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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sarah's Story - Latest news from the Girls Home Aunty

Hellooooooooooo!!! I’m aware that I’ve not written to anyone at all for a while, and I have not done any newsletters for 2 and a half months.... Let me bring you up to date with my news:

The last term has been rather a whirl of activity!!!!!....

The kids have completed their final term of the school year, and are on holiday again. As usual, the school term consisted of waking up RIDICULOUSLY early in the morning (- they have to get up at 5.30am!.....What’s that all about?!?! ), getting the kids to do their homework, and visiting the occasional school.... which is always an interesting experience!.... You can see a picture of me above getting absolutely mobbed by about 40 three year olds when I went to one of the schools in November (I’m on the very left of the picture) – They were all asking me if I lived in the TV, if I was real or a ghost, and if my white skin would rub off revealing black skin underneath!!! Then they all sang for me for about 20 minutes.... it was soooooo cute!!!

Four of our residential White Eagles from the WEP home have both been in boarding school for the last two years, so we were reeeeeeally happy to receive them back home this November after they did their final “Primary Leaving Examination” (which is what the last 2 years of crazily studying 16 hours a day, 7 days a week in boarding school, with only a few days holiday in the whole year, and eating disgusting beans and posho (a food made of flour and water) for lunch AND dinner, EVERY SINGLE DAY, has been leading up to!!!). They all came home and slept almost solidly for several days, waking up just long enough to stuff their faces with mountains of food (unless beans and posho was on the menu)!!!

We had a few kids admitted to hospital (mostly with Malaria) over the last few months, which means that we have to have members of staff staying at the hospital (day and night) because the nurses in Uganda don’t do anything apart from give medicine and take blood (- from what I’ve observed, anyway!), and it’s necessary for family/friends to stay with a patient all the time to help them with everything else (e.g. make food, fetch water from outside, etc.). So the White Eagle staff have been rather busy with all of the hospital stays on top of their normal work! We’re very happy, though, because we just got a new male member of staff working with us, who is helping with the daily running of the project, among other things, so life should be slightly easier from now on!

For the last month, the kids have been on holiday, and I’ve been running the holiday programme with them. I decided that I wanted to start celebrating Christmas, so they’ve been doing aerobics to my Christmas songs, making Christmas decorations with Lois (a volunteer from the UK), and even making marzipan Father Christmases and snowmen, as you can see in the picture (- the kids loved doing this.... apparently there’s little better in life than “playdough” that can be eaten after you’ve finished modelling it!!!). I’ve put a couple of pictures below of some of our White Eagle children getting rather excited during the holiday programme!

On 8th December we said “Goodbye!” to the 10 young men who had been living in the WEP boys’ home. They’ve all moved out to live either with relatives, or to rent rooms. It’s quite a bit quieter around the project without them(!), although the remaining children are trying their hardest to make up for it! There’s a picture below of some of them with their relatives - we’ve spent the last few years trying to reunite them with their families, and the day was a testimony to the success of that, as all of them had relatives there to support them.

I’ve been keeping you updated on the progress of my friend Nampijja who was paralysed 2 years ago in a car accident.... Well!!!! Wait for it!!!!....... She’s now able to walk outside for 45 minutes with no walking aid or anything, and has learnt to sew on a foot-pedal operated sewing machine, and is doing absolutely amazing!!!! It’s a real miracle, and she came to River of Life Church when we had our last “Testimony Sunday” to share her testimony of what God has done in her life, which was really exciting!!!

At the moment, I’m rather excited, because I’m preparing to come home to England on Friday of this week!!!! Woohoo!!!! I’m soooooooooooooooo looking forward to spending Christmas with family and friends, to seeing everyone, to singing carols, to eating AMAZING food, and to having electricity and water (-our electricity and water supplies have been rather terrible of late, and I’m getting really tired of bucket baths and torches!)!!! I’m going to be in England for a couple of months this time, and I aim to have a very good rest after a very busy year, but I also hope to be able to catch up with lots of you .

Anyway, that’s my news! I reeeeally look forward to seeing most of you soon!!!!

Loads of love,


Monday, December 10, 2012

Au revoir White Eagles!

On 8th December we held a moving Graduation Ceremony and said “Au revoir!” to 10 of our White Eagles. They are now all over the age of 18, so it was time for them to move on from the White Eagles' Home.

They’ve all moved out to live either with relatives, or to rent rooms independently in Masaka. The White Eagle team have spent the last few years working hard to reunite and reconcile these young men with their families, and the Ceremony was testimony to the value and success of that work, as all of them had relatives there to support them.

It’s certainly a lot quieter around the project now these young men have moved on, although the remaining children are trying their hardest to make up for it!

But although they have graduated from the White Eagle Project, they certainly haven't left the River of Life nest quite yet. We've established a new programme to continue supporting them. Seven will be supported in their final year of school (Senior 4), two are in the penultimate year (Senior 3) and one, our very own Mr Tony who has been with us since the beginning, has just completed his O Levels, and will join our Leadership Academy.

So we will continue to support, mentor and work with them to continue to help them to Fly High!

If you would like to support the work of the White Eagles, or the Leadership Academy, please get in touch, download a sponsorship form here, or head straight over to our donation page (MyDonate by BT).

Monday, November 26, 2012

Never say never...

Nampijja was a healthy 21 year old girl when she was involved in a serious road traffic accident, 2 years ago. So serious were her injuries that she was told she would never walk again – the doctors didn’t even feel it was worth trying to align the large bone in her thigh which had broken in two from the impact.

