Fi, Pete, Don, Phil and Martin spent 7 days visiting the St James Love Africa communities accross Uganda. The main purpose of the visit was to brief Pete as our new Chair of the Love Africa Steering Group.
Here are some pictures from our visit. Projects include women's community groups working with the poorest people in their commuities impacted by HIV/AIDs as well as a drop in centre for girls in Kampala who are sex workers, the drop in centre helps coax them towards new hope and new lfestyles. Other communities have run 3 year programmes to describe and address their community's needs with the help of newly trained and mobilised local churches. Love Africa has been working with many of these projects and communities since 2007. The biggest changes are that these previously hopeless and stricken communities are now flourishing and turning their love and attention to others that need to go through the same process as them. Thank you St James. This work is truly transformational!
Tuesday, 11 August 2015
So here it is… the last Resonate Uganda Blog post. This trip has been one of the most life-changing, incredible and inspiring experiences of all of our lives and we cannot wait to tell you all about it when we get back. As a group, we’ve all grown so much closer as friends whether leader or youth, and as Christians we’ve developed so much in our walk of faith, strengthening our relationship with God. We really couldn’t have asked for a better, more amazing time, and no doubt will never forget the breath-taking trip we embarked on only 11 days ago.
As usual, we will start the blog off where the day started. We all woke up, feeling in denial that our time here is so close to coming to an end. We all however were prepared to make the most of the day ahead and jumped out of bed, some a little quicker than others with a few gecko friends being found in beds, and headed off for our last breakfast at the beautiful Bwana Tempo resort. The extraordinary beauty that we are surrounded by constantly reminds us all of the amazing work of God and all that has happened throughout the past 12 days. As we drove through the National Park on our last full day of Uganda with our heads though the roof of each minibus, dodging the extra protein (swarms of dragonflies) that was dive-bombing us all, I (Charli) couldn’t help but think God was showing us that he will continue to work through each and every one of us once we get back to the UK, revealed by the rainbow he placed in the sky as we continued our drive surrounded by astonishing amounts of wild animals - as close as I think we’ll ever get to feeling like Noah.
All packed and ready to say goodbye to Davidé and his family that run the amazing safari resort we were staying at, in true Uganda style we were there to wait for Odiirah and our drivers to arrive. We all piled in to the buses and reluctantly set off on the last journey of the trip, the longest yet – 6 hours from Murchison, to Kampala, to Entebbe Airport only stopping for feeding time and wild wees, plus a fun hour or two of sometimes awkward haggling and bargain hunting at several markets. I do believe we’ve now perfected all of the above techniques. After a truly delicious last supper, we all left completely stuffed to the point where we couldn’t even finish the Chocolate Fudge Cake or Black Forest Gateau!! We then had the heartbreak of saying goodbye to (in our eyes), the Queen of Uganda, A.K.A Odiirah, as she’s most commonly known. Several billion hugs later and our no.19 was gone. The heartbreak continued when we had to leave our trusty drivers, John and Co. at the airport drop off point. I think we can all agree that England could do with a few Ugandans and their joyous, ready-to-help, man-with-a-plan attitude always brought a smile to our faces which we will never forget.
After only a few hours of driving, even on the first day, we had already experienced members of the groups ‘interesting’ sleeping movements. Examples include a certain Mr Nagle showing his best Elvis Presley impressions (the classic lip twitch), and much to our concern he was swirling his neck about like a tornado (don’t worry, we did get pictures and video clips much to everyone’s amusement!). There was also the odd dribble incident whereby Ross’ shirt was not as dry as when the drive began due to Josh taking a nap on his shoulder (so sweet, is there a bromance on the horizon?).
We would also like to take this opportunity to say a massive thank you to all the leaders that have come on the trip with us. Without any of them, this life-changing experience would not have been able to take place, and our Uganda family would not have been the same. They have devoted so much of their time to making sure our tour would run as smoothly as possible even with a few minor issues of ‘Uganda time’ or as we know it better to be; faffing! Odiirah, our Ugandan mother, also deserves a massive thank you, always being there for us when we need her as well as being our constant feed of knowledge teaching us of the Ugandan culture and sorting out EVERYTHING we need. We would also like to thank all of the people at home who during this past week have been following what we have been doing on the blog, as well as praying for us all. It has been amazing to hear all of the support from you all at home and again (sorry for the cliché messages), this trip would not have happened without your support in fundraising, prayer and just knowing that you are all so interested in our trip. A massive thank you to you all, we cannot wait to tell everyone what God has been doing in our lives, and all the brilliant memories we’ve created.
