It seems that the link I gave last time to take you to my account of the Graduation Day at Nyero Alternative Technology Training Centre last week didn’t work, so try clicking on or copying this into your browser: https://nyerovocationalschool.wordpress.com/updates/.
I’m not sure how far I will get with this before being without internet access and power to charge my little laptop which is so old that the battery only holds its charge for about 20 minutes! It doesn’t help that it is so slow that it takes so long to catch up when I type or respond when I move the cursor etc! I am also frustrated because my camera is no longer working properly, so the quality of photos is now very poor.
The last few days have been overshadowed by the tragic death of one of my friends, retired Archdeacon Yolam Nyangatum, in a road accident. Sadly, he wasn’t wearing a helmet and died on the spot when he collided with another motorcycle on Friday. John Omagor got the news half an hour after his death and soon after we arrived at my Teso home in Kobwin last Friday afternoon (9th Nov). Wherever we have been, everyone has been talking about it and in shock. Thousands attended the burial at his home in Mukongoro on Monday, as well as thousands more who attended services as his body was moved on Sunday from the mortuary in Mbale, first to St Stephen’s church in Kumi and then to Ngora Cathedral before being taken to his home. Yolam was much loved throughout Teso. He was a gentle, humble man of integrity with a great sense of fun and a gifted story-teller and preacher. Kokas Osekeny reminded me of a trip eight of us had made to Sipi Falls (in the foothills of Mt Elgon) many years ago after running a difficult conference in Ngora with Russ Parker. Yolam was the ring leader of the three “naughty boys” (including Abraham Eruku and John Omagor) who sat on the back row of the minibus – as naughty boys always do, recounting many stories with much loud laughter and noise! So few people wear helmets in Uganda. Yesterday, as we drove a long distance, including all around Soroti where there are hundreds of “boda-boda” motorcycle ‘taxis’, we counted 5 helmets – none of the passengers ever has a helmet to wear. Robert often travels back to his village as a passenger on a “boda-boda”, so I have said I will buy him a helmet to use every time…….
……… As I suspected, I didn’t get very far with writing this. It is now Friday (16th), so there’s even more to catch up on now!
Back to last Friday, the 9th. Thank you to everyone who sent me birthday wishes! We returned to Nyero Training Centre where we also met one of my oldest Teso friends, Kokas Osekeny (retired Archdeacon of Kanyum). We discussed Kokas and Margaret making fresh juices in Nyero Trading Centre, together with James’ Catering students, using the blender and citrus juicer I brought for them.
James had set up the gravity light I had given him the previous day. He had already worked out the mechanism with a view to making some himself.
He also demonstrated his simple but very effective gadget made from scrap metal for stripping dried maize off the cob and an egg incubator for hatching chicks.
I showed the tailoring students how to make a rag rug (or cushion) using the peg loom Roger had made for me and strips of scrap material that Margaret Bates and her quilting friends in Loughborough had given me. The carpentry students will make more peg looms.
When we returned three days later, they had made three small rag ‘rugs’. Robert is now using one of them as a cushion for his driving seat instead of sitting on his fleece coat! Amongst the scraps I’d been given, I found two patchwork samples which they were very impressed with – we found them making some on Monday. They are now saving all their scraps of material!
On our way ‘home’, we visited Dr Amos Odit, a Paediatrician who is the new Medical Superintendent at Ngora Hospital. He took us around the wards and the maternity unit. After yet another troubled period, he is trying to turn the hospital around. We were disturbed to see a six year old girl, Gloria, distressed and in pain with multiple superficial injuries after being knocked down by a vehicle speeding to take PLE exam papers. There was a mother with a two year old who had come in at the point of death suffering from kwashiorkor (severe malnutrition). The toddler was so small but was now able to lift her head and watch us, but with a blank expression. The mother was very glamorous and articulate. She had left the baby with her mother whilst she had gone to Nairobi to find ‘work’ – we suspect prostitution. She was convinced the child was now recovered and didn’t listen to Dr Odit or myself trying to tell her there was still a very long way to go. Other babies and small children were on IV treatment for malaria.
We reached John and Harriet Omagor’s home in Kobwin soon after 5.00pm. We had to take a longer route because the usual murram road was too bad. Roz and I stayed in my grass-thatched hut, and were joined by a friend on Saturday night whom Robert collected from Soroti. It rained and was so much cooler than sleeping in a brick and iron-roofed building.
Unfortunately, we saw very little of John all weekend as he was caught up in making and participating in all the complex arrangements for Yolam’s funeral and burial. Harriet is at last taking more rest as their twins, who have two toddlers each, are running the home. We couldn’t keep track of all the little grandchildren living there, but learnt that they now have 47 – plus 3 great grandchildren! I thought we were doing well with eight – plus two foster grandchildren!
Roz and I scrambled up the rocky hill behind their home and spent the morning sitting in the shade of one of the huge boulders, looking out over Teso to Lake Kyoga and watching birds, lizards, dragonflies and butterflies. There were some young boys at the top washing their clothes in a pool of water.
We enjoyed sitting with the family and playing with the grandchildren at the back of the house, where they cook, as it rapidly became dark after sunset, although we soon smelt of smoke!
