GIVING A HAND...
The Pandipieri Catholic Centre, on the outskirts of Kisumu, Kenya, was founded in 1979 by Fr. Hans Burgman, a Mill Hill missionary, and other team members. The concept was that a team of Kenyans and Europeans, religious and lay people, would live together as a community and support less fortunate people in the slum areas. Over the years there has been a constant stream of visitors from Europe sharing their gifts and talents; many have stayed involved.
GIVE A HAND WEEK 2010 As I write this, HATW’s first Give a Hand Week has not yet taken place, though it may well have done by the time you receive this newsletter. Supporters across the country are currently preparing for a week of fun-filled, hand-related fundraising from Saturday 12th to Saturday 19th June. With hand massages, an African drumming performance, a jumble sale of ‘hand-me-downs’ and a handdecorating competition in schools planned, to name but a few, Give a Hand Week is set to be the success we were hoping for. The aim of the week is to raise money to support the running of the charity - the vital backbone without which our valued projects could not happen.
Although Give a Hand Week does focus in on a particular eight days in June, there’s no reason to confine it to those days! If you would like to run an event or make a donation, please feel free! We have handbooks available, containing ideas and guidelines for fundraising activities. You will hopefully have noticed the pound coin holder in this newsletter. All the money raised through these will go towards the Give a Hand Week total, so please fill and return yours! With 840 households on our mailing list, and each card costing a mere 20p, we could raise nearly £2400 in profits...
Hands On Theatre’s Moonlight Revels: Several Scenes from our Shows and Some Songs
I went out as a Skilled Volunteer to the Community Health Programme, to assist Sr. Bernadette Nealon. For a couple of visits, I shared time and skills with nurses in the community, participated in health education projects and was hopefully a useful pair of hands.
Do you remember the magic of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in the garden at The Old Vicarage? Did you foxtrot through 1930s Ireland with us in ‘Dancing At Lughnasa’? Can you recall your invitation to tea with a certain Algernon Moncrieff at The Speech House Hotel? Didst thou travel with us to a desert isle for ‘The Tempest’? Were you party to the scandal, secrets and steamy clinches in Mrs Bennett’s drawing room? Have your dreams been haunted by the plight of the Pals, as they breathed their last in Flanders’ fields? Was that momentous eve in The Messina, New York, your first encounter with the fiery Beatrice and fickle Benedick?
It was later, during many conversations with counsellors in the HIV/AIDS department that it became clear that although they had received counselling training, it contained very little Loss and Grief Education and they were working with people who had suffered much loss. It was agreed by the counselling staff that I would return in 2004 to run a two-week intensive Loss and Grief training programme, as I was a trained social worker and Cruse counsellor. This was thoroughly enjoyable for me; never have I had participants in training that regularly got up to “energise” and to dance and sing!
If your answer is ‘yes’ to any or all of these questions, then come and share with us the very best of Hands On Theatre’s ten years’ work. If your answer is ‘no’, come along anyway; we guarantee you a memorable evening of highly-polished performance and delicious ditties. And there might be a raffle, too…
Thank you for all your support!
Every last penny we raise will go towards Hands Around the World’s ‘Give a Hand Week’.
To book, tel: 01989 567293 Venue: Dingestow Village Hall, near Monmouth (NP25 4BE)
Many thanks to Andy Barrell, who ran the London Marathon for us yet again this year (in 4 hrs 48 mins 3 secs) and has raised a fabulous £800 to date. If you would like to take part in an event and raise money for HATW, please get in touch. We have places for next year’s London 10k run that need filling...
Saturday 31st July 2010 at 7pm
Geoff Burnett Geoff lending a hand Classroom three
I feel so blessed that I was able to have worked on two school building projects in Swaziland, both with Fr Maurice working tirelessly with the community to ensure they were fully committed and engaged to the projects, as well as helping the UK/Jersey team to settle in, integrate with the community and gain the best they could from the experience (not least from his truck drives!).
All our love, Helen & Phil Ruelle.
His generosity knew no bounds and whatever he did, he did with humour. Although Swaziland has a death sentence hanging over it with the prolific spread of the AIDS pandemic, Fr Maurice always remained upbeat and positive, giving much of himself to support others whilst being firm and helping everyone to help themselves. Fr Maurice will always have a special place in my heart and will always manage to bring a smile to my face for the memories I was able to share with him.