Living rurally in Uganda, there is no such thing as “disability living allowance” or “care packages” and Nampijja was left alone for most of the day, every day, in a small room her dad rented for her, with a visitor just once a day to help her wash.

She was not able to move around at all, so was limited to lying on her bed under a sheet, unable even to sit up, staring at the unfinished brick walls, or listening to her radio when she had batteries - which was not often.

Nampijja did not come from a Christian background, but a local pastor went to talk to her early in 2012, inspiring hope in her that she would be healed. However, with so many obstacles facing her, hope soon faded, and she became very depressed.

We came across Nampijja in May, through the medical outreach work of our very own Dr Sarah Crow, who was helping at a clinic in the village where Nampijja lives. On her return from the clinic, Dr Sarah was sharing Nampijja's story with Aunty Sarah - our girls' home "aunty". Sarah just so happens to be a qualified physiotherapist, with 7 years experience in neurological physio - exactly what Nampijja needed.

Sarah's heart was moved to help Nampijja, and she started visiting the village weekly to offer physiotherapy, and to pray with Nampijja. 6 months on, and Nampijja's recovery is nothing short of miraculous! She’s now able to walk with no walking aid or support, and has learnt to sew on a foot-pedal operated sewing machine.

Sarah says "I can’t believe it! I would not have thought that it was possible for her to even stand when I first saw her, let alone take some steps, but through everyone’s prayers, God is doing the impossible!”

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sarah's Story - Miracles, Mumbejja, and Mission

Hellooooooo!!!! I hope that everyone is ok. I’m doing well over here in Uganda. I’ve not written for a while, so let me bring you up to date with what’s been happening here......

First of all, let me give you an amazing update on Nampijja, who is the young lady that I’ve been doing physio with (- I mentioned her in my last Newsletter – she had a spinal injury and had been unable to sit/stand/walk/dress herself/feed herself/get out of her little room/etc. for over a year when I first began seeing her a few months ago)....

Well, I am constantly astounded by Nampijja’s progress, and she has so far WELL exceeded all of my expectations! She is now at the point where she is able to walk inside her room with no stick or anything, walk about 400 metres outside with 2 crutches, prepare and cook all of her own food, do all of her own washing, visit the local shops, and go and see her neighbours!!!!!!! WOW!!!!!!!!!!

Just to put it in perspective, 2 doctors and the previous physio all said that she would never stand again, and would not even be able to sit on her own without support, and that the most she could hope for would be for her to be able to feed herself if her hands and arms got stronger, and to be lifted into her wheelchair by someone so that she could sit out of bed.... so it is absolutely a miracle that she is able to stand and walk and get to the local shops and do so much for herself now!!!

In fact, when some elders from River of Life went with me to pray for her a few months ago, one of them – Elder Emily – told Nampijja not to worry because God would do a miracle and she’d walk again very soon, and I knew that this was absolutely impossible, and I kept on thinking “Shut up Emily!!!” (- because there’s nothing worse than an unrealistic patient who doesn’t want physio to ever end because of their completely unrealistic expectations, and who blames the physio for their lack of progress, when in fact it’s absolutely impossible for them to improve as much as they hope!) - Then I thought “Sarah, have faith in God!”, then the physio bit of me thought “Shut up Emily!”, and then the other bit of me thought “Have faith in God!”.... and so I went on and on in my head!!! Ha ha!!! ....Anyway, four months on, I can now say that I’ve seen God do a miracle!!! WOW!!!!!!!

Since I last wrote to you, there have been two new arrivals in the girls’ home..... One is an 8 year old girl, who was an emergency placement from the police, and the other is "Princess Mumbejja”, a very gorgeous, gentle, and cute 5 month old kitten (- see picture below)!!! Of the two, the kitten has been the easier to handle, and by far the less stressful to have in the girls’ home!!! The girls and Kitibwa absolutely LOVE Princess, and spend hours each day playing with her.... they’ve made some toys for her by tying a ball to the end of a piece of string, and then they all hold their string and balls, and run round and round the room while Princess runs round and round after them, chasing the balls. This usually goes on for about 3 or 4 hours, and then everyone collapses in a heap, ready to go sleep – so it’s working out very well indeed, as far as I’m concerned!!!

Since I last wrote to you, we’ve had the holiday programme at the project, which was really wonderful. A team from my home church, Flixton Fellowship, came to visit us, and ran the whole thing. It was really amazing, and all of the kids and young people enjoyed it so much. One of the things they did was a mural on the end wall of the girls’ home, which has brightened things up no end (- see picture), and we also had a trip to Lake Nabugabo with all of our sponsored kids and young people.

Straight after the team’s visit and the holiday programme, I had my own holiday. I went to Entebbe to meet up with some dancers from the UK who were ministering and doing a dance workshop in a church in Kampala, and joined them in their activities. It was really wonderful and restful, despite all of the dancing we did!

The final thing of note that has happened recently is the plan to resettle loads of our young men who have been living in the boys’ home. It is not legal to have young men or women living in a children’s home, but it’s been very hard to plan and help them resettle, so we’ve been taking things very slowly as we’ve worked with them to find the best solution... and we seem to have found it, as the plans are nearly all in place, and they’re well on the way to leaving us now – in fact, they’re all going to have left before the year is out. They’re all going to be followed up very closely when they leave, and of course their sponsorship is not stopping when they leave us – so we’re going to be continuing our support and hope to continue to see them thrive in every way and become productive members of society!

Anyway, that’s all of my news, I think.

I hope that you are all doing well!

Love Sarah

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

We're recruiting!

Are you a qualified Ugandan Social Worker? Are you passionate about children at risk, and devastated by the numbers of orphan and vulnerable children in Uganda? Are you a committed Christian enthusiastic about seeing the most vulnerable children 'fly high' and be everything that God intends them to be?

