Wednesday, 19 December 2007

The Wait Is Over...

Char & Jay Say: So it may of taken over four months but on Wednesday (12th) the first ten children finally began living at Kiyumbakimu Children's Village. Some of the building works are not yet finished, and the site isn't quite as pretty as we'd like, but as they say, 'TIA' - That Is Africa...! The last four months of hard graft, frustration and banging our heads against a wall has finally achieved something tangible.

In true Ugandan style they kept us waiting nervously. At 9am we were all ready, egarly awaiting the children's 11am, as the rain started to fall, we were wondering what had happened. But then, thankfully, they all started arriving, slowly but surely, carrying their possessions in a small plastic bags – one t-shirt and a pair of shorts – for those who were lucky.

They had seen the place set up a few days before, so knew what to expect, but the excitement was still great; jumping on their beds (the first time any of them have had such a luxury) opening their specail little storage cases, trying on their new clothes and, for the first time, wearing sandals. Seeing ten pairs of brand new, brightly coloured, sandals lined up on the door step was quite a site.

The health difference in some of the children is already apparent. The Mother we have hired is doing a sterling job, making sure they wash and clean their teeth everyday. We've made sure they get fresh fruit twice a day and top it up with Vitamin C tablets. Add to the fact that they now don't have to go out digging all day everyday and can actually have some fun, they are all full of energy.

As a result and with the children being so excitable we've been pretty tired this week. Running around, playing with their new toys and wanting us to join in every minute of the day. We've had no peace, but it's been worth it. The idea to build a small football pitch has definitely paid off as the boys have spent a good 2-3 hours a day playing there – they are football mad! They really are the most adorable and great bunch of kids. We both a little are too attached!

One of our kids- Jacki – as previously mentioned on the blog, was so so quiet after living alone all her life with her very sick alcoholic 85 year old Granddad. The change in her has been immediate. She is becoming full of confidence and playfulness and generally seems much happier.

Last night, after jumping around and being hyper for a good hour, Francis, the most confident & intelligent of all our kids got up in front of all of everyone to tell us a story. Everyone suddenly went quite and listened intently, before three others got up and told traditional stories of their own. Whilst it was all in Luganda, it was brilliant to watch the faces of the other children as they listened and was a real insight into Ugandan traditions. When you've got no toys, no electricity and live in a mud hut, telling stories in how you pass the evening. It's great that even though they now have so many new things and an exciting environment they still are keeping true to their Ugandan culture.

The only down side of all this is that having the children here has really bought home how much work we still have to do to try and get this place sustainable and professional before we leave – in less than two months! Its pretty stressful to say the least. But we can only try our best. And having the kids here is what it's all about!

Monday, 10 December 2007

Crocs & Craic

Jay Says: So something a little less cynical this time..
Last week saw us have a well deserved half week off and our second mzungu style adventure. One of the good things about the charity we came to Uganda with is it is part of an exchange. And so back in July before we left England we met Bosco, a Ugandan volunteering in the UK with ICYE. He was, and is, a legend – really friendly and an all round top bloke. Upon coming to Uganda we met up with him a couple of times, once taking us to his house and cooking up the best Ugandan food we have had! Anyhow Bosco has a great job – he's a Safari Tour Guide, driving clients to all the National Parks and going on game drives etc. We therefore asked if he could sort a trip out for Char, I and some of our fellow volunteers. He of course came up trumps and got us an amazing deal.

Now Safaris in Uganda aren't quite the same as those in Tanzania or Kenya; during Amin's era all the animals were slaughtered and the parks have only just started recovering recently, so there's not the same abundance of animals as in KY and TZ, however the parks are still pretty special and whereas a Safari in TZ can easily set you back $2000 we paid nothing near that. So last Wednesday Charlotte, I and 6 of our good friends headed off to Murchison Falls National Park.

Murchison Falls is the worlds most powerful waterfall and its pretty special. After an 8 hour drive we got there and straight away trekked (well strolled) up to the top of the falls for some great views over the Nile before heading to the falls itself. Now this being Uganda Health & Safety rules ain't so stringent! It may be the most powerful waterfall in the world but there's nothing stopping you getting right up to it – and of course getting very wet in the process. It was amazing – the photos don't really do it justice, the power of the thing is immense!

