Thursday, August 20, 2009

47th Ballybrack goes on Safari

On 17th of August 47th Ballybrack went on safari. Never thought I'd ever see those words, typed or otherwise, but there we were! Earlier that day we had left our guest house in Kampala for a five hour bus journey. As horrible as that sounds, it was actually quite a pleasant journey. The scenery in Uganda is nearly always changing...except for seeing the same damn advert for MTN mobile printed on the outside of someones house, which really are EVERYWHERE you go!

As we got closer to the safari park, the landscape got more and more interesting; ant-hills taller than trees, endless long roads, and as we turned onto the main road up to the park, animals you would only see on the Discovery channel. Warthogs, Impala, and Zebras darting in and out of the shrub and across the roads. As we drove along the dirt track, incredible birds flew alongside us and perched in the trees, dazzling colours amazing everyone in the bus.

The road ended after we drove through an armed guard checkpoint and stopped beside a lake. And what a lake! It stretched on for miles, stopping when the mountains on the otherside forced it to. It was so still, that it reflected the sky above it. Absolutely beautiful.

We got off the bus and walked over to a dock, past warthogs grazing in the grass so close you could see their massive ugly faces rooting in the dirt. Our group were handed life vests and we got onto two small boats and went out on the lake. The guide with us drove the boat along the shore showing us Kingfishers who are able to hover in the air while hunting before diving into the water and coming back up with a fish in its beak, and fish eagles who sit on their perch and wait and watch for their prey. Both very impressive animals. He then showed us groups of hippos and crocodiles. I never thought I would be that close to either of those animals but it was quite impressive!


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Post You Have All Been Waiting For!

Hello Internet!

Yes its finally here, you no longer have to log on to this blog and be disappointed.

I don't even know how to begin to explain how amazing Africa is. It is by far the best thing i have done with my life, and as I'm sure you all know i am a pretty great person so my life is quite amazing! But this definitely beats everything, yes, even the time I found a euro on the bus believe it or not! One leader joins each pair in doing their activities each day, so i thought it would be fun to evaluate each of them and the funny thing is they all got really in to it!

It is unbelievably hot here. Probably, and even though this will hurt my ego to the max, it is probably even hotter then me! There is actually not a lot of mosquitoes here. The kids are brilliant. They are so happy and really enjoy the games and activities we play with them.

Now I'm sort of running out of things to say so ill write a passage from the "Good Book"...... No not the Bible my log book of course!

DAY 4 TUESDAY 04/08/09

Today Was our final day of doing Wide Games. We had Andrew Torsney for our leader for this, who's unbelievable amount of charisma and confidence matches his grossly inappropriate size! And even with this knowledge i was still a bit sceptical, would he match up to Gwen's none to shabbiness from the day before?

So we started the activity as normal with the Obstacle Course until Andy Unorthedoxly suggested that we should lengthen the Obstacle Course by having kids put the hula hoops we were using over their heads and going through them instead of just jumping through them. I personally thought this was the folly of the unwise. But like Eoghan thinking that his original schedule (which fell to pieces) would work, I was proven wrong! It worked Brilliantly!

After the Obstacle Course We played a game in which the kids had to hula and while they were doing this walk to us. This proved very difficult for us when we were explaining it but the kids were naturals. Then through what can only be described as a mad power trip, Andrew had some weird desire for the kids to chant "HULA HULA HULA" as they played this game and also answer him with a big "YES" when he shouted "ARE YOU READY?". Once again i thought Andy was pushing it, especially after the most dramatic "crash and burn" since 9/11 with the oldest kids, but once again i was proven wrong. It caught on like wildfire(hidden pun!there has been a lot of fires here because the grass is so dry!). That was the last nail in the coffin of Andy's evaluation. Right then I knew Gwen was "None to Shabby" But Andrew was...


I hope you enjoyed that!

Finally a wise man once said "To be or not to be, that is the question". But that has nothing to do with what I'm about to say. As much as i love it here, I do miss some people.....
My friends, Mary and Michael Browne, NOT my dog, All of the vents and leaders who are not present, and someone else.........Oh yeah my Family! And Mum before you ring me from France to tell me I'm grounded, that was clearly a joke........ I do miss bonnie a bit!!!

See Y'All Later


So they we were after mass on Sunday getting a tour of Lusango village/Town. The little village kids decided to walk along side us. They are all soo friendly and curious about us!! To be honest I think I developed a soft spot for these kids.for example when we are doing the activities with the school kids of Living Hope primary School they just sit on the side line and watch with excitement unable to join in on the fun. It breaks my heart to see this!So last Friday afternoon during my break I headed down to where they were sitting and started to play games with a bunch of them. They are all so fun loving and they started to teach me some of their games. They kept on calling me "MUZUNGU" which basically means a well respected person. So i nipped that in the bud and thought them my name AOIFE!

