2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,500 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 42 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Feedback Session planned

Well – it has been over two two weeks since we got back from Uganda. Back to normal life (whatever that is)! I am aware that some of us are missing the challenges, excitement and blessings of being in Uganda.

But … we have arranged a feedback presentation for parents, families, friends, church members and anyone else who wish to come along. So make a note of the details and pop along. Details below…

AT SOUTHWICK BAPTIST CHAPEL ON SUNDAY 30th NOVEMBER 2014 AT 6.30pm. TEA AND CAKES ALONGSIDE A PRESENTATION/FEEDBACK OF OUR MISSION TRIP TO UGANDA. Pop along – we would love to see you there.

Day 10 – Arrived home!

It is around about 4pm (UK time)n and I am drafting this in my kitchen at home in the UK.

As a quick recap from where the blog finished yesterday, we got back from the afternoon shop at the craft market and packed and had tea. The Smile guys wanted a last photograph of us with our Smile t-shirts on so we obliged – Moses, Jacob and Michael slid in to join us (see below).

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Although we took the Smile team out for a meal the previous evening to thank them all for their support and welcome we wished to present Olivia and Alex with a little extra gift each – Olivia for cooking such great food for us – and Alex for being the ‘boss’. In the picture below Olivia looks on as Alex smiles at his cafetiere and coffee.

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By the time we got away from the Smile House it was 9pm and the Kampala traffic was absolutely horrendous. It took us over two hours to make it to Entebbe airport – it would have been a lot more but for the skill, guile and magic of Michael’s driving (and George’s ability to respond to Michael’s every command of course). Seriously Michael and George have been great transport providers during our time in Uganda and the team are massively grateful to you both. But you have been more than that and we consider you to be friends and part of the team!

A good number of the Smile team came to the airport with us – so there was the inevitable goodbyes and hugs at the airport just outside the departures building. To  you all we say ‘nkwagala’ (we love you).

Being ‘processed’ at Entebbe Uganda airport was less than perfect but we eventually made it to our seats in the plane. Our departure was delayed by about 45 minutes due to a mega- thunderstorm but the time was recovered during the flight. A slight delay at Heathrow meant we landed around 7.15am (UK time). Once we passed through passport control and retrieved our baggage  we were picked up by Geoff with his minibus and trailer. Thanks to A & G minibuses of Warminster for our transport. We arrived at the chapel car park around 10.30am to be welcomed by parents, families and the church folk who were pleased to see us.

We are home! Mission trip over – but life will never be quite the same again. Thank you to everybody who helped in any way to make it possible. Thank you to everybody in Uganda. It has been such a privilege to be part of this trip and such a blessing. Finally and most of all I wish to thank God.

Day 9 – Project handover and shopping

Breakfast at 8am followed by devotion where we all took the opportunity to share anything that had particularly struck a chord with us during any of our previous devotion sessions or at any of the churches we had visited. This was a lovely time as everyone could share what had really impacted them during our time here in Uganda.

Michael and George then arrived to take us to the two building projects we have been supporting so they could be formally handed over to those who were benefitting from them. First we went to the pit latrine we had completed for the widow, Flungecia Najjuko. We all climbed the extremely steep hill where the latrine is sited and shared some words and a prayer with Flungecia before handing over some gifts we had brought with us for her. We then went back down the hill, got back into George and set off for the Ruth Mother Care School.

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All the children were in school even though it was Saturday and gave the most wonderful welcome with songs they had learnt especially for today. The school looks amazing and it was so exciting to see the finishing touches being done to the building ready for the children to move into next week. After listening to the children sing we all went outside for photographs. Again, we shared some words, and a prayer before formally handed over ‘the keys’ to headteacher, Ruth. We then gave the teachers at the school the gifts we had brought for them including pencils, crayons, skipping ropes and a football. Then it was time to leave which was a very emotional time as the children now have a very special place in our hearts. Back to the Smile house for lunch.

