It's the last two days of my 2 month trip to Uganda and time has totally flown. Sorry for no blogging hope this big 'un makes up for it!
The sadness to leave this beautiful place and people I really love is as present as a solid mass but one that is overwhelmed by the huge expansive lightness of the happy times I've shared in Rukungiri. For me this isn't just 'volunteering', it isn't 'lending a hand', it's become part of my life and a part that is so enriched for knowing these people and the beautiful country they live in. We share joys and we share pain. This week the Diocesan Secretary Rev John Muhamuza died suddenly after coming back from lunch break. As chief administrator of North Kigezi Diocese he was known throughout the district and was dearly loved especially by the Diocesan departments, of which our Project is one. His burial is today in his village Ruhindi a few miles from Rukungiri town.
Our Project, NKD Growers', Orphans' and Disabled Children's Project, is part of the Diocese's living ministry to help very disadvantaged children. And although part of the Anglican church their belief is to help all people whatever religious background. Life at the Diocese is very friendly, many people who work there also live on the Diocese hill so there is a real sense of community amongst people there including those who regularly come to the hill from the surrounding district and beyond. Morning chapel at 8.30am is a wonderful way to start the day with singing (boosted by the female students from the Mothers' Union Training Institute) and discussion of a passage which often tends to be comical, moving, contemplative or all 3! I was given the topic of 'prayer' for leading chapel and I decided to spice it up with a bit of Aretha Franklin from my iPod – because she's one of my spiritual influences. (My iPod is a major survival factor for my visits – being able to connect back to my UK identity with a bit of Amy Winehouse, Artic Monkeys or Stevie Wonder always cheers me up if I'm missing home.)
Right, anyway, what have I actually been doing here aside from educating girls in the smooth spiritual vocals of the First Lady of Soul?
This time I was focusing on helping the Project team with two main objectives: creating a budget for 2010 and putting together a HUGE plan for boosting the yield of all families in the chilli growing scheme. And I can say that the first is completed (and hopefully we can get it into a understandable format for our supporters soon) and the second is part way through but will require me to do a whole lot of writing up in the first 3 weeks of getting back to UK.
The idea of boosting the chilli yield is that we've found that the average each family produces is only 3.5kgs of chilli per year which brings in about £5. Now for many families in SW Uganda, especially those in the scheme who in general have orphans or disabled children (or both!), £5 is nothing to be sniffed at. It can mean a primary school child gets to school paying for uniform and exercise books which are fundamental when you see the state of the schools.
There are some of our families who are managing a lot more than that e.g. Isaac from the Chilli Children film (have you seen it yet? You Must - www.chillichildren.org.uk ) who produced 36kgs in one season (£54)! Last week I re-visited his home on the hill side in Kitojo, down a path that not even in Uganda could be described as a road! I saw the cow that he bought with this money and as he's just graduated from primary school, this cow and continued chilli income will be his means to a secondary education which starts from £50 per term at the most basic schools. So the HUGE plan is to get ALL 2000 farmers (plus maybe 1500 more) producing as much as Isaac to enable many more children to receive secondary education. This will require a big input of cash which we're applying for from a major UK charity. So please pray that we get this application done good! Any advice – especially professional – is highly valuable whether legal, managerial, accounting, project planning or slick wording! Deadline is 5th March for 1st round :S
So I've spent a lot of this visit doing essentially planning work in the office and I haven't got out to the field much but even at the office there is a steady stream of children arriving and general life going on. So summary of those events:
Nicholas Niwaabi who I mentioned in a blog last year as having completed a Diploma in Counselling and Guidance at Kabale University despite speech and movement difficulties now has a job in registration at a college in Kabale! Wow! Jobs for graduates are hard to come by in Uganda but even more so when people don't see beyond your disability. But Nicholas has three great attributes: real charm, the persistence of a fly at a window and the faith of a saint!
Phionah graduated from Mengo Primary School for the Physically Handicapped with an upper 2nd pass grade in the primary leavers examination paper with NO adjustment of the mark for her physical disability! Alex also did well but I don't have his grade.
had schooling. His disabilities are similar to Nicholas but he hasn't learnt to walk. Abduh (see Newsletter 4 – p1) brain function seems more limited than Amon's but we hope that they will both gain a lot from being at such an excellent school. Abduh's uncle,
a Muslim, is so grateful for the chance that Abduh, an orphan, has been given and has promised to visit him at the school every fortnight.
Term (and a new school year) started on 1st February so as we have a big programme for education, including the deaf boarding unit, it was an expensive week buying all the necessary supplies. There is no government funding except for teachers pay so all the living expenses of the children must be covered either within the school fee
or within buying basic requirements: mattress, plastic cover, sheets, soap, brush, towel, etc. It was fun packing up all these items for 10 children (4 Mengo, 4 deaf secondary, 2 phys. handicapped in Kanungu district) but loading all the provisions and the children into the ambulance for the long drive to Kampala was a bit scary! Bless Warren for that drive, and thank God for no punctures!
So Saturday morning I'll arrive at Heathrow, and the next stage of my life begins. I want to add for any cynics out there that none of my trip is paid from Trust funds, I'm still managing to live off the redundancy money from 2008! But now that's coming to an end and it's time to get a job in UK. This of course won't be the last you'll hear from me, the Trust continues and I have of course more cunning plans up my sleeve...
Notes for photos
1. David and Zi in the office doing the chilli boosting planning
2. Volleyball at the Diocese with Mothers' Union students, Diocese staff and visiting Americans - it was my sort of leaving party
3. Zi and Evas promoting chilli! Imwe baana mwije tuhinge eshenda hamwe! means You kids, let's grow chilli (eschenda) together! It's for the assembly we were about to do at Rugarama Primary School
4. Isaac and his cow (nearly being flattened by it!)
5. From l to r, Amon's mum, Amon, Nicholas and David, Nicholas came to give some counselling and motivation to the new students (and parents) they couldn't believe he was a University graduate!
6. Piling the ambulance high with kids, mattresses, tin trunks and make-shift wheelchairs - will the rusty roof rack last the 8hrs with that load on the bumpy road????