I never thought that landing at Entebbe airport (near Kampala) would make me think “I wonder what would happen if the heating all went off at Heathrow airport?” We were greeted with the usual announcements “Welcome to Entebbe airport..” followed by “the air conditioning in the airport is broken and is leaking all over the floor, please be very careful as you walk to collect your baggage”. So we disembarked, and low and behold, a group of hard working staff with buckets and mops…pragmatic solution. Heathrow staff – buckets and mops? Or perhaps an airport closure and headlines of £10 bn revenue losses?
Who knows? But moving on…landed safely – check. Journey to hotel…eventually…check…after a replacement bus was sent. The one we had, came without headlights, which the bus driver found non problematic – there are street lights right? So a confession here - whilst waiting on the side of the road less than a mile from the airport, I was secretly hoping that the group of old guys across the road having a few beers and playing something that looked like poker would suddenly get up with a tool kit (cue, Blue Peter “here’s one I made earlier”) and fix our headlights – no such luck! Long story short – we made it safely to the hotel, it just took a while.
Worlds apart; the Rift Valley and space missions
Last week, a missile gets sent into space to find a comet in the hope of determining where water and other vital life supporting elements came from - and how life on Earth came to be as we know it today. This week, I’m in the country where part of the Rift Valley sits; the place where all of humanity is thought to have begun. A bit of a surreal thought if you really think about it – which I did during our 7 hour car journey to Soroti. On one side of the world, we are searching for water 300 billion miles away (insert large/correct number here – google currently unavailable) and for mile upon mile all I can see are streams of people walking in search of the very same vital life source, but this time with the lower tech version, aka jerry cans.
Another Nan who rocks
What human beings are capable of never ceases to amaze me. Today we went to meet a family in the Ojolai village; an area where people have no access to clean water and sanitation – so we spent the day carrying out their daily chores to see what life is like. We met Anna, a 70 year old woman, who carries 10 kg of water, twice per day from the local water source, which can only be described as horrific. That’s after she has weeded her “garden” (insert mental image of small-medium sized farm), re-constructed part of her house, looked after her children and great grand-children, picked the vegetables that she would eat that day and all before breakfast (which is non-existent) and lunch.The same woman who has had two children and probably did what everyone else did when she gave birth; which is to get on the back of a bicycle when your labour pains start, cycle 15 km to the local health centre, give birth, then cycle back with the baby the next day. So whilst human beings on one side of the world are incredible for their scientific advances beyond anything that I can even pretend to understand…the community we met today are incredible beyond belief for their resourcefulness, resilience and hospitality.
The less people have, the more they giveI always stand by the fact that “the less people have, the more they give” and this could not have been validated with much more sincerity today. The Ojolai villagers found that their children couldn’t go to school any more as the local primary schools were so far away – so as a community, clubbed together and built their own school. The staff room, consists of 4 pieces of wood and a straw roof…as do all of the classrooms. They have between them, come together to facilitate the education of over 430 children – and this was only set up a year ago. The girls have to go home and get changed when they are on their period because there are no toilet facilities. The students have very few books, pens, pencils and so on. The classroom floors and walls are bare and there are a few blackboards that the teachers are lucky to find chalk for.
And the students…well, it really is the people who make a place – the students greeted us there today with the most loving welcome song and an invitation to join in with their daily classes…a welcome that words simply don’t do justice to, so I won’t even try. But what I saw in this community and in this school today is the story of a group of people who have strived to do all that they can with the resources available, and have immense pride in what they have achieved, as they should. They are not scroungers, they are not begging, they are not asking for anything - they are just hard working people who want the best for themselves and their families and have dreams of a prosperous future, just like the rest of us. And with that, I’m really pleased to say that this community, who have done so much themselves but just need a helping hand over the next hurdle will be receiving Water Aid intervention in the next financial year - to provide a clean water source and access to sanitation.
So on that note, I just want to end by saying that some of the infamous pencils got handed over today, (with more reserved for some other schools we will be visiting)…and the 70 year old Anna was handed a few t -shirts that I bought with me…I’ll leave the smiles to your imagination but once again, all I will say is that it’s the small things that really do make a massive difference…