Uganda – LDP Seminars

10 11 2013

We spent three days on the trip with this years graduating class (123 students) of Leadership Development Program (LDP) Students. These are young men and women who have been sponsored as children, completed the program, excelled academically and shown leadership potential. These outstanding students are then sponsored through their university course (at a higher monthly rate of course!) while simultaneously studying on the leadership course, to become exceptional leaders within their professions. [Taken from my overview post]

On the Wednesday afternoon we had been asked to run seminars with the students, so after breakfast we got into groups to prepare. My group was doing “Finding a job and keeping a job”. Fortunately there were some bolder people than myself in my group, so I didn’t have to speak (fear of public speaking still as strong as ever!). Mid morning we headed across the city and were there by about lunchtime.

We sat in on the end of their morning session where they were talking about CVs and interviews. One of the questions that was asked was “Should you put your tribe on your CV?”. They discussed this for a while, how if you don’t have a surname you might use it, but if you might be judged for it, you can leave it off. It was just surprising to me as it’s the sort of thing that of course would never even come up in the UK! They also talked about skills in Access, Excel, about companies like PWC and Deloitte – for those few minutes you could have been back in the UK! Some of the careers advice was exactly what we learnt at school – don’t list weak hobbies, focus on your Higher Education and A and O Levels. For an interview you need to be knowledgeable about 4 things: yourself, the job, the organisation, and the market the organisation is working within. “Lack of information is the first source of lack of confidence.” If I was job hunting this is some of the best advice I could have got!

We broke for lunch and sat among the students, I sat with Carolyn & Tyler from Florida, and were joined by students Busco, Moses, Emmanuel and Sarah, it was lots of fun! Lunch was liver and rice (I was ridiculously proud of myself for willingly eating liver, but the other option was fish, and I was avoiding that all week!). After lunch there was a short worship time, but you could have been forgiven to think it was a party going on! Africans know how to worship with passion!

In our afternoon session we had 22 students in our group, I didn’t take notes or photos as it seemed rude, but I did scribble 2 things down:

  • On the way to work, pray: “How can I glorify You, and bless the people I work with today?” – even if it’s not where you want to be.
  • You can’t say “I can’t handle this”. You’re an adult, it’s your job to handle it.

Eighteen of the graduates were sponsored through the Compassion UK office, and I’d been asked, if possible, to get short video interviews with them. That afternoon I managed to find one of them, a young lady called Edith who was so full of joy and enthusiasm managed to fill 20minutes of video time while I started to panic about my bus leaving without me! She was amazing, she told me how she would like to be a Reverend, and then go on to be an MP! (not unrealistic!) It turned out later in the week that Edith was awarded as one of the ten “Outstanding” students in her class, and no wonder!

We stopped for dinner on the way back to the hotel at a place called Cafe Javas, which was fairly westernised, and the excitement when we found out they had a proper flushing toilet with a seat, well, we could hardly contain ourselves! Ironically I did try new food here, but it was Mexican food…! I had chicken and cheese Quesadilla – very nice!

By this point in the week I was already realising how we weren’t seeing the poverty in Uganda, but were seeing the happy stuff. The happy, joyful, well looked after children on the Tuesday, the smart, young professionals today. We were seeing the benefits of Compassion sponsorship.

But at the same time, I was being reminded that even in the nicest parts of the country, you’re still in Uganda. In our very nice, safe hotel that we stayed in (metal detectors at the entrance to grounds and buildings, and armed guards at the gates), my shower wasn’t really working beyond a dribble, and this was the morning that my tap ran yellow water – that’d be why you brush your teeth with bottled water only!





Uganda – words and phrases

5 11 2013

I learnt some new words and phrases in Uganda, some from the Ugandans, some from the Americans I was travelling with, and some we just made up! Enjoy!

“Check our tyres”
To stop on a road trip to go to the bathroom, eg: “Is there anywhere we can stop soon to check our tyres?”

“Fire”
Tasty, eg: “This doughnut is fire!”

“That is factual”/”That is a factual statement”
That’s true, eg: “Hey the sun is really bright today”, “That’s factual”

“Hand clap”
Round of applause, eg: “Let’s all give him a big hand clap!”

“Zero minutes”
No time, eg: “You guys need to get on the bus, you have zero minutes!” (Though in Africa, you could still be there 20 minutes later!)

