Sorry to keep you waiting for this post! We’ve had an incredibly busy day which was topped off with a lovely meal with all of the people who have given us such a warm welcome during our time here. This rendered us far too emotional to be able to even type about the day! Here goes…
It started off like most of the other days – we were up early and headed down for breakfast. Mr Mansfield was somewhat annoyed about the lumpy milk that the lady had poured into his coffee – not the kick start to the day that he was hoping for! As our shoes have become pretty dirty from walking around on the dusty roads, Mr Prewett decided to shine all of our shoes using some wet wipes after breakfast.
As Mr Prewett went out to the car, he found our driver Abdul had fallen asleep whilst waiting for us to emerge from the hotel. Carrying a football, Mr Prewett could not resist but to throw it at Abdul through the partially open window, waking him immediately with a startled look on his face! Abdul was less than happy with Mr Prewett for this little stunt and gave him the cold shoulder for most of the morning.
We knew that we were in for a long journey this morning, with Bumwalye Primary (Joseph’s school which we were visiting) being well over an hour away, near the border to Kenya. Not long into the journey, we found ourselves in much more remote surroundings. However much we thought we had been ‘in the sticks’ before, this was completely different. The areas we were travelling to had little access to the main roads, so much of our journey was spent on a road which was being developed to connect the more remote parts of eastern Uganda, to the larger towns. Whilst this will be a development which should help change the prospects of those communities, for us, it meant a particularly bumpy ride along unsurfaced roads!
Having got up and dressed very early, Mr Prewett noticed a stain on his trousers in a rather unfortunate place. Realising it was from where the shampoo had exploded on the aeroplane journey over, he had a great idea…we still had a long time left on the journey, so he would ‘wash’ the area now, with his bottled water and it would dry in good time for arriving at Bumwalye Primary. Getting his water bottle out, Mr Prewett carefully began to tip the water onto the affected area. What he had not accounted for, however, was a sudden change in the road surface and a rather large bump! Unfortunately for Mr Prewett, this meant that much of his water bottle spilt in between his legs, leaving a large wet patch! Immediately, both Joseph and Mr Mansfield roared with laughter, in the predicament Mr Prewett had found himself in. Joseph commented that it looked like Mr Prewett had done a ‘Su-su’ in his trousers! Having initially been confident that his trousers would dry by the time we arrived, Mr Prewett now found himself less sure! Indeed, he even started to worry that all of the children at the school would think he had done a ‘Su-su’ on the journey!
Luckily for Mr Prewett, the mocking of his awkward predicament did not last long, as Mr Mansfield noticed a man crouched by the roadside, collecting muddy water from a stream that was running alongside the redeveloping road. Asking Joseph what he was doing, he replied that he was “getting a drink”. We immediately asked that Abdul pull over, as Mr Mansfield grabbed his bottled water, got out and handed it to the man. Being a little fearful of Mr Mansfield’s intentions, the man snatched the bottle and hunched back down. He unscrewed the top and began to gulp down the clean water. We were glad that we had stopped, knowing that the man would have some better water to drink.
As we continued on our journey, both Mr Prewett and Mr Mansfield were in awe at our surroundings. We gazed in wonder as we went deeper and deeper into the Ugandan countryside, soon finding ourselves enveloped by a vast range of mountains. The scenery was truly beautiful and we appreciated Joseph sharing with us some of his local knowledge about the surrounding mountains.
Abdul, the driver, told us that this area often suffered with landslides, with many people having died as a result of this, over the years. He mentioned a particularly bad landslide which had effectively wiped out a whole village, back in 2016. This was awful to hear as, with these communities being so remote, it was very difficult for the aid effort to reach them.
As we neared Bumwalye Primary, Joseph stopped us by a river (The River Manafwa), to explain how important this was to his community growing up. It was a stunning sight. Soon after this, we pulled up at the school gates. We were here! Looking around us, we could see that the school was completely surrounded by beautiful mountains.
