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Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Lane's Log Episode 2 - Nutrition, Outreach and Ball Line Football Academy

We know it hasn't been long since our first email, but a lot has happened in our first week here. We are gradually finding out more and more about what life is like here in Uganda.

At the beginning of the week we were living with a trainee dietician, who has been doing research into malnutrition in the surrounding areas of Masaka. This has involved visits to local clinics and several trips into the wider communities away from the major towns. On some occassions, these trips ended in taking babies/children back to hospital due to the severity of their conditions. 70% of the population is under 24 years old and the country has high child mortality rate. Hospitals and local community clinics have large population areas and most children born in these areas won't have a birth certificate.

Community Clinic
We were able to join the final research trip to find out more about what she has been doing and also look into the possibilty of River of Life Church creating some community health outreach projects/clinics. We visited a clinic and were able to chat to a number of their staff. This particular clinic has a catchment area population of around 59,100 people, 27,500 of these are believed to be under the age of 15.

During the visit the team were told of some children away from the clinic that may benifit from a visit, as they were known to be malnourished. As we visited the families it began to hit home that we were in Uganda. I (Hannah) went into two homes, both approximately 3x3 metres in size, where the families lived, ate, slept etc. They were very dirty but this didn’t stop young children running around playing. One of the young girls we met had oedema around her face, which is one of the first stages of malnutrician.

On our trip we passed other villages along very unkept, poorly maintained roads. Whilst we were driving we passed a lady sat by the side of the road with a pile of blankets. There was a body under these blanket and we were told by the Ugandans on our trip that she would be waiting for the family to collect the body. Pretty unbelievable really!

Over the past couple of days we have been spending time getting to know the River of Life Church Projects. They have a number of ministries into the local area, including work with a number of schools and the nearby prison and hospitals. On Friday we had the opportunity to visit a school. We walked into a classroom not much bigger than our staffroom at work, where about 100 little faces greeted us with beaming smiles, huge excitement and deafening noise. We were asked if we were okay to share a little about ourselves and talk a bit about Health and God. This was/is totally out of our comfort zone, as we haven't done anything like this before but it is an area we would very much like to support! It is also an area the projects are looking to progress and develop to include additional health education. We will see how it goes!

We later walked back to the charity offices through a more deprived area of Masaka, Nyendo, an area we will be spending quite a bit of our time. The River of Life sponsors and supports a number of the local children to go to school, teach them life skills and gives them places of rest and love. This in many cases also includes giving them somewhere to live, such as the respected boys and girls homes and others at local boarding schools. All of the children sponsored are called White Eagles. One of the managers is a trained social worker, Julius (previously mentioned in our last email) and he supports children when possible to go back to live with their parents. He kindly took us to two schools to meet a number of the White Eagles. Again we were greeted with laughing, clapping and screams of excitement. What an experience! They were all so welcoming – They were so thankful that we have visited their country, so much so that it was a little uncomfortable. Andy and I stood at the front and told each class (around 7 in total) why we have visited, what our jobs are back in the UK etc. Unfortuneately we didn't take any photos as we didn't want to appear rude, but I'm sure you would have loved to have seen their faces!

Today (Saturday) we had our first physiotherapy clinic with the White Eagle boys. It was great to start doing some Physiotherapy, teaching and advising them appropriately. We look forward to progressing the clinics in the coming weeks.

We have also spent some time with Ball Line Acadamy, River of Life's football academy based in Nyendo. We were scoping out the possibility of doing some Physiotherapy and Healthy Living/Life Skills work with the group of boys who train and play within Ball Line. Training goes on for two hours in the midday heat. Some of these boys play in bare feet on the dry red African patchy grass. So when Andy got asked to play in his slightly too small plimpsoles he couldn't really say no! Two side-line trips to put suntan lotion on and two blisers later, the ref blew the final whistle – much to Andy’s relief! We will see how much we can do with these guys in the coming weeks when we get to meet their main coach.

Relaxing before food at the boys home
We are learning a huge amount about life in Uganda. We can't quite believe it has been only a week since we arrived! It has been a hard week but also a very rewarding start to our time here. Everyone we have had the privilidge to meet have been extremely friendly and we have been very excited to see some of the amazing work the The River of Life Projects are doing in the community.

We will tell you more when we write an update next week. We are missing people at home and hope you are all well! Lots of love and thank you so much for all of your emails/messages!

Lots of love!
Hannah and Andy x x

Andy and Hannah are with River of Life for the next 3 months. They are Physiotherapists from Newcastle, UK and are helping River of Life develop our links with the local hospitals and ROLC's Hospital Ministy. If you would like to support their work with River of Life, head over to their Justgiving page

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