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