THIS WILL MAKE SENSE WHEN DISPLAYED AS A POSTER! She said that the work the HATW Jersey project team had carried out was much appreciated, and it was a great encouragement to the local community to see the commitment of the team in supporting them.
Dieudonné and his team.
Thanks to the work of the ABOPHA programme and long-term support from a generous friend of HATW, twenty-nine orphaned and handicapped young people of secondary school age from Affame and Dogba are now listed to receive financial support for their futures. Without this, they would either not be proceeding or their families would be suffering considerable hardship as a result. Twenty-five of those will be starting or continuing secondary education in September and four will be starting apprenticeships (two locally and two in Cotonou, in construction and lorry driving). Two of the college students will be starting their final year before, hopefully, entering university in October 2011. We visited the university in Cotonou – the Calavi/Abomey University – to attempt to
GROUP PROJECTS 2011 Lea da Silva, on a recent visit to the UK, gave an update of the Mossoro, Brazil project.
Classrooms one (on right) and two
As always, I am very appreciative of the support given by HATW – and now by F.D. – to enable me to sustain these essential aspects of community development.
In 2010, the support I could give to the child counselling project was to be available as a mentor; to walk alongside counsellors and give support and guidance. This offers different ways of working and encourages the development of skills.
I am one of the many people fortunate enough to have had Fr Maurice touch their life and it was a sad day indeed to learn of his passing. Fr Maurice was a kind, caring, funny, warm and compassionate man who lived his life solely for others. In Swaziland, everyone who knew him loved him and this was evident everywhere he went. His truck would appear and the kids would shout and run to see him just as if he were a rock star. Whatever their age, race or gender, he was able to reach out to people and connect with them in ways I have not witnessed before, nor have I witnessed it since.
Everyone who met Father Maurice loved him. It was easy because there was so much to love; a man devoted to his mission in life - to serve others. His care and compassion for others, particularly the people of Swaziland, was unswerving. We spent time with Father Maurice in Swaziland and here in Jersey and he became a very dear friend to us, as he did to so many people he met. The people of Swaziland whose lives he touched were so fortunate to have such a tireless and dedicated man in their ‘corner’. Father Maurice was full of life, love and good humour - he connected with people of all ages and enjoyed all that life had to offer. We will miss him dearly, as will so many people. The hole he leaves will be hard to fill. Thinking of him makes us smile; the thought of losing him makes us weep. May his memory inspire us all to do great things and to continue his work. God bless, Maurice.
Classroom one at Dogba School is now structurally completed. Teachers comment that it is preferable to the old buildings as it is “large and airy”. The damage to classroom two caused by a falling tree has been repaired and work is well underway on classroom three. The work being done by Dieudonné and his small team is much appreciated by the head teacher Achilles. Dieudonné hopes they will have completed the construction work by the end of June and the roofing, plastering and painting of the whole building by the end of August... but the rain is coming!
At the beginning of 2009, the programme obtained the services of a Dutch VSO volunteer, which has been most beneficial. She is well trained and a strong advocate for Pandipieri. She has also managed to obtain funding for ‘tools of the trade’, including bicycles, which has enhanced the service greatly. The project officers and VSO have developed a most professional service, training Education Officers and teachers in psycho-social development, which greatly assists the counsellors that offer support in schools.
I shall endeavour to return to Pandipieri as often as possible – age and health permitting!
The HATW 2009 Annual Report is now on our website. 2009 Annual Accounts are available on request.
clarify potential costs involved in their attendance. University places are open to all who have gained the Baccalaureate; there is no selection process.
During the 2008 trip, I visited schools to do observation – the standard was good. The programme now supports the counsellors with supervision sessions and regular supportive visits to schools and communities.
Miss Mary Cuzner, a colleague and friend of mine has financially supported the Health Programme for many years, mainly by making and selling marmalade. This year, aged 90, she accompanied me to the centre to see ‘her’ room for children’s play and therapy. She was delighted. Sadly, Mary suffered a severe stroke and never regained consciousness, just a few weeks after our return. She had written a glowing account of her trip and was in admiration for the work at Pandipieri.
