Thursday 26 September 2013

Noeline's Creations - By Bethan

I first met 19 year old Noeline two years ago on the road as I was carrying Sam on my back.  She and her two school friends stopped and wanted to greet Sam, who willingly obliged by waving and giving high fives.  From that day on I have bumped into Noeline in town every couple of months or so and have kept a very loose friendship with her.  I found out that she had to leave school before completing her final year because of lack of school fees and a not altogether supportive home-life (she lived with her sister and her sister's husband as her mum stays in a village with Noeline's Uncle a few hours' drive away).  I also found out that she loves designing clothes and would love to be a tailor.  "Where do you live?" I asked.  "Acholi Quarter" she replied.  "Well it just so happens that there is one more tailoring course being offered for free there" I said and she applied.  I didn't see her for a while and then I heard some sad news: Noeline was pregnant.  She dropped out of the tailoring course because she was so ashamed.  I managed to find her in town and counsel her so that she re-joined the course and tried to catch up.  I also found out that she was living on her own in a rented room but she had no source of income and was behind in the rent.  No one was helping her beyond giving her the odd hundred shillings (2p - enough to buy a banana) here and there and she was really depressed.  I talked with Gareth and decided that this was one of those moments in life where we had to step up and go beyond what we would ordinarily do.  We knew that Noeline had potential in life and had felt a need to keep track of her since we met that random day two years ago.  We asked Noeline if she would like to come and live with us (we have a room adjacent to the house) and we would help her out with food if she wasn't eating and also pay for her medical fees for giving birth (normal birth costs up to £50 and C-sections can cost up to £100).  She is due to give birth around the same time as my sister-in-law so it's as though I am keeping up with new niece/nephew by following Noeline's progress!
So, as time has gone on, Noeline has become part of our family.  Sammy loves to go and knock for her and tell her all his tales (he can go on for hours about what stones should be used for or how a car should have a spare wheel!) and Jonah loves to have cuddles with her.  I have enjoyed sharing sewing expertise with her (I share my creative ideas then she teaches me technique to do them properly!) and together we have come up with a lot of new sewing ideas for her to sell both in town and back in the UK.  This is what this blog is for.  Her latest creations are children's sleeping bags for spring/summer and autumn, made from African material with a long zip up the front.  The bags are long and can be used up to age 3 if required!  The summer ones are a single piece of cotton and the autumn and spring ones are lined for extra warmth.  A summer bag is £6.50 and the autumn/spring bags are £9.00.  Jonah is modelling his for you in the following picture as an example.  You can choose a rough colour scheme and Noeline will try to match your choice with the vast array of colourful materials available here in Uganda.

Noeline also makes a variety of purses (£4.50) and is expanding to handbags (price depends on style) very soon.  Her purses have a zipped compartment for coins, pockets for notes and space for 9 credit cards and fold together with Velcro.  Choose your colour scheme and Noeline will try to match it.
Please email me or reply to this blog if you would like to buy something from Noeline.  We are coming back to the UK for a holiday on December 6th so I can bring things back and they can be posted in time for Christmas!

Monday 16 September 2013

Rwanda with Music as Therapy - By Bethan

Last month I received an invitation to go to Kamembe in south-west Rwanda to offer advice to Music as Therapy International (a UK-based charity) who are considering starting a project very similar to the CBO I run in Gulu; Music for Peaceful Minds (see MPM blog  Gareth and I decided that we would drive down there en famille and stop on the way at a lake we have been longing to visit.  Lake Bunyoni is a tranquil, restful place where the water is clean enough for swimming and there are no crocs or hippos.  People move around on dug-out canoes and go from island to island going about their business of fishing or tourism or just going to school.  One of the islands used to be a leper colony and is now the lake’s primary and secondary school and one of the islands (only a few metres squared) used to be called ‘Punishment island’ where pregnant unmarried girls were sent with no way of getting food or shelter.  If they were ‘lucky’ they would be rescued by a man who didn’t have enough money to buy a wife in the usual way.

So we spent two days floating about on canoes and enjoying wearing trousers and jumpers because the weather was so beautifully cool.  Then we picked up my MPM art counsellor, Vince, from the border town of Kabale and carried on to Rwanda.  As we crossed the border it was as if order suddenly came out of nowhere.  The hills were sectioned with terracing and each crop had its own boundaried area in which to grow.  The roads were being built with hundreds of diggers that Sam was thrilled to watch and the roads became so windy that we began to get dizzy as we drove!  We drove through the capital, Kigali, and continued for what we thought would be a few hours to Kamembe.  Several hours later, just as it was getting dark and we had spent an interminable amount of time driving through the biggest forest we have ever seen, we arrived in Kamembe.  But the next day we saw beautiful Lake Kivu and ate dinner watching the sun setting over Congo and felt relaxed again.

I met with Nicky, Caroline and Jane from Music as Therapy International and the following day we presented a variety of themes at a family day for a special needs centre.  Some of the themes that we taught included how to interact and communicate with their disabled children, how to do certain music therapy techniques at home and at the school and to encourage the parents to continue to support their disabled children.  It was also hoped that these parents would inform other parents of disabled children of their rights and responsibilities and advocate for their children.

It was a fascinating two days in the Rwandan special needs schools where things seem to be more organised than in Uganda yet the following still happens: if you beat a cow drum children will start dancing!  We enjoyed learning the Rwandan tribal dance and playing games with the children and staff.  I was even able to use my Swahili with the staff because they are so close to the Congo border that many of them can speak it.

We dreaded the two-day mammoth car journey back home but it went much quicker this time, since we knew where we were going and knew the roads a little better.  We got caught up in a political rally on the way home and the motorbike drivers were doing acrobatics on their bikes. I held my breath wondering when the next pot-hole or hair-pin bend would make them fall to their deaths.  After an over-night stay in Kabale where we made the most of our last night of blankets we travelled back home to Kasese where everything was as it had been and life picked up from where it had left off a week ago!

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Church Team visit from ST Andrew's Street Baptist Chrch, Cambridge

Last month we had a 2 week visit from a team of 5 from our home church in Cambridge.  The team was lead by Chris Shore, one of our Deacons who spent his early childhood in Uganda while his parents were missionaries, but had never returned since then!  We all had a good time together and they did some really useful work.  This article from the BMS website tells their story: