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Sunday, 31 July 2011

Rebecca's End of Term and end of year in Uganda

Hello, I hope you are all well; so this is a blog giving all the news of second term at St Zoe as well as the extra out of school things I have been doing around Kagoma and Mubende.

Firstly I am going to start with my trip to Nakayima with Pat, Musumba (Andrew’s sons) and Mike (the builder at Kisimbiri). So on the morning of the 15th of May we decided to go to the famous tree ‘with breasts’ at the top of Mubende. We set off at midday (a brilliant time for me to be out in the sun) and walked about a Km along the road before we managed to get a taxi. We then arrived in Mubende, bought some water and off we went. It was pretty steep; in fact it was ridiculously steep-Musumba Pat and I were literally dripping sweat the whole way up! Mike however, who we have now discovered is incredibly fit and is also a good 10 years older than the three of us, was running up the hill and not sweating a drop!! When we got to the top (2km later-it was some good exercise!) the view was incredible! I couldn’t believe quite how far we could see, the ‘tree with breasts’ was also lovely, although I failed to see ‘the breasts’, I did however see a plentiful amount of ‘spiritual’ ladies smoking on their pipes, with their ‘herbs’ and such like. The walk back down turned into a bit of a run as a storm brewed and threatened to pelt us with rain. We then walked all the way back through Mubende to get a taxi home. That evening when we told Andrew where we had been he could not believe that we had walked and insisted that we had got a boda, until I showed him proof by photos! It was a really lovely day.

Mr Magara’s Wedding
On the 14th of May, Naomi and I attended our first Ugandan Wedding, the wedding of Mr Magara one of the primary teachers at St Zoe. We headed to Mubende just after midday in our Mubende dresses; the ceremony was held in Mubende Parish Church. There was lots of singing and the bride looked beautiful. The music and choir were all from Kagoma, so one of our Senior 1 boys was on the drums and Mama Musumba was singing in the choir. It was a lovely ceremony. I was being a photographer for the ceremony, which was good although I kept getting worried because I am so tall (especially in comparison to the Baganda people-who are not renowned for their height) that I was blocking all the other people taking photos! After the ceremony there were more photos taken, we then headed back to Kagoma to the after ceremony-by which time it was nearly dark-it was a long ceremony! We arrived at Mr Magara’s home and got given some much needed matooke and beef. We then went to take seats in the main tents near the stage area, where the bride and groom and close family sit. As soon as we sat down the Dj said…’I would like to welcome the two muzungus that have joined us and ask them to give us a dance’…just excellent-good job Uganda has taught me how to enjoy dancing! So in front of around 300 people we got up into the spotlight and started dancing, it was a bit awkward to be honest so I went and got the bride to have a dance with us-which solved the awkwardness perfectly; Naomi then went and got the groom and we all had a lovely public dance! Then there were the usual Ugandan ceremonials: long speeches, giving of gifts and cutting and eating of the cake. It was a good and interesting day and by the end we were absolutely knackered!

On the 17th of May I took a trip into the village off a track from Kyenda; I went with Mutambi (one of Andrew’s sons) and Henry (Paul’s youngest brother) on a boda. It was great; once again I saw some incredible views and a completely different part of the area I have been living in. I also really enjoy boda journeys-there is nothing better than riding through the villages on a motorcycle, seeing beautiful scenery in the glorious sun! (Probably not what my mother would want to here). Anyway, we went to visit Patricia, Mutambi’s friend; she is in Senior 2 at Kitenga Secondary School (in Kyenda). Her family were so happy to have visitors, especially a muzungu! We got milk and bananas and then matooke and beef; one thing that I have learnt from Ugandans is how hospitable they are and how they share every little they have-they are very kind. When we left we had a family photo and then we boda’d back through the village and through Kyenda. Halfway between Kyenda and St Zoe we ran out of fuel, so Henry (in his fleece, in the very hot sunshine) turned around with the motorcycle and headed back to Kyenda at a run! I sat on a log in the shade, much to the surprise of some of the primary teachers who were walking along the road to the market and were rather surprised to find me sitting there!  Once again I had a really lovely day!

