Wednesday, January 23, 2013

There's a bit to be done!

Today is Wednesday, 23rd January. Students begin at the school on Monday, 4th February – thats 12 days from now. Currently we have 1 of the 4 classrooms painted, 3 with window frames in, none with doors. None of the windows have any glass in them. The verandah needs the floor cemented, as do the 4 sets of steps from verandah to playground. The water tank is in, but we don't as yet have the 100 m of pipe to take the water to the toilets. On the subject of the toilets, the toilet block roof was started today, and the plumber will come on Friday or Saturday to fit the pans. The kitchen got its ring beam today, and needs 3 more courses of bricks and then a roof. The grounds have been cleared by a grader, but need a big cleanup to remove bricks and building rubble, as well as some landscaping and some playground equipment – netball and soccer goals and a swing and merry-go-round.
On the staff front, we have 2 teachers and a bursar, and are waiting on a possible third teacher to confirm whether or not he will take the position – sorting it out with his wife and getting some advice from the pastor. If he declines the offer, we have another person in mind who we will offer it to – she just doesn't have quite as much experience as our first choice.
On the kids front, we have a little over 30 registered at the moment, and are hopeful of a few more before we get underway.
Our other need is not one we can do anything about. Umeme, the power company, dug a hole for the required pole on Saturday, 12th, came and put the pole in yesterday, but we are still waiting for the all important wires. Then the office can really become one, not dependent on charging computers back at the house using the inverter running on solar power. And I can plug the fridge in to keep a few cold things.
Sometime after that I would like to get our solar hot water unit setup and running, although I do really enjoy the cooling effect of the cold shower after a big days work.
Anne is doing an awesome job of juggling head Teacher duties - meeting prospective parents, working with the teachers and bursar, as well as painting window frames, sorting myriad stuff to prepare for students, and still preparing delicious meals for us. I'm running between being painter, purchaser and courier for all required building materials, and as of today the roofing contractor.
Lots of fun. Hope we get through it all.

Days are moving on quickly

Each day moves us one day closer to the opening of the school. We are both working hard, Ron much more on the practical side and me with teachers and admin. Of course they do overlap. Unfortunately due to the need for about half our workers to go to another place to build some of a school we are not sure whether it will all be ready for starting day. A bit frustrating but just means we will have to put in more effort and trust God even more.
There have been very significant changes in the buildings and in the grounds this week. The new kitchen is taking shape as I write with the ring beam being set up today. The septic tank is now covered, we are very thankful to our workers who were prepared to do overtime to get it done. About half the toilets have been plastered on the inside, the trench has been dug from the tank to the toilets.
Impressive machinery and at our school
A big excavator, unlike anything you normally see here in Uganda was in the area and we were able to get him to level a lot of the block. We had had some boys remove tree stumps and so we are now ready to get the 'compound' organised for the sports field, netball court and playground area.
So, what has not been done yet. One classroom still needs the window frames, all classrooms need the doors and hence the finishing off around the doors. The whole building needs glass in the windows. The tables and chairs need to be stained, though the person we bought them from is meant to do this. Three classrooms need painting. The stairs and verandah need finishing off. The rest of the kitchen needs to be completed and the toilets need to be plumbed, finish plastering the toilet walls and of course the roof that Ron is building.
At work on changing the compound

