A Different View of Uganda?

This is my last blog from this trip. I want to leave you with a few images of Uganda- all photographs that were either taken by members of the team or given to us by people that we met there. I’m wondering if you will be surprised by what you see here and if any of the pictures change your thinking about Uganda?

Tell me what you think.

World Ranger Day

I can’t quite work out how to explain to you what happened on World Ranger Day because some bits of it I sometimes think I dreamed. But no, it was all real, and now that I’ve had time to think about it (and it has taken quite a bit of time to process it all) I think it was the most amazingly awesome day and I feel very privileged to have been there to witness it.

Monday 31st July was World Ranger Day this year, a day when we can recognise and celebrate the work of rangers all over the world. You could be forgiven for not knowing this as many people don’t. So, being keen to promote the work of rangers, Mr Peach and the rest of the team thought it would be a good idea to give an amount of project money, to help the Ugandan rangers at QE National Park come together and mark the occasion.

We didn’t have all of the information about what would be happening, but we were told to meet at the headquarters at Katunguru at 8am. We decided that it would be appropriate if we all wore our QEPP uniform shirts especially for the event. After the long, bumpy hour long drive down the Mweya Peninsula track we arrived at headquarters on time. This is what happened next…

We got out of the van to be met with a crowd of Rangers and police, AND a troupe of acrobats, jugglers, flame eaters, unicycle riders and a mariachi band. (I know.)

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Before we could properly make sense of what we were seeing before our very eyes, we fell into ranks behind the mariachi band, Rangers and the police into a marching column, and with the acrobats, jugglers, (oh, I forgot the man walking on stilts) uni cyclists and flame eaters travelling up and down the sides of the marching column we marched towards the headquarters building. It was already quite hot and some of us had been feeling unwell because of the anti- malaria medication, so the whole thing began to take on a dream-like quality.

How could I have forgotten the man on stilts?!

Once at the headquarters we fell out of ranks, got back into the van and we were told to drive to near Kikorongo village, just south of the equator. As we drove north along this road we could see flames and smoke rising up from the land to the right of the road where the Rangers were carrying out some ‘controlled’ land burning. They do this to burn down the vegetation which encourages new growth, which in turn encourages the grazing animals such as Uganda Kob, and in turn -lions and predators for the tourists to see. Trouble is, what is considered to be ‘controlled’ burning in Uganda is terrifying ‘land on fire/ risk to health and safety’ to a person from the UK. We drove into a thick smoke cloud that had drifted across the road before anyone in the group could say ‘er…, Ronnie do you think this is wise?’ Luckily the smoke cloud wasn’t that big and although we all came out safely on the other side, it’s not something I would recommend that you try at home!

Still recovering from that, Ronnie parked the van, and once again we fell into ranks with the mariachi band, Rangers, police, and the acrobats, jugglers etc. etc. and began marching, this time over the equator. We knew it was the equator because there are two enormous arches either side of the road marking the line. It became even hotter as we entered Kikongoro village, and the villagers, clearly bemused by the sight of the marching column and the circus acts, began ululating (look it up) with excitement.

Acrobats on the equator

Rangers on the equator

Ranger Jan and Liz looking at each other in disbelief

Villagers enjoying the spectacle

Some villagers going about their normal daily business

Now, the activity that they had planned for us at Kikorongo was a community litter-pick. I have mentioned before how bad the litter problem is, and so the intention was to demonstrate to the villagers that keeping litter off the streets is a good idea. We were issued with rubber gloves and we set about picking litter as the procession (and the band, and the circus acts) continued through the streets of the village. To say we ‘missed a bit’ of the litter was an understatement, but at least the idea was demonstrated. The picked litter was collected in bags and loaded up into a truck. As I took off my gloves I noticed that my hands had been sweating so much the sweat ran out as a trickle onto the floor, and my skin was horribly wrinkled. Yuk! That’s how hot the day was becoming!

We climbed back into the van and THEN….. We drove to another village and did the whole thing again! This time it was to the village of Kyambura, down the horrible pot- holey road, and half way up the Rift Valley escarpment with beautiful views, but with with an equally bad litter problem.

