Saturday, 8 June 2013

Uganda: Mission Accomplished!

As we rode our bus to our final distribution we were all amazed at how quickly the time had gone by. It was not that long ago that the team met at the Toronto airport, eagerly anticipating our adventure together and not quite sure what lay ahead.  Upon arriving in Kampala and meeting the ladies of the Innerwheel we soon became a strong team, working together for the benefit of 6000 children in Uganda. Through each distribution and each passing day the team became closer and friendships grew with our Overseas Volunteer Partners, the Innerwheel of Kampala.  

Each of the Canadian team has a closing thought as our time in Uganda draws to a close.

"The adventure exceeded my expectations.  The Innerwheel became best friends and the team became family. "  -  Joan Hatcher

"It was an awesome first trip to Africa. I never imagined the Innerwheel did so much work behind the scenes."  Shiela Toner

"I truly feel we have brought some hope and enjoyment to many families in Uganda"  John MacDonald
"Each of the seven distributions I have been privileged to be part of in Uganda have left me feeling closer to the wonderful women of the Innerwheel of Kampala and the children of Uganda." Leslie Banner

"At each distribution site I was very moved by the greetings we received from the children.  It was very special at a couple of the sites to hear the children sing their national anthem and to sing our own national anthem in response."  Patrick Toner

"Yesterday I was reading that the people of Uganda are considered to be the friendliest in Africa.  Along with being the Pearl of Africa I have discovered that this is true.  Uganda is indeed a country that is rich in one resource in particular - their people.  Their welcoming smiles, determination and resilience are testimony to this.  I feel privileged to have met so many Ugandans and my life is richer because of this." Beth Poad

"I am very sad to see my time in Uganda come to a close. I have met some amazing people, the ladies of the Innerwheel, the staff at our special Guest house where we spent the majority of our nights, our bus driver, the volunteers at each of the distribution sites and the wonderful parents, grandparents and children who welcomed us with smiles, waves, songs and cheers at each of our twelve distribution sites.  I hope that the 6000 children who received bedkits are having a good night's sleep!!!!  "  - Jan Gayman

I will close this blog with a couple of pictures of our last three children we photographed today.

The last three from Uganda 2013

Team Hug from Uganda 2013

Mission Accomplished from Uganda 2013

It's a wrap.
Team Uganda 2013 
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Thursday, 6 June 2013

Uganda: Kibanda

The children singing from Uganda 2013
Today was another heart warming distribution.  Every day is unique and special in its own way.  The crowd was exuberant as we arrived with cheers and clapping that made us feel like celebrities.  As we made our way toward the children they burst into song.  We found out that this song was a school anthem sung throughout Uganda.  The chorus goes like this:

We young women and men of Uganda.
Are marching along the path of Education
Singing and dancing with joy together
Uniting for a better Uganda

It was inspiring to hear the many voices of the children singing this patriotic song together.   

The drummers from Uganda 2013
 As we demonstrated the bedkit items we were treated to drumming, celebrating each item shown and a group of women spontaneously  stood up and started to dance.  We were totally amazed by this outpouring of appreciation.  The dancers ranged in age from younger moms to older grandmas. 

Women dancing from Uganda 2013
Many of the children at this distribution site had to travel a considerable distance.  As we were finishing the bedkit distribution we realized we were 50 children short.  We were told they were on their way and about 15 minutes later they came running up the lane to the site.  They had come approximately 10 kilometers and had left quite early that morning.  We were relieved that they were able to receive their bedkit.
Our location for this distribution was a primary school.  We were able to view some of the classrooms. Charts hung around the rooms consisted of basic number concept matching and vowel sounds just like we would see in a Canadian primary grade.  Resources in the classroom were in very short supply. 

School work from Uganda 2013
After our lunch, as we drove out the narrow dirt road from the distribution site we passed several groups of bedkit recipients waiting for a ride home.  When they saw our bus smiles and waves erupted. 
Waiting for a ride home from Uganda 2013

As this was our second last distribution, a feeling of sadness has started to take hold of the Ugandan Canadian team and our OVPs [Overseas Volunteer Partner] the ladies of the Innerwheel.

Team Uganda 2013
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Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Uganda: Kampala

We woke up to another beautiful morning in Kampala, the team as usual met for breakfast and discussed our upcoming distribution day.  We spent three hours along a bumpy road which became increasingly narrower and bumpier as well as covered with muddy water from a recent downpour.

