(57) Giving a little bit back
Wednesday 1st May – 15th May
We woke after a good night’s sleep in a comfy bed at the house at the school.
Our home for the next couple of weeks
Stunning scenery around us
The school was closed for the day as it was a national holiday which gave us chance to relax in the morning and have a tour of the school. We talked about the things we could do over the next 2 weeks and Tim suggested he could make a see-saw. There was plenty of painting to be done, mainly outside and Tim was to make 2 partition walls to turn one large room into 3 classrooms. The idea was that as there would be a partition the teachers could use it as a hall too. Tim and Horace had bought the wood in Mbara and the paint had come from Kampala where Bethan and Horace live so we were ready to get to work. In the late afternoon we went for a walk around the local area. It was so pretty and a great spot. Horace showed us the area where they will be building the new secondary school which they plan to build this year. We went past some coffee and tea bushes all an education to us!
Horace and Sharon in the tea plantation
A coffee bush
Ever seen how a pineapple grows?? We thought they grew on trees!!
Jehovah Jireh Nshumi is a village school located in South West Uganda and was started in 2007 by Bethan and Horace with its aim is to work with the local community to provide free, quality education to children in this poor, rural area through Christian love and values. They are both working hard to make the school sustainable in the long-term and the parents who cannot afford to pay for their childrens education are given the opportunity to work in the school’s tea plantation. If you want to read more about the school or make a donation click on the link below.
The following morning we had a quick breakfast and loaded the bikes to take them across the yard to the school in order to introduce ourselves. The pupils were already in class and had been so since 7.30 which made us feel lazy for arriving blurry eyed at 8am for assembly. The bell rang and about 300 pupils appeared ranging from 6-15 years old. They all lined up in their classes and with an introduction from the head, they started to sing. First they sang their school anthem accompanied by some amazing drumming followed by a couple of upbeat songs and finally the national anthem. It was amazing watching them all dance and sing enthusiastically together and it really made us feel happy to be there.
We went back to drop the bikes off and joined in on the next class showing Year 7 how to build a kit toy and with 5 different sets. They all set about following the instructions with great results. Time seemed to pass quickly so after a break we got out the Lego. It had all been beautifully organised by Hazel who is one of directors of the school, but Tim (the Lego buff) knew that all the little pots wouldn’t last long. In no time all the boxes were emptied onto the floor and we felt a little bit like naughty school children, dreading the thought of a long detention. Each table took turns in taking a few handfuls of pieces and returned to their seats. We were a bit worried that all they would build were walls but it was amazing to see the array of different designs and how they would help each other. We saw mobile phones, palaces, police stations and a variation of houses complete with gardens. These are children who have never seen Lego before – even the teachers sat quietly in the corner creating their own master pieces.
Showing the pupils how to follow the instruction sheet
Shaz being taught by the pupils how to use lego!
Let loose with Lego – the possibilities are endless!
With lunch upon us we went back to eat and returned to Years 5, 6 and 7 to talk about our trip. It went really well with a lot of interest in the stove and where we had been. We introduced Hanae who talked about Japan and their culture and got the pupils and teachers to use chop sticks which was hilarious for everyone. Hanae also wrote people’s names in Japanese on the blackboard which they all found fascinating.
With no map available, Sharon drew one on the board to show our route
With our time with the pupils finished for the day, Bethan drove us into town to pick up some tools for Tim and to pop to the supermarket. It was so nice to drive up in the daylight and see what we had missed on the way in on our bikes. We wound our way up the dirt track from the school gently climbing. There was a steep drop off to the left down to a valley of banana and tea plantations with the odd hut scattered in amongst the green hillside. Back at the house we enjoyed a nice relaxing evening in the light of the lantern having had a great dinner of local food cooked by our neighbours.
The following day was the last day of term so we got up for assembly and headed off to do the same Lego lesson with the Year 6 class. It was as equally as rewarding and they sat wide eyed as we spread the Lego out on the floor. It was good fun and interesting to see how they worked together at a younger age. In the afternoon we did a talk to the younger classes about our trip. We changed it to suit their shorter attention span and Hanae had the great idea of putting her tent up! After a while one of the pupils told the teacher they had something for us. We were intrigued and then delighted when about 6 pupils demonstrated a local dance for us.
