Monday, 15 March 2010

Show me the money...

Several of you back home set us the onerous task of finding the most worthwhile projects here to which you could donate and be confident that your hard-earned cash is being appropriately and effectively used. We have been giving that a lot of thought and have identified 3 such projects that would benefit enormously from any financial input and in which we have some involvement.
The first is the Royal Pride Academy, which is the school mentioned below. Every time there is significant rainfall, the place turns into a mudbath- which although useful for pottery classes, is somewhat disruptive to running the school. The money would be used to put down some concrete flooring at the bargain price of fifty pounds per classroom, of which there are 9.

The second is supporting a good friend of ours, Naomi, whom we have mentioned several times before. She came to Uganda from the UK for a 2 week trip some 8 years ago and, moved by the huge level of need in Kampala slums, has never left. As well as looking after 14 local street children in her own home, she also works with several families and helps them find ways of supporting their own children. She does this through facilitating small income-generating projects such as bread-making for them. She also has her own pre-school, Sparkling Stars, where Alan helps out on a weekly basis. She uses the funds from this business to pay school fees (on average 30 pounds per child per term) and not just those children who live with her. She is personally responsible for funding the schooling of up to 30 children! The income from Sparkling Stars is small so she relies heavily on donations from friends and family.

Finally, Alison has already mentioned below some of the community health projects in which she is involved. Most of these deal with people suffering from HIV and who otherwise would not be able to access healthcare. They are funded by the International Medical Foundation (IMF), who in turn are supported by the hospital where Alison is based and also receive donations from the Suubi Trust. IMF also helps fund Hope Ward at the hospital, which provides hospital care to those who cannot afford it. You can read more about this at the website

If you would like to donate to any of these causes, please drop us an email at and we would be happy to facilitate it.

What Alan gets up to...

Situated in a low-lying slum area of Kampala in Uganda on a small plot of muddy ground is a Primary School called the Royal Pride Academy. The school was set up 5 years ago by a Ugandan teacher called Godfrey upon realising that many of the children from the most disadvantaged areas had no access to primary schooling. They could not afford the £10 per month required to attend the government schools, of which they were not enough available in the area anyway.
The school currently has around 200 pupils, which includes a pre-school class, and 6 teachers, some of whom do not draw a salary for their work. The buildings are basic wooden structures with no flooring or protection from the elements and encircling a muddy, stoney field. There are pit latrines, but nowhere to prepare food, so the children go home for lunch and return for lessons in the afternoon. School starts at 8am and finishes at 4pm.
The school survives by charging £8 per term to those that can afford it topped up with some donations from well-wishers. This covers the cost of very basic school materials (exercise books, pencils, rough furniture, blackboards) and some teachers’ salaries. There are very few text books and there were no reading books until Alan took some in from the Fleetville School donations recently.
Despite all this the children are progressing well and the teachers are very committed to delivering the best education possible. The children learn numeracy and literacy and even creative fields such as traditional dance and pottery made from the mud in the ‘playground’.
We are hoping to raise enough funds to improve the facilities so that classrooms don’t have to be closed when heavy rains come. Putting a concrete floor into a classroom would cost about £50 (there are 9 classrooms). Alan also plans to spend some time at the school helping with reading and literacy and we already have enough books to set up a decent small library

and what Alison gets up to...

