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The 8 strong Pallisa Unit was all Leaders. Two from South Yorkshire and the rest from Berkshire. North and South quickly welded together to form a successful and by the accounts we have here, an enjoyable team.
We had an excellent journey from Jinja - it was hot - but the scenery was fantastic. We called at an "off-road" village and met all the local people - one member was handed a tiny baby, but we gave it back!!
On arrival at Pallisa we were greeted by a warm welcome from the Council Chairman and other local officials. We then proceeded to the seminary of The Little Sisters of St Francis of Assisi where we made under the trees in their garden and are very comfortable and are being treated royally.
On Tuesday we planted many trees in the centre of Pallisa - with the help of several hundred school children. These trees, when grown, will be used for timber for building, furniture etc.
We purchased rolls of cloth and had sheets made for the children at the school for the deaf at Iki Iki. Yesterday we visited them and _eleven_ other schools!!
We are overwhelmed by all the love the children have shown us and humbled and saddened to see all their needs!
All the Pallisa Unit are fit and well and enjoying a new experience.
Bob and Maureen Chandler
Tony and Christine Fulford
Peter and Betty Scurry
So the “Pallisa” Project was loosely arranged around the needs of the Bulangira Disabled Association and the Kavule School.
The eight members of the “Pallisa” Team were Bob and Maureen Chandler, Tony and Christine Fulford and Peter and Betty Scurry from the South East Berkshire District of Berkshire and Janet Mitchell and Keith Crooks from Doncaster, South Yorkshire.
(Pallisa District of Uganda is situated to the north east of Kampala. The population is about 475,000 of which about 16% live in houses with iron sheet roofs and about 83% in those with grass roofs. About 0.1% of the households get their water via a stand pipe, 3% from a borehole and 10% from a protected spring or well. A very small percentage of the population have electricity for lighting. Cooking is done over wood or charcoal fires. There is one hospital in the district and one doctor to about every 72,000 head of population.
A note in the Pallisa Times for June 1998 quotes -“Pallisa has been painted black and the mass media tended to give it a gloomy picture. The general perception about the district has been that people who run it are corrupt, bankrupt, inefficient and non-performers. In short, there is nothing good about the civic and political leadership”
The “Pallisa team were not told this before they went!!!)
On our arrival in the town of Pallisa we went straight to the offices of the local Council. Here we were given a very warm welcome by the Chairman and Councillors of the civic authority along with many others who wanted to meet us. We were also videoed at great length. Fortunately the welcome was fairly brief with no long drawn out speeches
Richard, our security guard for our journey, returned to Jinja after our visit to the council offices.
At the council offices we were joined by - the local Scout District Commissioner, Hillary, a Scout Leader Trainer, Isadore, a local councillor responsible for Education and Scouting and Kateu Sam who had an involvement with education and the disabled. They accompanied us to our camp site at the Seminary of the Little Sisters of St Francis, a little distance from the centre of Pallisa. With the addition of these guests it took us two trips to get everyone to the Seminary! Having unloaded our kit we were taken to visit three schools before we had the opportunity to set up camp.
On our return to the Seminary after the school visits we set up our camp. We were then asked by Hillary and Isadore where their tents were!!. Apparently they were staying with us!! We were able to accommodate them by letting them use our small store tent.
Tony tried to make contact with Kampala on the mobile ‘phone but was unsuccessful - outside the network range.
It was now dark, we were very tired and getting hungry and when we were offered an evening meal by the Sisters and Novices we very gratefully accepted. From that evening meal onwards we had all our meals prepared for us!. A luxury which we very much appreciated.
On Tuesday morning we met members of the local council and children from several schools and took part in tree planting in the centre of Pallisa. We had a very good opportunity to talk to the children and to learn a little of their lifestyles and their plans for the future. They were all very keen to talk to us and to have their photographs taken
Apparently the Chairman of the Council and Tony were to plant an “official” tree jointly but Tony had not been told of this. However in the meantime Peter and Tony were waylaid by the local Red Cross representative and missed the “official” planting. Keith was with the main party and joined the Chairman in planting the tree.
The tree planting was followed by an official public welcome from the Council and we presented certificates and plaques from our home Councils of Bracknell Forest and Doncaster. We returned to the Seminary for an official lunch.
We returned to Pallisa in the afternoon to see the shops and market and for Tony to try and make contact with base at Kampala. This proved to be impossible. No contact possible on mobile or the public telephone or from the council offices. We also tried the post office - a newish building in its own compound surrounded by barbed wire fencing and with a mast, complete with an array of various aerials. However there was no ‘phone in the building and we were told to use the public ‘phone box down the road!! Also you could not buy stamps at this post office!! Were we asking the impossible?. Last resort, the Police Station. Could they pass a message to Kampala please? Sorry they were only able to receive incoming calls not make any!!