Looking forward to seeing you all at the airport in a few hours! Now time for a plane nap we think, (finished at 2:08 am)
Charli and Alice x
How could this one blog do justice to all we have witnessed in God’s creation today?
Alas, we have entered the last 48 hours of our Uganda adventure where nature played a prominent feature. Awaking promptly, some of us started the day at 6:54 with the views of the sunrise over the Nile river.
At 10:30 we began our ‘al fresco church service’ creating a contrast to the normalities of Resonate. The service did not include funny Youtube videos or a few games of dodgeball as one might be accustomed to, but rather a peaceful time for reflection, contemplation and the opportunity to draw closer to God. We shared testimonies, worship and bread and wine together as we all played different roles in allowing the church service to run smoothly. As the service drew to a close, we had the opportunity to wait on God and open our hearts and minds to Him.
After an unusual but welcomed time of rest, we proceeded on an excursion with rotated chairs, the moon roof set and a bag of Harribos-let the game drive begin! With squeals of excitement as we saw our first hartebeasts and jumping from seats at the first sight of giraffes we quickly had our cameras at the ready, safari hats on and binoculars (for those like Becca) who were real naturals.
Through rough terrain and the vast expanse of grassland either side of our converted minibuses, our eager eyes were open and struck by Gods indescribable creation. The surroundings were tranquil and this was accompanied with a myriad of African wildlife such as giraffes, elephants, warthogs, buffalos, monkeys and lion cubs. It really was a vast array!
As we stopped several times to admire the sheer splendour and beauty of our close proximity to a herd of giraffes (only meters away!), the comparison was quickly made between ‘The Lion King’ and reality. With no airbrushing and no filters added-this was the African life! Although we thought we took a wrong turning, God (once again) proved to us that he is always one step ahead as we saw four lion cubs who were definitely not camera shy. Still half out of the roof, we became wary of the father of the pack and swiftly drove away.
As our three hour game drive came to an end, we were speechless as the sun descended over hectares of land and miles of water creating silhouettes of elephants and giraffes at the water side. This mimicked the perfect setting of the Garden of Eden, which words nor pictures could do justice.
Exhausted and hungry after dodging swarms of dragonflies on the journey home, we were more than thrilled to receive (yet another) three course Italian delicacy, including an eight layered slice of lasagne, steak cooked to perfection accompanied with carrots and beans and crème caramelle to finish.
As has been the norm of the evenings, we proceeded to take time to reflect on the highlights of the trip and express our gratitude to the leaders including Odirrah, who made a supportive team member, resolving issues when they arose. We will truly miss our number 19 as we depart tomorrow!
After dinner, we gazed at the stars seeing different constellations and shooting stars and we were in awe of the magnificence of the night sky – truly lost for words! We were once again touched and amazed by the beauty of God’s World.
‘indescribable, uncontainable, awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim, you are an amazing God’
Look forward to seeing you all soon.
Hakuna mutata to you all,
Lots of love,
Faith and Maddie xox
Sunday, 9 August 2015
Hello to all our family and friends back at home!
I am writing to you from our amazing lodge accommodation at Bwana Tembo – meaning ‘Mr Elephant’. Last night when we arrived I was grinning from ear to ear and have been in heaven ever since. One thing I have to mention for my mum is the greeting I received from an adorable, bouncy five month old Rhodesian ridgeback named Elsa who has made me miss my ridgeback back home.
Our first night in the tents taught us the definition of glamping and was a true adventure. Many of the girls – including Luke – were rather challenged by the bugs, to my amusement, but we all survived the night and woke well refreshed, ready for the day ahead.
Today has been absolutely incredible. The view over the Nile as you open the door of the tent is simply breath-taking and the rustic setting has made us all feel at home. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast and fuelled up for the busy day. By 9 am we were in the vans and set off for Murchison National Park. Before we had even reached the entry gate our van had spotted a herd of Uganda kob which we gloated over – we’re still feeling rather competitive after yesterday’s Apprentice challenge!
