Our last day here… 🙁 Although we weren’t going into school today, we still got up at 7:30am to say goodbye to Eleanor, Ruth, Joel and Aled, who are staying until the weekend. They were being picked up to be taken to their schools, so we thought we should be polite and get up to say goodbye. Didn’t bother with a shower as both of our showers were spitting merely a few drops of cold water. After breakfast, Joseph turned up with a surprise for us. At the start of the week, we had told him how much we’d like to ride on a Boda Boda. As he walked along the path to our huts, he had a big grin on his face and told us to come with him. There in the driveway of our guest house, sat a Boda Boda, which he had borrowed especially to give us a ride.
In Uganda, there’s no limit to the amount of people who can fit on a Boda, so Joseph, Mr Prewett and I jumped on and rode off along the dusty and extremely bumpy track, bobbing up and down. As we rode, the local villagers stared in amazement at the sight of two muzungus on the back of a Boda as this was not a sight that they see often! When we returned back to the guest house, both Mr Prewett and I had a go at driving the Boda around the field. Several years ago, I used to ride a motorbike so it came naturally to me. Mr Prewett on the other hand struggled to even get it moving, so Joseph had to sit on the back and get him started. He soon got the hang of it and was a natural and maneuvering around the bumpy field.
After we rode the Boda, Joseph came back to collect some gifts we had for him. We gave him a new hat, some new clothes, some shoes and some cuddly toys for his new baby, which is due to arrive next week! He has promised to call it ‘Luke’, after me, though Mr Prewett suggested ‘Tavis’ would be a much more unique and special name. (We’ll let you know what he decides, next week!) We also decided to give Joseph the second laptop that we had taken over (kindly donated to us by Julian Rees from ‘Seer Computing’, Swansea).
One of his many jobs is fixing motorbike ambulances and he was telling us how difficult it can be to keep records and costs for parts. We gave him the laptop and a quick lesson in Microsoft Excel. He was ‘over the moon’ with this gift and told us this was the first computer he had ever owned. He literally could not stop smiling. He also agreed to send us regular updates about Busiu Primary School and his family.
We said goodbye to Joseph as he had to take the Boda Boda back to his friend, but he agreed to meet us at the Pont headquarters, to wave goodbye before we left.
Our next activity for the morning was one of the most humbling experiences of the whole trip. We visited the Salem Orphanage to meet children who had either been abandoned, or who had lost their parents at birth. As we walked into the orphanage, we had such a huge welcome from children and staff. A social worker arrived to tell us about the children’s backgrounds. Their stories were heartbreaking and it was such a privilege to get to meet them and bring a tiny ounce of happiness to their lives, by playing with them and giving them some simple gifts. We gave the boys a football to play with and seeing their faces light up was incredibly emotional.
All of the children were barefoot but we were able to give each of them a pair of flip-flops, which had been donated by Mrs Cooke. They particularly liked the sparkly ones.
We also gave out a selection of cuddly toys, which had been donated by Mrs Watkins’ daughter, Evie, and Carla in Mrs Robinson’s Class. The children loved them and wouldn’t put them down for the whole time we were there.
Mr Prewett also read some of the children a story.
After giving the gifts, the children performed a song for us. The words to the song were
“Visitor visitor, we’re so happy, very happy you came to see us. We want to show you, we are so happy, from me to you today”
Both Mr Prewett and I filled up as we listened to children, who have literally nothing, sing about how happy they are. It was such a special moment and an incredible challenge, making us both think about all that we take for granted. We look forward to sharing the photographs and videos of the morning, with our pupils back at St. Julian’s.
After their performance, we danced and sang the ‘Hokie Cokie’ with them, and then had a kick-about with Berunde and his new football, though he did take a while to get used to playing in his new flip-flops.
We also gave the orphanage a box of toothbrushes and toothpaste for the children, donated by the Caerleon Road Dental Surgery.
We then said our goodbyes to the children as we had to go to pack up our huts before the driver came to collect us. Mustafa was particularly disappointed that we had to leave.
As we packed, we were happy to leave lots of our things behind for the centre staff; things that were completely insignificant to us, but meant so much to them. Shirts, shorts, deodorant an toiletries were all gratefully received.
After packing, we wrote a few cards to people who had helped to make our time in Uganda so memorable. Once again, it was quite emotional, trying to express our gratitude to Pastor Apollo, Pastor Robert, Sam and Joseph in only a few words. They had taught us so much and looked after us so well.
