My Diary 2009

A message for my home.

Well, that's that for another year. Now I have to assign certain projects to people who have been so generous over the year and to whom I must give many thanks on behalf of the children they have helped. Without their assistance, this would not be possible and now it feels as though my work starts once more. Eyalama noi!

I shall miss, most of all, the delightful children who cope with their disabilities with the greatest of fortitude, their families, my friends and the hospital staff who enable us to work as a team and who put up with my many idiosyncrasies. I shall miss picking a fresh lemon from the tree for my tea, eating roast cassava from the roadside, sharing meals in mud huts, playing with the children, the camaraderie. I shall not miss the mosquitoes, the cockroaches, the noise of the guinea fowl, the potholes and little else! It's great to be home with the family nearer and a new granddaughter to cuddle tomorrow! (My white Isabel Grace!) Same time next year?

Tuesday 24 November 2009

It is with great relief that I write my very last day of my 2009 diary. I shall be brief but it was not a day of nothing to do. Alex and I set off for St Stephen's Hospital for my meeting with the staff but, on the way, we called in to Kampala School for the Disabled for us to arrange to collect Lawrance, my athetoid cerebral palsy boy, to take him back north later that morning. The head master was none too pleased as the Christmas party was to be tomorrow, the day before the children were to be collected by parents and returned home for the holidays but this meant great expense for Alex (and me!). He finally relented, Lawrance was delighted, and I paid one term's fees for next year. The head master said he would like to start a school for the disabled near Kumi as there are only two such schools in Uganda and children come from far away. Maybe he will one day.

Then off to St Stephen's past the slums and the markets teeming with people selling fruit and vegetables and cattle rummaging in the waste greens. The vendors often sitting beneath their big umbrellas providing shade and the customers crowding round looking for the best bargain.

 St Stephen's staff have been very active since my last visit in September and I will have much good news to report to the Rope Trust on my return. I was reluctantly unable to accept Prof Luboga's kind invitation to lunch as time was limited but we parted with further invitations for me to return next year. He is a very busy man with many connections and contacts.

We returned to Matthias' home, coming via the school to collect Lawrance, his mattress and his few belongings and with his wheelchair in the back and he in the seat behind me. Leaving him there, Alex and I had an impromptu lunch provided by Maron, Matthias' cook. Delicious soup and bread and cheese cooked after the generator had been switched on. Kampala is not free from power shedding either. Sad good byes followed and Lawrance and Alex departed so my time in Kumi was finally over.

I sat on the veranda and wrote up my report for St Stephen's and enjoyed the panoramic view from the hill top over Kampala city and Lake Victoria. The family returned home, supper was eaten, my boarding pass was printed and Noah and I sat down to play Monopoly (S African version). The game was so riveting that I forgot all about the plane and finally we had to make a mad dash to have any chance of arriving on time. I couldn't find my sandals and so I left barefooted, the traffic was bad and my nails were all bitten to the quick. Matthias made it with one minute to spare so more fond farewells and I was through check in and my Ugandan days were behind me for another year. My lack of shoes caused some amusement for the airport staff but I had more in my hand baggage so, once I had my breath back, my feet were shod. I met Sergio in the departure lounge. He is the husband of Regina, the Italian physio who is the cause of my 8 visits to Kumi and who was returning to Italy for the last time as Regina is very sick. They have had to leave Kampala where Regina has worked tirelessly for the children with disabilities and Sergio has had to give up his work in Juba in Sudan. Their children, Giovanni, Paulo and Ilaria are resettled in Italian schools. I pray that all goes well with her treatment.

No time to sit down and straight on to the plane so I was pleased to have delayed my departure but I wonder if the game of Monopoly ever ended.

Monday 23 November 2009

The day of departure and I have to admit that it would be with relief when I waved good bye! Eating my last fresh banana for a while with power still off, I saw another visitor waiting outside in the dark. It was Moses, Adesso head teacher, with letters of appreciation and promises to try to reform his character.

Carole and I finally left on time with Anna and her son, Andrew, 2 live chickens and with Alex driving. I breathed a sigh of relief but, of course, I was very sad to wave good bye to Angela, now alone in the Guest House, and leave. The drive to Kampala was fine, Carole had a meeting with Joseph to finalise plans for the baking oven, we took her to Entebbe airport where she arrived just in time to check in and Alex and I drove to Matthias where we were both staying for night. Just imagine, a bath where the water ended up the colour of carrot soup and relaxing without visitors, bliss indeed! Supper with Matthias, Rebecca, Noah, Joshua and Chiara is a European affair with the western culture of all eating together.

Sunday 22 November 2009

My last Sunday and could it be a day of rest? My bicycle had to be returned to Florence as she looks after it and enjoys using it whilst I am away. It had done me well with only two breakdowns and I didn't fall off once this year!

Off to church with Angela and Carole and today we had a visiting catechist who spoke only in Ateso. The service started with hymn after hymn sung with fervour and skill and I thought I was in for a treat but everything changed when he started to preach and preach and preach. Angela wrote her prayer diary, Carole moved to be near the fresh air and I fell into a deep sleep. Finally I decided I couldn't stay any longer and, passing the children and mothers in the bench, I walked out breathing a sigh of relief. The remaining worshippers had to remain alert and attentive as he kept firing questions randomly. Thank goodness that does not happen here!

I was off to Soroti with Martha and Florence and I had requested a hospital vehicle as it is cheaper if there are 3 or more passengers...and a hundred times safer than public taxi. We set off with George driving and we had a memorable day with Florence mother in her village. We were joined by Pius, her son, and so a true family day was had, a rare event only happening at Christmas and when I come! Florence' mother has had leprosy but is managing well with her residual lack of sensation. My final evening at home and would it be quiet, I wondered. Well, it wasn't long before Francis Okerenyang came and then Michael Akileng followed by Alex Oumo, Charles Okula, Vivian and Mary, Winnie and Connie, and the queue grew and grew and grew. It reminded me of a Harvest Festival service with me accepting g nuts, g nut paste, eggs, pawpaws, oranges, lemons, simsim balls, rice, millet flour, sour milk, pop corn until my room was bulging with gifts and letters to bring back for other people. I wondered if I would cope to the bitter end as this started just as I had returned from the village and I hadn't even had a moment to go to the loo! Just as peace was returning, Dr and Mrs Opolot came and I was able to sit and relax with them but time was short and my packing was yet to be finalised. I just had to leave them with Carole and Angela and continue with packing when the power went off. My torch was packed, my candle was in the trunk and I almost despaired as we were to leave at 6.00 am when it is still dark. Things had to be piled in the cases and then to bed for about 5 hours before we had to move.

Saturday 21 November 2009

I'm writing this sitting at home in Darlington. The last few days were manic and thoughts of my diary were far away. So back to Saturday...It's wise to pack early as circumstances can get out of control and then there would be panic. My tin trunk rapidly filled with a bucket, unread books, Nigerian dress, pillow tightly sealed in a polythene bag, umbrella; all the things I don't want to bring back but will need next year, God willing!

I'm invited to Mgt Asio's for breakfast so it was out with the bike and down the road to be warmly greeted as usual and fed with a pancake and sweet potato cooked over her fuel-saving stove. She sat on the floor whilst I sat in a chair as is the custom and once 'I was satisfied', then I could share my food with her. I drank dry tea poured from the little tin teapot and we reminisced over our past few weeks and chatted away as though we were sitting at home at my kitchen table. Fond farewells said, I cycled back home to find Brenda, another Brenda and Priscilla waiting for me so that they could come to select their books from my newly formed Focus Foundation library. They each chose their five senior school text books and left very happy and hoping their success in the sciences would be facilitated by their new learning tools.

Time for a short rest before the compost judging competition for God's Grace Group. I was to provide the drinks and the members were to arrange some food. What appeared was not what I expected; the members were dressed in their finery of grand gomaz(es?) and two tables were laid out with plates of fruit and vegetables arranged as one would see in 5 star hotels. The wood fires were burning with cauldrons of food bubbling away and I realised I was in for far more than just a competition. The members arrived bearing their pots or bags of compost and these were laid out with great pride in front of the tables. A difficult task of judging lay in front of me and I was considering making more than one winner so as not to disappoint too many. The event was interspersed with songs, dances and poems. The Pastor read chapter and verse from the bible about the role of women, my speech (unprepared but not difficult) was given and it was time to eat the feast laid before us. Finally, I could not delay the judging process and so, down on my knees, I studied the consistency of each sample carefully filtering it through my fingers and trying not to think about the contents of cow manure, kitchen waste, green and dry matter. Some were too heavy with rain, others had small amounts of unrotted dry matter but many were as good as the John Innes stuff we buy in bags, in fact all were totally acceptable but I was to be critical and found a definite first, second and third winners. There was much joy from the winners and disappointment from the losers, of course. A competition never goes smoothly, I'm sure, and soon I had a problem. I had given third prize to Anna and Rose wanted to know what I was going to do with the prize money as her compost had come from the same heap so she should rightly share the prize. You can see that human nature doesn't differ much across the continents! I quickly said I didn't want to know this and that the judge's decision is final and the rightful owner of the prize was Anna. Phew!

By this time we were all tired and the final song and dance was performed with far less energy and enthusiasm than the pre-meal entertainment. More final farewells and promises to do better and I was back home for a quick shower and I was off to Stella’s for supper. She is a member of GG group so we had decided that neither of us was hungry so no meal required for either of us. I set off for her school quarters in the dark wondering which way to go; either across the air field (shortest but could have snakes), to the left or the right and I chose the left which proved to be a bad decision. The sky was littered with billions of shining stars and, although I was in the northern hemisphere, I'm sure the Southern Cross was just above me. The moon wasn't round enough to help me see my way and so the torch was my main guiding light. It was fine at first when I knew my right and left turns but then the tracks bifurcated and I had to make random choices. Walking past mud huts with their unseen residents going about their evening lives and the crickets knocking their knees by the million, I enjoyed the experience but then it went quieter and quieter and I realised that I was now far from human habitation. Not to worry, it was impossible to get seriously lost and then, out of the darkness, appeared a man rolling his bike. "Where is the school?" I asked and he kindly offered to escort me there even though he was on his way home in the opposite direction. Once I had my bearings, I thanked him kindly and went on my way to get lost again as the staff quarters houses were all in darkness. Here's where the mobile phone comes in handy, no good when lost from afar as it's difficult to say where you are but useful when you know you are feet away from your destination. Life was going on at the rear of the house, food was being cooked for the rest of the family and others and Stella and I entered the house with me relieved I hadn't to endure another meal. But, according to the custom, the visitor has to be given food and I was offered the usual omelette (made with 6 eggs which are local and so smaller than ours and with orange yolks) which I managed to share with her two boys. The evning over, she escorted me safely over the airfield and I managed to sink into bed quite exhausted after a full day.

 

 

Friday 20 November 2009

 

I've had to take off the final weekday of my stay to get on top of certain things. I started with my farewell thanks to everyone at Morning Assembly and then went round the hospital with more goodbyes as though it was the last day of term. "See you next year!" Carol was having her baking training which I called in to see and I found the oven lit and many workers wearing green gingham aprons and hats making cake mix, with bread mix to follow. This is an exciting project as they will be able to cook over 2000 bread buns a day once they get going! Also cakes and large loaves! Then I cycled to Janet's where the grinder is. The top of my head was burning seriously in spite of my very bushy hair. I found her walking home with a basket of sweet potatoes on her head. She put them on the ground and I tried but failed to lift them up as they were so heavy. She had been experimenting with the grinder and we continued with slight modifications until we were producing paste superior to that made by the electric machine in town. Another success story and one that will provide a better diet for the children and also an income for the group. I cycled back as I hadn't said good bye to Margaret Akol who has broken her ankle and then all the way back and further to go to Okerenyang's for lunch where a large meal was laid out. I was happy to see Francis' wife was wearing her everyday clothes as I was in my working trousers but then she changed into a smart gomaz and I felt rather uncomfortable. I said I would have cycled home to change if the meal hadn't been on the table but he said I could eat first and then go home to change which wasn't what I had in mind. After lunch, I was shepherded across the road to his son's home where I found about 100 people gathered for a group meeting which I was not expecting. No wonder that I should have changed into a dress as it is very bad manners to wear trousers but not if I am working. I was the Guest of Honour, had to sit through an interesting drama and listen to local songs, make a speech and accept 15 eggs to bring home.

I managed to leave after 4 pm as my next visit was then at Modesta's modest home. I could relax as I sat in their small room which sleeps 12 and drink Sprite and eat nuts. I love being with her children and the situation is unique. Just outside her door, the local men are drinking strong stuff especially at weekends and it's not quite the environment I would like for my children. I left with fond farewells to shower and change to go to the Opolots for supper with Carol and Angela. We set off in the dark unable to find their house but all ended well and we spent a pleasant evening sitting outside on their veranda having a drink before going inside for supper. The stars were up there in abundance and many were shooting across the sky. How different from my next Friday evening! Dr O lent me the hospital modem and hence this update. Quite a full day for me but all worthwhile.

 

Thursday 19 November 2009

 

An early visitor, Francis Okerenyang, called with his proposal for the school cow shelter which I was going to discuss with the Hospital Administrator. More loose ends were tied and I was very pleased to see the stand for the grinder, quite a masterpiece with its splayed legs for stability and tray for the bowl to receive the paste. We tied it to the top of the Land Cruiser to deliver it to The HIV women. The small wheelchair I bought is going to Justine as I haven't managed to find the boy I had wanted it for but Justine is a very worthy cause. so I am happy. My last day for Outreach and it was off to Ngora to have a clinic with William but, true to form, he failed to organise it. We dropped off the grinder, bought chapattis in town and set off. I wasn't disappointed to have the programme changed as I wanted to visit Moses Okenyekure, my TB boy, and it was either today or I missed out this year. We found him in his village, very happy with his new house, but sad because someone had stolen his pregnant goat, slashed it and removed the 2 foetuses. He has 3 left and has managed to get a cow which has calved so his status is improving. His bicycle "business" is bringing him a small income and he continues with his Primary schooling although he must be the oldest in the class. His grandmother is much stronger and Moses helps a lot by fetching the water and digging the garden in spite of his disabilities. He continues making fishing baskets and I had to buy yet one more which I have given away already. No fear of having any more littering our home in UK. This is another family of which I am very proud.

We followed up a few more of my past patients to find them doing well and then returned home as the heavens opened and soon the roads were a torrent of water.

I found 2 letters from home waiting for me which was a pleasant surprise after all these weeks with hardly one.

 

Wednesday 18 November 2009

 

Everything seems to be falling into place with only a few days left. Moses, the blind boy, has written to Sheila in Darlington but he hasn't been able to reciprocate with a braille letter which is what she had sent to him. He has taken some of my library books in Maths, Physics and Chemistry for his nephew, Sam, in Senior 3. The stand for the grinder is looking very good and will be despatched to the women's group with HIV before I leave. The children's clothes have been either distributed or stacked in neat piles for Margaret Rose to give out. I called to see Mgt Akol on my way to the hospital as she was discharged yesterday following surgery to a broken ankle sustained by slipping on the mud. How easily it can happen and how gingerly I step over the worst areas. She was resting with her foot up.

I've hardly mentioned the children with their disabilities, all of which are close to my heart. Their endurance of pain and suffering must be seen to be believed and they bear their disabilities with great fortitude. Little brain damaged children, some with reduced mental abilities but others with a brain as normal as any other but who have to spend their lives in a tortured body. Many are born with abnormalities; too many fingers or toes, limbs missing or twisted; spina bifida or hydrocephalus where the head is far too large and heavy for the body to support, a tiny face looks at you from beneath the large forehead and often with a most engaging smile and a hand comes up to greet you as is the custom here; knock knees, bow legs, club feet, cleft palate, I could go on. But it's the preventable and unnecessary conditions which are the most distressing, those resulting mainly from malaria. TB, polio, infections, they all take their toll as do epilepsy, burns and their resulting deformities and disfigurements. It's humbling to see these children struggling to walk with aids or push their wheelchairs or just to lie there waiting for what? The staff here work tirelessly to improve the lives of these families and children and are all part of the whole team from the cooks to the cleaners to the professional staff. They are all to be congratulated as they work tirelessly to improve their little lives. Never does it become the norm to encounter a child suffering so intensely and there are so many here.

Back to the day and we are off to Petete to help these children who arrived in abundance. On our arrival, we saw a horde of people, literally hundreds, sitting under anywhere with shade be it the eaves of the health clinic or the branches of the trees. We wanted to run away but the task was to be tackled and stay we must. Angela and I settled ourselves on a bench while Charles, renowned for his verbosity, introduced the team and explained all the details of our visit to the attentive crowd. Angela didn't believe me when I estimated a 20 minute speech and, after this time, we decided to start and leave him at it. An hour later, I think he still had not got down to the nitty gritty business of assessing the patients but maybe his words had great relevance to our visit. I just know it was distracting and, as a different language was spoken here, each sentence had to be translated by a local man. Anyway, together with Gerald, the physio, we saw many children, well over 100 by the end of the day, until the rain drops dripped through the leaves of the tree, dampening our papers enough to prevent the ink appearing on the papers. It got to a point when a mad dash to the vehicle was necessary as the heavens opened and the rain was tipped out from above. Soon we were on an island with the waters swishing past us with the people sheltering inside the tiny clinic or under the eaves. A child shivered with cold as the mother draped a maize bag over it and we stayed dry. When the storm abated, slowly the people emerged first and then we settled down on chairs and tables carefully dried by the clinic staff but sadly situated too near the latrines for comfort. You soon get used to anything and we were well distracted by the remaining patients. Thankfully, many had left for home as we would never have seen each and everyone of them. The bench before us was empty but Michael still had a long queue of elderly men and women waiting to have their eyes tested. We estimated around 200 were there when we started and he just had to have a cut off point. They will all be seen another day.

 

Tuesday 17 November 2009

 

To my surprise, today turned out well! It started with a 7.30 am meeting with Moses, Adesso head teacher, Chairman of the PTA and former chairman. The cow situation had to be sorted out so I came forward with my suggestion to promote the success of the cow project. We reached an agreement and a subcommittee is to be formed and they are to be responsible for the future plan and, if all goes as I hope it will, I should turn up next year with the cow shelter refurbished, elephant grass growing, 2 cows + calves settled into their new quarters and the children learning animal husbandry and enjoying their millet porridge. If this is not the case, then the 2 million shillings I am retaining will go to another school and I shall wash my hands of Adesso. Moses is to try not to use the phrase "The problem is....." whilst trying to make excuses and we are all to make an effort to work on our human failings! Time will tell and, hopefully, the lengthy prayer ending the meeting and said in Ateso so I don't know what Francis was saying, will give the school guidance from above.

