Sunday, 27 November 2011

Back to Kampala

Leaving Bwindi Impenetrable Forest we made slow progress towards Kampala. First obstacle was the most appalling roads you can imagine. After crawling at snails pace for hours we changed route and headed towards Ishasha, home of tree climbing lions. Someone had told us this was a good road! After a night in the park guarded by 2 fully armed Ugandan soldiers(we are on the border with Congo) we set off to look for the lions. This time no luck so we continued on towards Kampala.

Better road? A most definite NO! After a few hours we came across road works building a new bridge across the river. Three lorries were stuck on the opposite bank. Great despair as not getting across meant back tracking 2 days on the appalling roads. However, luck was on our side and it was decided that we would be allowed to try getting across. Main work stopped whilst everyone threw large stones onto the bank to try to shore it up. Pete Eventually managed to drive across with a host of workers all shouting different directions - go left, straight on, go right etc. With about an inch to spare he managed to get across. Huge relief!
After this we had a few uneventful hours until the final disaster of the day when Peter misjudged the height of an entrance gate and and managed to end up with an additional roof on the lorry!

Not one of our most successful days!

Anyway Kampala was reached the next day and the awaited shock absorbers delivered. Whoopee.

Friday, 25 November 2011

And Rattie came too

Having more or less recovered from our stomach bugs Mandy and I set off for a few peaceful days travelling through Uganda. As everyone says an amazing place very unlike most of Africa, beautiful scenery and everything so lush. We camped at the side of 2 different lakes and then set off for Bwindi to meet up with Sarah and Chris. Against the advice of the guys at the camp we took the scenic route. They turned out to be right - the road was very narrow but I only once hit a rock cliff and once lost a back wheel off the edge of the road.
Back in Kampala we had realised that we had a fellow traveller (droppings, half eaten bananas etc) and after various attempts with mouse traps and sticky stuff we thought we had got rid of him. However when we got back to Kampala after Bwindi we started to get a dreadful smell. Sarah eventually found him underneath our mattress,we must have been sleeping on him for days. Ugh!!! The story of the princess and the pea comes to mind. Mandy is most obviously NOT a princess!
It took several days of washing bedding, cleaning cushions etc etc. Even now the smell still lingers slightly. Moral be careful you do not camp in rat infested camp sites.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Charity Update - Sanyu Babies Home, Kampala