Then you may be exactly who we are looking for!

The White Eagle Project, under River of Life Church’s Training and Discipleship Department, supports orphans and vulnerable children through providing quality education, intensive mentoring and providing a safe and secure family home in two ways: 1) Resettlement, for severely at risk children, with a particular emphasis on rehabilitating street children through a purpose-built 30-bed centre for emergency temporary residential support, and 2) Community Support - through supporting at risk extended families to provide a loving home environment.
The Vision of the White Eagle Project (WEP) is to give vulnerable children hope, by loving them and giving them the very best so they are empowered to excel in all areas of life so they reach their potential and become responsible and productive members of society”

We are looking for an enthusiastic, competent, highly motivated and committed Residential Social Worker to join our White Eagle Team in providing top quality care to OVCs in Masaka.

If you are interested, you can download more information and the application form here.

Completed application forms can either be emailed to, sent to River of Life Church, PO Box 985, Masaka, Uganda, or delivered to River of Life Church Offices, Plot 446, Masaka-Kampala Road, Nyendo.

Closing date for applications is 15th September 2012.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sarah's Story - Physio, Robinah returns and more!

Hellooooooooo! How is everyone?!?!?! I'm doing great here, and things are going on well! The last two months have been relatively busy.....

One thing that you may be interested to hear about is that I'm doing some physio. I'm seeing two patients... one has a bad back, but one is a neuro patient, and I'm reeeeeally enjoying seeing her and doing some neuro physio! She's given me permission to talk about her to you, as we've become good friends over the last 6 weeks. Her name is Nampijja, and she's 24 years old. She was involved in a car accident just over a year ago, which damaged her spine, so she was left unable to stand or walk. She had some rehab at the time, but was discharged back to her village about a year ago, and for the past year, she has been lying on a mattress on the floor of her tiny room, with few visitors, and nothing to do but stare at the ceiling and listen to her radio (when she has batteries).

When I first saw her, she couldn't sit up in bed, she was very depressed, and she was doing nothing. I wanted to cry when I saw how awful her life was, and how little support she had from family and friends, and I could hardly sleep that night with thinking about her! Anyway, I've been going to her village once a week since then to do some physio, and she's gradually progressing, and, (most importantly!), she's getting some hope that her life isn't over, and she's smiling a lot more!!!! We've become good friends, as I said, and she's helping me with my Lugandan... actually during my physio sessions and visits, we speak in Lugandan only, because, (despite my limited Lugandan), she has slightly less English than I have Lugandan.

I've also enjoyed seeing quite a lot of one of the girls who used to live in the girls' home, and who returned to live with her family a year and a half ago. I miss her (and the other girls who've left the home), so it's been really nice to spend lots of time with her recently, helping her as she prepares to apply to our Leadership Academy for support to go to university. She's pictured below with her beautiful little baby girl.

Most of our kids have been on school trips and had various parents days and fun days recently. Kitibwa and Mercy had their faces painted at their school fun day. They were soooooooooooo excited about going to it beforehand – Kitibwa talked NON-STOP for two and a half hours (from 6am onwards!) about what he was going to do and how excited he was!!! I wanted to gag him!!! Anyway, luckily it lived up to their expectations, (-apart from the cake... apparently they were all expecting a huge cake as on previous occasions, and it didn't materialise... but all was fine, because we'd baked a cake for my birthday, so Kitibwa and Mercy ate that and then decided that the day had been a success after all!!!)

There have been quite a few talks and things that I've done over the last couple of months too... I spoke at the River of Life's Schools Conference in June, where children and young people come to us from about 9 different schools for the day. All of the children love it because they get fed good food by us, and especially because we don't give them beans, weevils, and posho (which they all get EVERY SINGLE DAY for lunch and dinner whilst they're at school).

In June, the White Eagle Project joined in the Day of the African Child celebrations, which involved a march through Masaka and then various performances by different children. The kids all found it very exciting, but I found it rather stressful, as I spent the day chasing after 15 children, and trying to make sure that we didn't lose anyone!!! (-No matter how many times we told them not to wander off without telling us where they were going, they kept on wandering off because it was just too exciting!!!). Anyway, we returned with all 15 children and no injuries, so the day was a success in my eyes!!!

Anyway, that’s all my news!

Lots of love,


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Operation JK:UK - A Home Away from Home

Well done Mr Julius Kintu! He’s taking our slogan ‘Flying High’ to dizzying new heights, having just completed the first year of a Diploma in Ministerial Development Training at Carmel Bible College, Bristol, UK.
Julius has done brilliantly - scoring 79%, while adapting to a very different life in the UK and being a long way from home - all the challenges of long-term mission! Due to Visa restrictions, Julius has just returned to Uganda, but hopes to go back to Carmel College for the second year of his course in September, hosted by and working with our good friends at Hope Community Church again. Julius says: “This year has been a year of new beginnings in my life... Going through Bible College has challenged me spiritually and in all aspects of life. Being in the UK has brought more meaning to life. I have been taught what dependency on God means especially when you lose all that gives you confidence - when you are away from all your loved ones, friends, home church and all those people that believe in you and think that all you do is cool! But I have enjoyed traveling the UK, food (especially roast dinners!) making friends, everyone has been very welcoming. UK has been a home away from home.
Julius is proving our vision that Ugandans can take their place in the international community and really make a difference! We REALLY want him to complete the diploma, but we have a funding shortfall of about £6,000. If you want to help, please get in touch.

Monday, July 2, 2012

How high can a White Eagle fly?

