Sunday, 3 June 2018

Uganda: Thank You & Farewell Uganda!

Yesterday the team enjoyed a well deserved rest day after 12 straight days of bedkit distributions.  It was a day for a leisurely breakfast, a swim, a nice walk in downtown Kampala and some shopping for local crafts.  The day ended with a delicious evening meal at a patio restaurant.  Also a day to have some laundry done!

Today is ‘Martyr’s Day’ in Uganda.  Homage is paid to the memory of 20 young men who chose to die in the late 1800’s rather than denying their religious beliefs.  Throngs of people walk to the historic site at this time every year to remember the sacrifices made by their ancestors.  A number of us went to a church service this morning to experience the culture of this special day.

This afternoon we joined with the executive of the Inner Wheel Club of Kampala to formally debrief our shared experience of 12 distributions that provided bedkits to 7000 joyous children.  Everyone agreed that it had been an amazing journey with excellent outcomes.  At each rural centre we were welcomed by excited throngs of children and their parents who greeted us with dancing and songs.  The Inner Wheel members and the SCAW team from Canada worked hand-in-hand to ensure that 7000 children received their precious bedkit and that a photograph was taken of each happy child.  This debriefing session enabled us to jointly assess the whole distribution experience and to make suggestions for the future.  

Afterwards our overseas partners, the women of the Inner Wheel, treated us to a celebratory dinner hosted at the home of this year’s SCAW Chair, Winifred Biraaro.  We laughed, hugged, sang, danced and enjoyed a delicious buffet meal prepared by Winnie’s daughters.  What a grand way to end this year’s SCAW distribution - celebrating as  a unified team who had achieved so much over the past two weeks.  

It has been a privilege to serve as the Team Leader for Team Uganda 2018.  Working together with the amazing women of the Inner Wheel was delightful.  Our joint team was strong, dedicated, flexible, energetic and wiling to do anything to make the project successful.  Thank you to the thousands of donors who made it possible to improve the lives of so many children.  100% of your money was utilized to provide Ugandan children with the gift of a better night’s sleep and school supplies to support a brighter future.  

Team Uganda is now signing off….

Lois Wey
Team Uganda 2018
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Uganda: Signing Off!!

We got on the bus early arriving at Korongo Anglican Public school by 8:30am. The Inner Wheel team had been there since sunrise preparing for the distribution. Beside the school was a large Anglican Church - one of 17 in the area under the priest who acted as this writer’s translator for the recipient interviews. He walks beside the hardship and struggles of his parishioners.

In just a few hours we had given our LAST Bedkit.

We did it !!!!

12 distributions in
12 days

7000 bedkits distributed
7000 grateful families
7 tired SCAW Uganda team members
11 tired Inner Wheel Ladies
18 hearts full of love and gratitude for the opportunity to bring such important gifts to these needy children on behalf of our many generous donors

Donors are the lifeblood of SCAW. Thank you!

Their generosity supported our ability to increase the number of bedkits in the distribution this year in Uganda . When you see the children who were unable to be bedkit recipients, you know how vital this annual distribution is in Uganda. 

We are now on the bus which has been our home for 12 days, making the four hour trip back to Kampala.

Tired, sleepy and content with a job well done.

Janet Helmer
SCAW Uganda 2018 team member

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Uganda: Kyabigambire

Refreshed and ready for a new day we headed a short distance to our distribution site in Kyabigambire. We were met by cries of ‘yayayayayaya’ a sound of appreciation by the women of the area, we shook hands and felt very welcomed by their community. The children were all dressed and ready in their colourful clothes from the SCAW distribution. The children had been waiting patiently then slowly moved towards us in a wave of colour. When we started blowing bubbles they laughed the carefree laugh of a child as they tried to hold the bubble in their hands, like how I will hold this trip as a memory, a fragile thing that is there and then it is just a beautiful memory. All set and ready to go we sang some songs with the children. We concluded the singing with the children singing the ‘National Anthem of Uganda’ followed by us singing ‘Oh Canada!’ Many times I have sang this song but I will remember this time specifically as we sang as a group of seven Canadians seeing the watchful eyes of these innocent Ugandan children. We went back to the front where we were entertained by the women dancing to the sound of the drums. The distribution went well, a light rain fell. Afterwards we sat under the stool shade of a large Mango tree with members of the inner wheel as we concluded our visit to this community. We watched as children with bedkits and family members dispersed from the area.

Tonight the recipients will replace their papyrus mat with a new foam mattress, the mosquito netting will cover their bed tonight and protect them from malaria. The children will use their new lunch bucket tomorrow to pack up their matoke or rice and vegetables for lunch. The sandals provided in the kit will be treasured. The children will examine the math kit and be excited to think they have 12 exercise books to use for their lessons. The others items will also be very useful to them, including a blanket, 2 sheets, a wash basin, boxers, a water bottle and a backpack.

We waved good bye and set off down the road, so thankful for the wonderful organizing of our Inner Wheel friends, as things are going very smoothly. The children will have a good night’s sleep for many nights and even though we know that there are many more who need our help, we head home knowing what we did ‘for the Children.’