Then on to the CBR monthly meeting which lasted around 5 hours with mid morning and lunch breaks. Much was discussed with harmony amongst the team and Charles in the Chair. His English has to be heard to be believed and often I cannot keep a straight face and I wonder how his brain formulates his sentences which, perhaps on interpretation, do make sense as the discussions continue reasonably well. They talked about tricycles, training and transport amongst other items and, on the whole, the themes were not far from ours at home.

The day would have been over but I still had one more duty to tie up a couple of loose ends. Martin (CBR), Steven (Gabriel's brother) and I set off on 2 motor bikes for me to see how Steven's cow is doing. Last year, Gabriel was given a cow and, after he died, it was given to Steven. We traversed the tracks I had followed on Sunday but how different they were today! Since Sunday, there has been some heavy rain so the tracks were muddy and full of puddles to be bypassed with care but it was a treat to sit side saddle and watch the world go by while we sped along; women carrying anything imaginable on the tops of their heads, small children herding the cows, men wobbling precariously on their bicycles as they saw a strange muzungu speed by and, of course, the ever-present goats and chickens. The crops have picked up following the rain and they looked refreshed and more upright. Finally, we met the herdsman who looked older than his allotted years and, having parked the bicycles, we footed alongside him until we met up with the cow, a splendid black beast in calf, a crossbreed and capable of producing many litres of milk a day. I learnt how this system works, the herdsman continues looking after the beast and will eventually be given one of her calves. Steven had not met his animal before and so he was very happy to find he owned such a splendid beast. I look forward to returning next year to find there are two and maybe another on the way. Leaving the cow in good hands, we set off for Olelia School to inspect the new desks for Primary 2. These and those we gave last year need some maintenance so Steven is going to make sure this is done at the weekend. The children were just setting off for home and they too were surprised to find they had a white visitor amongst them. It was photos all round and then a return journey home, a good day indeed!

 

Monday 16 November 2009

 

A day within the hospital is always useful as there are many loose ends to finish off. My table for the grinder is not suitable, so I am told, and thanks to my impractical brain. It needs to be taller to prevent backache (surely I should have thought of this). James from the garage is assisting me in mafter the cow and when it has several calves, one is given to him. He can use the milk and spend the income on treatments for the cow.

Taking one 3 feet tall and with splayed metal legs for stability.

AMREF was to fly in today with the urologist who had 50 old men to operate on but the hours went by and no aeroplane appeared. Finally, the poor men were told that there was to be no doctor arriving and that they would have to wait for the next doctor arriving in December.

I sorted out the records of some of my patients, finding their notes and ensuring continuity in the programme. The day passed uneventfully and I decided to leave early to avoid the storm as the black clouds were threatening rain. As soon as I arrived back, the heavens opened and the thunder rumbled and it seems that the rainy season is about to start just when the dry season is due. I was due out at 6 for supper at Lydia's so I was hoping for the skies to clear and that they did but leaving a soggy terrain. I set off on my bike over the sludge trying to avoid the puddles as much as possible and I arrived at Lydia's staff quarters home where I had to walk the planks to avoid stepping in the extremely muddy ground. The children were cooking the food over a wood fire while Lydia and I went inside her small home. There are 2 rooms; the sitting room has 9 chairs around the walls and a "coffee table" in the centre. A locked glass-fronted cupboard hidden from view by a lace cloth contained all her plates, bowls and almost her entire belongings. The walls were covered with old, cracked plaster and a few old posters were dotted here and there. A flimsy curtain hung in a termite-eaten wooden doorway behind which there were the sleeping quarters consisting of 2 beds for 6 of her children. She has 8 children, 5 are hers and 3 are orphans whose parents died at the hands of the rebels. The 2 boys sleep in the store outside and the parents sleep in a mud hut adjacent to the house. There was no power as is the case in the Guest House but the conditions are truly difficult. They closed the shutters as darkness descended upon us and they groped their way round with torches until they lit candles and dripped the wax on to the wooden arms of the chairs so that they could stand upright. Lydia's husband returned from work and sank into a chair to share a beer with us. How hard their life is but they are happy and I think that they expect no more from life. What delight when the power came on, candles were snuffed and I could recognise who was who! Gradually bowls of food were placed in front of me and, as is their custom, I was to eat alone but, due to the inclement weather, I was joined by some family members who sat around as did her husband whilst Lydia (who kindly joined me) and I ate. Her husband would also wait as he enjoyed his evening tipple! The meal must have taken hours to prepare on the wood stove and was eaten in a short time although I did manage to politely take a second helping thus reducing the children's supper but fulfilling social etiquette. With the table cleared, they eagerly came in with their plates of atap (local bread made from millet flour) and cabbage (a treat for them and cooked with mine) but they marched into the bedroom where 5 of them squeezed onto the tiny floor space while little 7 year old Salome had fallen sound asleep, still fully dressed, onto her bed. Perhaps she was claiming her space for the night? I had taken a pack of UNO cards but I should have realised that there was not one minute of spare time; they were all pre-occupied with their duties as expected of them and with no ill grace whatsoever. I enquired about how they would ever get their homework done, a mystery for me! I left to let them continue with their chores and successfully walked the length of the 2 planks in the dark and after a Nile beer (it's stronger than most!). Somehow, walking along the hospital road at night with few fellow travellers and only the light of my torch and distant continual lightening and the sound of the evening chorus, is a calming experience and, all too soon, the Guest House came in view and I returned to normality and my 3/4 bed All to myself, unlike Lydia's special family.

 

Sunday 15 November 2009

 

Here it is Sunday evening and I am writing today's news! However, back to Friday, I didn't mention in my school sports day report that the senior football team were very happy to play with a Premier League football signed by Michael Owen but the junior team found it too heavy.

Back to today: I had hardly opened my eyes before the phone rang twice and two requests were completed before I went for prayers. Eronu Cuthbert, a 13 year old paraplegic caused by polio, was waiting to return home but, before he left, I had the pleasure of giving him a tricycle, the last of my consignment. He had a quick practise to demonstrate that he could get on and off and manoeuvre it safely before he left in the hospital bus, a very happy boy. It is at times like this that makes everything so worthwhile and makes me feel very humble and privileged to be doing what I can. He can now get to school himself on wheels instead of crawling which has been his only choice up till now and, being the son of a peasant farmer, it may give him an opportunity to go far with his education. Time will tell! I was, by now, very late for prayers, in fact, 2½   hours since the official start but I managed the final minutes and I was pleased to see that the 2 statues have been given homes on shelves behind the altar. As I cycled home, the bracket holding the brake came off yet again so I had to walk back home only to find Silver, my lift to Kodukol, was already waiting, 2.5 hours early. I asked him to return later as Paul Ekellot was calling to see me. We sat outside under a tree for shade and sorted out the world before Silver returned and I was to sit on the back of the bicycle side saddle. This has been a worry for me as my croggy skills are far from good and would I be able to manage another year without a disaster? I would not be happy to come home next week with a plaster of Paris on me. It's far, it's very hot ( I had plastered myself with Factor 25), there's nothing to rest the feet on, balancing skills are required to prevent the bicycle toppling over and there's not much to hold on to! I did take the precaution to put shoes and socks on as my feet have got badly torn in previous years. One and a half hours later and after both of us falling off only once, walking and riding (I think Silver found it more difficult also), we reached Moses, the blind boy's home. I was greeted like a long-lost relative and maybe I was the last visitor to have been invited since last year. The children had fun with their balloons and one even mended a broken one with a strip off another! Small but welcome gifts were distributed; African tea (very sweet tea made with all milk) and groundnuts were taken before lunch was served in Moses' hut. Beans and posho and rice, quite delicious! Lots of conversation, photos and laughter before another 2 cups of African tea and, with the shadows lengthening, it was time for fond farewells and "same place next year!" The ride home was easier than going and I am sure Silver found the return ride for him was simple without my weight behind.

Power was on so I washed my hair and soaked my feet. So far this evening, the phone has been ringing; Betty from Marton, 2 invitations for tomorrow night, Mgt Akol has fractured her tibia and Dr Ekure will operate tomorrow, my bicycle is repaired for 1,500/= (45p) and all is well and still very quiet. I'm about to fall into bed and I shall be able to add this to my diary when I next have a modem. Good night!

 

Saturday 14 November 2009

 

No one in the GH and all is quiet except for the incessant buzz of the fridge which tells me that the power is on, the cockerels shouting to each other over the top of the house and the guinea fowl which are the worst with their terrible conversations. Angela and Carole have gone for a break in Jinja and Dr Ruth went to a wedding in Kampala. I have given the staff the weekend off so I will survive on a bunch of bananas, some very wrinkly passion fruit and pawpaw and lemon tea from lemons I pick myself.

Nothing to do all morning, my washing was up to date so I took the opportunity to start preparing to leave as I know from past experience that departure day comes all too quickly and I have many odds and ends to tidy up. However, visitors called as usual. Stephen, Gabriel's brother, came to ask me about helping him to build his modest house so he has a little money to start it off in a small way and, bit by bit, he will, in a few years, hopefully have completed it. I always remember his care for Gabriel and how he gave up his possible opportunity for education so maybe he deserves some help.

I asked Ruth over but, not unexpectedly, she didn't come. Charles, head teacher at Ngora School for the Deaf phoned to inform me that he was coming so my morning was not to be spent alone. He phoned again to say he had reached the GH but the door was locked. No one was outside the wide open door so I walked round the house to find him at the locked iron back door. Mobile phones are so useful! He had brought the 2 chairs and table which they had made in the carpentry department at the school. I need the table for the groundnut grinding machine but I just liked the chairs and, at 7,000/= a piece (just over 2 pounds), I can't go wrong. He collected the bag of things I had for Apulemera, the deaf girl in his school; some exercise books and pens, old newspapers to cover them and a few easy African readers.

 The morning had passed and at 12 noon, Betty, a teacher from Adesso, called with a pikipiki for us to leave to go to her village. I wore my Nigerian dress again as, although not clean, I knew that after a bike ride it would soon be filthy with dust from the passing traffic. Sitting side saddle between the rider and Betty with the skirt hitched up and hopefully not showing too much lily white leg, we set off for an hour's most uncomfortable ride. How I wanted to change sides and look the other way but I have never seen anyone riding that way round. We passed trading centre after trading centre until we branched off to finally reach Betty's home, very rural and quiet! Her father and stepmother greeted us warmly and we sat down under a tree and enjoyed a glass of borehole water and groundnuts. Her father has 19 children; Betty is one of 12 and her stepmother and her father had 7 more. He is a peasant farmer and she is a teacher and all their children are educated so it can be done! Betty is so proud of him and she recalled her happy childhood memories and the stories he used to tell her. My reason for going was to meet a group of ladies who want to better themselves so it was on with my lecturing cap and my teaching cards and we discussed the formation of a group and their possible objectives. The shadows started to lengthen so it was time to draw the meeting to a close, visit some homes to see what they were doing and then return home but, before we left, I found there was a meal to eat. So back inside the hut, hands washed and the meal eaten (somehow they knew I ate no meat, fish nor chicken), then photos and farewells and back on the bike with a large bag of oranges and 5 newly laid eggs. We only stopped twice, once to avoid a large truck which was blocking the road and then to investigate an abnormal noise but all it was, was a small branch through the wheel. I think few white people pass this way or maybe I was showing too much leg but we seemed to be attracting an awful lot of attention! So the return journey was even more difficult and it was fortuitous for me that Betty's stamina gave up before mine and I was allowed a short break as we passed the house where Isabel number 2 lives so we had an excuse to spend a few moments with Hellen, her mother, in the tiny space behind their bar which was heaving with customers. Hellen is on treatment for malaria and her son, Dick, was in the dispensary, also sick with malaria. Back on the bike and with not far to go, the journey was safely concluded, the eggs were intact, there was power at the GH, Dr O called with the modem and I could relax.

 

Friday 13 November 2009

 

My easiest day so far but different so read on!

 

Adesso School Interhouse Sports Day so all my preparations should come to fruition but I had a few reservations that all would go well. I needn't have been concerned as it turned out to be very successful. Instead of the Inter School competition as in the last 3 years, I had decided to revert to a simpler day with far less hassle and more sportsmanship hopefully. The district has started its own interschool league so, in that respect, I had succeeded to motivate them into schools integrating in sport. I cycled to the hospital as I knew I would be backwards and forwards with the arrangements.

At Morning Assembly, Landheer, one of the hospital drivers, told us that, driving from Kampala last night, they encountered a horrendous accident whereby a truck carrying cement had crashed into a public taxi killing all the occupants. Dr Opolot later described to me in graphic detail the scene that they found. It happens all too often and there by the grace of God, go I!

I met Moses, the dentist, and reiterated my request for an annual dental clinic report before I left in 10 days time, had a meeting with the Hospital Administrator, and then I cycled back to the Guest House to take 4 crates of sodas and 2 boxes of water to the school. Mission accomplished and I returned to the GH, changed into my Nigerin dress and wrote up 2 reports before setting off for the school at 11.00 am where the sports were to start at 10.00 am. I was still early and so I went to see the new desks and then the children preparing the food behind the classrooms for after the sports. Tall teenage boys were stirring a cauldron of posho (sorghum flour and water) which was bubbling furiously up to the brim over the wood fire. Stella, the teacher, was calling out "Motimot" as they enthusiastically caused an overflow into the flames. The beans were happily boiling without attention on another wood fire. Hopefully, the school will send teachers for training in fuel saving stoves so that all this precious wood is not depleted any more than necessary. Once Carole's baking oven project is completed at the hospital, there will be intensive training for the community in the use of methods of cooking using little fuel.

 I settled myself down for the start of the sports. Short speeches were made, the National Anthem was sung, football teams huddled together presumably talking tactics, netball and volley ball players were at the ready and then we started with the junior netball match. After a shaky start, the players showed great talent as they sped from one end of the pitch managing to score many goals. An excellent game by the senior team equally agile followed. On to the volleyball pitch, with my chair carried by a willing boy, I settled myself down to watch 3 matches and, with not fully understanding the scoring , I failed to follow who was winning. I had asked Leonard Omoding who works in the hospital Records Office, had made a new volley ball net as the old one had fallen apart. Then the senior and junior football matches completed the day and the teams and pupils gathered round for the prize giving. The school is divided into 5 houses (Peter, John, Richard, a bishop's name beginning with "g" and Elspeth after me!) The captains and vice captains each received a "gold" medal which I had bought from Wilkinson's before I left. The football Man of the Match each received a football key ring, the captain of the football team won the glass trophy and the winning house captain won the shield. I was happy that Elspeth House was the overall winner. The wind had got up as we gave out the prizes causing a severe dust storm, the thunder rumbled around us and the skies darkened. Quite suddenly, the wind direction changed, the sand all blew back from whence it had come and these factors heralded an imminent rain storm so we all quickly adjourned to the classrooms just before the heavens opened and the rain entered through the unprotected windows. I'm not too sure how up to 180 children in each class stay dry during lessons! We partook of a soda and a plate full of beans and posho and then completed our speeches to a very small audience as we had all entered different classrooms. Once the rain ceased, we ventured out stepping gingerly over the vast puddles, said our goodbyes. Frances Okerenyang escorted me back over the airfield as dusk fell and here I was back home earlier than any other day, all alone as Carol and Angela had left for Jinja for the weekend. With the house to myself, I washed my hair only to be caught by endless knocks on the door for one thing or another but finally I sat down to start on my update when Dr and Mrs Opolot called and stayed for the  evening. It was nice to have company and Consolata and I always seem to have plenty to talk about. Then to my welcome bed with no sounds to disturb me.....

 

 

Thursday 12 November 2009

 

Even if you have given up on reading my daily diary, it's still useful for me to refer back to so I will continue to the bitter end.

 

Today's content was as full as ever but I can make it more brief. I started with a meeting with the Hospital Administrator to discuss the care of the school cows and also the matter of the cow which never was.

Michael now has his second copy of his book which Bruce kindly typed and printed before I left to proof read for further adjustments for the next addition. I'm working on the PDP (Personal Development Plan) of one of the staff who cannot sort out a few problems, an update on the girl with her new tricycle is very positive, plans for the third tricycle are in action, the grinder is having its last practise before I hand it out, Hellen's stall is making a nice profit for her and all these things need checking as next week is my last and now I know it will pass quickly.

Then it's off to Armuria which is further north in a region torn apart by the LRA. Angela and I sat in the front while the back was filled with Martin (CBR), Gerald (Physio) and lots of discharged patients with their belongings and attendants. We stopped at the Soroti supermarket to stock up on soap, toilet rolls, coffee and provisions for the day, yoghurt and banana cake for me, before the long drive north through the bushiest of land which, in the past, provided a perfect environment for the rebels and which is still sparsely inhabited made obvious by the lack of the thatched huts and the few people walking along the roads. On arrival at a primary school, we found many people sitting under a tree and we wondered how we would manage but then, like a swarm of ants, a seemingly endless stream of people emerged from a church (these look like elongated mud huts with open sides). Panic set in, we wished we hadn't dawdled in the supermarket and we set to to screen all the children. It wasn't long before we realised that this was to be one of the less interesting clinics. The conditions encountered repeated themselves over and over again due to lack of local health clinics dealing with conditions such as malaria and epilepsy. Hence a queue of epileptics and children with gluteal fibrosis and post-injection paralysis. The local inhabitants are asking the hospital to co-operate in supporting them for better facilities. Surprisingly, the queue shortened quickly and we didn't need to think where we would stay the night! Back in the vehicle, we set off for home until we reached the home of the mobiliser who arranges the clinic for us. Here in the middle of nowhere lived a small community in a seemingly idyllic setting. We were invited into his mud hut where the table was laid with many local dishes. With our hands washed by one of his two wives and grace said, we enjoyed a convivial meal with the only light coming from the doorway through which we could watch the sun set over the thatched huts. It's hard to put into words what it is really like as it's a completely different world from home. Comfortably replete, we embarked on the next stage of the journey, this time accompanied by some of the women and children who had never been in a vehicle. What an experience for them as they sped along the tracks and then the tarmac road which leads to Sudan but we were going south to Soroti where we stopped once more but this time to visit Martin's children, Joy and Rhoda. I have watched these children grow up into two very polite little girls, perfectly innocent and sweet. Off once more and with only one more port of call which was to collect 5 crates of sodas for the sports day tomorrow. At around 8.30pm, we reached home tired and dirty but not hungry. We shared our day's events with Carole who continues to be busy with her baking oven and who also takes two steps forward and one back! As usual the routine is shower and bed.

