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Uganda - Week 2

A gift from Uganda 

Monday 24th October

After a mixed night (a few cockroaches had to be dealt with, a few mousetraps set as well as the occasional scurrying of feet up in the roof space to contend with) we wake up early to join the children of St Paul's Primary School for their assembly which starts at 8 am. During last year's trip we taught the children a song "I am special" (to the tune of Frere Jacques) and have planned to remind them of this song and get them singing again. Before we get the chance to introduce ourselves, the whole school bursts into "I am special", as we taught it to them, and then continues with a couple of extra verses they have added in their vernacular language (Lugandan). Eventually we introduce ourselves and bring greetings from the UK and then mess up the precise discipline of the regimented lines of children by moving them around to sing the song as a round. The fun over, the children march back to their classes ready for the day.

Pat visits the Nursery to carry out a jigsaw workshop with the teachers; Tim and our driver, Steven, go off to town to buy wood and materials to make some play stalls for the children to role play shopping in the garden; Rosey and I prepare for the first session of Child Protection Training with the new teachers. All our sessions go very well, with a great reception from the teachers. Protecting children is alien to the traditional culture here in Uganda and we hear stories of girls not wanting to report rape because it will ruin their marriage chances; cases of abuse going unreported because the Police want a bribe to do anything about it and other cases being spread around the whole community by the authorities who fail to treat these confidential. But still, we are determined that we must inform the school about child rights and all the teachers are like-minded in wanting to make St Paul's School different to the rest and prepared to stand up for what is right. There are charities (NGO's) working in the area who will assist with cases of abuse and good contacts have been made with these. The good news is that more and more children are reporting abuse to the school, who are at least able to counsel and comfort those in need. We assure the staff that progress can be made, little by little, if we all stand up for right.

After break time, small sweet bananas, fresh bread rolls and chai, we begin work with the Social Workers, who look after the Scholarship Project children, on Protecting Vulnerable Adults. The Head and Director of the school join us as do two members of the Board who have travelled hundreds of miles to be here. All the children on the Project are single orphans (living with a single parent); double orphans (living with grandparents, other relatives or good Samaritans) or from extremely poor families. The parents/guardians are often vulnerable and so we need the staff at the school to be aware of the dangers of abuse. The response is pretty much the same as for the Child Protection Training and the questions come fast a furious. We end the session by asking the group to prepare for a debate tomorrow with the motion: "A school’s responsibility is to educate children and parents/guardians are none of their business!”.

More Child Protection Training sees us through the afternoon, before Rosey and I can visit the Nursery. The classrooms improve every time we come; all the art and craft ideas we shared last year as visible on the walls and hanging from strings across the rooms. The teachers are genuinely doing their best, with the few resources available to them and they have been inventive beyond our dreams. Tim's market stalls are well under way, but the children are enjoying interacting with him and Steven as their are only female teachers in the Nursery (a problem we have in common here in the UK!).

After a long day, we eat supper in our rented house, wash off the dust of the day and all retire for an early night.

Tuesday 25th October

My 30th Wedding Anniversary! It's tough being away from Mark, but we celebrated before I left the UK and Mark has put a card and pearls in my luggage! What a sweetie!

We finish off the Child Protection Training and thrill the teachers with certificates and gifts that we brought out for them all. The debate with the Vulnerable Adults group is amazing! The group have all been used to debating in their schools and universities (there is a debating society at St Paul's too) and the proposers are really convincing, even though they don't believe in the motion. The point is driven home, that actually, "parents/guardians have a lot to do with the success of children in school and those who are vulnerable need to be protected by the whole community".

This afternoon we go out to visit some of the Project children's homes. Matthias (7) lives with his mother and an older sibling; his father died of AIDS a year ago. We pull up at a row of roughly built, 2 room units. Matthias' family live in the middle of the block of 4. A rough wooden door covers the front entrance; the floor is just hard-packed soil; a curtain separates the front living room from the bedroom at the back. A large mattress on the floor sleeps the whole family. Meals are cooked outside on a simple wood fire. The end unit of this block has just half a roof and Martin (the Social Worker) tells us that the occupant was behind with the rent and so the owner pulled off half the roof as a punishment. Martin was told about Matthias by another family in the area and was able to join the Project recently. It is difficult to be in this humble home and not burst into tears at the sheer poverty and desperation of the family. We try to encourage Matthias's mother as much as possible and say a short prayer before getting up to leave. As we prepare for a photograph outside, Matthias's mother brings out a small woven basket that she has made. It is difficult to take from this woman when she is clearly so poor, but it would be an insult to refuse her gift.

