It took a couple of years of planning, loads of fund-raising events, and a great deal of packing, and now after 7 weeks away in Uganda, the team are back in Blighty!!
On 17th October, Craig White, Becky & Simone Loxley, and Barrie & Ruth Morris (their chaperones) gave a presentation about this Summer's trip to Uganda. The presentation was an opportunity to share their experiences, adventures and photos - and if you weren't at Stowbridge Village Hall that evening, you missed it. Shame on you!
However, being a kind-hearted soul (and also knowing that some people who read this live a fair way away...) I have loaded the whole presentation onto the web, which you can access here.
Simone also has a few photo's on her Flickr page, including a short description with each...
check them out here. She also has a few on a Facebook photo album available here for those with the necessary Facebook access.
For a series of maps showing where the team was working click this link
If you're interested in the background to the trip, then please read Uganda Trip, which gives an introduction to the trip, where the girls were supporting a charity called Love in Action (International), run by our friends Alan & Beryl Went. There is also the fundraising activities page which gives details of all the activites and events that we held or attended to raise the funds necessary to pay for the trip.
Below you will find the reports that I made whilst the team was out in Uganda (latest at top)
I hope you enjoy reading about their trip.
Hippo and Buffalo
Update 19th August
The team had a great day "on safari" yesterday, spotting 7 or so types of antelope as well as zebra, monkeys, baboon, and close encounters with one of Africa's most dangerous animals - the black Forest Buffalo. These beasts can be huge, and are afraid of nothing. A couple of the buffalo spotted up close were the size of hippos, and as they are known to have very short fuses it's best not to mess with them! There were also various families of warthog who seemed intent on digging up the paths, making progress rather muddy and requiring careful negotiation.
The trip also included an hour and a half boat trip, where schools of hippo, a number of crocodile, and a huge variety of bird were spotted. Unfortunately no lion or cheetah - the sun was too hot for them to be about - and no elephant either, as a trip to see these magnificent animals would have required a longer trip up-country - and as Barrie says you can see them closer at the zoo!
And Becky's facebook summary: "decent!"
Update 16th August
From the sound of things it appears that car trouble has dominated the week just gone, although I have a feeling this could simply be Barrie emphasising the stuff he's been involved in... work has been needed on 2 of the 3 vehicles that Alan & Beryl use, with Barrie and Alan working on and fixing the Toyota Lucida - a broken vulcanised top support plate for the front shock apparently (no idea myself), as well as identifying the problem with the Pajero, although this one needs to go to the garage to be repaired - issues with the glowplug preheating system due to a burnt out regulator and wiring (no, me neither!)
Another problem: It's now rainy season - with rains coming with a vengeance on Saturday morning. Simone & Craig got caught on their way to the Internet Cafe, providing a good excuse to pop in and log on while waiting for the rains to pass, but this also meant that the swimming lesson at Tropic Hotel was more invigorating than usual as there had been no sun to heat the pool beforehand!
Thankfully the weather behaved for the Sports Day at Kasaka on Friday, which consisted of various speeches, plays, & songs for a few hours before everyone enjoyed a meal of foutou, rice, and fish soup after which they heading off to the sports feild for football and netball. The new equipment at the playground at Kasaka (now the best equipped school playground in the West of Uganda!) is seeing a huge amount of use - so much so that the chains used to replace the rope on the swings are also wearing through! Barrie is now working on a better solution based on car bearings to eliminate friction. The new tyre swings and two new seesaws appear to be holding up better under the constant use!
The team also enjoyed good weather for their 24-hour stay away at Lake Nabugabo Wednesday afternoon to Thursday afternoon. The 17km journey took an hour because of poor roads and the weight of the vehicle, loaded as it was with 6 people (the team plus driver) - plus of course the obligatory stops on route for photo's etc. The facilities were very good, accommodated in a round house with shower and toilets, and hot water from a jerry can! During the late evening the team were entertained by an electric storm as well as meteor showers - a couple of fasinating displays in the night sky. Barrie was up early next morning for fishing and was joined by a small troop of 13 monkeys, whilst our monkeys stayed in bed. Thereafter it was a lazy day relaxing, reading, and unwinding. The driver returned at 6pm to take everyone back to Masaka after a great 24 hours away.
