Special letters

Warm greetings to all of our friends at Kafuro who are just starting Term 3. Our new academic year started at Liss a fortnight ago, but this morning was the first chance for Mr Stanley to hold an assembly about his visit to Uganda in July and August. He told the school about what a great trip he’d had, the warmth of the welcome from the community of Kafuro, the chess, cooking and tag rugby, Gloria and Gloria’s visit to Mweya, but most importantly how much the community of Kafuro appreciates the links with Liss Junior School. I can assure everyone at Kafuro that the feeling is mutual.

This afternoon letters from Kafuro were handed out to the children in Liss classrooms and they took great pleasure in reading them. Many of the children had questions that I will save for another blog post, but they realised that they have much in common with their friends in Kafuro. One particular area of interest was in the Kafuro school trip which several pupils mentioned in their letters. Our children are particularly interested in why salt is so popular in Uganda. We can’t wait to read your trip report.

We hope to hear from our friends in Kafuro soon.

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Competition Winner

Congratulations to Hamish who is the winner of this year’s Uganda question competition. Hamish asked a question about the rates of asthma in Uganda and it took Mr Stanley ages to find out. The answer is that rates of asthma are quite high due to the dusty environment, but you don’t see children with inhalers like the UK. Asthma is treated with steroids or histamines in Uganda.

Hamish won a Ugandan t-shirt which he is seen modeling in this photo.

A very pleased winner!

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Uganda 2017 final blog: The age of plastic

I’ve now been home for 48 hours and had a little bit of time to reflect on this year’s trip. In many ways, it has been highly successful. The Twinning Project organised a very successful celebration of World Ranger Day, Mrs Lodge did some brilliant work with female pupils and reusable sanitary pads and the project have supported the wives and children of rangers. Despite my absence (or some might say because of it), the Conservation Cup was a success again with Kafuro winning for the first time.

I was really pleased with how our work in Kafuro panned out. The children enjoyed Queen of Katwe and wrote good reviews; they loved playing chess; they adored the opportunity to bake; and we discovered a star in Gloria from P6. The fact that we were able to give her the opportunity to come and work at Tembo was brilliant and I’m very grateful to the staff for giving her the opportunity.

One thing was made very clear to me and that is how much the community at Kafuro value the relationship with Liss Junior School. I was constantly being thanked by parents and governors for the support that our children give to their peers. They are well aware that it is Liss children who raise money to support projects and are very grateful for the opportunities it gives their children.

I was able to see some new sights on this trip. The walk around Rwenzori Mountains National Park was exhausting but brilliant; the opportunity to get so close to chimps thanks to the work of Robert was exhilarating and getting to finally see Uganda play a rugby international was a personal highlight.

All in all it was a successful trip, but all the way through I’ve been left with a nagging feeling. Why is there so much plastic waste? Everywhere I went there was plastic bottles on the ground. As far as I can see in western Uganda, there is no infrastructure for any sort of waste management, things just get incinerated which – in the case of plastic – releases toxins into the atmosphere. Every time I’ve been involved in a clean up operation, I’ve been left with a feeling that as soon as we leave a village the rubbish will just pile up again. There have been some innovative solutions such as Ramathan’s recycled elephant at Katunguru, and I would love to see that extended to other schools and villages.

All my reading about Africa has told me that Rwanda is a shining light when it comes to recycling, so next year I intend to cross the border and have a look there. I’m sure there are many things Uganda can learn from them.

Finally, congratulations to Clare Prior and Hamish Henderson, who are the winners of my question competition. Your prizes will be with you soon.

Thanks to everyone who has read the blog this year and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it.


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Uganda 2017 Day 16: Cold cold change

For those of you that don’t know, cold cold change is a song by one of my favourite bands, Midnight Oil. And for the first time in five years in Uganda, I felt cold. Just like the last few days, the morning was overcast with a bit of a chill in the air. When you were moving around it was ok, but when you sat still you got goosebumps on your arms. We all had rolex at Tembo before driving to Kasese. Calum needed to get some money out while Mrs Green and I needed to fill up the car with fuel as tomorrow we start the long journey home by driving to Entebbe. With this completed, we headed to Rwenzori Mountain Park which is about 12km outside of Kasese.