Anyhow the next day we got up early and headed off for a game drive. Which was brilliant. Buffalo, Kobs, Antelope, Elephants and literally hundreds of Giraffe – right next to the vehicle. The only disappointment being the lions were hiding that day and despite a fair amount of searching they were no where to be seen. But it was brilliant all the same. We followed with a boat trip up the Nile passing Elephants, hundreds of Hippos and some rather large Crocs! Yikes! Our final day was spent trekking Chimpanzees in the forest. After a an hour or so we were watching our close cousins coming down from the trees to the ground about 15 meters from us – pretty special. All round a great trip – we all had lots of fun!

On our return to Kampala we spent the day hanging out together and staying at Backpackers – our favorite Kampala hostel – as we always stay there they now know us all by name..oh dear! Anyhow Saturday night was spent at a posh Thai restaurant sneaking a little too much Wargari (very cheap & lethal Ugandan gin bought earlier at the supermarket) into our cokes under the table (so much fun being a 16 year old again!) before heading to Bubbles O'Leary's - a grand Irish bar where we danced away into the wee hours, having our first night of drunken fun in four months – brilliant!

But yes a thoroughly good week. We've come back right into the thick of it at the project though – the kids are moving in on the 12th!! Surprise, surprise all the building works won't be finished, but it will still be a brilliant place for them; with a really great environment as well as so many treats and nice things like clothes and toys – all thanks to kind donations! So we've been rushing around trying to get it all finished and looking pretty this week. Also before we left for Safari we submitted our big strategy review to the charity's board – and it went down really well and they were very supportive, which was very encouraging. We've also just hired a mother for the children – we think she should be really good, having worked in an orphanage before, done AIDS awareness teaching and can even speak fluent English! We've also finally got an on site project manager – albeit temporary – but its still great progress!

But yes Wednesday is the big day when all our waiting comes to an end and the kids finally move in. We might be stressed about all the work we have to do before then but we are also very excited, to see our work pay off! Wish us luck!

I hope you are all having a good festive period and enjoying the cold. The rainy season has now ended here so we're back to constant sunshine..surprisingly enough we're missing the cold, as well as all the festive cheer or should I say festive beer!

We've now been away for 4 months – doesn't time fly! Hope you're all well, take care

Bye xx

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Are you ready for CHOGM?

Jay Says: A little different type of blog for you this week, all due to ‘major’ events happening over here in UG. Sorry if it’s a bit cynical..i am still a bit ecited to see all the special issues of the newspapers and photos...

This week finally sees Uganda hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting - more commonly know as CHOGM. Basically every two years the head of government of the Commonwealth countries, along with the Queen, get together for a bit of a meaningless meeting to discuss all things of common interest to the Commonwealth. Excuse my cynicism but with the commonwealth being a miss-mash of very poor old African colonies, Caribbean tourist islands and Australia and NZ there isn’t huge amounts of common ground as far as I can see.

Anyhow Uganda was chosen to host the 2007 meeting and for them it’s a very big deal. The Queen, 50 odd heads of state and 5,000 delegates means potential for a lot of money to be pumped into the economy. And whilst the meeting is unlikely to attract huge amounts of media interest Uganda will get far more positive press coverage than usual. Something vitally needed for the post Admin tourist industry.

So far, so good…but now for the bad news. The government, and our good friend Mr President of 27years-I’m-going-to-change-the-constitution-so-I-can-stay-for-as-long-as-I-want-and no-ones-going-to-stop-me-as-we’ve-just-found-Oil-in-Uganda-so-suddenly-get-a-random-invite-to-and-pat-on-the-back-from-the-white-house-Museveni, and his chums seem to have blown the meeting’s significance out of all proportion. For the last three months the papers and radio stations have been filled with talk of CHOGM. You cant go anywhere in Kampala without huge billboards proclaiming ‘Lets Embrace CHOGM, Lets Embrace the World’ and ‘Ugandan is Ready for CHOGM, Are You?’. This has led to the now infamous ‘Are you ready for CHOGM?’ greeting.