 

 

Wednesday 11 November 2009

 

Am I ever going to have an easy day? Each one seems to be packed with activity and very different from any other and today was no different. I was still eating my pineapple, pawpaw and passion fruit breakfast when Frances Okerenyang came on time at 7.30am for my first meeting which was to discuss the issue of school milk for the children. We waited for James, Chairman of Adesso PTA who was late so we decided to cycle to the farm to inspect the school cows. We found the two beasts looking well, healthy and in calf. Their first calves had died. I am not happy with the present arrangement as the headmaster seems to be taking advantage of the milk rather than the children benefiting. I think the milk should be sold during the holidays to provide improved facilities for the children and so I am working hard on the issue. Whether I get anywhere is another matter but I will definitely make decisions and changes. If I don't get satisfaction, then I shall find another school but Frances has asked me to consider persevering and gave the example of the Lord changing St Paul's way of life. I don't think I am in the same category but I'll give it a go and we have planned a further meeting with the HM on Tuesday next at 7.30am. Will he appear? It seems I am on the war path but I just want justice and I have only the children be they those with disabilities or the pupils in mind.

It was pleasant cycling there whilst still cool but on our return the sun had risen somewhat and the heat was becoming intense. We finished our meeting as Martin (CBR worker) arrived on his pikipiki to whisk me off into the bush. On with my helmet (it does nothing for the hair as underneath it becomes as hot as an oven) and on to the back of the bike, down the south bound road to Mbale, turn right and we started along the tracks with their bumps and potholes. The first child was one we had seen when Charles Viva and his team were here. He lives with his mother in the poorest of circumstances and we found him still with his ankles bound and naked inside his hut and all alone. A pitiful sight and words cannot portray what we saw except to say that Martin almost broke down saying it was the worst home he had ever seen. The child held out his hand in hunger and thirst so we found a mug and water in a jerry can and he gulped it down spilling more down his front than in his mouth. Too much would not have helped without food so we were back on the bike and off to market to remedy the situation. The market must have been almost 10 minutes ride away and this is the distance required for all the local people to walk there and back for food. It was a bustle of activity with clothes and lengths of material hanging from wires, Second hand clothes by the bale were strewn in mounds on the floor, all sorts of goods from inner tubes to samosas could be bought and it was a place to do what had to be done and then to leave. We bought shorts and tops, a dress for the mother, food and soap.  No more as I had to transport these whilst riding side saddle! A friend of Carole's phoned from Wales and it was strange to speak to someone sitting in her own comfortable home whilst I was far away in every aspect. We even met the sister of someone I knew! With the utmost of difficulty, I managed to get on the bike with the goods after a few futile attempts of holding the bags or not holding the bags and we set off with the flimsy cavera (plastic bag) failing to keep the 18 inch bars of soap and the other contents in a manageable load. This entailed riding side saddle with no hands so maybe my next job application could be to a circus. We found the boy standing still with the feet bound and, seeing the food, he quickly filled his fist and shoved it into his mouth. One of Charles Viva's team had given me a top to give to the boy and we reluctantly left him with hunger and thirst satisfied and, at least not naked, and looking relatively smart but urinating at the foot of the walls of the mud hut. Martin is to follow this boy up very regularly and will see the LC1 (equivalent of our social worker) to discuss the situation. I hasten to add that the mother loves the boy but has no alternative.

On to 2 other families, the second of which had been given assistance two years ago and the two goats given were now a cow and a calf and they had managed to get a bull by selling crops. They were doing well but they were still living in such difficult circumstances. The child is severely disabled, the mother has a gynaecological problem and their home is far from civilisation. So I begged Martin to return to the hospital as my stamina was waning. There has been no rain in some areas and the heat especially on the feet is intolerable as the earth is so dry and dusty. I would have so liked to have continued to follow up more homes but I was too tired. Even on the way home, I dropped off to sleep more than once for a few moments as I sat this time astride the bike but thankfully not dropping off literally! I obviously trust Martin's skills or my eyes would have been opened wide and glued on the road ahead. Back home, time for a cup of tea and a shower and 20 minutes later I was on my bike for my next meeting at the women’s' HIV group. On arrival, I was ushered into Janet's hut where a feast lay before me in spite of asking for only a cup of tea. The delicious meal taken, I was eager to get on with the agenda which included the distribution of the 16 goats which they had bought from Odello Saturday market. They caused quite a stir buying so many and Margaret's descriptive account in words and actions of the purchasing was most entertaining. Three goats at a time were brought out and three names called from the register until each woman was holding a goat with a locally made sisal rope. There was much bleating from the goats whose ropes were getting tangled together and ululating from the women on top of the many children laughing and playing with their balloons. My goat which they have called Mommy is a sandy brown with a donkey-like cross on its back, has two toggles dangling from its neck, two tiny horns and, best of all, is bulging with babies (hopefully two) but I think I will have left before the birth. By this time next year, there should be loads of goats and perhaps cows. How happy the women were as, after many photos and a prayer of thanks, they walked away with their goats which belong, of course, to the group, trotting by their sides.

Now I could have left to go to Kumi Hotel for the Wednesday Rotary Club meeting but that is another world away and I was so much happier to sit with the family and watch the sun drop down quickly behind the horizon. What hope and enthusiasm these ladies now have. Following Janet's training day at the farm last week, she is already preparing her compost and has a 6 month plan for monthly training sessions in compost making, sack gardens, kitchen gardens etc for the group. She has sown onion and cabbage seeds and I know she will be a shining chairperson. More next year....

 I cycled home before it was completely dark and took advantage of an early night to lie under my mosquito net and reflect on the day's highs and lows. 

 

 

Tuesday 10 November 2009

 

An Outreach Clinic with William and Lydia and I decided to make a go of it but had a back-up plan if the clinic had failed as on the last three occasions with him. Something really needs to be done with this man as he is a walking disaster! On the way, we dropped Alex off at his home and I managed to have a cuddle with Isabel No 2 (my black Isabel granddaughter!) I have to wait a while more before I can cuddle No. 1 white Isabel! As expected, he had failed and I was pleased to go swiftly into plan 2. My first visit was to check up on a project I started last year and which I had a suspicious feeling that all was not as it should be. When I asked how the project was going, he told me that the mother had moved away and that the cow had died etc etc. Finally, he had little choice but to take me through a very roundabout route to her home where she was sitting with her CP child and always had been since my first visit. No evidence of a cow shelter, just the planks of wood, no evidence of a cow and the mother said there never was one. I believed her but he swore blind that it had been given. Lydia and I asked at neighbouring homes and finally he had to submit that he had cheated that poor child out of a good diet of milk for all this time. I was not pleased and drew up a statement signed by him and witnessed by Lydia whereby if it is not paid to Lydia by the allotted date, I will take him to court! I made 3 photocopies, one for him, one for Lydia and one for the hospital administrator and asked him to leave the vehicle. Fortunately, this was the only project I had planned with him and it demonstrates how important follow-ups are.

 The rest of the day was a delight! We visited the old woman who had had her cleft palate repaired and found she and her husband so happy. Then a child with a cleft palate repair and the girl with a serious neck burn contracture now released. We took her a mattress as she had been sleeping on the earth which wouldn't help her incision. All the families were ecstatic with the results and we came home bearing sacks of maize, sweet potatoes and oranges! On the way back, George spotted a group of young boys mud-fishing. They grope around the thick, muddy, stinking water and try to catch the squirming, ugly catfish and they manage somehow to get a considerable catch to take home for supper. One boy showed me the back of his hand where a worm had embedded its head into his skin. He pulled forcibly until the worm gave up the fight.

 But we weren't finished yet! I was to call into Ngora School for the Deaf to pay school fees for our new child, Akurut Apulumera, who is a very bright 13 year old in Primary 3 and daughter of peasant farmers. I went through her exercise books to find ticks galore and "Excellent" on almost every page. She has been stone deaf since birth and, if given a chance, I am sure she will get into Secondary School. It's so quiet in the school, the sound of feet shuffling being the most prominent noise around. Carrying on, we stopped to have lunch (at 4.30pm)at the shack cafe with chickens on the table and probably not the most hygenic of kitchens but it is very local and friendly. I had beans and posho and the other two had fish (from the mud?) and atap.  An old man who had had leprosy joined us, very hungry and he was pleased to be given Lydia's unwanted remainders, mainly the bony fish skeleton which looked as though a pyranah had been at it by the time the old man had finished. Then we set off for home and we passed the man with the new tricycle and he showered us also with oranges as he too was very happy. I wasn't nearly as dirty as yesterday but I was very tired indeed and was pleased to find power and my bed.

 

 

Monday 9 November 2009

Florence and I set off for Usuk in Katakwi District with George driving and the usual eager patients wishing to be transported near to their homes following discharge. Not only did I have the outreach clinic to attend to but also I wanted to visit my 2 groups and check on their cows and their progress. Arriving in Katakwi town, resembling an old cowboy movie set, Moses and I set off on a pikipiki to the first group. There has been so little rain that the dust is incredible. My navy trousers were soon covered in murram and my hair felt like corn. It now reaches below my eyes as it has grown so much so it does tend to serve a purpose in shielding my eyes as we speed along. Approaching the first home, we could hear much music and singing and, as we arrived, we found the second day of a traditional marriage was in full force. The owner (who is also group chairperson) rushed towards us at breakneck speed and all of his 6 foot++ posture knocked me off balance as he charged into me and hugged me wildly drying his dripping nose on my shirt! His wife joined in thereby causing me to fall even further backwards and I soon realised that the 2 cows were well and truly bought and that the group were more than happy to have them. Drunkenness contributed much to their welcome and the rest of the revellers continued with their more serous business of drinking the local brew through tubes in the clay pot. Fortuitously, Moses' phone rang and we were summonsed back to the clinic as there were too many patients waiting for Florence to manage alone. A quick photo call of the cows and a strong refusal ("maybe next time") to accept a he-goat offered in gratitude as I couldn't see Moses, a he-goat and me riding along the tracks in much comfort. A record speed return and we found hordes of mothers and children crowding round Florence' table under the mango tree. Knowing all about queuing in airports and post offices, I managed to form a very orderly queuing system with them sitting on benches and moving one place along at a time in zigzag fashion. A beady eye had to notice ones who slipped onto the end of a bench hopefully unnoticed but they soon got the message and order prevailed. We filled in 4 pages of names with 37 on each page so you can work out the number we saw. Some are so sad. A relatively smart man queued patiently only to be told we had nothing to offer him at his age; he is deaf (and dumb). I've learnt that is not a word we should use nowadays. So many with gluteal fibrosis, post-injection paralysis, cerebral palsy all of which the main cause is malaria. Hydrocephalus, cleft palate, I could go on and on.

 We managed to finish in daylight but failed to reach home until after dark. As I write, 2 chickens have just emerged through the "kitchen door", pecking as they go and are conveniently exiting through the front door. I spoke too soon, one has come to say good morning to me!

 

 

Sunday 8 November 2009

 

I skipped prayers for the second time because Florence and I were off to Soroti to visit Katie to deliver the last of the letters I had brought from home and to pay school fees. Florence arrived with a pikipiki and off we went to town balancing 5 orange trees which we delivered to Mgt Asio's on the way and a bag of heavy text books from the "Focus Foundation" library which I have started. Always the sun is on my left hand side so my left arm has a healthy tan while my right is as white as the day I came! Today is no exception as I sit side saddle on the bike. In the bus park in town, we soon found a public taxi to Soroti and, as I boarded it, I wondered why I ever continue doing this. The bus was falling apart, the seats were collapsed, we were pushed to the back seat under which around 10 live hens were settled quietly and we were squashed like sardines in a tin with much mayhem going on in front. I would never go white water rafting a second time and the rides at Alton Park are not for me but I continue to subject myself to this frightening experience which worsened as we set off at great speed going through every pot hole and missing heavy wagons by a whisker. I bit my cheek whilst bumping over one pothole so this took my mind off everything for a moment or two. I could sense my neighbour praying fervently and the girl next to him cried out asking the driver to take care as they had children to care for. There was a load murmur of agreement from many others. Even the chickens underneath me remained silently petrified! He took no notice and we must have arrived in Soroti in record time. The bus park there is a hive of activity. Orange sellers crowd you and the smell of roasting sweet potatoes and chicken legs stir the taste buds. Bicycles and motor bikes eagerly wanting your custom to continue your journey pester you for you and it was with relief that we took two cycles to be ridden in relative safety along the side roads to Bethany School where Katie is a boarder. Entry through the large metal gates was permitted and we waited in the shade of a tree whilst a girl went in search of Katie. We could see her in the distance running towards us and we got the usual Ugandan greeting of a big hug. She is a small girl, well-built and with a big smile. We sat together and exchanged news hearing about her progress and her news from home. Her grandmother had died which had caused her much grief. She was pleased with her books and the cake I had taken and she gave us letters already written for me to take back home as she was confident we would be going one day. The letters are thanking for the help she is being given for her education but, unfortunately, once again in true Ugandan manner, she gave a very long list of her needs requiring much more financial support than she could ever hope for. It is very embarrassing for me to have to pass on these requests in letter form and I have asked Florence to explain to her in the Christmas holidays that this is not appropriate and, in fact, counterproductive to us in the west. We paid the year's fees and the extras which were more than last year as she will be in Senior 4 (O-Level) and there were exam fees, geopraphy trip, etc to be paid. This meant that my purse was almost empty and my plans for a nice lunch had to be forgotten. Everything settled for the year, we bade our farewells and continued back into town to meet Pius, Florence's son. Lunch had to be most frugal but the company and conversation compensated for the lack of ambience.

 Briefly, the return journey was as fine as it can be in a public taxi and we returned home safely and in one piece.

 

 

Saturday 6 November 2009

 

The weekend and will it be a relaxing time? With washing on the line and breakfast eaten (although I had been informed that my day out was to start with breakfast) I was picked up by Robert, a teacher from Mary MacAleese PS, and the two of us rode to Kumi Town on his motorbike to the home of Ann and Josh Olopot, a couple I have met previously. Whilst waiting for them to take me on to the next stage, I watched BBC World tv and I was engrossed in a debate when we had to leave to go to their village. Driving along bumpy tracks in a pick up I finally saw their home, truly the equivalent of a country mansion noticeably surrounded by many large, old trees and an assortment of mud huts with family residents. Now, at noon, we had our breakfast of African tea and groundnuts followed by a tour of the grounds, seeing the amazing orchards, the flocks(?) of turkeys; a most impressive sight. Picking enormous oranges was such fun and I was pleased to see that Ann was able to carry the basinful back on her head. We sat in the shade of a tree eating juicy, sweet oranges (I couldn't manage a whole one and had to give half to nearby children) before leaving for the next stage. I booked a room for a weekend for next year! It is so relaxing! Back in the pick up and to Kumi Town where we ate lunch at Ann and Josh's daughter's home. A feast was laid out before us and, on finishing, speeches were made and I left for a quiet evening in the Guest House.

 

 

Friday 6 November 2009

 

I could write a book on today but I will suffice with jotting down a few points. Who should be sitting outside in the porch when I got up but Julian and I had thought I had finally persuaded him that I didn't want to see him ever again! He announced that the goat he had 'given' me was doing fine and could his daughter have some sugar. A poor ploy but a good try! I told him that I would not give his daughter some sugar but she could have my goat and closed the door. Some people will never learn! A busy day lay ahead and we started by tying 2 tricycles to the roof of the Land Cruiser, filling up inside with the CBR workers and some hospital staff members to go for a day's training at Aliasit Farm in Ngora. Time keeping was within acceptable if not perfect parameters and we arrived to be welcomed by Jane Olopot who manages the farm which is associated with Send a Cow. George and I left the team assembled in the training hall to visit Ngora School for the Deaf. On entering, my first impression was one of silence unlike other schools where mayhem usually greets you. In the headmaster's office, he explained the history of the school and then took me for a tour. They teach primary level and carpentry and tailoring. Out of around 100 pupils, about 2 children a year are accepted into Ngora Secondary School whilst others stay for technical training. There have been 3 university graduates who have had careers within the Ugandan Deaf departments. This is a commendable achievement as no allowances are made for the children's deafness caused mainly by measles, malaria, meningitis or is a congenital condition. He was interested to hear of the choir for the deaf organised by AIC Glasgow and I look forward to showing them the photos of the school on my return. We toured the grounds where they are growing many trees and starting off a cow herd. In the school hall ("the largest in the district") an HIV awareness drama production given by Uganda Deaf Silent Theatre was being performed so George and I sat down to watch a very explicit performance which was causing much laughter and hilarity. I am sure the message got across to the children and staff alike. I have ordered 2 chairs and a table from the workshop and I also decided to add one of the children to my list for school fees (around 150 pounds per year boarding) so I have to return to sort things out. I was very impressed with the school and I would like to form a connection with them.

Leaving the school, George and I went to Nyero to give a tricycle to the young man I met last year. He is a post polio paralysis (PPP) paraplegic who sits on the roadside mending shoes. I met him last year when his 18 year old died in childbirth and now he earns a meagre living and looks after his year old daughter. I took a photo of him and George told me later that a bystander was using very bad language about these people who take photos to make money. He walked away silently when he saw that we had come to give a tricycle to the man who was eager to climb on to it and have a practise ride.

Next we returned to the farm to join the others for lunch before continuing to deliver the second tricycle. We found the girl who I hadn't met before only to realise that she was not a suitable candidate as her arms were too weak. She is an athetoid cerebral palsy person who has 4 children to manage and so she is misused by her husband who has 2 wives. A dreadful situation for a human being to be in. We left her breast feeding her youngest and sitting in her deformed posture with absolutely no future or hope. A few more visits followed before we returned to the farm to join the team to visit a farm which is included in the Aliasit programme. A farmer had been given a cow and his life was transformed by his training enabling him to start an orange orchard and to use the farming methods taught to him. We learnt how to graft oranges so there will be a glut of fruit in a few years and diversification will be required. The children were remarkably healthy due to their improved status and diet. We attended an evaluation of the day, said our farewells to Jane and returned home. I stopped at the bank and I was pleased to find that my bank account which had been suspended was once more able to supply me with more Ugandan shillings.

 

 

Thursday 5 November 2009

 

The day started with a meeting with Janet and Margaret of the HIV group who wanted to get started with their proposal and so we agreed that each member would have a goat which would belong to the group. Even I am to own one as I have paid my registration fee! I hope I have a pretty one with lots of spots! We then went through the process of writing receipts and filling in the cash book as though we were playing shops like children. All was finally in order and they left with 900,000/= in their bags.

Arriving at the hospital, the Chief Administrator asked me if I had slept in as I had missed Morning Assembly; anything but, I'd been up since 4.30 preparing for the day while it was cool.

Gerald, George and I set off for Kapajan which is not so far away as some places which we visit. We collected Moses, the CBR worker, and set to assess many children with disabilities. It was a satisfying clinic with many interesting cases. TB spine, a progressive neuromuscular disease in a girl who was walking with a completely broken walking frame held together with strips of rubber, a deformed foot which I hope will be amputated, a baby with a heart condition which we cannot help, 47 in all, and we returned at a reasonable time bringing a mother and daughter who had been hit by her head teacher and she had sustained eye damage. The mother wanted further reports presumably so that the teacher would be fined but the child managed to open her injured eye with no problem when no one was looking. So the western culture of suing has reached the African bush! We stopped in Soroti for a meeting or so they said. In fact we stopped at a pork joint (another name for a roadside cafe) where a paella-type plate was filled to overflowing with chunks of crispy pork fried over the wood fire. I managed to have some fried potatoes which were very tasty and our meeting ended up as a very pleasant meal.