So what plans for the final week in Uganda? Well, on Monday the team are off on a day safari to Lake Mburo - about 100km to the West - where they hope to take a boat trip as apparently this is the best way to sneak up on the animals. Hopefully the weather will hold as it won't be so much fun in the rain...
After that there remains work to be done at the Internet Cafe, as well as sorting out the swings at Kasaka if a suitable solution can be found to the vigourous use. Plus of course Barrie will continue to be involved in the car repairs if he gets a chance! On top of that, the team have to pack up their bits and pieces ready to head off to Kampala on Saturday where they hope to get a chance to visit the market to refill the suitcases for the journey home.
Not sure whether we'll have another update before the team arrive home, but once they are back we'll get some photos loaded as soon as possible, so please check back soon...
Just received an e-mail from Alan which pointed out some corrections for the information on the map page (which I have now altered - thanks Alan) and he also thought he'd respond to Barrie's complaint about the Internet speed... "Our internet is not that slow!!! We are the fastest in Masaka, as Craig and Simone proved on Friday when they did a brief survey of other cafe's in town! I think Barrie had a bad experience with a couple of power failures!!"
Of course Barrie is comparing things to the UK where we have the nerve to moan about our fantastic broadband speeds and are wasteful of our always on power supply. Alan is quite rightly proud of the Cafe - now unofficially the fastest Internet Cafe in Masaka!!
Update 8th August
A quick update - Simone has loaded more pictures to her Flickr page (there are now 26 in total) - check them out via this link
Working Up to the Wind Down
Update 7th August
Sorry that it's been awhile since the previous update (seems that Becky has forgotten how to write after her lengthy tome a couple of weeks ago!), but here's the latest information from the team in Masaka.
First up, for those that like a geography lesson, then click this link for a series of maps showing where the team is based.
The team have completed their stint at Kyetume as lessons have stopped, with the pupils now taking exams before their summer break.
However, they are still active at Kasaka - this Tuesday was the most successful/productive day yet, with Simone helping out with the P6 class doing painting and the story book, whilst Becky, Craig, & Barrie worked outside on the play equipment with a couple of local guys. The swings now have metal chains to replace the rope previously used, and two new tyre swings were fixed up. The main posts for the seesaw have been set in place with concrete, whilst another old tyre was cut in half to act as shock absorbers.
The volleyball court was also set up, including adjustable posts and net for use by different age (or size) children. They also have sufficient metal and wood to complete at least one more swing. Barrie hopes to complete work on the play area when the team return next week - the girls and Craig will be involved with invigilating at exams - with the hope of completing this in time for Sports Day on 14th.
At Kyetume the team have been doing some decorating at the headteacher's house - the sort of "getting your hands dirty" type work that the girls particularly wanted to get involved with - anything messy!!
For their day off yesterday, everyone headed to Lake Nabugabo - Becky's Facebook updates read "chillaxing on the beach with the African sun can't be a bad thing", followed by "Awesome day - monkey's, sunbathing, & a boat trip", from which I take it that they enjoyed themselves - that's what days off are for, after all!
Today would have been back at the Internet Cafe, Simone looking after the little ones (she has also been making some new signs advertising the services at the Cafe). Becky has been helping some of the girls at the Cafe how to use the internet better, as well as helping with customers etc., and Craig & Barrie doing those techie things that boys love to do. Barrie says that the most frustrating part of the trip to date has been the Internet - the connection is so sloooow (it took him 4 hours to send a couple of e-mails) - coupled with the volume and length of the power cuts. Alan has a generator to maintain service during these cuts, but it makes life so much more difficult. It's the little things we take for granted that can cause such frustrations.
