Another early start this morning. The team met for breakfast and Joseph arrived early to join us for a cup of coffee. We had a few things to buy before heading into our schools, so we stopped in Mbale town en route. We gave pencils out to children earlier in the week, but realised we hadn’t bought any pencil sharpeners! We stopped at the stationery shop to collect them and a few other things. Miss Butcher bought herself some post-it notes, despite them being far cheaper in the UK! After that, Mr Mansfield and Miss Butcher wanted to go to the sports shop to buy some soft-balls for the younger children in the school. It was just around the corner from the stationery shop and they were convinced they knew where it was, however when they turned the corner, they realised all the streets around the town centre look the same. Mr Mansfield insisted that it was one way and Miss Butcher insisted it was in the other direction. They made a quick phone call to check with Joseph, who confirmed that Mr Mansfield was completely correct and the sports shop was exactly where he said it was! As they arrived at the sports shop, it was locked up despite it being past it’s opening time. Once again, Joseph had to call the owner to wake him up because he had overslept.
Following that, the team wanted to buy some gift cards to write to the people who have hosted us so well in Uganda. Surprisingly, despite there being so many little stalls and market places in Mbale, none of them seemed to sell gift cards! Everyone was telling us to go to the ‘Craft Kiosk’ but when we went there, that was closed up too. Joseph asked the nearby stall owners to telephone the Craft Kiosk owner and he eventuallty turned up. As he opened the metal doors to his little lockup, he revealed an ‘Aladdin’s cave’ full of African handmade souvineers. There was no room to move in the shop as there were things all over the floor and stacked high right up to the ceiling. The team’s eyes all lit up as they saw all of the Ugandan gifts. They immediatley hopped off the bus to browse the vast selection. Miss Butcher was immediately attracted to a rather nice wooden fruit bowl with small carved animal sculptures attached to the top. As she picked it up, a small wooden zebra snapped off in her hand and the bowl went crashing to the floor. We turned with a look of horror on our faces, but thankfully, the owner didn’t mind and said it was easy to repair. We quickly completed our purchases, of course with some haggling on the prices, and got back onto the bus.
After a short drive to the outskirts of town, Miss Butcher, Mrs Lewis and Mr Mansfield took another vehicle towards their link school which was in the other direction to the other teachers’ schools. We stopped on the road side to buy some Mango trees to plant because the ones we planted last year had died due to them drying up in the drought. As we drove towards the school for the final time, we were all quite quiet knowing that it was our last visit for this year. Mrs Lewis soon broke the silence and started us all off singing one of her favourite songs: ‘Mango Mango Mango Mango’. Even the driver was enjoying it and joining in.
As we arrived at Busiu Primary, a large group of children raced towards us to greet us and offer to carry our bags to the office. Upon entering the office, a small white lizard shot across the wall. To Mr Mansfield and Mrs Lewis’ amazement, Miss Butcher quickly reached out and caught it to put it outside… of course, only after posing with it for a photo first. This was a real shock as Miss Butcher has been shrieking all week every time small insects come near us!
After a short catch up with Mrs Napokoli, the headteacher, we headed out with our parachute, ready to play some games with the younger children. We bought the parachute with some of the money rasied by the pupils and parents of St. Julian’s Primary, and the children absolutely loved it! Although we had agreed to play the games with the younger children, it wasn’t long before all 1,300 pupils were gathered around, watching with huge smiles on their faces as we played a range of games.
As we played, Mr Mansfield had a tap on the shoulder and as he turned, he realised it was Whinnie, one of the pupils who he first met in 2015. Having been to visit us yesterday, she didn’t want us to leave without seeing us again on our last day in school. Mr Mansfield, Whinnie and a few other children had a kick-about with the football, whilst Mrs Lewis and Miss Butcher finished off the parachute games. We also handed out some of the hula hoops which we had bought for the school earlier in the week.
After that, we were summoned to the office to have a drink and a snack. We were given two bananas, some bread and a cup of coffee. The bread here is much dryer that our bread and throughout the week, we’ve had to smother it in butter to make it less dry. The problem today, however, was that we’d used all the butter earlier in the week, so we had to munch our way through the dry bread, taking gulps of water between mouthfuls to be able to swallow it. Then onto the eggs… Mr Mansfield and Mr Prewett have had some bad experiences with Ugandan boiled eggs in the past, so we’ve always been cautious when presented with boiled eggs since. We didn’t want to be rude and not eat them, so instead, we asked if we could take them for our long journey to Baduda and the teacher in charge of catering agreed it was ok.
