Our first day in Masindi saw us again split into two groups, one to do teacher training and school sessions on a sugar plantation half an hour outside of Masindi and the other group to do the same at the Banu ground in town.
On arrival at the Banu ground we found the Ugandan army had set up a perimeter around the field and were busy doing army business. We explained to them what we had planned to do that day and were offered a small piece of ground covered with very long grass, we politely declined the offer and relocated to the Masindi Stadium a bit further down the road.
Teachers and children arrived over the next hour and Sarah, Taruna, and Tom took the children to one end of the ground and soon filled it with lots of noise and laughter.
I was tasked with the teacher training and soon had them jumping up and down to various warm ups and shouting out their ABC and T’s, we went through catching, bowling and batting skills and how to break them down and deliver them, the enthusiasm of the 18 teachers was great to see. We had to retire to the grandstand at one point as the rain came down in torrents but this did not deter us as we continued with our batting lessons along the gangways.
Sarah, Taruna and Tom had meanwhile moved off to another local school and had a fun time coaching over 150 children, if you had told them a week ago that they, as first time volunteers, would be doing this they would never have believed it, brilliant effort.
The town group re-joined at the stadium after lunch for another school session, the children wore a great pink and white uniform, finished off with either a gold or silver bow tie, cool or what!!
We had arranged to all meet up at the hotel at 4.30 so we could go to the Family Spirit Orphanage together which was an amazing experience. Many of the children are HIV positive and are cared for in a loving and safe environment, as we arrived the children jostled to hold our hands and sit with us, so pleased we had come to visit. The children then put on a traditional welcome dance for us and we in turn did our comedy end of session wrap up which involves amongst other things Rob being hit in, or near, a rather delicate area by a tennis ball, Protection, Protection, Protection, the children fell about laughing, BAFTA for Rob.
We then spent an hour or so playing with the children, I have no idea what the others got up to as I had taken some balloons to blow up and shape into animals and got mobbed by around 50 children all asking for me to make them a Giraffe, 20 Giraffes later we had to go, leaving the unused balloons and instructions with one of the carers, a moving and fun way to end the day.
Note from Mark Campbell: There has been a lot of comment in the press and elsewhere about orphanages in Africa and Uganda in particular. Much of this concern is justified. However, there is at least some official and judicial oversight of children in Family Spirit. As an example on my last visit two years ago there were a family of triplets each a few months old. They had been abandoned by their mother following a mental health breakdown. I am told that they have now been rehabilitated to a recovered mother under the oversight and support of the relevant local authorities.
Written by: Nick Holroyd