Today was an early start. We wanted to catch up with as many of our other sponsored kids as possible - those in schools other than Bunga Hill and Light High. They are all in different schools for various reasons. Sometimes those schools are closer to home so their parents are happier for them to attend. Other times the child is happier there so they are doing better in class. We have one girl boarding in a different primary school, as the boarding was less expensive, and being a boarder was the only way to guarantee schooling for her, as otherwise her parents would always bring her home to do work around the house.
As previously, we travelled with a car full of pads and undies!
Next stop: Bethel High School to see Pauline (one of the kids we sponsor personally)
Dusty roads, "jam" (traffic), cows, butchers, did I mention DUST!?
Next stop: SW Winyi Nursery and Primary. Trezzy (Tereza) attends here as a boarder. She started school as a day student but her parents kept bringing her home to work. She was desperate for an education and a chance for a different future. We offered boarding, and fortunately her parents agreed!
Finally onto see Meshache, before heading off for a much needed lunch before meeting our mothers!
So after a bit of a full on day yesterday, we had a "break day" today. This means: hunt around for a place with free wifi. Buy one soda and sit there for as long as possible until there are so many rude looks for being too cheap then take off and visit friends! It also gives me a chance to show you some pics of the stuff we see when just hanging out in Kampala.
Today we visited Makerere University where Joyce went, and the girls hostel where she stayed, where we were told she had to hide when there was fighting in Kampala (cf Idi Amin and co).
Then we got kai and roped the young fullas into making a gourmet meal for our Ugandan whanau. Good times. Lots of laughs. No rest. But hey, who wants to stay home when you're on holiday, right!?
More photos! Light High School where all but one of our kids attend high school given their passion for our kids and 'good' resources. Our other teen, Pauline, will move here next year once she is finished her candidate exams this year (there are big national exams in school, similar to our our old School C and Bursary exams, and kids generally prefer not to move schools during that year).
Today we got to give out loads more pads and undies. Our girls were overjoyed. You could see other girls looking on, envious. We are so so happy to have helped our girls out, but we know that there are many many more who would benefit from accessible sanitary products.
Today we visited Bunga Hill Primary School and Light High School - the schools where most of our kids attend. We have had a relationship with Bunga Hill since the beginning of Kids First back in 2008. As our kids have grown up we have searched for high schools that can support their needs, and in the past 2 years most of our high school kids have moved to Light High.
Visiting these two schools was, as it has been previously, humbling and emotional. Humbling to see such dedicated teachers working under difficult conditions for kids that they really care about. Emotional because these are kids we love, some we have known for 7 years. We are so proud of what they are achieving, and when you see the environments they live and study in, it is just amazing.
Words can't do this day justice. Photos can't either, but hopefully they will give you a bit more insight into our sponsorship, the education our kids get, and the daily challenges they face in areas that you and I wouldn't even consider.
I took a million photos today. Well, nearly. So that you don't get photo overkill, I'll put up the primary school photos today, high school photos tomorrow. Yeah, there are lots, but more than just documenting the fact we visited the school, I really wanted to try and give you a feel for what it is like there.
We need to interrupt our stories from our trip to Uganda with the sad news that the Director of Bunga Hill Primary (where many of our kids attend school) has passed away. We met Harriet over 4 years ago when we first formally partnered with Bunga Hill to provide education for our kids. Harriet was instrumental in helping Kids First provide a quality education for disadvantaged children at a reduced cost. She understood the vision we had, and realised the importance a school plays in a child's future, over just running a business.
We were fortunate to meet Harriet again on our recent trip to Uganda. She told us she was battling cervical cancer, and had been to Nairobi for treatment. Although she had lost a lot of weight, she was as bright and enthusiastic as always.
We are so grateful for her support and partnership, and we send our love, thoughts, and prayers to her family at this time. RIP.
Yay - official Kids First business has begun! Today we went into town to catch up with Joshua. This means walking from our house to the closest taxi/matatu stand (past our rolex guy, yuss!), figuring out which taxi you want to get on (where is it going, to town? ok by which route?). Once in the taxi you can just sit back and enjoy the ride to town, stopping every few hundred meters to pick and and drop off people. Sometimes you'll cruise slow by the side roads while the "conductor" yells out to passers by to entice them to catch a ride.
What I love most about these taxis are the sometimes meaningful, sometimes ridiculous, always awesome sayings that most have on the back window. Check it out:
Kampala city was also pretty different from when we were last there. The big roads look bigger without potholes. The raised garden beds have flowers in them. The wide pathways are wider now without hawkers selling their nicknacks on the pavement. Joshua told us that the new Kampala City Council Authority, headed by a woman (a big deal) has made these changes. They are cleaning up the city to make it more modern. It sure has worked. But it makes you think, where did all those hawkers and street kids end up? It's not like living on the street is an ambition for many. If you're on the street because you have nowhere to go, then you get kicked out, where do you go?