We arrived at the HQ where we were met by George, one of the rangers that Calum has been in touch with. George took us to see James, the chief warden, who was delightful and told us that George would accompany us on a walk. You could spend several weeks in the Rwenzoris if you wanted to scale one of the huge peaks. We were heading for a resting place on one of the nature circuits, which was around an hour and a half away. It was a half hour drive (all uphill) to the park gate and the beginning of our walk. George pointed out to us that we were at an altitude of 1760m above sea level. To put this into perspective, the highest point in the UK is Ben Nevis at 1345m above sea level.

The walk followed the course of a river and was just about all uphill. For the first 15 minutes, my lungs were screaming and I was sweating buckets, then it appeared to get a bit easier. However, the last 20 minutes before we reached the resting place saw me really struggle again, so I was very relieved when George told us to stop. Mrs Green and Calum both looked in better shape than I did while George bounded around like a mountain goat. He pointed out that we were now over 2000m above sea level.

Mrs Green gave us all breakfast bars to eat, which perked me up for a little while. Then my seat soaked clothes began to cling to me in the cold mountain air and I began to feel properly cold. We started the return journey with me leading and I soon established a good pace. Before too long, I began to feel warmer again and the descent was pleasant with lots of spectacular scenery that no camera will properly do justice to. Apart from climbing one set of steps, which nearly turned my legs to jelly, we reached the end of the walk without any problems.

We thanked George and dropped him off at the UWA HQ before heading home via the Katunguru Craft Collective (present shopping). Tonight is our last night on Mweya before we have to change our thoughts to the return home. So there is packing to be done and airport check-ins to carry out. Mrs Green has a meeting in Kampala late tomorrow afternoon and I have photos to take for my year group’s geography topic before we catch our plane in the early hours of Monday morning.

There will be one last blog post next week and I will add photos to my previous posts so more of the words will gain context.

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Uganda 2017 Day 15: You’ve got mail!

Today was supposed to have been an early start, but thankfully Yowasi contacted me to let me know that he had an urgent appointment and could we meet him at 10.00am at Kyambura as opposed to 8.30am. This meant that Mrs Green , Calum and I all got a bit of a lie in and we were able to have a more leisurely breakfast at Tembo. Today, the weather was overcast and there was a bit of a chill in the air – it could’ve been the UK in April or May.

We left for Kyambura at 9.10am. Passage out of the park was smooth and the fact that I was driving on the Katunguru – Kyambura road for the last time on this trip made the bumps and potholes a bit more bearable. We didn’t have to drive all the way to Kyambura in the end as Yowasi met us two –thirds of the way there. He had letters for the children at Liss from Kafuro pupils and letters for the children at Sheet from Kyambura pupils. However, he was full of cold, could barely speak and was wearing a thick jumper and a coat. We told him to go home and go to bed, but he insisted that he had things to do at school.

We said our goodbyes to Yowasi and headed home stopping off at the visitor centre to say ‘hello’ to a few rangers that we knew. Once home, I began to read my book but soon fell asleep. The others did exactly the same – I think the busy week caught up with us.

By the time we had all woken up, it was late afternoon. We decided to go for a walk around peninsula and headed up the airstrip towards the Kazinga Channel. I was trying to take photos of birds to impress my brother (who’s an avid twitcher), but they would never stand still for long enough for me to get a decent shot. We looked at the new dormitories for the education centre and said ‘hello’ to Solomon from the Banded Mongoose Project before heading home and getting ready for dinner.

When we got to Tembo, the World Athletics Championships were on TV, so we got to watch some of that for the first time. However, at half past nine, the TV channel was switched over to the beginning of the Premier League football and the game between Arsenal & Leicester City. As readers of this blog will know, I’ve mentioned in the past how big the Premier League is in Uganda. Just about all the Ugandans in Tembo were supporting Arsenal while Calum is a Leicester City fan. It made for a lot of great banter. SuperSport’s (the South African TV station broadcasting the game) coverage was interesting to watch: they had the BBC’s Alan Shearer and Phil Neville as analysts and the ITV commentary team calling the game. The Ugandans are very informed on each team and love talking about football. They all went home happy – unfortunately the same can’t be said for Calum after Arsenal won 4 – 3!

Tomorrow, we’re off to Rwenzori Mountain Park for a walk.

Finally, answers to Mrs Prior’s questions courtesy of Yowasi. Ugandans don’t have a tooth fairy, but children are encouraged to put teeth that have fallen out in a hole in the wall of the house – the rat’s hole. If they check later, they will find a small sum of money. There is no sandman, but Ugandans are encouraged to go to bed in a good mood because then they will have good dreams, a bad mood means bad dreams.

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