In true Ugandan fashion we were kept waiting for 45 minutes as we tried to buy our entry tickets and every dollar note of the slightest difference in colour or with the smallest tear was rejected. Eventually we were on the move again but now the time was tight to make our 11 am boat trip. Within the first 10 minutes of driving through the park we had seen our first elephant, kobs, oribi and warthogs. It was so amazing to see these animals in their beautiful natural habitat and we were all marvelling at the sheer size of the elephant! In no time we had seen baboons, waterbuck, buffalo and even two fleeting giraffes. We arrived to jump on the boat just in time although they threatened to abandon Tim and Odirah on the shore. Nevertheless we all made it on board The African Queen opposite five wallowing hippos.
The trip down the Nile was absolutely stunning with the wide river bordered by green trees, cliffs and swamps. We saw so many different animals including hippos, crocodiles, elephants, waterbucks, baboons and warthogs. There were also beautiful birds including pied kingfishers and an African fish eagle. It was lovely to have the chance to relax, take in the breath-taking scenery and chat with each other.
We turned a corner and were faced with the sheer cliffs of Murchison falls. The water was raging down through the rocks and its power was evident from the loud roar. We were dropped off near the base of the falls and proceeded to prepare ourselves mentally and physically for the long climb to the top. The entire team sun creamed and DEETed leaving us all delightfully sticky and we grabbed as much water as we could carry. Our guide Emmanuel assured us we would stick to a leisurely pace and how wrong we were to trust him! We set of slowly under a false pretence but soon were power walking up steep cliff paths in the blazing sun. The views were incredible as we climbed higher and higher up the side of the waterfall which made up for the difficult trek. As we powered on we were soon all dripping with sweat which was a lovely addition to our sun cream and DEET combination. As you can imagine we all looked absolutely stunning, Graeme in particular who was again having some issues with his sweaty breasts.
In the blink of an eye we had made it all the way to the top(all of us apart from Odirah who was taking her time ambling up the steps and stopping to admire every wild flower or insect) and you can rest assured knowing none of us collapsed, died of thirst of fell off the side of a cliff. We are all safe and so happy to have made it the breath-taking views as we looked over the Nile and watched the masses of water tumbling over the top of the falls. The spray was deliciously cool and was so refreshing after our hot, sweaty trek. We took a plethora (this is getting old now isn’t it) of selfies and team photos overlooking the rushing water which you’ll have to wait to see. I could never do justice to the beauty of God’s creation if I attempted to describe it in words so I will just continue with the rest of the day.
As you can imagine we were overjoyed to return to the AIRCONDITIONED(!) vans and we all piled in, sticky and hot but basking in the cold air. We drove back to the ferry port looking forward to the game drive home and all desperate for a shower! How our hearts broke when we arrived to be told there was no rush because the car ferry had broken down and wouldn’t be fixed for hours. We had to abandon John and the vans which Tim was unsurprisingly reluctant about as we had temporarily lost the best driver in Uganda (and the recipient of Tim’s unrequited bromance). However, Odirah saved the day again as we crossed the river on two small passenger boats. We had thought that the day’s trekking was over but at least the trickery hadn’t been designed by our youth pastor this time! Off we went again with all of our bags as we walked up to a nearby lodge hotel and awaited rescue.
After a well-deserved cool drink it wasn’t long before ``````````````````````````````````````````````````our saviour Davide from Bwana Tembo arrived with trucks to take us back to base. We all piled in relieved to finally be getting closer to the chance of a shower! Little did we know that we would see five elephants on the side of the road followed by a giraffe, God really does know how to cheer us up! However, that wasn’t even the highlight as we were stopped by three little lion cubs crossing the road ahead of us followed by their majestic mother. As my van was full of girls we all had to contain our squeals of delight at how cute and fluffy the baby cubs were as the lioness wasn’t too pleased by our presence. It was the perfect way to end the long day and we made it back home with stunning views of the sunset and the African skyline.
As soon as we were back we all rushed to the tents to finally shower and get clean (it was the best shower of my life). We even made it back in time for another delicious three course Italian meal which we needed after our exhausting day. After dinner we had our usual highs and lows which were all rather similar as we were blown away by the beauty of the Nile and the animals, and all have a common hatred of sweat. Georgie shared her favourite Bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11 ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ This verse particularly resonates with all of us as we face exam results when we return home so it is such an encouragement to know that God has a plan for our lives through which we can commit ourselves to him. It is, however, also a challenge not to hold on to our own plans but to commit everything over to God who knows far better than we do and trust him completely for the future.