For details of this and other upcoming HATW events, please go to the ‘What’s New’ page on our website - www.hatw.org.uk - and select ‘Upcoming Events’.
After a very efficient travel programme – thanks Mandy and North South – I stayed two nights in Cotonou; the second with Dieudonné, Natalie, Nia and Nell. We celebrated Natalie’s birthday on the beach at Ouidah and then went to Affame and Dogba.
In 2007, further in-depth training followed, along with evaluation by group leaders/supervisors and staff. This concentrated on the need for practical approaches that fit the needs of children and young people, group work skills and increased knowledge and understanding of the Principles of Counselling and the implications in Childhood Bereavement. This course was shared with two senior counsellors, both trained in Pandipieri with extra university modules, who were superb.
I have now seen over many years the great value of returning to the same project; the joy of seeing the programme in child counselling develop. This has enabled me to see the needs of the project and over the years develop a library for professional development and storybooks about bereavement.
Members of the team that visited Maluba School in Monze, Zambia in 2008 have been working away since their return to raise funds to equip the school, and we feel they deserve a mention here. Thank you to you all! Their latest event was a car treasure hunt around Chepstow in the beautiful sunshine, which was thoroughly enjoyed by all who attended. Next up is a Summer Fayre, which will have taken place by the time you read this.
To one incredible man who will be missed by many, but never forgotten. His amazing legacy lives on. I feel proud to have counted him amongst my dearest friends.
In 2002, I became one of this stream, introduced by David Steiner of HANDS AROUND THE WORLD. In previous years, HATW had provided three groups of volunteers that had helped construct buildings for Pandipieri’s Street Children’s Programme.
We are extremely grateful to all the Regional Give a Hand Week Co-ordinators and their helpers for the time and effort they are putting into raising funds for us - not an easy task when your friends and family have already been asked many times before! We would also like to thank those of you who have supported them by attending events, buying raffle tickets and generally getting the word around. And perhaps most importantly (though she would hate us to say that), we would like to thank Lynda for having the idea and acting on it so enthusiastically. She has done a tremendous job of organising the week, while also running her own events with a local team. Thank you to you all for getting involved!
HANDS AROUND THE WORLD was saddened to hear of the sudden death of Fr Maurice O’Gorman, in Piggs Peak, Swaziland, on 23rd April. Fr Maurice was instrumental in setting up the projects we Joan Dixon in Piggs Peak and in nearby Siteki. We extend our sincere condolences to his family. undertook
The school is now functioning as a multipurpose centre, to support a variety of activities and includes 3 classrooms, an IT room, a mini library and an educational play area. Classes are provided in IT, English and music and local women have benefitted from the opportunity to attend cookery classes as well as adult literacy classes. A community football team has successfully reached 2nd place in the local championship! Following their work in setting up the project in Mossoro, Lea and her husband have now moved to Recife to continue with community development as well as providing training.
NOT SO FREE POST Like most people, I was under the impression that by putting a stamp on a Freepost envelope, I was ‘doing my bit’ in helping the charity/organisation to save money. Wrong! It has come to light that postage is often paid twice on mailed donations and other correspondence because Royal Mail machinery recognises and charges the Freepost number irrespective of whether there is a stamp on the envelope or not. Admittedly, the addition of a printed box on an envelope saying ‘using a stamp helps us save money’ appears to be an invention by a resourceful fundraiser; nonetheless, Royal Mail has never made this clear to charities and seems happy to collect twice the revenue. More alarmingly, charities are not actually entitled to refunds either; they are given, but this is more of a goodwill gesture on behalf of Royal Mail than a charity’s right. Even then, collecting, saving and processing saved, stamped envelopes is time-consuming and in itself costly, with no guarantee of a refund at the end of it. There does, however, appear to be a very simple and effective remedy to the problem. All we would ask is that you cross out the ‘Freepost’ line if you are using a stamp. Tried and tested by another charity, it does seem to have the desired effect and does indeed save money. We feel this is an effective and worthwhile service to offer our supporters and will continue to include a freepost envelope where appropriate. Please be reassured that we do care very much about how every penny is spent and, just as importantly, saved, and we would like to thank you for caring too. Mandy Boulton