But that’s the problem, whilst its happening this weekend, last I saw of Kampala a few weeks ago it was far from ready...and everyone knows it – bar the politicians who continually insist all will be fine. Pot holes still line the roads of the capital, hotels are half finished and exactly how the queen is going to navigate Kampala gridlock has yet to be worked out.

The biggest concern however is the amount of money the government has invested for a meeting lasting just 3 days. Billions of Shillings have been spent on improving dozens of hotels (far more than will be needed for the meetings themselves), roads have been re-laid, rubbish trucks have been bought, and then bought again as the original order wouldn’t of been ready in time, armies of workers have been hired to clean streets, and re-paint buildings and roads, hoteliers and chefs have been sent on training courses in Nairobi and, best of all, all the leading politicians of Uganda have been bought Blackberrys to use during the meetings. The fact mobile signal will be blocked off during the meeting as a security measure against terrorism clearly evaded the government official responsible for that idea.

A school in central Kampala has been demolished to build a hotel, only for the investor to pull out, leaving a building site. The road from the Airport to the capital has been ‘beautified’ – also know as forcefully removing the hundreds of people who lived there, demolishing their iron sheet houses and stalls and leaving them no where to go - but planting nice trees and grass instead, just so the Queen doesn’t see the real Uganda, the real poverty, on her way from the airport.

Hotels have been given 30 year tax holidays to encourage investment and upgrading, Uganda now has far more 5 and 4* hotels than they will ever fill. But it doesn’t matter to the hoteliers, as they’ve imported TVs, Beds, Telephones and Bottles of Alcohol, all tax free, in their thousands, when only needing hundreds for the actual hotel. There’s a saying that it doesn’t matter if these hotels lie empty, the investors have made enough money selling tax free imports on the markets that they can go on holiday for ten years.

And all for a 3 day meeting.

CHOGM could have been great news for Uganda. But, in my opinion, and that of many intelligent Ugandans, the government has exaggerated the benefits (often because they are the ones gaining from those tax free sales) and spent huge sums of money that could of been invested in health care, infrastructure and education – providing much better long term returns for the country.

And if your not living in Kampala, what does it mean to you? It means Primary Education is still not wholly free, as schools still demand money for upkeep and maintance while the government proclaims internationally that it has Universal Primary Education. Someone needs shaking, a that someone always seems to be wearing a hat.

Anyway sorry for the cycncism. As i say it is a good thing for Uganda and quite an exciting time - just such a shame that it could of been so much more.

Please keep an eye out for CHOGM in the media, i'd love to know how much coverage we get over there in England

Rant Over

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Another Photoscape For Your Pleasure

So our Holiday: Two and half days were spent at the 'Hairy Lemon'. Random name but a beautiful island on the middle of the Nile where you can swim, eat lush food and do not much else! Brilliant!

Char playing about in the Nile

Jay washing his clothes in the Nile - he's a true African now - never mind the t shirt sun tan. oh dear

Then we went back to Kampala to meet some freinds, including Ally (candada), Grace (UK) and Ronald (Uganda). We went for a GORGOEUS Ethopian meal! Yum...

With the best coffee i have ever had - literally roasted in front of me!

This week, exactly half way through our volunteering, we finally moved from our host family to the project. Here's the home we left behind...

The pigs named Jonathan (L) and Charlotte (R) we left behind

OUr bed was out on the back of a boda boda and taken the 10 mins up the hill. Those things carry anythig from beds, to tables to coffins..!

Char gave Enoke, one of our host brothers, a quick goodbye song on her guitar!

And we're in the new place! Jay had promised Sseguya (one of the workers at the prject) the day we moved in he would buy him a chicken - this was because Sseguya is Charlotte's 'Sister' and so Jay being his brother-in-law its tradition to compensate for the loss of a sister (loss via marriage that is) through buying a chicken! Anyway it meant we eat well on our first night at Kiyumbakimu

And here's our plush new room with the Ugandan flag flying over head, and check out the well made bed, you can tell Char's been around!
And our plush new living room with sofa and floors and everything

We're making a Kiyumbakimu Christmas Card - more details to follow soon - hold off buying your cards just yet - but we took some photos of the kids to aid this. Heres just a couple.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

A Well Deserved Break

Char says: After three hectic months we decided to use some of our four weeks holiday – we needed it! Last Saturday, after a brief shopping trip for the project in Masaka, we set off to Kampala. Unsure exactly what to do (especially because it is supposed to be the rainy season) we decided to just ‘go with the flow’.