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After lunch we were again picked by Michael and George and went to the Kampala Craft market where we had the opportunity to buy souvenirs and gifts and this was lovely end to our time in Uganda. The only thing left was to return to the Smile house to pack our cases and enjoy our final meal cooked by the wonderful Olivia. We will be leaving for the airport sometime between 8-8.30 ready to catch our flight to Heathrow – see you all tomorrow morning!

Day 8 – Source of the Nile trip blog (at last!)

It is Saturday morning as we write this – our last day ahead of us as we will be leaving for the airport this evening. We have been awoken by heavy thunder storms and probably Robert the Rooster too. We have conceded, as a charitable act, to allow Robert to continue to breathe Ugandan air and bless all future visitors!

This is an unusual blog update as we are both drafting it and publishing it (we hope) on the day following what it is reporting. Anyway here goes… {Note – as the power went out this morning this is the first chance to post this.}DSC_3440

Devotions (Phil 3:1, 2, 12-14, & 4:4-7) followed breakfast and then George arrived with Michael (of course) to transport us to Jinja for our day out. This pair have been with us throughout our time here, ferrying us everywhere we have needed to go. I have driven in many countries but would not stand a chance here in Kampala. Michael has driven George in conditions and circumstances that we could never have dreamt of and has done so brilliantly and safely. They merit their picture on the blog – see Michael, George and me.

The journey to Jinja took about two and a half hours with the first hour crawling in the slow moving traffic across Kampala from the north-west side to exit the east of the city. The first of the following four pictures shows some poor housing on Kampala east side and other three show some of the variety of road users we encountered on the road journey.

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Once at Jinja we changed mode of transport and boarded two boats (boys in one and girls in the other!) for a one hour cruise on the Nile (about 8km from its source between the second and third dams) taking in the wildlife including monkeys, monitor lizard, otters and a variety of birds.

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DSC_4796Back into George for a short (in distance) 10km drive which took about 45 minutes to Kingfisher safari resort to pick up our second boat trip. We were accompanied by Dora, Shavan and Brian from Smile – Brian led the day and he can be seen in the picture.

This was above the first dam and therefore on the shores of Lake Victoria. All in one vessel this time, we cruised gently to where the Lake meets the River Nile (the source of the Nile) where water gently springs up from mother earth. We disembarked to wade in the waters to the marked point for photos and then waded through a small gift shop (yes! It was sited IN the shallows). Then we returned to the boat and cruised a short distance around the lake back to shore.

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Back to Kampala. The return journey was worse than theDSC_4873 outbound one and took over three hours with the traffic conditions for the last 20km being horrendous – I mean horrendous – compounded by being after dark. We drove straight to the centre of Kampala to meet up with Alex, his wife and a number of the Smile Team at the Chicken Royale restaurant where a team of twenty of us ate a meal together.

Leaving the restaurant into a busy street with music blaring out, the team were joined by an eccentric local in some impromptu dancing. Once more we piled into George to return to the Smile house, stopping briefly at KBC to capture a group photo of the whole party. Back at midnight, sort out seats for the flight and then to bed.DSC_4952DSC_4962

 

Day 8 – Late back!

Just a short blog update to say that we have been to the source of the Nile today and then for a meal in Kampala this evening. We have just got back to the Smile House at midnight and consequently will not be putting a full blog update detailing the fun we had today until tomorrow morning – sorry all!

Day 7 – A mixed bag!

For the second day in a row, up before the crack of dawn. Woken by the sound of the rain rather than Robert the Rooster for a change. Still wonder whether Olivia could maybe think about Rooster stew though. Breakfast at 6.30am followed by a short morning devotion (Phil 2:1-4) and then a repeat (of yesterday) of the one and a half mile walk carrying our tools to the Blessed Word Church where we were due to work for the morning for a second day in a row.

First it was good to see that the church work team had completed some of the roof of the Sunday school room we had completed the raising and leveling of the floor yesterday (see photo below).