(Other possible projects remain to be confirmed)
MONMOUTHSHIRE TO NYUMBANI, KENYA (June/July) Build classrooms in orphans’ eco-village
HEREFORDSHIRE/GLOUCESTERSHIRE/ MONMOUTHSHIRE TO KISUMU, KENYA (Feb) Build carpentry workshop for disadvantaged teenagers
HERTFORDSHIRE TO SIRIBA, UGANDA (August/ September) Build at school / vocational training centre, phase 2
BRISTOL AND SOUTH GLOS TO ZUMBO, UGANDA (Mar) Build classrooms at primary school
GROUP PROJECTS 2008
GROUP PROJECTS 2010
JERSEY TO MOSSORO, BRAZIL (January) Build classrooms for favela children
MONMOUTHSHIRE TO OGENDA, UGANDA (Jan/Feb) Build classrooms in girls’ secondary school
UK-WIDE TO SIRIBA, UGANDA (January) Build village vocational training centre
GLOUCESTERSHIRE TO SARBERIA, INDIA (Feb) Help at school / vocational training centre
LANCASHIRE TO NYUMBANI, KENYA (June) Build homes in orphans’ eco-village
MONMOUTHSHIRE TO OGENDA, UGANDA (Jul/Aug) Build classrooms in girls’ secondary school
GLOUCESTERSHIRE TO MONZE, ZAMBIA (August) Develop Maluba orphans’ school
HEREFORDSHIRE TO KISUMU, KENYA (Jul/Aug) Build carpentry workshop for disadvantaged teenagers
KALIYANGILE, CHISAMBA, ZAMBIA (September) Build classroom and workshop, phase 3
CARDIFF TO ATHI, KENYA (Jul/Aug) Build wheelchair-friendly boarding school dining facilities
OXFORD AREA TO SARBERIA, INDIA (Nov/Dec) Build vocational training centre / classrooms
JERSEY TO MUKO, RWANDA (Oct) Build classrooms at a junior secondary school
SKILLED VOLUNTEERS 2009 - 2010
CARDIFF/NEWPORT TO ZUMBO, UGANDA (Nov/Dec) Build classrooms at primary school
KENYA physiotherapists, bereavement counselling trainer
GROUP PROJECTS 2009
BENIN Engineer and project development worker
LANCASHIRE TO DOGBA, BENIN (Feb/March) Rebuild flood-damaged school, phase 2
ZAMBIA Engineer, administrator, midwife/Ultrasonographer,
BRISTOL TO AKOMADAN, GHANA (March) Build classrooms at orphans’ centre, phase 4
UGANDA Project Development Worker
CHARITABLE TRUST UK REGISTRATION NUMBER: 1097626
(Other possible volunteers to be confirmed)
P.O. Box 117, Monmouth, Monmouthshire NP25 9AR Tel / Fax +44 (0) 1600 740317 P.O. Box 62, Lydney, Gloucestershire GL15 6WZ Tel / Fax +44 (0) 1594 560223 Email email@example.com Website www.hatw.org.uk
‘Giving a hand, not a handout’ mission statement: HANDS AROUND THE WORLD seeks to help vulnerable children around the world, encouraging enthusiastic and well-prepared volunteers to offer practical help, skill-sharing, support and friendship.
CARDS, BAGS, MUGS AND PENS FOR SALE
Alindra Naskar, founder of the New Life Centre in Sarberia, writes:
NOW AVAILABLE Mugs are £3.00 + £1.00 p+p
Pens are £1.50 inc p+p
Notelets (blank inside) are £3.00 for 10 inc p+p
Bags are £5.00 + £1.00 p+p LARGE JUTE BAGS 40cm x 36cm x 18cm
Our NEW LIFE CENTRE has various activities and objectives. Presently we are concentrating on the development of the school, vocational training and an environmental sanitation, health and hygiene programme. Our project is located on the great delta of Sundarbans at a remote area called Sarberia, West Bengal in India. A destructive cyclone called ‘Aila’ hit this place on 28th May 2009 and continued for three days. Thousands of people lost their lives; many thousands became homeless and lost their household properties. Cultivated land turned up unable to be used for cultivation for at least another 3 years due to effect of salt water. We had the opportunity to jump into the situation casually and contributed the best we could. We are thankful to God that he saved us from any nature of destruction. We have been privileged by receiving HATW teams in November 2008 and February 2010. In the first year they emphasized mostly on constructing the ground floor of the vocational training block and this year the second team had worked partly on constructing the first floor over the same building and contributed equally their academic talents and skills in teaching English and games to our school children and upgrading teaching skills of our teachers as well. Now we have the required rooms for extending the vocational training programmes and providing classrooms for senior students of our school. We will have now a proper administrative office room and library cum store room to keep study materials. We will have also a room for prayer and to discuss spiritual values. Since our infrastructure is adequate for the time being, we have started class V this year, which is the doorway of secondary (class-X) education. New admissions are going on and ‘til today, 17th April 2010, we have 47 new children for the 2010-2011 academic year.
