We are so grateful to have Marty and Don, from our church family connecting us with reliable God loving people in Uganda to help us get around. Tourism is not a major industry here, so guesthouses/hotels are few and far between, Taxis are VERY expensive, and unreliable (not to mention as Kevin notes deathtraps). Even for us, who now feel we can travel at the non-luxury level, it is a stretch. We are thankful for the alternative of a hired driver in David Muisi. David is actually the cousin of the Bishop Grivas, a faithful servant, founder of Prayer Palace, and responsible for bringing Don and Marty and eventually us, the Newmarket Yorkview family to Nakyessa. I love how God weaves us together like a giant global basket!
Driving up and back is not as bad as I recall from my last trip here in 2007. While there are still parts of the road on the 2.5hr journey that in Canada would be considered “not a proper road”, and even impassable at times, but for the most part we find it pretty good. Again, I believe our standards of “pretty good drive” has lowered substantially based on the experience of earlier journeys this year. We are still dodging trucks that could at any moment easily tip, so stacked with bananas, people, what have you, simultaneously avoiding masses of pedestrians, cyclists and swerving motorcycles and passing cows and potholes. Oh, the potholes. The type you could fill up with water, and swim in. All the while David, a very good driver by Ugandan standards, navigates and near misses at the speed of 80-100km! At one point we are forced to divert due to a washed out road section through an alternate “road”/ billy goat trail. The faces of the village people seeing vehicle pass where they are few and far between, was priceless! How the wheels stay on the car God only knows.
But what wonderful days we had visiting Nakyessa. It is the truly for me, the closest place to heaven on earth. The long 2.5+hour each way was worth every scary minute on the road! We we went 4 days to the village and school, painting and are happy to report that we had enough paint for 5 of 9 primary classrooms, of which two of these classrooms are being used as dormitories. Supplies, paint and transport of such are remarkably expensive in the this landlocked little country. We thinned the paint, and used every last drop. It was school holiday time, so only a few boarding students were at the school (but many local village kids), all of whom expressed delight in the newly painted rooms.
Kevin Preps The Class As Little Eyes Watch
I am thrilled to see the changes at the school since I left 2 years ago . Many new buildings, such as the senior lab, junior kitchen, tailoring room, the many goats, and the AMAZING primary library! Don and Marty McLaughlin have done an amazing job and coordinating the energies of all those Canadians (especially Yorkview-ites!) who have fallen in love with Nakyessa. It is beautiful to see the extended use of the “donated” tools, resources being used by students and teachers to help each other. More importantly, the gifts from afar have enabled a poor community, and brought a glimmer of hope where they believed none previously existed.
I was disappointed to hear that our visit coincided with school holidays meaning most of the children would be gone. However, I was SO thrilled to find, that amongst the tiny fraction of students there over the holiday was my very best friend of Nakyessa, …Okelo, Abraham!!!! I couldn’t believe it, …and we had a jumping up and down reunion! Okelo is 20, and the oldest boy in the school. He would say he has had the privilege of attending school for the last 7 years. He treats all the students at Nakyessa like a doting big brother, and is obviously highly regarded and really loved by them. When I found him, he was sitting outside the kitchen, where he was making pots of posho (cornstarch and water), and tiny bait fish of some type, for the borders lunch. (Anyway, it looked horrible, as does all the food I have ever seen come out of that kitchen to be honest.) The quality of cuisine however is lost on him, as he is just very happy to have the food to cook. Half in jest, I asked one of the boarders if Okelo was a good cook?, to which he replied that “he IS a good cook, but not this food. This food is just for filling,…not for good eating.”
As we peered into the classrooms we were to paint, my boy’s hearts sank. I had told them of the state of the school, but they were still feeling unprepared for what they saw. The condition of concrete floors, full of breaks and craters, make it impossible to walk or even sit in, and most of the furniture completely busted just from wear and tear, rendering it really useless. Even in the “best” classrooms, there would be only proper seating for two thirds of the students. We could only look forward to doing our small part to clean it up.
Preparation of the rooms took almost as long as the painting itself. There was much of the red dirt you find everywhere stuck to the walls, lots of rat poop, on the desk and floor, and nests of creatures ie, terrible looking stinging wasp type insects, big spiders, etc. Kevin and Aaron killed a small very poisonous Mamba snake in one classroom, and in another we had to remove a dead rat and scoop out small amounts of goat droppings before we could paint. I was especially disturbed that this was in the building that houses the boys dormitory. Apparently, they had a rat problem and had had laid out poison, so I guess this was the result. The condition of the walls, with bigger holes than could be managed by our small boxes of poly-fill, made for more paint to be required than one might expect. All in all, a couple coats of paint gave the classrooms a much needed lift, and really brightened them up. And we got a “twenty thumbs up” by our gathering audience of village kids, and a few student borders, all peering in to the classrooms.
