Saturday 16 July 2011

My Friends and Other Stories - by Sammy-Chops D. Shrubsole

I have a new friend!  Her name is Trust Anna!  To her friends she is just ‘Trust’.  That makes me feel good because I think she sounds like a good, wholesome girl.  Her dad and my dad are friends because daddy went and planted trees in his school ground.  He is the head teacher of that fruit tree school mentioned on a previous blog.  My mum and Trust’s mum are becoming friends now too.  I met Trust last week in school when there were hundreds of children trying to squeeze my legs and touch my hair.  I didn’t like it so I refused to leave mummy’s arms.  But then I went to Trust’s house and even though she was sick that day, (I think they said she had ‘somearea’ or something), she was still nice.  I thought I would like to see her again so I asked mum if she could come round to play.  I invited her at 2 but it was gone 3.30 by the time she arrived.  I would have been offended but then she was wearing the cutest woolly hat (she thinks it’s cold!) and the biggest grin so I instantly forgave her.  She is not scared of me or mum.  For some reason many small children cry when they see us.  I don’t know why, maybe because dad is quite tall?  But Trust isn’t afraid of me and she tries to ruffle my hair.  I don’t mind when she does it because she does it in a friendly way, not shouting at me or pinching me like the other children.  Trust’s mummy and my mummy sat on the veranda with us while we played with my truck that Grandpa made me.  It’s called the ‘Samitruck’ and makes me seem really cool – imagine: every girl wants a boy with his own wheels!  I sat in it and she wheeled me up and down the veranda!  Daddy had asked someone to come in a slash the grass and they were using a strimmer.  We have a huge garden – it would take them a while but not as long as it would take with a knife like the government workers do.  Anyway, the strimmer kept on breaking and the man had to keep mending it and each time he did the machine started with a loud noise and both Trust and I would jump out of our skin and run to our mummies!  It didn’t matter how many times mummy explained to me what was happening, I still jumped and cried!  I tried to get over it, though, and got my hammer and nails out (that Uncle Duncle Aunty Beccy and little cousin Isla bought me) and Trust enjoyed hammering but only after I showed her how to do it.  She doesn’t have toys at home, I think she must get quite bored.  I sometimes see the local children playing with polystyrene or plastic bags that they see on the street and although I like rustling a bag as much as the next person, it can get quite boring.  Trust stayed for two hours and it got to tea time.  Mummy seemed a bit unsure about social etty-cat or something because she kept whispering to daddy ‘I’m not sure if she is waiting for us to tell her to leave or if she is staying all night!’  They invited her to stay for beans and rice that mum was cooking but Trust’s mummy suddenly looked very relieved and said ‘no thanks, I have to go home to prepare our own food.’  Trust left then, but not before I made sure that we had waved goodbye for as long as we could, as she disappeared through the gate.
I went with Mum to her Swahili lesson on Friday.  Dad was just finishing his lesson and was supposed to take me home but he remembered he had to do some shopping for our visitors so he left me with mum and went by himself.  I sat in the courtyard of the secondary school in the dust with my other friend, Tony Bray.  He is not as nice-mannered as Trust and I don’t really like him that much because he keeps trying to push me over, but there were only big people around who kept on taking me into their classrooms so I watched Tony Bray from a distance as I scrabbled around in the dust making dust-piles.  I was trying to sweep the courtyard with my hands and bottom but mummy just kept on saying that I was getting ‘so dusty’ and tutting.  She could see me from her classroom while she was learning and I heard her say some sentences about me but I didn’t understand them.

Today I was in Kibara Bible college while mum and dad’s colleagues were running a Sunday School Training workshop.  I had such a fun time because there were two children (not a hundred like there normally are surrounding me!) who were 5 and 3 years old and they had a bike tire!  They knew how to make it roll with a stick and it was so fun to chase although I haven’t learned to do it myself yet.  I will have to learn so I can join in.  The 5 year old kept on hauling me around when I went in the wrong room or the wrong direction but I don’t mind anymore like I used to.  The children here know how to handle babies so I feel safe.  I played for three hours with these two boys (except for a short nap on mummy’s back) then ate rice.   Mummy had to put it in my mouth with her hands because they don’t use cutlery!
I hope you have enjoyed my stories about my friends.  It is an answer to prayer because mummy prayed that I would have friends and now they are appearing.  I like playing.  I am going to invite Trust round again now that daddy has built me a swing made from our old car tire!  We will have so much fun!  Until next time, blog-mates!