2 each of 5 designs
ORDER YOURS NOW AT firstname.lastname@example.org 01600 740317 or use the FREEPOST envelope
Davies. They collectively extended the best of their physical and intellectual capacity in building work and taking care of our children and upgrading our teachers in every respect. We trust God will guide us to reach our goal and fulfill the vital need of this area. Our standing invitation remains for anyone who would like to render service for our place in teaching and other areas of service on a longer term basis. Tess and Lyn tell us how the February team got on... I was returning to Sarberia a little over a year since my first visit, and no one could have prepared me for the joy and delight at meeting the Indian friends I made last time. This project was different, in that it wasn’t just a building project to complete the first floor of the Vocational Training Centre; we were going to work in the school as well. One of the team, Lyn, was an experienced Primary school teacher, so in close consultation with Agnes, Mr Naskar’s daughter who teaches in the school, they devised a timetable which combined effective use of our time with least disruption to the children’s curriculum. This also provided a much needed break from the brick carrying, which was even harder than last time. as we were carrying bricks up one flight of stairs this time. All in all, apart from the occasional day when we seemed to be changing our clothes regularly - building clothes, then smarter school clothes, then back to building togs - this combination of building and teaching worked very well.
The building work was successful in that we achieved what we set out to do. It was a great honour for me to officially open the VTC whilst we were there, and see the completed ground floor ready for the women to move in and start their tailoring. Whilst we were there we also purchased material in Calcutta for the women in the VTC. Chompa, who runs the VTC, made up 11 garments for us to bring back to sell in England. We paid her in advance, which means that they have more money to buy materials, and hopefully start selling locally and make money for the women and the school. Whether we were successful in the school will be seen in time, if Lyn’s recommendations for the teaching of English are implemented. One morning, as I walked into the school with Mr Naskar and the children rushed forward to shake our hands and wish us ‘Good morning’ (as they did every morning), he told me that this was a great achievement as far as he was concerned. Two years ago, when David and Mandy visited, they were the first white people
that some of the children had seen, and they were very wary of them. Now to see these same children launch themselves at us each morning and grasp our hands meant a great deal. They were no longer wary or suspicious of foreigners, but treated us as friends. This was a success I wouldn’t have noticed myself, and I wondered how much we overlook the intangible for the concrete and measurable when we are evaluating success! Tess Molloy For me, being able to help in the primary school was a big incentive to apply for my second HATW project, as it meant I could use my teaching skills as well as work on the building site. Both aspects of the work were rewarding in different ways. It was great to watch the VTC grow almost daily and communicate with the builders without any Bengali. A smile is universal and a wonderful way to interact without language; there was certainly a lot of shared laughter with the local workers on site and warm greetings when we were out and about.
Our day always began with the school assembly; the first one I shall never forget. The whole school was lined up awaiting our arrival. The children looked very smart in their uniforms and there was a huge variety of expressions on their faces ranging from smiling to bewildered to a little scared even. Five tiny tots came forward to place garlands of roses & marigolds around our necks and we had to stoop very low to receive them, then the teachers gave each of us a rose. The pupils sang whilst we smiled and felt well and truly welcomed by their touching greeting. We all said a few words about the month ahead. What a wonderful start to our four-week stay. A timetable for working in the school and on the building site was sorted out fairly quickly. All of our team did English conversation classes with five of the teachers on a daily basis and we learned much about them and their families, state education, healthcare, the role of women, how to cook fish curry and so many other topics they chose to discuss. It was a time for all of us to share experiences, build friendships and have some fun.