The team have just over two weeks before they fly home, and will be working hard next week, but then taking it easier during the final week - including a short Day Safari to see Hippos (or should that be Hippi?), Zebra, & Crocodiles, along with other animals - but unfortunately no elephants or gorillas. The Safaris which take in these exotic creatures simply charge too much - plus the trips take you farther afield, adding on accommodation costs. Hopefully they'll get some good shots of the wildlife they do see, and anyway they will enjoy travelling a bit further afield.
On 22nd, the team will head to Kampala, giving them a day in the capital before they fly home on the morning of the 24th - but hopefully I'll be able to provide at least one further update before then - if only Becky could get out of the habit of using every communication to drop huge and unsubtle hints about her 18th birthday (and the pressies I'm supposed to be buying) and instead provide a bit more detail about what the team are doing!!
Thanks for reading.
Becky learns how to teach - African style
Update 26th July
Becky has learnt how to write!! Yes, at last she has sent me a decent length e-mail - possibly the longest piece of writing she has ever done - giving additional information on their experiences at the schools.
This is what she says.. "Well on Monday at Kyetume us kids turned up expecting the class to have text books to read from as this is what the English teacher had told us he would like us to do - but we found they only had exercise books and one text book that was about 15 years old that the teacher had bought second hand from Kampala market!
So we had to think on our feet and flicked through a kids book and decided to do a lesson on punctuation by writing a simple sentence on the board with no capital or punctuation then asking the kids what was wrong with it. Bearing in mind this was an S2 class – year 9 - we managed to blag this for an hour!"
Whilst the girls were teaching off the hoof, Ruth was using the time to prepare, so took the next lesson at least with a bit of prep! Becky later wrote on Facebook "Becky Loxley is very appreciative of white boards! We've just done an English lesson using a blackboard and it was shocking how many times the chalk broke and how much we got on our clothes!"
On Tuesday at Kasaka Becky took an art ‘lesson’. The team had photocopied pictures from the Jungle Doctor books which were handed out to colour. Becky only had 7 sets of colouring pencils which had to be shared by the class of 53! She split the class into groups, with each getting a set of pencils and every child in the group getting the same picture. Becky says "It took them a while to grasp the idea but once I had gone around offering every child a pencil and showing them a picture Simone had coloured in they really got into it. At the end of the lesson I collected the pictures and am going to choose a ‘winner’ from each group who will receive a small packet of fun gums (sweets) next week."
While this was going on Barrie observed some of the older classes to see how they were being taught so he could report back to Alan (an independent appraisal of sorts), then he and Craig fixed up the swings that the Colchester team had built by re-doing to ropes.
Wednesday; back at Kyetume, Craig and Becky did another English lesson, again with S2 (which this time they had managed to do some proper prep for) - mainly teaching spelling. Becky obviously enjoyed it as "somehow we taught for an hour and a half but it only felt about 20mins!" Again the kids took only the one lesson as Ruth took the next lesson. Just before leaving the school, they all witnessed the head-teacher being chased by some wild dogs which everyone found hilarious - including himself. Concerned that the dogs were rabid, the head had provoked them somewhat by throwing rocks in an attempt to get them away from the school. Funny, I don't see that in the job description for UK Headteachers!
After scouring town with Barrie - looking for materials for the playground at Kasaka - Craig and Becky went to the Internet Café where they were put to work by Alan until (in Becky's words..) "one of the main machines kinda blew up, sending sparks everywhere with a miniature fire. It was easily fixed by Alan and a couple of guys from the surrounding shops within 45 mins. Finally getting home at half six to Beryl waiting at the gate with a big beating stick, pointing at her wrist complaining that we were late." Apparently a fire isn't a good enough excuse for being late for dinner!