Thursday 14 July 2011


Just wanted to let you know that Bethan's sermon on Sunday went very well and was well received.  We made it to Kampala safely on Sunday, and then had a very busy and productive day there on Monday - including Sam's 13 month and Rabies jabs. We then had a safe and smooth journey back again on Tuesday.

We had an encouraging phone conversation with our UK boss today and have been given the greenlight to start researching the projects we have been thinking about and discussing with our local partners, which is great news!

Thanks for all your continued prayers and best wishes.

Saturday 9 July 2011

Fruitful labour.

Yesterday was an exciting day.  The previous Monday we had visited “Alpha Chilrden’s Ministry nursery and primary school”, which serves the poorest communities of Kasese in Aholi Quarter and is largely run and funded by Kasese’s Baptist Churches.  We had observed the children being fed cups of maize porridge – filling but of scant nutritional value, and Alphonse had mentioned that they wanted to establish a fruit garden in the school grounds.  Following some thinking, some advice from BMS’ Agricultural expert Alex Vickers (based in Kampala), and discussion with Alpha school’s principal, Isaiah Thembo, it was decided that we would use our own garden to create a fruit garden in the school.  Thanks to the foresight of Graeme and Jenny Riddell who lived here and planted dozens of fruit trees a few years ago, our garden now has a well-stocked orchard of papaya trees and banana plants.  The plan was to take out the two youngest papaya trees, and one of the “baby” banana plants from each group of bananas. (Banana plants grow in families, a fruit-bearing grandmother, a mother, a daughter and one or more tiny babies – the latter can be removed and re-planted elsewhere).  I also bought a mango sapling from a local hotel which sells plants, for less than £2.
On Friday morning after my Swahili lesson Isaiah got his staff digging big holes outside Alpha school and collecting tall reeds while he came round to our garden and helped us dig out a fairly substantial papaya tree and five banana babies.  It was tough work with a hoe and a machete and we worked up a good sweat as the morning got hotter.  The bananas, mango sapling and papaya sapling fitted easily into our cavernous Lancruiser, but the young papaya tree had to be lashed onto the roof (see picture gallery).  Very few vehicles ever go into Acholi Quarter and there are few Mzungus round here so the spectacle of a Mzungu and a Ugandan in a 4x4 with a whole papaya tree lashed to the roof caused much amusement as we drove carefully into the narrow dirt lanes!
On arrival at the school everyone got involved in what became a whole community project.  Teachers were digging holes, some pupils were dispatched backwards and forwards with cans to fetch water, others were fetching dead grass and bricks to put over/around the base of the trees to help them retain water.  The mango tree was planted on its own and the papayas and bananas were planted together in a plot of about 10m by 8m.  As many Ugandans keep goats however, planting and watering the trees was not enough.  They needed goat-proofing.  The mango was given its own tippee of reeds (which feel almost as strong as bamboo cane) covered in thorny branches.  For the plot of bananas and papayas we made a complete fence on all four sides, about 5 feet high and with a simple sheet iron gate.  The sheet iron was provided by Alphonse’s father, the reeds had been cut from the riverbank by the whole community in the preceding days, and I bought two balls of string for just over £1.  The rest of the day was spent hacking a few branches off other trees to make fence posts, slotting the ends of the reeds into each other and tying hundreds and hundreds of knots to hold it all together.  As a former sailor I’m perfectly happy to spend an afternoon tying knots and worked at a quick pace, but I was less skilled at the machete work and blistered my soft English hands!   We finished at about 5.30, all exhausted but with a great sense of satisfaction at a job well done – especially because everyone got involved, and because it only cost about £3 in cash. 
The final stage of the project will be to produce posters for the school in English and Lukhongo explaining the nutritional benefits of eating fruit for young children.  Vitamins and minerals are not familiar concepts for many rural Ugandans and malnutrition is still far too common for a place with such fertile soil and good rainfall.
After 12 months studying for my MA and then 9 months studying at the International Mission Centre it was very satisfying to get my hands dirty and to do something of real practical benefit to others!
For those who pray:
·         Pray that the plants will take to their new home and bear fruit for the local community.
·         For Bethan as she preaches in the women-led service on Sunday.
·         For safe travels to and from Kampala (Sunday & Tuesday) and for Sam’s final vaccinations in Kampala on Monday.
·         For those affected by famine in north-east Uganda and the Horn of Africa.
·         For Uganda’s new neighbour – the Republic of South Sudan which achieved independence today!