So anyway they we were getting the tour of Lusango and some of the kids were talking to me whilst following us on our tour. One child in particular called Charles was talking to me. He started to recite such things like "communication is....", "the weather is......" he was clearly trying to show me how intelligent he is! So after our tour we were getting back on the bus I heard Charles call my name and he handed me a note. I took it on the bus with me and proceed to read it. All the while Charles was looking at me waiting for a response. It was awful the note basically was asking me to sponsor him to go to living hope primary school, he can not afford it because his father is dead and his mother finds it hard to even care for him. I did not know what to do or where to look because at this stage he was right beside my window waiting for a response. all I could do was smile and say I will talk to you tomorrow.

All that evening I kept thinking about him and wondering how I could go about helping him, does he really need my help, If i help him will all the children in the village start producing similar notes. I asked Ailbhe and Lura for their advice. So eventually I decided that I cannot give this boy any false hope and that i am better going through a charity when I get home and sponsor a child that way. Although I decided this I still in the back of my mind really wanted to help him since he had specifically asked me.

The next day he came looking for me i managed to avoid him for most of the day because i really could not face saying NO to him. I eventually plucked up the courage to go over and explain that I cannot sponsor him that I have to do it with a charity because it is not fair on the other village children. his face was filled with utter disappointment. This was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I was in bits after it. I don't know how but I managed to keep myself composed!

That evening I just could not stop thinking about him. I then decided that I had not tried hard enough to help Charles. So today I approached Pastor Maria about the situation. I showed her a picture of him and asked her was there anyway I could help him.

So the story to date is that Pastor Maria going to talk to his Mother and see what help they need and she is hopefully then going to allow him to become a pupil in the Living Hope Primary School. I will be able to sponsor Charles through Fields of Life.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ballybrack Gospel Choir storm Luzango!

Sunday 09 August

We woke up both knackered and nervous, knackered because we were up past midnight the previous evening practising as 47th Ballybrack Gospel choir and nervous because we had to perform ten songs at the church service that day. The service was in Living Hope Primary School. We arrived at the school at ten and for the first time ever there were no groups of kids running towards the bus cheering our arrival.

As we neared the school it was evident the mass had begun. Either that or they were having some sort of rave. We caught glimpses of people dancing, cheering, clapping and bongoing. We entered and sat interspersed amongst the locals. Soon, we too were crazy dancing and getting into the spirit and I have to say we were all enjoying ourselves.

Several of the villagers got up and thanked the Lord for all he had done for them, including thanking him for sending us visitors to the village to help them. It was very moving. I know I myself had tears in my eyes. Then the preacher Justine got up and interpreted the bible reading. All the locals had bibles, pens and notebooks (which had been supplied for free from some drugs company) and were furiously taking down notes. After the 'Tribe of Judah' choir and the Kids sunday school songs, it was 47th Ballybrack Gospel Choirs turn to take the floor.

It went very well and we sang our hearts out. We were worried that our songs would seem boring and montone in comparison to their lively singing and dancing but they seemed to go down well. In particular Brona's rendition of 'Oh Happy Day' went down an absolute treat.

Afterwards the villagers thanked us and performed a local tribal dance to show their gratitude. We rounded off the mass with heartfelt genuine hugs with all the locals. The level of warmth and love shown to us was truly overwhelming.

After mass, all three hours of it, we were given a tour of the local village of Luzango. It's a small rural village beside the school and the poverty was so clear . We visited the midwifes house, the teachers dwellings and Pastor marias house. The houses were, by and large, simple one roomed dwellings with little to no furniture. Some were mud huts and some were made of brick. The villagers all grew crops such as papaya, pineapple, bananas and coffee sometimes to sell but often just to survive on. Most of them also kept a few chickens or goats.

We caused quite a stir in the village but everyone was friendly towards us. We took a jaunt down to the village well. It was a good fifteen minutes walk from the main part of the village. I met two of the fifth class girls from the school, who were carrying over ten litres of water between them. Myself and Laura took a container each off them and they really were very heavy, especially for ten year old girls, half our size.

All in all, it was an eye opener. Even the teachers, who had university educations, lived in small basic huts which they rented for 20,000 shillings. Considering their monthly wage is 30,000 shillings, it leaves very little income left for food or clothes. Essentially they are living on 3 euros a month (or 10,000 uganda shilling).

You can understand why its easy to feel like a millionare over here. We're constantly whipping out a few thousand euros and spending it on a drink of coke. Three cokes is the same as all the money a teacher would have to feed and cloth his family for an entire month. After the tour of the village, we returned to our hotel on the hill and felt all the more grateful for our comfortable beds and banana flavoured food.

Well thats all folks...bye for now.. Ailbhe

Friday, August 7, 2009


Masaka Uganda, a small city (a town to us) home to about 75,000 , lies over a small hill to our hotel. Here the third world comes to life. Lying south of Kampala it really brought us to realise the poverty endured my millions across the globe.

On the 5th of August our leaders took us on a trip around Masaka. We had only seen it up to then while driving to the safety of our hotel. On that day everyone of us realised the true grip the poverty struggle has on millions.

On the walk into the city centre, we pass two banks with armed security guards outside. You would think with two banks side by side with each other there may be some form of economic enlightenment for the locals. We pass by the post office with lockers for pigeon holes and a sign reading "Please remember to lock". Down onto the street "by-passing the centre" where you take the best opportunity to cross the road. "Stare them (the drivers ) out of it and they will stop". Finally we are in the main town. But to get there we had to use a small wattle and daub bridge to cross the dug-out sewers containing the rubbish since the last rainfall.