This term I did my first bit of cycling at Kagoma; I don’t know why I didn’t start earlier really, because at home I cycle nearly every day and really enjoy it. So on a Sunday in June some time I did my first cycle to Mubende, I got up at 6:30, walked to school, collected the bike and off I went. I had a lovely time and 1hr50 later I arrived back, red-faced and sweating a lot-much to the surprise of the teachers who didn’t even believe I could cycle! I really enjoyed the cycle so went again, another weekend and managed to reduce my time by 10 minutes to 1hr40. I then decided to go with Mr Mijumbi, (well he decided to go with me) being my competitive self I was like ‘lets have a race’ I felt fairly certain I would be able to keep up with him as he’s a big guy and by Ugandan standards he’s a little plump. What I didn’t take into account in my estimations is the fact that because he is heavier than me he zoomed past me on all the down hills (50% of the journey!). I wasn’t used to this phenomenon, as usually my 76kg takes me swiftly past all the slender Ugandan men on their bicycles-Mr Mijumbi found it hilarious!  We got to Mubende at the same time and stopped at the supermarket for a rest, a bottle of water each and we shared a bar of chocolate (always the downfall in my cycling exercise plans-there is chocolate at the destination) then off we went again. I was pushing myself pretty hard in order to keep up with him and there is this one killer hill that’s lengthy as well as steep and usually I have to get off and walk it for a good two minutes, but no this time I cycled on. Then at the trading centre Katabalanga Mr Mijumbi passed me and said ‘I will see you at St Zoe’ I had to cycle so hard to keep him in sight! I even had to pedal my hardest down hill!! I came up through Kakooka, saying bad words under my breath because I was so knackered; meanwhile all the villagers were saying their usual morning greetings! I arrived back about 30 seconds after Mr Mijumbi much to his surprise-I was looking horrifically discoloured, this I am assured of because as I came round the final corner to Mr Mijumbi, the night guard exclaimed ‘oh my god’ at the sight of me!! We completed our cycle in 1hr23 a good 17 minutes off what I thought was a fairly good time!

On the 3rd of July I went and visited Pat, one of Andrews sons and then Paul’s youngest brother at their schools fro their visitation days with Paul. I got to know all of Andrew’s sons really well during the Easter holidays and Henry, Paul’s brother as well. I had a lovely time and it is always great to visit different schools and different parts of Uganda. Once again I got a brilliant boda ride. I took chocolate and bread for each of the boys and Pat was so happy to be visited! After we had visited the two schools we travelled back to Masaka and visited Paul’s family’s home. We hadn’t eaten all day and they gave us an amazing meal and as always when you visit a home you look at all the photos. I had a really great day.

The weekend of the 16th
On the weekend of the 16th I went with a load of the villagers plus some of the Secondary kids to compete in Mubende, in a netball and football tournament; we travelled their squished in the back of a pick up cheering away with whistles…(probably not the safest way to travel). When we got there we went to church for a bit then we watched a football match, sat on logs eating banana pancakes and ice cream. Then a netball team turned up so we went to the pitch, I was a sub-I would say I am average at best in netball, so I think my main aim was to scare the opposite team-a 5ft11 muzungu in her addidas shorts is fairly intimidating when your teams averaging 5ft7! We annihilated the other netball team 9-0!!I did my bit with the rest of Kagoma villagers running around cheering (literally) and getting very sunburnt (also literally).Then we went to the football pitch and watched our Kagoma boys-we lost one 2-0 and won one 4-2. After the matches we went and sat around one of the back of the old buildings and Mama Nassali-one of the village ladies who lives near Kisimbiri, whipped out a pot of Irish potatoes and Ground Nut sauce for us all which was lovely. Then it was time to go home, so this time I decided to go in the second pick up load, mainly because it would be less crammed; so I ended up in the truck with all the footballers. I was at the front of the pick up getting blasted with wind which was great and we arrived back in Kagoma at around 6ish with all of the village men singing a song that involved a line saying ‘the mzungus team!’ – in Luganda of course-it was an amazing experience and I had such a good day. Paul and I then went straight from the pickup to the dance I had arranged at school as a reward for the end of the football and netball tournament we had at school. It was really good and the students had a great time. The final of the football and netball tournaments had been on the previous day and were also brilliant, the two underdogs of both sports came up and won, which was brilliant. All the children were there supporting with their drums cheering away and I may have just maybe cried half way through the football match because I was so happy….I quickly vacated the pitch for a short while.