As a contrast, Martin takes us to visit Catherine's family. Her father was injured at work over years ago and lost his job. The family was evicted and had to move to a small mud hut. Catherine had to leave school and work in the fields to help make ends meet. She was then accepted on the Scholarship Project and, as her father recovered, the family has managed to get back on its feet. They have been supported by the community group and now live in a pretty decent house and even have a solar panel giving them an electricity supply in the house. Catherine is due to finish at St Paul's in December and her father will be able to support her entry into secondary school.

At Joel's house, we find his father in a wheelchair/bicycle with hand pedals and chain attached to the front wheels. He was paralysed at birth and abandoned by his mother. He was sponsored to go to school himself and is so grateful that his son, Joel, is now on the Scholarship Project at St Paul's. It is good to see how this man is coping through adversity and sees a bright future for his son.

We race back to town to prepare for the Board meeting, held at a local Inn. The Board is comprised of senior staff from the school and a couple of the original visionaries who started St Paul's. Our dear friend, Ephraim Gensi, who passed away 2 years ago, has been replaced,by one of his old school friends. CPA has been concerned for a while that the members of the Board are not getting any younger, so we were delighted to find that 3 of Ephraim's children, Caleb (a business man) , Peter (a lawyer) and Esther (an auditor) are showing a growing interest in St Paul's School and have travelled from Kampala to join in the visit with the CPA team! The meeting goes really well with progress being made over the last year in the building of a computer lab (now we need to raise the money for the computers!); some new teachers' houses and a water purification unit at the school. The 3 Gensi children are going to be a great addition to the Board and will bring an injection of new blood to the school. We finish off the evening by sharing a traditional African buffet together with matoke, sweet potatoes, stewed goat and fried onions and tomatoes.

 Picture: a plaque presented to Denise as a gift to Grace Church


Posted by Denise Niel at 10:30 AM


Update from Uganda #2

Friday 21st Oct (cont)

The Board meeting for KCH was fabulous. Led by Bishop Tom of the Elim church in Uganda, we got through business quickly and were all very much in agreement on everything we discussed.

The biggest problems facing the home at the moment are:

1. Finances! Because of the falling rate of exchange, the amount needed to run the home is more than CPA has raised for the next year ( this includes regular sponsors and ine off gifts). However, many of the grown up adults who are part if the family have decided that it is time for them to give back to the family. They plan to meet together on Oct 30th to discuss how much each can give on a regular basis. What an amazing result, although some ectra funds may still be needed!

2. The Board needs to find a replacement for the late Ephraim Gensi, who was such a big personality and a great friend of CPA. Bishop Tom is also in his late 70's and officially retired although he says he is still asked to preach and teach at every opportunity.

3. The Ugandan government has recently changed the laws regarding Children's Homes in the country. Probably because there has been malpractice in a few Homes, the Gov't has decided that they want to phase out long-term Homes, replacing them with fostering and adoption in the future. Until this change in the law, KCH has taken in children who have come from traumatic circumstances and are unlikely to be adopted (due to a disability, either physical or mental or because a child is from mixed clans) and has been awarded legal guardianship until the child is 18 yrs old. The new legislation wants to place children in Homes on an emergency basis, but for a maximum of 3 yrs, after which the child will be fostered if no adoptive family has been found. Our fear is that, as these children are difficult to adopt, they may spend 3 yrs at KCH, be loved and stabalised, then placed into a series of foster-care homes and possibly be messed up all over again.

Please pray for this fantastic home who provide such love for the family of children in their care. We heard that the older "kids", who are now grown up, many of them married and with children of their own and working to support themselves and their new families, are planning a "Family Day" on the last Sunday of each October, where they will all gather at Komamboga to celebrate, just because they are one big happy family! What a great testament to the work that has gone into the Home by so many people who have loved these children.