Back in Kumi Town, I was to meet Carol with her friends, Miriam and Emmanuel from Kumi Town, and Cathryn and Adam from Wales at Home Again. Not particularly hungry after the fried potatoes, I chose a plate of chips which turned out to be an enormous mound of very tasty chips. Following a convivial evening together, Carol and I embarked on our return journey home, both on the same motorbike, and we followed the moon, so large and orange, a harvest moon perhaps or is it a poachers moon in November?

 

 

Wednesday 4 November 2009

 

The week is flying past and today I have a day off to attend a Baptism at St Charles Borromeo Orphanage in Akolony. Fr Charles was on his way at 7.30 am and was still on the way at 5 pm but I was picked up in a pick up, arrived at St Charles to find my second breakfast waiting for me and waited until around 12.00 for the 10 am Mass to commence. The orphans must have mistaken me for a German benefactor as each of the 129 orphans greeted me with a thank you and a hug, not just any old everyday hug but a squeeze seemingly from a child yearning for some comfort and love. Father Charles brought these children from Lira during the time of extreme rebel activity and so each and every one has suffered sights and deeds which we will never have to endure. Their care in the orphanage cannot be criticised but still, that unique family contact cannot be replicated however much they are loved. The whole ceremony lasted about 5 hours plus the extra hours waiting in the church. It seemed like hundreds of tiny babies were well and truly baptised and 78 first communicants painfully made their first confessions prior to receiving the host dipped in wine. The singing and dancing together with frequent visits out into the fresh air made the whole event a treat for me. Two little children aged about 18 months and 3 years sat on the floor at my feet and shared a sweet. No sooner had it gone in one mouth than a hand begged for a suck and this was repeated for the duration of the entire sweet. Distractions are always there when ever I need a break between naps! At last, at 5.30 pm, lunch was served and Fr Charles joined us explaining he had been held up with another programme. He is the same age as Dominic, our eldest son, and we seem to have so much in common that we never stop talking (perhaps his English is better than most!) He has been to Lourdes and Rome and will always be welcome in our home if he ever knocks at our door. He drove Lilian (a nurse who was brought up at the village adjacent to the church) and me safely home and, without a wash, I took to my bike to ride to Florence's staff quarters house, for supper. My meal times never seem to be spaced out quite right! We, too, always have much to talk about and discuss so the evening went well and she escorted me half the way home as we have now to take care of lurking snakes in the dark. A step on one could prove fatal, often a rash statement but very true here! Arriving back, I met a new visitor to the Guest House, Dr Ruth, who I have known for many years. She is now qualified as a general surgeon and she has returned to her home area and to Kumi Hospital to practise her new skills. A shower and a very welcome bed under the mosquito net which, the other morning, was stained with blood in the shape of a gecko. I expected it to scoot away when I shone my torch on it but was surprised to find the stain and, how it got there is a mystery. A mosquito exploding with an excess intake of blood perhaps!

 

 

 Tuesday 3 November 2009

 

The groundnut paste is 99% marketable so some was packed into 3 small polythene bags for Hellen to sell at 300/= on her vegetable stall in the hospital compound. Margaret, the Children’s' Village, housemother will have 200/= for the nuts and the work entailed in grinding and Hellen will get 100/= profit. This is just a trial run and the profits will need to be adjusted.

Pallisa today with tasks to be accomplished. Firstly, Alex, Martin and I called in to see Max Kamotona, one of my boys who is taking Senior 6 exams. If he passes with sufficient grades, he will be able to go to university and, although his maths and physics standards are poor, I am hoping that the Maths tables book I bought in Kampala will make all the difference in his results. He is a grand young man of 20, very polite and grateful for everything. Then we went to see his family which has become an annual visit. His mother looks older, his 2 sisters with severe disabilities continue to grow lankier and the younger children are also growing up. No more babies! The father, Stephen, was at a child's burial so I was sorry to miss him but I was proudly shown their new bull. The family have come far from my first visit in 2003 and I am proud of their progress. Fond farewells and with "See you next year!", we left laden with freshly-picked lemons and oranges. Back to Pallisa and lunch at our usual local cafe before setting off for Mbale where we were going to collect three tricycles. With two tricycles inside with three large bunches of plantain and one tricycle on top, we made our way through the herds of cows with arched horns which were causing traffic blockages and to the back streets of Mbale where Alex was to have the vehicle serviced. What chaos of vehicles in severe disrepair, men covered in grease, a deafening noise of welding, music and all the other noises which seem to be peculiar to Africa. Smells must not be forgotten and difficult for me to distinguish but the nostrils hardly relish a broad spectrum of roadside cooking amongst other unmentionables. Martin and I went shopping and ended up in the market where we stocked up on avocadoes, pineapples and tomatoes. The vehicle, once serviced, was easily distinguishable by the tricycle sitting loftily on high and finally we returned to base, me with my mind full of the days events and quite exhausted. What I thought would be an early finish to the day ended up late as usual only to find I had visitors; Tom, the choirmaster from church, and Goretti with her daughter, Hellen, who decided to make an evening of it.  We watched one of Carole's dvd's on fuel-saving stoves of all varieties before falling into bed and hoping for a good night's refreshing sleep which evaded me due to an overactive mind.

 

 Monday 2 November 2009

 

I'm not going out into the field today so, after Morning Assembly, I actually went to the physio department where the children we had found a week before were being screened by Gerald, the physio. I visited the orthopaedic ward to see a young man with a tumour of his right hand as large as a football and looking as heavy as a lump of concrete. His hand will be amputated and I know he will be happy to be released from this burden. The day was going well and then Matthias in Kampala phoned asking me to settle an invoice for him. It's always good to be able to reciprocate a deed for Matthias as he does so much for me so I wanted to be ultra-efficient. I asked for the modem from Dr Opolot and set to to go on-line and pay the bill. Almost 2 hours later, I got to the point of submitting the amount when my account was suspended and that was that. Whether I can use my debit card in the ATM machine is still unknown! I like to have problems to solve here so, after an email to Chris at home, the ball is now in his court and the bill will be paid. I hear that there is a serious postal strike in UK so maybe that is why there are no letters from home apart from one from Jan which she wrote almost when I was still in the plane and 2 postcards from Lynne in Spain, also one from Betty but that was written in November 2008!

 We are persevering with the groundnut grinder and there is an improvement in the resulting paste but more tweaking is required. I visited the leprosy patients among other tasks, returned home early and, as it was a while since I visited Mgt Asio, I cycled there to find her busy digging in her garden as she has little for buying food and manages to grow fresh greens having learnt about compost-making. For the first time, she had no food to offer me as her cupboard was completely bare. My chicken which she is looking after is sitting on 10 eggs so that will help and Rupert, my cockerel, proudly struts around the place as though he owns it. I left with her daughter, Leah, to shop for my supper in the small trading centre at the hospital gates. Tomatoes, onions and a large pawpaw and some meat and fish for Mgt. Can you believe that the power was on so my ironing was quickly done and batteries recharged. In the evening, I managed to download my hundreds of photos from my cameras but I have yet to go through them and more than likely delete the majority.

 

 

Sunday 1 November 2009

 

I never finished Saturday's goings-on so to continue...With the meeting closed, we went walk-about so that Janet and Ann Mgt could proudly show me their projects. Both had Lorena stoves installed in their mud huts nd Janet's compound was well equiped with a compost heap, a raised seed bed, tomato plants, a baby avocado tree and lots more. With the shadows lengthening and telling me that it must now be after 6 pm, I took my leave and went to see if my bike was repaired. I had asked Dina (the cleaner) to take it as I would have been charged muzungu price and, sure enough, it was already roadworthy for the princely sum of 1000/= (30p)! I was to make a hasty ride home before dark but the moon was full and so lingering a while was in order as I would need no lights to see my way along the stony road. I sat outside Dina's home with the children playing with balloons which I had in my bag. We decided to share a Bell's beer so we sat and sorted out the world as the loud African music blared forth. The children danced and, once more, a perfect way to spend a Saturday evening. Little Elizabeth (my namesake)

was bathed and, wrapped in a white towel, she cuddled into Dina's lap and soon fell asleep before being taken into her hut to be tucked up on a bamboo mat on the floor. Not much different from home in a way! Saying good night, I climbed (climbing is an appropriate word for Ugandan bikes!) on my bike and cycled home safely. The Guest House compound was bathed in the light from the full moon, an experience hard to believe. It reminds me of home after a snow storm - silent and with the ground, the tree trunks and the leaves all covered with a silvery grey hue. Even the bats' wings reflect the light as they swoop low. The sky is a steely grey and the effect is breath-taking and every minute is to be appreciated as, once the moon wanes and the skies are not always cloudless, a month has to pass before the phenomenon recurs.

Enough of Saturday and on to Sunday. The Michigan crew left this morning and we said our sad farewells and they will be missed as they were like a breath of fresh air. Amy told us she was leaving a bag of dirty clothes for us to wash and distribute and papers so, once they had left, we opened the bag to find lots of men's clothes which were, in fact, in Selvan's case which he had inadvertantly left behind. And to think that Grace and I had been squabbling as to who should have the case as I knew someone who wanted one badly. Lots of lateral thinking later and the case was rightfully returned to its owner in Mbale. I skipped Sunday prayers and prepared for my visit with Lydia to Jeressar School in Soroti to visit our children, Janet and Anthony. A piki-piki to town and then we boarded a public taxi to Soroti. We were squeezed so tightly on the back seat, never the most comfortable, and said more than our due amount of Sunday prayers as the taxi bounced along the road with us wondering if the suspension would remain intact until we dismounted. However, we got there only to find queues of parents outside the padlocked gates with the askari brandishing his rifle which certainly keeps you in order. The government had decided to cancel the Visitation Day, the only cherished day parents can visit their children in a term and who have often come from afar bearing baskets of rice and meat and greens, because of swine flu. How terribly disappointing! We pushed our way to the front and informed the official that we had come to pay school fees which made little effect on him. Too long to go into all the details now but, finally, they let us in and we were taken to the Director's office where the fees were settled. Then the director who had looked so fierce allowed Anthony to come, a special treat indeed, and we were able to give him the books, the letter from Tony in Harrow and the cap he had given me. Tony will get a photo of Anthony wearing the cap which is proof that it had arrived. The director's attitude melted and we heard him ask for Janet to be collected which was a great surprise for us as no girls were allowed out of class. The joy in the reunion of mother and daughter was worth so much and we were able to spend around an hour together before Janet had to return to class with her lips sealed and Anthony was allowed to walk us to the gate or as far as the man with the rifle allowed. I could see he was not pleased that we had managed to overrule him. We made the journey home very happy that we had achieved so much and to find the sky was once more cloudless and last night's vista was repeated.

 

Saturday 31 October 2009

Hallowe'en at home but just a normal day here apart from being a day off.  Change the sheets, wash the clothes but no chance of ironing unless I use the charcoal iron and they tell me that I would scorch my clothes. I'm not desperate yet but it is at times like this that I wish I had brought more of everything. My room always needs a sort out as papers pile up and, unless I keep them in order, chaos would follow.

Carole is getting on well with her baking stove and so we walked up to see how work was progressing. The men were sweating profusely as they constructed the oven which will provide home-made bread for the patients and also income for the hospital. The team have many ideas for the local people and I am sure the work that they do is a very positive way forward as the long term supply of wood and charcoal for cooking is of serious concern around Kumi. Do visit the HERA GTZ Household Energy website; www.gtz.de/hera and see if Prime Energy and Environment Savers Ltd is mentioned. I haven't the facility to look myself but I will do asap. Training is one of their priorities and I hope to include group members.

Back at the Guest House, Ruth came with her brother, Simon Peter, and I was able to deliver the letter I had brought from home to him. He is in his last year at University and he was pleased to have his final year's fees paid. As you can imagine, he is very grateful for the assistance he has been given from his benefactor.

At 2 pm, I went to Janet's home leaving my bike for repair on the way. Janet expected me at 1 pm but no members had arrived. I was duly invited into her hut where a feast was laid for Angela and me as is their custom so I had to apologise for Angela's absence and eat twice as much, in fact I managed 4 helpings making sure that I didn't pile my plate too high each time in order to show my appreciation by taking further helpings. I was not expecting food but I now realise that each time I go this will be the norm. I was to eat alone and I was happy when Janet and Margaret agreed to join me. Once more, I was offered food that is only produced on Christmas Day and Independence Day for the family.

Finally, group members trickled in until there was the full compliment of 16 members all of whom are HIV+. Half have husbands and half are widows. It was interesting for me to listen to their problems and their place in society. They are eager to start a group in their own right and to be able to feed their children well as this is the major requirement for them to stay healthy. Following the drought, there is little opportunity for them to obtain food as their crops have failed which is their main source of income. Janet had 4 large bags on groundnuts in her hut where I ate lunch and I was mistaken in thinking her crop had done well until I realised that the majority of shells were empty. I am hoping to link this group with Darlington Soroptimists of which I am a member. They gave me a cheque which I am going to donate to these ladies and I look forward to hearing their project choice. We spent much discussion on the way forward and they are most enthusiastic to empower themselves and improve their status in society. They hope to have a post box at Kumi Post Office

Friday 30 October 2009

I'm no longer working to rule and it's back down to business. George (driver), Lydia (assistant physio), Michael (eye field-worker) and I set off for Kanyangan, (having written it down on patient slips well over 100 times) the spelling becomes quite natural for me. Micahel sat in the front as he was not feeling well due to malaria and the front is far less bumpy than the back. I'm happy in the back so long as it is not packed tight with patients, attendants, crying babies, sacks of food, live chickens, jerry cans etc. We soon found ourselves sitting under a tamarind tree which is not quite so dense as a mango tree and so it lets in dappled sunlight requiring moving the desk and chairs as and when necessary. The clinic was well-mobilised by John Robert, a blind man who I have had the pleasure to meet many times. We saw 111 children sometimes with a parent and often without. A little 7 year old told us his problem standing alone and giving a history far clearer than many adults in a quiet, innocent voice; gluteal fibrosis requiring surgery. In fact, about 40 of the children seen were afflicted with this totally unnecessary condition. I have heard that the government is taking action to prevent rural health clinic nurses from injecting the buttocks with quinine, the cause of gluteal fibrosis. Lets hope they act soon and that the clinics react immediately. We never stopped the flow of children until the last one was seen, our hands ached from writing and there were a few adults wanting to tell us their woes. So many had large lipomas and, as they would have to pay to come to Kumi, we sent them to the nearer Soroti Hospital, a government and free establishment. A straightforward drive home apart from George and Michael wanting to buy fish and Lydia wanting to buy the ingredients for making cookies to make for our Visitation to our children on Sunday. We stopped at the market, by now dark, and I gingerly stepped across the make-shift ramp crossing the gulley similar to our gutters. Inside a simple stall/ shop lit by a dim lamp, we bought flour, eggs, Blue Band, oil and sugar for the cookies or small mandazi. Driving up the hospital road, we were disappointed to find there was no sign of lights in the houses so still no power.Phone batteries and laptops were becoming precariously low and how can you manage here without a phone? I was late for supper but, having peeled and eaten a baked sweet potato bought from the roadside, my hunger pangs were minimal and I was happy to go to bd with no tummy rumblings.


Thursday 29 October 2009

I'm writing this on Friday morning in the dark as there is still no power due to poles having fallen down and the hospital is waiting for permission from "a" who has to repeat the process from "b" etc until the poles can be replaced so it looks doubtful for a while. Thanks to my netbook, battery life is one up on a laptop. My candle has burned unevenly so it is sitting on top of a mug which is tiltted on top of my TCP tube of ointment (almost squeezed dry from much use) to get a little more life from it. The mozzies are hungry as I have been so careful not to give them supper!

To continue with yesterday: I must have got out of bed the wrong side this morning as I was in defiant mood and I went on strike! Firstly I decided to be late for Morning Assembly and when I finally arrived I was just in time to see Steffie's (Dutch nurse) promotional film, amazingly professional and all about her work in Kumi! I shall continue bungling along in my own little way quite happily!

Next I refused to go on fieldwork as I am tired of William's poor mobilisation of patients. Instead, I stayed 'within' and found plenty to do. I reorganised the system for restoring tricycles giving Michael control of the repair and the spares as they will not all have been used before I leave. Then I had a meeting with Joseph, the Human Resource manager about this and that. A visit to the Training School with Paul was next to oversee progress on the school desks where I found about 5 men working away with planes and saws. Twenty will be ready on Friday to be collected by the Adesso children. I gave out some jumpers and dresses and photo-ed all the happy children but left many, many more watching enviously whilst they went without new outfits. I started walking to Ruth's home when a boda boda boy asked if I wanted a lift to town. Being midday, the sun was overhead so I decided to take advantage of a lift and jumped on the back of the bike and agreed an inflated price of around 12 pence for a relatively short journey. I found her lying and crying on her bed and still in a deep depressio so the rest of the morning was spent sitting with her, saying little and wishing I was qualified in such matters. She finally said a few words and we made arrangements to see her brother on Saturday and she told me what she would like to do in the future. She would have to pull herself together a lot and is this possible with such a sickness? I have my doubts but anything is worth a try. We walked a short way across the fields before we parted company and I could see a glimmer of hope on the horizon for her.

After a brief lunch of eating the left overs from the Michigan group's lunch, Carol (here from UK to build the baking oven and still waiting for the arrival of her team)and I made a swift walk to the hospital as the wind started blowing and the skies were black heralding a definite storm in minutes. Stopping for a brief word with Dr Opolot, we set off again and, crash, a branch fell on my head with an enormous crack. Swift plans were made to pick up the unconscious me but, apart from the impressive noise, I was unscathed except for a bit of a bump and headache and, as you can see, I am here to continue my lengthy tale. Safely inside the office and now with even louder crashes of thunder, Margaret (Children's Village Housemother, Carol and I set to to turn groundnuts to paste with the hand cranked grinding machine. We managed to make a very crunchy paste but not what we wanted so we must try again before we pass it on to the group members of the HIV/AIDS widows on Saturday. This entails roasting and de-skinning a new lot of nuts.

back to the Guest House with the modem and onto the Internet to see if there is any news of baby Isabel, our new granddaughter. With my feet pampered by a long soak in a bowl of cold water, Carol and I set off for a meeting of the God's Grace ladies and so my feet were soon covered with mud once more! We held a fruitful meeting by trying to sort out some of their dissatisfactions with the non-attending members. A good moan was had by all and it was decided to alter the Constitution at a special meeting next week to be able to oust the non-attenders. They are to give 20,000/= each and I shall double the total to allow them to purchase new layers and a cockerel following the not too successful batch of broilers as, last week, Jane from Aliasit Farm came to give much-needed advice. Rivalry in the compost competition initiated by Maureen Knowles back home is reaching fever pitch as they vie for the first prize equal to our lottery in relative terms. Judging is to be on 21 November followed by home visits to nearby homes to see the fuel saving stoves and any other projects they may have started. Carol has offered assistance for those who request it from the baking oven builders whcih will be very useful.

