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Painting and a medical trip!!

Today began with an 8am pick up after breakfast to head off to the other Watoto village called Suubi. Today we were painting. As usual we arrived, following lots of waving by children along the roads, and met with the local workers. We all shared in a time of devotion and then dug into the plethora of painting equipment we’ve brought with us

We were painting one of the houses and all set about different areas with brushes and rollers! It was pretty hot work being inside and the paint was very strong smelling as it contains paraffin! We needed to make sure we took regular breaks to avoid headaches etc. It was really nice to be back in Suubi as a number of children came to visit during the day, some sponsored children and some children who were members of the choir that visited earlier in the year. In one of my breaks Steven our guide (who is a complete star) took me up to the medical centre due me having a rather swollen and red ankle following an insect bite. I now have lots of tablets to help it improve!! 

It was a really good day, we managed to paint all the walls in every room in the house as well as making a good start on the window and door frames. But as well as that being able to meet the variety of children that we did was great. Chloe even managed to meet with one of the social work team at Baby Watoto which she was very excited about!

We then returned to our guest house to shower and change for an appreciation dinner with Brian one of the Watoto church pastors and his wife Violet and Alex who leads the management team that oversees all the Watoto villages. We had a lovely meal and some great chats as well as celebrating Colin’s birthday with a cake. The Watoto guys spoke to us about what our visit means to them and thanked us for coming reminding us that the walkways we built would be walked by the leaders of the future! But one thing particularly stuck with me. While he was speaking Alex said that a visit like ours reminds them that they’re not forgotten! That will stick with me and drive me for the rest of my life, that so many people around the world think the are forgotten or are in danger of thinking that way. It was truly humbling to hear just what our visit means to the adults and the children who are involved in Watoto!

There is so much more I could tell about our visit but it would be virtually endless as we see so much on a daily basis that it is overwhelming on the senses and emotions!! I do know though that there are literally thousands of children living safe and secure, getting a good education, having their medical needs looked after and so so much more because of Watoto as well as the many women who have been helped by them too in the various projects. It’s mind blowing to think we are playing a part in all this and for one (and I’m pretty sure 12 others are too) am driven to do all that I can to further the amazing work of Watoto!

Tough but fun!

So today we were back to physical work!! At 8am we headed back to the village we were in on Friday continuing our path laying! We now make sure we carry extra food to give to children we encounter on the way. At the big junctions they will come up to the bus and ask for food. They were clamouring for some ritz biscuits today and literally stuffing them down as soon as they get them. It is incredibly difficult to watch as they are generally young children no older than Jessica and some of them carrying babies too. 

We arrived at the site at around half past nine where we spent some time with the local workers in devotion and then got to work. It was the same routine of mixing up the concrete and barrowing it down to be laid and smoothed in to a path! We made around 200 barrow loads moving it quite a distance to the path. This related to around 2 tonnes of cement plus sand, water and aggregate!! Therefore by the end of the day we were pretty tired but well satisfied the we had laid a decent amount of pathway. I have to say that the local guys were a fantastic bunch and made the hard work a lot of fun. There was a lot of laughter ringing out across the site. We also had the children from the village around us wanting to help with bits and pieces but also randomly simply holding hands or hugging us. But the most humbling part was the housemothers that passed by, each of them saying ‘thank you for what you are doing, thank you for loving us’. And that is the reason we made this trip to love people who really need to know that people love them. For them the fact that we have come far outweighs anything we do because it demonstrates to them our love. It was very moving to hear!

We were sad to leave today as it marked the end of our work with that village and probably the last time we’ll see the children and people we worked with but we left with a sense of having achieved something really important. The rest of our work will be in the other Kampala village, where our sponsored children live.

The journey back was an interesting experience to. Firstly a few of us needed to change up some money. Going to the shopping centre is different here. We were searched and scanned on entry, got the money and then carried on to a supermarket where we were searched and scanned again. I guess this is a result of the Kenya attack.

After having got the stuff we need we got back on the bus and headed towards the guest house. We had saved some of our sandwiches incase we came across any children who needed food. At one particular busy junction we had to set and wait for a while and children began to appear. They were so incredibly grateful for the small pieces of sandwich that we shared out putting huge smiles on their faces. It was particularly moving when one girl came up carrying a baby and when she got the sandwich she fed it to the baby along with a bottle of water we had given her. It was overwhelming to see so many kids so hungry and begging at the bus windows on an extremely busy junction. This is an everyday occurrence and is the tip of a huge iceberg with so many suffering in poverty living on less than a pound a day. 

We continue to do the best we can but knowing we can’t do everything inspires me to not let this go when we come home. Seeing, smelling and hearing this place up close is profoundly changing my life and I think also those who are here with me too.

