Sunday, 19 April 2009

Hearts, eggs and smiles....

Can't believe that another whole month has slipped by since last writing this blog. Thankfully Sue, one of my legendary fellow trustees, is writing updates on the Chilli Children blog so that one is more populated:

Some of the highlights of the last month include:
  • End of March - working with the District Education Officer to reinvigorate the shared commitment between our project and the school towards 50 of deaf children who are learning and boarding (the boarding part through our contributions of staff, food, etc. by us)
  • 1st April - consultation clinic in Mbarara for 10 kids with either hydrocephalus or spina bifida to be seen by surgeons with a view to operations later in the year. This was held at 'OURS' project - a similar project to ours (?!) for disabled children but covering Mbarara and Bushenyi districts which are adjacent to our districts. Really interesting to see what facilities they have - particularly as they have big funding! Something to aim for perhaps?!
  • 5/6/7th April - trip to Kampala with 8 heart patients to be see cardiologist, pressed him to help us find funding for the boy, Kato Agrey, 14, who can't be operated on in Uganda so needs to find $14,900 to get operated on in India. Surprisingly enough, his father who's a village pastor (their wage is whatever comes from the Sunday collection) doesn't have $14,900 under his foam mattress. The cardiologist eventually got us a letter written requesting the funding from donors but they were unwilling to do anything with the letter. So it's up to us to find some big funder who can match this. Else the boy will probably die within 2 years. So that was fun... I've since emailed a couple of organisations that fund these ops but no response. Please pray/meditate/act on this one!

I actually did have a break over Easter and went with my friend Gloria to her friend Norma's sister's place. If that makes sense. In a village close to a town called Iganga (east of Kampala) where I think I was the first ever mzungu - the kids just stood around me and stared! Until I went 'wooooarrh' and they ran away scared. But they just kept coming back so I would do it again. I think they thought I was joking...

I introduced Norma's brothers to dippy eggs with soldiers on Easter day (a favourite back in my Hackney house :) ). They were a bit bemused that I wanted to boil the egg for less than their nuclear-blasting-equivalent of 10mins. But I really insisted and at least I enjoyed it - my substitute for not having ANY chocolate let alone chocolate eggs. We later drove back via the source of the THE Nile and had a swim in a very nice hotel's pool. So no complaints really!

I returned to Rukungiri on Wednesday to lots of people welcoming me back. It's amazing how quickly it has become home, returning felt good. I arrived back with a visitor, Louise, who was surely sent by the randomness of the universe/the grace of God/obvious logic - which ever you believe in! Louise sat down in their church in Dunstable on Easter Sunday next to my cousin Helen, not knowing her very well but deciding to share with Helen her dilemma: "I'm flying to Kenya tomorrow but the programme I'm volunteering for has been cancelled". Three days later she's on a bus with me down to Rukungiri!

I've been really busy experiencing and getting involved in the project that I've had little time to write up the copious notes I'm making or to really reflect back all this experience to the UK. So Louise's coming is actually great timing as she's been able to take on making a film of the surgical camp which I just wouldn't have had time to do. So look out for this coming soon - internet connection willing!

We're in Kisiizi hospital now and this weekend the children with their mum/dad/guardian have shown up ready for operations in this coming week. Mostly burns cases and cleft lips as this is a plastic surgery camp. Really not the 'plastic surgery' that most people think of in the Western world. These kids are not here for face lifts or breast implants!

I stood up and told them that there may have been some people who do not think their children are important, some who have said bad things in the street about their child's disfigurement (yes, they agreed to this) but I also said that there are a lot of other people out there who think their children ARE important. In fact that they are beautiful. I said I was here to pass on funds from people in the UK and Ireland who think this.

I felt really privileged to be able to say this to them. But it needs to be said. There can be some really awful attitudes to disability and disfigurement in Uganda, as there can in UK too.

They are always so unbelievably grateful for the funding that I really can't always find words to explain why people give donations or what we are getting back from them. I managed at least to think of this. I said, "you know you really don't know what you have to give." (pause while Evas translates into Rukiga) "People here smile a lot more than they do in the UK. You might think that people smile there all the time because of what they have. But they don't. They really don't. So I'm taking back your smiles" (pause again for translation) Then HUGE SMILES!!!

So here are some smiles that I'm sending back to anyone reading this. Thanks for everyone's continued support. Sorry I've been a bit cut off from emails etc. But I'm feeling your thoughts and prayers as I hope you're feeling mine.

(I've just spent ages trying and failing to upload a photo of smiles here - please instead click on this link:)