By Margo Leonard
Team Uganda 2018
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Uganda: Kitoba

Every day we have so much to appreciate. We had our closest distribution site so far. It was a short half hour drive to Kitoba.

We were met by a sea of smiling faces and joyful singing. The mattresses and bedkits were ready to be taken to their new homes where they will be treasured. Our photographers scouted around while the rest of us blew bubbles and greeted the parents and children.

A unique background was chosen. With everyone at their posts, the Inner Wheel ladies made the wheels turn well. With the background music playing Happy Birthday, we started our distribution. I was fortunate to see every face of these amazing children as they sat for their photos, tall, short, colourful outfits of yellow, green, blue and red. Some children had shoes, others did not, sometimes adding a small necklace, curious eyes, frightened eyes, shy, timid smiles, giggles behind hands, downcast eyes, and a heartfelt curtesy from the girls as they accepted their kits.

As the distribution nears its end, we watch as families leave, thanking us again as they start perhaps the several kilometres walk home in the heat of the day. The sun provided the warmth of the day, but the children provided the warmth in our hearts as we packed up our belongings. After another successful distribution with so much help from our Inner Wheel friends, we loaded the bus and thanked the volunteers from the community, in particular Margaret Atuhairwe, who was the liaison for the Hoima area distributions. Each time as we drive away from a site, the area nearly empty of people, we leave of bit of our hearts here. 

We are happy that we are able to help 585 children a day. 

By Margo Leonard
Team Uganda 2018
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Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Uganda: Beautiful Colours

Today we departed for our bus journey, far removed from the paved road. Our very capable driver, Hassan, is expert at steering down the 'clay' road, filled with many ruts and holes, some the size of small craters. Our bus is filled with 28 cheerful people. The lush green fields of Western Uganda provide families with abundant fruits and vegetables, such as mangoes, pineapples, papayas, cassava, potatoes, beans, and avocados. It is a bountiful land, filled with beautiful colours, reflected in their National Flag of black, yellow and red.

We saw 2 family dwellings. One child in each of the families received a bedkit today.

By Monika Sergeant
Team Uganda 2018
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Uganda: Blue Skies & Blazing Sun

Travelling into the lush mountain area of Hoima district to Kitoonya public school.Our morning journey takes us off the main road, down a dusty, winding and bumpy road. The road is narrow with lush vegetation on both sides surrounded by mountains of the Rwenzori Range. We all marvel and admire the "Pearl of Africa" landscape with the blue sly and blazing sun starting the day.

We turn a bend arriving at Kitoonya Public School with parents and children lining the driveway waving, chanting and dancing on our arrival.We disembark to a sea of colours surrounding and welcoming us. Our kits have already arrived and assembled and ready for our distribution. A jubilation follows with everyone clapping, chanting and dancing to show their gratefulness for this wonderful day in this remote location. Blowing soap bubbles with the children, dancing within the crowd, along with singing, allows us to share in the celebration.

Then the distribution team is ready and all the children are attired in their red, yellow, green dresses for girls and blue shorts with red, blue and green tees, what a sight as they line up. Two hours later all 585 kits have been distributed - a job well done by everyone. Now it is time to pack up the bus and head back to rest.

Well the Inner Wheel Group had another surprise for us on the way home, to complete our day. A home visit to one of the individuals receiving our kit that day. We arrived at the home of a young 24 year old woman with two children and four other step children from her new husband. We arrive at the humble abode hesitant to disturb this family with everyone attending but wanting to view their humble lifestyle We are truly taken back by the meagre necessities. 

The mother was cooking supper on an open fire with a blackened steel pot. Supper consisted of sweet potato and pinto beans which she grew in her yard. ,She had walked her daughter who received the kit, three km to the distribution, while the other children were at home with an older child. The girl receiving the kit was still dressed in her yellow outfit while the other children were dressed in very sparse essentials. The house was constructed of mud brick and some cement with dirt floors. The small dwelling was divided into a bedroom for the parents, a bedroom for the six children, and a storage/living room. Outside was a cooking hut, as well as a small area protected by bamboo stalks that was used as a bathing centre. A rudimentary outhouse was also on the property (a dug hole in the ground). We left with a lot of respect for this 24 year old mother who was doing the best she could at such such a young age with the limited resources available.

We are all very thankful for what we have and where we live.

By Bill Helmer
Team Uganda 2018
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Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Uganda: Possibilities

While we did not have many miles to travel today our bus did have to fight its way up a very slippery mud road in the rain. We were concerned about our bedkit delivery truck but we were delighted to see the truck there and unpacked as we arrived. It must have been all the Inner Wheel women singing on the bus that got us there on time. 

After the children were changed into their new clothes we were ready to begin. All went well as the rain passed before we started and in fact it became a hot and humid day. We tried to keep the children in the shade as much as possible as the Uganda sun was hot. At the end of the day 583 children received their gift to help them have safe and healthy sleep.

