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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