Vernon Primary School's Twin School, Nakakabala in UGANDA
Water, water everywhere and now.........
…..........Geminy Maw brings water to St James!
You may remember at the end of last year when Geminy Maw contacted me. Geminy is the granddaughter of the late Maria Maw MBE who was and still is my inspiration for everything I do in Uganda. Gem is an amazing young woman, a bit like her grandmother, and while she was spending time in Queenstown, New Zealand she offered to raise funds for St James and in particular she desperately wanted to provide a bore hole as she knew the children had to walk a long way for safe drinking water. Geminy held lots of events in Queensland and I supported her by doing a sponsored 5K swim here and many of you sponsored me, so thank you!
Unfortunately at the time, we didn't raise enough money for the borehole, but to improve the situation at St James we invested the funds in a big rainwater harvester which would give some relief. It was erected beside the Hambridge Hall, the classroom block with its big metal roof, ideal for collecting rainwater. We had the harvester up and running in time for the following rainy season and it has been a great help, but only when it rains!
Geminy carried on her hard work to raise funds for the borehole and then in June I received this Face Book message from her:'i have the most AMAZING news ever, i have managed to get my big, big boss to donate all the rest of the money we need for the borehole!!!!! at the moment i have $1,860 in the bank from my fund raising in the north island, i also have a collection pot at home so i will count that out then add onto the total but it should take us to over $1,900.....................cant wait to hear back from u, sooooooooooooooo excited!!!!!!!!! :)
Gems spirit and dedication was noticed by Lindsey, her boss in New Zealand. He emailed me with the following 'The work you are doing is quite inspirational Gerry, I just want to let you know what a great advocate you have in Gem, her passion and enthusiasm is just over flowing and quite contagious I must say!' He goes on to ask for details about St James and about installing a borehole and then adds 'We would like to help here and the bore seems to be quite high up on the list of things that would be of benefit and indeed a goal of Gems. I have committed to Gem that we will fund the well but I would also be willing to spend some time on assisting in the process if needed as the outcome we want to help with here and I am sure your goal is to provide a long term water supply for the village.'
Since this amazing offer was made I have been busy over the summer inquiring into the best company to carry out the work for us. With James' help I got quotes and details from three and decided on Thaddaeus and his company Steadfast Supplies and Services Limited in Kampala, who had done a good job installing the lightening conductors into St James earlier this year. Fortunately I have an acquaintance in the business so was able to check things with him as this was unknown territory to me!
At the end of July work started with a 'Hydro-geological survey and borehole siting to determine the water table or volumes', followed by the drilling of the borehole at the end of August to a depth of 80 metres then the installing of pipes and hand pump. Fortunately the children were on holiday during the drilling process, which was good for 'Health & Safety', though of course there is really no such thing in Uganda! When the children returned on to school on Monday 8th September they were amazed to find a borehole on their school compound and even happier on Friday 12th when they had their first drink of fresh, pure, clean, safe water! There was much celebrating! The water has been tested for its quality and projected to give many years yield whatever happens to the water table. And even I can drink it!
The last comment from Thaddaeus was 'Let me once again share this great moment with you about the completion of our work of drilling and installing a borehole at St. James Nakakabala. All went well and we thank you again for giving us the opportunity to work with you and also supporting the school and children at Kamuli. We hope and pray that many people will benefit from this enormous water source and you can also use it to turn around many lives of people around there.
We have been very honored to work with a person like you and James. We had a very wonderful time with James, the children sang and danced for us, there was even time for games.... Oh!!! Our time at St. James was filled with total joy and happiness. Wishing you all the best with this borehole and please enjoy this fresh water. Have a blessed day.'
Thaddaeus was very kind and agreed to take photos of the work from start to finish and I will attach them to the following emails. He also took video which is on YouTube!
So did you enjoy this wonderful news? I still cannot quite believe it! This is what I wrote to you in my March Newsletter: 'I hope, in the not too distant future we will be able to afford to sink a borehole in the compound to serve everyone at St James plus some of the families who live nearest to the school. I cannot remember if I told you the answer the children gave James and I when we gave them the choice of completing Hambridge Hall, the block of four classrooms, or putting the money you had all helped me to raise last year towards a borehole. Well, they chose the classrooms, saying they could cope with collecting the water from the distant borehole. Shows how much they really value the education they are being offered!' Never did I ever imagine that there would be a borehole at St James six months later.
Miracles do happen!
Enjoy the photos, and the video on YouTube!
Links to you tube videos:
1. Video of borehole being drilled: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8wf6brRN1k&feature=youtu.be
2. Video of James talking about the borehole: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrmEuv0C5q0&feature=youtu.be
3. Video showing the pump and handle being fitted: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1RG_MhRxdw&feature=youtu.be
4. Video showing the borehole celebrations: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P05xHkAm494&feature=youtu.be
I have been spending time as a volunteer in Uganda since 2002, living and working first at Maria’s Care Children’s Home and school, and for the past five years I have been helping to establish a new primary school in the village of Nakakabala in Kamuli District. I have known James the Head Teacher, for many years as his daughter Moureen was one of the first teachers I worked with in Uganda and they have become great friends of mine. In 2008, James saw that the children in his village of Nakakabala were not receiving an education because the nearest government school was miles away. James decided to set up a school for them; St James Nursery/Primary School and Orphan Care, at his own home.
Over the five years since it opened the school, set up in very basic classrooms with few facilities, it has attracted a gradual flow of children to attend lessons and now has over 300 children between the ages of 4 and 14, on the register as well as thirty orphans living on the premises who would otherwise have no stable home. After a bit of persuasion from James that an education was a good idea for their children, the villagers of Nakakabala have supported the school and helped its growth in many ways, though all the families are very poor. The school is now registered with the authorities and has regular inspections.