Saturday 22nd Oct

We drive back to KCH for a chance to see the children most of whom have been at school during our visits earlier in the week. Our driver beeps the horn at the gate and we hear shrieks and laughter and the sound of many children running down towards the gate. Dan and Emmanuel are in charge of security at the home so they open the gate to let us in and Julius opens the door of the van to let half a dozen screaming children into the van to accompany us up to the house. There are hugs and squeezes for the kids who know us well and shy smiles from the new children. Rosey has an evaluation to carry out with Julius so Tim and I play with the children, first with parachute games, then some ring games and "Legs out", before I drop exhausted onto one of the swings to watch Tim play football with the boys and a few of the girls. The other girls have gone off to find paper and crayons so I join them in the Family room to draw and paint and chat about what they are doing at school and lots of other things. Sarah is in the corner, schooling Dan on algebraic formulas, ready for his Primary Leaving Exam in 2 weeks' time. When Dan and Emmanuel first came to KCH at 5 years old, they were a whirlwind double act, always in mischief and their biggest hilarious act was to smother each other from head to toe from a tub of Vaseline they found in one of the Auntie's rooms. Imagine the task of removing it using just cold water and bars of hard blue carbolic soap! Dan was abandoned by his single mother and was left lying on one side for weeks without being changed or cleaned. Consequently he has a strange elongated head shape and one withered arm, but he, and Emmanuel have both grown into sensible, but still hilarious young boys, who take their job of security very seriously. (All the children have been given a "ministry" at the home and are held accountable by having to report to Julius and the other children at the end of each day for praise and suggestions for improvement. Even down to the youngest, Grace, who's ministry is placing fresh flowers from the garden in flowers in the lounges, every child is expected to contribute towards family life at KCH.

After prayer walking around the two houses and the grounds of the Home, Tim, Rosey and I leave with hugs and kisses from the children and Aunties and with a few tears from some of the children. It's been a great visit to this fantastic place, with a couple of brief visits from Fairy and Yan, two of the former inhabitants of the Home, now at Uni and working as a freelance painter respectively; living independent lives, but regularly returning to the only home they have ever had.

When we arrive back at our hotel, we find that Pat's guests have arrived; the Professors from Ugandan and Kenyan Universities. They are meeting in the new Cappuccino Bar that has been newly created at our hotel since our last visit. There is a proper Italian coffee machine to rival Costa or Starbucks and a trained barista, Jackie, who has perfected proudly the fern pattern in the milk froth! The manager is cock-a-hoop at this new addition to his place and didn't stop singing it's praises each day especially at breakfast time.

Pat is in full throw with her colleagues, continuing through supper and into the night. The funding bid with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has reached the next level and is currently "being examined", which is a good sign. The group have decided that the title will be "Education for All?" looking at the creative Nursery curriculum but also at gender equality and special needs. Our discussion is heated at times, but the one thing we all have in common is a commitment to improve the chances and educational opportunities for every child in Uganda and Kenya (for a start). One of the professors, Sandra, asks that we wait "actively" rather than "passively" so that if/when the bid is approved we are ready to move with the research project straight away. It's great to see such passion and we make a "To Do" list for us all.

Pat will maintain the contacts she has made via e mail and Skype and once the funding has been approved, will be able to go, expenses paid, to Uganda with a team as often as needed.

Sunday 23rd Oct

A really early start from Kampala today, sees us off with a beautiful sunrise and a sparkling sunny day. The traffic is not too bad so we make good progress out of town and towards the Equator. We've all crossed over into the southern hemisphere before so we just stop for a short comfort break and get back on the (southern) road again. One of the former KCH children, now 36 yrs old, married and with a beautiful daughter has recently bought land near to Masaka, where we pass through, so we have arranged to meet up at a local hotel. Asha is the oldest of 5 children who were orphaned when their mother died and left them wandering the streets of Kampala. She worked so hard at school she gained the best results at A Level in the country and won a scholarship to Makarere University to study law. She has worked hard to defend women's rights in the country, but now wants to concentrate on a family for a while as she and her husband farm their land, which is very fertile as it is on the shore of Lake Victoria. The family are exceptionally happy and Asha is more relaxed and mellow than I have ever seen her in the 18 years we have known each other. A great success story out of a tragic start in life!