Fire eaters putting fire down each others’ pants

Rangers explaining about litter picking and the importance of looking after the environment to members of the Kyambura community

The plan for the afternoon was to go back to the headquarters at Katunguru for speeches and dinner. That all sounded perfectly normal, but ‘normal’ was not a word to feature in THIS day! Oh no! We assembled under two canopies with the rangers at one side and the invited guests at the other. We were among the invited guests so sat with all of the other VIPs. Unfortunately the VVIP, the guest of honour, who was a local councillor, arrived two hours later so we sat listening to very loud Country and Western music while we waited.

Waiting for the guest of honour to arrive while listening to Country and Western music

Speeches

More speeches

More fire eating

More entertainment from the acrobats

Finally the speeches began, but as I already knew from past experience, Ugandans LOVE speeches, and it is only polite on such occasions for everyone to speak. So everyone did speak, including Mr Peach on behalf of the QEPP. All this took another two and a half hours, and I think that even Ugandans would consider this to be a bit of a long time, but by this time we had all resigned ourselves to just enjoying the whole thing.

We were then treated to a demonstration of how to catch and poacher, followed by a demonstration of how to catch a crocodile, both of which were very impressive. (Sometimes crocodiles have to be moved from one place to another for their own safety.) It really brought  home to me just what a dangerous job the Rangers do every single day. Most rangers in the world are not paid very well, and if they happen to be killed on the job there is often no-one left to support the family they leave behind. And this is what the day was all about- raising awareness about the job that Rangers do, celebrating it, and above all – letting the Rangers know that they are valued and that we all think they do a great job. In his speech Mr Peach talked about the four things that rangers need- INTEGRITY – BELIEF – BRAVERY – STRENGTH.

 

A demonstration of how to catch a crocodile

A demonstration of how to catch a poacher

After a very moving ceremony where candles were lit to remember fallen Rangers, we were all fed the most fantastic Ugandan meal (matoke, beef, fish, vegetables in tomato sauce and shredded cabbage).

The day ended with the team members being able to give out the ranger equipment that had been collected by the project and taken out in our suitcases. Each ranger present that day was able to get a new shirt and a number of other items such as first aid kits, binoculars and other items of field kit were given out.

Mr and Mrs Peach and Ranger Jan giving out the shirts.

Even though it had been a very long and tiring day, I don’t think any of us would have wanted to miss a minute of it. We learned so many things: that litter picking on the equator is very hot and tiring; that Ugandans know better than anyone else in the world how to have a celebration; that rangers all over the world do a very much needed and important job, but a very dangerous job; that more people need to know and appreciate the job that Rangers do for the world. We were indeed very privileged to have shared that celebration on that day.

The team enjoying a well deserved soda at the end of the day.

 

 

Keeping Girls at School

You might think that this is an odd title for a blog post, so let me explain. In some countries girls have difficulty getting a supply of sanitary towels for when they have their periods, and the result is that often during this time they don’t go to school. This can mean up to a week off school every month, and that would be a serious interruption to anyone’s education. This can also mean that the girls get further and further behind with their learning and then they don’t bother going to school any more. They stay at home and often marry early, starting families early, which then turn out to be large families with many mouths to feed. Then because the girls have not completed their education, they aren’t able to get good jobs to support their families and they rely on earning money by doing domestic work and working hard to grow their own food. Growing lots of food to support large families in turn puts demands on the local environment.

In some parts of Uganda this is definitely true.

Before our trip this year I did some investigating into the possibility of getting some re-usable sanitary towels for the girls at the QE Parks Project schools. I wanted to be able to support them to stay at school through their periods, and re-usable sanitary towels would be much better than disposable ones which can only be used once. Also, disposable sanitary towels would be adding to the terrible problem of waste and rubbish in the villages.

Believe it or not, litter and waste is dreadful in some of the Ugandan villages that we have visited, particularly plastic waste. There is no system of waste collection and so it all lies around on the floor, and if it is collected it is burned which can release toxic fumes into the environment. It really is a problem! The QE Parks Project teams have taken part in several community litter picking activities in Uganda over the various visits, and I can tell you from my own experience of doing this that the litter problem is awful. Reusable sanitary towels would be much more useful and long lasting as a way of keeping the girls in school for many months, AND it would be kinder to the environment! Re-usable sanitary towels are definitely the better option!