Back home and Angela had arrived back from an unsuccessful field trip so I was pleased I had revolted in the morning and stood my stance.

My apologies for spelling errors as my new netbook hasn't got Microsoft Office installed and I think that is why I can't spellcheck. Also the battery is at critical level and I hope to send this to Peter for an update before it dies. Time and enthusiasm to proof read is lacking as usual! How he finds time with a new baby and Laura, I do not know! Thanks, Peter!


Wednesday 28 October 2009

A journey back to Kumi started with boarding the bus at CoRSU with Alex driving, parking the bus at a Shell garage where his cousin brother worked, getting on a public taxi for around 40 pence each into the centre of the city (Park and Ride) and walking through the streets to Aristoc Book Shop. There we bought many school text books to start our lending library for the secondary school children I have scattered around the east of the country. This took a while but the staff were helpful and gave us a 10% discount as we must have been their best customer in recent days. We had to buy a private car to carry the heavy boxes back to the bus and then to buy Lawrance some treats such as sugar and juice. Next stop Kampala School for the Disabled to find that he had not been supplied with the new school uniform I had paid for. How we have to follow up everything here! He was, once again, very happy to see us as I was to see him and to meet his special friend who looks after him a lot. This visit over, we had biopsy results to collect before going to a shopping complex with most items available if you have the money. I bought 2 footballs, a netball and, at Banana Boat, a very nice gift shop, I did some Xmas shopping. Back in the bus with so many bags of shopping, we finally set off at 4 pm for Kumi already tired and hungry. We stopped at Jinja for a comfort break where I was happy to visit the loo but I must add that Angela could not enter the cleaner of the two due to the aroma wafting from inside. Now supplied with veggie samosas and chips served up in take away boxes labeled Nile Delight, (Jinja is a town whose fame is that it is on the source of the R Nile), we embarked on the final stretch of our journey home in the dark, passing lorries with no lights, cattle, pedestrians and cyclists impossible for me to see in the dark but Alex has x ray eyes which appear to see every hazard present. Finally home to no power and torrential but welcome rain and bed!

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Up at 5 am to be taken to Kumi Town to join the others for Kampala. We piled into the hospital bus and set off complete with a live cockerel much to the amusement of the parting team. An uneventful journey, a visit to the African Craft centre in Kampala where much shopping for gifts to take back home and then to CoRSU, the new CBM hospital between Kampala and Entebbe where Mr Viva and his team had an interesting tour of the buildings. I am sure he was impressed with the facilities and he now has a comparison with Kumi Hospital, both extremes. I left them to go their way to the airport and I returned back to Mattias' house for the night, a European supper and a bath! BLISS!

Monday 26 October 2009

I'm getting behind with my diary so I shall catch up by saying that today was not successful as William had not mobilised the outreach clinic again and so I was not happy with him. A waste of fuel, time and resources for us all and I, for one, have plenty of other tasks too important to neglect. We returned for me to shower and change before setting off for our last meal with Mr Viva and his team at Green Top Hotel in Kumi Town. It was a very pleasant evening with good food, beet and company and with no one wanting to have too late a night as we were to set off at 6 am next morning for Kampala, the team for the airport and Angela and I to catch up with a few loose ends in the city.

Sunday 25 October 2009

Before I left, Modesta and her children called and I showed them how to tie themselves together with 2 ropes and then get apart. This caused much amusement until I was almost late for lunch. After they had left, I had just time for a quick wash before jumping onto my bike and riding over the newly murramed road (specially re-surfaced for President Musseveni's benefit when he came to visit the drought area) and the corrugations in the midday sun proved to be a foolish idea as many nuts and bolts loosened and the bike fell apart making me 'roll' what was left along the road whilst it made a deafening noise as the wheels turned. Most embarrassing but a friendly good Samaritan in the shape of a young man tried hard to make it ridable but failed. I was happy to see that the age off chivalry is not yet passed even here. Lunch at Okerenyang's home was as good as ever. A meal with eight different dishes served up in a half-constructed brick house with passion fruit juice to drink was a feast and I often wonder how they remember all my favourite dishes. I would like to empty every bowl but, one, my capacity is not large enough and, two, I am sure the children and women enjoy our left-overs! Coming home over the fields rather than make a further exhibition on the road, I passed pastures not very green, mud huts with the old women sitting with legs stretched out by their huts, the goats grazing and chickens pecking and then through the long grasses with the butterflies and grass hoppers for company.

Back in the house, I was greeted by Consolata who was waiting for me with a container of ground nuts, a rare gift these days as people's crops have failed so badly. We discussed many topics and I gave her information on AIC and Fr Maloney's book "Seeds of Hope".

Saturday 24 October 2009

I'm up to date with the diary! Saturday morning and you will have to wait for today's programme which is once again going to be different. My washing has been hung up dripping wet and is already ironed. My room is swept, I've had a meeting with Gabriel's brother who wants some assistance so I am thinking about it and Janet, the Chairperson of the women's HIV group, and I am meeting with the group next Saturday. The rest of the morning has been in planning for the evening....more later. Now I'm off to Margaret Asio's with Angela for lunch.

Sunday morning and Saturday is behind! Lunch at Margaret's was, as usual, a delightful occasion and she had made such an effort for Angela's first visit. We sat like royalty on upholstered chairs which had been moved into her "cafe-type" hut specially for the occasion and ate off matching plates and drank out of smart plastic tumblers. We lifted the food plate to find a very crispy-based pizza beneath made with mushroom, tomato, pepper and onion. Another dish contained sautéed potatoes so a non-Ugandan lunch! After, we played UNO with the children while Mgt made us a cake and tea which we ate alone as is the custom. A tour of her garden, farewells and back to the Guest House to find the goat had been slaughtered and diced, men were making kebab sticks for the meat, much activity by the ladies cooking matoke, atap, ebor, sweet potatoes etc. The musicians practiced their repertoire on the acungo, xylophone and adugo. Bicycles arrived bearing crates of sodas, water and beers, chairs, local brew in clay pot, tubes for drinking and all in aid of giving the plastic surgical team a local party. The clouds darkened, a heavy shower which didn't dampen the earth nor spirits and then, with many bougainvillea flowers strewn over the porch and decorating the windows, the guests started arriving. The team came by hospital bus and I think they enjoyed the entertainment, food and drinks. Singing and dancing followed, the goat was roasted over the charcoal fire, many tried the local brew from the clay pot but only the locals kept it up. It was a good evening and I have to congratulate the Guest House ladies for working tirelessly, changing into local dress and singing and dancing until the last guest left. An unbelievable mess was left behind but all is now spick and span and we await the arrival of a new visitor from UK.

Now I'm off to Okerenyang's home for Sunday lunch while the doctor's,4 from Michigan and Angela visit the Sipi Falls...

Saturday 24 October 2009

I'm up to date with the diary! Saturday morning and you will have to wait for today's programme which is once again going to be different. My washing has been hung up dripping wet and is already ironed. My room is swept, I've had a meeting with Gabriel's brother who wants some assistance so I am thinking about it and Janet, the Chairperson of the women's HIV group, and I am meeting with the group next Saturday. The rest of the morning has been in planning for the evening....more later. Now I'm off to Margaret Asio's with Angela for lunch.
Friday 23 October 2009

Thank God it's Friday as I am quite exhausted and our programme is altered as Amos' child is very sick and he has had to be with her in hospital. So off to Ngora with William and we decided to go in search of childre3n for plastic surgery as the doctors had almost completed their list and we didn't want them to be disappointed. Half the day was spent identifying the homes of possible children and the other half was spent finding them which was a little like finding needles in haystacks. However, after much sweating we found a girl with serious burns which we thought could be worked on, an old woman with a cleft palate, 2 children with palates and 2 burn contractures so a good selection. We returned like fishermen with a fine catch of fish but left 2 children behind. One, the father refused to allow the boy to come and, of course, they must consent. The other was a little baby who had burnt legs due to millet porridge spilling on them but I am pleased to report that the mother was managing well and she just needed encouragement and to be shown some exercises to prevent contractures. One of the clefts, once she saw the muzungu, ran off so fast that we almost lost her for good. It was like catching a chicken for lunch!

Returning through Ngora, I had a meeting of THAW group and I gave them encouragement rather than financial assistance explaining that the people of Uganda need to be independent of us. I'm not too sure if they weren't a little disappointed but, hopefully, the message got across.

Then I was really tired and we only had to drop off the patients at theatre for screening by the doctors and then admission for surgery Saturday morning.

Thursday 22 October 2009

An early start as we are off to Kaberamaido District which is very far north west of Kumi. We piled into the vehicle and set off with many patients, attendants and their belongings behind. We were dropping off in Soroti, among others, the old (50 years!) lady who had had a cleft palate repair and I have yet to see her smile because of pain but I know she is very happy and grateful for her surgery.

On arriving at the health clinic, we soon started screening the patients and very much wanted some more for plastic surgery. One child came forward with serious burn contractures to her neck, shoulder and body and 3 more required surgery so they were told to prepare themselves to return with us. Around 70 children were seen with varying conditions and most given a plan of action. The queue exhausted, we waited for Michael to finish his eye clinic. I walked up a rocky hill to find a woman hacking away with a pickaxe at a boulder wedged in the hillside. As you can imagine, the sweat was dripping from her whole body as she prepared to roll it down the slope only to start breaking it up into small stones for building or road maintenance. Then I walked along the paths, returned to see how Michael was progressing and then held a small, extra clinic in the field. A man had back pain so I taught him easy exercises which seemed to have an immediate effect (good) on his pain and he was most impressed. Mayabe my healing powers are one up on the witch doctor. He was very appreciative! Finally we set off home with the vehicle again packed with patients but this time for admission.

An uneventful trip apart from a large cobra which we ran over and then reversed for a photocall. (George drove over another much bigger one that night just near us by the borehole, presumably squashing it, but it continued into the grass to live another day perhaps!)

We stopped at Green Top to show the surgeons the badly disfigured girl and, to our sorrow, they reported that it was not possible to improve her condition and it could end up counterproductive so we went home with a heavy heart. The other patients were booked in for surgery. A long day, but with mission accomplished.


Wednesday 21 October 2009

Katakwi with Moses for an Outreach Clinic but, once again, it had been cancelled, this time because it was World Food Day. Katakwi centre was laid out with agricultural stalls displaying many aspects of farming from enormous cassava to water irrigation to large goats and improved chickens. Although we should have been changing our plans to do home visits, it was too fascinating not to explore all the demonstrations and displays.

I suddenly spotted a child who I recognised; it was Michael, the boy who has 2 artificial legs who I met about 3 years ago and of whom I made a movie clip which I always use in my presentations as it demonstrates the good work of Kumi Hospital. He had grown, of course, from the knees up but he had completely worn away one foot and the other was barely recognisable. We caught up with his grandfather and arranged to bring the boy back to have new legs fitted. Then another boy was following me around (not an unusual event) and, when we reached the vehicle to leave, I commented on this and then he showed me the burn contractures to his hand. The boy really wanted to be operated on so, after a short drive, he showed us where he lived and we met the HIV+ mother who wasn't prepared to accompany him. An old neighbor was also there and she agreed to go with the boy so she ran back to her mud hut, washed and changed while I walked alone along the tracks appreciating the deathly silence all around. Time to watch the grasshoppers camouflaged against the grasses and appreciate the small wild flowers of yellow and purple. Then two home visits to families with children with cerebral palsy where I had been before and both affected by floods of two years ago. At both homes, I inspected the pit latrines which I had constructed and I noted that one was smelly and the other was not. Moses also showed me the mud hut I had had built and it was satisfying to see the fruits of our labours.

In Serere, the charcoal is half the price of that in Kumi, so once again, I bought 5 bags from the lovely couple who sell the heavy bags on the road side. It's not difficult to decide who to give them to and, for me, it seems a sensible way to help the economy. The charcoal makers are happy as they can go for a week without a sale and the people here are happy as charcoal is a luxury. I didn't realise that the tree must first be bought and then there is much sweat and toil (and hours) to burn the wood so the profit from each bag costing 20,000/= (3 pounds)is meagre. We dropped them off at the huts feeling a little like Santa Claus as we left bulging sacks of dirty the fuel.

Back at the Guest House, I was alone for the evening as Angela had gone for supper to the German girls so I battened down the hatches and settled down to an evening of sorting things out. It is so dry and dusty here at present that my hair was unrecognisable as such, more like the proverbial haystack, and it took three washes to get the rinsing water to look somewhat clear. I showered twice and soaked my clothes in washing powder to remove some of the grime.


Tuesday 20 October 2009

My day started around 7 am with Brenda bringing the cake from Margaret Asio which I had ordered for Friday to give to the surgical team. Then Gerald Moses, the blind boy, called and we shared breakfast with him tucking in to bread, water and a banana. I felt guilty having a different menu but he was happy and also he couldn't see what I was eating!The monthly CBR meeting took place today with a full attendance. Before it started, I had many odds and ends to sort out with staff members, the surgical team, the children's village, the Workshop and the physio department so it is always good to have at least one day a week without going out. The meeting went well with Charles, the chairperson, being his usual vociferous self and wondering why he hadn't been informed about the groups we are starting. Easily explained as I rarely see him!

With the part of the meeting for my participation over, I was excused and found myself with many more little tasks to accomplish before I realised I was very late for my visit to Modesta's house where I was expected. I jumped on a boda boda to speed up my short trip and arrived empty handed to find her usually warm welcome. Her life is extremely hard and poor but she always manages to give me an omelette with yolks as orange as a Spanish orange followed by omelette sliced into ground nut sauce. I was treated to a Sprite which she thinks is my favourite drink whilst the children suffered an orange drink which made their tongues a ghastly colour. They spent the afternoon singing songs and fooling around while I took movie clips of them in their small brick room which sleeps 11 of them and containing all their worldly belongings. Modesta proudly showed me her three goats which had been produced from a chicken I gave her a couple of years ago; Grace and her daughter, Gladys, and the unnamed younger sister of Gladys (my mind is a blank now when it comes to naming goats and cows). The time passed all too quickly and I had to leave to wash and change to have supper with Mr Viva and his team at their hotel. We all travelled in the hospital bus and I sat under a tree and a new moon talking to Chris on Skype while the others showered. We all had a good evening; I had 2 Bell's beers and a glass of wine and I sat watching Mr Viva's face with a quiet, humble smile, a picture of contentment and I realised how much he gains from the exercise.


Monday 19 October 2009

Morning Assembly and Michael rowed the boat ashore yet again with many hallelujahs following. Lots of babies and young children have steristrips imitating moustaches and covering up the tiny stitches of their cleft palate repairs and being carried by very happy parents. It's nice to find muzungus from Teesside in the compound and I think they are finding their stay here interesting and rewarding. I was off out again to Wera in Armuria so it was back up north and through Soroti yet again. Cassava chips were not available on the roadside so Martin bought boiled yams for 30 pence and enough for 9 people. This yam was one of my least favourite foods and not one usually on the menu here but I was hungry so I was willing to fill my stomach with anything. We held a well-organised clinic and came home with 4 more children for the plastic surgeon. Coming back through Sorotti, I bought a heavy water melon for 60 pence and some bananas for the patients we were bringing back with us. Passing Jeressar School, Alex told me that was where my boy, Anthony was and so we decided we would walk in boldly as though we owned the school and expect to pass the guards at the gate. It worked and it wasn't long before we were in the Admin office and Anthony had been brought to us. It was so great to see him again although he is painfully shy with me. It is his Visitation Day on 1 November and so I shall go with Lydia who also has a girl there and we will take them lots of goodies! I told her that we would spoil them and she didn't understand as they would have to have frequent treats before they would be spoilt and how true! Back at the Guest House, I found Niels, the Dutch physio, and his parents, Drs Raymond and Patrick and a pastor who were all eating here with the surgical team; a nightmare made worse with a lack of power but, as usual, we got through. Then the surgical team turned up after finishing late and they must have been dreadfully tired after a long day. As soon as supper was eaten, they were back off to the hotel in Kumi Town for a short night's sleep before starting a new day.

 

Sunday 18 October 2009

Sunday prayers and then a quiet morning to catch up with my diary. Half a sentence into it and along came Francis Okerenyang who settled himself down for the morning. He was interested to read Barbara Koffman's (dental team) report on his son, Moses' (hospital dental officer) attendance on her dental programme in September. She is always impressed with Moses' performance and it is good for him to be able to network with like-minded people as he never meets anyone connected with dentistry up here.

At 12.30, Martin (CBR worker) and I were going out for home visits on his motorbike but some of the plastic surgeon's team wanted to join us so, with four of them, we set off in the Land Cruiser starting at the hospital for Mr Viva to check on yesterday's patients. We entered Ojikhan Ward to find 4 children lying across a bed, face down and with their bottoms exposed to reveal their surgery for gluteal fibrosis. It reminded me of a Charles Dickens type punishment for naughty orphans. The old woman stood there with her lip repaired, swollen and covered with a dressing. She complained of pain but, in a day or two, when the swelling subsides, she will be without her lifelong disfigurement. What a transformation for her! The mothers of the children were delighted with the results and looked forward to going home with their child able to integrate with others without ridicule. We visited my leprosy man in the side ward who has lost his leg (not sure why as it looks as though it was sawn off with a blunt hack saw with bone and infected flesh exposed to the elements). He requires a hindquarter amputation but his general condition shown in his skeletal body does not augur well for surgical intervention. He likes a drink of water and a piece of bread as well as a little company.

Finally we set off for the field and Martin took us to a large tree where a group of villagers should have been assembled but we were late! Can you believe that Africans decided to leave as muzungus didn't turn up on time! The Chairperson and Secretary were present and, after a short introduction, we were shown round their projects. Firstly, a chicken house with individual nests made out of local clay, one of which contained a broody hen sitting on 12 eggs. Then an orange tree project where they have grafted trees which were getting well-established and we could pick some large oranges to give to the rest of the surgical team who had gone site-seeing to the rock caves or rested at their hotel. Very impressed with their abilities, we left them to visit 3 poor families in Atatur. The first was a shock for us all when we found a wild-looking boy with his ankles tied together sitting in the doorway of his hut while his grandmother shelled a few ground nuts. This was poverty and hopelessness in the extreme both affected by the drought with failure of their few crops. The second child with cerebral palsy lived in equally dire surroundings and, following a brief assessment, we decided to refer him to the Workshop for a standing frame. Christine from the surgical team promised him some clothes and she gave many pants from Asda to the watching children. We began to think the third and last child was from a very successful family as we stopped by an orange grove with large oranges weighing down the branches until they nearly touched the ground. Passing by this home and footing it along the narrow tracks, we soon reached yet another home riddled with poverty and with another cerebral palsy child but, this time, with far less potential and so we left with nothing to offer the family although only the sister was present with the child. We returned to the tree where we had started to find that the group members had re-assembled and our afternoon ended with a few lengthy speeches as is the norm. We left taking the doctors and nurses back to the Green Top where I was treated to my first Bell's beer of my visit. The team were to join us for supper and soon the Guest House was heaving with visitors who enjoyed the meal prepared for them by our three hard-working cooks. So the working week had yet to start and everyone seemed shattered already. How the doctors and nurses are coping having just arrived last Thursday and having spent a day screening the children and another day operating amazes me!