The roads are strangely very good! The tarmac runs virtually all the way to Rukungiri and the journey is event free apart from the great number of HUGE speed bumps and RUMBLE STRIPS each time we reach a small community along the road. The standard and quality of homes have improved over the last year since I was in Uganda, with many communities expanding out from the main road. This seems to have spread out further away from Kampala than before, which can only mean that people's lives are improving as communications and utilities reach them. On the down side, more mosques have been built, with at least one in each community.

We arrive eventually in Rukungiri and burst into a verse of the local anthem "Rukungiri Rise and Shine"just before sunset at 7pm. It's been a long day and we are tired and road weary so put up mosquito nets and make up beds before it gets too dark. The power is off (surprise, surprise!) so we have peanut butter sandwiches rather than the toast we'd been looking forward to, gratefully use the hot water that has been heated up when the power was on earlier in the day (out in the rural areas, it is usually to have power for 12 hours on and 12 hours off on most days) and gratefully fall into bed.

Posted by Denise Niel at 8:31 AM


Update from Uganda


After a short hop from Humberside airport and an over night stay in an airport hotel, we left Amsterdam not knowing whether our cases were with us or not! Whilst checking them into the new high tech self service pods, we managed to jam the whole conveyor belt, but were promised that everything would be ok. Our flight was good, with a very friendly member of cabin crew looking after us, making sure we had drinks and food when we needed them. I think that because we had pre-ordered A la Carte dinners, he thought we were special passengers.

Between the two of us, we had two hand cases weighing 12kgs each and 3 cases weighing 23kgs each. Quite a challenge for two 58 year olds, one with a bad back and the other a very small sparrow! But we managed, by bumping down stairs, a bit of eye fluttering and sweet smiling and with the help of some very kind and very strong helpful men! (I can hear Mark saying "That's my girl!")

Arriving at our hotel around midnight, we fell into bed exhausted in our Kampala hotel.


Up early, waking to a scorching hot day with just the odd wispy cloud in the gorgeous blue sky. We arrive at Komamboga Childrens Home in time for chai and tiny sweet bananas. The home is looking good with lots of improvements and some fresh paint here and there. Julius, the director greets us like long lost sisters as does Harriet, the senior mother at the home. We meet the two new aunties, Juliet who has worked as a nursing assistant in a local clinic before, and Cate who has worked in a Nursery school before.

Whilst Rosey spends time with Julius, I gather the ladies around the dining room table to make animal masks and felt hand puppets. They like doing this kind of thing as they had little opportunity to do so when they were growing up. At first, they work silently, shyly answering my questions, but soon they relax as we giggle over the mistakes we make or over the odd dropped needle. We chat about some of the children, the introductions and weddings that are coming up soon for some of the children who grew up in the home, but have now grown up and living independent lives. This is the only family and home they have ever known, so they come back for such landmark events in their lives. Many of the older kids are now earning well and support the younger children who now live in the home. What a marvellous completing of the circle this is!

We had said that we would just have a snack at lunchtime, but when the time came, out came: sweet potatoes, matoke (savoury steamed bananas), greens, rice and ground nut sauce, followed by sweet mangoes fresh from the garden. Suddenly there was an urgent tapping on the garden gate. Cate rushes down to let in Marion, Elijah and Grace, the youngest children of the family who attend school just in the morning. They ran into our arms, squealing with excitement. They quickly wore us out, pulling us by our hands over to the swings, the seesaw and then the roundabout in the garden. A football appeared and we had a kick around until the children were called over for their lunch. Once the had eaten they were all sparked out on straw mats in the shade of the playroom, worn out by a morning at school and their new friends.

In the afternoon, we began the Safeguarding training. For Julius and Harriet this is a refresher course, but it's the first time for the two new aunties. They are very quiet and rarely offer an answer or comment without being asked, but when they do they gave really positive answers.

