A sense of real excitement and anticipation gripped us as we left the UK. We were greeted at Entebbe by the warming smiles of Aidah and Dan (from the Kanyike Project) They helped us load our luggage on to the top of their van in the Ugandan heat.
When we arrived, you could see the excitement on the children’s faces as they all chased the vehicles down the dirt tracks. We found this very surreal and got a glimpse of what it must feel to be a celebrity.
Our rooms were simple with just two beds; but at least proper beds with mattresses. The food was plain but delicious: a lot of rice, fresh fruit and vegetables including pineapple, pawpaw, watermelon, green beans and sweet potatoes. I don’t think I have ever eaten so much rice and beans in my life.
The enormous size of the Project surprised us. The van drove for miles through the eight villages of the Kanyike Project. The villages work together to improve the communities’ quality of life and maintain the on-going developments. They use the money that we raise in order to make this happen and during our time there we were able to see the various schemes that have benefitted.
The school was one of our first things we saw. Set up in 1987 with a single teacher and only a handful of children, now, they have eight members of staff, over 300 pupils and a recently repaired roof. During our time at the school, we taught classes of various age groups subjects such as maths, English, science and music. Despite being A-L students, we struggled to understand exam questions set for 13 year-olds. Seeing the lack of resources in the classrooms - seven children sharing one textbook - made us realise how important our fundraising is. The moment we gave them the stationery and gifts that we collected was unforgettable.
An afternoon of singing and dancing enabled us to embrace Ugandan culture as well as share ours with the pupils. We were so impressed with their talent an well as the enthusiasm and dedication of the teachers, who spend countless hours teaching them various instruments and dances.
At the nursery, we played with children and tried to translate ‘Duck Duck Goose’ into words that they understand. We ended up with ‘Cat Cat Dog’ which quickly became a favourite. It was magical to see how the children were always smiling and happy, even though they have such basic facilities for living and learning.
To visit a HIV outreach clinic was a heart-breaking experience at times; but the staff were thoroughly professional and the clients were resilient. Our teachers, Vicki and Pam, nearly fainted at the sight of a tooth being pulled out with basic equipment and the rest of us were too horrified to even take a peek. So we were assigned to various tasks including handing out and recording medicines given to clients, filling out health forms and watching people being tested for HIV and malaria. We learnt that 50% of the population were under 18. However, life expectancy is slowly increasing so people are benefitting from increased medical support.
We also saw the great progress that has been made with the water and agricultural projects; but we were horrified that the children now have to walk a mile up a steep hill to get water because their school bore hole wasn't working. It made us realise how lucky we are to have clean accessible water and we swore never to complain again about having to walk across school to the dining room.
We frequently experienced the sense of community among the villagers. St. Hilda’s Women’s Club highlighted this spirit particularly. The women meet every fortnight and learn a range of craft skills.. We were happy to buy some of the their products that they made, to show our support for the group and enable them to expand.
Our trip to the Kanyike Project was definitely made memorable by the warmth and hospitality of everyone in the villages and particularly the project staff. The children on site provided us with entertainment in our spare time, and were even kind enough to give us new nicknames. Everything that we saw during our trip made us realise how important it is to keep supporting the project. Seeing the children without shoes and only one change of clothes was just one of the many things which opened our eyes to how different our lifestyles are. We are so grateful to the Kanyike project and everyone involved for giving us this experience and we recommend that anyone who has the chance to go seizes the opportunity.