A pineapple tree from Uganda 2013
The bumpy road from Uganda 2013

After arriving at the site that was chosen by the Inner Wheel of Kampala, we proceeded to set up the bedkit while the area was secured where the pictures were to be taken.  This was another great site as we have been used to for our entire picture taking for the distribution of 6000 bedkits. 
Transportation home  from Uganda 2013
Parents and children had gathered from over 50 different communities and travelled in many instances great distances to receive this gift from Canada made possible by our donors.  The Inner Wheel as our Overseas Volunteer Partner had ensured that these were the neediest children in the district. 

The Ant Hill from Uganda 2013
This year we have experienced many beautiful backdrops where we have taken the photos such as schoolhouses, a mountain view, small patches of maize gardens and matooke fields.  Today we selected a large ant hill as the background to the photo of 500 children.  These hills can be up to 12 feet high and the Ugandans will harvest the ants from them in the rainy season (March, April and November) and fry and eat them as a delicacy and share this treat with their neighbours.  This provides some of the much-needed protein in their diet.  The red colour evident in the ant hill picture reflects the colour of the soil in Uganda.  the ant hill soil provides part of the materials used to make homes, including a rudimentary siding of clay as a beginning cover for the homes and later on are the basis for making bricks which cover many homes in villages throughout the area we travelled in to complete the distributions.

Brick Making from Uganda 2013

House from Uganda 2013

At the end of every distribution the Inner Wheel of Kampala and the Canadian Sleeping Children team we are hosted by members of the community.  A picture of a typical lunch is included.
Eating Lunch from Uganda 2013

Eating Lunch from Uganda 2013

Our Hosts form Uganda 2013
Pat from Team Uganda 2013
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Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Uganda: Bulera

Today we were back on the road to continue our bedkit distribution after a day in Kampala.   The day began with an early departure having said goodbye to Beth.  The traffic seemed very heavy the day after a holiday as we worked our way the 107 km to Bulero.   The road out of town was less congested but the many speeds humps forced us to move at a very reduced pace.  Bulera was reached after travelling into the highlands.  Huge areas have been cultivated with tea.  We passed several trucks loaded with workers and bags of freshly cut tea.

As usual the distribution was well organized by the Inner Wheel Team.  The children sang the Ugandan National Anthem to open the distribution.  Our Team proudly responded with a hearty rendition of “Oh Canada”.  The backdrop for our photos of the children was the new school.  Although it is relatively new, it consisted only of a brick shell with an uneven dirt floor.  Windows were openings to let the light and fresh air in.  It was a minimum teaching space for the children. 

We were able to visit homes of two of the days’ recipients who lived only a short distance from the distribution site.  The living conditions confirmed for us that many of the neediest were receiving bedkits today.  We left the site in the late afternoon with a large bag of fruits and vegetables given to the ladies of the Inner Wheel as a “thank you”. 

The drive back to Kampala was very slow.  Traffic to the city was at a standstill.  This gave us the opportunity to see the city at night.  The sidewalks with jammed with people heading home.  Many were selling their good by kerosene lamps.  There were few streetlights to help the people make their way safely home. 

John on behalf of the persistent, sore back-sided Uganda Team 2013
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Monday, 3 June 2013

Uganda: Martyr's Day

Today is Martyr's Day in Uganda.  This is a day to honor the Christian priests who were killed in thek 1800's in Uganda.  Each year, up to a million people walk from all over the country into Kampala to honor those martyrs.  We were able to see many of these determined walkers enroute to the city as we made our bus trips out to the country over the past week.

Because of this national Holiday, our Uganda Sleeping Children Team had a "rest day".  This brings up visions of sleeping in and lounging around a patio but our day couldn't have been further from that.  Before dawn, I could hear suitcases and bags banging around as Team members sorted clothes for a trip to the local Orphanage.  John manually pumped up several soccer balls to bring along.  We loaded into a van and off we went.  The Orphanage and the children were very happy to see us as we unloaded clothing and toys which team members had brought along for this purpose.   Many children were held and cuddled as the Team worked our way through the facility.  As we were about to leave, a new child was brought to the home by Ugandan police.  This little boy had been found in one of the many taxi "parking stations" that are situated throughout this large city.  It once again brought home the plight of the children of Uganda to which Sleeping Children is here to bring a smile and a good nights sleep.
We were even able to spend an hour bonding as a team with our driver and Anitah from the Inner Wheel as we enjoyed a relaxing and delicious meal - even though matooki wasn't on the menu. 