We entered the school gates and soon received a warm welcome from Dominic, the Headteacher. We had heard a lot about him from Joseph, who had recently added him to our WhatsApp group, to help us communicate more easily with him! His passion for the school was clear, with him telling us all of the things that they were trying to do to help the school ‘move forward’. He is evidently hugely dedicated to his role, telling us that he would teach all day most days to ensure that he could lead by example and he even said he had spent some of the holidays plastering the classrooms and installing doors! We were completely blown away by his dedication to his school.
We were delighted to see that an organisation had helped the school to fund some playground equipment – swings, slides, climbing frames – it looked like a great place for the children to play at lunchtimes! (Although they had had to stop the swings from swinging using some wood, as they had become too dangerous)
Dominic also took us to the ‘school kitchen’; this was a very small, smoke-filled room, in which there stood a lady with an enormous pot. She was busy preparing the children’s lunch time meals. The school caretaker was also outside helping her build a fire under the gigantic cooking pot.
This was a new initiative which Dominic had introduced, to allow the children to eat meals at school, asking for parental contributions of different grains. This seemed like a fantastic idea and we commented on how important is was for the children to eat at lunchtime, in order to retain their concentration in the afternoon. Very few schools in Uganda have initiatives like this, but we felt that it was superb, especially as the school day begins at 8 and often doesn’t finish until 4 or 5! The downside, however, was that some parents just kept their children at home as they could not even afford the small contributions of grains to feed the children.
From here, we were also taken to the school library. Again, this was a relatively new initiative but one by which we were highly impressed. Dominic detailed how the children could bring books and change them each day, in order to help improve their reading and their studies.
Having given us a tour of the ‘compound’ (grounds), Dominic then took us into classes. Each and every class gave us a hugely warm welcome, singing different songs as we moved from the youngest children to the oldest. Some of these songs were familiar but many were new ones which we had not heard before. We both enjoyed trying our best to join in and, where we could not quite grasp the words, we still managed to get involved by jumping and dancing to the wonderful singing we encountered (much to the children’s enjoyment)!
Having been made very welcome to the school, we asked Dominic if he would be happy for us to go into classes and share with them a little bit about Wales and the work we have been doing in Uganda. By now a familiar routine, Mr Prewett began by teaching the children a song in Welsh, before Mr Mansfield talked about comparisons between the two countries and giving some detail about St Julian’s Primary School. Mr Prewett then shared a little about Mount Pleasant and they finished by showing them some videos from their schools. The children were so well behaved and were clearly fascinated by the images which we projected onto their walls.
We had a brief opportunity to present Dominic with a tie, as a gift from us, and some resources we had brought along with us to help the children of his school, including two sets of Sports Kits which had been donated from YC Sports and Newport Gwent Dragons. From his office, we were then quickly ushered onto the field, where the children had gathered for some games in their new kits. The girls were dressed for netball and so a game quickly began, with Mr Mansfield and Mr Prewett joining a team each. With Mr Mansfield still struggling a little with the rules, he misunderstood which team he was on – taking up his position as Goal Attack, and then proceeding to defend the netball posts to stop his own team scoring! Following a quick pep talk, Mr Prewett and Mr Mansfield established which teams they were on and the match continued. Again, the children set about the match at a fast pace, with Mr Prewett and Mr Mansfield struggling to keep up. Mr Prewett did however manage to put his team 1-0 up with a goal (the practice at Busiu, yesterday must have paid off!), shortly before half time. Changing ends, his team got off to a flying start, scoring another goal to make it 2-0. Despite Mr Mansfield finally showing a modicum of sporting prowess and slotting a goal of his own, the match ended 2-1 to Mr Prewett’s team, much to the delight of the children he was playing with.