It would be great to also have external painting done but I don't think that is likely. Also, there will be more guttering that will be put on as well in the near future. For our house we are still needing a bit more work in order to have hot water and there is finishing off painting that also needs to be done. Nothing too urgent as we have adjusted back to cold showers. What we would really like to happen soon is the electricity. We have an inverter and solar power which we make good use of, it can charge phones, computers, have the printer work, run the TV. One of the big problems is not having any power in the offices, so if the battery isn't any good on the laptop, like mine, work has to be done in the house. In the house there are only two sets of power points, in great places for the times when the electricity goes out and to regularly use but not convenient for computer and printer. But, I am not really whinging just looking forward to using my Christmas present to make fruit smoothies, the oven, the iron and working from the office! The most frustrating part has been the process, the company wouldn't do anything until we came, then said two weeks, came ten days ago and dug the hole for the pole saying they would be back Monday or Tuesday to connect with pole, then yesterday (we must have thought the wrong week of course!) they out in the pole and may come today(?)  to connect. Anyway, it is all ready when it gets connected we hope, bit hard for the electrician to check. 
We now have over 30 enrolments for the school, two teachers who we have been working with and a bursar who is doing lots of typing and sorting when there are no visitors. We have a plan about the third teacher just waiting for a phone call today to show us the direction to go. We have not been inundated with people seeking assisted places which is good because then we can give them to the right ones of which we know many. People keep coming wanting work, yesterday it was an electrical engineer! Desperate times mean people will do anything despite their qualifications.Things are gradually being sorted for other places. It seems that due to the fantastic work of John Fooks in gaining support for them that the secondary children from House of Peace will come to Hope Community High School. We are excited by this as it will be good education for them, without the walking and then we are hoping to be able to give them some extra assistance if needed, which we think it might. We travelled up to Nakaseeta on Saturday to provide them with food and it was great to see more of the children and to have them share with us, I always feel God's presence so closely when they pray all at once for us. 
Toys can be made from anything, steel man, iron man and butterfly care of the neighbour's kids
We are doing well, quick changes of roles at times as I go from painting windows to being the headmistress! We are so thankful for our lives here though. We feel so much a part of the place despite still being very much ourselves. We have a great church that we love going to, friends all around the community and workers who we also call our friends. Let alone all the other wonderful things we enjoy, like great pineapple on a daily basis, a fun dessert out the other night, a lovely house that catches a beautiful breeze, fresh fish on a regular basis and great fruit and vegetables, some of which are gifts suddenly appearing. 
Will try to add more photos tomorrow but this gives you a bit of an idea.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

When there is no social security

Issues come, issues go and fortunately God sustains us. This week is a bit like we are back into the swing of life here and people have found us. There are so many needs amongst those we know and love as well as others who come seeking help. So many are not just after a hand out, they are prepared to work but what work. Sometimes it is like someone taps you on the shoulder and says help this one, your heart is moved and you know that this person really needs your help. Other times, it is like should we or not, how do we handle this problem.
This week we have had these sorts of situations happening daily. For example, a lady came and wanted some work. She came with three children who I would have thought were about 8,10  and 12 maximum and very thin. With some interpretation I was able to ascertain that it was two days since they had eaten. Being the astute one(?) I thought it better to give them food and then they could come back the next day to do the work, so I did that. They did return, first thing the next morning, first workers on site and were so happy to have eaten such lovely beans. They took turns to slash the grass and I found out that the children were all older and their growth presumably had been stunted by malnutrition. Their legs were so thin. They were able to get it done by lunchtime and we were happy that they could share the great food that our cook prepared for the workers, before being paid and leaving. Help given but for how long?
We are very determined that we do not want to be people that make people dependent on us or have a spirit of poverty that means that they will always be in poverty but how do you change things. Another lady came to register children and had been sent by a lady at YWAM who we trust. She has five children, her husband died when she was pregnant with the last one. She was seeking sponsored places at the school for two of the children. Thanks to the generosity of people we were able to do so and to see those children in their new uniform was fantastic!  Sorry, unfortunately in teaching the bursar to use the little camera, she managed to delete the photos of them so I will need to take others. This family survives by being fed by the lady at YWAM and the generosity of others. Tonight she came seeking help in the form of foods they had not eaten since morning and the little one year old  was crying for food, and of course had no understanding why there was none. Fortunately we have a  big bag of posho and beans for the workers and so it is eaten into when people come like this. This  lady is desperate for any work that we could give her.
The list goes on, and at times we have to say no. This is so hard. We know that technically we have  the money to give but feel that "no" is the right thing to say (notably this is never no to some posho and beans), this too leaves one thinking, questioning, was that the right decision? What are the  consequences? We try to be in the place where we can listen to the still small voice and know, we  pray that we don't make mistakes, especially where lives are at risk. It is so much easier to say no to  the can shaker raising money for a good cause outside the supermarket.
We are so thankful for people who are supporting the work here. The payment of school fees is such  a huge concern for people and to be able to give assistance is such a significant thing. Life is so  different without social security. You can want to work as much as you like but if there are no jobs  what do you do?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