The school is surrounded by fertile swampland that James farms with the help of the older children and which provides food crops to enable James to feed the orphans and give every child attending the school a cooked meal, possibly the only meal they get some days!
Through my personal fund-raising and support from many others including Vernon Primary School, St James has been provided with many items such as desks, books, teaching aids, footballs, latrines, beds and mosquito nets for the orphans In addition, we have one brick built ‘resource centre’ which serves as the Library, the Head Teachers Office, the Staff Room and for storage of equipment! This room is also where I sleep when I stay at St James!
Goat, pig and chicken projects have also been established so that when the animals produce young they can be sold to raise money for the school, making it more and more self-sufficient, which is our ultimate aim. Already, several offspring of the goats bought by Vernon Primary School, have been exchanged for six cows! James explained to me that owning cows is the equivalent of having money in the bank!
The cows are fattened up and in an emergency can be sold to raise money. Recently, Vernon children bought more cows to go in the 'Bank of St James!'
One of our biggest challenges was to raise enough money to install solar lighting into the school, and I was thrilled to be able to fund the installation of the solar panels in January 2011, helped by the Vernon children. The oldest children in Primary 7, aged 12 - 14 sit are now able to study after dark for their first National Examination: the Primary Leavers Certificate, taken each October. Being on the equator, the sun goes down at 7.00pm each day, so studying in the evening is usually out of the question. Now that they have lighting, the children can gain maximum benefit from their education. This facility will not only be good for the school but also enable the local people to use the buildings for community meetings.
With the wonderful support I received, I also purchased beds and mosquito nets for those orphans at St James who had none and mosquito nets for all the children who attend the school. Many of these mosquito nets were donated by the children and teachers of Vernon Primary School, who had a competition to see which class purchased the most nets!
My ambition is to eventually provide every young child and expectant mum in the area with a mosquito net as Malaria is still by far the biggest killer of these two groups in Uganda. Nakakabala is near swampland that provides an ideal breeding ground for the mosquito! Many parents in Uganda don’t name their children until they reach the age of 5 because so many of them die of Malaria! A gift of one mosquito net often protects several children, sometimes even a whole family as they share a bed or sleeping mat. The more nets the more children are saved from this terrible disease. With the help of Vernon Primary School, I purchased 300 nets and personally delivered over 100 of them during my stay in January 2011.
I am proud that my supporters and I, have provided the school with the material assistance but the success of the school mostly comes down to the dedication of James and his staff and the hard work and enthusiasm of the children who know the value of the education they are being offered at St James. They will not waste the opportunity to get good grades in the Primary Leaving Exam; coming away with the ‘P7 Slip’ is a very valued document!
Our next challenge is to provide permanent brick classrooms for the children, as the temporary ones are open to the elements! At the moment the classrooms are divided by low walls of rough wood, with open sides offering no protection from the wind, rain and massive storms they have during the rainy season. Everyone can hear and see what is going on in the other classes that must make teaching and concentration very difficult. Also none of the teaching aids we have given the school can be put up on the walls.
One way of providing both the good quality classrooms for the children and earning money for the school is to build a block of four classrooms where the central dividing wall would open up to create a large hall. The hall when complete will be registered as a National Examination Centre so that the children can sit their Primary Leaving Exams there, instead of transporting the children to one some distance away. There are currently no facilities like this in the area, so it could be hired out for weddings, council meetings etc, which would raise extra funds.
So, once again Vernon Primary School has risen to the challenge to help build the classroom block and in January last year, just before I went out for my annual visit to Uganda, all the children and some of the teachers took part in the schools 'Brick by Brick' competition. They raised over a thousand pounds, which has paid for solid foundations and the walls up to window level. Huyana Dean and her family raised a tremendous amount of money for our 'Brick by Brick' Challenge, and the children at St. James said a special 'thank you' to her when they celebrated the half-way stage of the build.
Earlier this year, they had another fund raiser to put towards the completion of the classrooms, so that the children at St James can have a safe and comfortable environment in which to learn, just as the children at Vernon do. There is still a long way to go but this was a wonderful start to what will be a fantastic asset to the school and community.
I am a regular visitor at Vernon Primary School and when the children see me they greet me with 'Jambo Mrs Hambridge' and many stop to ask me questions about Uganda. Even at such a young age, it never ceases to amaze me how much they care about their school friends at St James. They know how lucky they are to have such a beautiful school like Vernon and really want to improve the learning environment of the children I work with in Uganda.
When you are in school try to find time to go along to the staffroom corridor to look at the large display about St James and the many ways Vernon has contributed to its development.
I hope you have enjoyed learning about St James and that you will support one or more of the many challenges that lie ahead to create a good, caring and academically successful school. Their needs are many but I am sure that over the next few years we can help to improve their lives even more. Together with the hard work of James, his staff and the local people, I know we will make a big difference.
Please note that I am not a charity but just an individual working to make the lives of some children in Uganda a little better. I would be going out to Uganda to work at St James even if I did not have donations for the school but any money I do raise, and I have been very lucky with the support I am receiving, I take out to Uganda personally, decide along with James and his staff what is needed and then make sure it goes to where it is supposed to go! There is no ‘middle man’ and I do not deduct anything for my expenses. It is my holiday each year!
Thank you for reading this, and in anticipation of your support while your children are at Vernon Primary School. I'm sure your children will enjoy learning about their new friends, sharing and communicating with them through letters, songs and video footage.
If you wish to ask me any questions or receive the regular email newsletters and photos about St James when I am in Uganda, giving you and your children a real insight into life at St James, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org