A Travellerspoint blog

DAY 7. Friday2/12

Today’s activity involved attending the AH Junior School Graduation day and end of school celebration. As with most things African, apparently time is not the most important factor. Its about the event. I must say this is starting to frustrate me a little. Ainsley did warn us about this, but it does feel very much like an excuse for disorganisation and lack of preparation. I think I annoyed some people today when I suggested that if we set a time and got to places earlier we would have more time for the ‘event’. It has happened a few days now where we get out of bed early to ensure arrival at the AH office by an agreed time only to sit and wait while things are sorted out or for people to arrive. I’m really not good at all with all this waiting and time wasting. I like to get in, get out and get done.
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Anyhow, as we were guests of honour at the School graduation we were not allowed to be early or even on time. We had to be late. The time we had set to be there was 11.00am with a meal at 3.00pm. I had ensured I had brought some extra food to get me through from breakfast till then. We arrived at our rendezvous point at 10.00am and waited till about 12.00pm before making our way to the school. It was a great occasion and Ugandans take seriously the progression from Kindergarten to Primary and from Primary to the next level. It is celebrated in the same way we celebrate graduating from University – complete with black robes and hats. It was a special occasion. Something I should also mention about Ugandans, they like their music. There are 2 volume levels – off and distorted! Music is not loud enough until it distorts, and then apparently it sounds great. And it was the same here. Boy, did I have a headache when we were done.
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Each class or year had some sort of dance or show to put on for us. I have seen a lot of African dancing over the past week so unfortunately I found another 3-4 hours more of it a little hard to take, but none the less, there was some great talent on show. One item I did find fascinating was a skit explaining the need for parents to feed their girls as well as their boys so they can do well at school and one day become good mothers or even a doctor. I laughed inside when I thought about some of the cultural habits they have that created the need for a Graduation skit to make this point, and I wondered how this may have gone down with the locals. Not that it was obvious that the girls were undernourished mind you. We were done at about 6.30pm. They had gone right on past the 3.00pm target for a meal, because we were all enjoying things so much. I remembered, It’s not about the time, it’s about the event. Shame my stomach didn’t seem to understand this.

Posted by richarddb 21:05 Archived in Uganda Comments (0)

DAY 6. Thursday 1/12

The plan for today was to visit a school about 2.5 hrs northwest of Kampala, drop off some sports gear that had been collected and donated for them in Australia, and do some painting for them. We had purchased about 55 ltrs of paint, some brushes and rollers and were hoping to paint a wall and some concrete garden and path edges. Due to the initial delays back at the office getting gear together and the distance we had to travel to get to the school, and delays at the school, I was quite disappointed we only had 1 hour to work before we had to pack up and leave to help setup at the AH Junior school for their graduation day celebrations tomorrow. With the brevity of our work, I felt that our efforts did feel a little pompous – drop off some shoes, soccer balls and boots, netball gear, get a clap, do a little painting and wow, aren’t we good. I would have loved to had more time to really make a difference rather than the lightening trip it was. However, we were able to leave the paint and materials behind meaning they could, at their leisure, paint the walls we had also hoped to do.
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From here we set off back to Kampala to help set out chairs for tomorrows function at AH Junior School. We arrived after dark and I was feeling pretty ‘smashed’ by this satge so I was pleased this exercise ended up being a fairly quick given the number of people, us and students, who helped off load a truck of chairs and distribute them in stacks where others would then set them out. I really wondered if there was actually a point in us having been here given we were there for probably about 10 minutes. Anyway, I was feeling tired, so I thought it best to keep my thoughts to myself so I didn’t create any problems by voicing my opinions. Its nice to think that sometimes I can catch myself in this way :-)
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Posted by richarddb 21:01 Archived in Uganda Comments (0)

DAY 5. Wednesday 30/11

Visiting the Slums - Providing Medical assistance to residents/Tour of the slums.