So much to say

The school buildings as of 15th January
A week full of emotion, work, fun, sadness, uncertainty, travel, heat and sweat. That probably sums it up, each day is filled with trying to get things finished for the school to start, dealing with issues related to people and their problems and seeking wisdom and understanding to confront each issue with. The school buildings continue to grow and get more of a finished appearance, and  hopefully each day we are getting closer to being ready.

Had the chance to talk to a radio program producer, and presenter. I think I was meant to be impressed, pity I am not into celebrities much and definitely not of the type that I don't even know but there you go. Should have taken my photo with him to show all! He does want to be Facebook friends he said so maybe... In fact that was about advertising the school on the radio which is now happening. He actually does shows about family and relationship issues so he is not a bad person to know.

Hopebuilders team - named the "Strong Team" - at their farewell

Mark, our son, has been here and left Saturday, he was great fun to have around and we loved it. He was
Mark with us in front of the offices just before leaving
with a Hopebuilders team building at the village. Now he knows all the children and some of them by name. I think he is going to miss them and we are going to miss him. Thanks to his help Ron was ale to get spouting on part of the school roof, we plan to harvest as much rain as possible and this will be the only supply for the toilet block. Together they were also able to work with the team on getting the roof trusses made for House 8 at the village. This is always exciting as finishing houses means children can come into them,which means children are literally rescued from really bad circumstances. The reason that had been delayed and was possible was that the long awaited container was released and opened up. This also has given us a classroom full of chairs from Romsey
Primary School, thanks so much Jo. They will be the chairs for one classroom, planning this week to get chair bags made for all the classes!

The container at last - being moved into position
We have moved into one office and will be moving into the rest of the offices early this week, with glass going into the windows probably this week too. Two classrooms are nearly finished with windows and furniture and blackboard. We need to be able to take pictures in order to get the school registered. Electricity should come early this week with the hole for the post being dug yesterday and promises of them being back Monday or Tuesday. Then just connecting to the box will be needed. The toilet block is ready to be roofed and the kitchen foundation has been dug, presumably it will be laid Monday. There has been some work done removing some stumps too so that means that the grounds are beginning to take shape, a little
Florence in her new office
more work needed but it shouldn't be too hard. It is very hot but also very wet here so that makes growing quick and easy.

Each day has seen many people come to the school. Unfortunately most have been looking for employment but we are confident that soon enrolments will take off. It is just a matter of the right people getting to know about it and if we start with a few that won't be a problem. At this stage we can say we will start with at least 30 I think.
Toilet block with fancy airholes - roof coming soon
The school uniform is looking great with badges now attached, I will have pictures for the next blogpost. Unfortunately the jumpers and socks will be a Few weeks more before they are ready. The sports tshirts have printing on the back and front and look great too. Amazing how easy some things are to get done.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Schools coming along and the odd thing or two

Teacher Moses
This week has seen a lot of progress with the school. The classrooms are nearly ready for classes with two of them having the floors finished off. Beautiful smooth concrete floors. The offices have been painted today and so we will move desks in tomorrow morning for the registration of students. The toilet block is moving well with the ring beam nearly ready and more done on the septic tank. Windows and doors are in the offices and glass will go in this week. Lots of work. It is great to see the building going up. The builders are truly proud of their work and the school that is being built. They are also able to have employment that is paid. This is so significant. As we use local people to do local work we are making a difference in the lives not only of the children for the school but in thrives of many in the community. If only we could employ more!

