Uganda, with Mission Direct

Uganda, with Mission Direct, was the title of the fascinating talk given by Dr Sian Cheverton, to the Mothers’ Union, in July.

Mission Direct is a group of volunteers helping communities in need. The community itself decides what it needs, to make a difference, e.g. build a well, a new school, road repairs etc. Essentially, the outsiders do not impose ideas on the local community. Sian found Uganda to be a beautiful country. She showed illustrations of abundant crops of plantains, beans potatoes, rice, maize and sweet potatoes.

Mission Direct has a project in Rukungiri, which is accessed over extremely bumpy roads. It is a small town of folk living in shacks. There is much poverty, ignorance, dirt, and superstition. Many buildings are only half built, because no tax is payable until a building is complete. However, what is already constructed ,it; put to good use, providing office accommodation etc. Bicycles are the mode of transport, with better off people having motor bikes. This is also the taxi service.

Dr Cheverton, and her fellow volunteers stayed at a local hotel, where they soon learned that water and electricity do not always work simultaneously. Schooling is free at Kitazigurukwa school for five to eleven year olds, but children must supply their own books. However, there was no provision for disabled children, until Mission Direct built one. Dormitories were added, and a teacher’s house. Dr Cheverton’s team project was to build a second teacher’s house. Bricklaying was soon learned, and there was the added spur of the children coming out at playtime, to check on the progress.

There were seven in the medical team. A consultant from Grantham hospital is Ugandan, and he visits the Mission Direct projects regularly. Nyakibale hospital is an old mission building. There is no free treatment. People would sometimes wait until their conditions were too late to treat. The tradition is that if a patient cannot pay, he or she is required to return to the home village, count the number of animals there, and see how they could be converted into cash. The social worker oversaw this. A patient must be accompanied by a relative, if admitted to hospital, and that relative attends to all the basic nursing care. Dr Cheverton’s team did ward rounds, and also did some teaching.

Their achievements were considerable. They learned a great deal about poverty, tropical diseases, and managing, when resources were unavailable. They gave lectures, and bedside teaching. They were able to provide some equipment, e.g. a ward clock (there were no watches),ECG machines, and fluid charts.They also made pictures to decorate the children’s ward, and they knitted teddies. There was neither an intensive care unit, nor a scanner in the hospital, so little point in teaching about either of these. However, as Dr Cheverton pointed out, many people were working, and doing a good job, with such limited resources. It is important not to undermine this. Change takes a long time, and this was a short term project.

Some years ago, the Anglican Bishop’s wife set up the MU hostel for girls, in this area. Domestic violence is a big problem. Girls are housed here and taught sewing, mending, and basket making. Learning a trade can make them financially independent.

For the disablecl ,children, there is the “Chilli Project”. The so-called five fingers of the chilli project are: outreach, home visits, education, life skills clinic, and the growing of the chillies. These are easy to grow, and when the children do this, it provides extra income for their families.

Attending church was a wonderful experience for Dr Cheverton and her fellow volunteers. The collection/offering was joyful, with money, garden produce, chickens, goats and a cow, all freely given. Visitors were expected to buy the animals when they were auctioned, at the end of the service.

Mission Direct likes its volunteers to have a good time, therefore the project ended with a final outing to the Queen Elizabeth game park.

We much appreciated hearing this illustrated talk, describing such a memorable experience.

Helen Bush.