With some trepidation, 12 people left Belfast at 1.00 a.m. on Wednesday 13th July 2016 on the air coach bound for Dublin Airport. About 24 hours later we arrived at Entebbe Airport in Uganda and made our way to Grace Christian School in Kachungwa, Mubende District. A road sign to the school took us off the main road and onto a single red dirt track where we witnessed both sides filled with smiling, waving, singing children and all dressed in fluorescent green uniforms! We felt like a successful Champions League team returning with the cup! As we filed off the bus we were humbled and yet excited. For everyone involved this was a big event – the first of many memorable moments.
A Typical Day
It was an early start of 7.30am each morning, and with a cockerel crowing loudly there was no way you could sleep in! Breakfast was at 8am, and we were very fortunate that we had three girls, from the Fields of Life Guesthouse in Kampala, to do all the catering for us on site. They did a wonderful job – we couldn’t thank them enough!
We were straight into the work by 8.30am, as the boys walked towards the building site for their days work on the teacher accommodation, Jacqui and her team gathered up their resources and headed to the church building for a Bible Club that they were hosting for the school kids – over 80 kids were present each morning from 9.00 to 11.00 a.m. Following this at 11.00 to 12.00 p.m., June and Ruth Fleck held a hygiene class, again every pupil at the school attended one of these classes.
Lunch was at 1.00pm and at 2.00pm some of the men went back to the building site, while the rest of the team took special craft or sports classes.
At 4.30pm we finished and headed back to freshen up and relax until dinner at 7pm. At 8.30pm each evening, Brian led us in a time of devotion. He had brought a song sheet and using his keyboard we started with three songs each evening. Brian then led a short study from God’s Word. Not surprisingly by 10.30 pm all was usually calm in the hut and everyone was safely tucked up beneath their mosquito net.
On arrival when we surveyed the site for the teachers accommodation, the Ugandan workers had the building up to window-sill level and had already manufactured the trusses. The immediate task was to finish the walls up to ring-beam level. With commendable effort and enthusiasm the walls started to climb.
In Uganda, at just about roof level, they use a ring beam to give strength and stability. Depending on the length of the wall, a shuttered case is made, the steel frames are placed on top of the bricks and concrete is poured on top using wooden boards to keep everything in place. Again our team coped magnificently, alongside the Ugandan builders to get the ring beam completed.
So at the end of nine working days that is the structure we left. The team also helped plaster the walls of a new latrine and make a disabled ramp for it as well. So what happens next? The team of Ugandan workers will add the tin roof, insert the doors and windows, plaster the walls and fit the inside ceilings. Finally any spouting and exterior items will be added.
Serving lunch and distributing gifts for the school kids
This was a special day, it dawned bright and clear and there was an air of expectancy. Thanks to the generosity of a member of Muckamore each child was to have a special lunch, including meat and a drink. The children all assembled outside and the excitement was almost palpable!
One by one each child washed their hands, using one of the new wash dispensers that we had provided, and collected their plate and waited for their portion of food. As a team we helped to serve the meal to nearly 500 children and 16 teaching staff! Interestingly the most telling statement came from the Head Teacher when he said the most important aspect of the meal was not the food but that the “muzungo” team had served them their food!!
Once again all the children assembled and the distribution of the gifts that we had brought from Muckamore Church began. Knitted pencil cases and dolls, health kits, colouring books and pencils etc. all packed in a bright fluorescent coloured draw string bag. The team had gathered on the veranda and and handed out each package. It’s hard to describe the noise and excitement as each child received their pack as well as the numerous times that “thank you” was said!!
Afterwards the team were seated as guests of honour on the veranda and the kids treated us to songs, music and dance. For the finale the school choir and music band performed a traditional song. This had been a perfect way to finish off a very special afternoon not only for the kids and teachers but also the team from Muckamore.
On the team’s final day we were invited to an afternoon of celebration where we received a “Certification of Appreciation” for our work and time spent in Kachungwa. The amazing journey was coming to an end. On Monday after an 8 hour bus journey back to Kampala/Entebbe we said our goodbyes to the Fields of Life Team and we boarded the plane ready for the trip back home.
What is there left to say? We have many memories left to reflect on, hoping that what we achieved in Kachungwa will benefit all involved!
Brian Hill, Muckamore 2016