Saturday 17 October 2009

Setting off from the Guest House, Angela and I hailed a motor bike pikipiki and, with both of us squeezed on the back, we set off to town to meet Miriam who is a co-founder of CREATE, an organisation which gives community care for orphans and also has an improved goat project. www.dolen-ffermio.org.uk We found her at the back of her home/ office busily preparing lunch. We were told how the organisation operates before going outside to sit under a tree with chickens chirping around us and in quite a stiff wind so it wasn't long before the sand was filling our eyes. A large cow entered her iron sheeting door and so we thought that was the end of our lunch but the cow knew where it could find water! After lunch, we made our leave and wandered through small alleys and where we were greeted by many cheeky children wanting colours (crayons) to find our way back into the main street where Angela managed to get some shillngs from the hole in the wall at the bank, a dust pan, an English-Teso dictionary and register book and I bought 6 knives at 5 pence each and a very sharp knife for 60p. A fast (because we had forgotten to say slowly-slowly)bike ride back and I was dropped at Margaret Asio's home where I ordered a cake for Tuesday for the CBR meeting to demonstrate what can be made on a fuel saving stove. She was busy making a raised seed garden, 2 compost heaps and 2 sack gardens. I had a few balloons for the children so they played happily while we discussed financial matters. Arriving back home, I found the staff cooking supper for the plastic surgeon team and, as they had just been asked to prepare it for 17 people in all, Isoon sat outside and chopped peppers, onions, a large cabbage and mountains of chips well into the darkness. I was pleased to have bought my sharp knife as it was in immediate use. Pius, who has been kindly assisted through university from the UK, called to give me an update on his progress as a volunteer and a water project proposal his organisation is making in the hope that I will find someone to assist. He is a fine exampe of young men here, now aged 23, and eager to get ahead but it is so difficult for the youngsters to get a start in life.

He was dying to get back tot eh Training School where he could watch a programme on TV having already watched Arsenal play (and win).


Friday 16 October 2009

I'm writing this on Saturday morning as last night I had the modem and spent too long reading the many emails waiting for attention. Not many from friends back home but lots pertaining to here. So yesterday was another interesting but different day. Who could say life is dull here. The student nurses from Ngora Freda Carr Hospital left giving us a rousing "concert" at Morning Assembly and we were introduced to the 14 members of Mr Viva's plastic surgery team. Mr Viva is a well respected surgeon from Teesside and his team are from UK and Germany. They screened many children in the physiotherapy department selecting those for surgery, those who were too young like the 3 week old baby with the cleft palate and my learning curve continued to rise steeply such as in the options for reforming a malformed ear. We had been happy to find a young boy with a large swelling on the nose but this one could not be helped by surgery. Another child's big blob on the nose was excisable. So heartbreaking to see the mothers when they are told The nurses removed dressings from limbs with dreadful wounds from infection, burns and snake bites. Some who had not been on one of Mr Viva's foreign trips were visibly moved by the experience. With theatre lists drawn up until Wednesday, they were able to climb wearily on the hospital bus to take them back to Green Top Hotel where they are staying. As I write, tehy will have started surgery and a busy day lies ahead for them.

I was supposed to be with Florence at an Outreach Clinic but I wanted to attend Mr Viva's clinic and it was good that I did as I was actually of some use. The team needs two anaesthetic machines and I was able to put them in contact with an anaesthetist in Kampala who sorted things out so lets hope all goes smoothly today. Also a few other hitches were ironed out. Problems can usually be solved with a little lateral thinking!

The team have brought a journalist with them and she and I visited other departments within the hospital. She was particularly impressed with the Nutrition Unit where she studied photographs of "before and after treatment" for the malnourished children. She is also with a BBC cameraman and the plan is to have a short news item and perhaps a documentary. I suppose they get miles of footage and use very little. Time will tell!

I have failed to mention Odung Sam, a 7 year old hydrocephalus with spina bifida. The workshop asked my opinion on seating as he is only comfortable lying on his front which does not augur well for adulthood. They are to try a cerebral palsy chair and, after much deliberation, we decided on the seat angle. The boy has a body of a 3 year old with fixed knees at 90 degrees and a brain of a bright 7 year old Another one who has touched my heart and if he can tolerate his new posture, then a wheelchair would be possible and surely a place in Kampala School for the Disabled in the future with Lawrence. I gave him some crayons and colouring books whilst he ate a banana and drank a Coke lying on his tummy. His mother spoke good English and I suggested she spoke to the boy in English rather than the local language of Ateso although I didn't tell her why; that it would be most beneficial if he does go to Kampala. Important that her hopes are not raised but not even her hopes as it would never enter her head that he could have such a chance. She had completed her secondary education to A Level but lack of finances prevented her doing anything with her education. It is desperately sad. A member of staff here actually got a place at Cardiff University to start in September but had no funding. We hear it time and time again but it always seems so unfair when our youngsters have everything so easy compared to here.

So the end of a week which could have filled a book and here I have given a very short resume. I have an interesting day ahead so more later.


Thursday 15 October 2009

Today, an Outreach Clinic at Acowa, miles and miles and miles away from Kumi. We set off reasonably early and arrived at a respectable hour to find around 500 people sitting around outside a Health Clinic. What a shock but they weren't all for us, not quite! There was a concurrent Family Planning Clinic and Michael from Kumi was holding an eye clinic but we certainly had the majority. We settled ourselves at tables and chairs and divided into 3 lots so 3 children were seen at once. Lydia and I had some very interesting patients from a Muscular Dystrophy to cleft palates and burn contractures which was just what the doctor ordered as Mr Viva, the plastic surgeon and his team arrived from Teesside this very day. We managed to fit everyone into the vehicle and, for once, we arrived home in daylight. It really was a valuable clinic making the great distance worthwhile.

I could write a chapter for each day but today my runny nose has turned into a cough and I'm about to get some lemon, hot water and sugar (including ants) to see if it will settle.

 

Wednesday 14 October 2009

6.50am and the school bell clanks away to tell the children to get up, I presume, as it continues at intervals until around 7.15am. I'm already outside sitting in the porch enjoying a glass of lemon tea and a plate of pawpaw and banana whilst it is still cool. I miss Morning Assembly as I have an appointment with Moses, Adesso Headmaster, at 8.30.

On arriving at the school, I found the children lined up and singing by the flag pole and, as my visit was to be brief, I passed them to have a word with one of the teachers, Stella. Then I realised that it was difficult to make my visit short as she had made me an omelette with at least three eggs! Grace said, omelette eaten and I was able to go to Moses' office. What a jumble of dirty papers and all things imaginable. I told him about the 20 desks being made and to tidy up the cow shelter as he is keen to continue with this project but a storm had damaged the structure. A further cow will only materialise if things are in order. The first two are on the hospital farm both being pregnant at the moment. I've decided on an Inter-house sports day which will consist of preliminary qualifying matches followed by a final on 13 November. He produced the trophies from under a pile of mess and I asked him to engrave the shield for last year. I wonder if he will stick strips of embossed old tyre on as Patrick, the sports teacher, did the previous year as he didn't want the silver to be scratched! A hasty retreat from the office and I saw that the children had made an avenue of bourgonvilliae flowers which I was supposed to have walked down. I should have learnt by now that short meetings are impossible.

Back to routine and a day in Serere. We piled into the Land Cruiser with many eye patients returning home following surgery. This involved a long detour from our direct route making me wonder if we were en route for Sudan! Finally we reached Amos' (CBR worker) home where we held a short clinic for children in his garden before enticing the goat Amos had bought for me to give to Mary and Goretti. What a beauty it was! Definitely pregnant with twins I am sure and with a coat like a Golden Retriever. I called it Jessica but on presenting it to Mary and Goretti, they decided to call it Jennifer so Jennifer it is and lets hope the twins arrive safely. We showed Mary plans to make a fuel saving stove and I am hoping Amos will soon be able to help them construct one. Leaving their home, we left for Okiring's village. He is a little boy who I have met before. Also, Sue Derbyshire, a UK physio, gave him tripods of her design which served him well and now he walks with one pole held in both hands. I had given him two goats which have turned into a superb, large, pregnant cow which is their pride and joy. I was to set up a group here and the meeting went well with the Agenda fulfilled and they are to have a cow and a very formal system for running the group. Yet another chicken was presented to me and my brood at Margaret Asio's is growing almost by the day!

Returning home, we stopped at a mini fish market where there was a very large mud fish resembling a python. If only you could see my photos! You would be impressed!.


Tuesday 13 October 2009

Plans to go out with Martin today were dashed as the vehicle needed servicing and I have to admit that, as my nose was in full flow, I was relieved to take it easy. I had got up early to go with Charles Okula, Hospital Administrator, to survey the trees and at 6.45am and the best time of the day before the sun had much heat, we set off along the tracks and through the mud to visit the tree nursery where two men were attending to the seedlings including those of jatropha and kaapol. 200 orange trees and 250 mango trees have been planted out along with about 12,000 pines. The project seems to be coming along nicely if not slowly. Cows from neighbouring land are grazing randomly through the seedlings and, to me, these are the biggest threat to the trees surviving. Not a lot more to report but 40 desks to be made, 2 tricycles to be paid for, a tricycle renovated for Akurot, a leprosy sufferer. and my flu.


Monday 12 October 2009

We returned to Katakwi to continue with the formation of the women's group which we initiated last Thursday. On the way, I again bought cassave chips from the roadside. Nine chips cost 200/= (7p) and it is impossible to eat every one. They are very hot, covered in salt and wrapped in old newspaper. We arrived to find the members gathered under a mango tree, an agenda drawn up ready, the committee formed and we were all set to start. Looking around at the faces, I realised that many were familiar from previous years and it was like meeting old friends. Justin was there with his brother and his wife who has a baby which unfortunately has a urinary deformity but she will be able to be assessed by the plastic surgeon later this week. It was useful to meet Justin's brother, Julius, after finding Justin abandoned last week but then his brother was in the fields looking for food and he had to leave the boy all alone. This is one such situation which is unthinkable at home. The meeting was well structured and fruitful and a plan was drawn up whereby I provide them with two cows, the ensuing calves will be passed on to another member until they all own one. After the formal duties were completed, a table was laid with African tea (tea made with milk + skin on top - delicious - and g nuts. We left with me bearing a chicken which will be a mate for Rupert at Mgt Asio's. On to the next home visit to see a family which I helped a couple of times. The goat has turned into two cows so that the disabled child now has a better diet and the land has been planted out after the lst crop failed due to the drought. People are so resilient here. Time for home and I started sneezing heralding the onset of flu which is in full force as I write. My handkerchief is next to me and dries between blows! The chicken was deposited at Mgt's and I came back to no power for the evening which was a disappopintment as, so far, it has been quite reliable. However, it was a good excuse to go to bed early to see if the sniffles would settle.


Sunday 11 October 2009

Sunday morning and I have the hospital modem for the day so my netbook antivirus is updated and my emails were checked before I left for church. Also the week's washing was on the line dripping with water but that's fine as they still dry very quickly. I was an hour late for prayers but still arrived before the start. The church is looking very smart and just about complete after Chris' visit in April. I wouldn't be surprised if you could have heard the singing in the distance as it rocked the church. I enjoy people-watching (as well as praying) with the children in their crisp, white Sunday shirts, the lady in front of me in her Barbour-type jacket with faux fur collar, the two leprosy sufferers, Margaret with Lawrence in tow at the other end of his walking pole. Walking back, I called in to see Ruth to see if she had her new mobile phone and we set it up together. Now I can phone her to check she is alright as I have been worrying about her with her deep depression. Her mother is with her so I am reassured that she is not alone. We walked back together and I showed her my family photos for 2009 on the laptop.

Today I am eating frugally so, after a banana for lunch, I crossed the airfield to reach Adesso School where they had their day for PIASCY awareness. I was 2 hours late but I was still too early so I walked to my friend, Margaret Asio's house where I was greeted with her usual "You are most welcome!" Her compound is as neat as ever, she now has 3 goats (Grace, John and Paul). My faithful hen, Matilda, has died but Margaret managed to sell it for a few shillings to get her bike mended. Matilda produced 2 cockerels which were sold to help with school fees. There was no food to eat so I had dry tea (that's got some of you stumped!) as we sat shelling the few g-nuts from her harvest. Usually the shells are plump and contain two big nuts but this year they are either empty or have one measly little apology for a nut. Then we went to the small trading station as I wanted a tomato for my supper. Margaret had feared coming as she was in debt to the tune of about 2.00 pounds sterling and hadn't ventured out for over 2 months. We decided to settle her bills and leave enough for some meat to cook. I don't suppose she has had meat almost since I was last here. It also wasn't difficult to pay school and exam fees for Priscilla who has had to keep away from school as her fees were not paid. It was in total 15 pounds and makes the difference of getting O levels or not. We went our separate ways, she to pay her debts and me to Adesso where I was now late! Well timed as "Elizabeth House" was about to start its drama on a family being tested for HIV. The whole afternoon was 5 star entertainment with much applause and laughter from the by standers. I was to leave at 4.30 so my speech was brought forward and I think I spoke out of the expected pecking order. I took video clips to bring home for St Mary's School, Richmond, and JP. Back home, I brought in my bone dry washing and settled down to the emails soon to be joined by little Joyce who sat beside me with her colouring book and crayons. Darkness fell, my candles were lit and I was about to settle down to a quiet meditation when the power came on and it was out with the camera battery and netbook chargers and on with the iron. How much nicer life would be without all these modern inventions! I could sit by a small wood fire and dream away as the embers glowed. Suddenly, a black flying creature swooped in and, thinking it was a bat, I brandished a broom to give it what for only to find it was a velvety butterfly which was no problem except for the fact that it probably won't survive the night in the house.

So the start of another week and I wonder what lies ahead?


Thursday 8 October 2009

An Outreach Clinic at a Health Clinic in Katakwi with Moses today. Katakwi is far so we needed to leave early. Firstly, though, I had a meeting with Dr Opolot, Charles, the Administrator, and Joseph, from HR as they wanted to put me in the picture as to where they were with Chris' project. Afterwards, Florence, Lydia and I along with patients wanting a lift home after discharge piled into the vehicle and we were ready to go except there was an old, old woman with a fractured hip,in great pain and who was returning home without surgery as she lacked resources. It was difficult to experience and I could not imagine what she was to do at the other end. I thought a walking frame would be better than nothing so we delayed our departure so that I could ask the Workshop for one having seen a pile sent from Canada and about 10 feet high in their store. So, with the frame stacked on the roof rack with lots of other baggage, we set off through Soroti and to Katakwi. We stopped at a new-to-me supermarket in Soroti where I could stock up on Imperial Leather soap (I've already used one bar in just over a week!), Feta cheese (wow!),sweets for the kids and a few other things for lunch. We arrived only to find that the clinic had been cancelled due to tomorrow's Independence Day but we didn't waste the journey and we chose to make home visits to families I have visited before. Firstly, Justin who still lives with his brother who has married and has a young wife. Justin had been left all alone, sitting in the blazing sun, with an empty cup and plate by his side, whilst the couple went to market and probably early in the morning when he would have been in the shade. The last time I saw him was 2 years ago when his brother was 18 and we helped re-roof the roof of the mud hut as it was home to a swarm of wasps. Neighbours appeared from nowhere when they heard the vehicle and one kindly washed Justin and he avidly wolfed down my lunch and a mug of water. We will return on Monday and we will hopefully formulate a plan for the family. Perhaps the new, young wife doesn't want the child and we could find an orphanage which would take a child with such a severe disability.


Wednesday 7 October 2009

I shall be brief as I am geerting behind with my diary and I'm writing this on Sunday. A day within the hospital and so time for catching up with projects but the morning was spent helping Lydia in the Club Foot Clinic which entails removing Plaster of Paris casts and reapplying. There are dozens of mothers and babies waiting, sitting on the floor and breast feeding in an effort to appease the babies, for their turn to be called whilst we deal with one at a time. The noise is unbelievable-the babies scream as you have never heard before as the plaster is cut off or reapplied(I would do likewise), the radio blasts forth African music, the thunder continuously rumbles and we work as though on a factory line without passing the time of day to the mums; one off the table, one on until there is silence and the room is empzy. My back was aching after the ordeal and then a new sound burst forth-the men started slashing the grass outside with an electric strimmer so my head came out in sympathy and started aching also. The epilepsy clinic runs concurrently but is much more sedate and quiet with the Medical Officer distributing the drugs to the parents. The queue outside the department subsided and now being after 3pm, I decided to go to the Workshop to see about them making school desks.


Wednesday 7 October 2009

Last night when I returned from the field, I could not have put one word on paper or screen. Having set out at 7.30am and returned at 9pm, I was ready for a thorough wash and bed (and a loo!) and I had my best night's sleep since I arrived here. George, the driver, and I set off for Serere to meet up with Amos, the CBR worker who always provides me with an interesting programme. Today he didn't let me down and our first home visit was to a village with 2 ladies (Mary and Goretti) of totally indeterminate age; 15 or 50, I know not. They have a syndrome (which one, I don't know as there are hundreds and it's a good word to select when you can't think what the condition is) which has left them about 2 feet high with legs curled up underneath them but how smart they were! Each morning they get up about 5am and make bread (something like a muffin to us), alight their one tricycle (one up and the other down) and the one up pedals with her hands all the way to the nearby trading station where they sell their 20 "buns" in bundles of 5 for 200/= a bundle which, at my reckoning, is 800/= (25 pence) and that is after they have bought the ingredients. How they manage to traverse the terrain following rain, I do not know as even our Land Cruiser skidded in the mud and George had to use the 4-wheel facility to move. They have a content existence but have a problem collecting water from the borehole especially when their one jerrycan had a few holes in it so that, by the time they returned home, the jerrycan was not so full as when they had filled it! Amos and I made a plan, discussed it with them and, of course, they were very happy. The two of them changed their clothes and then climbed into the back of the vehicle, quite a feat in itself, and off we went shopping. First, a 100 litre water barrel but nothing is too simple and the first one we saw was broken and the man would not reduce the price so we forgot about that one. Then the local store where we bought 3 jerrycans, soap, salt, sugar, paraffin, matches, rice, posho, beans - you name it, we bought it! The girls were thrilled especially when we got so carried away and proceded to the butcher who had the most disgusting-looking entrails on the block. A photo is available on request! A drive to the next trading station and a much better quality barrel was for sale at only a couple of 1000/= more so that was a good buy and then a padlock, of course, so that their hut wouldn't be ransacked. Back home, they couldn't wait to delve into the plastic bowls just like children with their Christmas stockings. What fun I had! Mary brought me a chair balancing it with great skill on her head and I do envy her abilities and also their housekeeping qualities as their compound and hut were spick and span to the nth degree. We had filled the jerrycans at the borehole and more about the water barrel later...