After a quick team photo, Mr Mansfield and Mr Prewett were then asked to join in the next match; football. Feeling exhausted, neither were overly enthusiastic about running around more in the sweltering heat, although they agreed to take a team each all the same, so as not to be rude! Mr Prewett was left wondering how the netball pitch would turn into a football pitch when a teacher appeared with two large sticks, which had been freshly cut from a tree; one for each end, to demarcate the ‘missing’ post. Again, the match set off at a frantic pace, with the 22 children filling a pitch no more than half the size of a normal pitch. This meant that there was much chasing of the ball and not a lot of space. Nearing half time, and fearing the match may end goalless at this rate, Mr Prewett had a stroke of luck as the ball ricochet towards him. Attempting to header it in, the goalkeeper made a marvellous save to keep it out – it rebounded to Mr Prewett’s foot and, despite his lightening quick reactions, the resulting shot was pushed up into the air again by the ‘keeper – Mr Prewett was determined not to miss with the third rebound and made sure to header it into the goal! The children were delighted, as Mr Prewett spun around and celebrated wildly with the children. There was not long left of the half but after a change of ends, Mr Mansfield’s team clearly had the bit between their teeth and maintained prolonged attacks on Mr Prewett’s goal. Despite some determined defence, a scramble in the goalmouth led to one of the P6 boys on Mr Mansfield’s team poking the ball into the net. 1-1. The game continued to ebb and flow but, despite some great determination from the children (and an increasingly tired Mr Prewett and Mr Mansfield!), the match ended in a draw. Mr Prewett was disappointed with a draw and had hoped for his team to be the champions. In every sporting event that Mr Prewett and Mr Mansfield had taken part in, Mr Prewett would play with no mercy against the shoeless children he played against, injuring many as he shoulder-barged them out of the way or stood on their feet with his large leather shoes. Remembering that he was playing against 9-10 year olds, Mr Mansfield took a far more gentle approach and although his team didn’t win many of the games, all of his opponents remained on the pitch rather than hobbling off with injuries as indeed Mr Prewett’s did! The two teams gathered for a photo together and both Mr Prewett and Mr Mansfield were relieved that their time chasing much fitter and faster children around in the scorching heat was over!
The staff pulled up a bench for them both, perhaps sensing how near they were to collapse, before the children gathered on the field to perform for the pair. This is something which all schools seem very keen to do, as they see it as an important part of their welcome to any visitors. It took a little time to get the children into place before various groups from the school came up to perform a variety of acts, from singing and dancing to reciting poems. This was all lovely to see and hear. Mr Mansfield enjoyed some of the dancing so much, that he even joined in with one of the girls’ dances – to the raucous laughter of the assembled children.
Perhaps more unexpectedly, once the children had finished, Headteacher Dominic announced that he had some gifts for us. Having only just arrived in this community, it was clear from the fact that 90% of the children had no shoes, we could see how little they had. We were therefore overwhelmed to be presented with two African shirts, which we put on immediately. The children loved this and they all looked at us with beaming smiles as we thanked everyone for their kindness and welcome.
As is custom in Uganda, we were not allowed to leave before being presented with an enormous amount of food. Having had a big breakfast, and having been told by Joseph that we had another lunch coming, Mr Mansfield and Mr Prewett were worried where they would fit all of the food placed in front of them in large pots and pans. Taking enough not to be rude, Joseph told Dominic that we were also having lunch at our next stop (his project) and perhaps we could share anything left with the staff and children. Soon thereafter, some children appeared at the door and we re-portioned the food so they could all have some. Luckily, Dominic did not take offence to this but was rather pleased at our eagerness to share and the fact that we had still eaten a substantial enough amount to satisfy him!
From here, we proceeded to the Nursery, ready to distribute more of the clothes that pupils and families from St. Julian’s Primary had donated. We had noted on our way round that this was the smallest class and felt it was perhaps the only one in which we could give each and every child a gift to take home. Whilst it is always lovely to be able to provide these children with something, it always leaves us feeling a little guilty that we cannot provide more. We would love to carry enough to give something to all 1000+ children in every school, but it would just not be possible. Still, it feels awful that some receive gifts whilst others do not. All the same, this has been a particularly rewarding part of the work we have carried out in Uganda and we have been incredibly grateful for all the support we have had with this, from back home. Indeed, both Mr Prewett and Mr Mansfield took solace in the car, as they left the school, in the fact that our support for the schools will have a positive impact upon the lives of all of the children there – not just the few we can offer immediate help to.