On the front verandah speaking to job applicant, Florence in background

On the student and teacher side it has been an interesting week. We have had the two teachers in who we had already agreed upon. They are both young, enthusiastic and lovely people. We are hoping that they will prove to be great teachers for the school. This week has seen a bit of training for them with time spent talking about the philosophy of the school in depth,doing teaching exercises, talking about different methodologies and generally getting the team to be a team. The two teachers are Moses and Aidha as shown here. The new bursar is Florence who you will have seen on the blog if you have been following but can be seen in the background of one of the pictures. She is lovely and professional in her approach and we hope will be a real asset.

Teacher Aidha
At the moment we are still praying for the right third teacher, so please join with us in this. It seems important to have an experienced teacher who is confident and will exude this for parents and others to see.

We were not inundated with enrolments which might see a disappointment since we had a registration date but we are not feeling that way. Instead, we are confident that this week will see many new enrolments and are not concerned in this front. It is God's school and He will fill it appropriately. Interest has already come from further afield than we had expected with a couple of ladies definitely looking at enrolling their children from Jinja town which is about 20 minutes away when you drive straight in a car! Hopefully we will also be able to meet much closer needs.

Lots of things fill each day and so many of them one wants to share and then because I don't write straight away time goes on and they are forgotten. It was fun to pick up receipt books, completed in a little over a day,with school logo etc and numbered,costing the grand sum of $2 a book of 100! Anyone need anything done for me to bring back? It would of course be supporting local people! The uniforms are looking good, though the badge for them has not been done yet, I did not get on to it as soon as I might have unfortunately but Monday they will be ready. Again, amazing to see a screen print done so quickly.

First enrolment in sports uniform
Then, of course there are the things of life here in Uganda. Sometimes I think about it and many times I simply cannot think too much about the realities. We had this afternoon at the village a lovely little service of remembrance for Bert who died and was on Ron and Mark's first team. Thinking about the building of the village, and visiting House of Peace Nakaseeta yesterday remind you of the vulnerability of children, that without these places where would they be, or would they be? This too was brought home with a visit from a guy who though a business university graduate was helping build Suubi House while looking for work in 2011. He became a friend and was impacted significantly by us, though we are unsure why except for the grace of God. He lives and works in Kampala and came over the weekend. His mother is sick in hospital, he has not been paid for November and December though working both those months, so he came to seek assistance from people including his step sister. Unfortunately these attempts had failed and his mother is getting sicker and no further treatment happens without payment! He came so humbly to us and asked for assistance, saying he would leave his academic transcripts as security, probably the most valuable thing he has! Desperation and despair were the things that stood out, he knew we could probably help him but he didn't want to have to ask. Of course it was possible to help with a bill that was about $100. The impact on me was extreme, of course I prayed with him, knowing God can heal and believing in that for his mother. Being able to pay/loan money that would make such a difference and for him to feel so so so grateful to me,for something really in terms of his gratitude so small.

Employment is a big issue in my mind at the moment. With the school starting many are coming to seek employment, they offer to do anything, they simply want work. You want to find employment for everyone but that of course is not possible. On a bright note it is lovely to think that by having our washing done and our house cleaned we are able to pay the lady enough to pay her rent for the month! That makes a difference.

We have been really overwhelmed by the way our local friends are wanting this school to be a success. The way to advertise is to put up posters (A4 sheet stating info about the school) around. Two builders came most concerned and have taken the to put up. They are also taking application forms to people they know. One lady has spent nearly two days moving around telling people about the school and making sure they had application forms if they needed them! It is such a feeling of team, we feel indebted to them but can see how this is something that they can do as part of the process. We are so thankful, our hearts are very full. We are so blessed to be here, to be able to help, to be loved by so many and to be able to share in peoples' lives in such meaningful ways. We look forward to more of what God has for us.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Action stations

After a fantastic Christmas shared with all our immediate family, Mum and Dad and brother and sister-in-law we had Boxing Day to make sure we were ready and then off on 28th December. Our family is so precious to us and we love spending time with them all. We managed a weekend away before Christmas that was very special and a great opportunity to see the little grandchildren for extended time. We do intend feel very blessed. Leaving is difficult but knowing we are going to a place we love and where we know there is so much for us to do and be makes it easier for us.