Then we were asked to visit a classroom where the music teacher and her pupils were going to perform some music and dancing for us, using the instruments we had bought them last year. We enjoyed listening to the music and even had a go at playing some of the instruments. Then the dancing started and a small group of girls started doing a traditional African dance to the rhythm of the drums. We were enjoying watching them shake and move around but then one of the teachers gave us a sharp nudge from behind to push us into joining in. Despite the three of us pulling out our best moves, our dancing was not up to their high standard! Nevertheless, seeing the joy on the children’s faces as we tried to copy the moves made the embarrassment worth it!
As we walked back across the field for some photographs, the teachers and children burst into spontaneous song. We stood for nearly 40 minutes singing and dancing with them taking cover from the hot sun underneath one of the mango trees.
Shortly after, we telephoned Joseph to find out where he was with the vehicle as he was already 30 minutes late to collect us. He was running behind schedule, so we sat with Mrs Napokoli and a group of children in her office, who taught us some more Lugisu words and phrases. The children also enjoyed watching themselves in our videos from last year’s visit on Mr Mansfield’s phone. Following that, Miss Butcher taught them to sing ‘Baby Shark do do do do do do…’ Whilst this was happening, Mrs Lewis was just enjoying being sat out on the field in the sun just chatting with the children.
Eventually, the minivan turned up ready to collect us and we left Busiu Primary for the last time this year. As we drove off, the children chased the vehicle laughing, shouting and waving goodbye to us.
We immediately started to make our way for Baduda to visit which was over an hour’s drive away. As we got further and further away from Mbale towards Baduda, the clouds started to darken and the rain started to pour. We stopped to cover our bags, which were on top of the roof, with a plastic tarpaulin. After we’d stopped, the driver asked Mr Mansfield if he wanted to drive the rest of way along the bumpy muddy road, which was an experience for all!
We were given a warm welcome and immediately escorted into the small office to sign the guest book. All organisations in Uganda love visitors to sign their guest books and leave a nice comment. We then walked along the narrow, muddy path to where the Chance Nabweya/Bunyanga Bright Charity Project is. As we approached the school building, we could hear the children singing and clapping to traditional African songs. They were lined up in perfect formation, singing and dancing their happy songs. The whole team just stood and watched with tears in their eyes and joy in their hearts as the children and expressed their excitement and gratitude for our visit.
When the singing and dancing finished, we were escorted into another office to sign yet another guestbook and then we were taken into a classroom where the committee members were congregated, eagerly awaiting to hear from us. There was a short ceremony involving speeches and performances from the children. At one point, a rather lively drumming rhythm started and some of the members started to dance. Members of the team were also called to join in and thoroughly enjoyed dancing and shaking in time to the beat.
Joseph gave a speech explaining how the charity had started and thanked us for our visit.
He then handed over to Mr Mansfield who explained that we love working with the children in the charity and had brought them some small gifts. The whole classroom erupted with shrieks, applause and ‘yayayayayay’ celebrations, which the Ugandan’s often do when they are so happy!
After the meeting, we had a quick team photo with some of the children and then took the suitcases into the classroom next door ready to hand out the clothes to the children. They all formed a queue along the side of the building and entered the classroom six at a time to receive their clothes. They were so, so grateful for our donations. A huge thank you to all the children, parents and teachers who sent clothes into school for us to take out. We tried to take photos of as many of the children as possible and you can view them here.
One of the members of staff at St. Julian’s had also sent out some balloons for us to give the children to play with. As we blew them up and handed them out, the children’s faces lit up!
After the clothes and gifts had been given out, we had some more group photos outside and left the charity to visit Joseph’s brother’s home for a meal. His home was a small mud and clay hut, but we received such a warm welcome as we arrived. The smell of the food hit us as soon as we entered the room. They had put on a huge spread of rice, matoki, posho, cabbage, beef, chicken and potatoes. It didn’t take long for Joseph to ask the hosts who should be the guest of honour. They immediately said Mr Mansfield, despite Mr Mansfield and the team insisting that it should be Joseph for all his work with the charity. Joseph fished around in the pot for the chicken gizzard and put it on Mr Mansfield’s plate. Mr Mansfield’s heart sunk and stomach churned as he looked at it knowing that he could not refuse such ‘an honour’. It was twice the size of the last gizzard Mr Mansfield had eaten at Busiu Primary the previous day. Mr Mansfield took his first bite of the gizzard and the whole team looked over towards him with faces of empathy, racking their brains for a way to save Mr Mansfield from having to eat it all. Miss Chard, who wasn’t feeling great, sparked up a conversation to distract from everyone looking at the gizzard. The team fumbled around in their bags for tissues or anything that the gizzard could be wrapped in to hide it. As Mr Mansfield chewed and chewed, one of the team discretely passed around a small clear sandwich bag. Miss Tyler carefully put the bag by Mr Mansfield’s side, but the remains of the gizzard were too large to fit inside the bag. Mr Mansfield frantically chewed more and ripped the gizzard apart with his fingers to make it small enough to fit. Miss Chard was doing such a good job of keeping everyone else distracted with the conversation, but then Miss Butcher looked over and saw Mr Mansfield trying desperately to pull the gizzard apart to fit it in the bag. A large misty spray of bright orange Fanta came out of her mouth as she burst out laughing. Everyone looked over and with that Mr Mansfield took the opportunity to force the gizzard into the bag and the bag into his pocket.
