On 29th June 2017, the Ormeau Churches Together team of 24 members (15 from Newtownbreda Presbyterian Church and 9 from Good Shepherd) travelled to Uganda to work in Bethel Christian Primary School, Mbarara for 2 weeks. Anne Tolland the team leader reports:
“We worked in Bethel Christian Primary, offering various programmes in sport, music, health and hygiene, holiday Bible club, I AM GIRL, sewing with the older girls and local women and we supported the practical out-workings of painting the school buildings.
Before the trip we did a lot of fundraising which all went towards providing staff accommodation for the teachers, painting the school buildings, drilling a well, supplying two rainwater harvesting tanks and water barrels and purchasing 10 sewing machines, hygiene items, sports equipment, musical instruments as well as numerous craft and colouring materials.
The sport was led by PE Teacher, Raymond, and the children engaged in parachute games, relay races, volley ball, netball, football, rounders, cricket and badminton.
Ruth, a trained music therapist, lead the music sessions and taught each class a different song which they then performed at the celebration day. A keyboard had been donated to the team which we left and the older children were also taught to play the tin whistle. A CD player with rechargeable batteries was also given to ensure that the songs learned would be continued after we left.
The health and hygiene programme concentrated on handwashing and toothbrushing. Hilary, a dentist on our team, led the toothbrushing classes with oversized toothbrush and teeth models which the children loved. Barbara, a physiotherapist, led the handwashing. Both used simple songs the children then sang to their parents at the celebration day.
Our Holiday Bible Club focused on Noah’s Ark and Jonah with lots of crafts, songs, coloring in and photos. At the end of the week we decorated the classrooms with all the worksheets and communal banners the children had painted. Paper doves fluttered from the windows and rainbows adorned the blackboards. The parents were invited to view all the children’s work and the pupils took great delight in pointing out their own.
All of the female members of the team spent time with the older girls and teaching I AM GIRL workshops that involved talking through puberty and encouraging good hygiene during periods. They learned to sew by hand the sanitary pads and the women in the village had learned to sew them on the machines and have promised to pass this skill on to the girls. Marj brought lots of sewing kits for all of the girls who made needle cases and taught the women in the community to use the new machines. She showed simple patterns, brought embroidered cards for the ladies to see what they could accomplish and worked tirelessly with them each day.
The practical work was undertaken by most of the men on the team, although some of the women helped one day. Working with the locals gave a real sense of fellowship and working as a team.
Bruce, Michael and Des met with the pastor, headmaster, church management team and Parent Teachers Association members to talk about finances and ways forward. Des was keen to talk about possible agricultural support for the community and the school. Denis was also involved in looking through the financial reports from the school.
A celebration day allowed the children and staff to show all that the children had done with simple PE displays by each class, songs from hygiene classes and Holiday Bible Club, visiting the decorated classrooms and a mini concert given by the children for their parents – finishing with the whole school singing Kum ba Yah.
We were exceptionally well looked after by Alex, our driver, and Keith, our link worker. Words cannot express how much these two men contributed to the success and enjoyment of the team’s trip. Accommodation was way above anything we had expected – clean, safe, good food and wonderful atmosphere.
All in all an absolutely wonderful experience and one that will take a while to process. Thank you to all at Fields of Life who co-ordinated and made it possible, for the endless questions answered with patience and grace and for the encouragement and support as we prepared to go to Uganda. It has all been worth it.