On Sunday we met up with fellow volunteers who live in Kampala, Grace (UK) and Ally (Canada). Ally had made a discovery in the area of Kampala she lives – a place called the American Recreation Association. The place is like a white-person’s hidden haven in the city. It felt a little colonial but sometimes we do needed to accept that we are in fact westerners and need a little luxury! So we spent the day swimming in the pool and drinking tea. In the evening there was a free movie on a big screen – it wasn’t such a good film but it was still a lovely relaxing day.

We spent Monday exploring Kampala at a relaxed pace which we usually don’t have time to indulge. I found that I like the city much better when we are not in such a rush and visiting places to please other people accompanying us. It is still the most busy city I have ever visited but on Monday I found a new appreciation for it! That evening we met up with Ally and Grace again. First we had supper at Kampala’s very own Irish pub – Bubbles O’Leary- a rather delicious Irish stew! After that we headed to the National Theatre which plays host to a musician’s Jam Session every Monday evening. It took a couple of hours to warm up, but soon we were hearing some of the finest young musicians in Uganda. A rather unexpected treat came when it was announced that Jose Chameleon was going to perform. Chameleon is pretty much the biggest popular musician Uganda has ever produced and so it was a major treat to see him perform up-close, for free!

Tuesday saw us visit Entebbe for the night. Although we didn’t get to spend much time in the town, it seems like a really super urban centre – very clean and organized. We spent the day at the beach – totally relaxing before heading back to a rather quirky backpackers hostel in what seems like a very smart and affluent area of the country.

On Wednesday we made the long and interesting trip (waiting an hour to leave, getting another minibus with 24 people rather than the 14 that it can officially fit and taking a 25 min bodaboda down roads where the driver didn’t know where he was going) to a place called Hairy Lemon near Jinja. The place is simply an island retreat in the middle of the Nile and it took seven hours to reach but upon setting foot in the island, we knew instantly the long journey had been worthwhile. The setting is stunning, the food was delicious and it was the perfect way to relax. We spent two nights there, swimming and bathing in the Nile, reading, sleeping, playing cards, eating and drinking beer. Exactly what we needed!

So now we are back in Kampala and met the guys again last night for a meal at a delicious Ethiopian restaurant. The food was outstanding and the coffee was roasted in front of you literally seconds before it was served to you. The freshest and most delicious coffee any of us had every drunk. We have to head back to the village today which is going to be quite hard after having such a lovely holiday. But we should be able to move in to Kiyumbakimu this week! Watch this space…

Photos to follow when we get to a decent internet café where the USB ports actually work!

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Blog Interruption: STOP EPAs

Blog interruption. Political Broadcast Time:


Since 2002 the European Union (EU) and countries of the Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific Group (ACP) have been negotiating Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) as part of the Cotonou Agreement. EPAs aim to establish "new WTO compatible trading arrangements removing progressively barriers of trade between EU and ACP countries" which would build on "the regional integration initiatives of ACP states" and promote "sustainable development and contribute to poverty eradication in the ACP countries ". EPAs as they are currently being set up and negotiated are essentially Free Trade Agreements. Consistently, the EU has insisted that EPAs be based on a tight interpretation of WTO rules aiming for the elimination of all trade barriers on more than 90% of EU-ACP trade, within the shortest possible transitional time period.

In addition the EU is demanding negotiations in the field of investment, competition, trade facilitation, government procurement, data protection and services. Negotiations of the first four of these issues were rejected by ACP countries in the WTO because of their negative implications for development. Under the guise of a 'development partnership' the EU is re-introducing its WTO free trade agenda through EPAs. Despite a great deal of reluctance from ACP countries, the European Commission has put heavy economic and political pressure to rush into the EPA free trade negotiations without sufficient preparation. Those voices in Europe and the ACP urging the Commission to look for other options were ignored.