The drought
The water shortage has been really bad this term, the primary and secondary children in the last few weeks had to take it in turns to collect water from Kisimbiri in the mornings and evenings for the cooking; which was disrupting school time. Term has ended now and we just about managed to cope with the shortage. I am also very worried about all the local people, Kyenda is facing serious water problems and people are travelling all the way to the boreholes here in Kagoma to get water, because all there boreholes have dried up.

(Note from Peter; This is getting serious and we are researching the best course of action. We may need some additional donor help with this)

Exams and other things at school
The mid term and end of term exams went well, with the maths improvement making me very proud and happy, especially in Senior 2. In the Mid term exams 15 people passed with 50% or above and in the End of term exams 31 passed! So I was incredibly proud of all of them and created Mathematics Improvement and Excellence Certificates to give out in our leaving assembly.
We also had the prefect’s handover party on the 12th June, following a week of campaigns, which was really good and rather interesting. We had some unexpected candidates and some passionate speeches. So it was a good day.

Visitation Day
For Visitation Day there was lots of preparation, the day before the new block was swept and all week the children not properly dressed in their school uniform had been slashing the compound as a punishment. So the compound was lovely and clean and then all the secondary desks were moved to the new block. On the day I wasn’t actually there as some of the other volunteers were flying back to the UK so all us volunteers went to Kampala to say goodbye. I was told that the parent turnout was really good and they had a very good meeting with entertainment in the form of drama acts from the secondary children and dancing and singing from the primary section. Also for the preparations for visitation day I did some display work with Primary 6 and 7, which looked lovely displayed on the walls, then when I came back on the Monday after the VD, Primary 1, 2 and 5 had also made displays-I was really, really happy to see this as usually that kind of display would not be done.

Primary Children
So I had my last lessons with all the primary children, Pre-Primary’s last lesson was quite eventful: as always I was trying to think of ways to entertain them for a full hour and then remembered I had 2 packs of metallic balloons at home. So I brought them into school told all the children to go outside and whipped out the balloons. It was mayhem-‘MADAM, MADAM, M E, ME AND ME, MADAM’ accompanied by 45 pairs of tiny little arms scrabbling to reach me, thank God I am tall! In the end they all got a balloon and ran around the football pitch chasing after them, leaving me to sit and watch blissfully (once we had all established that I had no more balloons).

Primary 3’s last lesson was brilliant, I collected up all the remaining stickers I had at Kisimbiri (which was a surprisingly large amount) and then I went into class, gave myself a gold star, sang ‘Don’t Matter’ by Akon and then started the mini talent show. They were great, they all wanted to sing and dance and they were so enthusiastic and loud, I was really impressed! Nearly everyone had a sticker by the end of the lesson. Naomi also asked me if we had been singing Shakira (Waka Waka) because when she was standing at the road waiting for a taxi she had been able to hear it!-we had! They also gave me remixes! It was fantastic. We then all went outside for photos which was nice.

The leaving party
We had our leaving party on Thursday which was lovely, we got gifts from the school- I got a big, black elephant-which I was very happy with and then Naomi got a lovely wooden carving. I also gave out my Sports certificates and Mathematics certificates, which went down really well. Then it was speech time, I went first and started to cry fairly instantly; I had prepared for this luckily and had already written it out in full, so Paul read it for me. We then had a last dance with the students, which was great!

So, we are currently in Kampala enjoying the last few days before Naomi leaves on the 8th. I am going to Masaka with Paul on the 5th to a celebration for his brother being ordained a deacon, so I am really excited about that as well, as I have met his father and most of his siblings but not his mother. On the 9th of August I will be back in Kagoma, enjoying a last few days, I want to visit some of the students homes, climb Nakayima again, cycle to Mubende one last time and just enjoy spending time with everyone around Kagoma! I am also going with Danny (the cattle herder at Kisimbiri) to his home which is a 3 hour journey to visit his family. His family doesn’t think that he can speak any English and also don’t believe that he has been living with muzungus. So that will be a nice day and I will get to see lots more nice scenery. Then I will go back to Kampala for the last few days, just so I don’t go straight from Kagoma to England, as I think I would find that really difficult. So, on the 19th I fly home, to be back in England for the 20th at around 7:00am. I think it is going to be very, very strange. I have known this life for a very long time now and I am not quite sure how I am going to feel when I am back; I know that I will miss all the wonderful people here a lot!

