Built hundreds of website and helped countless schools realise their potential online. Ian should be called upon for straight-talking advice and to make a difference to the way you present your school through every outlet.
It's been a good few weeks since I returned from my second trip to Rukungiri. It was a special time once again. Seeing faces that I recognised and, amazingly, recognised mine. Getting involved in projects that are new to us and seeing the incredible, continuing work of those projects we already work with. All of it is as life-changing as the first time I visited this beautiful country.
Firstly, I'm so grateful to those schools who have been so involved so far in the work over in Uganda. The money raised is making an enormous difference. The support for the projects and the brilliant ideas and involvement from your children is humbling. And to those schools that provided letters and gifts to the children, they were, quite simply, blown away by your love and generosity.
I'll shortly be writing to those schools individually but I did want to say a huge thank you to everyone who's been involved so far.Thank you - please keep it up!
There were so many incredible things that I could write about, including the first ever opportunity to go into the local hospital where the medics on the team were able to offer previously unheard advice and training.
Here's just a very brief run down on how things went and a few highlights from the trip.
1/ Kitazgurukwa School - Chilli Children Project
2/ Life Skills Clinic - Chilli Children Project
3/ Mosaic Vision
4/ A New Project?
5/ A Schudio Teaching Team 2017/18?
In June 2015 I visited Kitazgurukwa School for the first time. This special needs unit, on-site with a mainstream school, is run by the Chilli Children Project and currently looks after some 20+ children with additional needs of all kinds. The school provides housing and education for some of the most vulnerable children in the region.
Since June 2015 the facilities have nearly doubled in size and now more children are able to attend. Our involvement on this trip was to build a final water tank for the school. That means that, should there be a drought, the school will have access to safe, clean water for up to 6 months, right throughout the school. This means that the main project work at the school has now finished but it doesn't mean we'll be walking away; there will always be a need for continuing support.
It was wonderful to see how the children are getting on! There is a new teacher in post who is doing an incredible job and the children are thriving. The children aren't just being left to get on with things, they are being challenged and encouraged to grow. With such limited resources the staff are doing fabulous work. My old friend Moses is walking more and more all the time!
This is always one of the toughest days on the trip. The Chilli Children Project run clinics throughout the week, providing healthcare and support to those families with a huge range of needs and with nowhere else to turn. The clinics are advertised through the local radio station and families come from far afield to access the care and support the Project offers.
The team never know who will show up on the day and there could be anything from 20 to 200 families. We were there on an exceptionally busy day and the needs ranged from club foot to pressure sores, from hydrocephalus to Down's Syndrome. This is a small team meeting a wide range needs of a huge number of people and doing so joyfully and sacrificially, knowing this is the only place many of these families can turn.
The donations raised in the UK and elsewhere funds this project and helps everyone who turns up on any day. The main project for the coming year will be to build a community centre and a physio facility as the clinics meet on the grass and often there isn't the shelter for everyone who comes on a given day.
I had the huge privilege of bumping into Perezium. He was a little boy who was at Kitaz school last year but had to leave because he is 'double-incontinent' and they simply don't have the man-power to meet his needs. He's in a hugely sad situation because finding a school for him but we are working hard on a solution to get him back into school as soon as possible. This is just a single example of why life can be so hard for the children over there.
Nicole visited a family benefiting from the wonderful work that Mosaic Vision does when she was there this June, but I hadn't managed to previously. Mosaic Vision work with children who have been orphaned. It's such a common thing to happen that children are either single-orphaned (lost one parent) or double-orphaned (lost both parents). The girls that we met are double-orphans and live with their grandmother. Their dad died of HIV related illnesses and their mum couldn't cope and went to live with another man just a few houses away, leaving the girls with their grandmother. The mum died of HIV shortly afterwards.
The family is sponsored by people from the UK and the US, like many other families looked after by Mosaic Vision. The help they receives includes anything they need to survive, schooling and clothes. Part of the work we did was to spend just a little time building a drying rack so that clothes and especially cooking and eating utensils were able to dry naturally. The result is that they're less likely to develop bacteria, leading to illnesses within the family when their is no money to pay for any medical treatment.
It's an incredible project and one we'll be continuing to support over the coming years.
One of the incredible needs we were alerted to is a huge imbalance between girls and boys education. Once girls reach an age where they are having monthly periods, they are very often kept at home or even sent home from school for the duration. That means many, many girls in Uganda are missing 25% of their education. It's a huge imbalance that there is a workable solution to.
We are currently working on plans for a project to help this problem. We'll start specifically in Rukungiri, get a model working and see where we go from there. Watch this space on this one!
I will be returning to Rukungiri in June this year (2017) to get stuck into the building of the community centre and see how we might be able to progress some of these ideas.
A number of teachers and headteachers have expressed an interest in joining us on a teaching team, visiting Uganda and getting involved in some of the incredible projects that we're able to support. If you're interested then please drop me an email or give me a call on 0333 577 0753, I'd love to chat that through with you in more detail.
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