Another amazing day!

After having breakfast we were picked up at 9:20am to go up to Watoto Church Downtown for one of their services. There are 4 on a Sunday attended by approximately 10000 people! It was a fantastic 2 hours of worship and teaching and we were all very moved by the whole thing. There was a real sense of freedom throughout the whole service.

Following the service we headed back up to village where our sponsored children live picking up an ice cream each on the way as it was a particularly hot one after some early rain.

We arrived in the village and were dropped off at the relevant places and were so blessed to share a traditional meal with the family. It was such a humbling experience to be mad so welcome and given so much. The food was fantastic comprising of rice, potatoes, plantain, matoke banana, peas done in a very Ugandan way, chapati, a chicken dish and a ground nut sauce. Martha was very proud to tell me that she had prepared the chicken. I think this will inspire Jessica in to learning some more cooking skills!! Hope so anyway! 🙂 Our children were really good and tried all the different foods on offer. We followed up with pineapple. 

After lunch we opened the gifts we had brought for that family and that led to a wonderful time of laughter and playing. Games ranged from ludo to skipping to football and the children had great time playing together too. The afternoon flew by and we were soon giving hugs and thanks and were sad to leave but glad that it had been such a good time. We’re working up in that village for a couple of days next week so hoping to be able to catch up a few more times before we leave!

Spending time with the people of Watoto is proving to be far more inspiring and humbling than I ever could have imagined. They have come from the most unbelievable of backgrounds and yet are some of the most loving, caring and joyful people I have ever met.

On the way home we continued to be moved by what we see. One little boy with no shoes approached our bus and asked for food. Sadly we didn’t have any and he sat on a post looking distraught. We called him over and gave him a bottle of water instead. He then went and sat beside the road and was picking up stones and pieces of dirt and eating them whilst drinking the water we’d given him. This is just one of the many children we see around who have nothing. It is so difficult not to be able to make more of a difference but we continue to do our best with what we have.

We then returned to the guest house for tea and a good rest before a working day tomorrow!

Thank you to all those of you who are praying for us. It is a life changing experience and I look forward to coming back and bringing some of the drive and passion that is being lodged firmly in my heart.

What a day!!

Today began with an 8:30pm pick up followed by an hour and a quarter journey through and out of Kampala to another watoto village. This was one we’ve all been looking forward to as the first part of our visit was to Baby Watoto. 

Baby Watoto was amazing! 73 0-2 year olds are currently living there mostly either left or found dumped on the streets. So as you may imagine it was a pretty emotional trip. We took a tour of the whole complex seeing babies who were just a few days old up to those who were 2 and nearly ready to transfer to a Watoto children’s village home with a house mother. After the tour we were able to go and spend some time with the babies. They were gorgeous and really happy to play with everybody that came. We were a part of feeding them, changing them, playing games with them, having lots of cuddles and finally putting them down for their afternoon nap. It was an amazing experience and the work that goes on at baby Watoto is stunning, changing the lives of so many!!

After we had managed to tear ourselves away we had some lunch and were then taken to visit children that we sponsor. It was a real privilege to spend time in the home of our sponsored child who is called Martha. We spent a couple of hours there beginning with some chatting and finding out about each other including that she returned from Canada last month after touring with the choir where she saw snow for the first time!! Then Martha and Jessica began to tickle each other and after that we couldn’t prise them apart. They taught each other games, played ball, had running races and generally chased each other around like they’d been friends for years! It was a real joy to watch and we are looking forward to spending more time with her over the rest of the time we are here. It was such a privilege to meet her and the people she lives with. She is such a happy little girl who obviously enjoys life!

We spent a couple of hours with Martha by which time it was time to make the return journey to our guest house and some wonderful food.

Wow, wow, wow!!!

Its been a truly amazing day!! It began with early breakfast for an 8am pick up!! We headed out with our packed lunches not to do painting as we originally thought but rather path building!! 

Our journey to the Watoto village was lengthened by the extreme traffic but we eventually turned in to a road to a place we had only heard about and seen in pictures. To actually be there was transformational and we spent a few minutes simply looking around in astonishment. Once we got off the bus we were welcomed by everybody we saw. Their sheer joy was, and I think I’ll use this word a lot, humbling. 

We donned our work gear and suncream and began with a time of worship and devotion with the local workers which was exactly the start we needed and was very moving. 