My research led me to a company called ‘Earthwise Girls’ found just outside Oxford at Abingdon. I contacted them and explained what I was hoping to do, and they agreed to sell me the sanitary towels for half price! Hooray! I immediately set up a crowdfunding page explaining all of this, and the response was quite staggering. It seemed that many people, never having thought about this problem before, were really taken with this idea of supporting girls’ education in this way. It is such a simple thing to do but something that could have such a big effect on a girl’s life.

Thanks to all of the wonderful supporters of my project I was able to buy over 200 reusable sanitary towels from Earthwise Girls.

The parcel of re-usable sanitary towels arrives!

Counting and sorting them on my kitchen table.

When the parcel arrived (I had them delivered to school), all of the teachers agreed how lovely the fabrics were, and how well made they were. We were definitely impressed. Coincidentally, the year 5 children had just been having their PSHE lessons about changes in adolescence and puberty, and so I took the sanitary towels in to show them and explain what I planned to do. They too were impressed with the towels, and thought the whole thing was a very good idea.

Next stop Uganda! The towels took up half of one of my suitcases but luckily didn’t weigh very much, so alongside all of the teaching and learning resources I was taking for Bukorwe School, and my own clothes and equipment, I was still under the weight allowance for my luggage. I was just hoping that I wouldn’t be asked to explain the contents of my luggage at customs! It would be a long story!

With several members of the team supporting me (Mrs Peach, Amy Peach and Ranger Jan, Liz and Meg), we were able to talk to 82 girls from three schools from P6 and P7, age range of 12 to 15 years. We hoped that by talking about ourselves as teachers and by showing that the girls in our group, Amy and Meg, are still in at university into their twenties, we would be demonstrating the possibilities for girls in education.

The girls at Bukorwe (the first school) seemed quite shy and reserved but they were able to tell us that, yes some of them found it difficult to stay at school during their periods. One girl told Mrs Peach that she did have money to buy disposable sanitary towels which she got from the shops in Kihiihi, but that she knew most of the other girls didn’t. Vicent told me that the cost of a box of disposable towels was between 3,000 to 4,500 Ugandan Shillings, but compare that to the average daily wage of 3,500 and you can see how expensive they are. I also learned that one box isn’t enough for a one month supply, and that the cheaper ones are really not very good. It also occurred to me that families with more than one daughter would find it totally impossible to buy towels! The fact is that most girls just use rags that they wash and re-use. And, another thing we discovered was that many of them only have one or two pairs of pants!

Mrs Peach giving out the towels at Bukorwe

Mrs Buckle, with Christine helping to share towels with the girls.

Explaining about re-usable towels.

Later in the trip we were able to repeat the process at Katunguru (twinned with Hart Plain Juniors) and Kafuro (twinned with Liss Juniors).

The girls at Katunguru with Mrs Buckle, Meg and Amy

I am in regular contact with the teacher at Katunguru (Ramathan) and he had already told me that the school had taken part in workshops to show all the children how to make their own re-usable sanitary towels, so this subject did not come as any surprise to their girls. He showed me the materials that they had used, which was towelling and a kind of polyester cotton.

Ramathan and the Katunguru children at the sanitary towel making workshop.

 

This is great news because, while I never doubted for a moment that Ugandans are the most resourceful people on Earth, it helps the children to know how to overcome the problem. And by doing this kind of thing with both boys and girls it helps everyone to understand that this is a ‘fact of life’ and not something that needs to be kept a secret, or something that girls in particular should be embarrassed about. Yay! Go Ramathan!

However, the people at Earthwise Girls will be relieved to know that the Katunguru girls say the home made towels are a bit scratchy and their new towels are super comfortable and effective!

The last school we visited was Kafuro Primary School. You can read a full account of their teacher exchange visit this year on the Kafuro and Liss blog.

kafuroliss.primaryblogger.co.uk

Girls at Kafuro Primary School

The girls at Kafuro were definitely the most shy of the three schools we visited, maybe because Kafuro is very much off the beaten path and away from the main roads, so they hardly ever get to meet people from other places.

We hope that all this will do some good, but at this stage it is very difficult to say exactly what the impact of this project will be. At the very least it will make a total of 82 girls in a small corner of Uganda a bit more comfortable during their periods, and we are being told by some of the teachers that they are already finding it easier to stay at school. (In each school we also left a supply of pants in a range of sizes.) We also hope they will realise that there are other people in the outside world who care about them, (even if they are a strange bunch of Muzungu ladies who turn up suddenly to talk about personal issues!) and that this will help them value themselves and their education.