On to the second home visit and we returned after two years to the village where the HIV+ grandmother looks after her 3 disabled, orphaned grandchildren. We had given the eldest girl a tricycle and she is doing well in school, speaks English and I am proud of what she has achieved just by being mobile. The second girl was walking with crutches but had been demoted from Primary School to Nursery as she couldn’t walk to school so we bought her a bicycle so that the grandmother can cycle to and from school with Karisa on the back. Opio, the hydrocephalus boy, has outgrown his wheelchair and I have returned to find a medium sized one hopefully from within the hospital. We left to buy the bicycle and to return with it later when I was to be given a chicken (live, of course) More later...

Our third visit was to the home of Zaccariah where I had been two years earlier and had provided a goat which has multiplied into five. Zaccariah shuffles on his bottom and, although he could be brighter, we have decided to provide him with a tricycle. I phoned Kamlesh (the man in Mbale who makes them) to order a third one and was told the first two will be ready on Friday. It's almost unreal to be sitting on a little wooden seat in the middle of the bush where there is no water nor power and with the sun beating down unbearably and to press a few buttons to connect to someone miles away!

We continued west munching away at a maize cob cooked by the roadside. I'm careful with these as I have cracked a crown before now and the thought of spending the next few weeks with front teeth missing is too much! Now we were to start the days plan in earnest and it was well into the afternoon. We have decided that, rather than provide individuals with assistance, it is better to start off groups who can learn to help themselves and each other so here we were to meet Amos' first two groups. They are starting small which is good but they are enthusiastic at this idea of helping themselves out of poverty. They have 5000/= (under 2 pounds) in reserve so that members of the group can borrow from it. How easy it would be for me to boost the funds but I am leaving it up to them. I have said that when I return next year, they may have 50,000/= but they thought that that was an enormously unachievable amount. The value of money varies greatly from region to region and here the ladies are basically impoverished but not amongst the poorest. We sat on a bench opposite a shack from which blasted out the noisiest music ever which was competing with another source just a couple of shacks away. Time to depart and to start our long trek home but, on the way, Amos and George were determined to find a market selling fresh fish from the nearby Lake Kyoga. I have a strange feeling that we did a long detour as it took much longer to return than to go. The light was dimming and we still had to pick up the bicycle and barrel from the stores. Finally, with stinking fish, a bicycle and barrel behind me, we were heading for home via, firstly, the home of the 3 children. With headlights shining ahead and driving through the long grass and the narrowest of tracks, we reached their home to find them all behind their locked doors of the mud huts. One by one they emerged after hearing the sound of the vehicle. The bicycle was dismounted, the chicken presented and with thanks all round, we set off again into the darkness. Now just the barrel to deal with! Another turn off the murram road and, with lefts and rights into the bush and with me thinking we were about done, George reversed the vehicle towards the borehole and started pumping 100 litres into it. The African chorus was in full song with the crickets and frogs making music. There was quite a lot of activity and nightlife going on with jerrycans queued up in a row and I likened it to our old village pump where, centuries ago, it must have been the venue for much gossip. The final litres were poured in with the barrel in the vehicle and I wondered how they were going to get it down. I wasn't going to help, the girls couldn't but there is always a plan and two young men came back with us to lift it down. We finally reached Mary and Goretti's hut where they had hustled outside and sat like two little sparrows huddled on a tree awaiting the arrival of another gift. They were overjoyed with their day and Amos is considering Mary to be Chairperson of yet another group because of her special organisational skills. I would have hugged the girls tightly but there was no way I could stoop so low to reach their level so it was handshakes all round and fond farewells. Surely it was time to go home and, at last, the end was in sight. George drove along the darkest of dark roads passing bikes and beasts, young and old with the sky lit up almost constantly by lightening. I dozed from utter exhaustion so it wasn't long before Kumi town came into view. A long day, much achieved, ideas germinating for the future.


Monday 5 October 2009

Up with the cockerels as usual and long before the dawn breaks so it's on with the light (yes, there is power today)and I decide to tidy up my bookshelf which gets in a mess everyday. I'm surprised how many papers I collect each day; receipts, notes, requests. Next will be the cupboard which has the contents of my case thrown into the back of it. Breakfast of dry bread and dry tea and then to the hospital and no idea what the day had in store for me. I had been invited to the World Teachers Day but, as it is a working day, I had to find out what I was doing before I took a day off. I then realised that I would be in working trousers and to go to a function I would need a dress and preferably a gomaz, the local costume, so I phoned Robert Ecelat who agreed that trousers would not be correct dress even though I would have to ride side saddle on a motor bike! Anyone else wouldn't care a hoot.

Sometimes the day starts very frustratingly and this was one of them. Whilst waiting, I gave Michael his autobiography which Bruce had kindly printed. He was over the moon and it made him more determined to start on Part 2. Moses, the dentist, got his CD from Barbara Koffman, the dental co-ordinator from UK who invites Moses to work in her team at her clinic on an island on L Victoria. Then I visited Akurut, my old leprosy friend who is looked after by a staff member now that she is so old and not on the leprosy unit as in previous years. When she was mising from her usual abode, I presumed, wrongly, that she had died.

We couldn't venture out to the field until the staff had been facilitated (given money for fuel) at 2pm so I decided to buy the fuel so that we got moving. The tank was filled up and off we went to find William, CBR worker, in Ngora. The children were on holiday due to the teacher's celebrations, a brass band paraded down the street and everything felt festive. We saw some children with disabilities in the back streets of Ngora mainly under the iron sheeting overhanging the basic units. It was just too hot (as it is now while I write) so we decided on some refreshment to keep us going. William thought we would go to the poshest place in town but I refused and so we ended up in nothing more than a shack with iron sheeting walls and a wooden lean to where the cooking took place. A perfect place for a perfect meal and truly African, very popular and with plates piled high with food and no cutlery. Our plans for my visit are evolving into starting more groups within the community and we were fortunate enough to meet 3 committee members of THAW, Teso Hands at Work, a 6 month old group which seemed to be very structured. They imparted much useful information for us and we came away with a copy of their constitution and promises to have further meetings. Next I wanted to visit Ngora School for the deaf and blind as AIC Glasgow would like to form a link as their strengths lie in signing for the deaf. Unfortunately, the teachers were at the celebrations so all we could do was to drive round, greet the children and leave. A group of deaf children here is unique as usually they are so noisy that silence is truly golden. Care had to be taken that no child was near the vehicle as a blast on the horn often disperses the stubborn hangers-on. My final request was to go to Aliasit Farm where last year we learnt our sustainable agricultural skills. What a welcome we got and how amazing their poultry project is! 400 chickens and many eggs to sell. The crops were as productive as ever and it is an inspiration to see what can be done in spite of drought. Jane was selected to come to UK for a month in March (how cold she found it!) by Send a Cow so that shows that she must be one of the best examples in the world for their organisation perhaps.

Then back home and I can write no more as sweat is dripping off me, I am exhausted and I must have a "shower" so good night...



Saturday 3 October 2009

Up at 6 to get my clothes soaking in a plastic bin and you should have seen the water! Filthy! I have a kettle in which I can boil water in my room but this morning the plug melted and smoke poured forth so now I am relying on charcoal. I sat outside to have breakfast(bread with banana and lemon tea) and watched the world go by. Women with firewood piled high on their heads, others with large hoes on their way to the fields, a plough pulled by two yolked oxen with their drivers shouting directions, children scampering past and waving as they went, chickens chased by eager cockerels, a turkey strutting along and two guinea fowl with legs going 19 to the dozen and resembling a couple of nuns late for Vespers.

Today I have volunteered to stand in for Florence at Dr Ekure's Orthopaedic Clinic in town. Florence has gone to Kampala to see Martha as it is Visitation Day when parents can go to the school to meet the teachers. So at 8am prompt I was picked up by Dr Ekure and taken to his clinic where Lydia and I gave exercises to many patients in small treatment rooms. How different from home; as I mobilised backs and necks, I watched the ghekkos scoot up the walls and I hoped that the pupae hanging from the ceiling might turn into beautiful butterflies whilst I worked. Lunch was a local bun and 2 bottles of Coke which have to be drunk as bottles have to be returned. The Daily Monitor told us that there are 24 spoonfuls of sugar in each bottle so I should have had my fair ration today. We did 10 hours hard work and returned home on the back of motor bikes. I was squeezed between the driver and Dr Joseph who had wanted a bike to himself but we managed and, just in time, as the heavens opened and a glorious storm with full orchestra burst forth. The sky was a mysterious yellow-orange and it wasn't long before the murram turned into a river.

Now I have had supper (cabbage and chapatti) and I am disappointed to find that the modem lent to me by Dr Ekure needs a top up of funds so I'm out of luck.

I am worried about Ruth who continues to be in a deep depression. I had told Florence who takes good care of her but is in Kampala that I would keep an eye on her. Last night and tonight have been too wet to venture out and she didn't turn up at lunch time today as arranged. I have bought her a phone so that we can keep in touch but she has yet to be given it. I will not settle until I see her again.



Friday 2 October 2009

The week has passed quickly and I have achieved a lot already. On reflection, I realise that this year is no different from any other and that the crisis is the drought which has caused a lot of suffering and hunger. The people here depend on their crops to provide school fees and other expenses so they are finding all aspects of life difficult. The scarcity of commodities has caused costs to rise out of all proportion and we hope that they will soon settle to an acceptable rate.

Today was busy for me; I paid for a piece of land, the repair of 10 tricycles, gave a loan to help a sick orphan, sat in the orthopaedic out patients clinic for children where we saw 72 patients, 66% of which had disabilities resulting from malaria; to continue, I had a meeting with Joseph, HR Manager, regarding the structure of the physiotherpay department, gave Moses, a little TB spine boy, a jumper from Farndale YCA and took a photo to pass on to the knitters, had the fridges swapped so now the Guest House will not be as noisy as a jumbo jet engine when there is power and Dr Ekure has lent me his laptop and modem so that I can get on line. I've checked my emails but, without power, the battery is flat and it will just be my luck that there will be no power until he wants it back. If I am successful, I shall be able to send emails this evening so I shall find it difficult to decide who to start with; the family, of course!

I'm sitting outside as I write this on my netbook, a wonderful little machine whose screen is quite visible in sunlight. Now the sky is a duck egg blue with wisps of pink clouds, the sun has set and the dusk is approaching so rapidly that I know that I shall have to finish in 7 minutes flat! The bats are swooping low and I will have to swathe myself in mosquito repellent any minute. We will light our candles whilst we await the switching on of power at around 8pm. Nothing is certain especially as there was none this morning. We have to wait and see (or not see perhaps, as the case may be!) I can still see but mozzies are swarming round the screen so that's it for today!



Thursday 1 October 2009

The days pass quickly and the morning walk to the hospital becomes routine but never monotonous. Today I pass a large squashed frog anda vivid green grasshopper also killed by a pasing motorist in the night. My visit to the field didn't materialise for a reason unbeknown to me so what did the day have in store? We held an impromptu staff meeting which proved to be lengthy and fruitful ending with a decision for Niels and me to have a meeting with Joseph, the HR Manager. Have I mentioned Niels earlier? He is the Dutch physio who came here in April and has another 2 weeks before he returns home. We are realising that our vision for the physiotherapy department is similar and we agree on the action required to improve things so we are hoping for big, positive changes.

I am negotiating the removal of the excessively large and noisy industrial fridge to be replaced by a smaller, quiet one I have found which is almost unused and runs continuously consuming much power. The person in charge of the office containing the small one has decided she needs it to keep water cool for the children so we have come to an agreement; I get the fridge and I buy her a 20 litre clay pot and the mothers go to the borehole for the water. The hospital saves power and the purchase of bottled water!

What next? I decide to visit Adesso School to discuss the purchase of desks from JP only to find them rehearsing their drama, singing and poetry for Sunday which is to highlight AID's and HIV to parents. The school was divided by JP last year into "houses" and one was named after yours truly so I watched their performance and will go on Sunday to enjoy the day there. It is so hot and any distance to be walked in the heat of the day is so arduous that it is easy to wonder why on earth do I do this but activities before and after the walking makes it worthwhile. A few spare moments once back at the Guest House and just time to take a cup of lemon tea before I leave for Hellen Odule's house for God's Grace Group's Thursday meeting. We sat outside in the dusk and discussed progress since last November. The poultry house and run are splendid and inside are 6 broiler hens in one half and about 30 chicks in the other half. Things could be going better but considering the drought I was pleased with progress. Hellen doesn't work and has had time to develop her garden using lots of compost and she has produced a beautiful crop of vegetables which would win gold awards in any English produce show. She is an inspiration to the others who do not have the time to do so well but it helps them to see what can be done in spite of the drought. The family consumes most of her produce but she has managed to improve her lifestyle with what she has to sell and to buy herself a mobile phone, her pride and joy! The skies darkened, not only with the oncoming evening but also with evil-looking rain clouds so about 15 of us rose from the ground and squeezed ourselves into her tiny one-roomed house. The meeting progressed and plans were made. We are to invite Jane from Aliasit Farm to visit the project and to ask her for any further advice, I gave the group an order for 20 maize bags for me to bring home and to give them an income of 100,000/= and finally to arrange a party for members of the group using Hellen's produce. I cycled home on Grace's bike in the dark, trying to avoid unseen potholes and hoping that the motorcyclists in front and behind could see me. I feared putting my foot to the ground as it was the time of day for snakes to come out of their homes.

A good supper (we are always eating!), a shower of sorts and then time to get tucked under the mosquito net for a good night's sleep or so I thought but my phone rang waking me from a deep sleep and making me think that Niels was playing music loudly. It wasn't until morning that I realised that I was to blame for the noise and that it was a missed call from Julian who continues to pester me incessantly.



Wednesday 30 September 2009

I'll make this brief today. I write this having had my shower and I'm sitting in my room with the others being sociable the other side of my door. I'm happy to be in my own company and I will get into my book, Baking Cakes in KIgali, when I have written this and downloaded my photos. Wednesday is Ward Round day which took 3 hours of going from bed to bed with the doctors, nurses and physios. Always interesting but quite difficult to move so slowly in the heat and noise of the ward. Afterwards, Florence and I returned to the ward to get many patients up out of bed and walking. I am pleased to report that I have never seen such a large improvement on Ojikhan Ward since I first started. The cleaning has been contracted out which has made an overwhelming difference to the cleanliness of the ward and the discharge procedures have been speeded up considerably so it is very encouraging.

My aftertnoon was spent arranging the recycling of 10 tricycles which will make a total of 30 in 2 years. I have had a lock changed on a cupboard so that I can hide my stack of Ug shillings in a safe if I have the right key for that. Emukol invited me to visit the church and it was a pleasant surprise to see it so much nearer completion. A bitty day and hopefully I will go to the field soon. Good night!!



Tuesday 29 September 2009

Yesterday being Monday, we left Kampala (we being a Canadian family of Robin (plastic surgeon), his pregnant wife, Heidi, 6 year old Joshua, 5 year old Leah and 18 month old Hannah, Alex and I)and set off at a respectable 8.45 with our luggage piled high on the top of the Land Cruiser. Two hours of traffic jams through the city brought us to clearer roads when we could make reasonable progress. The miles passed smoothly through the tea and sugar plantations and past the broken-down vehicles until we were flagged down by an agressive-looking police officer with rifle at the ready. Uganda is becoming Westernised indeed with, not only the rifle, but also the spped gun showing we had been doing 69kph instead of keeping to the 50kph speed limit. Poor Alex was in a true fix and had to pay the 100,000/= fine at the bank in Jinja before returning with the receipt to claim back his driving permit. Without us, he would have got away with a bribe but the beastly policewoman was in no mood to negotiate. Whilst Alex was at the bank, Robin and I decided that we should go alves with the fine as it was 2 weeks wages. I suppose this helped Alex out of a fix but he was very disappointed to be guilty of his first offence. After a break for lunch, toilet and leg stretch we continued north for mile after mile passing the women bearing heavy loads on their heads, the cyclists risking life and limb balancing with their weighty and unwieldy produce on the back, schoolchildren playing in the school grounds, petrol wagons churning out filthy black fumes, until we came upon a crash seeming like 2 buses and a public taxi. Later I found out that all occupants in the taxi died making me very nervous about travelling in one ever again. Destiny, I was told, "don't worry, when your time is up, it's up!" I have decided not to take this line of thinking and to take as many precautiuons as possible. The road is so potholed that vehicles speed along on the wrong side of the road so it doesn't matter how carefully one drives. Finally we reached the Guest House, unloaded our baggage and settled in with me in "my" room.

There is a Dutch physio who has been here since April but who leaves mid-October otherwise we were all new. After supper enjoyed by all with the children managing well and Heidi coping admirably, and after the proverbial "shower" taken by standing in a plastic bowl and jumping as cold water is poured down my back, my head hit the pillow at 8.30pm and stayed there until 6am not that sleep took over for all those 10 hours. I'd forgotten how hot it is and that bedding on top of me is quite unnecessary.

Tuesday (today), up at 6 while it is still cool for breakfast, breakfast and the walk to the hospital for Morning Assembly. Robin and I were welcomed by Charles, hospital administrator, and then we went our separate ways; he to the theatre and I to the physio9therapy department. It wasn't until this evening that I realised my day's accomplishments having thought I had achieved little. I met my leprosy friends, arranged the repair of 10 tricycles, decided to complete our Social Worker, Paul's Kumi University degree as he had had to drop out this term due to lack of funds from his poor crop yields. He fits into my category of helping the disabled as he has suffered from cerebral palsy since birth and copes with life with great courage. Helen, a cleaner, told me her troubles without asking for help. Her son in Senior 5 had impreganated a girl in Senior 3 and the girl had a baby daughter of 3 weeks. According to their culture, Helen now has to accept the girl and baby into her family and pay the girl's parents 3,000,000/=, a hard task when earning 100,000/= a month gross! She had paid into a microfinance company 350,000/= and it had closed down and taken her and many others pre3cious savings. Her crops had failed and she had had to rent off her one and only garden (this is insufficient land to keep a family of 4 in crops let alone the 9 mouths she now has to feed). She had also to abandon her small shop set out in cardboard boxes and so she is quite desolate. I will give the baby some of my clothes for new born babies which I have brought out and help her with a few crops. My brain is still working on this one.

