march-2024

Published by Hannah on

Trip to Uganda - March 2024

Thank you for your support and prayers during our trip.

Daily blogs

Monday 4th March

The team arrived safely at the Smile Children’s Charity Village in Uganda after a 3.5 hour drive from Entebbe. The last 40 minutes was on a rough track which made UK potholes pale into insignificance! And the huge sugar cane transporters were quite a sight when thundering towards us!

What a fantastic welcome awaited us as children greeted us with a welcome song and a recital of their motto ‘Every Child Deserves a Smile’ 
We then enjoyed a tour of the village and were very excited to see the Hope Clinic funded last year by Projects Delivering Hope. We also met Prisca the nurse who Pete is looking forward to spending time with later in the week after we have presented a microscope. 
400 primary children (including 300 from the surrounding area) are educated at the school here and we were introduced to some of them in their classrooms. 
We had fun handing out teddy bears, children’s clothes, footballs and stationery as well as 10 laptops for the new computer skills training course. 

Finally another 40 minute bumpy drive back to our hotel for a quiet night.

Tuesday 5th March

Today’s celebrations have been full of colour, sound and life. Arriving at the Smile Village at 10am, the marching band led us through the streets of Kitigwa in procession behind the upper primary children, the Smile Academy graduates and the Smile staff. The townspeople stopped their work to watch us pass with many joining in at the back of the procession. We marched for over 2 miles in the intense heat of the sun, passing local businesses selling anything from fried chicken to hand-made coffins! It was fascinating to see coffee beans drying in the sun and sugar cane being sold in its raw form. 

Returning to the Smile Village, our next task was to perform the official opening and dedication of the Hope Clinic funded last year by Projects Delivering Hope (PDH). After Andrew R had cut the ribbon, Pete officially handed over the microscope also funded by PDH to Prisca, the nurse.

The focus then moved to the graduation when 27 young women were to receive certificates following a 9-month skills training course in tailoring or hairdressing. There were speeches by many dignitaries and then at 4:30pm (after 6.5 hours since we started!) Andrew R, the designated ‘guest of honour’, gave the Guest Speaker’s address. His topic was ‘Hope’ and he covered: unrealistic hope that leads to disappointment; achievable hope that leads to fulfilment; and hope in God that gives us 100% certainty of His Spirit with us in this life and eternity with Him in heaven. 

As the afternoon drew to a close, Andrew & Karen Eustace were presented with a chicken by the mother of the one of the girls they sponsor, and Andrew R was presented with a goat and 100 bananas by the graduates and their parents. Both gifts were returned to the Smile Village and we were pleased to hear that the goat we gave back to them last year has had 3 kids, so they now have 4 from last year, as well as one from this year. A great lesson in investment!

We eventually left the village after 8.5 hours of celebration in the scorching heat, but although exhausted, we are filled with gratitude for an amazing day, and the knowledge that we have done something significant in the lives of these young people. 

We were also delighted to learn that some of the girls who graduated last year have gone on to set up small businesses in their home land of South Sudan.

Wednesday 6th March

This morning Peter and Karen went to Smile Village. Peter spent the day teaching Prisca the nurse the basics of the microscope. Karen enjoyed a day of fun and games with some of the children. 

Francis and both Andrews set off to visit the village of Kawalakota, which is deep in the Ugandan bush. A 4-wheel drive car was essential to reach the village as the mud track was waterlogged and very slippery. The centre of the village community is St James Church, and many South Sudanese people live there and have kept their own identity still speaking their own Bari language. The South Sudanese people migrated there in the 1950s when the north and south were at war.

It was a privilege to meet with the Mothers Union group, many of whom are grandmothers who look after their grandchildren having been abandoned by their mothers as unwanted pregnancies. One lady crawled into the church on her hands and knees as she was seriously disabled. There is extreme poverty in this area and the women make a meagre living by growing coffee. However there is only one coffee harvest each year, and therefore only one payday. Many people still live in traditional Tukuls (mud huts) while others have brick built houses with bricks made from the soil around their property. 

After some very energetic worship and dancing with the women (shown in the video) , we distributed seeds and hand tools so that they could grow vegetables around their homes. It was a very humbling experience to see the women kneeling at our feet and shrieking with joy as they received their seeds.
Andrew R was asked to speak to the women about Hope and although their situation seems hopeless, they are positive enough to believe that with the support of their community, tomorrow can be better than today.In the afternoon the local business community from a wide area gathered under a mango tree for a seminar. Quite a few of the 35 who gathered had been present at last years one-day PDH business training course and we were very encouraged that they had taken on board much of what we taught them and were putting it into practice. Andrew E recapped the 3 most important aspects of running a business: Cash Flow, Stock & Sales.

At the end of the afternoon we were given a report of the Community Savings Group that was set up following our recommendation at last year’s training session. We were absolutely thrilled to hear that the ‘Savings for Tomorrow’ group has 40 members and in 12 months has saved 2.17 million Ugandan Shillings (about £435). This is an amazing achievement for people who had zero financial resources and this fund has been created through their hard work and determination. The next step is to register the group with the Ugandan authorities so that they can begin offering micro finance loans.

The journey back revealed vast areas of bush being cleared for sugar plantations and this has meant the loss of much of the natural environment. 

We end the day once again feeling grateful for all that has been achieved and privileged to have played a small part in it.