Watch this space for the future of this project! Due to even more generous donations coming in at the last minute before our trip, we still have some money to spend on re-usable sanitary towels. We hope to continue fundraising before next year’s QE Parks Project trip to Uganda and continue supporting Ugandan girls in education.

Wild Animals!

In this post I’m not going to say very much because I think that the pictures of the animals speak for themselves. All of these photographs were taken by members of the Queen Elizabeth Parks Project team on this 2017 trip to Uganda, so you will understand how lucky we have all been to see these animals in their natural habitat in the wild.

While it always makes us really happy and privileged to see these animals whenever we come across them, we always remember that the whole point of us doing this work with our friends in Uganda is about CONSERVATION. We are working together to share ideas about how to look after our world and the animals in it, and that includes our work with the Rangers of both parks, and with the teachers and the children in all of the schools.

Gorillas seen at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in the south of Uganda, one of the few places left in the world where you can see Mountain Gorillas.

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At Kymbura Gorge the team have been lucky enough to track chimpanzees on several occasions, alongside the very talented and skilful Rangers who know the chimps like they know the members of their own families!

Chimpanzees at Kyambura Gorge

Some animal are more difficult to see and require an eagle eyed Ranger or Project Team member to spot them.

 

A leopard hiding in a Candelabra Tree.

Other animals are more easily spotted as they graze across the plains or beside the main roads of Queen Elizabeth National Park.

 

Uganda Kob

 

Waterbuck

 

Topi

We are always delighted to see elephants passing by our vehicle in their family groups, especially if they have little ones with them. If they do have babies then you have to be careful to go be them plenty of room so they don’t feel threatened. You don’t want to mess with an enraged mother elephant!

 

Beside the Kazinga Channel

Near the road on the Mweya Peninsula

 

It it was a rare privilege to see lions!

Ishasha game drive track- no lions on that day! ☹️

Lion with kill

 

And there is always a multitude of birds! Uganda is truly a birdwatcher’s paradise!

Marabou stork – lots of them always living close to people so they can scavenge for leftover food.

Weaver bird

Speckled mousebird

Sunbird

A venue of vultures- if they are found gathered on the ground. If they are circling it is a ‘kettle’ of vultures. (I am reliably informed by my collective noun Google search!)

I’m no birdwatcher, so if I’ve made any mistakes in labelling these pictures I do apologise! (Help me out here Mr Peach or Ranger Jan!)

 

We were also very fortunate to see many hippopotamuses in the waters of the Ishasha River and the Kazinga Channel, and sometimes by the side of the road on a cooler day, and even one night outside our bedroom windows at Hippo House (hence the name obviously!)

 

Looking across the Ishasha River from Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda to the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with hippos in between.

The hippo outside our bedroom windows late one night, we named Henry. He was so close we could have leaned out of the open window (and it was open) and touched him, but he certainly was not in the least bit bothered by us and our torch beams and our excited talk. No, he was far too intent on munching the delicious purple shrub that was growing around the perimeter of Hippo House to be at all put off by us. We watched him intently as he made his way around the outside of the house, with us moving from bedroom to bedroom to get the best view. And we obviously didn’t touch him because hippos are known to be the most dangerous animals in Africa. Although they are vegetarians, they would think nothing of ripping you limb from limb with their powerful teeth and jaws if you happened to get in their way. No thanks Henry- that was close enough thank you very much!

Of course, I have by no means recorded all of the wildlife that is available to see in Uganda in this blog post. The country is literally crawling, slithering, flapping, stalking, creeping and swinging with life everywhere you look. You will just have to go there some day and see for yourself.

Here are a few more photos……

 

Earthquake!

Every morning at Mweya the whole team would have breakfast together at the canteen opposite Hippo House. The canteen has tables under at canopied roof so that you are shaded from the sun while you eat, but no windows and only a low wall so that we could watch the passing wildlife from our table. Often the families of warthogs would chase each other playfully between the trees, making us laugh at their antics.

The team having breakfast in the sunshine at the canteen.

Beside the canteen is the Mweya airstrip where a small fixed wing aircraft lands each day from Entebbe bringing holiday makers and safari goers to the luxury Safari Lodge nearby. I say ‘airstrip’ but it really more closely resembles a long, flat bit of grass. Each morning our conversation would be interrupted by the loud buzz of the aircraft engine as it passed overhead and then turned to make the landing.