As a result of heavy dependence on aid, ACP governments have little choice but to give in to the EU's demand that they open up their markets to European goods and services. The overwhelming emphasis on liberalisation in the EPA negotiations proves that these negotiations are about expanding Europe's access to ACP markets, rather than about ACP countries' development. Regional integration efforts are central to ACP countries' development strategies. EPAs will endanger the fragile processes of regional integration and expose ACP producers to unfair European competition in domestic and regional markets.

The result will be deeper unemployment, loss of livelihoods, food insecurity and social inequality. ACP governments will face significant losses in public revenue from the elimination of import duties and will continue to suffer the problem of capital flight associated with liberalisation. While the European Commission argues that EPAs are 'instruments for development' all assessments so far indicate that the burden of adjustment for EPAs will be carried exclusively by the ACP countries, including those that are LDCs. The EU has narrowed down the Cotonou objectives of poverty eradication and sustainable development to a self-serving trade and investment liberalisation agenda. EPAs will increase the domination and concentration of European firms, goods and services. As such, EPAs will deepen - and prolong - the socio-economic decline and political fragility that characterises most ACP countries. EPAs based on reciprocal trade agreements do not make sense economically, or developmentally for ACP countries. Therefore, we reject these "Economic Partnership Agreements" as currently envisaged. We call for an overhaul and review of the EU's neo-liberal external trade policy, particularly with respect to developing countries. We demand that EU-ACP trade cooperation should be founded on an approach that is:
  • based on a principle of non-reciprocity, as instituted in GSPs and special and differential treatment in the WTO
  • protects ACP producers domestic and regional markets.
  • reverses the pressure for trade and investment liberalisation
  • allows the necessary policy space and supports ACP countries to pursue their own development strategies.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

5* Orphanages & 5* Rapids

Jay Says: Its been a quite eventful week or so, and you know I’m not very good at keeping things short and sweet, but I’ll try, as much as possible.

With lots happening at the orphanage, buildings works wise (albeit slightly slower than we would like), we thought it would be a good idea to visit some larger and more established orphanages. So last Thursday Char, Mona, Anna and I headed up to Kampala, the capital, to visit a couple of Children’s Villages just out of the city. This was literally quite a jaw dropping experience.

These places were simply amazing! Its hard to describe. Superb quality houses, all with furnished bedrooms, lounge/dinning rooms, real kitchens and ovens (most kitchens in Uganda are cook houses – small outside buildings where you cook on wood fires) running water, electricity, hot showers and proper toilets! The problem was that maybe they were too good. Most Ugandan adults will not be able to achieve this standard of living. So how are the children going to survive when they leave and go into the real world of pit toilets, water wells and iron sheeted houses – one even had separate staff to wash and iron the clothes for them. These kids are going to leave with excellent educations (they sponsor them right up until the end of University!!) but even so they still won’t have an environment like this as it is not really the real Uganda. But still they are getting an amazing start in life, so you can’t criticise too much. And despite the problems we recognised, the set up was brilliant – it was a real village. 10 children, deliberately of different ages and sexes, lived together in their own house as if a real family – as brothers and sisters. And each family had a Mother, who lived with them 24/7 caring for them as if they were her own, as well as doing the cooking, cleaning etc. All the families had an Aunty as well, just in case the mother left. At one of the orphanages the mothers had to commit to a minimum of 15 years and go on a training course in Nairobi for SIX months before starting! Amazing! This was obviously an international charity, and very different from what we’re aiming for, or could achieve in the rural village, but still it gave us lots of food for thought.

As such we have come back and have re-focused our attention and efforts on long term planning for the orphanage. Anna and I are going to stop doing as much teaching when the children move in. Instead we’re going to focus on putting together a detailed long term plan for the orphanage, how we think it should be set up and run as well as doing lots of fundraising! In a couple of weeks we’re then going to do a presentation to the Charity’s board and hopefully they will agree with us! All very exciting, and a brilliant opportunity to make a real difference beyond our six months here!