Our motto at the White Eagle Project, and one that speaks of our commitment to quality at River of Life is ‘flying high’. With the opportunity to do the National 3 Peaks Challenge, we decided to put it to the test (literally) with Mr Julius, former White Eagle Project Manager. Rob takes up the story...

“I couldn’t climb up or down stairs for three days afterwards, but I’m incredibly proud to be able to say we did it! Julius was seen, 'Flying High', from the top of Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon, all in 24 hours!

 Ben Nevis Summit conquered
The idea took shape in a small office in Manchester 2 months previously, as Rob and Miguel (a White Eagle Sponsor and long-term hatcher of madcap fundraising challenge ideas) wondered how they could make the already barmy idea of doing the 3 Peaks a little more eccentric. And then the thought of taking our very own White Eagle, who had never climbed a mountain before, to the highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales dawned on them...

So, at 1710hrs, on 30th June, the River of Life Team started their ascent of Ben Nevis. By 0440hrs the following morning, they were on the slopes of Scafell Pike. And by 1330hrs, they'd left the minibus for the final assault on Snowdon...

Dan, Julius and Ming on Snowdon
Now, for the uninitiated, Ben Nevis is MASSIVE. Scafell Pike is a big heap of rocks - in driving rain and hail it’s the last place you'd want to be at anytime of day, let alone 5am. Reaching Snowdon, we had just 3hrs 40 to complete the challenge...

Stiff, sore and still wet from Scafell, the advance party, including Wing Commander Julius, made mincemeat of the climb, pushing through to record a fantastic overall time of 23hrs20. But with 10 mins to go, there was no sign of the rear guard...

Finally he hobbled into view, the rear guard being just me, and I reached the mini-bus (painfully parked at the far end of the car park!) with just 5 mins to spare! It was the most epic challenge, and has raised nearly £5,000!”

Made it! The Team at the finish
To all the climbers - Anna, Dan, Jeff, Julius, Mark, Miguel, Neil, Rich, Rob, Robin, Sandor, Tom, Tommy - well done! And to the wonderful support crew - Andrew, Phil & Meredith - thank you! And finally, a massive thank you to Rich Statham and his Dad Tony, for organising the whole thing and keeping us safe :)

If you would like to sponsor the heroic efforts of Julius (and the team!), please visit!

If you want to relive the adventure, all our photos and video clips are plotted on an awesome interactive map - check it out!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Operation ARK hits the streets once more!

May saw Operation ARK reach its fifth anniversary, as Tim and Gerald ran around like headless chickens organising over 100 youth from local churches, hitting the streets of Nyendo and Masaka...

Ready for action!
The point? To clean the filth, spruce up people’s houses and shops with a lick of paint, and give out boxes of food to some of the neediest families. Once again we were very well received, although having arranged with the Masaka town clerk to clean the centre of town on one afternoon, we discovered he had become worried about the possibility of publicity about “local volunteers doing what paid street cleaners should be doing”, and in a fervour of activity organised his staff to sweep, scrub and polish as if the Queen was about to visit, on the very morning before we arrived!

We have since decided that any time we feel the town is looking a bit shabby, we will simply tell the town clerk we want to come the next day with our army of youth to clean, safe in the knowledge that in a fit of panic he will then quickly mobilise his street cleaners to do it instead!

Monday, March 26, 2012

River of Life's March 2012 Newsletter is out!

Hot off the press with news from the Roots Ministry Team, the graduation of four of our young men from the White Eagle Home, our Farm Manager Kayima's undefinable logic which has seen us get a cow and news from Synergy Sports Strategy, a new initiative to see young people realise their God-given potential - it can only be the River of Life Spring Newsletter!

You can view all these stories on the blog, or you can download a print version here to print off and share with all your friends and family...

Or download an online version here to email to everyone you know!

We've also got the October - December 2011 White Eagle Report - a little tardy on that one, sorry! - ready for you to download and share - click here.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

We're 'Singing in the Rain' - Davies Dispatch Feb 2012

February has flown by, with plenty of work and play to keep us busy. Rob and the office team successfully prepared the accounts for the auditor to examine, we've had some good times with Mary (one of the founders of River of Life, who was back here for 5 weeks), we've said goodbye to Geoff who had been working with us for 4 months, and Elena has started potty training!

January was very hot and dry, and everything was getting browner and browner - with the dust and the heat. And then suddenly it was rainy season, and everything is green again! Here are some highlights from Masaka...

If you'd like to see more of what we get up to, check out our photo-map!

Rain = avocados. Lots of them
This month the rains have started (a few weeks early), which means it's time to start planting out the garden. Henry, our gardener, has been making fantastic progress planting out sweet potatoes - his digging really does put our attempts at our allotment in England to shame. We're also hoping to grow carrots, onions, green peppers and a few "English" plants like courgettes and lettuce. The rains have brought with them a surplus of huge and delicious avocados - Elena is well into guacamole.. no cutlery required!

We got out rainwater tank washed out - it was disgustingly dirty - and in the process discovered a leak in the mains supply. Mr Fred our plumber quickly fixed that, and now the pressure is much better. So now our rainwater tank is starting to fill up again which is great - next time the mains water stops flowing for a few days, we won't be totally without!

The downside of the rains is that our house floods when the wind blows in a certain direction - we've set Maintenance Man Mayiga the task of trying to seal up any cracks!

Moving on and Flying High
The major event for this month was the graduation of 4 of our White Eagle lads from the Project. They are now living independently - here’s Brian showing off his new pad - and working to support themselves. We had a party to celebrate their achievements since joining the Project and to set them on their way on the next step of their journey. The Project will continue to support them, through education, training, employment, mentoring, support - whatever is needed to help them fly high!

