We have been in Uganda for nearly 3 weeks now and I thought I’d put some of my initial thoughts together. Firstly, we are thoroughly enjoying ourselves. The adjustment to life here has been really quick. We’re staying in a very adequate apartment, have been able to find food we recognise and everyone is very welcoming and friendly.
My teaching has been going well. My students are aged anywhere from 15 to 21. There are about 40 kids to a room, no computers and most rooms have black boards and chalk (only a few have white boards). Thankfully I’ve been given topics that I know well. The kids are exceptionally well behaved. When the bell goes to end a lesson they sit silently waiting for me to dismiss them when I’m ready. I have never worked with students as respectful as that before! Before my first lesson I wrote some notes on the board to prepare myself. There were some kids already in class. By the time the lesson started half the class had already copied out what was up, without any instruction from me. Unfortunately, the learning they do is mostly based around memorization as they need to learn a huge amount of content to stand a chance of getting into uni. There is very little thinking required of them. The teachers here are trying to change this but are forced to teach to the curriculum.
Shortly after arriving here I learned that there are a bunch of boys who have been keen to play rugby for some time but have had no one to coach them. In fact they were praying for a coach! So I’ve taken up the challenge. I started last Saturday with 4 boys. There are now about 15. It’s great fun but a bit like trying to herd cats. Most of them phenomenal athletes and they love contact but have no idea at all what a game of rugby is supposed to look like. They often struggle to understand my accent and are not familiar with rugby jargon such as ‘off-side’, ‘fifty percent intensity’ or ‘head-high tackle’.
The Watoto organisation is fantastic. On our campus there is a babies home (where Helen spends every spare minute), a village with about 200 houses, a kindergarten, primary and secondary school. The Babies Home looks after young, mainly orphaned babies until they are old enough to get placed into a home in the village (usually around 2 years old). Each of these homes is made up of 8 kids and a Mum. They stay in these homes until they go to university or get a job. The more we learn about the programme, the more impressed we are.
Many of you have probably heard about the awful terrorist attacks that happened here last weekend. A few of the people who work at my school lost relatives. Fortunately we are quite a long way out of Kampala and we feel quite safe. Also we have a softly spoken guard named Thomas who sits outside our apartments all day. He is 19 years old, built like a twig and carries an antiquated .303 rifle with 5 cartridges in it. He informed me the other day that he could usually hit targets up to 70 metres away. He is a great comfort to us. Still if you could pray for safety for us and for Uganda in general that would be much appreciated.
A verse which has come up for me time and again since we arrived is from Psalm 127: 1
“Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain.
Unless God watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.”
One of my biggest concerns about this project was that we would not be here long enough to make a significant contribution to this organisation and to these kid’s lives. However, I feel that God has been pushing the idea that he can use our efforts and multiply them. It is not what we are capable of doing but what God can accomplish through us. If God is central to the work then it is not in vain.
There is quite a lot of local wildlife. Insects seem to be genetically superior over here. They are massive- I saw a wasp the other day that was nearly 3 inches long. Uganda has something like 2000 species of butterfly, compared to Britain’s 20 odd. Every time I have been for a run I have seen a new animal which is a great motivation for me. I’ve seen monkeys, guinea fowl, squirrels, a horn-billed toucan and many other interesting birds. I even heard a rumour that there is a small, shy variety of deer that lives close to our property. I’m investigating.
I’ve attached a couple of photos to this blog. If you want to see some more have a look on my facebook page. Thanks very much for your emails and prayer. We really appreciate the support. We’ll try to keep you updated.
Love Tim and Helen