Innocent has arranged for the offcuts of the poles and wood from building the classrooms to be used to make a pig sty that he will help to build as soon as he is able. Before I left Uganda I had told Innocent that I personally wanted to start a pig project at the school as a way to earn extra money to pay the teachers which is an ongoing problem in Uganda, families can’t afford even the smallest of fees so there is little money coming in to pay the teachers.

I was really pleased when Innocent told me the classroom block has been named Rotary Club as they have come to the rescue previously when a school roof blew off and have donated for lots of mosquito nets too!

Unfortunately there was no money to buy benches to enable the children to sit off the mud ground where there is always a risk of getting Jiggers, a tropical flea, the female of which burrows and lays eggs beneath the host’s skin, causing painful sores! Hopefully, some time in the near future I will be able to get donations for these too. Actually in one of the photos it looks like they have tables in front of them but when I commented about this to Innocent he told me these are the surplus pieces of wood to be used for the piggery and too rough for using for desks. They were just set up for the photos!

I look forward to being back at Good Luck Junior School next year as there are still many people in the village needing mosquito nets and women fempads. In the meantime please enjoy the photos and videos sent to me by Innocent.

May I take this opportunity to wish all of you the best during the coming very challenging year. Stay safe. Love to you all and thank you for continuing to support my efforts. x

Just a bit of bad news though, as expected Coronavirus is now in Uganda apparently brought in by a traveller from Dubai, and is now spreading particularly in the crowded city and big towns. All schools and institutions are closed until further notice, and events cancelled.

I’m hoping that in the villages where I am based the virus might not reach. Several of the young people we support in their education are now back in their village homes. It could be devastating if it does reach the outlying villages. Just the fact that there is no running water for easy hand washing and of course little or no medical help if people get very sick. I have given them advice based on what we have learnt and are still learning and the Ugandan government is also doing this. We can only hope and pray. x

I’m having trouble posting videos again but will try again later! Please click on first photo to start slideshow with captions on photos.