That's definitely the most information we've had to date - the most we've had from Simone during the same period is a Facebook update on Saturday "Simone Loxley is feeling good, teaching swimming is so rewarding =] " which probably gives all the information we need about Saturday's swimming lessons! However, and perhaps better, Simone has managed to upload some photos into Flickr, so if you're interested click this link - it'll open in a new window/tab.
And now we know!
Update 20th July
Alan checked out the webpage and felt sorry for me - so last night he e-mailed details of what is going on - plus a couple of corrections.
Before we get to that, here's a quick health update. It seems the bug wasn't going to roll over and die without touching everyone first, but thankfully it appears to have lost it's bite on the way. Yes, everyone has now felt worse for wear, with both Craig & Alan succumbing after fighting valiantly. Still, as Alan says "we will all be OK soon" as this thing has a limited lifespan.
Now onto other matters - and putting some meat onto the bones...
First off, I'd taken the wrong picture from the Love in Action website - apparently at Kyetume the girls are working at the secondary school not the primary (what is it they say about assumptions?) so I have changed the picture in yesterday's update. Whilst at school, the girls are helping out with various lessons including English, RE, & Art and the guys are working on games equipment - a table tennis table and volley-ball court, plus the see-saw for Kasaka.
On Wednesday, while the others head to school, Simone is helping at the Internet Cafe with a "creche" of sorts. Susan, one of the Directors of Love in Action, who works at the Internet Cafe, has a daughter, Deborah, and Simone will be helping look after her as well as some other small children at the Cafe.
Also at the Internet Cafe on Fridays, as well as cleaning out cupboards, Craig is cleaning out the PCs - blowing out the dust and grit that quickly accumulates - as well as testing some of the many pieces of computer parts that Alan has accumulated. He is working alongside a guy called James, who is doing work experience as part of his university course. Becky hopes to start teaching Photoshop to some of the Cafe staff next Friday, having had to work out the differences between Alans's version and the one we use at home!
Barrie is preaching at the Full Gospel Church, Nyondo next Sunday where the service runs from 10.30 til 1 pm... Craig needs to take a cushion this week - he was complaining that the benches are very hard. Alan claims he just needs more padding!!
Finally, every Wednesday is an International Fellowship day, when Alan & Beryl have a get-together for a meal, worship, and a chat with other missionaries and aid workers, both ex-pat and Ugandan - another opportunity for the team to learn from and share with others.
Thanks Alan - that's the sort of detail I've been waiting for. Maybe the girls will learn how to send a decent debrief document one day!! In the meantime I'll again be reduced to scanning Facebook for those little snippets of news that they send their friends!
So what IS happening?
Update 19th July
It's not been a holiday, but so far we have only received sketchy information about what the team are up to. Well, although it's taken awhile to get details we now know where the team are on a day-by-day basis, and hopefully over the next week or so we'll receive more information about what they've been doing.
- So here we go...
- Monday: Kyetume
(picture from the Love in Action website)
- Tuesday: Kasaka
(picture from the Love in Action website - see bottom of page for link)
- Wednesday: Back to Kyetume
- Thursday: Day Off
- Friday: Internet Cafe
- Saturday: Swimming Lessons
- Sunday: Church
So that's Monday to Wednesday at school - and they thought they'd finished for the summer! It takes up to an hour to get to the two sites, leaving at 7.30 to arrive in time for school at 8.30. The kids break at 2pm - mainly because they have work/chores to do at home - and so our team wend their way home too, arriving back in Masaka late afternoon.
No sure what the guys are doing at the Internet Cafe, although we know Craig was clearing out and tidying up cupboards last Friday (don't tell his Mum - she'll expect him to do it at home). Beryl had asked Becky to show a couple of the Ugandan girls how to use Photoshop, so presumably that has been happening - hopefully we'll get some details soon.
The first swimming lessons went well yesterday, enjoyed by all - including the trainers. On the basis that no-one drowned, it must be considered a success!