Headteacher Dominic was particularly interested in Mr Mansfield’s technology and so he requested to have some further demonstrations. Mr Mansfield showed them the mini projector he had and also demonstrated Hwb, the Welsh Government learning platform. Two pupils used Just2Easy to draw the Ugandan flag before we had to pack up and be on our way.
Saying some further goodbyes, we thanked the staff and children in Lugisu (“Wanyala Nabi!”) and told them to keep smiling (“Te-ha-ho”)! The children are always delighted when we try and speak in their various languages and this is something which we have been very keen to do on our trip; learning little snippets from Joseph as we have travelled around. Whenever we try to speak in Lugisu, this always brings a ripple of laughter – whether this is because of our pronunciation, or just because they enjoy hearing us try, we are yet to establish! As we were leaving, one of the pupils run over to Mr Mansfield and handed him a piece of paper. On it were the words to one of the songs which they had sung to us ‘Saying Goodbye’.
By now, as seems to be the way out here, we were running extremely late. We were around an hour and a half overdue at Joseph’s project! Luckily, we only had a short trip to arrive at the offices which Joseph has recently rented for his charity (Chance Nabweya Community Organisation). We received a customary warm welcome from the committee who had all been gathered waiting for us. We apologised for our delayed arrival, although this did not seem to be an issue – perhaps they are all just used to everyone being late for everything out here!
Having been formally welcomed to the project, we signed into the guest book and noted that they had made a special sign to welcome us for the day. Discussing the project a little with the Committee members, we suddenly heard the sound of singing outside.
We were ushered out to find that the children the organisation supports had gathered and were singing some songs to welcome us. We have always been hugely impressed by the standard of singing out here but this again reached new levels! The children – some as young as two or three – sang wonderfully and both Mr Mansfield and Mr Prewett avoided each others’ gaze as we each fought back the tears.
Joseph’s charity which he has set up supports an incredible cause. He grew up in this community, in Bududa, and knows only too well what a difference education can make. Joseph had many struggles in his younger life and was not fortunate enough to receive a good education, rarely being able to afford the materials to attend school. His mother died whilst he was still young and his father had fled the country, fearing for his life. Despite this, Joseph is an absolutely miraculous man – fluent in four languages and being a superb organiser and one of the most polite, friendly, happy, people we have ever met!! The tough experiences he has had in his life have led him to have an incredible determination to support others. Although he has relatively little himself, to support his own family, he had been determined to support the community in which he grew up. The community are very grateful for his support and it was immediately evident from the condition of the children that they needed this support. Of all of the places we had visited, we noted that none of these children had shoes. Their houses, some of which surrounded us, were very small and the conditions in which they live could not be done justice to in this blog. Difficult, challenging, impoverished, would all be understatements – we could only think of how unfair this situation was.
Despite all of these challenges, here were a group of children who were stood in front of us, giving us a joyous welcome, all with smiles on their faces. About to fight back the tears some more, the children beckoned Mr Mansfield and Mr Prewett to follow them, as they continued to sing.
They stopped by Joseph’s mother’s grave to sing to us some more, as Joseph told us she died of HIV many years ago. By now, almost emotional wrecks, Mr Mansfield and Mr Prewett followed the children through densely planted crops towards the building that the charity hopes to one day use to teach some of these children. This both served to confirm how remote this community was and also gave Mr Prewett and Mr Mansfield the opportunity to compose themselves a little.
This ‘composure’ was again shattered when the children began to sing some more songs, some of which had been adapted to include our names and Mr Mansfield and Mr Prewett did their best to join in, in an attempt to hide the heaviness they felt in their hearts for these poor children.
Entering the disused school building, Joseph explained how he would love to one day employ a teacher to work here – none are posted to this school anymore as it is too far out for most to access. As is the case in Uganda, we were then sat down for a (very!) formal meeting. In Uganda, they enjoy an opportunity to take part in some public speaking and so Joseph, the Chairman of the project, began proceedings.
