I’m writing this as a first time volunteer 48 hours into our project in the West of Uganda.
We arrived Friday evening into Entebbe and spent the night tucked away in a quiet corner 20 minutes or so away from the airport.
A few welcome beers and team bonding ensued before we headed to bed. Breakfast was in the company of some energetic baboons which made for a wonderful setting before we hit the road.
The long journey to Masindi saw us stop off in the capital city of Kampala. Having never visited Africa before this was a great opportunity to embrace and soak up this magnificent country’s vibrant and energetic buzz. We spent a short time at the country’s national cricket stadium and were fortunate enough to catch a second division contest. How great it was to see the wicket keeper sporting a retro white helmet. In my opinion white helmets should make a cricketing comeback!
The long road to Masindi saw us head west through small villages after navigating our way out of the chaotic Kampala. We arrived late afternoon and were warmly welcomed by Francis and Precious. Our leaders Lee and Manni finalised preparations whilst the rest of us enjoyed some liquod refreshments. Lee and Ed managed to conjour up Supersport on the TV and we caught the 6 nations rugby.
During the early evening i was fortunate enough to meet a young local man called Ronald who in the last 12 months had suffered a left leg amputation following a nasty infection on the back of a road accident. His sponsor was the director of the hotel and has supported him with medical bills and treatment. We instantly shared a bond over football and it was so sad to hear how he could no longer play the game he genuinely loves. We talked Arsenal, Everton and a mutual dislike of Theo Walcott. That day he had also buried his grandfather. What has struck me more than anything about Uganda is the warmth of the people and that they are tough in character. There alsp seems to be an incredible work ethic. I look forward to sharing a few more Niles with this young man over the next 4 days.
Sunday saw us begin with a meeting and training session allowing us 3 newbies to tap into the immense knowledge of Lee & Karl.
At 1:30 we headed to the local Family Spirit Orphanage. This is an afternoon that will live long in my memory and forever in my heart.
We received an incredible welcome and were soon engulfed with a plethora of smiling, happy and friendly children of varying ages. The children enthusiastically showed us round each of us making a new friend every secomd it seemed. These are children with powerful stories behind them. However it was plainly obvious that this is a place where children grow and there was a massive sense of team spirit amongst the children.
We then found ourself on the stage as the older children produced some great dancing incorporating Ugandan culture and personalising some of the songs with our name. One of these songs required us to stand up and possibly throw some of our own shapes. I decided to roll out the sprinkler which was met with scenes of laughter , this was definitely one of those laughing at rather than with situations.
We finished of the visit with a trip to a local field and delivered a cricket session to 200 of the children.
Stations were full of great catching, relays saw some great competition and our games saw some wonderful singing and so many smiles. My team were guilty of a Barmy Army chant or two…
We wrapped up with some important HIV messages and an ABCT march before a team photo in the welcoming shade. Matty and Lee were inconspicuous by their absence from the photo as the majority of children towered over them.
I’m hopeful we can go back to family spirit once more before we leave, however i feel it’s just the start in terms my own personal affection and support for this place.
Tomorrow we start the full schools programme, stay tuned for our next blog.