Monday, 25 July 2011

What is the drought doing to our children?

Although we know a lot about the effects of the drought in Sudan and Ethiopia its effects and those created by inflation are giving some very serious problems at our schools.
This report from our Director, Ssempijja Andrew tells the story. We will be helping.

Third Term 2011 will run for 90 days from the 28th of August until the 26th of November. The main food products we feed to both our students and staff, is posho made from maize flour and beans, for sauce.

Posho is made from Maize and is like thick porridge.

Due to some food that we have harvested from our farms we have been able to add additional nutrition to the children’s diets in weekends. However due to the current drought, we will not be able to harvest this food from our gardens next term. Therefore students will have to consume a constant diet of posho and beans unless we are able to add some additional variety to their diet, by buying rice at the weekends for example. (Posho fills you but has low nutritious value)

Amount required:


60kg per day for 90 days
Cost per Kg
1500Ush (current price)
Total cost
8,100,000Ush   £2025

Maize Flour

Maize flour needed for Posho
Maize flour needed for Porridge
Total Kg of maize flour needed
Price per Kg
Total Cost
17,760,000Ush   £4440

During this Second Term, maize corn prices rocketed to 1500Ush per Kg due to scarcity; because of some new harvests we anticipate the price per Kg to drop to 800Ush. However, there is a need to purchase and stock it very quickly as the farmers start harvesting in early August. According to observation, the yield has been poor and neighbouring countries are eagerly waiting to buy it. Therefore food prices may rise much higher than they have been.


Per meal- 130Kg at 3200Ush per Kg
416,000Ush       £104 
For 12 meals (Once per week)
4,992,000Ush £1248 for 6000 meals

If we put the above meal plan into effect, the cost on the posho will reduce by 2,080,00Ush and then the overall cost will rise by 4,992,000Ush.


Total cost for maize
Plus cost of rice
Plus cost of beans
30,852,000Ush     £7713

Minus value for posho replaced by rice

Final Total
28,772,000Ush     £7193

 This total will feed 550 people for 5 to 7 days a week. About 50,000 meals!!

Water Status

As the population of the community expands, water as a resource is needed much more. Therefore water pressure is increasing within the area. There are three possible alternative interventions that can be considered:

1.    Drill a borehole, since it was discovered that there is an underground river located near St Zoe; we could target and extract the water and be able to obtain a clean water supply.
2.    The second intervention would look at enlarging and completing the valley dam. This could even include a way of filtering this water so as to improver the water quality.
3.    The third proposal looks at building another underground tank on the side of the Secondary School. This would enable the harvesting of more rainwater from the roofs of the Secondary buildings.
W Written by Ssempijja Andrew July 24th 2011

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Someone asked me....

Someone asked me why we still need HUGS and haven't we finished yet?  Well its not really like that.

We published the Annual Report and Accounts for the Charity a couple of weeks ago and you can access it on the charity commission web site.

It tells you about the year to December 31st 2010.

But in summary our four projects in Uganda  are as follows;

St Zoe's Primary School with 395 children
St Zoe's Secondary School with 140 children
Good Shepherd Special Needs School with 100 children
St Kizito's near Kampala with 356 children
Lira Babies Home with 50 babies and nursery class children.
That makes about 1041 in total.

Look at what has happened to the value of the Uganda Shilling in the last year. Uganda has to use this currency to buy all its imports and that included oil.
With the huge rate of inflation in Uganda this year their costs have risen alarmingly. And to make it worse although Uganda has not had the extremes of drought of Somalia there has been a really poor wet season which has meant that water may have to be purchased and carried by truck to some schools.

Your help makes all this possible.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Outreach at Good Shepherd

The outreach programme at Good Shepherd is a new programme which was started by Dr Pat Scampion and is taking the skill and experience at Good Shepherd out to the people who live too far away from Fort portal for their children to be able to get there.