There have also been some big changes at Playgroup. Several of our "regular" kids started school at the beginning of February, so numbers at playgroup dropped. We've been telling mums at church about the playgroup, and are beginning to see some new kids, but it's been a slow transition. Elena misses her old friends, and every morning asks if we're going to see them, but she seems ok once we get the puzzles out! She's getting quite good at a little alphabet puzzle where you have to match the letter to a picture, though she made us laugh yesterday by declaring that the letter j is for "marmite"! Well they both go on toast...

We've been trying to find time this month to prioritise getting to know other "bazungu" (expats) who are living and working in Masaka. Many of them are involved in similar projects to River of Life, so there's a wealth of experience out there for everyone to learn from. Rob’s been meeting with some of the Directors - it’s been great to get to know them, and their work.

We went to the international Church one Sunday and met several Canadian, American and Danish families. We were invited to join the birthday party of one of the little Danish girls who was turning 3 - her birthday coincided with some Danish festival which involved all the children hitting a big wooden barrel full of sweets with a very large stick for a very long time until it smashed apart. Apparently in the old days, I mean the really old days, the barrel would have a cat in it, and it was something to do with beating the devil. Elena did her bit, going up with the stick, which was about as big as her, and tapping the barrel.

Anyway, it was also an opportunity to dress up - Elena loved pretending to be her little spotty woof woof!

Food glorious food!
February has been a good month for eating! Gerald was introduced to Pancake Day traditions, and managed some decent flips! Elena wasn't as interested in the pancakes as she was in the sugar bowl we foolishly left near her...

We went to the fantastic Cafe Frikadellen barbecue with Beth and Sarah - never have you seen so much meat in one place... it's awesome! Cafe Frikadellen is run by one of the Danish families here, and Rob likes to personally thank them for setting up the establishment every time we go there - he can't quite believe he can get such a good burger (not to mention the lasagne...) here in Masaka.

Rob and I also managed to get a rare night out on our own for Valentine's Day - we went to another restaurant in town, which has a new rooftop terrace - it was very romantic under the stars, even if the advertised smooth jazz was actually the best of the Backstreet Boys! Gerald and Beth were Elena's babysitting team, and Gerald was very proud of himself as he managed to settle Elena back to sleep after she woke up for a drink. He's offered to babysit again anytime :-)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Aunt Sarah returns and declares DEATH TO ALL RODENTS!

There's a recurring theme in Sarah's Story, namely her intense dislike of the many rodents she gets to share her accommodation with... It's been a while since we've heard from her, so read on to find out more!

Helloooo! I hope that you are all well! I haven’t sent a newsletter for a few months now, so this one is a little overdue! Here’s what I’ve been up to over the last few months....

The month in Uganda before I came home to the UK for Christmas was very busy... It was the school holidays over here, and we ran our White Eagle Project holiday programme (which included sport, Bible teachings, drama, opinion forums, life skills, aerobics, and all sorts of other things). We also did lots of special events, including a mini Operation ARK (– Acts of Random Kindness – where we cleaned up the local area), and a Parents’ and Relatives Sensitisation Day (where we did workshops for the relatives of our kids to prepare them to receive their children back home, and teach them to look after their children well). And there were several other special events which I was involved in (either leading, teaching or attending), such as a youth conference, singles teaching, a parenting seminar, etc., etc. So December was a pretty packed month, and I came back to the UK rather exhausted!!!

Christmas and January were spent in the UK, having a wonderfully restful time with friends and family... and then I returned back to Uganda at the very end of January. Since returning to Uganda:

Our youngest member of the Girls Home - a little lad - has started school and looks very cute in his shorts, which look like a basketball player’s shorts because they’re so big (see photo). He's started getting the school bus, which is apparently SOOOOOOOOO exciting – the first thing he says EVERY morning upon waking is “Aunt Sarah - getting School bus today?” His little comrade in arms, our youngest girl, cannot stop waxing lyrical about the curtains on the windows of the bus – she’s never seen a bus with curtains, so she thinks it’s the most amazing bus in the whole wide world!

Also since returning to Uganda, I have managed to kill 1 mouse, 2 rats and an ENORMOUS spider. I’m getting very brave... although the mouse and rats were caught by my mouse traps that I purchased before returning to Uganda, so all I had to do was biff them on the head once caught, in order to kill them (-although I succeeded in releasing one of the rats when I tried to do this... but it turned up dead the next day under one of the girls bed, so it must have got concussion when I biffed it on the head!). The ENORMOUS spider was in the girls’ bathroom, and our little lad had got to the stage of refusing to go to the toilet because he said that the spider was going to eat him! So the spider met an unfortunate end too! (I think that I’m becoming very brutal!!! – Sorry to animal lovers! ...although in my defence, the spider was so big that I didn’t dare go near enough to catch it in order to set it free outside, and I decided that killing it was the only safe option!).

The girls are all doing very well. They are lovably crazy(!), and spend many an evening putting on shows, singing and dancing, playing silly games, or playing hide and seek (- which is actually quite fun when the power goes off, because you can’t see a thing!). They also get a huge amount of homework, which for one of them in particular is a bit of a trial to be got through each evening (it takes her about 5 times as long as it takes the others because she’s very distractible!).... but we’ll get there eventually!!!

