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“To find out that she’s struggling through her schooling and it’s difficult for her to pay for her education which is £45 per term, and all of us sitting there knowing that we’ve got more in our pocket money for this trip, really really hit home.”

That statement, from one of the 22 Year 11 and 12 pupils who went to Uganda this summer, was typical.  It sums up the impact that the two weeks we spend there will have on all of us.  Seeing first hand our sister school, Great Lakes, meeting some of its students and spending most of a day at their homes are not things that will easily be forgotten.

It’s a long old journey to Kanungu, a province right in the south west corner of Uganda.  It took two long flights, one overnight stop and several hours on bumpy roads (which, allied to rudimentary suspension, give what is known as “the African massage”) to get there.  But it’s certainly worth the trip.

We spent several days at Great Lakes.  We taught lessons ranging from Mandarin to PE via origami and ancient history.  We were sung to and danced for, and did our best to respond in kind – “Lord of the Dance” has never sounded so, well, unlike Lord of the Dance.  We went to church and lost at football, and if I’m honest our win at netball did seem to be based largely on our hosts’ politeness.  We also visited two local primary schools, part of the same educational family as Great Lakes, where our donations of items of old school uniform were accepted with an alacrity and gratitude that was at once remarkable and humbling.  We also discovered there that stickers are to Ugandan children what Chinese wage packets are to past-it footballers. 

Best of all we visited the homes of some of the students.  I don’t imagine many readers have helped collect, peel, mash, kill and eventually cook their lunch in a Ugandan mud hut but it is a truly extraordinary experience.  To be fed a family’s finest food, when there are nine of you and as many as them, and when you know they can’t even afford the five pounds it costs to buy a school t-shirt is the sort of thing that leaves a huge impact.

Towards the end of our fantastic trip we just fitted in a pretty decent safari, including lunch in a very posh restaurant overlooking a lake at which a herd of elephants was drinking.  Can’t be bad.  But it’s really not that which will linger in the memory.  SP


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