It was another taxi from town to Bunga, where we met with the Kids First leaders: Gertrude supports our mums. Aggie manages crafts. Stella deals with the schools. Mary is in charge of records. Juliet has been there from the beginning and seems to have a hand in everything! We talked with these awesome women till the sun started to go down. There was so much to share, and I wrote down as much as I could because this stuff is seriously moving:
Aggie, talking about how craft making has helped changed lives: we are working hand in hand, co-operative, with a sense of belonging. There is now hope. Working with crafts is the one thing that makes all other things possible -> craft has opened a world to women with no education, no income, few skills. It has taught women not just to make crafts, but budgeting, team building, forward planning, etc. The biggest need? A room to house crafts and where women can meet to make them. Our women still keen outside in a dirt "courtyard" subject to the elements.
Gertrude echoed the same: now we have money to establish our lives. Thank you for loving us like a family. Kiwis out there, we may never really know what it's like to have nothing, there is always some back up, some benefit, something. But if these women don't work, they don't eat. Neither do their kids, who also don't get treatment for malaria or other illnesses. This can really be life or death.
Juliet reiterated that craft making and other Kids First ventures have helped to empower communities so that people don't rely on hand outs. She advised that having money helps a woman contribute to their family, which brings more harmony to a home where they were previously disrespected and even abused when seen as a dependent by their husband.
This has been a long blog. It could be much longer if I could actually tell you everything we talked about and how awesome it was. I can't and for your sake I won't try! Well done for reading so far! I'll leave you with this quote from Joshua which about sums things up:
WHAT YOU ARE DOING MAY SEEM LIKE A LITTLE
Ok guys, sorry about the break, but I had to attend my sister's wedding in Niue - think that's allowed :)
Anyway, back to Uganda! On our first day we woke to the bright light and morning noises of washing, water boiling for tea, and birds. There was a rooster that morning that woke us early, but it didn't make an appearance again for the rest of our trip. We think the neighbours had a roast that night.
As we didn't have much on our schedule for the day (time to settle in and rest up) we decided to go walkabout. Pretty much each time we come we try to go wandering at least for the first day. It gives us an idea of where we are living, a chance to meet others living nearby, and suss out who's the best local rolex guy.
We stayed in Kyaliwajjala (said, Charli-wah-jala) with our friends, as I mentioned before. As all the family will feature in our blog at some point, I'll use this opportunity to introduce them:
Joyce, with whom we stayed last time, and her kids Lara and Lagum (who are nearly finished high school). Alice, whose bedroom we were graciously given for our stay, and whom we met on our first trip to Uganda and who invited us to stay, is Joyce's sister. Their brother, Dennis, has also been staying there for some time.
As it was Sunday, Joyce and Lara had headed to church early. We, of course, missed the boat by sleeping in. Paul and Lagum were still asleep when we got up! And Alice was still in Nairobi. So we had some brekkie and headed out. Paul (Lagum's friend) thought we were crazy and would only make it 10min in the heat as he couldn't stand it. But, the trick in hot places (I find), is just to take it easy. Walk slow, chat to some new friends, and enjoy the scenery. Then it doesn't seem so hot and you can walk further, things just take longer. Ugandantime my friends :)
First stop: ROLEX. If you have never been to Uganda, you are missing out on this seriously tasty meal. Guys will have a stall on the side of the road with a small charcoal fire with a flat piece of metal on top as a "pan". In the morning they will make a big batch of thick and large chapatis, about 25-30cm across. Then when you rock up and ask for a rolex, you will witness the most amazing cheffing skills ever. First, 2 eggs are cracked into a plastic cup. Bits of onion and tomato are shaved off into the cup with the chef's super sharp knife, his only utensil. He then sprinkles some salt from a little bag on the side. This is all whisked together with the knife and then, after some oil, spread on the sizzling hot pan (again, using the knife). When one side is cooked, he will (get this) roll the omelette over with, yes, just the knife! It never breaks. It is always perfect. I don't know how, I have tried so many times and can't do it. Then a chapati is put on top and the whole lot is rolled up and put in a bag, sometimes handmade from pages of old school books. And there you have it: rolled eggs: ROLEX! Delishioso.
After meeting Robert and Peter, the brothers running our local rolex joint, we headed up the road about 30min or so past bodabodas, matatu taxis, and the general bustle of busy Kampala roads to Metroplex, the local mall. This is one thing that was so different from our last trip. There seems to be a mall in nearly every suburb. And these malls are big (but big in a different way to NZ malls). Metroplex has 3D cinemas, a food court with about 5 different vendors, and a large Shoprite supermarket, among many other shops. It also is home to the cafe that makes the best hot chocolate I have ever had in my life. True story. Another thing is the lack of potholes (well, marked reduction). Streets are clean, clear, mostly smooth. I had to do a double take at first - this is not the Kampala I recall! Things really had changed a lot in 4 years. At first it seemed like it had changed for the better, but as you will see, there are always two sides to everything.
Here at Kids First we all have something to say, so this blog will be updated by members of our team as our work progresses to keep all of you in the loop!