Day 12 – Spirit

A rough (very rough) recreation ground in Masindi is our third venue – long grass, dirt patches, bottle tops, broken glass and a couple of makeshift goals. It’s Saturday so we are not expecting the full complement of 40 teachers to show: in dribs and drabs we reach 8 by 11.30. The teachers are joined by an unexpected group of about 30 girls for whom we set up a separate session. After a brief pause for a rain shower a productive morning ensues with the teacher coaches making rapid progress.

At lunch the Revenge of the Ugandan chefs materialises. The long-awaited Reece Kitchens 3 makes a spectacular outing when the burger Reece has ordered still hasn’t reached the table an hour and twenty minutes after ordering. In Uganda our concept of “fast food” translates as “sometime-today-would-be-nice-food”. We had to physically restrain Reece from storming the kitchen to flip his own burger: no Michelin Stars for them, then. As the rest of us made our way back to the ground Reece was trying frantically to devour his belated burger in an overtly dyspepsia-inducing manner so as not to be too late back to the session. Emmanuel is one of our two Ugandan coaches – a player in the National side. His words of a few days earlier were prophetically on-the-money: “In Uganda” he said, “be patient or be a patient”. Reece, for his part, has vowed to visit the first McDonalds he finds on his return to England.

Further to the Storks discussion in yesterday’s blog we were honoured to have a very tall tree next to the rec. that was home to a colony of these magnificent creatures. Every now and then one would swoop down to collect straw for a nest, taking off in a scarily lumbering fashion like a 747. Once airborne, though, the frantic flapping of the giant wings gave way to a much more serene passage of flight and the gliding descent into the top of the tree was grace personified. These are non-vocal birds who like to dabble in bill-rattling – a very distinctive sound that adds to the atmosphere of the Ugandan countryside.

After the afternoon session we took the opportunity to visit the Family Spirit orphanage in Masindi. This is a superb facility run by Susan and Isaac (who is known as Director Daddy). This was a wonderful experience meeting some extraordinary children who wanted to hold your hand and be your friend. The entertainment they provided as welcome to honoured guests was of a standard it is hard to describe going on for over half n hour, with numerous songs, and totally captivating in its intensity, its rhythmic structure and its ability to impart happiness to all from children who we would all accept are severely disadvantaged.

It was the highlight of the project.

The ability of these 200 children to find a meaning, a structure, to their lives in this wonderful place was truly humbling. We all take indelible memories of individual children who are fighting back, against what appears to be insurmountable adversity, for the rest of our lives. Many thanks are due to Mike and Veronica Reeves, whose charity The Friends of Family Spirit supports this orphanage, for introducing us to this microcosm of hope.

Peter Yates

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