Then on to the work. We were laying concrete paths. This involved a number of skills: digging, levelling, mixing concrete (we were blessed that they had a concrete mixer), shovelling, transporting the mixed concrete, spreading it, smoothing it just to name a few. It was very hot and we all worked hard. During our work we had so many opportunities to interact with the children and house mothers and they were an absolute joy. They taught us songs and dances, they told us all about themselves, we played all sorts of games with them and they even wanted to help us with the work we were doing. The joy with which they did everything was inspirational. Our children had a wail of a time too enjoying games and fun with the Watoto children! It was a really tough day of work in particularly hot conditions and some of group suffered with this but not once did it stop anyone giving of their absolute best in so many different ways and it was a blessing to be a part of the team.

Once our work was done, we got back on our bus to the guest house a changed team, some emotional, some feeling unwell, some simply whacked out but each inspired by the time we spent in the village. As with every journey we make their were stark reminders of the sheer poverty on the streets of Uganda that moves you to want to do so much more but also reminds us that in the poverty their is joy in the eyes of so many of the people we see.

Today has been a day of laughing and crying and every emotion in between but most of all I will remember the interactions with the adults and children of Watoto which was so amazingly positive and everyone so thankful for the fact we were their not realising that the blessing and inspiration they were to us was way beyond anything we could do!

We still have more work to do and many people to meet but we head in to it inspired to do the very best that we can!!

P.S. You’ll notice there are no photos up yet. The Internet connection is just too slow to upload pictures and it times out so they will follow at a later date.

An amazing first day proper!

This morning we had relatively late start breakfasting at 8am!! After breakfast we were picked up and headed down to downtown Kampala. The traffic is amazing as cars and motorbikes seem to come from all directions and everybody appears to think they have right of way!

We arrived at Watoto church for orientation and to put our valuables in to the safe there. As we were leaving we were privileged to go in to the sanctuary and hear one of the choirs practicing. They are heading out to Hong Kong soon.

On leaving the church we then visited living hope ministries and received the most amazing welcome from the ladies there!! They take ladies who are HIV+ and teach them skill, study the bible and pray with them, and help them to make the most amazing items! These they sell in a small gift shop and they also send lots of items out with the choirs. We found ourselves surrounded by the most lovely people. 

By this point it was lunch time and so we went to get our money changed a then on to a restaurant close by! The food and welcome we got was simply amazing! The waiters were all wanting to serve our table and were so grateful to us for eating there as we were for their wonderful hospitality.

Next was an hour and a half drive out of Kampala along streets lined with places that sold pretty much everything you can imagine. The poverty was obvious but the smiles were beautiful. As we got on to dirt roads and in to a much more rural area we slowed down which gave us an opportunity to wave to the children as we passed. They were so excited to see us and their big smiles despite everything were truly humbling. We were reminded of just how much we all take for granted in our lives.

We arrived at our destination which was a farm run by Watoto where they grow several different types of vegetable which are used in the children’s villages. We were shown around the farm and told about how they employ people in the local village to work there as well as people that have grown up in the Watoto villages making it a community project rather than something that is aloof from its surroundings. Here we were to have the most humbling experience of the day. As we made a stop at the end of farm trip there was a family of four children, mother and grandmother. As we greeted them Joe came out with a pack of jelly babies which Becca took to the children. As she handed each of them one they each went down on their knees and held both hands out! They were so grateful for a simple jelly baby and then proceeded to lick them for ages before finally eating them. We were all so moved and again reminded of just how much we have! 

The farm was our last visit of the day so we then headed back to Kampala and to our guest house where we were once again fed wonderfully.

It has been a most humbling and moving day today with the kindness everybody shows us and the warmth of the welcome we get wherever we go. I have a feeling there is so much more to come! 🙂

A smooth journey to Uganda!

 Its been a long journey, we set off from Braintree at 3pm on Tuesday. 13 intrepid travellers boarded the bus to Gatwick along with a few loved ones. Having zipped through the journey we unloaded and made our way into the airport to catch our first plane to Dubai departing at 9:20pm. 
We were on the big double decker Airbus which was huge! The flight was very smooth and we safely arrived in Dubai at 7:20am and there were some of us who even managed to get some sleep! We had a quick 2 hour layover in Dubai and then boarded the 9:20am flight to Entebbe, Uganda. This was a smaller older plane but all went smoothly once again and we arrived at Entebbe at 1:20pm. 

There was a huge queue to get through passport control where also had to buy a visa but they took pity on us when they saw Jess and told us it wasn’t right that we should wait and jumped us to the front of the queue. Bonus!! 🙂 

Having got through there and picked up our bags we met our Watoto guide with a bus and journeyed through to our Guest House in Kampala which took an hour or so! 

The Guest House is amazing with simple comfortable rooms and food that was amazing!! There haven’t been too many bugs so far apart from a bit of fun with a couple of lizards but we wait to see what tomorrow holds!! It’s early to bed now so we are faring to go in the morning!