Friday, December 3, 2010

Little Miracles

just a little story i wrote for the Watoto website :)

Watoto’s youngest students in Nursery, Kindergarten, Prep A and B classes today celebrated the end of the school year with a Graduation and Christmas Party. Coordinated by Teacher Evelyn Namboozo, the standard multipurpose hall was transformed into a wonderland of Christmas trees, ribbons, twinkling lights, balloons, streamers, gifts, sparkling tinsel.
As the mothers, teachers and leadership of Watoto Suubi Village filed into the hall, the atmosphere both inside and out was truly alight with the magical sounds, smells and sights of Christmas. Beginning with an opening prayer by a young kindergarten student “We thank you for our Mummies, we thank you for our party, we thank you for our daddies, In Jesus name I have prayed, Amen” the event was then broken up into three distinct themes. Nursery students were celebrating ‘God is creator’ and kicked their section of the event off with a number of songs, a quick drama and absolutely gorgeous faux paus all over the show. One in particular to note was when 2 year old Abigail got dressed up as baby Jesus and climbed into a crib wearing a onesie, beanie and sucking on a dummy. Only to promptly decide that she didn’t like playing Baby Jesus one bit and so climbed out of the crib by herself and went over to her Mum. Of course there was microphone grabbing, little ones forgetting their lines and enthusiastic waving to Mums going on as well.
Next up was the Kindergarten year level. Keeping in line with their theme of ‘God’s servant’ their colourful costumes and animated dance and drama kept the audience well entertained. Following them was the graduating Prep A and B students who carried on their theme ‘God is love. This year level will now go onto Primary School. After every year level had completed their performance, awards were given to students that had shown exemplarily behaviour and academic results during the school year. Awards were given out for categories like ‘Most Improved, Best Groomed, Academic Excellence, and Best Handwriting. Each student that received an award was applauded, congratulated and handed a special Christmas present.
Of course the morning wouldn’t have been complete without a visit from everyone’s favourite holiday character- SantaClaus! His arrival drew gasps of sheer delight followed by squeals of excitement. Topped off with some Christmas carols and candy for all the kids, it was a wonderful morning for our little miracles indeed.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving in Rwanda

Thanksgiving in Rwanda? from Africa New Life Ministries on Vimeo.

As we get ready to go…

Helen and I have felt that our time here has been very worthwhile both for us and for some of the people we’ve come into contact with. We’ve been able to use our training and experience much more widely than we could in New Zealand or Dubai. We would both love to come back to Uganda in the future. But I must say, as we prepare to leave I still have some unanswered questions about the value of people from the developed world traveling to developing countries in order to try to help them out of poverty. Here are some of my conflicting thoughts.

In Matthew 22 Jesus classifies the commandment “Love your neighbour as yourself” as being one of the two most important. My favourite artist Bono has challenged the Christian church to understand that in this age our neighbour can no longer be limited to those who live in our neighbourhood. He suggests that by ignoring the plight of those in the developing world we are also disobeying this commandment.

In Isaiah and James the Bible clearly explains that if we are to be religious about anything we should show God’s love to those in need.

James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Isaiah 58: 6-7 “Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter- when you see the naked to clothe him and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”

However, when you get down to specifics the issue quickly becomes more complicated. How exactly are we to help people in need? Some of the most common methods are these:

• Donate money

• Agitate for political change in developed nations

• Short term work

• Long term work

While these are very broad categories there are some generalizations that can be made about them.

• Donating money is a start. It shows concern and support for less fortunate people. If carefully thought out and if used wisely money can help to alleviate poverty. This step also follows some advice Jesus gave to a rich man. Matthew 19: 21: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.” However, billions of dollars of aid have already been thrown at Africa and many African countries are in a worse position now than they were when they first gained independence. Money by itself achieves very little in long term sustainable development. It can lead to dependency on foreign aid and can be a cause of corruption.

• Agitation for political change can have a large scale impact on the development of poorer nations. The removal of trade barriers and the cancellation of national debt are important issues that could positively affect the lives of many. These steps can do something to address the injustice that has happened in the past and could help to break the poverty cycle. However, political agitation is a limited attempt to help. It may take a very long time to create change if any occurs. It does little to alleviate immediate suffering.

• Short term work is an important step that can lead to life change (often for the volunteer). It can lead to a longer term commitment and inform about where donated money is going and what affect it is having. Some of the work done has lasting benefits. For example the building of buildings, medical work and skills taught to locals can be very helpful for developing nations. Many people in developed nations have better education and training than those from developed nations. It is important to share this resource as well as material resources. However, short term workers are sometimes uninformed of the culture and face language barriers. It is difficult for them to build meaningful, lasting relationships. It can promote dependency on foreign expertise. The amount of change that can be achieved in a short term visit is limited. The cost of travel and living expenses of a short term trip are very high and this money could maybe be used more effectively in other ways.