We ended our time at the home by starting off the hand puppets with the children, then awake and eager for more time with us and the chance to make something new. (There are enough resources for all to make a mask and a hand puppet)

The children complained when we left but then cheered up when we promised we were returning tomorrow.

The evening turned out to be interesting! We met up with an old friend, a Finnish missionary here in Uganda. She is virtually a local here and knows Kampala well. She took us to a new shopping mall, run by South Africans, and a fabulous french style bistro. We could have been in Paris, Milan, New York with the fabulous food, pastries, French artisan bread on sale and the italian ice cream stall. It is great to see this progression and to see aspiration in the population, but there is more of a gap between this lifestyle and the slums of Kampala, the beggars on street corners and the children selling maize in and out of the traffic.


An early start today. We're off to KCH again to deliver parts 2 and 3 of the Safeguarding training. The ladies and Julius are ready and waiting so we start straight away. With a short break in between we complete the training easily and it is easy to see that this wonderful group of 4 are a great team to look after the current family of 15 children. They are breaking away from traditional cultural ways, where children have few if any rights, can be beaten for no reason at all and are put to work rather than sent to school. I see a bright future for all of these children.

The home has been running now for 21 years and now, the first children taken in are now adults, many married, some with children and most with great jobs. These older "children" have decided to arrange a reunion day every year when they will all gather back at the home. How fabulous and what great role models these adults are for the current family of children.

Tonight we went to see the film "Queen of Katwe" - wow! The cinema was packed to see this inspiring and uplifting (true) story of a Kampalan girl go from rags to riches by playing chess! At times the whole place burst into applause and cheering. If you get the chance, GO and see it.


The other half of our team have arrived and meet us for breakfast. Pat (and her husband Tim) the lecturer at the college in Lincoln where I did my teacher training 40 years ago! She is the lead on the research oroject we are undertaking to help St Paul's School create a Nursery curriculum. We've had a catch up on the trip so far and whilst Pat and Tim rest, Rosey and I are sitting drinking cappucinos with Bishop Tom who was one of the founders of KCH. Yes, the manager of our hotel has proudly opened a cappucino bar in the garden of the hotel!

Later this afternoon, we have a KCH Board meeting. Tomorrow morning we set off at 8 am.

Posted by Denise at 8:01 PM


Visit to Uganda October 2016


From 17th to 29th October, I will be travelling with 3 other volunteers from Christian Partners in Africa to Uganda. We will be visiting two of the charity’s projects, Komamboga Children’s Home in Kampala and St Paul’s Community Primary School in Rukungiri, in the south west of the country. This will be my 17th visit, so I’ll be travelling under my African name, given to me 8 years ago by the church in Rukungiri – Kembabazi!

We will be delivering Safeguarding Children training, first to some new Aunties at the children’s home and then to new teachers at St Paul’s. We’ll also be training about Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults with a small team who work with the guardians of our 150 scholarship children (who are mostly orphans).

Our second goal is to meet with the Ugandan Education Minister! Together with BG University in Lincoln (where I trained as a teacher many years ago!) CPA is part way through a bid for a research grant with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to develop a Nursery Curriculum for Uganda. At the moment, there is an official Primary Curriculum in Uganda, but nothing specific for Nursery age children. As a retired Early Years teacher, this is very close to my heart! We hope that this new curriculum will be as creative and play-based as is possible in the Ugandan culture and that, if adopted, will be rolled out across the whole of Uganda. One of the criteria for the grant is that we make the project as internationally broad as possible and to this end, we have professors from: Makerere University in Kampala; Kenyatta Uni in Mombasa and the Uni of Nairobi, Kenya; the Uni of Lagos in Nigeria and Winneba Uni in Ghana all joining us for the meeting with the Education minister. When visiting the school we will be working alongside the Nursery teachers to try out ideas and gain more insight into what will work and what won’t within their culture.

Please pray for God’s hand to keep us safe and free from illness; for His knowledge, wisdom and understanding and for our plans to be His plans.

For more info on the projects and the charity visit

We also have a prayer diary detailing our itinerary and you can download it as a PDF here

Posted by Denise Niel at 5:07 PM