And so it's been since I got back from Uganda, I had an idea to spend time with family when I got back after 5.5 months away and so I did. I was very blessed to be able to even get home in time to see my Uncle Martin again who had been very sick for a long time and had deteriorated significantly since May. I was back in time to be with him and my cousin Helen (both in photo) during his last days. The funeral was, as always, a brilliant family affair involving lots of tears, hugs, memories and the mandatory garden cricket - more than one '6 and out' scored by the ball flying over the house. Finished off by one of the most amazing sunsets of my life as we sat on Dunstable Downs and then there was not much else to say but, "let's not have any more funerals for a while, let's have a wedding instead." Thanks to Rob and Lauren for obliging us on that one!
As my ex-housemate Laura moved out of our old flat I also had a few days with her before her departure back to Portugal. Whilst back in London I purchased my first ever vehicle: a Ford Transit LWB Hi-Roof Conversion Camper Van. Tested out down in Devon with Jenny before putting it to work on the emerging UK Tour! See me deftly manoevering the truck outside Jen's flat in this silly little video: http://www.doodacky.tv/component/hwdvideoshare/?task=viewvideo&video_id=577
Pre-tour preparations involved driving back down to Devon mid-August to put together a film. I took lots of bits of footage in Uganda with the idea in mind to return and edit into a short film. It's really the next best medium to what I'd really love, which is people visiting Uganda. Big big thanks to the Holland family for: getting me to pull my head out of the details of Project work and into Storyteller mode; making tea and counselling me; recording the commentary and not laughing as my accent changed from East End to Surrey via Australia (I do have a weird accent!); helping with the technical stuff; and for the 20 hours it took to edit from my 'content instructions'! I promised that when we do it again we'll use the money from the awards (?!) to buy a proper editing suite. But it has all been totally worth it as the reaction has been astounding.
From Devon back to Hitchin which has become my base - sleeping on a very comfy matress on my brother's livingroom floor, woken at 6.30am by Lily saying: 'Where's my Becky?' How can I resist her snuggling up under my duvet for a story when cuteness has just been redefined to include that moment?
By the end of August I was all set and headed off to begin the UK tour. The idea being that, fresh back from Uganda I could really tell supporters what the situation is in South West Uganda, where their donations are going and why on-going support is still essential. The film being the ultimate prop for these meetings - although at the time of heading off it still wasn't completed yet so was looking for a wifi connection at all available opportunities!
The journey began on Friday 28th August with the delivery of a piano to my cousin in Hull, sadly there was no-one playing it Monty Python style in the back as I drove! However, I did pass my brother-in-law on the M1 and I wonder what the odds on that are? Saturday I was at the wedding of Chig, an old Accenture colleague, and thoroughly enjoyed dancing away with my former senior management to Mr Brightside among other classics. Passed Brough castle on the actually stunning Yorkshire Dales before heading up the M6/M74 passed 2 nasty accidents to Scotland and the beginning of the tour proper.
And since then the tour has been this:
- Sun 30 Aug - Kirkmuirhill, Lanarkshire, Scotland - 5min intro at church, staying/ debriefing with Pat Gilmer, former Project Manager, now retired and living back in UK (although will be returning to Uganda soon for a few months)
- Tue 1 Sep - Larne, Northern Ireland - visiting Emily, a fundraiser who visited me in Uganda in July
- Thu 2 Sep - Belfast - meeting the CMS Ireland team who have been supporters for a while and intend to continue - hurrah!
- Sun 6 Sep - Kirkmuirhill again - FILM PREMIERE! An emotional response.
- Mon 7 Sep - Southport Prayer meeting for Africa - one time main supporters of Chilli Children and still supporting in smaller yet significant ways
- Fri 11 Sep - Leek for a Week visiting Trustee Sue and family
- Sat 12 Sep - Chilli Meal for 120! At St Paul's church - showed film, raised over £1,000
- Mon 14 Sep - Springfield Special School - talk about disabled children in Uganda
- Tue 15 Sep - Leek Day Centre for the Elderly - showed film, £50 raffle,
- Sun 20 Sep - Holy Trinity Church, West End, Surrey (my home church) - not just about Chilli Children but also all the other people who I met in Uganda who had a link to the West End & Bisley World Affairs Group (WAGs) - followed by Q&A on Chilli Children with film
- Mon 21 Sep - Holy Trinity Primary School (my old school!) assembly followed by meeting at Bisley Primary School about future assembly and fundraising
Future places in the tour include: Cheltenham (this Saturday), Stoke Gifford, Godmanchester, Leek again (for Trustee meeting), Cambridge and Kensworth, Bedfordshire. I would also like to organise a showing of the film in London - but am at a loss for venue and who might be interested? Ideas please.
So the cunning plan has evolved into a 'boosting' year for Chilli Children, not just initially boosting the Project in Uganda but also using that energy to boost the UK Trust and supporters. I'm very grateful for those who've organised events and those who've had me to stay.
I think if I had planned this current life I might not have really gone ahead with it, for example, I've not slept in the same bed for more than 3 nights in a row since leaving Rukungiri on 19th July, I had quite accute toothache for much of August and have endured 6 visits to 3 different dentists. But somehow I've survived knowing this is temporary, somehow I'm actually getting to know my family better than I've been able to for several years, somehow I don't need a wardrobe or draws or a bedroom, somehow I find my own space when I need it, somehow Facebook is a vital social link, somehow people are not yet bored of me (ok you might be 'cos of this long blog), because somehow I just know that this IS ALL WORTH IT!!!