sessions a week each and sitting on a rattan mat in the sunshine was a joy. At first, some of the 5 and 6 year olds were unsure of us; why were we taking groups outside with boxes of animal dominoes or a floor jigsaw? They soon realised and smiled when we entered their classroom to divide them up. Sport after school was a lively time, with badminton, cricket, football, frisbee, skipping etc. It was good to play with the children in a less formal setting. Mr Naskar was our kind, thoughtful host and we stayed in his home with his daughter Agnes, who is a teacher at the school. We were very well looked after and, as I liked to ask questions about many different facets of life in Sarberia, I was glad that both Mr Naskar and Agnes were so willing to answer them and give an insight into their lives. We ate delicious home cooked curries twice a day, made by Karmeeni who also worked at the school, helped by Sandhya, a parent. Mr Naskar took us out to meet several families, so we got to see some of the pupils in their homes, which was lovely. We met a Sister from the Missionaries of Charity, who invited us to visit her brothers’ homes and share some food. We wandered around Sarberia, soaking up the beauty of the place, seeing the fish ponds, the well-stocked fruit and veg stalls, the tea drinking. It was a different pace of life that I tried to hang on to for a while when I returned home. The warmth and hospitality we received was humbling. We have many lessons to learn from those with little who are so willing to share. I had a very happy month living in a place where Westerners are rarely seen, working, sharing and laughing with many new found friends. I’ll be back, for sure. Lyn Helyer
I taught every day, working with the teachers and, although it was a little frustrating at times following a syllabus, I managed to introduce some activities, songs and games to encourage speaking English. We all took groups from the lower and upper kindergarten classes for two
On behalf of ‘NEW LIFE CENTRE’ I extend heartfelt thanks to the HATW group of November 2008 Tess Molloy (group coordinator), Arthur Bentley, Rosie Dodds and Luke Rowland and also the group of 2010 - Tess Molloy (group coordinator), Lyn Helyer, Peter Dunford, Sally Lauri and Rob
UGANDA OGENDA The project we worked on was to provide permanent brick built classrooms for the Ogenda High School for Girls in Northern Uganda. The local Anglican Church founded the school in 1999 at a time when secondary education for girls was not a government priority. The existing classrooms were made from mud blocks that required high maintenance and deteriorated rapidly with the heavy rains. I had visited the school in 2008 with a party from Trellech Church who had supported the school since 2003. I had been impressed by the local enthusiasm for education – it was every parent’s ambition to educate their children, so it was a wonderful opportunity to go with HATW to help build new classrooms.
with us on the project. They worked without pay – they saw the project as a great benefit to their community. Many local women also helped by carrying water up a steep path of about half a mile from the river Nile to the building site – the water being essential for the mixing of mortar and concrete (all of which was done by hand). Although Uganda certainly does not have the same building regulations and Health and Safety rules as the UK, the building was constructed in a careful and efficient manner. At the end of our time, the classrooms had been built up to eaves level and were ready for the timber and iron sheet roof. A second team from HATW will be going out to Uganda in July to help complete the buildings.
We arrived in Uganda after a 9 hour flight and, after an overnight stay, set off to the north of the country in a minibus. It was a long, hot (30+ degrees C) journey on relatively good roads and we arrived about 5pm feeling very tired. However there was a wonderful welcome of singing, music and speeches, which was indicative of the way we would be cared for during our stay.
As well as working hard on the building in very hot conditions (temp in the mid 30s each day) we had great enjoyment socialising with the local people. We were invited out to meals (even had a goat slaughtered in our honour!) and spent time sharing music with the village church choir who practised near our ‘guesthouse’. We were able to teach them some of our hymns and songs and they taught us some of their own.