Showing the younger classes the stove
They loved the tent!
We spent the following days ‘at work’ which felt strange at first as all our previous days had been on the bikes. Tim set about making the partitions and had them up in record time. They looked great, with rope handles and Hanae painted them white so that the pupils can paint pictures on them. Tim had spotted a large tree trunk on the side of the road which was perfect for the base of the see-saw so Horace arranged for someone with a chainsaw to cut it to length and deliver it to the school – Tim didn’t fancy cutting it with a half-blunt saw. Tim sourced the rest of the wood during a walk in the woods lower down in the valley. Before we knew it, the see-saw was up and running and attracted the attention of most of the village. The most we counted on it was 14! Tim also made goal posts for the football pitch and marked boundaries on for them too.
Sharon and Hanae spent most of their time painting. They painted the pillars outside of the newest classroom block, the area where the headmistresses’ office was and a store room which was to become a visitor’s room. We also managed to get some of the outside windows and doors painted which made a big difference to the overall appearance of the school buildings.
Tim’s very popular see-saw
Hanae painting the partitions
Tim and Sharon doing some finishing touches
The finished product
The school logo
New goal posts
Shaz after a hard day’s work!
During our time there we wanted to visit the Queen Elizabeth National Park and Bethan said she would be happy to drive us there. We had decided beforehand not to enter the park as we were likely to see most of the animals on the journey there. We had enquired about the cost of a suitable vehicle and guide but decided against it as it was quite costly. We headed west to the Great Rift Valley which was the western part of the two rifts that split further north. We passed a small lake and Bethan told us it was the shape of Africa. It wasn’t long after that the valley appeared stretched out in front of us. It was much more spectacular than the east side of rift we had seen in Kenya, as it was much wider. We stopped for a cupper in the Kingfisher Lodge and looked out over the vista desperate to spot an elephant! Tim had small bugs in his hot chocolate and not wanting any extra protein he poured the last bit in the bin only to find out later it was a chimney for an open fireplace in the restaurant.
We drove down into the valley and soon spotted a few baboons within minutes of entering the park area. 200 metres later Bethan spotted elephants on our right. It was incredible standing there watching them. They were so quiet and graceful which was surprising – it was so amazing to see them in the wild.
A herd of surprisingly peaceful elephants
We continued on towards the turning for the Congo border and spotted a pair of wart hogs and large deer along the way. We spotted another herd of elephants too. They were a large family of around 20 and we watched with fascination as the head of the herd didn’t take his eyes off us. We also spotted a herd of water buffalo that clearly wanted to check us out – we didn’t hang around for long!
Deer (samller than a gazelle, we couldn’t find out its name)
We reached the junction – it was a little over 20 miles to the Congo and it made us want to go there! As we took a picture of the sign we spotted a police weighing machine with the operator asleep – this of-course was too resisting for Tim! After a quick test to see how heavy we were we made a swift retreat to the car and waved at the man as he woke up. We passed the equator again and this time would definitely be the last before the Americas so we took a quick picture before heading back to the Kingfisher Lodge for a lazy lunch.
Hanging around at the equator
As we sat and ordered drinks we looked across the valley watching storm after storm moving along each with its own rain column. Our food arrived which was delicious pepper steak and chips. A great end to a great day topped off by passing by the many tea plantations on the way.
We also headed out to a tea plantation and were very kindly given a tour of the factory. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside but it was really interesting to see how tea is produced having drank thousands of cups over the years. Our guide was a pleasant man but did have the habit of spitting when he talked and we would dread the moment when he would draw us close to be able to be heard over the noisy machines.
A useful addition…
Shaz, Hanae and Bethan about to enjoy a cuppa
We had really enjoyed our time at the school and we were leaving with more than we’d arrived with. We were looking forward to Rwanda which was next!
Thanks for reading!