Fortunately, airlines send out email reminders about flights because our flight was earlier than we had thought - usually we leave in the late evening but this time it was 7 pm. All worked well, with tidying up our stuff at home and still managing to have a little time to catch close friends, and families. No need to catch up with Mark, he headed off to Uganda Boxing Day due to an unexpected vacancy arising in a team. <Great opportunity for him to return as he has been before and to see what we are up to in Uganda. Another blessing as he was available to go and was ideal for what the team needed.> The trip over was uneventful, no exciting conversations, no dramas (cases came in 0.3kg under weight each!), no sickness; just lots of sleeping, watching of movies and a 2 hour delay in Dubai on the plane to make sure it worked properly - which obviously it fortunately did!

We were picked up at the airport by Richard a local driver who we can rely on and who drives really well. We were able to have dinner with the team which was lovely as see our friends at Suubi House and then share devotions with the children at the village. As usual they welcomed us warmly and it was so nice to come and have this as the first thing we did with them. Our house (on the school land) is wonderful. It is a two bedroom home with a big kitchen/dining/lounge room. It also has a little alcove for a desk just off the main room so that we can keep our papers neatly away. We already had a bed set up so it was only a matter of putting on sheets and off to sleep. We had a good night though we did wake early. Overall, the jet lag hasn’t been too dramatic and we now believe we are sleeping better than when we left home!

The whole project is progressing really well, our house was much the same as we left it which was to be expected, though there are now nice entry stairs at the front of the house. We do really love the view of Lake Victoria and appreciate the lovely breeze that blows through. The school building (housing the 4 classrooms and the offices) now has a roof, and each of the classrooms has floors. The ceilings in the offices are nearly completed. There may in the future be ceilings in the classrooms but at this point in time we will wait for more finance for that as it is not essential. The toilet block is looking very impressive at the lower end of the block of land with great facilities and apparently has been modeled on the council planned ones. I’m pleased there is a separate staff toilet, I managed to avoid going to the toilet at school when teaching here! The septic tank (not something one normally talks about) is a massive thing and very impressive. It is a huge hole that then has a brick structure build in and then it will be plastered – the plastering inside is still to go. The best part of the trip to the toilet block though is being able to look back up the site to the school building; it is a ‘good look’ as you can see from the photograph. At present metal window frames are being placed in the windows and there is a new entry door at the front of the offices.

We have had some good opportunities to join with the team which are doing a great job at the village. They are definitely a team of hard workers and full of initiative. It was fun to see the wheelbarrow that had the tyre held on with a screwdriver, some wire and a couple of other things! Mark, recognised the time saving value of using his father's ute to transport bricks (and children as a reward for their labour) up from the lower end of the village to the top. Joining with the team for devotions was lovely, the children are so talented and move so easily from one song to another, with different people leading and everyone knowing the words even the little ones most of the time.

New Year's eve was a bit of a disappointment for me, after a lovely time with the children, team and mothers at the village we came home. Neither of those were the disappointment, it was that I was so tired I couldn't keep my eyes open and headed to bed very early. I had hoped for a lovely time of talking, praying and seeing the new year in with Ron in the place that the year is all about. However, I was in the place, Ron did the praying, and I did the sleeping.

Tomorrow we will be meeting with the two new teachers for the school and so that will be exciting for us. We are also still on the look out for the right third teacher. Thursday starts the registration of pupils for the school. Well, I will close now, add some photos and be much more interesting next time!!