We’re continuing to work towards resettling lots of our kids, and after successfully resettling some children last year, we had 4 young men graduate from the boys’ home this month – they are all now working and supporting themselves, as we continue to sponsor them in further education/vocational training/through business grants. We had a big party, and sent them off in style – it was a really good celebration of everything they’ve achieved, and also of how God has completely turned their lives around - from being in a place of utter despair with no hope for the future (e.g. living on the streets for some of them, not knowing where the next meal would come from, and having no hope of going to school or getting a good job), He has given them all such an amazing hope and a future!

So things are moving forward at the project with all of this resettlement that’s happened and is going to happen over the next few months.... We keep on having some very important government officials visit us to check that we’re keeping to policies (as far as being a children’s home and resettling children are concerned), and we’ve had some very positive feedback, with one of them even saying that she considers us to be an example for other projects to follow because of our work on resettling children back with their relatives! So that was very encouraging, especially because resettling them successfully (so they don’t run away/leave home) is such hard work with so many challenges!!!

Anyway, that’s all for now. I hope that everyone is well, and that you’re all having a wonderful 2012!!! Love Sarah

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Down on the Farm... there’s a brand new cow

With a massive thank you to all who made this possible, the White Eagles can now look forward to milk, yoghurt and maybe even some cheese courtesy of our new cow!

About a year ago Uncle Kayima, our Farm Manager, planted some elephant grass declaring “you never know, maybe one day we’ll have a cow”.
Then, about 6 months ago, he started making noises about needing a cow-shed. Acting oblivious when it was pointed out that we don’t have a cow to put in it, the logic he preferred was that we had a tonne of elephant grass to get rid of, and the best thing for that job was a cow. Which needed a shed.

And because God is good, and you guys are generous, we were able to squeeze our budgets and Kayima got his shed. And a mighty fine one it is too. Of course, it seemed ridiculous to have a shed, a load of feed and no cow, and so, again through your generosity, on Feb 8th we became the proud owners of a Hybrid Friesan, which, all things being equal, should give us a couple of gallons of milk every day!

Now all we need to do is choose a name... any ideas?
Daisy? Doris? Frank? You decide!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Geoff in Uganda - a fond farewell

So this is my last monthly newsletter as I am wending my way home next Saturday...I know I know I can hear your gasps and thoughts of ‘hasn’t four months gone quickly’. And you would be right, it has gone quickly, very quickly, however I do feel that it has been enough time for me to get to really know River of Life, it’s ministries, it’s heart, and it’s people. So although I am more than a little sad to think I will not be here much longer, I am more than happy knowing that I have become part of this wonderful church/charity, and look forward to supporting it and visiting it in the future!

Any way the month of January was another busy month with much going on right throughout the ministry. We had the White Eagle holiday program, a football tournament ran by Synergy Sports Strategy, hospital and prison ministries still running, roots ministry, assisting at a youth conference, and a trip to the local lake - have a look at my other posts for all the updates.

The last few days of January we took as a bit of holiday. Beth (another volunteer out here) and I went off to Murchisson Falls in the north of Uganda. It was a truly amazing experience and the landscape around there is breath taking enough. We saw hippos, giraffes, elephants, rhinos, crocodiles, along with many other exciting animals. We also, after a boat trip up the Nile, got to take a walk up to the amazing waterfall that is Murchisson Falls. In all it was an awesome experience and if you ever go on safari, Uganda should be in your thoughts. One very special experience was that on the first night I woke up to some strange sounds outside my tent. After lifting the window flap I could just about make out the shape of a hippo! It managed to come closer and closer and eventually I was pretty much nose to nose with it through the tent. I endeavoured to keep quiet and the hippo moved on but that memory will certainly endure.

That's a Rhino! A RHINO!
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported me out here in every way. Whether that be through the money donated to the charity, the prayers, the emails, the skype chats, the people who helped to fund the pigs, those who have blessed me with gifts for personal use, thank you all so much. I knew I was blessed to have such an amazing network of friends and family in the UK but I am not sure I realised how blessed I am, so thank you. Also the people out here in Uganda, all have welcomed me with open arms and it has been a real treat to learn from you and serve alongside you. I will miss the people and all that the ROL for but I am looking forward to serving you in different ways back in the UK and I will be back!

But the big thank you (here comes the cheesy bit) has to go to God. He has provided and sustained in so many ways for me out here and has allowed me to grow at all times. Without Him all is not possible, as it says in Matthew 19:26 ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’

Geoff has been volunteering with River of Life for 4 months - to read all his blog posts, just click here

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Holiday Time! - White Eagle Project Report

Our first White Eagle report for 2012, from Emily, our Director of Training:

Throughout January, I have been continuing to prepare our young men to leave the WEP home. Some have started renting somewhere to stay and have been working to become more independent. Most of our White Eagles returned to school at the end of January, and we have several White Eagles starting nursery school.

The holiday programme ran intermittently, as there were several other events during January (such as visits home, the football tournament, youth camp, etc.). It involved:
  • Life skills - we did a series on relationships (between God & Man, friendships, and relationships between males and females)
  • Fellowships led by Staff – We had a session on “Jesus the King”, looking at different scriptures about the kingship of Jesus, and what that looks like and means.
  • Games and sports, including a mini-Olympics, football, volleyball, table tennis, and indoor games
  • Fellowships led by White Eagles – a prayer session, and a talk on Jeremiah 29:11, on not worrying about the future, because God has good plans for us.
  • Craft - involving card-making and chalk-drawing.
  • Lake Nabugabo - a beautiful day and a wonderful time swimming, playing football and volleyball, and eating chicken.
  • Youth Conferences - 'Let Your Light Shine Youth Camp' (theme “A Call To Purity”) and 'GRIP' (theme “Armed and Dangerous (2 Corinthians 10:4)
  • Week at home - most of our residential White Eagles went to stay with their families from 2nd - 7th January.