We were then blessed enough to hear Odirah’s testimony and how she struggled through a very challenging childhood. Odirah is an inspiration as she truly lives in the knowledge of Jeremiah 29:11, she commits all of her plans to the Lord and by God’s grace she remained in education and completed her degree from Kampala University. She has worked so hard for all she has which is a testament to her success and through her total surrender to God, he has blessed her future. We felt so privileged to hear her amazing story and how fitting Georgie’s Bible verse was. Even in the little things, God has a plan. If we hadn’t had to change hotels and end up at the palace of Mbale Resort God would never have been able to challenge us and change our hearts as we wrestled with staying in such luxury. If the car ferry hadn’t broken down we wouldn’t have seen those elephants, giraffe and lions. God knows all things and got us home in time for dinner!
Today has been just incredible, I hope I have managed to do it some justice in this blog. We’re all sad to be coming towards the end of this life-changing trip and don’t really want to leave, but we can’t wait to see you all and tell our stories when we get home.
That’s all for today, thank you for all your prayers and love. Goodnight and God bless from Uganda!
(P.s. Hi Mummy and Daddy, I’m still alive and although we did see one camel we haven’t found another nine so they haven’t sold me yet. Give Mara and the other doggies hugs from me, I can’t wait to see you all soon. Lots of love x)
Saturday, 8 August 2015
Day 8 in our African paradise. Before unveiling the antics of today we would love to share the events of yesterday evening as they unfolded. After a lovely dinner (of which the chicken tikka masala proved a little too spicy for some) we headed into our meeting room for what we assumed would be our normal debrief coupled with a short time of worship. Little did we know that the evening would be more meaningful than we could have imagined and our ‘short’ time of worship would actually last a full 2 hours! As the youth waited we took it upon ourselves to dive into the songs of the evening,meaning that the leaders arrived to the sounds of our worship and joined straight into the praise. The evening was nothing short of amazing. The Holy Spirit entered our hearts and started to soothe some of the things we saw over the past week that had left us broken. The Lords presence was overwhelming and we could have worshipped for hours! It was a truly special evening that none of us will forget for a long time.
So back to this morning…being teenagers, we usually indulge in an extended nap time and the trips early morning demands have been a bit of a struggle to cope with. However, we were allowed an extra half an hour today which was extremely welcome. Breakfast was followed by a devotional time, led by Debs, where we read a passage from Matthew that reflected our work this week and looked at how we can serve God by helping those who have a need, whether it be physical or emotional. This especially helped those of us who were challenged by the realisation that we can’t help everybody, but served as some reassurance that this fact does not constitute afailure.
Following this Tim led us into the village and we walked amongst the rural huts in silence, allowing time where each of us could reflect upon what we had heard and listen to God without distraction. There we came to the village’s water pump where we thoroughly enjoyed interacting with more of the locals, each of us helping to pump their water and Tim even took it upon himself to ride one their bikes, much to the delight of the owner. The locals even called a few team members (Alice specifically) by name. It was so special to see that the girl Olivia remembered her from the day before, even though their contact time was so limited. It just goes to show how much of an impact a conversation can have. A few of us then presented to them some clothes that we had brought, it was particularly meaningful for us as they were so grateful to receive them, and it was so special to know that something of ours will remain with them in Uganda. When the time came we were reluctant to leave, but soon headed off to Murchison Falls, however the journey took an unexpected turn when Tim announced we were to take part in our own ‘Apprentice’…
The task was simple, we had 40,000 Ugandan shillings, a shopping list and half an hour. To be late was to receive a hefty fine. The three teams ‘Grayley’, ‘It’s The Tacos’ and the ‘Wilcats’ were ready to rock. It. Was. ON. Off we went, dashing into supermarkets and around stalls like all hell had broken loose. An array of tactics were adopted. The boys (aka Tacos) tried to utilise their “charm” which, considering their epic loss, was duly unsuccessful. Their desperation was so great that they even attempted to exchange their own comrade, Josh Yip, for a bunch of bananas. The wildcat team(consisting of Pip, Charli, Alice and Maddie) was sly and chose to buy miniature versions of the products in order to maximise profits, Alan Sugar would have been proud. However entrepreneurial prowess took a new meaning after a glorious display from the girls of Grayley( Georgie, Becca, Hollie, Ellie and Faith). No eyelashes were batted, no sweet talk was had, not a second was wasted. With an efficiency that can only be compared to that of a superconductor (Dad guess who wrote this) we swooped to victory, in which we happily basked.