“Praise the Lord”
“Amen”

A greeting, eg: Someone comes to the front to speak and says this before saying hello or introducing themselves – the congregation or group responds with the Amen.

“God is good”
“All the time”
“And all the time”
“God is good, and that is His nature”
“Wow!”

Says it all!

We also had a greeting within the group where whenever Lillian said “Hello” we said “Uhuh” and whenever she said “Uhuh” we said “Hello”, but without the tone of voice it’s just not the same!

Those of you on the trip, do let me know if you think of anything I’ve missed off!





Uganda – Project Day

4 11 2013

Time to start story telling! So far I haven’t put much about what we actually did, so here goes!

On the first full day there, the Tuesday, after a few hours sleep (not many as we’d got in pretty late the night before!), and an interesting breakfast (I don’t think chicken was ever meant to go in sausages!), we filled up a couple of small buses (I’ll tell you about them another time!), and headed out of Kampala for the only time that week.

I’d heard that the welcome at the projects was a big deal, but I never expected anything like this. We parked down the road, and there was this noise coming from a distance. We opened the door to the bus and could just hear screams! The sort of noise you’d hear at a red carpet film première – utter madness, I kind of thought, “well that can’t be for us” but it was. As we walked down the road we could see the crowds of children and grown ups waiting for us, who knows how long they’d been waiting patiently. We got closer and a group of girls came towards us in a dance and hugged each of us. Once we passed them we arrived in a sea of children and grown ups, hugging as many as was physically possible – so special.

We gradually moved towards the main church building – building might be a bit of a stretch, the entire thing was made of sticks, though it seemed structurally sound and was large, but definitely not watertight. We danced and we walked, and at pretty much all times one child or another was holding each of my hands. The boy on my left held tight the whole time. We entered the church and as sponsors we were ushered to the front, but then mixed with all the grown ups and kids, and who should come and sit on my left but the little boy from earlier in his orange uniform. Some of the girls from the project danced on stage for us, and when they were done came and sat among us too. One of them took a spot on my lap – she was adorable, she kept pulling at the hairs on my arms and giggling, I guess they’re paler than she’s used too! And the hair tie on my wrist she kept fiddling with too. I asked both these children their names, but didn’t catch either of them, which I massively regret. I know I’ll never forget them, and God knows their names, but I so wish I did.

So I’ve mentioned “children and grown ups” a few times now. This wasn’t just a child sponsorship project, it also contained a child survival program (CSP), this means that they look after babies and their caregivers, and also pregnant mums. So in the church building we had mums, dads, babies, and children of all ages – quite a crowd! We worshipped with them, some of the mums and one grandmother shared a bit of their stories and how the project helps them. After this there was more dancing, and we sponsors we invited (the sort of invite you don’t refuse) to join the dancing on the stage, it was a lot of fun, the girls each took jumpers from around their waists and put them around ours. And then we introduced ourselves, asked to say our name, where we were from, and how many children we had… some people were listing grandchildren and great grandchildren! And two of the sponsors had their kids with them, well, not kids, they were 20 and 21, but it was great for the CSP mums to see the future as it were for them!

Gosh this is getting long already, sorry!

They gave us snacks of biscuits water, and then we divided into three groups to go visit some homes. One of the sponsors in the group sponsored a girl called Prisca in the project we visited. Patti only found out that morning that the project we were visiting had her in it, let alone that later that day she would be able to visit her home and meet her mother! I was privileged to be part of that group. Prisca’s home was made of brick, and had been funded by Compassion as previously she hadn’t had a home. we went and sat in the first room, the front door was just a curtain, and we were joined by several small children, some were her siblings, others were just kids from the neighbourhood who were here to see what was going on! We heard what a normal day was like for them, we heard how when they go to get water, the walk is 2 miles (so about 40 minutes at a normal pace, probably more with a heavy load of water), and this is a trip they have to do 4 times a day. That was a shocker, that’s hours and hours just to have something to drink, to wash with. Insane.