While in Pallisa we bought suitable material and arranged for it to be made up into sheets for the children at Kavule School. This was late on Tuesday afternoon and we were told they would be ready the following morning. True to their promise we were able to collect them early on Wednesday morning - 28 sheets made on an aged Singer treadle machine!
Tuesday evening we had a tropical rainstorm and the area where we had pitched our tents turned into a mini lake. We moved into indoor accommodation and some of us then slept indoors each night until we left Pallisa!
On Wednesday morning we attended early morning mass at the Seminary and were very impressed and moved with the singing and music. We had heard the singing and music on the previous morning and evening and knew without any doubt that we could not leave the Seminary without attending a service.
Having collected the sheets we set off for a school at Goligoli accompanied by Hillary, Isadore and the representative from the Education Department. At Goligoli we were greeted by Waibi James, Chairman of the Bulangira Association and also Sam a teacher and Scout Leader, a very quiet and unassuming man and one dedicated to his work. We met the children and what a fantastic group they were. In spite of their various and many handicaps they were happy and very active - an inspiration to us all. Their motto “Disability is not Inability “ is very appropriate. We saw the foundations of a building that was to be the workshops and offices for the Association. This had been started some time ago but it was very evident that no work had been done on the site for a long time. We were also warmly greeted by pupils and staff at the primary school.
Waibi James was keen to share his plans and dreams for the Association with us. We were to learn more of these and their current situation during the next few days.
We were due to move to Goligoli from the Seminary on the following day. After inspecting the site where we would be camping we agreed that it was not suitable. With the agreement of the Sister we continued to stay at the Seminary until we were due to leave Pallisa. and travel to Goligoli daily. Our hosts were happy with our plans.
From Goligoli we called in at another school where we were very quickly surrounded by a huge crowd of happy chattering children. After a brief stay we went on our way but with difficulty - the children we running all round the bus and trying to hold our hands. We reached the road without anyone coming to harm!
We then went onto Kavule School for the Deaf at Iki-iki. We were all moved by what greeted us. Fourteen or so deaf children being taught by a deaf teacher in small dark room and when we saw their living conditions we were more upset. These children had one set of clothing - the ones they had on - and a rush type mat to sleep on. Nothing else! Thankfully we were able to give them another set of clothing and a small toy each and the sheets which we had collected earlier. They were so surprised to be given anything and it took a little while for them to realise what had happened. We were all deeply moved by their living conditions.
We were taken to see the well and encouraged to learn that improvements would be starting later that week. Piping and the pump were already on site and they were awaiting sand, cement and reinforcing materials for the top of the well. We indicated that we would be returning at the end of the week and hopefully could report to Marie that work had started. The adults involved with the school and the well renovation were very encouraged with the professional interest and knowledge that Bob and Peter were able to take in the materials that had already arrived.
The teacher was able to show us knitted garments that had been made in the small school workshop and were to be sold to raise money for the school.
On leaving Iki-iki Tony was able to make contact with Kampala via the mobile ‘phone.
At the beginning our trip that day we were under the impression that we were only visiting three schools. However this was not the case and by the end of the day we had visited 11 schools and a couple of workshops. Most classes at these schools had between 100 and 200 pupils! The pupils were well disciplined and we were given a very warm welcome by pupils and staff. Although we had only short stops at these schools we had good opportunities to talk to some of the teachers and their pupils.
Pallisa District were holding a camping competition at Goligoli from Thursday through to Sunday. The winners of the competition would be attending the National Jamboree at Kaazi. In our tour round the schools it became evident that the purpose of our visits was to whip up support and enthusiasm for the District Camp! Most if not all the Scouts and Guides were based at schools and as the DC did not have transport we very much suspect that we and our transport was being used to make his rounds to the Troops!!
On our return to the Seminary two members of the Support Team had arrived - Nick Winter and Dick Booth. We received some jocular remarks about our domestic arrangements at the Seminary. Additionally two armed policemen had arrived on instructions from Kampala. Nick and Dick easily settled into the comforts of the Seminary!
The following day we visited a local lake and on our return journey we stopped at a village market to buy some additional clothes for the children at Iki-iki and a cooking pot for ourselves. We also met a local lady councillor who had concerns about the handicapped people in her district. We also collected Mrs Mudambo Agote Bertha from Pallisa - the Guide District Commissioner - who apparently was joining us!
In the afternoon, as a good turn to Sisters and Novices, we helped strip the husks from a truck load of maize which had been delivered. We all had a very happy time singing hymns, choruses and camp fire type songs while we worked alongside the Sisters and Novices.