As most of those assembled cannot speak English, with literacy levels within the area being extremely low, Joseph’s Vice Chair translated his words into Lugisu. Joseph explained some more about the origins of his project and how they had settled on supporting children with school fees and equipment. Although school is effectively free in Uganda, teachers often send children home if they do not arrive in uniform or have the right equipment to learn; something which we could never imagine happening to our own children. In addition to this, if children cannot afford to have lunch, they will often only stay for the morning and then not return to school once they have been back home. Joseph’s charity looks to find sponsors for the children, with a term of schooling costing around £30, or finds ways to encourage people to set up small businesses and contribute a percentage of their profits. This would seem a small price to pay for supporting the children with everything they would need to attend school daily. The project has grown quickly and we heard how they have 39 children on their books already, with almost the same number waiting for support. Mr Mansfield and Mr Prewett had a quick chat, desperate to find a way to help this community.
With the meeting following a very formal agenda… Prayer, speech from Chairperson, speech from Vice-Chair, speech from Secretary, formal introduction of assembled members… and so on, Mr Prewett and Mr Mansfield managed to gather their thoughts a little. A welcome break from the formality of the meeting came when the children were invited to sing some more songs for us. This was delightful but both Mr Mansfield and Mr Prewett continued to avoid each others’ gaze and pinch themselves in order to stop their tears from streaming, looking around the room at all of the children who are in such great need.
As the meeting drew to a close, there was no avoiding the next part, we were invited to speak. Stepping up first, Mr Mansfield thanked everyone for their welcome and thanked Joseph for bringing us to come and hear about the great work he is trying to do. He talked about how much love we have for Uganda and how important it is to us to try and support communities and organisations such as this, touching our hearts so greatly. Unable to finish, for fighting back the tears, he summoned Mr Prewett to take over. Mr Prewett continued to speak to those gathered, re-emphasising Mr Mansfield’s points and thanking them all for inviting us to the organisation. Finishing by saying “I have to sit down, before I cry”, both Mr Prewett and Mr Mansfield received a warm round of applause – something which we felt most undeserving of, given the circumstance we were in.
Knowing we would be visiting to Joseph’s project, we had saved many of the clothes donated by families at St. Julian’s Primary to give to these children. We held these kind donations back, knowing the difference we would be making to the children. It was wonderful to be in a situation where we knew we had plenty for each and every child in the room. We were able to distribute clothes, flip-flops, hats, pencil cases and many other things which had been donated, to the children. They were all delighted with these gifts and to see their smiling faces did little for Mr Mansfield and Mr Prewett’s delicate emotional states.
Assembling for a quick picture, the children, staff, parents and teary teachers all posed with their new gifts. At this time, with tears streaming down his cheeks, Mr Mansfield told Joseph that we would sponsor some of the children and suggested he identify some of the most needy children for whom this support would benefit the most.
Before too long, and worrying that we would now be chasing daylight on our journey back, Joseph suggested we make our way to leave. This is never a quick process out here and, before we could gather up our things, we were asked to follow Joseph. Remembering that we had not yet eaten, we knew what was coming! We were ushered into the darkened ‘living room’ of Joseph’s mother-in-law’s house and presented with an enormous feast, with many different carbs on offer – from bamboo, to rice and ‘Irish’ (roast potatoes). This was hugely generous and, again not wishing to be rude, Mr Prewett and Mr Mansfield both forced down as big a portion as they could physically manage, so as not to offend anyone. By now, we were used to this form of hospitality, even being told that “If you do not return back to the UK much fatter than you came, then we have failed as hosts!”.
With Joseph urging us to eat quickly, with more time now having passed, Mr Prewett and Mr Mansfield finished up and offered their sincere thanks to their hosts and those who had obviously spent so long preparing this huge feast. Needing a brief toilet stop, Joseph directed Mr Prewett and Mr Mansfield to the ‘long drop’, an experience they have not had to have too often, and one which they were thankful they do not have to have on a daily basis!