Back to the 'Pearl of Africa' - Davies Dispatch Jan 2012

Rob and Katharine Davies, (and their daughter Elena!), are serving with River of Life Church as Long-term Missionaries. Rob is Development Director at River of Life, and Katharine coordinates Missions and is establishing an Early Years programme... Here is the first of their monthly updates

Uganda! The Pearl of Africa, as the Victorian explorers and missionaries called it. It’s good to be back, and certainly after the wet and cold of Christmas in the UK, Uganda seemed to be shimmering pearl-lke as we drove south from Kampala to Masaka after our epic flight via Johannesburg. The rains have been good and long, so harvests are plentiful which has eased some of the pressures on local food prices. Our own garden is producing about a million tonnes of matooke, our favourite green banana staple, every week, which the children down in the White Eagle Project are enjoying!

We’ve got stuck straight back in with the work - although the team out here have done a marvellous job whilst we’ve been away. A new shallow well has been completed giving access to clean drinking water for more of the people of Nyendo (the trading post where we focus most of our activities), our offices, which were embarrassingly dilapidated have been spruced up, the White Eagle Holiday Programme continued apace and a new sports initiative, Synergy Sports Strategy, was launched.

Most of the River of Life news you’ll get (or can get) through the River of Life website, or by email if you are on the list (you can subscribe here) so we thought we’d give you our personal highlights for January...

Week 1: Flying...
As you know, in the first week of January, we were mostly flying and standing in queues. It took us nearly 3 days to get here, courtesy of high winds in the UK when we left. You may have assumed that would mean we had a nightmare journey - actually it was fine! We got the upgrade, Elena slept really well and we arrived in Masaka having had some rare time together as a family. Praise God! Probably the worst thing that happened was realising, on arrival, that we had forgotten to pack any cheese... can you believe it?! But then, thanks to Mary (one of the founders of River of Life) who came out a few days later, our cheese supply was re-stocked and Katharine made the most awesome lasagne ever!

Week 2: Giving blood...
This was a momentous week for me (Rob). I had always accepted the “just returned from a malarial-zone” excuse for not giving blood with relief, because I was pretty scared of the idea. But when Dr Sarah (our fellow missionary to River of Life) called to say that the local blood bank was absolutely desperate and children were dying, there was really very little choice. Now, I faint at injections, so it wasn’t going to be easy, but it turned out okay! Yes, I nearly fainted and had to lie on the floor (not at giving blood, but at the little blood-test prick they do first!) and they had to set me up my own bed outside, but with the help of Sarah holding my hand I did it! (Katharine got out of it because she’s still feeding Elena...) I will definitely be doing it again...

Week 3: A trip to the Lake!
Sand Beach at Lake Nabugabo is an awesome spot about half-an-hour’s drive from Masaka. There are no crocodiles, no nasty parasites in the water, and the water is shallow and warm. (Well that’s what the tourist industry tells us.. to be fair, I’ve never seen a crocodile there, and I’ve never got sick after swimming, so...) Elena absolutely loved it. She took delight in just wading out as far as she could go and then throwing herself further in, which made for a few desperate rescue attempts - but then she would just go and do it again! One such rescue killed Rob’s iPhone which he left in his pocket, but miraculously it resurrected 3 days later!

Week 4: Out to the village...
There is a massive difference here between town and country. Many rural areas are extremely poor, and the cultural norms that govern everyday life can be at best bizarre and at worst pretty abusive. Statistics suggest that over 70% of women experience domestic abuse in Uganda. So at River of Life we have a ministry called “Roots” that goes out to particular areas where domestic abuse is culturally acceptable, and teach and counsel people against it. It was amazing to see how the teaching began to set people free. Whilst the adults were in the Conference, we also did a 2-day programme for about 150 children, which was pretty awesome!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Geoff in Uganda - out to the village on Roots Ministry

Geoff's been with us since October, and recently took part in 'Roots Ministry' - here he tells us all about it!

The month of January also saw some people come back to Uganda. Firstly it was Rob and Katherine who had a good couple of months at home in the UK. It is good to have them and their beautiful 22 month old daughter Elena back as they live/run the visitors house where I stay and always make it a lovely place to be.

Secondly January saw Mary come back to Uganda after being away for around 14 months. The reason for her absence is that her husband and pastor of the River of Life Duncan was and is ill due to cancer. He has had some positive strides forward though and Mary felt called to come back to Uganda for 8 weeks or so. It has been good to get to know Mary a bit more as it gives a more holistic picture of the charity and it’s history. One of the reasons Mary has come back is to run something called Roots Ministry. This is where a number of people head out from the Church to a village outside of the area and run a couple of days of ministry. The main focus of it is abuse, and Mary runs those sessions, giving teaching and allowing the Spirit to heal where possible.

She asked me however to run the children’s ministry. Now the plural there is important because there were around 150 of them! We discussed what the talks could be on and we focused on 'achieving your potential' and 'knowing your calling'. It was a good success with the children and as well as the teaching we had songs, games, prayer, and face pulling sessions. Thankfully it wasn’t just me but Beth also along with some of our youth, and as a team we did rather well. Hopefully it was positive for the children, the prayer was that they may experience something positive from the weekend, whether that be through enjoying the games, learning from the teaching, or importantly that their parents would receive some sort of healing and that would improve their home, or perhaps they would stop being abused. In all it was a good few days and people seemed to take a lot from it which is really positive, and River of Life will be going there again in the near future to back up what took place.

Leading Children's Games

Doing the Sprinkler!