It will be add to the vocational work which as also started and which will equip the children with real and valuable skills  for life.

 The major aim of this programme is to respond to the challenges as a result of changing the situation in which Children with severe disabilities are facing, more especially in their families and communities, where they are neglected and biased. Most Parents to have such children they take it as a curse, so these children become victims of hatred and they are mistreated, above all not taken to school.

First and foremost, we have started with home visits and see the needs of these Children so that they can benefit from this programme. We teach, sensitize and provide Guidance and Counselling as most Parents are biased.  We shall all also give Mothers skill training, for example, weaving, and tailoring so as to have sources of earning income which will reduce poverty. 

We shall also transport Children to School for special activities such as massage, physiotherapy and occupational therapy, teach Children various games which will help them move and stimulate the nerves.  Teach Mothers who have Children with weak bones and limbs exercises.


·     To create awareness on prevention of diseases such as kwashiorkor by teaching them balanced diet, lack of a balanced diet has caused disabilities in most children.
·     Provide Guidance and Counselling to Parents/Guardians
·     Transport Children to the School for special activities
·     To teach and sensitize parents and youth to build capacity of mutual respect towards Children with disabilities so that they can feel they are worth human being and useful citizens with a future. Also provide democracy, equality and respect for human rights to these vulnerable children and a model for community attitudes towards children with disabilities.
·     To teach, sensitize and guide them on how to care and love their children to make them happy and feel they are loved and cared for, this will help such children to become useful people.
·     To sensitize the parents and guardians the value and importance of their Children in future when they are helped, more especially equipping them with practical skill so that they can be independent citizens with a future.
·     Parents living with HIV need to booster their immunity with body building foods and a proper balanced diet too.
·     To train leaders from those parents and youth so as to train other people in the community, so that there is continuity of what we have taught them.
·     Provide a model Community which can sustain itself in providing basic needs and balanced life in their families.  Parents more especially Mothers acquiring skills, to identify resources around them and put them at good use, which will reduce poverty. And also to have sources of earning income in different projects for their survival and continuity of what we are going to teach them.

written by Sr Theresa Abigaba June 2011


Do you remember when it was Kenyan long distance runners who used to win everything. Strange thing was that nearly all of them had attended the same secondary school, St Patricks at Igoe.
Maybe St Zoes could do the same. Well that is Matt's idea and perhaps it could really happen as we get our sport programme really moving.

Here is what Rebecca Nixon, one of our volunteers is doing this week in Uganda. She sent this report this week;

We now have 140 students, with 52 boys so I have organised a Tournament involving all the boys in the Secondary. The school football team was split equally between the four teams as well as defenders, strikers and goalies. The team captains are each of our Senior 4 boys who are each strong characters and I asked them to think of the team names. I have fixtures, results and team notices up and the kids are all  really excited! Which is absolutely lovely to see-I am seeing kids on the pitch that I have never seen before and they are all really getting involved! The girls are also cheering along at the football matches, as well as Primary members and the villagers. I have now also organised a Netball Tournament with 2 leagues, once again involving all the girls! Since Term 1 the girls have literally not being practicing netball, which I was horrified at, they eat posho and beans everyday which, makes these girls fat and don't exercise! Also I am getting fatter from no netball so have been forced to start cycling to Mubende and back-which of course highly amuses every Ugandan I pass-as they think along the lines of... why would there be a Mzungu girl cycling at 7am on a Sunday morning, with no bag?! So the girls are also taking part and being pretty active which is good. I have also organised four team houses: Musangi, Mount, Bishop and Kapffa, which the children are really excited about, house captains have been allocated and it means that Sports Galas at end of terms will now be more competitive and more organised! I am also now currently collecting in entries for the house emblems competition. Our Netball referee from the Primary-Mr Bishashara has also recently made four houses in the primary section (on his own initiative) -which is brilliant and is organising inter-house competitions. He is brilliant and has a lot of enthusiasm and time for sport. 

I am organising prizes for the winning teams as well as best striker etc. The kids are being really enthusiastic which is great and I am especially proud of those that are having a go and don't usually play.