As we headed back to Chance Nabweya Community Organisation’s office, we were told by Joseph on the way that they would also be presenting us with a gift of thanks for coming to meet them. Although wholly unnecessary, something about the way in which Joseph was warning us of this left us with a feeling of the need to expect the unexpected! Stood outside the office of the organisation, we got a small clue as to what this mysterious gift may be, as we heard some loud clucking and screeching! “It can’t be, can it?” Mr Mansfield said, as he turned to Mr Prewett. Mr Prewett had no reply but was not left wondering for long, as the secretary emerged grasping a live chicken between his hands, still flapping around. Alongside him, came another gentleman holding an enormous basket of fruit. Both then felt mixed emotions, again being overwhelmed by the people’s kindness but at the same time, wondering who was going to have to hold this, writhing chicken! Mr Prewett thought the fastest and reached out to grab the fruit bowl, as Mr Mansfield was presented with the chicken. This felt like sweet revenge from our last trip, when Mr Mansfield had made Mr Prewett sit in the seat above the goat we purchased for Busiu Primary School. Mr Mansfield delicately posed for pictures with the chicken, trying to hide the unnerved look on his face, as more and more members of the committee came over to join in the photo. As soon as the capturing of the picture was done, Mr Mansfield swiftly handed the chicken back to the gentleman to load into our vehicle.
We were both very sad to bid farewell to the children and the adults who had touched our hearts so greatly this afternoon and managed all of 10 minutes into the return journey before both bursting into tears and blubbering away, turning into a mess within no time at all. Joseph must have wondered a little what was going on, with us being the quietest we have been so far on the trip. We both slid our sunglasses over our eyes to hide the fact we were sobbing away. Reflecting on the afternoon made us realise how lucky we are to have simply been born into completely different circumstances to these children. The only thing that broke the silence was the odd clucking coming from the boot, reminding us that we had a live chicken stowed on board! This became ever decreasing in frequency, prompting us to ask Joseph if the chicken would be okay, to which we were told “He will be perfectly happy, he is just resting and the bumps in the road are helping him to relax!”. Although not so sure, we took his word for it!
On the journey back, the scenery kept us occupied for much of the time, until we came to an opening in the trees and noticed a big group of children gathered around on a field. “They are fighting”, announced Abdul! This prompted us to ask him to pull over and, grabbing a football we had been keeping to give to some locals on our travels, we jumped out and headed over towards the group. Kicking the ball high into the air, immediately the group dissipated and headed towards us to play football. Being already exhausted, this impromptu kick-around did not last long and we presented one of the older children with the ball, to look after for the rest of the group to share and enjoy.
Our only other stop on the way was to allow Abdul to collect some meat for his family, as we proceeded back to Mbale. By now, we were worried that we were going to be late for a celebratory goodbye meal we had organised, which was booked for 6pm. With it creeping up to 5.40, Mr Prewett suggested that they may have to be late as he would need a quick shower before going out for food. Mr Mansfield, obviously having much lower standards of personal hygiene, and happy to turn up for a meal having sweated profusely all day and played a game of netball and two football matches, did not think this was necessary! Fortunately for Mr Prewett and all the guests who they were going to meet later, Mr Mansfield was overruled and the pair returned to the Guest House for a quick shower. Having a very quick turn-around, they managed to leave for 6.10pm, worried that they may be late for the others’ arrival.
After a 15 minute journey to a local hotel, Wash and Wills, Mr Mansfield and Mr Prewett jumped out of the car and quickly made their way to the restaurant. They should have known; there was not a single other guest to be seen! Clearly, we are not quite as indoctrinated into ‘Uganda time’ as we thought. Reminiscing over the day that had gone, and getting a little teary again, it was not until 6.55pm that the first member of the party, Mrs Napokoli, arrived! Greeting her with a warm welcome and having a quick catch up, the other guests then arrived a group at a time. It was lovely to have Pastor Apollo and his son join us, having been welcomed so kindly to them at the church on Sunday, along with Joseph and his beautiful family and Mr Walyaula, his wife and son, Eddie. It was really lovely to have such fantastic company for the evening, as we mixed amongst the group and played a little with Jeremiah and Joanna, Joseph’s children.