After the excitement of these events we commenced the 3 hour journey to Murchison. Although our journeys may seem long, we manage to fill the time with laughter and songs. My (Pip) bus decided to personify our watermelon that we had bought. The name Melonie was given, and we gave her special care and attention. Rest assured she wore her seatbelt the whole journey and involuntarily participated in many bus selfies.
The setting was breath taking as we neared the park. The hazy purple sunset was the perfect backdrop for the rural African huts and sausage tree silhouettes. We all took many photos but none of them gave justice to the true beauty of the Ugandan land. We arrived at Bwana Tembo before it became dark and were all suitably pleased with our authentic tents and cottages. After we settled in we met for our fantastic three course dinner which was much appreciated after our long day.
After dinner it seemed that anarchy had descended as various creatures entered our tents, causing quite an uproar, there was even a bat in one of the mosquito nets! Luckily we soon discovered that we were not under siege, merely a few flies and ants had decided to grace us with their presence and we were offered a truly wild experience (and few cases of paranoia).
That’s all for today, we are heading off to sleep under what can only be described as a breath taking night sky. Stars have never seemed so bright!
We hope you are all well, God bless.
Georgie and Pip
Thursday, 6 August 2015
We awoke this morning at an ungodly hour to yet another day of heat, DEET and smelly feet. However, thoughts of breakfast quickly stirred our spirits and the trusty, treasured ‘Passion Juice’ once more invigorated our bones and topped up our hearts with strength to face the coming day.
We departed briskly from the hotel, which borders closely to locals’ homes, easily viewable from the majority of our windows, the reality of which is one that is still difficult for many to come to terms with. The blueprint for the day saw us travel to extremely isolated communities to engage with them and their routine activities.
En route to our destination, each of the three vans was asked for a single volunteer. I leapt at the opportunity…and then pursued to ask what it was that I had volunteered for. The answer came when we arrived at one of the markets in Soroti. We ambled through the dense, dim and dappled pathways encompassed by shaky rooves of corrugated metal, turning heads to the same effect of Hayley bottom-boogieing around small African children. We scouted through the many ranks of market stallsuntil we reached a plethora (yes, I too can use sophisticated vocabulary) of shambled, dingy chicken coops. It was the volunteers’ prized task to buy a chicken and take it under our wing. In other words, to carry it by the feet back to the van and deliver it to the families we were meeting as a gift. We thought our new comrade had died of shock before we reached it, but surprised us all by coming back to life, (exposing the fact that Tim isn’t the only master of deception on this trip) and so earned the worthy nickname, Lazarus. The other three purchased chickens went by the esteemed titles of Phoebe, Nugget and Ginger Spice.
And so we continued our journey, consisting of more than one cheeky attempt from Lazarus to escape his warranted, unbending sentence of execution. We plunged into what could safely be coined as ‘rural Uganda’, crossing red-dust roads, exotic grasslands and astounding skyscapes, an undeniably textbook location for a wild wee. Another poignant moment of the journey was Tim being separated from John (the best driver in Uganda) for the first time, a bromance that Luke and Josh could only dream of boasting.
We drove on what seemed virgin road for the last two-hundred yards or so, until encountering the Ugandan champions of hide and seek – utter isolation. Warm welcomes are all that we have received this week, and a warm welcome was an understatement of what we were greeted withthis morning. For four hours, we adopted the life of a large family of fourteen children, becoming immersed in a plethora (yes, I know I’m milking it) of household jobs such as grinding flour, harvesting maize and fetching water. More than once, I had to remind myself that I was not watching a Channel 4 documentary or an episode of Ray Mears Extreme Survival.
However, our hearts sank like the Titanic at the sight of Lazarus, plucked, beheaded and sitting a pot. Something told us that he wasn’t coming back this time. Throughout the rest of our stay, we were able to mingle with the family and engage with the children. It was humbling to recognise that our mere presence of hours was most likely to be remembered by that family for years.