• Long term work allows lasting, meaningful relationships to be developed. Skills and knowledge can be passed on much more effectively than in the case of short term visits. Language and cultural barriers can be overcome. It is more than tokenism. It is a serious attempt to address the massive international imbalances that exist. However, it can also promote dependency. Missionary and NGO organizations are often run according to western values and ideals. They may not address the issues that the locals would like to have addressed. It is also expensive for a westerner to travel to and work in poorer countries.

It is easy to pick apart every attempt to help the poor. However, despite all these real problems with aid work the Bible is very clear on the topic of poverty. It tells us many times that God wants Christians to do something for poor people. Perhaps some of the benefit of this work will be felt by the workers. Isaiah 58:8 continues on from the topic of helping those in need to say:

“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.”

If we make the decision to get involved in the business of helping the poor we may as well put serious thought into what we do to avoid some of the very real problems that aid work can create.

Monday, November 22, 2010

this little darling

This weekend I did a little photoshoot with my gorgeous two year old friend in Suubi Village. I needed an image for our Christmas party invitation so thought it'd be timely to wrap this little one in a bow! We had so much fun - here are some shots that didnt make it to the invite, but that make me smile.

an installation artist we admire

Gabriel Dawe's colorful 'Plexus installation is currently showing at the Dallas Contemporary in Texas.

The construction is made out of gütermann thread, wood and nails attached at either end to blocks of wood, the effect is like a real-world version of computer generated imagery. Stunning.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sports Weekend Windup

It was a whirlwind few days of sporting activities across both Watoto Bbira and Suubi Villages over the weekend (13 & 14 November). Kicking off with the rugby, basketball and finally cricket we bring you the latest direct from the field.


The odds were stacked against us to say the least. Playing noted rugby school St. Lawrence Paris with a rookie team that had never even heard of rugby four months ago, tensions were running high as Watoto took to the field for the very first time.

Running 30min halves and ten to a side, the game drew a large crowd that had picked St. Lawrence as the winners before the game had even begun. The St. Lawrence side started the game with an attacking stance, pushing our boys to fight back in defence in order to hold them outside the try line. Shortly into the game, Captain of the Watoto team, Paul, scored a magnificent try due to the careless handling of the ball by the opposing side. Followed shortly by a conversion and later a penalty the Watoto side’s outstanding defence and sheer determination led them to victory with a 10-5 win. And no one was more surprised than the Watoto coach, Teacher Tim Manson (from New Zealand). Training hard with the team for over four months whilst teaching them a sport they had never even seen played before, was a challenge that beckoned this rugby fanatic.

Ecstatic doesn’t do the teams emotions justice. The smiles, excited chatter and pats on the back came thick and fast as our boys reflected on their win. Team player Josiah was overheard reflecting on the game; “First Game. First Win. It’s unbelievable. But true!”


Over 100 Watoto students turned up in force to support Watoto play basketball in a game of spills and thrills against St Lawrence Paris on Sunday afternoon. Making the almost 5km trek on foot to the not so nearby school meant that the Watoto supporters arrived in a jolly mood with plenty of vocal power on hand to cheer the team along. Played by a team compromising of students aged 16-20, the games only three pointer was scored by the youngest member of the team, 16 year old Bigira! Point for point the game continued in a nail biting match that culminated in a final score of 54-59 to St. Lawrence. Coach Ken Akena, also fondly called AK; had the dual role of refereeing during the game and was very proud of his teams efforts. Of course with that many Watoto kids in the stands, one has to mention the off court activities that proved especially entertaining. Sports Coordinator and Teacher Albert had the crowd in hysterics after he used a vuvuzela that was stolen from the opposite side and started blowing on the horn. All in all a very entertaining afternoon – on and off the court.


A generous donation made by Cricket Australia and the Horrocks family have meant that Watoto kids playing cricket this year are now kitted out with the finest of sporting gear and equipment. Coach Mitch Horrocks was thrilled with the delivery. “With the gear we have received today, we can go on to teach the kids a more professional standard of cricket, increase their passion for the game and attract further players to join the team, he said.” Bats, pads, helmets and balls were among the loot opened by the eager children on Saturday afternoon. Completely overwhelmed by the generosity of their Australian friends, the kids didn’t even know where to start when it came to trying on the new clothes, knocking in the new bats or hitting the field for a game. What a great investment into the sport and one we are supremely grateful for!

