On day two, we walked (and baked!) to the Little Angels Primary School in Bulumbu. It soon became obvious that word had quickly spread about the ‘mzungu’ who was walking the villages with James – a highly thought of member of the community – to help the local children. As we passed, we were called into people’s homes and asked for help and for their children to join the programme. The heart-breaking reality is that it is currently unable to support any new children as it is already a struggle to sustain the current level of aid. This is why it is so important that we can drum up more sponsorship for these children as there are still so many more in need of support. I could tell that this weighed heavy on James. He, like everybody, wants to help all of the children that is physically possible, but the fact that he cannot make false promises to these parents and children breaks his heart, as it broke mine to witness it.
We finally reached Bulumbu, after meeting lots of people and children – many of whom were heading to work – children as young as 3, 4 and 5 carrying tools for farming with little or no clothing. The thought of this will haunt me forever and I will strive to help these children however I can. When we arrived at Little Angels, I was greeted by the children who were on a break, and by Berna – The school’s Head Mistress and James’ mum. I had previously met Berna at the airport and she greeted me very warmly again with another huge smile and a brilliant hearty laugh. She explained how the school works and is run and proceeded to introduce me to each member of the teaching staff.
We set about touring the school and meeting all of the children and seeing them working in class! It was assessment time and most of the older students were finishing their end of term exams. The children were an absolute delight to meet and chat to and, as in Bubebbere, each extended the utmost politeness and respect to all of the adults. We were then led into the school hall and treated to a special assembly performance of singing, dancing, drumming and drama. I feel blessed to have been there on that day.
During lunchtime, I spotted a tree growing a huge fruit that I had never seen before. James told me that it was jackfruit and asked if I would like to try some. Before I had said “yes”, five boys were already half way up the tree! I have never seen such teamwork and perseverance, seeing them attempting to release a ripe jackfruit! At one point the children evacuated the tree, escaping from what looked like a wasps’ nest. They then decided to get rid of the nest by throwing rocks at it (with incredible accuracy!). This wouldn’t have been my preferred plan of attack, but the very British plan of “let’s just leave them alone” didn’t fly… James ’reminded’ me, “We are African, Danny… We don’t do giving up!” With the use of a knife, a very long, adapted branch as a ‘poking tool’, extreme climbing and balance and the best example of team work and perseverance, the children tasted success as the giant fruit finally fell to the ground. Other children were waiting to collect the fruit, chopping it into individual pieces and sharing it out. One single jackfruit fed every child plus James and myself! I would definitely recommend jackfruit to those of you with a sweet tooth!
The end of the week gave me the chance to experience life in Nateete and Kampala and officially become a Ugandan! James took me to Lake Victoria to meet friends and to join in a double celebration – one being the birthday of James’ friend Danny (not me – somebody else with a very good name!) and the other being a send-off for another friend, Charles, who has been awarded a scholarship to study for a Masters’ Degree in China. I felt really accepted into the group and thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon and night with these new friends.
We also visited Mandela National Stadium and caught a football match between Buddu FC and Gomba FC. It was attended by the Prime Minister of Buganda, Owekitibwa Charles Peter Mayega, and later the King (Kabaka) of Buganda.
My final trip was to Golden Christian College, in Nsaggu, which is the secondary school attached to the programme and met some of the staff. I was delighted to meet Majo who is something of a celebrity in the programme as she is academically the highest achieving sponsored student. The high school is another hive of promise and potential and with funding, it can become somewhere really special.
My last day in Uganda was a sad one. I was accompanied to the airport by James, Berna, George, Fred, Rebecca and James’ neighbours, with special mention to Mohammed, an extremely friendly and accommodating man with whom I also wish to keep in touch. This trip was far and away the best experience of my life. I can’t wait for the day when I can return. I will miss all of the people I have met and they each have a place in my heart, especially the children of the orphanage. But of course, there is one person to whom I have grown extremely fond of and whom I consider myself lucky to now call a friend… James. My visit would not have been possible without him and he made sure I got the most out of it. Thank you James for everything you did for me. You are an inspiration to children and adults alike and I look forward to seeing you again soon!
Weebale and Tunaalabagana!