Our time to depart had arrived, and heavy-hearted we trawled back the way we came, and paid a visit to one of the local churches, supported by the PAG organisation. There we discussed more cultural topics, concerning community financing especially and the way in which residents manage their money in such secluded areas of Uganda.
We drove back home quite silent with the wish that we could stay, as the sun began to set to end another perfect day.
P.S. Hi mum and dad, I would just like to take this opportunity to reassure you that I have not died or been abducted yet.
The evening of the previous day, we were blessed to be visited by Edith Wacamere, (or to her mandemz, Edith Guacamole), whose tales of endeavour stimulated an evening of challenging thought with stark juxtaposition between the lives of our girls and those here. Her organisation, Uganda Women’s Concern Ministry, deals with vulnerable, disadvantaged women who are being given the rare opportunity to free themselves from the constraints of social conformity.
Today entailed travelling to Soroti, where, on the way, a certain Mr. Yip decided to take a nap on Ross’ burly biceps, which also included intermittent dribbles cascading down Ross’ finely-toned arms.
This unusually sensual experience was interrupted by the cries of protest as Luke ‘Big-Arms’ Scott, was appalled at the undemocratic decision taken by the supreme leaders that a sit down lunch was deemed unnecessary.
En-route to the awaiting caves, Tim greeted us with the awesome opportunity of white water rafting, but alas, he was tricking us, as we have become accustomed to on this trip. Mr. Nagle was bitterly disappointed.
Upon exit of the minibus, Hayley, in a noble attempt to impress the locals with her dancing, instead turned faces of excitement to despair and desperation as they hid from such bottom-orientated boogieing.
After the African children had fled amongst cries of horror, we took to the local caves where our guide, taught us about primitive art and the ancient cultures of East African tribes.
We then travelled through the beautiful landscape to reach Sorotti, where half the group took to the streets to engage with Ugandans in their daily routine but returned uncomfortable at the noticeable line separating the two worlds.
Dinner followed and us ladz have retreated to the safety of the man cave to seek shelter from the girls and other buzzing pests, we hope tomorrow that our DEET will be more effective in protecting our tender ears from conversations of make-up and other womens stuff.
Ross and the boiz.
Wednesday, 5 August 2015
Mulembe to all those worriers out there, WE ARE ALIVE!
It has been an indescribable 24 hours, but we will try our best to express it from the girls’ point of view.
After our beautiful, hole filling Italian dinner, we all congregated in our private meeting room to discuss our highs and lows of the day along with what we thought would be a normal, fairly short prayer time. Oh boy, how wrong we were…
As we entered prayer groups, we split into boys and girls to further discuss issues that we found moving in the ACET talk(the guys on the other hand had a talk about menstruation due to the lack of knowledge they humorously showed over lunch). In the ACET talk, we were all deeply affected by finding out about the lack of women's rights and their difficult circumstances, so we wanted to pray into this further. During our discussion, we were privileged enough to hear Odiirahshare part of her testimony and this really hit home, especially as we have all got to know her over the past few days making her feel (hopefully) like one of us. It was a really powerful time of prayer, as everything we had heard today and experienced so far had sunk in and reappeared at the surface of our emotions.
As Josh neglected to mention most of the ACET talk, we will briefly reveal all. We were told about:
• The abuse, physically and sexually, that women endure
• How young girls usually drop out of education due to having no education about how to deal with menstruationand little/no resources
• Men spending the majority of their days and nights indrinking clubs and believing that women should doeverything for them, creating an extreme hostile environment
• Girls as young as thirteen being sold off by their family to marry men that could easily be her father’s age
• The large rape culture and that if a girl gets pregnant, her family will often come to an agreement with the family of the father of the unborn childs about what price they will sell pregnant daughter.
The things ACET are doing to help people in these situationsinvolve many programs, one of which being the Pig Initiative. This is where they give two piglets to a family in the community to look after and raise. Once more piglets are born, the family will pass two onto another member of the community, and the process repeats over and over again. Afurther project that they have initiated, is the teaching of girlsto make sanitary towels, to enable them to stay in education and take care of their hygiene. They also train influential male members of the community to enter the drinking clubs and try to change the attitudes of the men, to enlighten them as to how they should be treating females.