On one particular morning – Sunday 30th July- instead of the sound of aircraft engines we heard something quite different; something that made us look at each other with expressions of alarm and confusion. Everything seemed to go into slow motion and I remember thinking to myself;’What on Earth is that? Not an aircraft coming in to land? No! Not a herd of rampaging elephants? No!’ I looked at my fruit salad on the table before me and it was rattling like crazy. The bottles of coke in the refrigerator behind the counter were clinking and bashing against each other like nobody’s business!

Meanwhile, Calum, one of our team mates, who has travelled the world extensively and had worked out what was going on far faster than the rest of us dummies, had realised the danger and was trying, very wisely, to get under the table!

The only other person who knew faster than the rest of us what was happening was Amy Peach. The most enormous smile spread over her face like she had been given the best and most amazing present, and she said:’Don’t worry everyone- it’s an earthquake!’

By this time it (the earthquake) was over. Calum, somewhat shamefacedly, came out from under the table.

Let me explain to you about Amy. Amy Peach, daughter of Mr and Mrs Peach, (Head Ranger at QECP and Head Cook at CJS respectively) is now 22 years old. When Amy was 7 years old she was a pupil at Clanfield Junior School just like all of you, and when she was in year 5, I (Mrs Buckle) was her teacher. Now that Amy is 22 she has just completed a degree from the University of Plymouth in geology. For this, I don’t mind telling you, she gained a ‘first’ which is the best kind of degree that you can get! Geology is the study of the physical earth, what it is made of and how it came to be like it is. This includes the study of earthquakes and volcanoes which is more precisely known as ‘vulcanology’. This is what Amy is interested in so no wonder she was excited to be experiencing an earthquake!

Amy Peach when she was at Clanfield Junior School

We all went back to Hippo House and Amy quickly contacted her geologist friends around the world to find out the facts about the earthquake we had just felt.

She discovered that seismologists (people who measure earthquakes) had given it a reading of 5.3 on the Richter Scale, and that its epicentre was found to be 15km out and 10km down underneath Lake Edward- the lake right next to Mweya in the Queen Elizabeth National Park!

Now although we were all surprised, and a little more than excited if truth be told, it is not really surprising that an earthquake should happen here. The fact is that this part of Uganda sits on something known as the Albertine Rift Valley, a fault or crack in the Earth’s surface if you like, that occasionally moves and shifts as it settles.

This is a very simple diagram of how the land has fallen between two fault lines to form the valley. In this particular case the mountains on the left are the Rwenzoris of Uganda, and the high ground on the right is the escarpment that we can see rising up to Kyambura.

Mrs Peach looking out at the beautiful view of the Albertine Rift Valley from the escarpment at Kyambura.

Mr Peach at Kingfisher Lodge on the escarpment.

 

The whole area is dotted with extinct volcano craters, some of which have become lakes, some of which support the most amazing flora and fauna, and some of which are barren. They really are amazing to see. Thousands of years ago this would have been a very interesting but dangerous place to be with all these volcanoes blowing their tops! Now, it’s both very interesting and a beautiful landscape.

Working at Bukorwe

On our second day at Bukorwe we wanted to do so many things! I had already spoken to teachers Vicent and Christine about some of the activities that we had been preparing at Clanfield. For example, the ‘Wants and Needs’ PSHE activity that Years 3, 4 and 5 had done, and the work on environmental problems that Year 3 had done. In the end there wasn’t quite enough time to do everything, so Mrs Peach and I decided it was best to have a question and answer session with P7 and a talk to them to explain some of the things we had brought.

Amy and Jan also joined us for the session with all of the P7 class, plus a few other interested children who shyly peered in through the classroom windows from outside. Who were these strange ‘muzungu’ teachers? (Muzungu is the Ugandan word for ‘white person’.) I began by explaining that the children from Clanfield Junior School sent their greetings, and that we continue to think of them and learn about Uganda at our school. Fortunately I had Vicent to ‘translate’ because although they do have their lessons in English, an English accent (from England) is difficult for some of the children to understand. I explained that we are planning to celebrate an ‘Africa Day’ in the next school year, where we will learn about the geography, landscape, wildlife, customs and traditions of Uganda in particular. In return, we hoped that they might celebrate a ‘UK Day’ where they can learn the same about us, and the things that we had brought, we hoped would help them to do that.