As we walk down the path we see drivers and pedestrians look at us. "MUZUNGU" they call. We don't even look around to see who shouted it, we are used to it by now. We were told it is not an offensive word. Most of the Ugandans realise why we are here. Roughly it refers to the wealthy Westerners. Heads turn as we pass the open shops. One image that I can still see clearly in my mind is the end of an open sewer with the backlog of rotten waste. Every shop looks the same, the majority sell the same products. The phone company Zain, seems to have the monopoly on phone networks in Uganda. On every shop wall there is an advertisement for Zain. It is just a mere painting on the wall, nothing like in Ireland. We went into a small supermarket to get some "Comfort Foods". I see the Cadburys chocolate bar behind the counter feeling more at home. But walking outside again we are stuck by the African world.

The cars beep everything that gets in their way. Mostly it is families on the one motorbike pulling in and out of cars on the road. The main form of transport seems to be by motorbike. The lucky have a car, the majority go by foot. The children look at us in amazement. After all it is the first time they have seen a white skinned person. We just look back and smile. We pass by a butchers. Instead of the nice friendly local butcher with the meat freshly imported and the protective glass around it, we see meat hanging from meat hooks on a makeshift roof with the flies crawling on them. The person who owns the shop desperately trying to make some sort of a sale. Unfortunately for him the biggest industry in Uganda is farming.

Our eyes by now are exhausted from the lack of blinking as every time we turn our head we see something new that is a complete contrast to what we are used to. We walk back to our hotel leaving the city of Masaka behind to return to the safety of our hotel which most Ugandans would only dream about.

Despite the sadness of this passage, we have to remember there is some light at the end of the tunnel. I can see it myself. First a group of Irish teenagers are going over to help the less-fortunate and second it seems Uganda is making an internal progress. For example; the road which we drive every morning and evening to get to the school is partly funded by the EU and part of Masaka was funded by Germany. As the sign on arrival at Entebbe airport reads "Welcome to the Pearl of Africa" it is so true. Uganda is a green and fertile country which hopefully will allow the Ugandans to prosper. There is potential for Masaka to grow and hopefully over the next few decades we will se a dream come true.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Some Photos

After some pain-staking uploading on a dial-up internet connection in the hotel, here are a taste of our experiences so far:

On our way from Kampala to Masaka, we made a stop-off at the uber-touristy Equator lay-by. An equally touristy photo had to be taken.

On arrival at the Living Hope Primary School on Sunday, this was the choir who sang songs to thyank us for coming.

This was taken on Monday morning as we boarded our bus to the Living Hope Primary School to start the Summer camp.

This is three classroom extension we fundraised for. the foundations have been laid and the walls are flying up at breakneck speed.

This is one of the signs the kids were waving when we arrived. If I muster up more patience, I'll try upload more photos another night. In the mean time, these will have to suffice.

Well..Who knew that the Africa/ Masaka/ Living Hope experience would be truely beyond all imagination! So far, this really is the most amazing experience and I, as do many of my fellow vents and leaders, feel very privledged to have to chance to live it.

When we finally set off from Kampala to destination:Masaka on Sunday morning (after nearly a year of preparation), we had no idea of what was to come. After stopping quickly at the equator, we collected one of the teachers of living hope primary school to find out that the kids had been waiting since morning for our arrival.

The enthusiasm of the children as we pulled up the drive to the school was literally breathtaking - I had a laughing with excitement/ crying with amazment and happiness fit! It was the most amazing and unique experience I've ever had and will be extremely hard to beat!

They were clapping and singing a song they wrote for and about us while running with our bus. When we finally arrived to the school itself and it was time to get out of the bus and meet these incredible children, we were all overwhelmed with happiness to finally be meeting them and we were all overcome with happiness.
We each stepped out of the bus, greeted by hundreds of children, parents and teachers. The teachers hugged every one of us, as did some parents and children. A few children waved their signs saying 'welcome uncle David and your team', shook our hands and some grabbed on to some of our wrists while we walked into the school. I don't think any of us have ever experienced such love or kindness from people that didn't even know us.

They then made sure we were seated and comfortable and the teachers, head boy, head girl, principal and director - Pastor Maria all introduced themselves and gave us their welcomes. A group of the kids sang us a beautiful song which they'd written for us and then followed some traditional dance. After the welcomes, we were given beautiful food, all hand prepared and beautiful. They even made us some Mashed 'Irish Patato'!

In short, what I have noticed and learned already from our visit and working with these kids is how incredibly nice, warm, welcoming and enthusiastic these people are. It comes as a shock how much they truely appreciate our visit and all the activities we are doing with them. These are amazing people, happy to have everything they have (although it's not very much by any standards), enthusiastic all the time - even when it's getting ten year olds to sing ring a ring a rosie (try that in Ireland) and so grateful for all the small things that in Ireland, wouldn't even qualify a bat of the eyelash, i.e: The Excitement that throwing a few tennis balls or giving them balloons can bring.