As I write this I hear the sound of traffic and a lot of people speaking Luganda, one of the native tongues of Uganda, it still hasn’t sunk in that I am actually in Uganda.
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Today we visited the slums of Kampala – one of the places that AH look to rescue boys. We had purchased provisions of First Aid supplies yesterday and today we were to serve the community by providing a small nursing station to administer aid. Grace and another volunteer nurse from the AH community were to head the operation along with a student named Ibrahim who was also part of AH. African Hearts is widely respected in the slums by the children and I imagine also the adults. Abi, who heads AH, made the statement, that in the slums he is ‘President’. He meant, that because of the respect the people have for him (because he was there and on the streets for a short time growing up) and the fact that he loves them and helps them so much, they have given him that position out of respect. And that was evident by the way so many young and older boys would come up to him and he would hug them, hold their hand and show them great affection. And the love was reciprocated. It was really special. He explained, that because of this love and respect for him, if the phone had been stolen from her in the slums, he would have been able to get it back for her no problems at all. That shows the level of respect they have for him.
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We were welcomed into a dimly light ‘hall’ where the children were to be feed. To kick off proceedings we introduced ourselves, said a little about our families and stated our favourite soccer team. There were 3 to choose from - Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal. Most people had chosen MU or Liverpool so I chose Arsenal as my team. So the boys and girls listened patiently as we introduced ourselves and our favourite team via translator. The hall erupted into load cheers of approval and people came forward to give us fist pumps as we announced the soccer team we supported. In my case, I even got some extra cheers when I said I had 6 kids including a pair of twins. Apparently a large family and twins is something to be celebrated in Uganda. some worship songs were sung in Luganda and then the kids quickly organised themselves and put on a display of native dances and tricks to welcome us to there community. It was so lovely to see their appreciation to us for us being there. Having seen native dancing on Sunday and again today, I also noted how sensual the dances are. At one point, to load cheers from the other kids, a young boy and girl, probably early teens at most, came together initially front to back and then front to front and were grinding together in dance. The tragedy of this place I found out is that the girls almost always go into prostitution and from an early age as this is the only way for them to earn money to feed themselves. As I watched, I wondered how many of these you girls were already providing these services. And they don’t get a choice either. People come into the slums to visit these girls and the girls cannot say no, to anyone.
After the dance and talent show, we set up the nursing station. Grace, Olivia (the other nurse) and Ibrahim started attending to the wounds or ailments. David, Ainsley’s son, and I started setting things up to ‘serve’ the nurses. We made sure there were always supplies of cotton wool swabs in disinfectant, dry ones for drying, gauze and tapes to put over the wounds, panadol for headaches and a small supply of antibiotics. Some of the wounds required hospital treatment, others weren’t that bad, but were terrible wounds all the same. A couple of guys had deep wounds in their legs from being hit by Boda Bodas. One case that Grace recommended hospital treatment for, the would was so deep and open and had been like this for quite some time that she could see open and dead veins in the wound. This man couldn’t afford hospital and so he just continued living this way. He would eventually lose his leg if left untreated.
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After we had finished attending to all the medical needs, we were given a guided tour of the slums. During this walk some of the kids we had just attended to wanted to sell us the medication we had just given them for money so they could buy food. They had just been fed by AH and some were still hungry. Most likely they would not get another meal until lunch tomorrow, again provided by AH.
During our walk I noticed a puppy, so week on its legs that it could hardly walk. I felt so sorry for it, it obviously wasn’t being fed well, and I felt that I really wanted to give it some food. Then it occurred to me that there were 1000’s of human beings in this place that were in exactly the same condition and they were so much more important than this poor puppy. Wow, the scale of the problem hit me hard. Where do you start, what resources of money and people power would you need? And yet, so many people were happy to see us, smiling, laughing, young boys and older boys, even young men, wanting to hold my hand in a sign of affection as they do in Uganda. They showed us the 40 foot containers stacked 3 high, walls to separate between ‘rooms’ which were probably 2.5m x 2.5m with large openings cut into the side of them and open to the elements on that one side. These were ‘homes’ and also in some cases the work stations of the young girls in the slums. The girls lived together, I think if my memory serves me correctly, about 12 girls to a ‘room’ and if one was ‘working’ the others had to get out – rain, hail or shine. They showed us the animal figures they had made from newspapers, others were blacksmiths or mechanics, or sawmills, or carpenters. All from the slums. Rubbish lay everywhere, broken bottles and the majority walked on bare feet because they had no shoes. I saw too how much the men from AH were loved and appreciated here for what they were doing with so little. One of the men working with AH and living full time in the slums, is a man called Bull. Another who works in the slums but doesn’t live there is a guy call Bucka. He has been badly beaten many times by gangs that come into the slums because he was trying to help some of the young boys. And yet he remains there helping, feeding, dressing wounds and blessing the young children.