Amongst the gathering crowd came a young man whom I met briefly in 2007, known as Robert, the “head boy” of the senior school. Robert just walked in and basically grabbed a paintbrush wanting to help, in a very meek mannered way was persistent about helping us. We graciously accepted. What a joy to be painting with someone who is literally grinning from ear to ear the entire time. I was only concerned he would get paint on what I am fairly certain were his only clothes (outside of his school uniform) and made him wrap my sarong around his clothes.
By the end of the day, Robert had shown us great care in his painting, and responsibility for the brushes, and ensuring the paint was locked up in the evening etc… and we crowned him “captain of the painting team!” At this point we knew there was enough paint to do only one of the remaining 3 classes, which we were returning to do on a following day. Feeling a bit deflated by this, we told Robert that after we leave Uganda we would still raise the funds to complete painting of the primary area in the near future, and arrange for the paint to be purchased. We told him we were confident that he, the Captain. could pull a team together of senior boys to get the job done. “Oh, Yes Mum.. Please. Can do…That would be would be wunda-fool!” he responds.
In the meantime, I asked if during the following day, he and Okelo could prep the classroom to be painted by brooming the walls, and taking down pictures, (maybe removing the rat!), etc… With the regular perma-smile, he said he would try but had a service to attend tomorrow, but really wanted to help us when we return. Knowing the Ugandans always want to please us, (saying yes to anything,) I reassure him not to worry, and that we can do it when we return in two days, and yes he could help us again.
On our following “day off” we hung around Kampala and I decided to buy some treats to take back to “our boys” back in Nakyessa. Afterall it is “holiday”, and everyone should get some kind of break. The day prior I watched the borders eat the posho (cornstarch pudding), prompting me to pick them up some food from the market. We purchased sweet potatoes, tomatoes, avocados, mangos, salt, “ground nut stew”, (basically a big bag of very mushy peanut butter) and the house favourite….green bananas. Green bananas are the staple starch of Uganda for those who can afford it. They boil them for an hour or more, and mash them up like pasty mashed potatoes and eat them with basically everything. But for the boys at the school it had been a long while since they had them. We bought an entire BRANCH of bananas (well over a hundred anyway.) We were really happy to be able to bring them up to Nakyessa.
So the next day comes, and we arrive at the school. Walking across the field to the classroom due to be painted I am looking, …walking…looking… and can see that the classroom is already painted(?). The paint fairies were here! We had suggested that if they the Sr Boys have time, they might sweep and tidy enough just to prep the room, and they had taken it upon themselves to complete the whole job! My eyes filled with tears! I was so touched, and proud of them for taking the initiative to do this. Moments later Robert came around the corner on his bike just beaming, so proud of the work he had done. Okelo was soon to follow, and was equally thrilled with the job they had done, and rightly so…it was terrific!
Proud Okelo and Robert
We then went to the dorm to carry the food over, and thanked them for the job well done. They were giddy with seeing the food and immediately started to plan their feast for the evening. They carefully packed the goods into plastic bags to hang from the ceiling of the dorm so rats couldn’t get at it (gulp!). We could see that the plastic bins which some of the boys had to keep their belongings in, is no match for the rats who have eaten the corners off . A couple of the boys had metal “toolbox” type containers that work well. Hmmm, note to self: perhaps collect toolboxes? (Ya, right after new floors and furniture? Ah, I already have drawn up designs for furniture that the Sr. Boys can build on site!!! A little furniture team!))
All in all our last and glorious day at Nakyessa! Because they had taken care of the brushes, cleaning of the buckets etc. we had nothing left to paint. So we spent the day, listening to music, praising the Lord together in song, and just playing with the kids. It was absolutely perfect, and we all were sad to see the day end, and say our “goodbye-for-now’s.
An Expanded Team Spiers!
We will all return home better people for having visited the children in Nakyessa. They have taught us so much. We hope we are blessed once again to return someday.
We wish you could see the wonderful work in this small community that God is doing, and how they make th most of all the contributions from abroad, and the merriment in the faces of the children as they react to something as small as a freshly painted classroom. Thank you those who supported this little project, for partnering and enabling the kids of Nakyessa. As promised to Okelo and Robert, I would pass on to people in Canada…. “God Bless”, and “we love you so much”
On another note, did you hear about our jiggers? Fleas that crawl into your skin and lay eggs?!….MMM nice huh. Yup we got them from painting the school in Uganda. We were getting paint on our shoes and so we decided to paint in flip flops… I totally forgot about the closed shoe rule!… So a couple days after we get to Kenya, a few of my toes are so sore and look like blisters and infected… and then I notice similar spots on the boys and sure enough, Kev. So thankfully we were at the home of the Poenaru’s (post to follow!) and could treat them properly, just soaking and disinfecting etc… We are completely healed since so no worries.