We saw the bedroom, 3 beds for 7 people (the mother Margaret, her teenage son Andrew, her baby daughter Jemima, Prisca, and 3 other children). There was a mosquito net over Prisca’s bed, and in the corner we saw a Water of Life filter which was great to see! The wash and toilet “rooms” made out of corrugated iron and wood were not so positive, but this is the reality of life there. We met Prisca’s pig which she’d bought with a gift from her sponsor, and we helped to prepare dinner. A few of us shelled beans and fed the pods to the pig, and others washed clothes and prepared plantain. It felt like hardly anything, just one evening of help, but when we left (with a gift of vegetables from them!) we knew that at least Compassion stays, Compassion cares for them.

We headed back to the project and saw more of the CSP project. How the men were learning woodwork skills and saw some of the furniture they’d made, and the crafts the women were learning, from jewellry making, and hair braiding, to weaving and sewing – skills that will generate an income for them and their children. Alongside this they are taught how to look after their children well. We each took a mum and served them lunch (this was 5pm!) – I met Rebecca, who had the tiniest little girl held against her; Alex was 3 weeks old! I have no idea how old Rebecca is, but she was amazing, cheerful, and so friendly! We served them beans, fish (eyes, scales and all!) and rice, and then went to eat our lunch of rice, noodles and beef, there was also the mashed plantain available.

After some play time we all got in a group and we left our gifts with them, piled them in the middle of the circle, and we prayed with those sat closest to us. This is when I started to feel my chin wobble… The pastor of the church gave us each a scarf made by the CSP mums as a gift, (mine just happened to be the exact same colours as the 2 bracelets I’d bought from the mums earlier that day!), and then I started to cry. One girl took my hand and hugged me, I didn’t realise ’til later because she’d got changed (into a uniform with a torn seam, I just wanted a needle and thread to sew it up for her), but this was the girl who had sat on my lap that morning, had kept poking me and giggling naughtily all day, and had barely left me. She was there when I needed her, and I never even knew her name. Such a beautiful young girl. The children looked quite concerned and hugged me, and I tried to explain (through the sobs) that I was ok, I was just sad to leave them all. I did NOT want to get back on that bus. But I did – and with a few more minutes before we left I found a bottle of bubble mixture and blew them out the window which they loved! (I was still crying, I did for a while after we left too!)

Once I’d calmed down I managed to doze off on the bus, and the next thing I know we’re sat still, I assume in traffic, but then realise there’s a big white wall behind us and people are getting off the bus. We were at a “gas station” (I was with American’s, had to get with the lingo!) in the middle of Kampala with a puncture. Patrick our driver was a superhero in sorting it while we all just stood around, but it was a great time to see a bit of regular Kampala life. While we were stood there a few guys pulled up on motor bikes and parked round one of the pumps, they got out a massive watermelon, and with a massive knife(!) chopped bits off for a snack. They then left the knife casually in the watermelon while wandering around a bit and going back for seconds – so so different to anything that would ever happen in the UK! Eventually we got back on the bus and after sitting in pretty bad traffic, got back to the hotel. It was far too late for dinner, (plus we’d had lunch at tea time!) so we all just had dessert at 10pm.

Several years ago I heard a quote which came back to me that evening: “You never know how much you love someone ’til you can’t face saying goodbye.”





Uganda – testimony

30 10 2013

I just wanted to share a little bit of testimony from the week

I have problems with anxiety disorder, have done for years, and last year got bad enough to go on anti depressants. Sometimes panic attacks are triggered by nothing particular, but high pressure situations are often tricky. E.g. last month I went to the theatre and in the interval I had my worst panic attack in 6 years.

So I never expected to get through a week in a new country, new continent, new food, new people, new all sorts – it was going to be difficult. I thought that even if I managed to remain in control all week I’d at least be fighting it and it’d be hard work.

I was fine ALL WEEK. Other than a slight issue with breakfast on the first day which didn’t even feel that anxiety like, I didn’t even feel a slight hint of it. I had many friends and colleagues praying for me over the week and God massively exceeded my expectations!!!

Praise God!!





Uganda – shop names!

28 10 2013

Uganda is an amazing place, but one thing of many that was so different to the UK was the pattern of so many shops that had Christian names! There were also some pretty good general ones too. Here’s some of the ones I spotted from the bus window!

