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SUNDAY 3 MARCH 2019 Elspeth's Blog From Kumi

Here we go again! My cases are almost packed with 80 kg of luggage and tomorrow I take the early flight to Entebbe for a month’s visit to Kumi Hospital.

Lots has happened since I returned in November and there will be plenty going on in the coming weeks. Interplast UK returned from their mission a couple of days before Christmas having operated on 45 children in need of plastic surgery. Now we must start again to identify more children as the team hopes to return in October this year.

The Dutch Orthopaedic surgeons have also held a camp where they operated on many of our children who live in extreme poverty. The Kumi Community Fund has managed to fund their hospital fees and expenses.

The school results were announced last month and our children have done well in their Primary 7 leaving exams. Harriet has arranged for them to be admitted to secondary schools and she and Ruth have taken them to their new schools with all their needs such as a mattress, a jerry can and plastic bowl as well as their stationery, shoes and uniform. The other children have moved up a class.

Sam Wauju has graduated from Kampala University and is now the sole dental officer in Kumi Hospital. He has attended a Dentaid mission in the west of Uganda where he worked with British and Ugandan dentists and no doubt received a lot of experience. He can now support his parents and family especially Rose and Mary, his two sisters with severe mental and physical disabilities. We hope Dentaid will visit Kumi later this year.

Fund raising keeps me busy at home and I have given talks to WI and Rotary clubs as well as other organisations to boost the coffers. The next big event is our Open Day on 1 June when we open our garden to all.

Time for me to complete my packing, lock the cases and sit back perhaps with my last glass of wine for a while. (instead I’ll be taking my nightly bottle of Bell’s beer for dehydration purposes!) ( Not sure if I mentioned that, when I started the packing process a few weeks back, I opened my case and a cockroach scuttled over the duvet cover.) An early night is needed so that I wake up at 3.30 am hoping the plane will not be delayed as Storm Freya is on its way). I hope to keep my daily diary during my stay and, as I am going alone this time, I should have the opportunity to do so.

Days 1 and 2

Monday 4 March/Tuesday 5 March 2019

At 3.15 am, my alarm told me it was time to get up and prepare for my departure for Teesside Airport. Storm Freya seemed to have bypassed us which was a relief. Chris and I set off in the dark with my 80 kg of luggage stored overnight in the boot of the car. All went smoothly until the time for boarding came and went and we were told that the storm had reached Schipol Airport and the plane would be 1½ hours late in setting off. This meant I would miss my connection but then the pilot told us that some planes were being late in setting off also so I took the risk. No doubt my luggage would not come with me yet again. In Schipol at last, I raced from Gate to Gate and managed to be amongst the last few still queueing for boarding. Great! However, when strapped in my seat, it was announced that there was computer failure for the right engine. Engineers had to be called and about two hours later…, yes, we took off. The pilot told us about the Dutch footballer who had a saying that every disadvantage had an advantage and, sure enough, when I heard the clunk click of the baggage hold down below, I knew there had been time for my baggage to be loaded. The flight was good, the food tasty, the coffee strong and an empty seat beside me. Arrival in Entebbe was late but somehow I chose the best queue for the immigration desk and found myself in the front and, better still, having checked the poster for non-arrival of luggage and not seeing Robinson in big capitals, my cases came along the carousel first so all’s well that ends well but it was nineteen hours since I left home and I still had a car journey ahead. Hellen and her son, Marcos, met me and I stayed the night in her Guest House in Kajjansi. My driver from UDS and Rita who I had never met came at 7.30 am and Charlie and I drove for eight hours straight to Kumi. As we went further north, we passed parched grass, cows with their prominent ribs feeding on next to nothing and failing crops and, then as we drove up the hospital drive, the heavens opened and the lightening lit up the sky and it was a joy to see the water cascading noisily down the roof. The smell of the damp earth and the sudden decrease in temperature helps the soul! The Guest House was welcoming, Sitting in the porch, I enjoyed my first beer since my last visit and caught up with Hanneke’s and Ouke’s news of the bakery and the new theatre. But bed was calling and I lay down unwashed but well fed on beans and rice. Sleep evaded me and my early night turned into one with no sleep till well after midnight.

Tomorrow is another day!

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Clock it up for Kumi update.

Our first week has resulted in over 400 miles walked which takes us to Paris. We had hoped to reach the south coast so we are well ahead of schedule. Donations to date have paid for five surgeries