Before leaving the guest house, I rounded up all the kitchen staff who had cooked for us all week, for a photo. My favourite, Skovia, was incredibly sad to say goodbye. She said how much she would miss me and trying to force-feed me Papaya fruit (definitely not a fan of it!!)
We then remembered that we had forgotten to pick up our tailor-made shirts from the widows’ shop, so we quickly went to collect them. The ladies did an excellent job of creating them; all completely hand made!
It was then time to load up the minibus. Medi our driver had received sad news that his grandmother had passed away, so he drove us to the Pont headquarters and then handed the keys to his brother, who would drive us the rest of the way to Entebbe Airport.
As we waited to say goodbye to everyone. Joseph told us he wanted to play us a song on the keyboard in the nearby church. After some fiddling with the electrics to get the keyboard working, he began to play us some of his favourite songs. He had also been desperate to hear me play, so together we played and sang to the rest of the group, who clapped and sang along.
He then asked if we had heard of one tune which he was desperately trying to find the words for. He hummed the tune and immediately, we all recognised what it was: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer!! He quickly rushed for a pen and paper to write down the words as he was desperate to sing the song! It felt rather surreal, singing Christmas songs in the scorching heat, in the middle of May, but Joseph was enjoying every minute! He then insisted on singing a song to the group to send us on our way.
It was then time to say our very emotional goodbyes, even Joseph (who kept calling me a ‘girl’ every time I filled up) had eyes filled with tears as he hugged both Mr Prewett and I and thanked us for all we had done.
We presented Pastor Apollo with a very fashionable tie and thanked him for looking after us so well. Both Apollo and Joseph said that we were one of the best groups they had ever worked with and how we’d got involved with everything and made such a huge difference to the children and people we had worked along side. We gave them both a final hug and then set off for Entebbe Airport.
Medi’s brother did a fantastic job of driving us and stopped along the way, for us to get some food. Both Mr Prewett and I ordered a cheeseburger and chips, which was a welcomed change from the goat stew and Mango we’d been eating all week. We also bought some Pizza to share with the group, but were stuffed after the cheeseburgers, so shared it with the Ibrahim, the minibus driver. He was so grateful and wolfed it down. As we continued to drive, I remembered that Joseph had given a letter to us, to read to the group on the journey back. As I opened the folded pieces of A4 paper and began to read his opening paragraph, I could feel my eyes start to fill up (yet again!) and quickly handed the letter to Mr Prewett to continue reading, before any of the group noticed! As we listened to his kind words being read, the whole team went silent as we reflected on the amazing times we had shared together. Click the pictures below to read Joseph’s letter…
En route to the airport, we found ourselves stuck in horrendous traffic, around Kampala. It was then that Ibrahim turned around and with a cheeky grin, asked if we would like to take his ‘special shortcut’. Anything was better than being stuck in the intense heat at a standstill, so we all agreed to go for it. As soon as we gave him nod, he spun the wheel around and whisked us off up the most bumpy track (I don’t even think it was a road) I had ever driven along. Both Mr Prewett’s and my head kept hitting the roof of the bus every time we went into a dip or pothole. After being thrown around in the back of the bus for around half an hour, Ibrahim brought us back onto the main road, where we found ourselves back in the traffic. Miss Joseph played a game of ‘Tension’ with us (similar to ‘Family Fortunes’) followed by Mr Prewett who pulled out his ‘Heads Up’ iPhone app, which helped to pass the time. I also interviewed the team to find out their best moments of the trip…
Upon arriving at Entebbe airport, we carried our suitcases to the departure lounge, where we were told that they would not let us in until nearer the flight time. We were sent to the waiting area next door, who also did not want to let us in! After some careful negotiating, we finally persuaded them to let us in, and sat in the cafe. For the first time since last week, we had Wifi which actually took less than ten minutes to load an internet page! We took the opportunity to video-call Mrs Orford, who was delighted to chat to us. As we sat chatting to her and her two children, we filled her in on some of the high-lights of the week.
As we sit on our first flight back, from Entebbe to Amsterdam, Mr Prewett and I are rather smug. We somehow managed to end up in these great seats…loving the extra legroom, whilst the other three teachers are squashed towards the rear of the plane!
Looking forward to arriving home and uploading the rest of the photos and videos from our blog. Thanks to all who have followed us and shared in snippets of this incredible experience/adventure. Uganda is truly special place and we will never forget our visit.