Sunday starts early with Church at 8.15 'til 11, followed by a relaxing afternoon, then Evening Fellowship with the Love in Action team and students from Hosanna House. Next Sunday Barrie has been asked to preach, which possibly means a longer service!!
Finally a health update... Barrie & Ruth (and Beryl) were sick during the early/middle part of last week, and although the bug left them tired and a little weak (mainly through loss of fluids) they are now fully recovered. The sickness lasts about a day, but it then takes the body another day or so to get back on an even keel. Simone fell sick on Friday, but felt better and happier yesterday so appears to be recovering after her 24 hour sicky spell. Becky struggled Friday/Saturday too, but from text messages appears to have slept it off. Both Alan & Craig have avoided any illness - so Ruth's quarantine seems to have saved them... let's hope so
A bit of sickness never hurt anyone
Update 17th July
Unfortunately the sickness bug in Masaka has spread, with Simone being the latest to be affected (infected?). Fortunately it appears to only hang around for 24 hours, and lots of cold drinks help. Both Ruth & Beryl are fully recovered, with Barrie bouncing back too. Ruth is trying to quarantine Simone to keep Becky, Craig, & Alan in the clear.
Back here we're blaming Seven - we Loxley's like sharing stuff around - and it appears he brought the bug back from the short safari tour that the Colchester crew took last weekend. With the 3 guys having left Masaka, let's hope they've taken the bug with them - Colchester can have it!!
Hopefully we'll get some more (upbeat?) news before too long. Get well soon!
Update 16th July
It all went very quiet for a couple of days, and even though we've had a few snippets via Facebook and a few IM conversations, trying to piece together what is going on is rather difficult... if only my girls would learn how to write decent notes via e-mail!
Unfortunately both Ruth and Beryl have been unwell for a few days, and Barrie now appears to be worse for wear too. Thankfully neither Craig nor the girls are suffering, so let's hope it stays that way. With Barrie out of action, this explains the lack of e-mail update in the last few days!
The team will be working at the Internet Cafe tomorrow (Friday) so hopefully they'll be able to get online at some point and catch up with all the comments being made via their Facebook pages - it was great to see the number of Birthday Wishes for Craig last Sunday! The Colchester team (the three guys including Seven) leave Masaka tomorrow and return to the UK on Sunday.
On Saturday, our team are taking their first lot of swimming lessons at the local hotel pool, which will be interesting to say the least. Let's hope that Craig doesn't need to call on his Lifesavers Certificate!
The only other information I have is disappointing - firstly the girls are struggling to get photo's off the camera's and onto the PC, which is the first stage in sending some piccies home (and then onto here...). Hopefully they will be able to overcome this technical difficulty before too long, as I know there is a clamour for some pictures.
Secondly, apparently it is raining in Uganda (which perhaps shouldn't be such a surprise really - where else does the water in the lake come from?), but as Simone eloquently put it: "Truly Britsh"!
Update 11th July - Happy Birthday, Barrie!
Barrie has sent another update during today - they have taken it easy following a trek out to the Christ Embassy School at Kasaka yesterday (and surely everyone deserves a break on their birthday?) - an uncomfortable and dusty ride. Having said that, Barrie says the road was better than he expected from Alan & Beryl's descriptions, and Noah, their driver, is very competent. I reckon its more likely that Barrie remembers some of the old roads in Congo too fondly, so a 32km jaunt along a dusty, pot-holed, dirt track is like driving in the UK to him!
The team have checked out some of the playground equipment recently installed by a team from Colchester (which includes the girl's cousin, Seven. They haven't met up yet, but hope to do so this evening. Sev flies home soon). This has given Craig and Barrie ideas on expanding this area with a see-saw and volleyball court. The girls, meantime, will be employed within the classrooms, helping with English reading, speaking, and writing, as well as art. They also hope to use some Bible stories and Jungle Doctor stories for which they prepared picture-cards before they went out.
