There were two visits, June and October, each of two weeks.
The June group spent their first week working in Baale, where they visited the schools and ran medical clinics – one of the team was a doctor. They also reroofed one of the huts that was leaking quite badly when it rained, and they did the now traditional round of the houses in the area distributing food parcels and clothes – the bush feeding programme. They moved to Kampala for the second week, working in the special needs school which is the term-time home to one of our sponsored children.
The pump was fitted to the new well just before we arrived, so we arranged for a sample of the water to be taken for analysis. The results were excellent. As the Baale landing site is in the parliamentary constituency of the Ugandan Vice-president he came and officially opened the well. He assured the villagers, who are technically squatting on government land, that there are no plans to clear them out of there, which was something that had been concerning them.
The villagers have set up a pump maintenance committee, and they were shown how to do the necessary three-monthly greasing.
We encouraged the villagers to clear up the space around the old toilet block, which, like the rest of the village, was covered with rubbish – mostly plastic. They cleared up the whole village area without prompting. As for the toilet block itself, renovation was one of the goals of our visit, but inspection while there showed that it was beyond our capacity, with structural work and welding needed as well as cleaning, painting and plumbing repairs. We appointed a contractor to do the job, and to include solar panels and lighting.
The solid waste from these eco-toilets, after composting, makes an excellent soil enricher, ideal for the sandy soil of the area, and the liquid waste makes an ideal fertiliser. The villagers currently grow no vegetables, so we have arranged for groups of them to be brought to a nearby (40 minutes drive – Baale really is very remote) women’s coop, where they will see how a recently-established vegetable plot has improved the diet and given a small income. We have arranged for an instructor to help them to establish their own plots, and visit them through the year to help get them established.
We brought out a couple of suitcases of donated medicines, so we organised a doctor to give a three-day clinic. We had to add to the medicine store with a couple of visits to the pharmacy in Masaka, and will be buying more there as we have asked the doctor to return one day a month for further clinics. We will continue our existing practice of transport once a month (half way between doctor’s visits) to the government clinic about 60 minutes drive away.
We gave classes on hygiene, particularly hand-washing, and how to mix sugar, salt and water to provide safe nourishment for children with dysentery. We also did eye-sight testing, and gave out many pairs of glasses, though the view of the testers was that in general eye-sight there was very good.
We gave out knitting needles and wool, and taught knitting. They learnt it very fast, and one of the women even knitted a cardigan for a baby in the short while we were there. Subsequently we have sent out more wool, as the stuff we could get locally was only for machine knitting. We hope it will become a craft activity.
We visited the “local” schools where people are sponsoring some of the Baale children, and some of the group undertook to sponsor additional children, so we have sponsorships for school fees and books for 20 of the village children. As it is too far for the younger children to walk, even to the nearest school, none of the many young children in the village are getting any schooling. One of our group offered to fund the building of a temporary classroom, just a pole structure with galvanised roof and reed matting walls, and another couple undertook to pay for a teacher for a year, so there will be a kindergarten there soon. When we were talking to the VP we said that we would love to build a permanent school for the village but weren’t prepared to do it on government land, so he said he would give us a suitable plot. The lady from the Irish Embassy – as the VP was coming we asked them to send a representative to the well opening – said she would help sort it out. Construction has started on the temporary classroom, and once we get the paperwork sorted on the plot we will start on a permanent one. The plan is to put in two rooms, one as a classroom and the other to act as a part-time clinic, part-time community centre. We will have to do some serious fund raising to pay for it.
The roofs of the wooden huts in the village were mostly a layer of thin plastic sheet, covered with reeds to prevent it from perishing in the sunlight. In many cases the covering was not thick enough, so the plastic was letting through the rain. We replaced the plastic on three of the huts, and observed the plastic was on the wrong way, so that joints were parallel to the slope rather than at right-angles to it, further facilitating the entry of water. We showed them the better way of doing it, and also, for the ones we repaired, bought papyrus matting to cover the plastic to better protect it.
We brought loads of donated clothes which we gave out in the village and the surrounding area, and we also did our usual food parcel drops to the poorest of the poor in the area.