Luckily, conversation was flowing as we discussed how quickly our time in Uganda had gone. The food took a long time to be prepared. Eventually, we were invited up to the buffet and enjoyed another hefty meal of rice, beans, pasta, salad, fruit, goat and chicken. Following the meal, people did not want to pass up the opportunity to say a few words. As is custom here, they love a bit of public speaking! Joseph welcomed everyone, thanked us and invited Pastor Apollo to speak. Humbly, he offered Mr Walyaula and Mrs Napokoli the opportunity to speak first, with both accepting gratefully. Mrs Napokoli spoke at great length about the difference that had been made to Busiu Primary School as a result of all of all of the support they had received through the children of St. Julian’s and Mount Pleasant Primary. She was clearly hugely grateful for all we had done, taking care to thank us for each and every thing we had bought and done. So much so that when Mr Walyaula stood to speak, he felt he had little left to say! He also thanked us greatly for our support and for becoming such good friends of his. He still managed to gather enough thoughts to spend a further 10 minutes thanking us and everyone back home.
Next came our turn. Mr Prewett jumped to his feet, keen to get his part done before any emotions overtook him again, and began to say how embarrassed we get at being thanked all of the time. It is not us who should be receiving the thanks but, rather, the people we had met, who had inspired us so greatly over the week. Each and every person around the table had touched our lives greatly and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude for the way they have welcomed us this week. It was a pleasure for Mr Prewett to be able to thank them for all of this. As he filled with tears, Mr Mansfield returned the favour from earlier in the day and stepped in to continue speaking to the group. He thanked everyone: Pastor Apollo and the charity ‘Pont’, for linking our schools with the Ugandan schools, the headteachers who had hosted us so well, the wives of Joseph and Sam Walyaula who had let their husbands spend so much time with us during the week and finally Joseph, who had organised our entire trip, done everything we had requested and looked after us and kept us safe. He emphasised that it is not only them who have benefited from our trip, but how much we and our children have learnt, since beginning the link.
Having thanked everyone profusely, we sat back down, thinking that we had made it through the toughest part of the night. How wrong we were… Joseph stood back up, announcing that they had some ‘small’ gifts for us. Immediately we felt our eyes well up. The generosity here really is incredible. We were in floods of tears before even seeing the gifts from Joseph, Jacinta, Jeremiah and Joanna. We looked at each other knowingly, unable to speak. Seeing our rapidly worsening conditions, the group took action to try and help us (and reduce the awkwardness for them, as they hate to see people cry and finding ‘happy tears’ something hard to comprehend) by giving us our other gifts. Safe to say, this did not help. Both with reddened eyes, we were presented with two personalised African shirts from Mrs Napokoli and a commemorative banner each for our schools from Mr Walyaula. By now, a complete mess, we went around the group and thanked them all individually. Just about recovering a tiny amount of composure, Joseph further compounded the situation by reminding us that we had not yet looked in his envelopes. Mr Mansfield and Mr Prewett both pulled out a commemorative plaque to remember our time in Uganda. Mr Prewett and Mr Mansfield were truly overwhelmed by these stunning gifts. Fortunately for both, the other guests had to get off relatively quickly, as it was now getting late for travelling around town. This left Mr Prewett, Mr Mansfield and Joseph alone together to reflect on the amazing friendship they have built and, yes – shed some more tears… this time, even Joseph cracked!
Commenting on how they could not possibly have any more emotion left inside them, Mr Prewett and Mr Mansfield headed home, realising there was both no time, nor any energy left to write and publish our blog for the day (hence why it is late)! We can only apologise but hope that our account for today goes some way to explaining why this was not possible. What a day. We would say roll on tomorrow but we fear more of the same may be to come….! Thank you all so much for your comments and messages of support from back home.