Work started on the Monday morning and we were a little concerned as to how our small team of 4 relatively unskilled volunteers were going to build 4 classrooms and an administration block in 4 weeks! However, the local community were on site waiting for us. About 15 local bricklayers and labourers worked
We returned home feeling sad at leaving new found friends, but enriched after sharing their lives for a few weeks. They live a very hard life – no electricity, no running water and are so dependant on the weather to grow their food. However, they always wanted to share
what little they had – a lesson to us all. We left feeling grateful for the experience, and knowing that we, through HATW, had improved the educational opportunities for the young people of the area. Peter Gratton For four weeks over January and February 2010, I led a team of four HATW volunteers that included Kerry Goodenough, Peter Gratton and Maureen Evans, on a visit to the village of Pagwaya in Uganda to help construct classrooms at Ogenda High School for Girls. The weather was extremely hot, the work was tough, the food was basic and the mosquitoes relentless, but the people were welcoming, joyous, affectionate and appreciative. It was difficult to fathom how people with so little could be so contented and yet that is how they were, and it makes you feel humble and want to do as much as you can for them. The days in Uganda were filled with all manner of adventures, as well as helping to construct the school using customary building methods, the team visited local schools, churches, village elders, the traditional chief, were honoured guests at a wedding, sang with the choir in their local language Alur, went on an excursion to the beautiful ‘Prayer Mountain’ and took a rather scary trip on a tiny fishing boat up the Nile.
Kerry and Maureen ‘getting stuck in’
about what injections we would need and lots of useful information. The trip seemed to be miles away and then suddenly... we were off!
We awoke each day to breathtaking sunrises and were greeted wherever we went by throngs of excited children wanting to shake our hands or have their photographs taken. As the days passed, our friendships with the locals grew and greetings in the local language became natural. We were honoured with such things as a child being named after me, gifts of chickens for Maureen and Kerry, and goats for Peter, all of which you will be glad to hear were left in the capable care of our generous hosts. As well as the bricklaying, concrete mixing and general labouring, there were some rather interesting trips on extremely worn out vehicles to fetch bricks, sand, cement, trowels, shovels
and materials for constructing a ring beam. We found ourselves moved to dress the appalling wounds of the locals, stirred to pay for material to make school uniforms for 80 children and finally, just before we left, stimulated to give away all but one set of our own clothes. The day the team left Pagwaya was a strange mix of emotions - satisfaction at a job well done (the school had been completed apart from the addition of the roof), joy that we were returning to our families, sadness at leaving our new friends, frustration that we couldn’t do more, but mostly thanks, or as they say in Alur, ‘Afoyo’, for the wonderful welcome and amazing opportunity we had been afforded. Steve Dobson
It’s now nearly a year since I saw an article about volunteers being needed to go to Uganda to help build a school for girls in a small rural place called Ogenda. I had never done anything like it before, but it was just the right time in my life for me to do something new. I am 61 years old and I lost my husband nearly three years ago, so there was a gap to be filled in my life. We all worked hard to raise the funds needed for the trip and met up at different times to keep up to date with each other. We also had meetings with David and Joanna to learn more about the area we were going to and the things that would be acceptable or not. We were told
It was quite a long journey, but at last we arrived. We did the last part of the journey in a minibus. As we got near to our home for the next month we were all a little nervous. We went down some very rough tracks and at last arrived at the place where we were to build the school. There was a small group of people waiting to meet us - the headmaster and some members of the school committee. We had to go into the school building and sign the visitors book and have a chat to everyone. By the time we came out, quite a crowd of children had appeared. We soon found that to be the norm; everywhere we went there were always crowds of smiling happy children. We then went on to the village we were staying in. As we arrived, there were crowds of children, men and women singing and waving small branches with flowers on them. It was such a surprise that I don’t think any of us was far from tears. I know I wasn’t. We had speeches of welcome and so many thanks and prayers said for our safe arrival. Then we were at last shown to the house we were staying in, and so began our month’s adventure.
The building as the team left it
Sunrise over the Nile
Singing with the choir
We had lots of ups and a few downs, but the welcome of the people and the way that they seemed so glad that we were working beside them and not just watching, made everything worthwhile. Even after we had been there for a couple of weeks the children would rush up to us while we were walking to work or going to church, so keen to shake our hands. I don’t think I have ever shaken so many hands! It made you feel very humble. We all enjoyed singing with the choir and learning some of their songs and they were so quick to learn ours. It was hard hot work, but very enjoyable. I hope anyone who is reading this and thinking about doing something like this won’t just think, but do it! You won’t be sorry! Maureen Evans
End of a good day’s work