been on the original Northamptonshire Scouts Bwaise expedition and
having maintained contact and support for Outspan School, Stewart
(hubby) and myself were drawn back to Uganda to see for ourselves
the changes we had heard and read about.
We spent a wonderful month, staying at Backpackers (not the Sheraton!!)
spending every second day at Outspan with the staff and pupils at
Outspan. Weekends were our own and we did the touristy things then.
What struck us immediately were the changes in Kampala. New buildings,
tarmac roads where murram had prevailed 4 years earlier, new shopping
arcades and supermarkets (western style), the TRAFFIC - it had become
impossible to cross the road in the town - there seemed to be 4 times
the amount of cars using the new roads, and MOBILE PHONES - everyone
seemed to have them. On the surface this seemed a vast improvement
but the contrast between the haves and have nots was more evident. I
must confess though that we did see one apparent 'begger' - hand
still out whilst making a call on her mobile phone. Gone were the
empty shelves in dingy shops, each appeared fully stocked with everything
you could wish to buy - and people were buying. Perhaps there was
more affluence but street kids were still about and abject poverty still
What a difference. Tom was looking well and the whole atmosphere
at the school was good. The new classrooms were making a huge difference
to the staff and pupils alike. The building was secure and problems
with local children destroying the displays and teachers work had
been solved. This was not so in the older, wooden classroom which
was still in use. Whilst we were there we asked Tom to get an estimate
for making the older classrooms secured with window grills and doors.
Needless to say, the cost was negligible and we told Tom to get what
was needed and get it done.
I am pleased to say that a carpenter was employed for a week and under
Toms strict supervision the classrooms were secured, including the
fitting of padlocks on the doors. As we had set aside a sum of money
for school improvements in our budget, we also had some of the desks
and benches, which were in a dangerous state, replaced. The carpenter actually
made these at the school with termite resistant wood which Tom went
to choose and would not let out of his sight until the job was completed.
I spent time with the 6 and 7 year olds giving art and craft lessons
and I also became 'teacher' to the female staff, introducing sewing
skills that could be used with the older students. I left enough
sewing notions to last for years and will be happy to replace them
as they run out. The after school tailoring class had to be seen
to be believed. The children of all ages learn their skills by sewing
with old wool on empty cement bags. They make their own patterns and
the garments produced amazing. I was given a gift of a skirt made
in this way by a ten year old.
Stewart gave his time to organizing the library. Sorting books into
age groups and removing books that were not suitable for any young
person to read. The school now has a good comprehensive library which
seems to be used reasonably well. hopefully it can now be used more
efficiently as staff can guide the pupils to the correct shelf instead
of searching through before hand.
The staff have lost their 'staff room' but make good use of the overhang
outside the new classrooms when they need to.
All in all the visit was a huge success and it was pleasing to see
the changes for the good. The 'swampy' ground was a sound investment
and is now well filled to make a suitable play area between the old
and new classroom blocks. The new toilet block has improved hygiene
standards and Ruth still cooks away (with her daughter now) in a slightly
larger, if still inadequate, kitchen. This is one area which could
be, and we think should be, improved sometime.
As always we were made welcome but we feel that visits to the school
can be disruptive. We were careful with our visits and never went
without careful planning with Tom, Dismas and the staff. They asked
us to come at specific times to take a class or do certain tasks and
we stuck to those times. Leaving the school at the end was very difficult
and more than a few tears were shed at the farewell party thrown on
the last day. The band played and we were provided with enough food
to last a lifetime but the best thing of all was the genuine feeling
of friendship we had felt all the time we were there.
to our sponsored child's home.
Squatting in a room no bigger than my 9ftx10ft kitchen at home, we
were greeted by Disans Aunt, Disan, his brother and his 3 cousins
who all live, eat sleep, study and survive there. There were no windows,
a broken door covered by a curtain, a wooden chair, a stool a covered
bench, and a small charcoal stove in the corner where lunch was being
cooked. Clothes were hung on nails hammered into the walls and I
think there may have been a smaller room attached which may have contained
a bed. I say may have because it was so dark in there that it was
difficult to see. We took a gift for Auntie as a token of respect.
Tom advised us that a paraffin lantern would benefit the family, so
that is what we took. He was right - they had no means of lighting
their home and, thinking of the light switches at home, were glad
that we had taken his advice. We will always have in our minds the
image of the reaction we got from the aunt at being given that lamp. The
delight at, what to us was a £4 gesture, was immeasurable. We spent
a lovely afternoon with this family and by the time we left we had
a few more friends.
Sponsor a child 'YES', know the child 'YES', meet the family 'YES'.