Friday, November 12, 2010

just because...

One for the Lads

This is a story I wrote today about our dear friend Andy. Its up on the Watoto website but I wanted to share it with our male viewers... :)

One for the lads

If the only thing in Watoto’s vision statement (“Rescue a child, Raise a leader, Rebuild a nation”) that stands out to you is the word ‘build’ –this is the story for you.

Meet Andy, one of our newest volunteer recruits. True to the nature of his hometown in the deep south of Gore in New Zealand; Andy is a laid back yet hardworking, salt of the earth kind of man. He didn’t come here to hug babies – though they are adorable. He came here to get his hands dirty in a different sort of area, the Fabrications and Production Unit in Watoto’s Suubi Village.

Arriving just six weeks ago Andy has quickly become a mainstay in his new department with his 9 years worth of experience in production and joinery manufacturing the perfect fit. An average day will see him overseeing a team of 15 young Ugandan workers who are learning the art of joinery and carpentry under Andy’s direction.

Commenting on his newfound role Andy says; “The production and fabrication unit at Suubi Village is responsible for ensuring that whatever Watoto requires for the village homes, babies homes and schools – can be designed and built in house. I am involved with making that happen. That usually involves teaching our team how to machine timber, construct joinery fittings, build couches, tables and cabinets and ensure our stringent safety standards are met.”

It is also part of Andy’s role to ensure that the way items and products are made, are being done in the most timely and economically efficient way possible. Often times this means teaching his team a faster way to accomplish a task, or suggesting a new way of structuring an item to make it work better or be sturdier. Whether it’s installing a cabinet in the Physics Labraroatory at Hope High School, delivering a handmade baby’s crib to the babies home or constructing a table and chairs for a new teachers home– Andy uses every second of his 8am -5pm job wisely.

Making friends with the locals he works with comes easily to Andy and their respect and care for him is obvious; “When I first arrived here one would be correct in diagnosing a young 28 year old with a healthy dose of culture shock. Six weeks on, I have well and truly settled and even though I originally came here to look out for them, I’m so grateful they actually look out for me”.

We are so grateful for the volunteers that travel from all corners of the globe to get to us. Their support and skills are invaluable to the ongoing success of what we do here. Andy is an excellent example of someone who wanted to get involved with Watoto and has been able to use his gifts and talents in an area that works both for us and him! If you are interested in volunteering your time and talent with Watoto in 2011 we’d love to hear from you on .

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

just for fun

Here’s a cool example of how a simple idea works. Last week, Marimekko presented its Spring/Summer 2011 fashion collection at Helsinki’s wholesale flower market, a vast building near the harbor where most imported flowers land first. Pathways created with masses of potted plants, and summer-dreamy music by Matti Pentikäinen, gave a minimalist background for the season’s collection designed by Mika Piirainen and Noora Niinikoski.

Marimekko Spring/Summer 2011 from The Cool Hunter on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

lest we forget the joys of swinging

These shots were taken on Sunday in Suubi Village. I love the freedom that a swing can bring.
Such a simple pleasure.
So often forgotten.


An adder to start the day

As I walked up the hill from our house to school the other morning I saw a large group of students crowded around a bucket.  Curiosity got the best of me so I went to investigate.  The contents were a coiled, two foot long, fat, young puff adder.  One of the senior boys had seen the snake in the long grass near the school and hit it on the head.  It was still alive so I dealt with him.  It is now kept in preservative in the biology lab- one of the advantages of a science department located in the African bush. After some research it turns out that Puff Adders are responsible for more deaths than any other African snake. Apparently they move sluggishly until provoked when they can strike with startling speed.  Would have been nice to know that little fact before I got close for photos.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cece Winans - Million Miles

a quote we love!

by Bono from U2:
"It's an amazing thing to think that ours is the first generation in history that really can end extreme poverty, the kind that means a child dies for lack of food in its belly. That should be seen as the most incredible, historic opportunity but instead it's become a millstone around our necks. We let our own pathetic excuses about how it's "difficult" justify our own inaction. Be honest. We have the science, the technology, and the wealth. What we don't have is the will, and that's not a reason that history will accept....We can be the generation that no longer accepts that an accident of latitude determines whether a child lives or dies. But will we be that generation? "

Friday, October 29, 2010

Life at the Watoto villages

Suubi Village

Athletics Training

Bbira Village


Monday, October 25, 2010


Matchstick Art of the Day: Pei-San Ng’s “Passion” — 2,500 matches glued to a piece of reclaimed plywood.