Luna in Uganda – Brenda’s blog

We arrived at sunny Entebbe after an overnight flight on friendly Ethiopian airways via Addis Ababa. Moses from Red Chilli welcomed us as returning visitors and helped us with heavy bags through puddles to the car – it had rained all morning. November is wet here!

We settled in at Red Chilli – everyone as friendly as ever and remembering us amongst the many who stay here for wildlife trips, NGO work, and placements at Butabika Hospital. It’s a calm, low-key place to stay where we can mull over what we’ve achieved each day and the concerns we are left with.

Making plans

What are we here for? We spend our first morning confirming what we hope to achieve overall and planning who we need to see, while getting through pots of strong Ugandan coffee. We have some appointments already, and others to make. We discuss Pippa’s project, which sees her leave us to stay with Mirica, the headmistress of St Nicholas school, and work with parents and teachers on understanding the impact of trauma on early child development. She has also initiated a sewing project for parents – making re-usable menstrual pads – which could give them a source of income and help their daughters stay at school.

Stella will go to Mbarara to support our Ugandan CATT trainers in setting up a Level 2 CATT programme. Brenda will go to Lira to support our special project at Bishop Asili Counselling centre. We make travel arrangements, and hope we don’t get (too much) rain on the way. Stella is going by coach, reassured that there are new vehicles on the route. Brenda will go by car with Fred, an experienced and trusted driver who talks Ugandan politics, has strong views on corruption, and faces a moral dilemma if stopped by traffic police – an everyday experience for drivers in Kampala’s challenging traffic jams – to pay a fine with all its bureaucracy and hassle? Or to pay a smaller bribe?

We walk to Butabika hospital, enjoying the sunshine in January, hoping to see the Head of Nursing for the children’s ward and ask if we can visit. Stella will be reporting back on progress to the CAMHS Workstream of the East London NHS Link, as well as the ‘Friends’ of the children’s ward. It would be so easy to walk straight in, but this is one of our many concerns – visitors can enter the ward grounds without challenge and the children are still able to open the gate and leave the grounds with no consistent vigilance for their safety.  However, we notice that more guards are around keeping an eye of things, and everyone we speak to tells us how much better cared for the children are, and speak of many improvements over the past year.  We are so pleased to hear this. Over the coming week we hope to find out more, and to return again before we leave. Watch this space for more news as our visit proceeds!