Saturday, 23 October 2010

All Things Bright and Beautiful!

We rounded up the VSO Kampala group and took them to Royal Pride school in Mutungo slum for a day of painting. Despite having barely drawn breath from the children's party, Jonathan and Siobhan were still happy to pitch in again, exchanging party hats for paint brushes. They will be going back to work in the UK for a rest!

With funding from VSO, REAL and again your personal donations, the parents of the school had made up some school benches and tables from recycled wood ready for us to paint. We had also collected up some old car tyres for painting, which supplement the playground equipment that our friends, Rob and Nancy, had previously donated to the school. A lot of the pupils, parents and teachers also turned out to lend a hand, so we ended up with many hands making light work, although paint brushes were in short supply. As you can see, Bella was happy to demonstrate how to paint without a brush!
Alison was given the task of painting the school sign. See if you can spot the deliberate mistake on the email address. Apparently this is the 'local' spelling and it is the correct address so do feel free to drop a line- Godfrey, the Headteacher, would be delighted!

A party to remember....!!!

Thanks to so many of you who donated party goodies, time and money, we managed to give 400+ of the local Namuwongo kids a day to remember. The afternoon began with us arriving at the wooden church venue at 2:30pm to blow up a few hundred balloons, only to find that a good proportion of the guests were already there, despite not being due to start until 4pm! We managed to hold back the party hats and blowers until the official start time, from which point it was face painting, party games and dancing galore, rounded off with a feast, sodas and a delicious 4 tier chocolate cake. We finally left the party at 8:30pm, but could still hear the blowers sounding long into the night and the next morning.
Our friend Lucy, who runs Childsi Foundation here in Kampala, lent us her film crew to capture the event, so as soon as we have the edited version, we'll post a link.

 Thanks again for all your support, it certainly made a big impact here.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Rwandan Birthday!

Alan's 38th year was heralded by a beautiful birthday breakfast on the banks of Lake Kivu in Rwanda, marred only slightly by the slaughter and subsequent dismemberment of a cow on the shores behind us! If you look carefully at the photo below you may be able to pick out some bovine body parts over Alan's shoulder!?! As you might expect Amy did not appreciate this and entered in to another phase of vegetarianism...!
Despite being in the depths of the Rwandan countryside, we still managed to produce the birthday hat and a cake to mark the special occasion! The excitement was all too much for the girls who fell asleep whilst waiting for birthday dinner!!

We could not return back to Kampala without stopping at our most favourite spot in Uganda - Lake Bunyoni. We spent a lovely couple of days there relaxing and swimming in the lake.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Rarer than the mountain gorilla.... the Coventry City supporter! However we managed to track one down in the wild bush of South Western Uganda. Here he is spotted with a very pleased Alan:

Off into the wild...

Together with Alison's brother and his girlfriend, we headed out to the West of Uganda towards Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, one of the few remaining habitats of the rare mountain gorilla. En route, we encountered the tree-climbing lions in Ishasha, one of the few places in the world where they exhibit this behaviour.

The girls are too young to actually track the gorillas, but they were able to join us on a walk through the Impenetrable Forest, which they attacked with gusto. Armed with a walking stick and a backpack containing lunch, a waterproof and a dry change of clothes, they hiked for 5 hours each way on 2 consecutive days. Admittedly, Bella did get rather attached to her guide (physically and emotionally!) for sections of the journey, but it was thoroughly enjoyable and we avoided the rains for the most part.

Since someone had to stay with the girls, we split up to track the gorillas. Jonathan and Siobhan visited them in Buhoma on one side of the forest, and Alison and Alan visited them in Nkuringo. On both trips we got up very close and personal to the big fellas and it was an amazing experience all round.
Visiting a rainforest in the wet season does bring certain challenges. We hired a vehicle to take us the last part of the trip to Nkuringo as it was too far for the girls to walk the whole way. The driver duly turned up in a saloon car and struggled to make it up some very steep and slippery mud roads. After a rather hairy slide towards the road's edge we exited the vehicle shaking and watched as the driver over-revved the engine and blew up his radiator.

We were grateful to arrive unscathed in Nkuringo and enjoyed the amazing views from there in to Rwanda (our next destination) and the Congo. We were also entertained with some fabulous cultural dancing by the local children, including some scary gorilla dancing to get us in the mood!

Dragon's Den- African Style!

As part of the income generation project with the Touch Namuwongo Community volunteers, Alan organised a Dragon's Den style forum for the volunteers to pitch their business ideas to a panel of experts. On the panel were Alison' brother, Jonathan who is an investment banker in London, Kevin the CEO of International Hospital Kampala, our friend Amos who runs a tour company in Uganda, and Rita, a lawyer from the hospital with experience in similar microfinance schemes.
Using funds from donations and some of the 'dragons' own money, we are distributing loans to the ideas deemed most innovative and likely to succeed. In the first session we had ideas ranging from a fish mincing machine to an ID card business. The other volunteers watched on and hopefully learnt some valuable business skills for their own ventures.
Once the loans are paid back over a 6 month period, the process will start again and the money will be ploughed ino the next winning entries.
This guy is pitching for funds to expand his onion selling business. The dragons are sat on the right.