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This year's trip to Rukungiri in South Western Uganda was an incredible time. We met hundreds of people in lots of different settings. It's always hard to know where to start when we return from one of these trips but I wanted to introduce you to five of the people we met. Here are their stories.
Perhaps when you've finished reading you could think about getting involved in supporting the projects for the coming year.
I first met Esther back in 2015 when we had a little wander around the local market. Esther is a bit of a fixture in Rukungiri and spends her days sifting maize and selling her wares to support her family. She is typical of a woman in this part of Africa; working hard to provide for those she loves.
The Special Needs Unit at Kitazgurukwa School just outside Rukungiri is a very special place. It is the only place that children with additional needs can go to receive a fantastic education and be supported by caring professionals. Children with disabilities are often hidden away by their parents because they don't know what to do with them. Some are ashamed.
The work The Chilli Children Project do in Uganda to support these families is nothing short of miraculous. They change the lives of these children dramatically, offering them something they simply would not receive if Chilli Children didn't exist.
Marvin is one of the newest boarders at the school and has Down's Syndrome. He is thriving in his new environment and has made lots of friends. When I met Marvin he stared deep into my eyes and it's likely Marvin has never seen a muzungu (white person) before.
This year's project is at Rishararazi School in a remote village, about an hour's drive from Rukungiri. Each morning we drove to the building site to continue the work to build 3 new classrooms for the nursery children in the school. At least 95% of adults in the village have no education and so the development of the school is going to make a huge difference.
Norman has just retired as the Headteacher of the school having been there for many, many years. There are nearly 300 children in the school and for a lot of people there, we were the first muzungus they've ever seen.
The project is going be incredible for the community as it will bring together the locals and offer a significantly brighter future for the children there.
Each year we spend time with Mosaic Vision, a project that supports child headed families. Osbert is 14 years old and is a 'single orphan'/ That means his Dad has died but his Mum is still alive. We don't know how long she will live for because she, like her husband, is HIV positive.
Osbert is in the Mosaic programme and is sponsored. That means he can go to school, is provided with his uniform and receives ongoing practical and emotional support. Osbert is typical of many, many children in Uganda that are victims of the spread of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.
When working at Rishararazi one morning, we were approached by a mother and her son. Edison was limping and clearly in pain. His mother didn't speak a word of English and so we called in a little bit of help from Columbus (our driver) and Zedekiah (the building company owner).
Edison has contracted a waterborne disease that has caused his leg to swell and his skin to become mottled. He is agony, so much so that Columbus (certainly not a wimp of a man, he survived being chased by a hippo no less) said he would rather amputate his leg than live with such pain. We are trying to help Edison get the medical help he needs but it isn't straightforward.
It's an experience that is common in places like Uganda, where water is a daily challenge. It can be hard to find, or at least a long walk from home. It carries the risk of disease and, for young girls, the risk of sexual assault.
Hopefully we'll be able to at least help Edison.
We met Fred at the Chilli Children Life Skills Clinic. He came to the clinic with his dad and nobody could quite believe he was 12 months old, he looked about 2 months old, tops. His skin was translucent and he was severely malnourished.
Fred sums up what the Chilli Children are all about. They had walked a long way to the only place they knew they would get some help. Fred was immediately referred to Kisizi Hospital and placed in intensive care. Tragically it was too late. Just a few days later, Fred died.
Fred's story, like all these incredible people, are the reason we do what we can to help. They're not unusual stories, they're routine, they're the norm. Schudio exists to support those in desperate need in Uganda. We provide services to schools to the highest level possible to help us make a difference to these people.
Would you partner with us to make as much of a difference as we can? We're running two projects next year and you can find out more on our charity page or please drop us a line to chat through how you could get involved.
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