Posted by richarddb 19:11 Archived in Uganda Comments (0)

DAY 4. Tuesday 29/11

Today we had programmed an easier, friendlier day. We packed our bags and had them transported to the new motel we were staying in, the one we were supposed to be staying in the whole time, except for a ‘mix up’ in booking. We were to visit the African Hearts Home School, the Family Home and the main School.
So we headed to the Home School. It is located a fair way out of town and for a good reason. The way African Hearts works is they have a couple of men who live full time in the slums. They monitor the young boys in the slums and essentially, if they find vulnerable young boys they ask if they would like to leave, go to school and have a better future. If the boys agree, AH need to obtain approval from the government and parents if they can be found. The boys then demonstrate they are willing to change and they are removed and taken out of town to the Home School where they are ‘cleaned up’ from drugs and sniffing Jet fuel and taught some maths and English basics and/or taught the skills they need to attend school in their correct grade. They live on-site and are fed on-site by a live in ‘Aunty’ and the Home School is positioned here so that the boys can’t run away back to the streets or slums again. When they are at a stage that they have learned the basics, have successfully been weaned off drugs and can integrate, they are moved to the main school where they also live onsite if they can’t go back to their family. Currently funding has been raised to build a new boys dormitory at the school so they can again use the class room as a class room. I met some lovely young boys here, the youngest being 7 years old, who had been there a month and was still suffering from the side effects of his drug use. But they appeared bright, happy and enjoying their class work. They had a small stall of 4 cows which they milked to supply milk for the school and Family home and sold the rest to help pay for the other costs. The cow dung was collected and put into a fermenter and the gas given off was syphoned and used to fuel the gas stove in the kitchen.
The Family Home was nearby and housed other boys. I think from memory they were older boys taken off the street or out of the slums who they kept in separate accommodation from the younger boys to avoid bullying. This property had its own small garden plot where they grew some veges and bananas for self consumption and sale. I thought the house looked like a house half built or at lock up stage, but I have a feeling this was the final stage and they were very happy with it. Outside was the toilets, there was no shower, they just had a bucket bath behind the kitchen. The toilet was just a cubicle like ours but without a toilet – just a hole in the concrete to squat over. I guess you need to be pretty good with your aim, otherwise you get wet feet. The kitchen was a shed-like room with an oven made of a hole in the side of a brick square to light the fire and feed wood into, a steel cover over it like a hot plate and a domed lid to fit over so you could roast or keep the heat in. You just feed the wood along the ground into the fire to keep it going.
The school was much bigger than I had thought. A lot of young children are going there, some are funded by AH, some by sponsorship and some by paying parents. And this is where many of the street or slum kids end up – getting a full education with good job prospects afterwards. So different from a life of crime and violence for the boys or a life of prostitution for the girls in the slums or on the streets. Tomorrow we visit the slums and see where it all starts for many of the boys and girls who are now blessed by schooling, shelter, love and meals.