Teaching about how people learn

Geoff is volunteering with River of Life for 4 months - to read all his blog posts, just click here

Friday, January 27, 2012

Breaking the bonds of violence in Uganda

Domestic abuse in Uganda is at absolutely shocking levels. Figures obtained by the Uganda Law Reform Commission show that 78% of women experience some kind of domestic abuse. River of Life’s Roots Ministry Team goes out to villages to try and begin to put a stop to it...

For the 200 odd men and women crowded under a make-shift shelter waiting for the Roots Ministry Team, violence is just part of every day life. Across Uganda, armed conflict, alcohol abuse, poverty and cultural attitudes all help account for the pervasive, destructive acceptance of abuse in communities. And so for many men and women thinking of a life without violence is almost impossible.

Different studies tell us different things - but they all point to the same ticking time-bomb. One 2006 study tells us 66% of respondents, men and women, had experienced violence, another 2007 report claims 68% of married women aged 15-49 had experienced some sort of abuse from their spouse.

Perhaps most worrying of all, 77% of 15-49 year old women feel that violence in marriage is justified for any number of reasons - like burning food or refusing sexual relations (according to a UNICEF 2008 Report) - whilst another study claims that 60% of men and 70% of women condone wife beating.

In some areas, violence is at the heart of a new marriage. A prospective husband is required, by stealth and strength, to steal in to his bride-to-be’s village and physically over-power and subdue her, with her brothers and uncles watching to make sure he is sufficently macho.

It’s all a depressingly long way from God’s ideal: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25), which is why the Roots Ministry team was established. With Mary back, the time was right to do the first Roots Ministry of 2012. So in the last week of January we got ready to go, with prayer, teaching and planning!

Then for two days we were out, deep in the South Ugandan countryside. Through personal testimonies, teachings on ‘Love Languages’ and ‘How we learn’, specially planned children’s sessions, praise and worship and ministry time, Mary led us as we carefully peeled back the culturally accepted norm that ‘violence is ok’ and exposed it for the destructive bondage that it is.

Many, women especially, responded to the sessions, and came forward for prayer ministry to be set free from the bonds of violence. The vision of Roots isn’t to leave it there though - we’ll be back to help them continue walking in their new found freedom.
The Roots Ministry Team
Meeting together for teaching
Ministering to victims of abuse

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Geoff in Uganda - Silky Synergy Football (most of the time!)

Geoff's been key in River of Life's Annual Community Football Tournament, this year re-launched as the Synergy Cup...

For a big part of January I've been involved with the football tournament ran by Synergy Sports, which is the sports ministry of the River of Life. This involved 12 teams from across Masaka and Nyendo, mainly made up of 14-18 year olds. There were 19 matches in all with group stages, quarters, semis and the eventual final. There was some really good football played (not all the time but often) and each team brought something different to the tournament. It was put on to be something positive for youngsters to do during the holidays, to promote the fact that Synergy Sports Strategy has been established, and to be another way in which the River of Life could reach out and be part of the community. It managed to do all of these things, and in many ways was a great success so we are thankful for that.

There was one very interesting point in the semi final though when a goal was disallowed for offside in extra time a fan walked on to the pitch to remonstrate with the referee, which then opened the flood gates for the most of the other fans to enter the pitch and try and have their stay. The crowd became unmanageable, and although thankfully there was no violence, we had to end the match prematurely. I’m not sure how the locals took to a Muzungu standing in front of the referees to protect them but thankfully all were ok and the tournament carried on!

Synergy had 3 teams entered into the tournament, the Sonics, Saints, and Sabres, and all did well and learnt a lot in the process. The Sonics reached the final which was a great occasion with a big crowd there to enjoy. Unfortunately they couldn’t quite manage the win losing out on penalties, however many positives were taken and it was a chance for the whole of Synergy Sports to grow as a group. Some of the Synergy lads have started coming to Youth Group and Church, which is just great as they want to be part of the River of Life community and learn and grow in Jesus, which is why we have a sports ministry.

Geoff is volunteering with River of Life for 4 months - to read all his blog posts, just click here

Friday, January 20, 2012

Geoff in Uganda - The White Eagles head to the Lake!

Geoff's been involved in the White Eagles Holiday Programme - here's what happened in January:

The holiday program was still running for most of the month, and although it was slightly disjointed due to the many other things happening that the White Eagles were involved in, it was good when it happened. We still had different sessions to do with life skills, games and sports, discussion groups and fellowship. As ever we had lots of fun with the White Eagles, as they are great to interact with. We also had a good few chill out sessions where we would do a puzzle or play some table tennis, these were often with the younger White Eagles which was great, as it was nice to give them a bit of concentrated time.

As part of their program most went home for a week or so. Although this left the project very quiet and we missed them, many had a really good time with their families across Masaka region and beyond. This is great as it is a priority for the children to rebuild or maintain positive relations with relatives.

As a treat for the White Eagles and staff, they go to the Lake every year and enjoy a day out there with some food and a chance to swim and play games. This is funded every year by a wonderful lady called Margaret who comes out from the UK for around 3 weeks every year in January. She is close friends with Mary and Duncan, a trustee of the UK charity that supports the work here, and has been supporting the Ministry from the very start, as well as still helping with communication with UK sponsors. It was a great day, and the lake (called Nabugabo) was a pleasant place to swim and the chicken we had was very tasty. It was wonderful to see the whole staff and White Eagles together enjoying fellowship in the sunshine, a worthwhile trip indeed. One negative to the trip was that I was a touch overzealous in throwing the children about the lake and made little Johna sick...woops! he is fine though!

Geoff is volunteering with River of Life for 4 months - to read all his blog posts, just click here