Tonight we are going to share some memories of the past week with early departing Team member - Beth Poad.  Beth has been an inspirational and fun member of our group as we have gotten to know each other better.  Beth is a diligent worker and we will miss her the rest of this week on our distributions.   We are rested, mentally refreshed and very eager to board the bus in the morning for our next distribution. 

Joan on behalf of the amazing Uganda Team 2013
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Sunday, 2 June 2013

Uganda: The Importance of School

Preparing the site from Uganda 2013
Each day when we introduce the contents of the bedkit to the children, the story is always the same. Their favourite items are the book bag, mathematics kit and the 12 exercise note books. When asked if there is anything else that they would like added to the kit they shyly tell us that the notebooks, while very useful will not last the entire year and would be grateful if more could be added.

The score! From Uganda 2013
Why is there such an emphasis on notebooks? While the government schools are free for Ugandan children up to the age of 14, parents must bear the cost of uniforms and school supplies. For many families who struggle to feed their families, school supplies are a luxury treated with reverence. With the high number of single parent homes going to  school can often be viewed as a luxury. Today I spoke with a very beautiful and intelligent young girl who was unable to pay the modest school fees to write the necessary exam to graduate at the end of Grade 7 and therefore can no longer attend school. Repeating the grade to stay in school was also not an option as there was no money in the home for notebooks.

On the way home from school from Uganda 2013
Yesterday in the street on their way home from school, we met a group of school aged children clutching these very same exercise books. They were proud to show us their notebooks- neat and well organized with small handwriting and every line of the page used to conserve paper. There are no half completed notebooks to be found. Each page is carefully used.  In many schools, chalk is a luxury, classes have 75 children in them and crayons (the very ones that children in Canada break and toss away) are unheard of. And yet these children all want to go to school.

They realize the importance of an education and are extremely happy to be there so it is a small wonder that the loudest cheers when they see the bedkits are for the school supplies and uniforms. 

Editor's Note: These are two pictures from yesterday.  Yesterday`s blog has the full story. 
View of Tanzania from Uganda 2013

The Rwandan Gravesite from Uganda 2013

Team Uganda 2013
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Saturday, 1 June 2013

Uganda: Nazaleeti

The water and mud on the way to Rakai from Uganda 2013
Day seven brought us to Nazaleeti, in the Rakai district of Uganda.  We were again fortunate that heavy rainfall during the night cleared in time for our distribution, however the roads were quite muddy with huge ruts for our bus driver to navigate. The amount of rainfall over the past while had resulted in high waters along the road to Rakai.  As a matter of fact we were fortunate that the road was now passable as two weeks earlier it was flooded and members of our Inner Wheel partners were barely able to navigate the route to complete their pre-distribution preparations.

The Welcoming Children from Uganda 2013
When we reached the site (a primary government school and Church), the children and bedkits were both inside due to the rain that was just ending.  We entered the Church where the children were being sheltered and were overwhelmed by the loud echoing cheer of 500 waving children excited to greet us.  We were equally excited to see them.

As the sky continued to clear we were able to move the children and the bedkits outside and were able to complete our distribution in the fresh air.  We found an excellent spot for our set up with the hills in the background.  The  many shades of green were stunning and created a perfect backdrop for our pictures.
The children today had beautiful smiles and once again our team worked together seamlessly along with the ladies of the Inner Wheel of Kampala to complete the distribution successfully without a hitch.
On the way home from Uganda 2013
It is always amazing at the end of a distribution to see the families leaving in various ways with their bedkits.  Today there were many walkers heading down the hill to the road below.   We know that many of them had quite a long walk ahead of them.

On the way home from Uganda 2013
After we left the distribution site we headed up the hill to an amazing viewpoint where we could see Tanzania stretching below on the other side. 

Our bus made one more stop before leaving the district, at a burial site for almost 2000 Rwandans who were part of  the Rwandan genocide in 1994.  Almost 2000 bodies had floated down the river to Uganda where they were buried in these mass graves.  Once a year the Rwandans make a pilgrimage to visit this gravesite.  The site is maintained as a tribute to those buried there and is a joint venture between Rwanda and Uganda.  It was a sobering experience to see this beautifully kept site.  

It certainly was a very full day for the team.
Team Uganda 2013