Later we went to the District Camp site at Goligoli, met members of the Bulangira Association who due to a misunderstanding had been waiting for over four hours for us to arrive. Before returning to Pallisa we visited their small and dark workshop in a nearby village and were very impressed with the standard of the products which they produced in, by our standards, very primitive conditions. We bought two stools which we later gave to the Sisters for their new chapel.
While at Goligoli we made arrangements with the Leaders running the camp to run some training sessions for the Scouts and Guides and their Leaders. This we were going to start the following day. Isadore did not return with us that evening as he was staying at the camp. However, Hillary remained with us and now Bertha was staying at the Seminary! We joined the Novices in one of their community halls where they entertained us with singing and dancing.
Friday 18th August - the first full day of the District camp where we had some fantastic welcomes at the various Patrol Sites - singing and dancing and very proud to show off their camp layouts. Their standards of Scouting and camping skills was excellent - much better than that expected and seen in the UK. We visited the Bulangira Association Scout Troop. What wonderful work is being done by their teachers and Leaders. Their Troop of boys and girls were camped alongside the able-bodied, competing in the competition and entering into everything with great enthusiasm. We took this opportunity to present the Troop with a World Scout flag and also a Ugandan Flag. Additionally we gave the Leaders Scout scarves and woggles for them to distribute among the Scouts.
The opening ceremony for the District Camp was due to start at 11am but eventually got under way at about 2pm but even then the official guest had not arrived. It was during the afternoon that we were to learn a new expression and one that was to precede every announcement -“without wasting time”. The opening ceremony continued with speeches and entertainment but still the official guest had not arrived and in fact did not turn up at all. We were not given the opportunity to run any training sessions. It seemed more important to them that we accompanied “District” Leaders as they visited the Patrols. During the day Peter, Betty and Tony went off site to visit a tree nursery. Trees were going to be planted on a plot adjacent to the site of the Disabled workshop and offices.
On Saturday morning we visited Bertha’s home which was a short distance from the Seminary where we were made very welcome by her parents and her brothers and their wives. We had the chance have a go at some ploughing using a plough drawn by a couple of oxen. Maureen, Janet and Chris had a go at grinding some maize after some instruction from Bertha’s mother. Before going to the camp we went to Iki-iki to deliver some more clothing and also to check on the progress of the well. Work was progressing quickly and Kateu Sam said that the well would be commissioned on 1st September. We were very happy to report this to Eric and Marie. Before we could go to Goligoli Sam insisted that we see a similar well and pump which was nearby. Following this visit we went to Goligoli and once again were asked to visit the Patrols along with judges. As we entered each site we were again entertained with singing and dancing but we were not given the opportunity to give the training we had been asked to do. We returned to Pallisa after a very different type of camp fire - all the pieces were being judged as part of the competition and it was a rather serious affair. We were asked to take part which we did with a couple songs.
On arrival at the District Camp on Sunday we again toured the sites and apart from Peter having the opportunity to pass on some Scouting skills no other members of the team did any training. However Keith was a natural with the children and had the ability to involve them in a variety of impromptu games. Our plans to assist the Scouts and Guides and their Leaders with their training was frustrated by their apparent inability to plan and fit in this training opportunity. The closing ceremony took the now familiar form of speeches and entertainment.
We were then invited to site of the Bulangira Disables Association workshop and office to plant trees which had been donated to the Association. It gave us great pleasure to do this for this very deserving group of people.
After our evening meal at the Seminary we were invited by the Sister and Novices to a party. Here we were entertained and took part in the singing, ranging from hymns and choruses to camp fire and musical hall songs and also Ugandan dances. Everyone had a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable time. We said farewell to many of the Novices who we would not see in the morning.
Leaving Pallisa was a wrench. In one week we had been made so welcome and had made so many friends. We had been given three goats and two chickens! But go we must and departing from the Seminary was a sad occasion.
Our stay in Pallisa was very memorable and happy. Both collectively and individually we made many contacts and friends and had a wide variety of experiences. Hopefully links will have been forged between the Ugandans and ourselves which will be to the lasting benefit of everyone.
Although we did not have a “concrete” project we certainly believe we laid good foundations for future work in the Pallisa area. Whether this work will be done by the eight who were in the “Pallisa” Team in the year 2000 or continued by others is still a matter of much debate.
We are very grateful to all those who worked so hard to make this visit to Pallisa and Uganda possible and we all appreciate having had the opportunity to take part in Uganda 2000.
FOOTNOTE: On Friday 1st September Marie and Eric Goulding, Bob and Maureen Chandler and Peter and Betty Scurry were part of group that visited Kavule School at Iki-iki for the commissioning of the well. The well had been capped and made safe. A hand pump now enables water to be available to the local villagers and the school now has its own supply of piped water.