The team effort had saved the day (and Mr Mansfield!)
Shortly after the incident, the mood changed as Joseph called his brother into the room. Last month, Joseph’s Brother’s son had suddenly passed away. Mr Mansfield had met his son during his last visit to Uganda and had had his photograph printed onto a canvas as a gift for Joseph’s brother. It was a particularly emotional moment for everyone in the room, but as Joseph’s brother hung the canvas picture of his son on the wall, everyone started to clap and Joseph’s brother showed his immense gratitude for such a gift.
The charity team also had a gift for us. They had wrapped a box full of freshly picked local mangoes which was such a kind gesture that all the team appreciated.
Joseph soon prompted the team to eat up and get back to the vehicle as we had a goodbye meal arranged for the evening. The team said their goodbyes and headed back from Baduda to Mbale. As the minibus bounced up and down on the bumpy roads back to Mbale, Mr Mansfield reached into his pocket for his phone to contact Pastor Apollo. As he did, he felt something rather squishy in his pocket and pulled it out. He had forgotten about the gizzard! The team burst into laughter again as he held up the bag with the half-chewed gizzard!
On the way home, Joseph received a phone call from some of the headteachers saying they weren’t sure if they could make the goodbye meal because they had just been told they needed to get to Kampala by 9 am the following morning for an Interpol interview ready for their visa application to visit us in the UK. Mr Mansfield convinced them to still attend the meal and insisted that it wouldn’t be a late night, so they could still travel the following morning.
The team quickly returned to the accommodation to shower and change into smarter clothes and raced back out the door to head to the ‘Wash and Wills hotel’. They were so excited as Mr Mansfield had been telling them how wonderful the food was at this hotel. Miss Butcher and Mrs Lewis were particularly looking forward to having a pizza, but upon arrival to the restaurant, the manager greeted us and informed us that Pastor Apollo had already pre-ordered food for us… an ‘all you could eat’ buffet of chicken, rice, Matoki, g-nut paste and salad. Mrs Lewis and Miss Butcher nearly cried as they realised they wouldn’t get their pizza. To make matters worse, one of the chef’s walked past and said to them ‘Did you know, we make the best pizzas in the world here?’
We all ate the meal and the headteachers and their families particularly enjoyed it. There was enough time for a few speeches and some ‘thank yous’ following the meal. It was lovely to sit back and hear everyone from both sides say how much they had enjoyed the week. The headteachers were so grateful for all our schools had done for them and we were so grateful for the welcome that each school had given us. They presented us with some gifts for which we were so grateful! Mr Mansfield received a new African shirt and Mrs Lewis and Miss Butcher received African dresses. We were all so thrilled and can’t wait to show them to everyone back at school!
Mr Mansfield had agreed to pay for the meal for everyone and went to settle up, but as he did, the manager insisted that 30 people had eaten, where as in actual fact, only 27 had been present. Another of the hotel staff confirmed there were only 27 people who had been at the meal and the manager insisted that we should still pay for 30 people. Mr Mansfield once again did some bargaining and agreed to pay for the 30 people if they provided three extra meals in a takeaway box. It took a lot of negotiation, but eventually, it was agreed and they packed up three boxes of chicken and chips. On the way home in the van, the team ate some of the chips, but as we drove through the centre of Mbale town, seeing many homeless people, we stopped the vehicle and passed one of the takeaway boxes to a small boy. His face lit up as he took the lid off and saw the warm chicken and chips inside. We looked back and could see him frantically waving and smiling to us as we drove off.
We gave the other box to our driver for the week, who was also called Joseph, and let the other Joseph take the other box home for his wife and children to enjoy for breakfast the following morning.
Knowing they had an early start the following morning, the team went straight to bed, but Mr Mansfield stayed chatting with Joseph until the early hours. Joseph left at about 2am and had to catch a bus to Kampala at 4am to travel with the headteachers to receive their Interpol support letters for their visas.
Another fantastic day and we’re so sad to be leaving Uganda tomorrow.