An enjoyable trip
As Francis our driver dodged the potholes his mobile rang, and soon he was animatedly discussing the Liverpool game last night. “What about Torres’ injury? And Gerrard’s goal!" Welcome to Africa 2009!
“We have no cement because of all the stadiums they are building in South Africa, but hey, Ghana will win this time. Or maybe Cote d’Ivoire. You like Drogba?"
MTN (mobile phone) hoardings everywhere advertise their sponsorship of the 2010 World Cup.
Maybe the euphoria surrounding Barack Obama’s win has subsided a little, but there certainly is a feeling that “this is now our time, our chance".
I greatly enjoyed my 3 week trip to Uganda, Rwanda and Zambia in October/November. Is 'enjoyed’ the right word? I was challenged, inspired, encouraged, upset, frustrated – all of these at times, but left with a warm feeling of hope and optimism.
It was lovely to meet old friends and hear how much they appreciate the way that HATW works – the personal touch, the family feel, the ongoing links, the new visitors spending time with them. They look forward to visits and are proud to show what they have been able to achieve with a bit of support and encouragement. They ask about team members by name, clearly and fondly remembering each: “he was always joking", “the children really loved her", “we were amazed how he could work hard" - 'Giving a hand, not a handout’…
Heading for the north-west corner of Uganda, Siriba School was the first stop. The vocational training centre looks just about finished, but for a coat of paint, and there’s a buzz in the air – the community is enthusiastically working to develop the carpentry and tailoring training programme. Althurs Obolgiwu the head is very happy, the Bishop is keen to help. 'Tools for Self Reliance’ has provided some tools for us to send. There is much to do to ensure that this project delivers consistently and that the young people truly benefit. Let’s stick with it, we’re in this together!
With Albert Aure’s help I visited Ogenda Girls High School where our next group is helping to build classrooms overlooking the Nile, and Owilo School where a classroom project in 2005 had to be undertaken just by the local team at the last minute because of the worsening security situation in the area at the time. Now things are much more settled and Owilo is agitating for a 'proper project with a team of visitors’. Bishop Alphonse met us in Goli with a broad encouraging smile, to talk about these and Zumbo School, one for the future. Albert, at his Aluka Secondary School, showed me the girls’ hostel which 2 HATW teams helped build in 2003 and 2005. It is well used, and the girls were keen to tell me how much they appreciate the facility – not just those who board, but others seeking a quiet place to work. Encouraging girls to stay on at school is such a vital task.
And suddenly it was time to move on, back by intercity coach to Kampala and Entebbe (watching endless Nigerian soap fables on TV! – very dramatic stories reminiscent of 'Fiddler on the Roof’). Plane to Kigali and a different world.
Rwanda still lives very much in the shadow of the 1994 genocide, and the gruesome memorial museum was on the itinerary of the small group from Scotland I was accompanying. The carefully-planned nature of the ethnic cleansing was particularly hard to stomach, as were the thousands of cracked-open skulls. Were the Belgian colonisers and their divide-and-rule policy responsible for creating the atmosphere which led ultimately to the holocaust? Or should we blame the hands that held the machetes? Where does the buck stop??
This country is trying hard to rise from the tragedy of its past and is keen to show the world a new face. It has just become Anglophone and joined the Commonwealth. We achieved 2 punctures and an unscheduled overnight guesthouse stop whilst travelling along very pot-holed roads to the stunningly beautiful Lake Kivu, near which I hope we will be able to send a team to help the development of Muko School in Bugarama in 2010. It’s a large primary school now adding a middle school of more than a thousand pupils. Naturally they need many more classrooms to help the much increased number of children now able to access schooling for the first time. The journey back to Kigali was on a midi-bus which seemed much better able to soak up the bumps and holes in the road through the chimpanzee forest; and then my antisocially-timed 3am flight took me on to Nairobi and then Lusaka.
Zambia in October is very hot and humid, but the people are very friendly and welcoming. None more so than Father Timothy Lubunda (previously working with us at Kaliyangile in Chisamba) and Chris Barrell (our man in Monze who has now also taken an interest in Kaliyangile). Father Tim showed me the new training project where he is working in Lusaka, possibly a co-operative venture for us in the future. Kevin Leech is a good friend and a keen supporter of the work of HATW in Zambia and he joined us from London the following morning, going on to visit the training centre at Kaliyangile. His enthusiasm for Man United always brings a smile to our discussions! It was good to meet Godfrey Chungu and his team again, though sadly they told us much about the difficulties they have faced since the untimely death of Joshua the manager. A new manager has now just been appointed, and the future is looking much brighter. I am so grateful to those supporters who have stuck with us, and are willing to help us make a difference in the lives of the children coming for training.
And so on to Monze, almost four hours south. Sadly the Golden Pillow Lodge (with its back-up generator) was full - so we arrived at our guest house in the early evening, a power cut having been specially arranged to coincide with sundown! Kevin got locked in his bedroom, but that’s another story…
Mrs Sianga was very pleased to see us, and we delighted to see her, after what has been a particularly difficult year. She is still looking after the welfare of huge numbers of children, as well as administering a supplementary-feeding programme and coping with the 2 small Maluba schools. The kids put on a song and dance show for us; we met orphaned brothers Samson and Alick again, and marvelled at their happy smiling faces and how they have developed over the last 4 years since they were bereaved by AIDS… There is a lot of good work going on with the children there! We then visited VIM, started with the help of one of our teams in 2005, and now a self-sustaining small upper school and vocational training centre. Mrs Chiiya and her team have really brought it all together, a delight to see - with 30 of the 120 children enrolled being from particularly disadvantaged backgrounds, and supported by the fees from the others. Hopefully our new child sponsorship scheme will enable more young people completing Maluba to move on to training at VIM.
My trip was coming to an end, and after returning to Lusaka, I was able to go with Austin Daka to visit some of the community projects which he is supporting in Eastern Province, beyond Chipata. He hopes we will send volunteers there before long – and so do I! On the way, we called in to St Francis Hospital at Katete where in many senses, for me, it all began when I worked there for a time in 1992-3. HATW has sent many there over the years – midwives, doctors, sonographer, engineer and pharmacist - and we are now involved with a major engineering project adding an ecologically-sound bio-digester system to solve the hospital’s sewage problems, thereby hopefully helping the hospital to continue its wonderful work.
Returning home (by the most economical route which, strangely, turned out to be via Lilongwe in Malawi and Johannesburg!) I had the chance to think about how HATW has grown, ponder some of the ways we have been able to give a hand over the years, and reflect on the wonderful people I feel privileged to have met along the way. An enjoyable trip indeed.
David SteinerLast Updated: 30/11/2011 Updated By: David