Anyway, now for the fun stuff! We thought if we were going to Kampala we might as well stay the whole weekend. We stayed in Backpackers- the main accommodation for gap year types in UG. It was the first time I’ve been in the majority as a white person since arriving. It was quite unsettling and very surreal at first! Everything was just so western. But after a while it made a welcome change and the cooked breakfast, free pool table and hot showers were amazing! We also had arranged for a couple of other ICYE volunteers to come and stay there, including, for the first time, Grace from the UK, who arrived a few weeks after us. So that was really nice. We also had a curry in a restaurant full of Indians - so you know it was good!

Anyway upon arriving at Backpackers there was a sign for white water rafting and on a rather spur of the moment thing we decided we’d go on Saturday. The rafting in Ugandan is at the source of the river Nile! And if that wasn’t cool enough it is basically the best place in the world to go! So with nervous excitement five of us headed out early on Saturday morning to Jinga, the source of the Nile (other than me it was all girls coz the two other boys were too scared!).

It was bloody amazing! Rapids are classed between 1 and 7. With 6 and 7 being pretty much death wishes if you’re on a raft. Only professional kayakers could do 6 and 7 is all round no go. But on the Nile you go over four Class 5’s and a handful of Class 4’s and 3’s. Class 5’s are mental! With four meter plus waves coming at you from all sides and sheers drops of about the same! We actually missed one class five, but still was awesome. We only flipped the boat once – on a class four, and were one of only two boats (out of 8) not to flip on one of the most insane Class 5’s! Luckily I was sat at the front so I got the best view as we went over the sheers drops and got smacked by the waves! When the waters were quiet we also jumped out and swam and floated along the Nile. An incredible, if not surreal experience. Anyway we were on the water from 11 to 6 and that was pretty much the best 50 quid I’ve ever spent. Oh yes and it was all very very safe and very well organised Mum and Dad, don’t worry!

Anyway, I was very good and wore lots of sun cream, expect on my knees – none of us thought of that, and more to the point no one told us to! So the next day, after being on the water so long, we all had very bad sun burn there. My knees are now covered in blisters and walking is quite painful! So Char and I have been lying in bed the last two days – but we’re fine - we’ve been to visit the local clinic (run by Irish Nuns!) and got some drugs, and are quickly on the mend!

So on Sunday we were heading towards the taxi parks to leave Kampala when the rains that have been expected for so long finally came! That was some serious rain! Like nothing I’ve seen before. Within minutes we were wading through ankle deep water and Mona, who didn’t have a rain coat, was soaked to the bone. After taking refuge under a market tarpaulin and then in a shopping centre for about 3 hours we decided we better wait till tomorrow to get home, considering the now massive traffic jam and river for a road! At this point Camilla, another volunteer with us felt somebody go in her bag. Turning around and saying ‘Oi what are you doing’ caused about five men standing next to us to grab the guy, throw him to the street and search him for anything he’d taken, while a couple of others took Camilla to the side to check she was ok. Now mob culture isn’t great, but they weren’t really violent so it was quite amusing. People genuinely cared and hated people stealing. If you accused someone of stealing something on the Tube every would just hide behind their Standard and not get involved, let alone tackle the guy and check you were OK! Its why Kampala is one of the safest capitals in Africa.

And finally (sorry we’re nearly at the end), the rain coming brought with it the ants. Not small ants, but big ones with wings! Anyway they are somewhat of a seasonal delicacy at this time of year, so we have now tried fried ants for breakfast! Yum… well I’m not so keen, but Char doesn’t mind. They don’t taste bad, they’re just a bit too squishy for me! (Note from Char: They taste kind of like sea food but they look really awful!) Next month is grasshopper season – but these apparently are actually meant to be very nice – I’m told they taste like prawns! I wait with baited breath!

That’s all for now,
Hope everyone’s well and those who have just started Masters are enjoying reliving being 18!

Lots of love as always!
J & C x

Saturday, 29 September 2007

What A Difference A Dollar Makes

The (now) four volunteers and the first 10 gorgeous children we are currently teaching and soon to be living with!!

WINDOWS AND DOORS! We have waited a LONG time for these. The set nearest is what will be our bedroom!

Mona and Jay painting the inside of one of the two classrooms!

New Roof!! On the Kitchen and Dinning Building! !