We spent a few days at Sanyu Babies Home helping to look after the children. There are currently 49 babies resident in the home varying in age from 1 day old to 4 years old. When we arrived the children were playing outside and ran to see us with big smiling faces. Our first impression was that the children were happy, clean and cared for. We had a chat with Barbara the administrator who gave us a background to the home and the present children. She gave us our shopping list of things they required - nappies, toilet tissue, washing powder, baby milk, cooking oil, margarine and Milton. Not an extravagant list just essentials. Following this she said we were very welcome to have a look around, stay and help etc. Florence, Tilly, Nia and myself stayed and arranged to be picked up later. Barbara had said evening meal was always busy and as many volunteers were needed as possible. We spent an hour holding various babies, playing with them and calming them. Florence walked around with various babies whilst Nia rocked them in their only pushchair and Tilly played with those in their cots.
Dinner time came around and we were told to take the babies through to the dining area. I have never seen so many high chairs, low chairs and benches in one place! The staff knew exactly where the children sat and we were instructed where to put each baby dependent upon age. The older age group sat on low high chairs and were given their meal of potato and g nut to eat by hand. The younger ones were then placed in higher benches after which we were given a bowl of potato and g nut and a spoon and told to feed 4 babies each. Florence and I set to work feeding four babies each giving a spoonful to one at a time. Once this was finished bottles of milk came and again we were given two bottles to feed 2 babies and then start on another two etc.
After evening meal those that could walked into the changing room, took off their clothes and then went into the bathroom and sat on a potty. It was quite a sight! The younger babies we were given to strip, clean with wet wipes and then dress for bed. We used disposable nappies on some and others had just a piece of cloth which we tied at the front and then some waterprof pants over the top. Big piles of clothes were brought out for us to dress the babies. Nia Florence and I set to work stripping , cleaning and dressing the babies. Once dressed we had to ask the name of the baby and then locate the cot and place them in pull over their mosquito net and start again. Once we had finished with the smaller babies we then had those who were on the potties to deal with. They had a shower then came running in wet ready to be dried and dressed. The older of these children stayed up a little longer.
In the middle of all this Thomas and Chris came to collect us but we were still knee deep in babies and toddlers all needing dressing etc. Consequently both Thomas and Chris set to work.
I was really conscious of wanting to interact with each child and treat treat them like a part on a conveyor belt. They were all really happy, wanted cuddles and very responsive which was lovely to see, just heart breaking listening to their horror stories, and not being able to give them all attention when they wanted it.
We eventually left the home when all were either in bed or ready for bed with our own children desperate to go back to help at breakfast the next morning which of course we did.
Breakfast ran very similarly to evening meal after which the potty / bath / dress scenario was repeated. Instead of going to bed at this point we started the trips to the 3 classrooms at the back of the building. It took quite a few trips to deliver all the children! Whilst I walked back and forth Thomas and Florence stayed in the youngest classroom to play with the children.
The home relies heavily on volunteers, in the evening there were only 4 or so of their staff to feed bath etc 49 babies.
We helped for another meal or two and delivered their wish list of nappies, milk, oil etc. in two parts for which Barbara and the staff were incredibly appreciative and grateful. We have been given a card of thanks for all those who have donated money. The reasons for the children ending up in this home are truly awful but the home does provide a safe and happy community for them. Hope all well? Just to let you know spent very wet night up in mountains, actually second wet night in a row! They try to reunite the babies with their families if at all possible but otherwise are managing to find adoptive or foster homes for the others both nationally and internationally. the home is run in a very organised manner where all the children are looked after. It is just very sad that these little babies don't get the attention they need in terms of affection and personal interaction. The home provides as much as it can but relies on volunteers to help out and to donate goods and clothes, all of which we did thank you very much to all of you who so generously donated before we left UK.
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Sunday, 13 November 2011

Visit to Aquinoe Learning Centre

Aquinoe Learning Centre in Kigale, Northern Kenya, has been established for several years and has  support from the Aquinoe Trust in UK. There are about 220 pupils from 3 years to about 19 years within which there are about 40 children with disabilities.  The philosophy of the school is that handicapped children are to be integrated within a normal school environment – a seeming rarity in Africa where the view is still very much that any handicap is to be hidden away.
From memory there were about 100 boarders including all the children with a disability.  Of the 100 a number were orphans and so lived at the school permanently. 
Aquinoe had recently provided the school with a new building for the special needs children including a physiotherapy room. The only equipment though was a large “roll on” ball and a small bed.
Many of the children with disabilities had mobility problems and moving around in the thick mud was a challenge for even able bodied.
We had been asked to donate some food – maize and beans. The cost of living in Kenya has increased dramatically in the last year and so the school was finding it difficult to feed the children.  Only the boarders ate at lunchtime. Children who lived nearby went home but others just had to do without as there was no money to pay for their lunch.
When we arrived the school had been disconnected from electricity because of non payment of bills so we agreed to donate an amount to get this reconnected as well as a sum towards the water account.
In all, on behalf of all our contributors, we passed on the following:
20 bags maize
5 bags beans
Ksh 37,000 towards water and electricity accounts
Footballs, skipping ropes, hoops
Assorted small “noise” toys for the younger children with a disability
Two trikes that could be used for leg strengthening excercise
Misc educational items, toilet rolls
We also personally sponsored 2 of the children. A 14 year old and a 19 year old. The older girl was an orphan with no other home than the school. She has severe problems and apparently came into the school following rape and being left for dead.