We strung up the Union Jack bunting around the room, we showed them how to play the games, we talked about fidget spinners and let some of the children have a go, and we all looked at the pictures that had been prepared showing different aspects of life in Britain. The P7 children were very interested and asked lots of questions. They were particularly interested to see that some of our British sports men and women are black, and they asked their names. They asked about Mo Farah, because they wanted to know how he compared to the Ugandan runner Kiprotich.

We finished with an explanation of how the Flag of the United Kingdom is made up of the cross of St George, together with the crosses of St Andrew and St Patrick, and I was able to draw each separate flag on their blackboard with chalk.

Return to Bukorwe

Warm welcome at Bukorwe

An early start from Mweya allowed the whole team, loaded into Ronnie’s trusty van, a good start down the Ishasha road – and my how it has deteriorated since last time! More pot-hole than road, it is in dire need of resurfacing. Luckily, the views are as stunning as ever, winding a way south through the Maramagambo Forest, rising up over the hill to the splendid views of Lake Edward, then swinging back to the spectacular savannah landscape of Ishasha, dotted with fig trees that the lions climb as they survey the herds of Uganda kob grazing below. Awesome! I always have ‘The Lion King’ music playing in my head as we make this journey.

With one quick comfort stop at the Ishasha Ranger Station, we continued along the familiar track, turning a steep right at the sign for Bukorwe Primary School. ‘Get ready for the craziness!’ said Mr Peach to the team as the van emerged out of the bushes and approached the school. He knows, having visited the school many times, that we are always welcomed with such enthusiasm and affection that it can sometimes overwhelm you slightly. And he was not wrong! His remark was followed by the sound of children shouting and cheering inside the school as they noticed our arrival. This sound gradually increased as the children began running out of the school buildings to meet us, reaching a crescendo as they surrounded the van. It was mainly the younger children that rushed forward to greet us, with the older children remaining slightly more reserved and standing back around the school building and classroom doorways. It was almost difficult to get out of the van for the crowd! Taking care not to accidentally tread on any of the small children, and with four or five of them hanging off each arm, the whole team were laughing and smiling in response to this joyful welcome. It is always like this at Bukorwe- it is a very happy school.

Some of the teachers came out to meet us and we soon recognised Vicent, Felix, Christine, Innocent and Doreen. I had not met new headteacher Posiano before and so we were taken into his office for the official welcome and visitor book signing. This always happens when you visit a school in Uganda.

We all signed the book, then some of the group took a walk down to the Ranger Station where Meg was to interview the rangers. Mrs Peach, Amy and I stayed to watch Vicent teach a maths lesson to P7 class about inverse proportion. (See pictures.) The students listened quietly while Vicent explained and demonstrated, then he set them some tasks and they quietly solved the problems, working them out in their notebooks. We were impressed by their hard work!

    

We were invited to share some delicious watermelon and African tea, which is the same as English tea but made with warm milk. Then Mrs Peach and I met with teachers Vicent, Christine and Doreen to talk about what we wanted to do and to share with them and explain the things we had brought.

After we had agreed the timetable for our visit to the school the following day, we said goodbye and climbed once again into Ronnie’s van. We had planned to stay the night in an hotel (The Suba Motel) in the local town Kihiihi (pronounced Chee hee hee – which always makes me giggle), but before that- a treat for everyone! A game drive around the Ishasha track! Back to Lion King country! (More about that next time….)

Clanfield and Bukorwe: the friendship continues.

Ideas for items to send to Bukorwe to help them understand about life in the Uk.

Most of you will already know that as a teacher from Clanfield Junior School, my main job on this visit to Uganda is to continue the friendship between our school and our twinned school at Bukorwe. Even though I will be leaving Clanfield this summer and handing over to Miss Podger to lead up the Twinning Project activities, we all still very much  value our friendship with our Ugandan counterparts and would like it to become stronger.