They are planning on taking a trip to Kasaka every Thursday - leaving at 7 in the morning to make sure they are there for the start of school at 8.
During the day today, as well as fitting in another trip to the Internet Cafe, everyone enjoyed a couple of hours at the local hotel's swimming pool - a good chance to clean up a bit, as only Becky got to have a warm shower after the dustry trip yesterday - not only is there a limited water supply, but the biggest problem is the electricity, which was on for only 10 minutes yesterday evening. The swim was also a good chance to check out the facilities properly - one of the tasks the team are to undertake is to teach some of the Ugandans teenagers to swim - and at only £1.75 for a whole days swimming, this pool fits the bill nicely.
So, plans are beginning to fill out with some definite opportunities for the team to get their hands dirty, as well as making sure they take time to recharge their batteries - it's amazing how much energy the heat saps away, and it's important that everyone stays safe and well while making a difference to the lives of those they come into contact with.
Not a great deal of useful information from the girls so far... Simone is really enjoying the mangos and passion fruit - and can't wait to indulge in pineapple too - as soon as a mouth ulcer clears up! Becky is enjoying the sun - and beating Craig at cards! They are both finding the Ugandan babies and small children really cute.
It's Craig's birthday tomorrow - no doubt that will be a strange experience, with his twin sister, Emily, celebrating back home. Tomorrow will also be another new experience for the girls as well, as they will all have their first taste of an African Church service! The plan is to follow this with another birthday cake, this time down by the lake.
Many happy returns, Barrie & Craig (and Emily).
Update 10th July - Happy Birthday Mum - from info provided 9th July
Kindly transported to the airport by David and a posse of supporters, a small band of 3 teenagers, 2 elderly chaperones (sorry Barrie & Ruth!), and the biggest pile of suitcases and hand-luggage you have every seen - well Beryl did say if they didn't fully utilse their baggage allowance there would be trouble - set off at 1pm on Tuesday 7th July. They had to get to the airport at some ridiculous time before the flight, and had plenty of time to sample the delights of Heathrow Airport before climbing aboard the 9pm flight to Kampala.
Many hours later, and now Wednesday morning, our weary travellers disembark into the warmer climes of a sunny Uganda, and into the welcoming arms of Beryl.
Unfortunately Beryl immediately subjects them to a 5 hour trek to Masaka. According to Becky "it was hot and bumpy and we were tired so that was bleugh", and Barrie adds in his e-mail home "and that was on hardtop!"
Home for the next 7 weeks will be a small building in the garden of Alan & Beryls house, located on a hill in the suburbs of the small town of Masaka. The town can boast of one supermarket, hundreds of small shops and stalls, a cathedral, and most important for the girls - an Internet Cafe! The latter is run by Alan, and although internet speeds are somewhat slower than those experienced at home, this has already proved to be useful, as the team can communicate with their friends at home via Facebook - the wonders of modern technology!
Becky said "The house and garden is really nice with amazing views across to the other hills. The girls here are lovely and the babys are adorable! We sorted everyones stuff out yesterday but me and simone still haven't unpacked properly, we're tempted to just live out of our suitcases cos it might be easier. (Now there's a surprise - NOT)
Simone, rather confusingly said "the weather is cool but warm still" which could mean anything except that it's not raining! She has also discovered the difference between "real" mangos and those greenish, round things that they sell as mangos at home - that's great when you're there, but having eaten bananas direct from the tree during trips to Ivory Coast in the past it took me 6 months before I could taste any banana in the UK without grimacing - the price you pay for a taste of real exotic fruit.
That's about all I can glean from the smattering of information received from a couple of e-mails and updates on Facebook - apart from the fact they everyone is safe, well, and enjoying the transition from England to Uganda.
The team - Becky, Simone, & Craig, together with chaperone's Grandma & Grandad (Barrie & Ruth, who between them have almost 80 years Africa experience) headed to Uganda on Tuesday 7th July, and return on Monday 24th August.