On the 8th July 2018, eight girls and two members of staff from St. Francis’ College travelled to Kanyike for the experience of a lifetime. Upon arrival, we were struck by the green beauty of the country and the friendly, welcoming nature of the people. It still amazes me that these people with so little to their name could be so hospitable and give us so much.
Although our accommodation was different to what we were used to - ten mattresses and mosquito nets in one large hall - it was comfortable and cosy all the same.
Throughout our time there, we were able to see an array of places in the community, such as the generator that allowed water to flow from a tap by the health centre, and the wards and lab that were incredibly clean and well-equipped given the circumstances.
We saw how people built their own houses by cutting bricks out of clay and allowing them to dry in the sun, and how people grew and cooked their own food, such as plantain.
We were also lucky enough to meet St. Hilda’s women’s’ group, village elders who oversaw the running of the community and encouraged the progress of women in their society. We were also welcomed into the Church, where we were serenaded by a beautiful choir and listened to a sermon by Father Kakuba. I personally found their faith inspiring.
Travelling with the incredible staff from the project, we were able to leave and set up outreach clinics for people who cannot afford healthcare. People came from all over to receive the vital treatments they administer. We were very hands on; they allowed us to vaccinate babies, hand out medicine to children and test adults for diseases such as malaria and HIV. We also met families within the village who were affected by HIV and extreme poverty, and donated clothes and food to them.
One of the highlights of the trip for us was visiting the school and meeting all the children. They place great focus on education and many of the village children attend. Although the classrooms appear quite basic, the academic material is very advanced - even we had trouble with some of the questions! We were treated to a performance from the children which included singing and dancing, and we attempted to match their talent in return, but couldn’t quite. We played them at netball, and despite losing rather badly, it was an enjoyable game.
Despite some people having misconceptions about Uganda, we saw that they are placing great focus on empowering women and educating them, and also educating children about sexual health and how to prevent HIV and AIDS. This included a seven-hour long quiz between local schools which was certainly unforgettable. We also attended a bank meeting in the village, which showed cased their new borrowing and lending scheme, and how they take it seriously and plan financially for the future.
Some of the best memories during the trip, however, came from the last night in the community, as they threw us a huge party under the stars and planets - a breath-taking backdrop. There was plenty of food, music and cake, and we danced long after dark with all of our new friends, adults and children alike. It ended rather abruptly as the generator cut out, but it was an evening that will stay with us forever. Likewise, as the World Cup was on, we went to one of the houses, fifteen of us all crowded around one TV, and watched the first hour of the England-Croatia game. Then the generator cut out after an hour. We later learned that was the best time to stop watching though, so we got lucky!
All of these moments combined made this an incredible trip, and made us realise the importance of the lifesaving work they do out here, work that they can only keep doing with our support. I think we’d all agree we’d love to go again, and will keep the Kanyike Project in our hearts forever.