Alison is continuing to really enjoy her work and finds it very fulfilling. All the clinics have actively engaged in the training programme, the development of which was her main VSO placement objective. It is so rewarding to hear how valuable the clinics find it, not only from the point of view of updating their knowledge base, and so continuing to improve the standard of care that they offer, but also from the angle of consolidating the team and increasing overall job satisfaction.
The training programme constitutes an in-house component which involves the whole multidisciplinary team within each clinic, and an across-clinic component which is organised within each of the disciplines – medical, nursing, and laboratory. The in-house component comprises weekly continuous medical education (CME) sessions, 2 out of 3 of which are around a set curriculum with the objective of producing useful evidence-based guidelines/protocols on important topics that the clinics have identified themselves and from which the timetable was drawn up. The across-clinic component falls within each discipline and involves internet-based learning modules, and regular workshops at which all the medical and clinical officers gather. As well as appreciating the training, they also benefit from the opportunity to socialise and create a network of colleagues with whom they can share best practice and from whom they can draw support despite the distances between them. There are now coordinators for the clinic nurses and laboratory technicians, so Alison can concentrate mainly on the medical and clinical officers. We have also created a training team which comprises representatives from each discipline and whose remit is to arrange structured training team visits during which they offer support and training within their area of expertise, as well as together build on the teamworking within the clinic.
The team has now undertaken several training team visits with good effect and excellent results and so Alison is confident that the programme will continue to be successful with the support of this team and under the excellent leadership of one of the clinic doctors, Dr Terry. Alison has one last workshop to organise together with Dr Terry and then will continue to support her and the team but plans to spend more time on the other projects in which she has been involved.
Her next main focus is the development of the sexual health services in the local community through the community project that is currently running, Touch Namuwongo. This project is well-established and has been running for almost 2 years supporting close to 600 people infected by HIV in the local communities. It also provides care for those affected by TB and Alison is now in the process of expanding the sexual health service it offers, which she hopes will have a huge impact on the morbidity and mortality associated with STIs, as well as reduce the transmission of HIV through better control of STIs. The project also runs weekly outreach sessions in the community where they offer health education and voluntary counselling and testing for HIV and some photos from one of these outreaches are pictured here. She has also been involved in setting up a cervical screening programme at the hospital, and the hospital has now agreed to offer this to the community free of charge which is a very exciting development. The CEO is now keen to set up similar programmes in the North of Uganda, which has even less available healthcare so that will be Alison’s next focus.
Community projects like this and others attached to a lot of the clinics with whom Alison is working, make a huge difference to the local community and are funded through IMF – International Medical Foundation. IMF is supported by the proceeds from the hospital and charitable donations through the Suubi Trust. You can learn more about them and these projects through their website (, and having had personal involvement in them all, Alison can vouch for every last one of them!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Meet the Grandparents II

Not quite with the 11 suitcases they came out with, Alison’s parents, Alan and Maureen, have returned to chilly Blighty after 2 and a half weeks of Ugandan adventure. They packed a lot into their time here including a road trip out West that took in a couple of National Parks as well as clinic visits for Alison. We then headed to the southern most tip of Uganda where we escaped to an island on lake Bunyonyi for a couple of days before heading home. In Kampala, they visited some of our regular haunts including the Railway School, Naomi’s nursery, Palm CafĂ© (best pizzas in Africa) the ARA, as well as a night of cultural dancing at the Ndere Centre. We saw the sun set over Kampala (pictured) before they boarded the plane back home.

Saturday, 6 March 2010


Sorry for the recent blog silence, but we have been without a working internet connection for the past few weeks. First and foremost we just wanted to say a massive THANK YOU to everyone back in sunny St Albans who has helped provide children’s books, games and clothing. Alison’s parents filled 11 suitcases/boxes with them and brought them out to Uganda courtesy of BA’s generous charitable baggage allowance. We were overwhelmed with the generosity of the donations- the quality and quantity of the gifts were so impressive and we have managed to find very grateful homes for nearly everything (see below) The Railway School loved the books - most of the children had never seen these types of bright, colourful picture books before. They read the letters with great interest and have started to write some responses. Alan visited another school, the Royal Pride Academy, which is in even more need of resources, and they were also able to benefit from some of the books as we received such a wonderful amount.
The donated clothes have been distributed to the most vulnerable children in the slum area, through a local church there and a charitable project called ’Hands for Hope’. We were also able to give some clothes and books to our friend Naomi, who looks after around 15 local children and runs a nursery