So back to the prayer time… we were all moved in the girls group by how long, flowing and meaningful this time was to us. Despite the distractions from the boy’s laughter at the other end of the room, we remained encouraged in prayer for the women’s stories that we had heard about. In particular we were heartbroken by hearing about 13 year old girls being raped and forced to marry - we empathised and compared our lives at that age with these girls, and there wasn’t one girl that had a dry eye in the house.
After that emotional and unforgettable prayer time, we ascended to room 328, where the stairs seemed a bit too much for Hollie, to the amusement of some Japanese tourists. God did not stop talking to us throughout our extended time together, giving us bible verses, visions and words confirming our prayers. A late night all around for us, but it was definitely worth every second.
Waking up to a well needed hearty breakfast (including an abundance of sausages, watermelon, eggs and potatoes), we were rearing to go and excited for the day ahead.
When we arrived at Manyenya primary school, which houses more than 800 children ranging in age from 5 up to 18, we all jumped out the van and, without any hesitation, spontaneously split off and interacted with different groups of children. Within minutes, the boys were engaged in a very competitive football match which lasted a long 50 minutes in the scorching heat. Alex of course scored the ‘winning goal’ which he happily told everyone… not like we were bribed to put this in or anything. Unfortunately, as we discovered, Luke will definitely not be the next Wayne Rooney, that is all we will say! Us girls however introduced a ‘plethora’ (Yes Luke. We can use intellectual words too you know!) of games and enjoyed our time getting stuck in with all the many hundreds of children. We got out our parachute, and after starting with a mere 50 young children, we were astounded when we turned around and saw a sea of 200 smiling faces running towards us to play. Their smiles are infectious, which unfortunately led to a collective jaw ache.
After a long time of interacting through play with the children, we were taken into a classroom where we were to meet the 50 members of the Orphan Affair’s Council. It was a simple room with little inside, but the walls were covered with handmade posters, and we could tell instantly that it was treasured so highly by all the children. This is where we had the lengthy process of greeting the deputy head-teacher, all of the teachers, and all of the members of the group. We were all taught about what the Orphan Affair’s Council (sort of like a mock parliament, with positions for a president and many ministers that were voted in on their campaigns) had been doing, and their hopes for the future. We also learnt about how to make re-useable sanitary towels with just a piece of material, some thread and a button, we thought this was amazing and so intuitive. Thank goodness the boys had their chat the day before to prepare them!
We were then privileged enough to be taken by some of the members of the council to view their houses, one of which belonged to Charles. He is 17, like many of us, but at 15, he built his own house made of mud and cow dung, and hecurrently has plans for an extension. The pride he took in his house touched many of the members of the team’s hearts and inspired us because of the amount of overwhelming joy he had.
We then were taken to lunch, which was rice, beans, cabbage and some form of meat. All but one getting involved with the Ugandan way of getting stuck in and eating with our fingers. Harold on the other hand, decided that this would be the time to christen his spork, much to the disappointment of the rest of the team! Lunch gave us the opportunity to mingle with the children and teachers, and find out more about their lives.
After lunch we all spontaneously started singing and teaching the children our songs, including an impressive conga line. They reciprocated with their favourite Ugandan song and dance, in which we all got involved.
We were all so sad to leave, and to have to say goodbye to all the inspirational individuals we had met, but after a continuous flow of hand-shakes, we jumped in our mini vans to go - joined by one little guest.
Winnie is the Minister for Economic Welfare in the orphan affairs council. She is just 14 years old, and has done far more than any of us had done by that age. She also has dwarfism. I (Hollie) found it such an inspiration spending time with her during the day, and really connected with her. I even let her keep my sunglasses, as she rocked them far better than I did! After we left the school, we went to visit her home to see where she lives with her three siblings and grandmother. It was great to walk through her home, and they were so welcoming, although it was sad to discover that her grandmother had recently been hospitalised. I found saying goodbye to her difficult, as I spent a lot of time with her and her friends during the day, but left with the knowledge that I will write to her when I come back home.
You’ll be glad to know these are the final words of the day!After all that excitement, we returned to our accommodation, all shattered but in good spirit. It has been one of the most unforgettable days, with many amazing highs and heart-breaking lows but it has definitely encouraged us all. Over and out for now (we are sure you are relieved about this)!
Jambo! Ellie, Alice and the Girls x