Jay Says: Firstly, if anyone has seen the news about major floods in Uganda, don’t worry. That’s only in the far far north. Down here in the South it hasn’t rained for over two weeks – which is bad news! This is meant to be the rainy season and everyone is planting crops in anticipation of the rain… so if it doesn’t rain soon the crops will fail. This is insane. People dying from floods in the north of one (small) country while a lack of rain is causing concern down south! More evidence of Climate Change having the biggest impact on those who contribute the least! Political rant over (you’ve missed them I know).

So, the blog:
Busy busy busy. We weren’t sure it would ever happen but the project has really kicked off over the last couple of weeks. As I mentioned before we were lucky enough to get a large donation from Micro Drainage in UK. Getting money into Uganda however is not as easy as it should be so its taken about four weeks for the money to come through! While we were waiting for this, rather than twiddling our thumbs we’ve been busy planning and using the Dando-Binns organisational brilliance to set targets, plan work schedules and decide how best to use the funds to ensure things would go as fast as possible. And its paid off, our manager has really taken on board everything we’ve said. The money came through last weekend so Saturday (22nd) was spent shopping, shopping, shopping; buying cement, sand, mattresses, plates, books, pencils, paint, ordering blackboards, hiring labours to plaster and put a roof on one of the buildings. Something we have been waiting a very long time for!

With all this work now being done we are hopeful that we and the children will be able to move in within a couple of weeks! We’ve been busy designing school logos, motos and uniform this week as well, all very exciting.

For the last two weeks the initial 10 children who will be living at the orphanage have been coming to the centre for lessons and porridge (maize flour mixed with sugar and hot water - a luxury for these kids) for a couple of hours everyday. The first week was quite hard, as literally all we had was an empty room and a ball. But we managed to make some pretty good educational games and work out the different abilities of the children. This last week has been a lot easier since we’ve bought materials, pens, pencils, textbooks etc. So we’re now going to make sure these guys have far and away the best possible start in life.

As the Children will be moving in soon we have been visiting where they are currently living in order to understand a bit more about their background, health and family situation etc. Just like when we did a similar exercise during our first weeks, this has been a really humbling experience. All of our 10 children live in real abject poverty, with relatives or extended family who can’t afford to look after them, let alone pay school fees. One for example is Jackline who is ten years old and lives with just her 85 year old alcoholic granddad. Her grandfather is sick and soon won’t be around, and as they are refugees from Rwanda they have no other relatives in the country. Francis’ mother has a mental health problem and his father has just been diagnosed with TB. They sold their home to try and find a cure for the mother and now live in a mud hut on rented land. God only knows what will happen to his six younger siblings when his father’s illness soon kills him.

And yet while these families have nothing, we have been given two (live) chickens, 10 eggs and about 10 avocados to say thank-you for looking after the children! We have been assured there is much more of the same to follow! I am therefore now adept at carrying live chickens! We also had the freshest chicken stew you’ll ever have. After watching it be slaughtered, I helped pluck the chicken (which was a bit freaky as it was still warm and legs would occasionally kick!) and 40 mins later it was on your plate! But it definitely makes you appreciate what you eat!

Oh and Charlotte and I are just so so cool. I know this because not only has Mona, a volunteer from Germany, come and joined us but now also has Anna, a volunteer from Sweden. So we now have more European volunteers than we do Ugandan staff (one cook & two caretakers/gardeners/handymen)

Others things worth a quick mention, Karaoke came to the village for one night only – but oh no not like England. Karaoke Uganda style is ‘professionals’ miming along to some songs for two hours! And half the village watching while one of the performers decided to pull the white man out of the crowd to dance and grind on the stage! It’s a good job I can truly dance like an African…!! Oh and the gay debate is currently hitting the newspapers big time… Some of the things we are reading are really quite worrying, but there’s nothing much we can do. And finally, we found a brilliant bakery in our nearest city that sells pasties, samoses , buns and pizza! So that’s our Saturday lunch sorted most weeks! Yum!

Saturday, 15 September 2007

A Few More Random Photos

Jay painting away at the orphanage!
Char and Mona start painting the orphanage

Stuart cooking up a treat

Ssekulima making Chapattis - yum!

Jay, Emmanual and Mariam looking cool at Charlottes birthday party!