Posted by richarddb 19:09 Archived in Uganda Comments (0)

DAY 3. Monday 28/11

Well, what a day we had today. I think I was about as far out of my comfort zone as I could be. We met with the team from African Hearts at the office and had a time of introductions and worship. The team here have a lovely simple form of worship and devotion and their hearts are well knit with God. They are so aware of the need of Gods grace and work in and through them. The headquarters were simple by our standards but nice. We then split into groups to buy things that we were going to use or give out over the next few days in the school, the home school, the Slums and the village of Khyrema.
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So by 12.00pm we were on our way. Our group Michelle, Amy and myself along with Eddie from African Hearts had the task of buying paint, 4 20ltr water bottles and stands to pour water from, 4 20ltr plastic jerry cans to go get the water in, 2 basins to wash in, 100 plates and cups 120 school exercise books and pens, pencils etc for the schools. We walked through some of the most chaotic and busy scenes I think I have been in for a long time. Poor Amy who is a pretty young 15 year old had multiple girlfriend or marriage proposals along the way, disappointingly no-one seemed interested in a greying 49 year old man.
After 3 hours and a lot of walking we had everything we needed and we began the long walk carrying the gear back to our parked car. Well, this is where things dived. With hands full and some with large bundles, we carefully made our way back to the car. We squeezed through here, between there, around there. I was getting way behind because I was carrying the big sack with all the cups and plates and was finding it very difficult to ‘squeeze’ through anywhere, when a man stopped me to tell me that someone was steeling from us. He pointed to someone somewhere amongst the 100s of faces but I couldn’t tell who he was pointing to and I was becoming increasingly afraid that I might be being isolated so that could rob me. I had my phone, all the plates etc and my wallet in my pocket with a lot of money in it. So I thanked the man and feeling very isolated, I tried to catch up with the others as fast as I could go to let them know we were being stalked. After taking a wrong turn, I turned around to see the rest of the group had stopped. Thankful they had waited for me I walked up to them to tell them the bad news. But, I was too late, somewhere along the way Michelle had her brand new iPhone 7 Plus stolen from her closed bag. In the rough and tumble of the brief journey to this point, her hand bag had slipped around behind her and someone had unzipped it and helped themselves to her phone. So, with dampened spirits we continued the long journey back to our car.
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Arriving back to the African Hearts office we announced the bad news. Abi quickly grabbed as much information as he could and took Michelle to the ‘Police Station’ (a tent on the side of the road) to inform a very uninterested Police officer that a phone had been stolen. After a while the officer took down a few details and wrote up a brief report.
Things didn’t get any better for our guide for the day, Eddie, who I believe was feeling quite terrible about the loss of Michelle’s phone. Given the intensity of Kampala traffic at the best of times, he was going home for the day, when a Boda Boda ran into the side of his car. Given the Boda Boda rider had 2 passengers on his motorbike, a lady and her baby, who had fallen off the bike in the impact and were hurt, he tried to get away. If he had got away then Eddie would have been charged with the accident. So Eddie did his best to keep the rider there, but other Boda Boda riders came to the aid of the escapee. So after a quick phone call to Abi back at African Hearts HQ, a number of guys went to Eddies aid. Punches were thrown, shirts were ripped, but the Boda Boda rider didn’t get away and he was charged by the police. I am surprised more accidents don’t happen! Vehicles invariably came within 10-20cms of each other and even with that gap, Boda Bodas try to squeeze in between. Crazy. And then I saw Learner vehicle and wondered how on earth people learn to drive in this place. I think ultimately the jungle law prevails, the most rude, most bold, most ‘assertive’ as they call it, survive. I guess it’s all simple – if your nose is in front, you go first. If you can imagine a round about with this principle – yes, that’s it, you don’t give way, you put your nose in between 2 vehicles in front of you, and if the 2nd vehicle can’t get around you to cut you off, you win.
And so ended another hectic, eventful day in Kampala, Uganda.

Posted by richarddb 19:44 Archived in Uganda Comments (0)

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