In James’ words
On Thursday, we embarked on a deadly task. The day’s mission was to walk over 12kms from Bubebbere to Bulumbu; there and back!!! Although it was very tiring, it was worth every bit of the pain. On our way, we met young children with hoes bigger than themselves who walked 10kms to go and dig. Danny gave them sweets to motivate them to carry on with their work.
At around 11am we arrived at Little Angels Bulumbu where we met kids doing their end of term examinations. Danny took a tour around the school, met and spoke to every child and teacher. Then, on the field, he gave out clothes and a ball he had brought. There was a question and answer session where Danny talked about himself and the history of England with a map in his hands; the kids loved it. They had attended lessons conducted by a white man!
Back at Bubebbere, another incident occurred! One of the pigs from the orphanage had escaped. We had to get it back to the sty and Danny offered us a hand. With Ivan on one side and Danny on the other, they managed to tussle it in.
On Friday we met the children from Bubebbere who had come to collect their Reports. Danny offered t-shirts to the teachers and other clothes to the children. We had our last meal there and then left for Kampala. We rested and in the evening and were served dinner by my girlfriend, Mirembe Shammah.
On Saturday we visited Kampala and went to watch the final match of the Buganda Football league between Buddu FC and Gomba FC. We took a collective taxi to Nambole. At midday the prime minister of Buganda Owekitibwa Charles Peter Mayega arrived and the first match began to determine the third position winner. Unfortunately we left before the King of Buganda (the Kabaka) came for the final match.
We then walked through the city and I could see Danny struggle. He would later tell me that Kampala is the busiest city he has ever visited. The biggest challenge he faced was crossing the road! He looked left then right then left again then right; finally he just gave up and ran straight across even though the traffic did not stop!
On Sunday, we decided to hit the gym; and stretch our muscles before we headed off to the beach. We did basic drills since it had been a long time since either of us had done such a thing. Thankfully the trainer was very kind; he taught us like nursery kids! After that we met up with my friends and went to the beach. We were over 20 people in two collective taxis. It was party time – a birthday and a farewell.
On Monday we woke up quite late and George, Berna and Fred came and picked us up. George had arranged to take Danny for a tour along Nateete-Nakawuka road. We got onto the back of the truck and then off to our first stop; Golden Christian College Nsaggu. It was raining along the way to Nsaggu which made the unpaved roads treacherous. We toured the school premises and then continued our drive. The fun in this was riding behind in the cabin of the truck for over four hours. Even when I understand it was risky, we took our chances and enjoyed the moment. Riding at the back we could see everything. When we got back home, we experienced a Kampala power cut.
Leaving Danny at the airport on Tuesday was an emotional moment. He is a brave man. He reached out to the unknown and he succeeded. He came along with a lot of gifts for everyone and the kids still ask about him; we all do! We hope to see him again someday with more friends. Having witnessed first-hand the suffering of the needy children that we deal with, I believe he will persuade more to join in the work. I learnt a lot about humility and service beyond self. Thank you for coming to Uganda, Danny.
An experience with one of the orphans
Having lost both her parents, Nana (not her real name) has been in the orphanage for 2 years. Both her parents were victims to the HIV/AIDS monster that has robbed us of a big number of our loved ones. Fat, tall and relatively healthy, the 12-year-old keeps a low profile. She is now in primary six. She is jolly and fun but she lives every day knowing that she will one day have to go and join her parents. She takes daily medication, understanding very well that the day she stops is the day her heart will stop. She too is HIV positive! Danny couldn’t hold his emotions in check while he was being told the story of this young girl. He had interacted with her for 3 days not knowing her situation. This was the girl that had helped him around and had given him company in the evening preps. She lived her life like the rest of the children. He was so shocked by the news. He was very inquisitive about her; he just couldn’t believe that she could live that freely knowing that she might die soon.
During the lunch break, Danny kept to himself on the phone. “Is everything ok?” I asked.
“Of course, I was just talking to Lotte (his fiancée) about this young girl with HIV. She has been crying all day and thinks nobody deserves to live such a life.”
She had been talking to her mum and they had decided to do something about it. They would want to get on board too by making a monthly donation to help the needy children. I did not know how to respond. The story of this young girl had changed a person at the other end of the world to come on board and help us. I was hesitant in telling him the girl’s story. I had not wanted to humiliate her by telling Danny, but doing so had opened up a door for the rest of the children at the orphanage.