I can’t believe we are now pushing the three mark, although it does feel like we have been here quite a long time as we begin to settle in even more!
It’s been a strange mixture of time the last few days with finalising our visits and witnessing some real hardships in the area around Kumi, where we are living, followed by taking in some of the sights of Uganda in one of the National Parks and on a short break from work! But whilst we were still in Kumi we confirmed two of our projects with a small development organisation linked with our partner church. We are going to be visiting a small rural village with each team where we will renovate a typical house made from grass thatch and mud and, on a separate visit; we shall be distributing food to needy families suffering from HIV/aids. As a staff team we went to visit both these villages to form the links before we take the teams, accompanied by a Ugandan man named Patrick who is quickly becoming another one of Uganda friends, we felt like we were truly in the middle of nowhere and witnessing some real suffering. As we distributed food to 3 families in the village we heard some difficult stories. One that will forever stay with me was from a family who lived together in a cluster of about 5 mud huts, all suffering from HIV. They showed us to the area where they buried their families, amongst which was a fresh grave. I was talking to a girl who can’t have been much older than me and she told me that the grave belonged to her 6 month old baby that they had buried just the day before. She had contracted aids and not survived. It was here I think that the hardships of this area really hit me but at the same time, the family were so welcoming to us and I was humbled by their love for God and trust in Him, even though they had nothing.
Our final visit of the week was to the health centre in the village which provides medical care for about 54,000 people in the surrounding district. It only receives funding from the government and some of the staff working there have not been paid for 6 months. The clinic has no electricity and no running water and uses a dug out pit just outside for the burning of its medical waste. Out of the 24 beds in the hospital, 3 of them have mattresses. If you are admitted to the ward, most patients are asked to bring their own mattress. The health centre cares mostly for those suffering with malnutrition, malaria, pneumonia and other common illnesses in Africa. Patients receive free diagnostic treatment, but if the hospital is running low on their drug provision from the government, patients must buy their own medicines and many just can’t afford it. Being in a place with such desperate need and with no medical knowledge whatsoever made me feel a bit helpless but we are planning to clean and decorate the two existing wards which will hopefully go some way in helping! I’m trying to get some artistic inspiration to put some colour on the walls too while we are there...no such luck yet but watch this space!!! (Any ideas?!)
After saying goodbye to Kumi for a few days we began our ‘toruisty’ bit of the trip, heading up to Murchison National Park, where we will be taking the volunteers for their well earned ‘R & R’ at the end of the two weeks. We saw a lot of animals on both the morning game drive and afternoon boat cruise. It was really special to see these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat on the African Plain! We managed to see lions, elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, hippo, crocodiles, lots of antelopes and lots of birds too! We also had the chance to take in the waterfalls that Murchison Park is so famous for which were truly breathtaking! Murchison Falls is a point in the Nile where 50 metres of water is squeezed through just 6 metres...white water bursts through the rocks making lots of spray and rainbows! Beautiful!
From our trip to Murchison we started our journey back to a hopefully bomb-free Kampala where we have been doing our final preparations for our first team of volunteers who arrive tomorrow! Louise and I have also been able to squeeze in a couple of days chill out time after our whirlwind two weeks on the Ssese Islands; a group of islands in the middle of Lake Victoria. We took a ferry to Kalanagala, one of the islands, and spent a nice day on the beach. Although there was unfortunately no swimming as Lake Victoria has bilharzias!! Nonetheless we returned to Kampala sufficiently relaxed and hopefully a bit more tanned ready for the next couple of weeks!
So, as you can see, the last couple of weeks has been a bit of a rollercoaster and some of me is still trying to process everything we have seen and the fact that we are actually in Africa!! But we are now just excited for the volunteers to come and experience these incredible things and hopefully be changed! Here’s hoping!