We were fortunate enough to have a meeting with a local General Practitioner to hear more about local health issues. Dr Alex Gahanza spoke with us for over 1.5 hours. He highlighted the many health issues that are directly related to mosquitoes, poor nutrition and hygiene. These parents are facing multiple challenges including food, school fees and medical attention. He congratulated SCAW on assisting with helping to reduce systemic problems like malaria. With guidance the parents can properly help to protect their young ones.

Our team is working well together and with the Inner Wheel we are touching many lives for the better. We thank our donors for your continued support. 

Kerry Harman
Team Uganda 2018
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Monday, 28 May 2018

Uganda: Deep Contrasts

Kiboga, also a remote rural mountain area, was a three hour bus ride from Kampala.

Beautiful lush mountain vistas were juxtaposed beside other bus window- views of stark poverty.

Arriving at our site, everything was well prepared by our Inner Wheel site people. Like a well-oiled machine, it took less than 3 hours to distribute 585 bedkits.

Hot sunny skies prevailed as did sunny dispositions and warm hearts. This poor, remote community were so grateful for their bounty, it brought three parental interviewees to tears.

Our setting for lunch was the home of a Inner Wheel collaborative partner. The view from the yard where we shared our meal was breathtaking!

So many sites that take your breath and pull at your heart.

We continued on from there to our new hotel, happy to resettle and prepare for the next 6 distributions.

We're told that Uganda's rainy season is coming to an end...only one drizzly day so far. I know …..

By Janet Helmer
Team Uganda 2018
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Uganda: Rock Stars!

We left Kampala early on our the bus , prepared for the "jam" - early morning grid-lock traffic - for our long trip up into the small remote mountain village of Mende. Heavily rutted dirt roads, ravaged by the spring rains and a wrong turn brought us to the school site where children and parents had been anxiously awaiting our arrival.

They surrounded our bus making it difficult to disembark and maneuver through the crown to set up for our pictures. We were ROCK Stars with no paparazzi!


Heavy grey skies and distant thunder led to a constant drizzle but never enough to force us to stop or move inside. We presevered and 585 bed kits were given to 585 children who felt like they were the luckiest kids in Mende- very thankful, appreciative children and caregivers, as it needs to be remembered, many of these children are being raised by their grandparents. AIDS took many of their parents.

So many of these families have 3-4 children between the ages of 6-12, And although only one child per family is eligible to receive a bedkit, we know every child in family will benefit from the gift.

Such heartfelt gratifying work as a SCAW volunteer.

Janet Helmer
Team Uganda 2018
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Thursday, 24 May 2018

Uganda: Lugasa

Our fourth day of distribution started with a three hour bus ride North East to Lugasa in Kayunga District. We were certainly rewarded by 585 smiling and brightly beaming faces along with all their parents clapping and throat singing as we entered the school yard. Our Inner Wheel group and local volunteers had already unloaded our delivery truck and arranged the bedkits in the front school yard and the children were lined up to change into their new outfits. We received numerous welcomes, thank-yous and bless yous, while waving to and shaking the hands of the many parents. A very moving experience for this first time volunteer.

The children were then changed into their new clothes which was met with a boisterous applause from everyone, upon their return to the school yard. Our SCAW group assembled our camera position and along with the Inner Wheel organized the process for the day. While the children were organized under shade we entertained the children with well-known children’s songs to have them clap, stomp and shout "Hurray" and mimic our actions. The children then provided their own versions with joyous voices, dancing and clapping hands much to our pleasure so much, we joined in.

Our Team Leader, Lois Wey then started with our discussion with the children, introducing SCAW from Canada and providing details for this event. We then individually showcased the specific products included in the bedkits which everyone was going to receive today. A thunderous round of applause was heard after every item was shown. Lois reminded the children to "STAY In SCHOOL”. We then proceeded to meet with the parents continuing with another resounding applause as we introduced the gifts. 

The day was getting hot as we started pictures and the children performed with upmost patience and politeness during the long sequence to complete all group pictures and the final 100 single pictures completing the day around 2:30 pm. During the event one member of our group completed six interviews with parents receiving bedkits that day. When every bedkit had been delivered we were totally relieved and satisfied that our efforts had again been rewarded, knowing everyone had gone home with something to improve their quality of life.

We quickly picked up our equipment and headed to our bus for the ride home.  A very joyful but tired group.

By Bill Helmer
Team Uganda 2018
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Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Uganda: A Visit With A Past Recipient!

Today we handed out much needed 585 bedkits in a remote village in the Kayunga district. Our Inner Wheel ladies had arranged for us to stop and see a family that had received a bedkit 4 years ago. We entered the small dwelling and were shown the school writing on the wallboard as the 10 year old girl still attends the local school. She was glad to show us that she is still using the backpack she received as well as the sheet that is used as a covering for the doorway. Both of these items seemed to hold up very well. The house has only two rooms however seemed to be one of the few with a cement floor and brick walls.

This village is one of many that we journey to bringing the invaluable items that make living with very little just a bit more tolerable. Thank you to each donor for making a difference in the lives of many Uganda boys and girls.

Monika Sergeant
Team Uganda 2018
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