Thursday 7th March

Today was our last full day with the Smile Village community. While are sad to be leaving tomorrow, we have enjoyed every moment of our time with them. Their smiles are infectious and they have shown us extreme kindness and extraordinary generosity and love each day.
Arriving this morning we were introduced to two classes of children from years 5 & 6. Both Andrews gave a basic computer lesson to one class of 30 children using the 10 laptops that we had brought from the UK. Considering that most of them had never touched a computer before they learned incredibly quickly. The use of the touchpad soon became natural to them and we showed them how to power up and open the programmes. Then we did some basic word processing and spreadsheet exercises and taught them how to close and save files and then find and reopen them. This training will be rolled out to the school community and will be invaluable to the children as they learn the skills necessary to make their way in the world.

Meanwhile Peter and Karen were teaching the other class some basic microscope skills.

The Smile Village, having identified the central risk to the health of its community as malaria, chose to extend the work of the new clinic to tackle this challenge. Through partnership and collaboration, PDH’s goal has been to support them in their ambitious aim. It has been most impressive and encouraging to see the hard work and progress of Prisca, the clinic’s nurse, during training in microscopy and using the new microscope. There has been immediate impact.
The arrival of Monica today (a lab technician and relative of Francis) brings the project’s aim nearer to completion. Monica has provided training for Prisca to learn slide preparation techniques most relevant and suitable to Uganda. Her local knowledge provides information on the source of further consumables that may be needed. This ongoing support marks an important stage as the project passes from PDH to the Smile clinic. It secures the longevity of everyone’s aims, efforts and hopes. There will be ongoing success and impact.

Alongside training given to the clinic, older children were able to experience the wonders and joys of microscopy in lessons which introduced them to: 1.⁠ ⁠Using microscopy to explore the world. 2.⁠ ⁠The 3 L’s of microscopy; Look, Look carefully, Look carefully + think and do. 3.⁠ ⁠⁠Developing observation skills. 4.⁠ ⁠⁠Making their own microscopes with water droplets. Just as microscopes help us see the world differently and with greater clarity, it is most heartening to see the immediate difference that the donation of a microscope has made and it’s clear that this will continue in the long term. On leaving the village, the PDH team has left the donated microscope and the clinic project in very capable hands, confident that the new arrangements will change the ‘Hope’ of fighting malaria into a ‘Reality’.

Pete

At lunchtime we were treated to a lovely meal of goat and chicken. (Yes it was the same goat and chicken that we gave back after they were presented to us at the graduation on Tuesday!)

In the afternoon we spent time with some of the staff who have become close friends in this past week. We shared stories and prayed together before saying our sad farewells. 

For those readers following our itinerary, we have decided to return to Entebbe for the first leg of our journey home straight after our breakfast meeting with Francis tomorrow. This will save us and our drivers the long return journey to the village and back on the bumpy roads for what would only have been a brief visit. 

So with full hearts and a sense of accomplishment, we’ll be heading back with so many memories, stories and ideas. Do check back tomorrow when our final blog will contain a selection of our favourite memories of the week.

Friday 8th March

This morning we met with Francis Candiga, the director of ‘Smile Christian Children’s Charity Village and Academy’ over breakfast. We listened to his aspirations and vision for the village and heard his heart of love and compassion for the children and young people in his care. The trustees of Projects Delivering Hope will be considering his proposals for the forthcoming year and will continue to help where possible.

We are now in the relative comfort of a hotel in Entebbe awaiting our flight home tomorrow. It seems a world away from the abject poverty we have been witnessing during the past week and the contrast between the two worlds is striking. 

Thinking back just 2 days to our meeting with the grandmothers – we are challenged again by the joy on their faces as they received their life-giving and life-changing packs of seeds and provisions. One lady told us that she hadn’t tasted sugar for 2 years, and another that she couldn’t remember the last time she had a bar of soap! They left that meeting with hope in their hearts. 

And just yesterday, a little girl in our computer training lesson handed Andrew E a letter which said “Thank you for loving us. I know that I didn’t have anything to give you”. 

The journey here was long and tiring and we asked Francis if the little that we have to offer makes any difference. He replied adamantly that there is huge significance in the time we spend and the love we show them. Our presence is so valuable and that makes the difficult journey worthwhile. 

Being here in Entebbe does provide us with something of an airlock between their world and returning to the UK and an opportunity to reflect on all that we have seen and experienced. 

We are so grateful for the opportunities we have had to share our time and resources, and greatly humbled by the genuine and heartfelt gratitude that we have been shown. We are also in awe at the way in which the resources we have offered have been multiplied by God, and that our visit has meant so much more to the Smile team and children than we could have imagined.

One particular example is how, having handed over a microscope to Prisca the Smile nurse, and given her a little practical training in its use, suddenly, yesterday, Francis arranged for his sister-in-law Monica (a lab technician and microbiology student in Entebbe), to jump on a bus and begin the training with Prisca that she needs so much. Monica is like the missing piece of the jigsaw that suddenly fell into place. 

The theme of the week has been Hope and we believe that with the dedication of the Smile team and support from us in the UK, there is hope for these children and young people, and that their tomorrow can be better than today. 

We’ve put together a few of our favourite images below (hover over them for the stories) and hope you enjoy them as we sign off. We look forward to seeing many of you soon, and if you would like more information about supporting Smile Village or any of our other projects, please get in touch with us at: andrew@projectsdeliveringhope.org.uk.

Thanks for following us this week.

Sugar cane is grown in the surrounding area and is transported to the factory by huge lorries. These lorries drive in the centre of the road to avoid tipping over and if you want to overtake it means driving in the verge. One day we overtook 3 in convoy.

A street market near Kampala.

Categories: PDH Trips