Stephen Obwongo, my mad friend, spied me and now I have a plentiful supply of fresh lemons from his tree for my tea. They are very small this year because of the drought. Also Julius who pesters me for 12 months of the year with aborted phone calls which I never answer also realised I was here so I told him that I was hearing no one's problems and left him and he never returned today so my fingers are crossed! Too much to write about with Consolata calling round and we exchanged family news as we sat in the dark with rain lashing down causing a river in front of the house and lightening flashing and thunder crashing overhead. Paul and I discussed his education requirements and lots more and this is Day One!



Thursday 24 September 2009

Last Monday was departure day and everything went smoothly for once; luggage perfect, no terrorists and even the KLM food could not be faulted so, all in all, a successful flight. Matthias was at the airport to greet me but it was a moment or two before I spied him and I had just a few seconds wondering if this was a repeat performance of my entry into Cameroun but I was confident I would not be abandoned. Good to be back with the Maicher family and to find the children had grown especially Noah. The first morning, Tuesday, I slept in and then went to see the new Corsu hospital between Kampala and Entebbe where Matthias is Admin Director. A most impressive hospital has sprung up since last year and all was in good working order. We enjoyed a lunch of sweet potato, beans and rice; just about my favourite Ugandan food. Back home and tea with the family and an early night for an early start.

6am and up with the cranes to leave for St Stephen's Hospital, Mpererwe. I was met by Gonzaga, the hospital driver, who drove the ambulance presumably with great skill and we arrived miraculously in one piece at Mengo Hospital where I was to meet my host, Samuel Lubogo, Professor of Anatomy at the Medical School, and his wife, Anne. Gonzaga and I continued to the hospital where we were greeted by the staff and taken on a tour of the hospital which is a small, 20-bedded unit with theatre and OPD. Olivia, the hospital Administrator, and I then went out to take lunch at a local cafe where I enjoyed chapati and peas for 1000/= (30p). We were to have a meeting with Dr Lorna Muhirwe, the Executive Director of UPMB which is an umbrella organisation for St Stephen's (and Kumi Hospital). We made big strides forward following discussions and proposals to bring to the hospital Board of Directors on Friday. I just had time afterwards to go over the road to Kampala School for the Disabled to meet Lawrance, one of my boys who just about fell out of his chair when he saw me. I hope to return soon to see that he has a new school uniform and, although he also requested new shoes, he was not so fortunate as his feet would not fit into shop shoes and he doesn't really need them but a good try, Lawrance! Then I was taken to Anne Lubogo's tailoring factory where she makes graduation gowns and hospital uniforms amongst other things. I learnt how to embroider words and logos onto items using computer technology. An amazing woman with great bsuiness acumen! Time for supper and we were whisked off to Protea Hotel, a large, imposing modern hotel of 5 star status. We had picked up Keith who started an IDI (Infectious Disease Initiative) department in Makerere Hospital from which he has retired and now lives in Hertfordshire. So the 4 of us sat down to enjoy a splendid meal too complicated to describe here and with me in my dirty trousers! Good company with excellent food! Back to the Lubogo's house where I found a comfortable room, a jerry can of cold water and a large Thermos of hot water. Back to the old routine of standing in the plastic bowl for a "shower"! Mozzies buzzed round my mosquito net but I was far too tired to notice them. On exiting my net in the morning, they soon satisfied their hunger with my blood! Back to St Stephen's to visit the "Heifer Project" which is under the umbrella of St Stephen's. Firstly, we visited a private nursery school run by the lady who also runs the Learn through Play project funded by the Good Samaritans of Canada and connected with St Stephen's. Some nursery children had been sent home for their parents to find school fees so the classes were depleted but what I did see in a somewhat basic building looked good and the children were being taught well. We continued on to the Heifer project also funded by Good Samaritans. We visited 3 widows each of whom had been given cows by the project which was started 10 years ago. There are now 100 widows with cows. Those I saw looked emaciated butit was explained to me that this has been because of the long drought and lack of water and crops.

After a lunch of matoke and posho eaten with the staff I had first a meeting with Mr Njagala Godfrey, Chairman of the Board of St Stephen's, followed by a meeting with Rev Sam Lwere and soon I was getting a good feel of the hospital and its systems. He took me to see his church which is being built round the old one which holds 400 people. The new one, when finished, will take 1,000. I returned to have supper with Prof Luboga's family and retried to bed having made afew notes on the day's events. Friday, I was at the hospital at 7.30am and spent the morning in the Out Patient's Department where a steady stream of patients came to see the Clinical Officer.The main condition seen was malaria but also many pregnant women, one with syphilis. I had time to talk with the staff and learn how they felt about the hospital facilities which helped me in producing a constructive report. Lunch was beans and matoke and then Dr Catharine and I went on a home visit to see an old man with a relatively young wife in a very smart house belonging to his son. He is terminally ill and well looked after by his wife but there could have been invaluable input from a physiotherapist. I offered suggestions to Dr C and we helped the patient onto his bed, showed him some exercises to alleviate the oedema in his legs and how to get out of bed without assistance. We had no more time to visit further patients at their homes as we had to be back for 4pm for the meeting with the Board of Directors, or so we thought as we waited 2 hours before the meeting started. Introductions, prayers and speeches were followed by my report on my findings and my proposals to take back to the Rope Trust. I was surprised with a superb feast laid out in the hospital courtyard and i left feeling I had achieved a good result and I knew that I would be welcomed back next year hopefully to find many improvements.

Saturday and I left Prof Lubago's home and returned to Mattias where I caught up with my washing and we all spent the rest of the day at a BBQ at friends of Matthias. Sunday. Up early to wash my hair and pack to leave for Kumi but best made plans here are sometimes altered and I am to leave supposedly in the morning.

So I'm up to date and I wonder if I will be able to copy this to an email. This will be the last time I can send an update until I am absolutely sure that I can find a virus-less computer. I am doubtful. So bye for now and fingers crossed for more!


Wednesday 16 September 2009

Panic is reaching danger levels as I leave on Monday next and preparations seem to be non-existent. But what has happened since 1 August? The month was mainly devoted to summer visitors and grandmotherly duties, meetings and outings so Kumi also had a summer recess. A weekend in Glasgow was memorable with 3 of us going up by train, staying overnight at a B&B, being thoroughly spoilt, attending a Mass signed by the deaf and me giving a talk to parishioners following Sunday Mass and signed by Liz Ann. What memories and, although I had 12.00 pounds worth of cards to sell, I have banked over 200 pounds. (Lack of the pound sign is due to Chris having bought me a netbook, much more user friendly for transportation but still very new to me and I've a lot to learn.)

A talks to Bedale Probus Club and N Cowton WI, Tony and Maggie McCann bringing presents and money for Anthony, lots of things donated for taking out, letters, cheques, and an all day breakfast at Harrogate Methodist Church. Thank goodness I cycled there and back as there was the traditional English breakfast to eat and many calories were consumed. Yesterday, I visited St Matry's Primary School in Richmond and I was presented with a cheque for 839.69 pounds! Just think of the effort the children and teachers put in to that! The children were asked if they had any questions; many hands went up and a cry of @What's in the box?@ came forth as I had taken a box of local musical instruments and g nut paste for them. An arigidigi, an acungo and an adugo. Saturday is Churches Together coffee morning in aid of Kumi and then I close the door here and open it again in Uganda on Monday. More to follow...



Saturday 1 August 2009

On 23 June, St Mary's Primary School, Richmond, held a football competition with half the proceeds for Kumi. The children listened attentively to an illustrated talk followed by excellent questions. 2 July took me by train to Manchester to meet Barbara Koffman to learn that Moses Odele had been a diligent and useful member of her dental team in Uganda earlier this year. She discussed the possibility of me accompanying Moses on dental outreach clinics to find areas where the practise of infant oral mutilation occurs so that an education programme can be initiated for the mothers and health clinics. 7 July, I made my annual visit to Consett Methodist Church where I gave a presentation on God's Grace Women's Group to the ladies and I was fortunate to go on their Strawberry Tea yet again. 11 July was Sainsbury's Bag Packing Day where friends kindly packed people's shopping for an hour or two. I had had sashes made and Sellotaped a photo of a hungry child on the buckets. Joseph, my grandson, carried a very heavy sack of money which was duly counted. An incredible £977.54 was raised and so it was well worth doing and my thanks to everyone who kindly gave up their weekend time. In retrospect, I enjoyed my 10 to 5 session and I hope we will be given another opportunity in the future. 13 July and I was up at 3am to set off for Cameroun for a seminar with AIC Africa.

CHANGE THE WORLD… WOMEN CAN AIC AFRICA SEMINAR 14 July -17 July 2009

It has been a privilege for me to have been invited to attend the AIC Africa Seminar in Yaounde, Cameroun in July 2009.

Travel requirements made, inoculations updated and on 13 July, I set off for a new African experience. Newcastle to Paris and then Paris to Yaounde stopping on the way on a seemingly remote airstrip in Douala. I nearly disembarked not realising that I had not yet arrived at Yaounde but finally we set off again and arrived at our destination only to find no one holding up a card with “Mrs Robinson”! I waited nearly 2 hours and decided to take a taxi which took me across the city, along the paraffin-lit streets to the Don Bosco Seminary. They weren’t expecting me, spoke no English and then told the driver to take me to Theologat St Augustin des Peres Salesians de Don Bosco far away. Two hours after leaving the airport, wondering what to do next and leaving Yaounde behind me, the taxi driver having stopped to ask the way at least half a dozen times and obviously not having much clue, we came to a gate where I was welcomed by Fr Vicenti and Natalie.Monteza, AIC General Secretary. They were relieved as much as I was! It wasn’t until I fell into bed exhausted after a 4am start that I realised I hadn’t eaten since lunch but sleep soon took over and I awoke full of anticipation. The day started with the opening Eucharist animated by AIC Cameroun with much singing, lively processions, rhythmic dancing and with all delegates in colourful national costumes. This was followed by the Opening ceremony where we were welcomed by Martine Haouwa Wassou, AIC Africa President and Laurence de la Brosse, AIC International President. We were introduced to each other’s groups from Cameroun, DRC, Madagascar, Nigeria, Chad, and Congo Brazzaville. Following a welcoming cocktail party of dried meat and bananas we took lunch in the refectory as we did with all meals. Fr Vicenti treated us well and, with his jovial personality and Friar Tuck stature, won the hearts of us all.

Day 1 “Me, African Woman”

The presentations dealt with the AIC African network, their links, evolutions and expectations.

Laurence introduced the Seminar with the following points:

• Encourage personal change and responsibility awareness.

• Within AIC, enhance the commitment to solve women’s poverty.

• Make individuals, organisations and society as a whole aware of their responsibilities.

Day 2 “Me, AIC African Volunteer-My Actions”

An excellent presentation was given by Rose de Lima Ramanankavana, Projects Co-ordinator for AIC Malagsy, Madagascar and a driving force in AIC Africa. She gave an example of good performance with details of volunteers, actions and projects. This was followed by Mass animated by AIC Nigeria. I must say here that the Nigerian President, Nkiru Cecilia Arona is a unique individual with her joi de vivre and enthusiasm. She piles her energy into everything and she made the whole day remarkably memorable. She and the three other Nigerian delegates, Ahaneku Franscisca, Okoh Ngozi Felicia and Ayounaghan Ngozi Margaret were the only other English speaking delegates and included me most considerately for which I was very grateful.

Dinner was followed by an evening of lively Nigerian dancing, singing and audience participation ending with soda and nibbles. We returned to our rooms fully realising the true camaraderie of AIC.

Day 3 “Me, AIC Africa volunteer-My association”

Martine, Cameroun AIC president, and Rose, Madagascar AIC President, discussed the structure of an organisation with National Councils, elections and finances as the theme for the day and continued to consolidate the relevance of the key to Systemic Change.

A festive evening of singing, role play and dancing organised by the Madagascan delegates was enjoyed by all.

Day 4 “Me, Woman, AIC Volunteer, African Citizen”

Laurence continued to explain the elements of Systemic Change and the day ended with evaluation of the seminar and a closing Eucharist. It was Cameroun’s turn to arrange the evening’s festivities which included an entrance of 3 “tortoises” moving realistically along the floor only to turn into African women on attaining an upright posture.

Day 5 Departure

A sad day indeed with many farewells, promises to keep in touch and photo calls Those who were leaving and not staying on for the second week had a sight-seeing tour of Yaounde whilst dropping off Cameroun delegates at the train and bus stations. All packed and ready for the airport, Natalie, Laurence and I were disappointed to get a text message telling us that our flight had been cancelled and we were to leave on Sunday. Once we had acclimatised ourselves to the fact, we set down to enjoy an extra day and an early night. Fresh delegates were arriving and it was good to meet Fr Maloney amongst others (especially as they spoke English).

The week was a very special time for me realising the influence that AIC has on the African delegates and how they have developed their groups in order to empower the poorer women to attain a social status and independence and to become aware of their rights.

I thank the organising committee for its preparation and delivery of an excellent seminar.

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News in Kumi is that there is a serious drought and famine has already set in with much starvation, hunger and deaths in the ensuing months due to the complete lack of crops growing. I get panicking messages from people asking for our prayers and I have heard that people are resorting to eating rats. Ruth is once again in a depressed state and Florence's daughter, Martha's dormitory burnt down last Wednesday with all belongings bar one dress destroyed. Florence is relieved that the girls were unharmed.



Friday 19 June 2009

The rain is teeming down outside and the temperature has dropped dramatically in the last few days. How can the country be sweltering in the heat one minute only for it to be so cold and wet the next? This morning Chris was using the hose pipe to water the garden which was suffering from lack of rain and now I wonder why he bothered. It's a good excuse for me to sit down and write a diary update.

Since 23 March, my last entry, I have visited a school where the 5 year olds had been "doing" Uganda. "Why have you come to tell us about Uganda when we have done it?" one little boy asked. A little pig-tailed girl put her hand up and asked "Can you come again?" which was a lovely question for me. They made up a scrap book for Chris to take out to Kumi and Margaret Akol took it to Ceere School and they duly reciprocated with their scrapbook. My grandson, Sam, was also learning about Africa and his teacher, Mrs Cooper, asked if I would talk to his class. Sam had taken some items for their African table but it wasn't long before Mrs Cooper felt that enough was enough as the table was groaning with all things Ugandan.I have given many talks from as far afield as Hereford and Macclesfield and many more nearer to home. I stayed with the Poor Clare nuns in Much Birch, Hereford for a weekend and recharged my batteries for the coming weeks. I have invested in a laptop back pack so now I can carry the projector and the laptop as well as my case. The Christian Network Uganda day in Macclesfield arranged by Rhona Marshall proved to be worth every minute of the train ride there and, as well as meeting last year's attendees, I met Neville and Christine from Chester le Street (just up the road from here).

Last Saturday, we had our Open Day, the big fund raiser of the year. The garden looked great, friends made lots of soup, bread, cakes and brought plants for the plant stall, raffle and tombola prizes. We had the Traidcraft stall, recycled cards and Deidre, a parishioner, brought quilted bags etc to sell. Joseph, my eldest grandson, spent an afternoon designing his money-raising idea which was a laminated snake's head for the start of a coin trail up the garden path. This made £100.00 proving to be a huge success and I am sure we will do it again. The weather was perfect and so many people came to enjoy the garden and to support Kumi. Chris cooked sausages and beefburgers, the ladies in the kitchen served soup, tea and coffee, raffle tickets were folded, tombola prizes were won and no-one stopped until the last person left. Anita and Barry counted the money and a staggering £2,750.00 was raised. Five AIC members from Glasgow came and told me about their work with the deaf. Now I'm off to Glasgow to hear more and possibly to link them up with the school for the deaf and dumb in Ngora. This is an exciting development for me. Thank you to all concerned.

The next event is my trip to Yaounde in Cameroon to an AIC (Association of International Charities) conference on Change the world - women can. I am hoping to meet delegates from the other 8 particiating African countries with a view to affiliating Kumi's God's Grace Women's Group so that, in time, they too can send a delegate. The visa has been a particular headache but I have had valuable assistance from Christine, AIC UK President and those in the Head Office in Belgium. My Passport stamped with the visa arrived only yesterday, I have had a Yellow Fever jab and now I'm all set for off.

Before I go, there is a bag packing session at Sainsbury's, our local supermarket, and this usually raises about £500. I am collecting names of volunteers and I appreciate the support given. p>The plans for the visits of Mr Viva, the plastic surgeon, and the dental team from CRU later this year are progressing well. I have a meeting in Manchester with Barbara to arrange the dental visit and there is always something to do regarding Kumi. A Trust associated with my art teacher from school (a long way back!) has given me funding for my travelling expenses for which I am very grateful. They support a hospital in Mpererwe and so I shall visit and send a report back.



Monday 23 March 2009

Time for a quarterly update and how can the weeks and months be passing so swiftly? Our winter is almost behind us, the mornings are lighter and next weekend we put our clocks back to British Summer Time which makes our time difference with Uganda 3 hours instead of 2. Can I remember how to update my diary? I hope so.

The year ended with Chris recovering well from his malaria and insect bite and he was discharged from our local hospital before Christmas as there were no vacant beds for the seriously sick. He was also missing his wife's cooking skills! Then I had a bug which lasted over a month so, all in all, we weren't to healthy in spite of the sunshine and Vitamin D which our bodies had absorbed.

My first presentation was a little stifled but now, after a few re-runs, it is going well. One had to be cancelled due to snow which almost stopped the country functioning. Schools were closed, roads were blocked and there were many road traffic accidents. I've attended some meetings which have been productive and I talked to the children of a Primary School who had been learning about Uganda. They asked very well thought out questions and then a little 5 year old's hand went up. "Why have you come to tell us about Uganda because we have done it!" he said. A small girl asked if I would come back again which was more positive. The children are writing letters for Chris (my husband) to take out this Friday as he is returning to Kumi for a month to monitor the progress of his 40,000 seeds. I pray that they are no longer seeds but thriving seedlings. I shall soon know. So our spare bed is sagging with his things rather than mine. I have managed to slip in a few extras to take as he thinks he will have loads of spare space which would be a shame to waste.

The good news is that a local plastic surgeon and his team are making arrangements to go to Kumi Hospital later this year to operate on cleft palates, burns and burn contractures and hand deformities to name a few. Then in November, Barbara Koffman who is part of CRU (Christian Relief Uganda) is taking her dental team to Kumi Hospital for a week. I hope I will be there for these visits. I have been offered a container to send out next year which is a daunting prospect but, no doubt, we will manage. There are other exciting developments but, as they are still in the pipeline, I shall keep them quiet in case nothing materialises from them.

All my children passed their school exams and are either continuing at the same school or have gone up to the secondary schools. I am very proud of each one but especially Laurence, an athetoid cerebral palsy boy, who has passed his P3.

There will be more news to follow before too long, I hope.