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We were briefed on our task for today which was strikingly similar to that of yesterday; that being to create a raised floor for another building, this time a fellowship room which is intended to be a space where the church meets and eats together. what we would call a ‘bring and share lunch’ at Southwick. Three hard graft hours later and the three piles of soil were in the desired place – job done! {See below.}

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A slow walk back up the hill saw us back at the Smile house for showers and lunch.  The afternoon saw us go two ways. Cathy and the team were picked up by Michael and George (in case you have forgotten George is the taxi bus) at 2.30pm to spend the afternoon at a Community Project in a slum area in a suburb of the city. Nick, Smile Community Outreach worker, showed them the Family Believers Church (FBC) where the project is based and shared how through the project the families living in the slum are being supported.

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He then walked them around part of the slum where he introduced them to several families sharing some of their history.  As the team walked around many of the local children joined them so their little party grew as the afternoon continued. The afternoon was very humbling as the team experienced how the families in this area live day by day.

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I left earlier at 1.30pm with Brian and Dora in a car to travel around 80km to the plains of Bukatira to visit Richard, a child that I sponsor. I met him and his family at his home and then we travelled around 2km to the Bukatira Child Development Centre where where the Compassion project is based. It was a very special and rewarding time. In the first photo he can be seen with me with his newly acquired hoodie and football from England and in the second his family are stood outside their house waving us off

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I rejoined the team about 7pm at the Smile House where we enjoyed an evening meal of sausages and chips which Olivia prepared for us. We shared highlights as we have done every evening. A good day!

Day 6 – The day we met Agnes and Joan!

DSC_3977Up before the crack of dawn, almost before Robert the Rooster.  Breakfast at 6.30am followed by a short morning devotion (Matt 5:13-16) and then the one and a half mile walk with tools over shoulders like the eleven dwarfs to the Blessed Word Church where we were due to work for the morning.

DSC_3987By the time we arrived there (about 8am) it was clear that the morning was going to be a scorcher.  Our task for the morning was to raise the floor of the partly constructed Sunday school room by about nine inches to reduce the chance of flooding.  This required moving a lorry load of dirt from where it had been dumped, across a ditch to the proposed site where the wooden frame stood.

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The team started this with (over) youthful zeal which reduced slightly as the morning progressed and the heat increased.  Fortunately we were joined by a number of Smile volunteers including Nick – see photo.

DSC_4096Three further lorry loads were delivered to keep the pile a decent size but by 11.30am we had beaten it and all of the dirt was in the desired location.

The walk back up the hill was a lot tougher than the walk down and lunchtime showers and Olivia’s lunch were very welcome.

DSC_4211The afternoon saw us pile into George and travel the thirty minute journey to Kampala Baptist church (KBC) where we were expecting to meet Agnes and Joan, our sponsored children.  We were welcomed by Judith, the Compassion Project host and ushered into a small room and then the two girls were brought in. (Photo shows Joan and Agnes.)

Not surprisingly they were rather overwhelmed at first and said very little although they relaxed and opened up as the afternoon progressed. We were given a tour of the project facilities at KBC before piling into George to visit the girls homes. See group photo at KBC below.

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First we travelled a short distance to Agnes’s home where we were greeted by her Gran, Mother and three sisters.  After a little while we all piled back into George and drove to Nansana to Joan’s home.  Here we were welcomed by her Grandmother and sister, Nora, who invited us into the house to the small living area.  As the grandmother didn’t speak english everything said was interpreted.  She offered us refreshments including bottled fizzy drinks, bananas and boiled eggs.  We had taken gifts for both girls and were humbled to receive gifts from each of them. (Photos below with the families – left is Agnes and right is Joan.)

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Back into George to return to KBC.  After a short while there we said goodbye to Agnes and Joan and then joined the youth of the church for a time of praise and worship where we were invited to introduce ourselves and share three sketches/mimes.

A chewy journey through the mad Kampala evening traffic to arrive back at the Smile House at 8.30pm for dinner, sharing highlights (there were many), briefing for tomorrow and closing prayer. Up early again tomorrow …..

Day 5 – Another day’s work at the school!