Dormitory - not all the children have their own bed 

Admiring the Library

The  kitchen

Struggling in the mud

Happy faces

More Pictures

Florence, Nia and Travelling Ted at the Equator

Birds in Masai Mara

Cheetahs in the Masai Mara

Children at Aquinoe Centre

Diani Beach

Mount Kilimanjaro

The Jungle Junction mudbath in Nairobi

Giraffes fighting in the Masai Mara

Flamingoes in Kenya

Lioness with kill and cub in the Masai Mara

Struggling in the mud at the Aquinoe Centre

Traffic chaos at the Kenyan border

Falls at the mouth of the White Nile Jinja
Being holed up in the Kampala Sheraton has at least given me time to sort out some more pictures.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

5 Days in Uganda

Finally getting through the border we drove towards Jinja to be beaten by nightfall. We ended up in "The Executive Hotel". Pete and I and 2 children to spend the night in the truck in the hotel car park   "guarding" vehicles. The others took 2 en suite rooms. Problem was no water and no electricity. Sarah declined the option of walking off with bucket on head to collect water! For this privelege we paid US$46 each room!
At least it was a relatively secure place and an early getaway meant we were in Jinja by mid morning although due to a good deal of local misinformation it took us a further 3 hours to find a campsite. A beautiful area by the waterfall at one of the sources of the Nile.
We met up with Rhys from Soft Power, another charity we had made contact with and donated the last of the footballs and a few other items. Quite an impressive organisation. Again more detail to follow.

We then moved onto Kampala. Camp sites in major cities are definitely to be avoided! The advantage was that the camp site we were in was very near to Sanyuu, the babies home we were to visit.
Several visits to the home were made and quantities of milk powder, nappies, wipes, toilet rolls donated. Sarah and the children spent several meal and bed times helping out. It was apparently a production line, even Nia(age 4) at one point was bottle feeding 2 babies. Imagine social services reaction in UK but with only 4 staff on duty reliance has to be placed on whatever volunteers are available.

We have seen so much poverty and deprivation but the babies home was well run, clean and the 49 babies happy and cared for although rescources were obviously stretched. We had several bags of clothes donated back in the UK which we passed on mainly to the babies home. A full report of the visit and photographs willl be posted shortly.

We still await the shock absorbers from the UK. TNT held onto them for 6 days before deciding they couldn't deliver to Uganda so FEDEX has now been enlisted. Thanks to Andy from Autofast for sorting. A very useful and efficient source of spares if anyone is in need. Hopefully next week they will arrive and we can continue north. In the meantime Sarah and co are at Lake Victoria and Pete and I (both suffering from some bug) are ensconsed in a hotel in Kampala.

We are finding Uganda very strange compared to everywhere else we have been. Every other international visitor seems to be involved in some form of charity or aid work. In Malawi and Zambia where we saw appalling poverty we  met only the occassional one.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Ugandan / Kenyan border

At the Ugandan / Kenyan Border

As I write we have been at the border for nearly 3 hours. The first sign of problems was the 9 km stretch trucks waiting along the approach. We had been warned earlier in the day to use a "Mr Fixer" and given a contact. A good suggestion. We were inundated by would be Helpers but could at least use a recommended! Apparently all we need now is a receipt for the hundreds dollars just paid but the electricity doesn't last long enough to print!

Some good photos of the road chaos to be posted later.
A high spot for once has not being mobbed. Just 4 boys asking if we had a book for them. We managed to persuade Thomas and Florence to oblige and they are now sat on a wall avidly reading. At least something useful we have done and cheers the heart.

However to return to the beginning from the last blog.
We all spent a few days at the beach in Diane, near Mombassa and then made our way back again to Nairobi. After much screaming on my part we managed to finally take delivery of the replacement shock absorber.

Great excitement to be replaced soon afterwards with gloom. With purchase, courier fees and duties we had paid nearly £300 and the shock absorber was broken. Not much option but to try again. In the meantime we decide to risk the broken part and plough onto Aquinoe Learning Centre via Lake Baggoria.
What amazing scenery in northern Kenya. Again photos posted later although heavy rain dampened the views.

Yesterday we visited Aquinoe School. I will write a full report of our visit separately in the next charity update but we as in the past all felt totally inadequate. On behalf of all our donors we paid for some food, an outstanding electric bill, which meant that the school could be reconnected and a few items for the school, mainly items for the special needs children.

And so today we were aiming to reach Jinga in Uganda. However, more time has passed and we still await the necessary receipt to drive on! Patience!
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