Jesus Saves Newsagent

Praise Supermarket

Hosanna Restaurant

Grace of God Milk Centre

God is Good Mini Mart
IMGP0764

Divine Brothers Defensive Driving (and that’s what you need on the roads of Kampala!)
driving

Merry Supermarket

Cinderella Supermarket

Lucky Supermarket

I feel like Chicken Tonight
IMGP0196

In the UK you tend to get 7/11s, not in Uganda!
seventen

Nile Water!
nilewater

Teletubbies Daycare
daycare





Uganda – 5 minute highlights

27 10 2013

This morning I was given 5 minutes at Romsey Baptist Church where I grew up, to share briefly about my trip, so it seemed sensible to share it too to give you a high level overview, just incase you’re not interested in all the stories as they come out!

For the last 4 years have been working in the IT team at Compassion UK doing all things data – and it’s fun! They are based in Weybridge in Surrey, but this time last week I was privileged to be in the beautiful country of Uganda!
I joined a group of American sponsors and their tour leaders and spent a week in “The Pearl of Africa”, where they would meet their sponsored children.
We stayed in Kampala, which is just on the edge of Lake Victoria, and is the capital city.
slide1
Our first full day there we visited a one of the many projects in the country.
We got off the buses down the road from the project and could just hear screams as if One Direction had arrived! We were greeted by some of the girls who did a dance, and then by hoards of beautiful children! We had some time in church with them where we heard more about what goes on there.
slide2
This particular project ran both the Child Development through Sponsorship Program (CDSP), but also the Child Survival Program (CSP) which is where babies and their caregivers, and also pregnant mums, are supported. They are cared for, fed, taught how to look after themselves and their children well and also taught income generating skills such as woodwork for the men, and jewellery making, hair braiding, weaving, sewing, and other crafts, for the women.
slide3
On the Thursday we went to visit the Compassion Uganda office in Kampala. We saw the piles of letters from children ready to be checked through before going on to sponsors, and all the pigeon holes where all the check letters from sponsors are put ready to be delivered to the projects. We shared devotional time with the staff and I also got to meet their head of IT!
slide4
We spent three days with Leadership Development Program (LDP) Students. These are young men and women who have been sponsored as children, completed the program, excelled academically and shown leadership potential. These outstanding students are then sponsored through their university course (at a higher monthly rate of course!) while simultaneously studying on the leadership course, to become exceptional leaders within their professions.
We were invited to attend this years graduation ceremony on the Friday, and spent the preceding two afternoon sessions with them, leading seminars, and participating in a ceremony in which we washed their feet and prayed with them. It was also a time where we got to experience the incredible joy of African worship! I have some great videos of this!
slide5
Saturday was the day the American sponsors had been waiting for! The children came from all corners of the country, accompanied by their project workers, and all gathered in Kampala. We went to a small amusement park in the city and each sponsor met their child, some for the first time, some had met once before. We took them in and while some enjoyed the rides a little less than others (they most likely wouldn’t have experienced anything like it before!), at the end of the day, when sponsors and children exchanged gifts and prayed together, you could see how much the whole day had meant to them.
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This was the group of all sponsors, children, and the project staff that had brought the children for the day, I think we totalled about 84 people!
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The last day we visited Deliverance Church and very briefly had a quick look around the Compassion Project office there and met the project director who was a formerly sponsored LDP student! Then there was just time for a quick stop off at the market before our flight back.
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The whole experience really was mind blowing. We met some of the most inspirational people, covering all ages, but it was really special to meet these graduating students who are the future of that country. I was chatting to one girl who told me she wants to be a reverend and then go on to be an MP. And while that may sound farfetched, it’s already happened once. A lady called Margaret graduated from the Uganda LDP Compassion program and in May 2011 was elected as a Member of Parliament.
When we were there they talked about how one day, a formerly sponsored child will lead their country. What a day that will be!
This trip was a little different to the normal tours because we had such a focus on the LDP students, but because of this we didn’t really see the poverty in Uganda, we saw the difference and success of Compassion in the lives of those who were once in poverty!
I know most of us wouldn’t be able to afford to sponsor one of these students, but every single one of them started out as a child in poverty that needed a sponsor, just like the ones available now for sponsorship.





Uganda!! – lots to come

26 10 2013

Things have been a little quiet around here lately, sorry!

This time last week I was in Uganda! I had an amazing week in Kampala seeing the work of Compassion UK on the ground.

I finally got my photos onto facebook yesterday, and a few videos, but I’ve got loads of stories to tell and diary to write up comprehensibly, so what will probably happen is that over a period of time I’ll upload a series of blog posts on here telling you all about it – can’t wait! 🙂