Robert dropped us at Sam and Olivia Ediau’s home on Sunday afternoon to stay the night. Olivia had invited us to celebrate Faith’s birthday as I had ‘delivered’ her – but she had got the date wrong! Sam was at some function late in the evening seven years ago and phoned me to say Olivia was in labour, so I had taken her to Soroti Hospital and stayed with her. The care, as usual, was seriously lacking and she wasn’t checked regularly, but was told to walk around, in the dark, outside in the filthy, dusty compound right by the main road. She suddenly said she needed to push, so we helped her inside into the delivery room where she was told to get up on the bed. “I can’t get up, it’s coming. Put a mat under me.” “Get up on the bed”, the nurses repeated while they were fiddling around and putting gloves on. “I can’t, it’s coming.” So I lifted Olivia’s dress – and saw the baby’s head had already come out. I put out my hands just in time to catch Faith as she dropped out. A few months earlier, a baby had died in the same circumstances because it had dropped head first onto the concrete floor.
We spent a lovely afternoon and evening with their five children, aged between 4 and 12, little Samuel being the only boy. Margaret Grace (the second) is my God-daughter and Favour (the third, who is the spitting image of Sam) is Roz’s God-daughter. They spent an hour or more doing meticulous drawings for us – Margaret (11) drew a recognisable portrait of me. They also learnt how to use my binoculars and camera which they were thrilled with and spent a long time going through my bird book. I wasn’t able to identify some small birds (flycatchers or warblers), but had stunning views of Abyssinian Rollers. We joined in their family prayers and the younger two went to bed. Sam (who is now the Diocesan Secretary) didn’t get home until about 10.00pm. We slept in the same room as our two God-daughters who crept out of the room at 5.30am to get to school by 6.00am. Classes finish at 6.00pm! They showed us their exercise books which were impressive – but at what cost?
We went to Nyero again on Monday morning, where we found students busy on the verandah sanding tables they had made, making clothes and patchwork while the mechanics students were dismantling and reassembling an old motorcycle under a mango tree.
While I helped some of the staff setting up spreadsheets for their accounts, Robert and Roz explored the ancient rock paintings opposite. Not even Robert had known that one of the motifs is on the 20,000 UGX note! After lunch, we were treated to more drama and music by the students which was, again, very good.
We were up very early on Tuesday morning as we had been asked by Dr Odit to go to the Hospital morning prayers from 7.00-8.00am – and I was asked to preach. We then went round the maternity and paediatric wards with Dr Odit and a younger doctor and were able to give out some of the baby clothes and blankets Roz and I had both been given. We arrived just as a baby had ‘landed’ – the 11th child born to an ‘old’ mother. Neither Roz nor Robert had seen a baby only minutes after birth. We were all disturbed to learn that 6 year old Gloria (the RTA victim) was deteriorating with a fever of 40.5C, rapid laboured breathing, high heart rate and unable to keep fluids down. The doctors were very worried and changed her to a combination of three antibiotics IV. I was upset by how little care the nurse took when treating her and putting two suppositories in – she was in pain and so weak and frightened. I held her hand and tried to comfort her, along with her grandmother. I was thinking about her and praying for her all day.
We went back to Nyero where we finished off helping with various things. We were asked to join them for prayers, which included singing and dancing and a sermon from one of the students before we were given lunch – even though we were due for lunch with Kokas and Margaret! I was given a chicken by Julius, the carpentry teacher and book-keeper.
We talked under a huge mango tree in Kokas’s compound. He has developed his home a lot since I first stayed there in 1999 and drew a picture of it which is on my ABOUT page. Joseph, one of his sons, had come home to see me. He had invited me to come to the baptism of his baby in Mbale on Sunday, which isn’t possible, but we will visit him on our way when we leave Teso next week. They took us round their garden where Kokas is growing passion fruit, oranges and an extensive plot of a variety of water melons. He also has many turkeys and chickens. I was fascinated watching a dragonfly eating a large insect.
We visited Charles Ekadit, the Headmaster of Ngora Deaf School and just sat an chatted on the verandah while children wandered around silently, but communicating with Uganda Sign Language, which is based on BSL. The frangipani trees gave out such a strong sweet smell. It is such a happy, peaceful environment. TWAM (Tools With a Mission) have promised a donation of sewing machines and carpentry equipment, but Charles has to find the cost of shipping them out in the container due to be sent early next year. Would anyone be willing to contribute? He had hoped to raise the money by selling a lorry-full of oranges, but there is no market for oranges at the moment as the Government has still not opened the Juice Factory they promised Teso many years ago, encouraging everyone to plant oranges. I met Marvin, the son of one of the teachers who befriended Becky 7 years ago and used to take her up the rocks to watch the sun set. I gave him a copy of the Homestead Tours leaflet which has Becky’s stunning photo of Marvin jumping over the rocks. He is now at the end of taking his ‘O’ level exams.
We popped into the hospital to see how Gloria was – and were so pleased to find her sitting up and reasonably alert, with no fever. So we hope and trust she will now make a full recovery. Then back to Edith’s Home Guest House for our last night in Ngora (last Tuesday).