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Update from Elspeth.

Where there's a will and a technically-minded grandson, there's a way to beat the system. Very briefly, this is the best I've been able to do but no photos due to sand blocking my camera but some will arrive in time.



20 FEBRUARY 2022

After arriving two weeks ago today, it is yet again Sunday and my diary has been non-existent. My excuse is that technology has raced ahead of my skills and I have taken a huge step backwards in my ability to move forwards. Hotspots reign supreme but this does not give me the freedom I previously had. That’s not all as my camera is jammed with sand and will not return to life. I have yet to fathom out why Face Book does not work in Uganda for us. I hear the authorities have banned it due to some of its unwelcome content but some people have found a way round it which is something to do with VPN’s whatever they may be.

I have more excuses! Our days have been full from beginning to end and it is only now that I have a few moments to jot down notes before going out for lunch with the leader of the clan. We, being Sam, Ben and I, shall walk there in the mid-day sun; after all we do come in the category of “mad dogs and Englishmen”! Sam and Ben are two of my grandsons and how many other grandmothers have the opportunity to share a month of Kumi life? I am appreciating every minute and, as they are full of obvious enthusiasm, I get the impression they are more than content to have joined me. We also have Lynne W who has already joined me on four previous occasions with her daughter, Ellie, with us so we are a lively group of five.

Week one was mainly taken up with fieldwork identifying children with disabilities in their home environment where Sam and Ben experienced at first hand the difficulties of rural peasant life out in the bush. Mamma Leah’s tailoring school with 26 participants is flourishing with our two students now ready to go out into the big world and start a small business. I bought a colourful cotton dress fully lined and well made for £3.00 (plus a little more as a bonus) but then I gave it to Mrs Obwongo the following morning mainly because it was lacking a zip and would not go over my head! She is a lanky old lady who I thought would be able to slip it on over her bony skeletal body. I hear it was well received.

Mamma Leah presented us with a live chicken which we brought home in the back of the vehicle where the temperature reached dizzy heights for the gasping bird. It survived the night but then Sam garrotted it with two hefty swipes of the knife the following night before it was duly fried and heartily consumed for supper.

We were exxpecting the Wheels for the World (WFTW) team who were joining us on Saturday and so, on Friday, we prepared the distribution area for their arrival later that day. The hospital is undergoing renovation in many areas so we had been designated a derelict hall which, though not ideal, would serve its purpose. With everything just about ready for the first day to start assessments, the disabled soon started arriving on the backs of motorcycles, in lorries, whatever form of transport they could manage and they limped or were carried or crawled to be registered before being given the appropriate equipment. Their expressions changed from one of anticipation to one of joy and relief as their lives were changed and, at last, they were able to gain some dignity within their community. The need is so great and we would soon exhaust the supply of chairs during the course of the week but the unlucky ones were registered on the waiting list for the next opportunity. Those with amputations could be fitted with prostheses in Kumi Hospital Orthopaedic Workshop; some would be better suited with a wooden cerebral palsy chair or corner seat; others found they could walk with walking frames or crutches and some had deep, infected wounds which required attention from the hospital medical team. Each recipient was given a bible by the Pastor and then they could return to their homes. The trucks rolled away laden with the lame and with their wheelchairs strapped to the outside of the bars which, in normal circumstances, are to keep the cattle contained.

Day Two arrived and, being Sunday, we attended St Martin’s Hospital Anglican Church for the service and then gathered together at the hospital Guest House where we partook of a grand meal and introduced ourselves to all twenty two of the team members being both local from Kumi and the rest from England. Lynne, the WFTW Team Leader and Occupational Therapist, and Dave, the technician, are no strangers to Kumi Hospital while the new member of the team, Helen, Physiotherapist, was soon made to feel part of us all. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday continued in the same manner with extraordinarily good teamwork and extremely hard work . I would sometimes stand back to watch everyone playing his/her role with intense fastidiousness and I was so proud to be a part of this distribution. By Thursday, the last wheelchair had been given out and the few remaining crutches and walkers were stored for future use. The area was cleared away and we found ourselves with unexpected but well-earned free time to visit one of the KCF (Kumi Community Foundation) sponsored students at secondary school within Kumi Town. Moses has multiple disabilities but is intelligent and surely has a future if given the opportunity of education. We replaced his last WFTW elbow crutches which were well worn with a new pair. Robinson, Harriet’s five year old son, was having a birthday party in his nursery school to which we were invited. The little ones were so excited to see us and they tucked into the birthday cake once the three candles died down. Then we were off to Nyero Rocks, the only “touristy place” near Kumi where a guide took us up the crevices between the huge boulders and into the caves once inhabited by “little people”, pygmies perhaps? I am called the hospital TaTa (grandmother) and our guide suggested I stay at the base of the biggest rock and I thank God, I did! The others scrambled up the relatively steep rock face until they became mere dots on the horizon but, as is the case here, sound travels long distances and I could almost make out their conversations. When evening came, the English team returned to the hospital Guest House where we enjoyed supper together. Friday was our official day out and, with a picnic basket filled with freshly cooked “rolex” (a chapatti rolled up with an omelette hence roll eggs), we set off to Lake Bisini where the shore was lined with dug-outs ready to take the waiting passengers to Tisai Island. Most have a motor attached but we wanted to paddle our own canoe through the papyrus grasses and purple water lilies while the only sounds were the ripple of water from the paddles and the colourful birds disturbed by our presence and not forgetting the constant baling out of the incoming water spouting through the tiny cracks in the floor. On arrival, we trekked through the barren land to the school where we held a mini-clinic and referred five children with Gluteal Fibrosis to Kumi hospital for surgery next week. There are many sufferers among the children but few if any are able to afford the hospital bills. Oh, it was so hot with the sun beating down on us and with few trees to shelter under as the islanders’ main income is from charcoal manufactured from the perfectly healthy trees felled to provide an income. Back on the mainland, the WFTW team needed to pack in readiness for their return home and, after fond farewells, we wished them a safe journey and please come back soon!

Phew! That was quite a week but now we must settle down to our KCF activities. Let me now rest from my diary and hopefully attempt to compile the next instalment next week. Elspeth Robinson February 2022

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