{General note for blog readers – if you click on the photos they can be seen enlarged.}

So the morning started at 3.25am with Robert the Rooster singing a song!!!!  We have now put a bounty on his head so we are hopeful that someone will take this up and hunt him down. The day opened up as a beautiful sunny day, looking like it was going to be a scorcher! Breakfast downed (omelettes) and then a time of devotion led by Alex during which we studied Hebrews 12:1-2.  Made sandwiches as Michael and George turned up and so we headed off to work at the school.  As we drive through the villages on the eroded dirt road we are becoming more familiar to the local people and many wave and/or speak to us.

The first job of the day was to walk down to the hardware store to collect 36 sheets of ply-board carried local style on our heads.

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Once we were back at the school the task for the day began which was to line the inner walls of the four classrooms within the school building with the ply-board.  As expected it was a hot morning although the majority of our work was inside and therefore shaded by the roof.

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The school children spent much of the morning outside having what looked like a cross between a sports day and a games lesson.  Some of us were unable to resist the temptation to join in with this (relay races) and just enjoy being part of their school day.  The two pictures show the whole school and Cathy being engulfed by children just wanting to be with her.

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After lunch back to fixing more ply-board interupted by another walk into the village to the hardware store to collect some more timber.

Mid afternoon the clouds blew in and the heavens opened! And I mean opened! It was down tools for over half an hour.  Worse than that was watching the rain water pour off the roof and also run down the hill and flood into the building.  It seemed such a travesty to see this, however, Ruth (head teacher) was to be seen stood in one of the flooded classrooms where she had just completed washing clothes in a bowl singing ‘Hosanna in the highest’. Remarkable!

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After the rain stopped there was a last ditch flurry of activity to advance the ply-boarding and the outer wall sheeting as far as possible (see two photos below).  We will not be returning there to work as we are committed to another project tomorrow although one or two of the Smile team and Ivan and Godfrey (the builders) will be there to complete the work needed to enable the school to open and be functional for next week.

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Arrived back at the Smile house at 5.15pm to find the power off again (due to the storm no doubt) so once again luke warm showers were the order of the day except for James, Cathy and Beth2 who by offering to go last benefitted from the return of electricity that was restored sometime shortly after 6pm.  Another great Olivia special for evening meal followed by highlights, chill out time and an early night as we have an early start tomorrow.

Day 4 – Ruth Mother Care School rebuild – continued …..

Seriously thought about wringing Robert the rooster’s neck as the first cock-a-doodle-do was around 5.30am we reckon – although James thinks it was even earlier. Why do girls name things like roosters and taxi buses anyway? First thing the low cloud or mist meant that visibility was pretty poor but the sun quickly burnt through this such that by the time we were serving ourselves breakfast from the veranda it was looking like being a hot, sunny dayDSC_3040. During our time of morning devotion  with the Smile Team this morning we shared things that had touched us or inspired us during the previous day. We are working with a number of people from Smile here in Uganda and will try and introduce them to you as we blog.  Today the photo shows Hidaya, Olivia and Dora.

Once Michael arrived with “George” the taxi-bus we all sardined ourselves in and made our way to The Ruth Mother Care School for another day’s work. By the time we got there the weather had changed and within a few minutes the rain had started.

DSC_3127The builders supporting us did not arrive until late morning and so it was left to Moses (see picture) to set us to work and keep us busy.  The morning’s work was de-nailling more poles, breaking up hardcore and levelling the dirt floor. Once the floor was level it all required tamping to firm it up – The youth leaders (us) were seen doing this task to the beat – Singing in the Rain seemed the most appropriate as the rain remained steady for nearly two hours which made the site muddy and slippery again.

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The builders turned up, the rain stopped and we had lunch.  The afternoon saw a flurry of activity which included cladding the side and part of the front of the building frame, building a retaining wall at the front and sheeting the remainder of the roof.  There was also time for some of the group to spend some time with a few of the children that remained after school had finished and for Shavan, one of the Smile team it was all just too much! (See picture.)

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By the time Michael and George arrived to pick us up at about 4.15pm the building is beginning to look like a school again.

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Well-muddied shoes were removed outside and a queue formed for the two showers as severe cleansing was compulsory.  A chill-out evening was welcome including another wonderful dinner provided by Olivia which was enjoyed by all.  We will be returning to the school tomorrow.