The Visit this year found a team of 5 people from the Isle of Wight – Norma, Joy, Jane, Peter and Clare joining forces to support Uzima and brave the many hazards of visiting a 3rd world country. The ‘Famous Five’ as the County Press put it, carried a total of 230kg of uniform, underwear, toys, school supplies and sports equipment, plus a large all terrain buggy for a disabled child and their own clothes in their hand luggage to Heathrow airport to take to Kenya for the children at Uzima.
Fortunately, we didn’t get any overweight charges and had a trouble free journey to Kisumu in Western Kenya. Here we stayed in a hotel while we went shopping for more school supplies, food, sewing machines, AFRIpads and some shoes. Fully loaded we were driven in 2 overloaded cars past the equator to our destination near the Ugandan border – Uzima Day Care Centre.
As we settled into the guest house and hung our mosquito nets up we began to hear of how the drought had affected Uzima by increasing the price of food drastically and stopping the care givers from sending contributions of food to the school that they had always done in the past. Their crops had failed and people were going hungry, even the water supplies had long queues. Many children at Uzima had no evening meal after school. As the borehole pump at Uzima had recently broken down, the school was having to buy water from a borehole by lake Victoria which is so far away that they had to collect it on motorbikes, which incurs more cost.
When there is a drought, it is the poorest who suffer the most. Later in the week we visited a young single mother who had a child at Uzima. She had 4 children altogether including a baby. As we left I asked her what she had planned for tea that evening? To which she replied, that she had no food for an evening meal.
The huge drop in the exchange rate after Brexit has affected Uzima in Our Hands in the UK as we lose out when we send funds to Kenya, and to prevent the centre form suffering financially we have had to send considerable more. Now the drought means that they really need more again to just keep afloat.
While we were in Kisumu we paid for the borehole pump to be mended which cost over £1000. We have just heard that it is up and running again.
The oldest children at Uzima are around 16 and 17 years old and will complete their final school exams in November 2017. After that any children who excel academically will need to find sponsorship through secondary education elsewhere. Most children however will want to gain some skills for the workplace and some vocational training.
Uzima can’t offer this for them then costs are again involved to go elsewhere and they will not continue in education. For the boys this means probable unemployment and hunger and for the girls it frequently results in prostitution to pay for food or teenage pregnancies.
For these reasons Evans would like to plan to have 2 classrooms and storage to deliver vocational training at Uzima. We made a small start this visit by purchasing 2 sewing machines funded by Uzima supporters to get the older children trained at school to use them – especially useful for mending uniforms. Other things on the curriculum would be agriculture, masonry, woodwork and cooking – all great skills for work and life.
This project is presently being planned and priced, so we will soon start a fundraising campaign to raise the money to pay for the new building, equipment and staff.
While on some home visits one afternoon we were reminded of just how important this project is. The first 2 homes were incredibly small mud huts squeezing in a single young mother and several children. The men had left sometime before and had not returned and the children were in rags, often with jiggers and other health issues, such as chest infections and malaria. The mothers were both in their early 20s now and had both had their first child in their early teens.
The last home we went to was a girl of 13 who attends Uzima, she was the second eldest child in a family of 4 children. The parents had been gone for 3 months and her older sister was believed to be working as a prostitute to get money for food. The older girls at Uzima have so much energy and enthusiasm for life and their futures, the stark comparison of these women in the community was clearly the direction their lives would/will take without further education.
During our trip we cleaned 100’s of feet, treated scores of feet with jiggers, measured feet for new shoes, took 100’s of photos, dressed wounds (Jane – a nurse) talked to teachers, played sport (Clare and Peter), gave out underwear/uniform, had a session explaining how to use AFRIpads (washable sanitary towels) and did practical teaching on hand washing and treatment of burns (very common with every household cooking on an open fire). We enjoyed their singing, dancing and drama.
We all tried types of food that we may not have chosen to and got expert at washing our whole bodies with a small bowl of water every morning.Norma was very brave getting on a piki piki ( motorbike taxi) to take children to Buburi Clinic and by the end of the week looked completely at home jumping on. We visited the local clinic where the children are all treated for free under their Social Fund which we are very grateful on their behalf for. ‘Friends of Buburi’ a registered charity in the UK happens to have my sister (Jo Hanks) as a trustee. On one visit alone children were treated for malaria, skin diseases and infected wounds.
The relatively new Special Needs class had a lovely teacher called Kevin Were who now has 18 children to cater for. During our visit a new boy John, with club foot and some learning difficulties was admitted to Kevin’s class while another boy Bravel also five who also had club foot joined Baby class too. Sadly trying to get the operations and follow up treatment for these children to be able to walk has been very problematic and expensive, but Sue Woods (another sister of mine) who heads up the Special Needs at Uzima from the UK is working hard on this goal and getting more help for a great deal of other children in and around Uzima.
As a whole the trip was a huge success, finding out just how Uzima is doing and we finished our visit with a half day safari to Nakuru National park taking Evans, the director of Uzima along with us.
He had never seen the wild animals of East Africa despite being a Kenyan, and enjoyed himself hugely with the new sights he encountered. Without Evans volunteering to take the lead, it would not exist and without our being able to leave the day to day running of it to him, we would be unable to support Uzima. The children love him and often report their gratefulness to him for helping them in their need.
If you would like to hear more about the February visit to the Uzima Day Care Centre, late Griffin will be giving an illustrated talk on the trip at the West Wight Sports and Community Centre (Isle of Wight) on Friday 17 March at 7.30pm.
To learn more about Uzuma in Our Hands and their work, please visit the charity’s website.