Communication between our schools has not been easy, mainly because of problems at Bukorwe  to do with not getting enough power (electricity) for the smart phone and tablet that we gave them in 2014, and even though we raised money in 2015/16 and helped to put a solar panel on the roof of the school, this still doesn’t seem to have solved the problem. Also Clanfield School has changed its curriculum and the topics studied in Years 3 and 5 are no longer in the plan. Instead sometime in the coming school year Miss Staggs plans for the school to celebrate an ‘Africa Week’ where Uganda as a country in Africa can be studied by all children across the year groups.  So, in order to help with this idea, I am to bring back news and photos of the school. In addition to this, the Clanfield School Council and I thought it would be a good idea if we sent to Bukorwe some ideas and resources for them to celebrate a ‘UK Week’. With that idea in mind, the children in year 5 at Clanfield came up with some suggestions for items (that can be transported in a suitcase) that will help Ugandan children to understand what life is like here at school in the UK for us. Here are their ideas:

Things that we play with, such as fidget spinners, football cards and board games, frisbee, bouncy balls, skipping ropes and marbles.

Things to help them learn about our country and language, such as an English dictionary and thesaurus, a map of the U.K., some Union Jack bunting and flags with something to explain how our flag came to be, and a pack of photographs showing what life is like in the UK.

Some typical English food, and bearing in mind this had to be transported over 4,000 miles in a suitcase, I chose to take tea bags and biscuits and not fish and chips or scones with jam and cream! (I did, however, pack some pictures of these.)

They also suggested that I take some of our school uniform.

Lily H from Year 5 (now 6) and her mum kindly donated a big bag of pens and highlighters, and Mrs Cornwell (TA fro year 4/ now 5) enjoyed a shopping trip to Asda where she filled a bag with lots of pens, pencils, chalks, rubbers and other fantastic items that she thought the Bukorwe children might like. Thank you so much!

Year 3 children wrote to their friends at Bukorwe to tell them about the problems we face in our environment, such as the problems of litter and renewable energy. The winners of the litter poster competition kindly donated their entries for the Bukorwe children to see.

Some of these things were purchased with the money raised at the Charity Stalls event, run by the School Council, and all of them were packed into the suitcase which eventually made it to Bukorwe on Monday 24th July, when you all were enjoying your last day at Clanfield of the 2016-17 year.

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Arrival in Uganda

The team enjoying the view from the Hippo House veranda.

After getting settled in Ronnie’s comfortable van (and almost immediately falling asleep) we set off on the long journey to Queen Elizabeth National Park- fondly known as just ‘Queen’. The crazy roadside life between Entebbe and Kampala flashed passed us in a blur of lights, smells and noise. Mile after mile of food stalls, cooking, meeting places, street vendors, hairdressers, and what must be thousands and thousands of people: people talking; people shopping; people dancing, arguing, eating; people up at 5am looking like they never went to bed! This introduction to Uganda always reminds you that it is a very lively place.

Eventually the lights of the city faded as we joined the road west that would take us via Mubende and Fort Portal. A good deal of this road is still under reconstruction, and as skilled a driver as Ronnie undoubtedly is, he did sometimes misjudge the depth of the potholes leading Mrs Peach and me to become acquainted with alternately the roof, or the floor of the van. Who needed sleep anyway?! Far better to watch the beautiful African sunrise, revealing the vast landscape of rolling hills covered in the familiar red earth and rich green vegetation. There is also a particular hot-house, earthy smell that rose up to meet us as the sun warmed up the day. Uganda is indeed a country of smells!

Hundreds of small villages flashed past the windows of the van, and after 5 hours we reached the busy town of Fort Portal and stopped to change our money and get some breakfast. We took Ronnie to The Garden Restaurant- a place we had been to on the last visit. You might be surprised to learn that it is possible to get a full English breakfast here- which we did have! Onwards for another two hours and a stop in Kasese to buy a local SIM card for my unlocked phone, with airtime for the internet so I could contact people at home. Then, the signs for the national park appeared! This always sparks a certain excitement because you know that at any time after that you might see animals: WILD ANIMALS!

Driving in through the security gates of the park and commencing the drive down the long and winding red earth track that runs alongside the Kazinga Channel leading to the Mweya Peninsula, we could barely contain our excitement! We could see several waterbuck and Uganda Kob grazing nearby, and away in the distance a herd of buffalo near the water’s edge. (No elephants yet.)

Arriving at Hippo House (our new home for the duration) at 1pm local time on Saturday 22nd July -hot, dusty and travel weary – we had been travelling for nearly 30 hours! Neither of us looked quite as beautiful as we did in the picture taken at Heathrow, but we were both mightily relieved to have arrived with the rest of the team.