Project Manager Alan to appear on TV...
What role does faith play in sport? This is the question being posed by Channel 4's 4thought.tv in a series of short films this week. Our very own Paralympian and Integr8 Project Manager, Alan Whetherly, will be featured this Saturday (4th August) on Channel 4, at 7.15 pm (immediately after the news).
Over 17,000 athletes from over 200 countries will be competing during the Olympics, and an estimated 4200 representing 150 countries at the Paralympics. These sportsmen and women will represent a wide range of cultures and beliefs, competing within the strict rules and regulations of sport.
A handful of people have made short videos talking about the interaction between faith and sport - Please watch on Saturday evening and see what Alan has to say on this topic.
If you miss Alan's film appearing live, you can still view it at 4thought.tv and join in discussion on this interesting topic.
Read Alan's weekly blog by following this link to the Integr8 website.
Join us at a once-in-a-lifetime event
A unique community festival is taking place on Paralympics opening night (29th August, 6 – 10pm) at Stoke Mandeville Stadium. Organised by Aylesbury churches and supported by Fusion Youth and Community and More Than Gold, with input from Through the Roof, there will be various zones including: disability sports; arts/crafts; multi sensory; chill-out; face painting; puppets; inclusive collective games and plus free food. The opening ceremony will be broadcast on the big screen at 8.00pm and Channel 4 will feature the event on their Paralympic Breakfast Show.
The festival is committed to inclusivity for all and aims to ensure, wherever possible, that disabled people are provided for. It will offer: allocated parking; step-free access; individual chairs; a loop system; sign language interpreters; inclusive Paralympic sports e.g. sitting volleyball, goalball; appropriate activity zones e.g. multi-sensory and chill-out; subtitles on screen; and trained, supportive volunteers with a welcoming, can-do ethos.
If you are someone living with disability, or know of someone who is, why not encourage them to join us for this once-in-a-lifetime event?
For more information on the event, please go to the Aylesbury Church Network website.
Anne Wafula Strike - Christian Paralympian
Anne Wafula Strike was born in Kenya and contracted polio aged two. After a life walking with crutches and callipers, she got her first wheelchair when she was pregnant. She discovered wheelchair sports and competed for Kenya in the 2004 Paralympics, making the 400 metres final in the T53 classification 400 metres – the first East African to compete as a wheelchair racer in the Paralympics.
Anne says of the experience, “Being in Athens was like a new chapter in my life, one that I was going to live and celebrate for a long time. When I was on the starting line and heard the announcement, “Anne Wafula, representing Kenya”, I was so proud to be there representing my nation on the world stage”.
In 2007 she won a bronze in the Paralympic World Cup and fourth place in the World Championships. In 2008 – now living in England - she missed out on selection for the GB team for the Beijing Paralympics by 0.1 seconds. She said, “It was so hard not to make the team after working 4 years. But as a Christian, I believed that God had a purpose for me – whether to win a medal or not get to the start line. And when I missed out on selection, my faith supported me. The experience made me a stronger person”.
Her relationship with Jesus is central to who she is: “Having Jesus in my life puts a smile on my face every day. It is a smile that is from within. When people see the smile on my face, it is the glory of God. People don’t just see Anne. They see Anne who is covered in the glory of God.”
Anne is hoping to make the GB Paralympic team for 2012.
Please join Through the Roof in praying for Britain’s Christian Paralympians. This information has been provided by teaming up with our friends at Verite Sport who promote a Christian presence in sport based on the teachings of the Bible.
Christian Athlete, Michael Starkey, Selected for the Paralympics
Equality has been restored in the Starkey household with Michael gaining selection in the Men’s goalball team for the Paralympics. His sister Anna had already been selected for women’s goalball (Follow this link to read about Anna’s selection).
Michael said of his selection: “The Paralympics will be incredible and I intend to enjoy every second of it. There will never be another moment like this and I will cherish it. Anna has been a fantastic support for me and it will be very special for us to be there together. I’m not sure how much time we’ll get together but we both feel so honoured to be a part of it.
“The news about making the squad was amazing. I feel so proud to have achieved that level of performance and get selected. It’s all about having that desire to get better, to spend hours in the gym and on court looking for those improvements that could make the difference. That’s all paid off and it is time to put everything into practice”.
Having grown up in a Christian family, faith in Jesus has always been part of Michael’s life. He feels that it is equally relevant to his sport. “My faith is an important part of the game. I try to pray before every game and give that game to God, to quietly affirm to him that what I am doing is for him and for his glory. I think if you ask the Holy Spirit to be with you, you have a strength that you can’t have without him”.
Michael Sharkey has a form of visual impairment called retinitis pigmentosa which means that he does not see very well in dark places. He is short sighted and can’t drive. He uses a kind of CCTV with a camera that puts the book on the screen to read. His impairment affects him finding places or recognizing people’s faces which take a bit longer. He works as a physiotherapist.
“I certainly do not blame God for afflicting me with a disability,” says Michael, “it has been a blessing for the most part in my life. When I was younger I prayed for healing and that brought me to a place in my mind where I could deal with the fact that I was disabled and move on and make something of my life rather than wondering how on earth I was going to cope”.
He has played goalball at international level since 2002 and is excited about the possibility of playing in a home Paralympics: “I remember the moment the announcement was made. I punched the air and shouted out in sheer joy while everyone else wondered what on earth I was doing!”
Please join Through the Roof in praying for Michael and Britain’s other Christian Paralympians whose profiles we will soon be featuring on our website and Summer Vital Link newsletter. This information has been provided by teaming up with our friends at Verite Sport who promote a Christian presence in sport based on the teachings of the Bible.
Wheels in Uganda -- Phil's Blog, Days 8 and 9
Thursday 5th July - Day 8
Started the morning with what seems like a routine now and I have it down to a fine art, so I can afford to stay in bed an extra 30 seconds!
Now, this was effectively the last day here as on Friday we will be traveling home. As such this means the blog won’t be read out in our team time, unless of course we decide to take over a portion of the plane to sing some songs. So for this blog entry the team won’t see it till they get home... hmmmmm... freedom at last to write what I want without the fear of sudden death from the rest of the team.
Anyway, team when you read this I’ll be safe at home and have hired trained security guards etc... so no point trying anything.
So...the day started properly when we all headed off down to the RILD offices to see if anyone was going to turn up even though it wasn’t an official distribution day. Glenda and I were going to stay around longer as we were going to do some house visits whilst the rest of the team were going to head off into Kampala to experience the markets.
Yes, the rest of the team were slacking... Of course again I am joking!
We did see a few people before the team headed off and whilst I was replacing the brakes on a wheelchair, Glenda was sorting some crutches out for someone else.
We then headed off on some home visits, and the plan was to see people who we had given out wheelchairs to in their home environment. I was taking some video so we can at some point share what it looked like.
The first place we stopped was to see a young man called Nicolas.
We were told he was between 19 and 24 -- no-one seemed sure but he was the size of a 6/7 year old I guess. A small room, I guess the size of a garden shed, and this is where Nicolas sat in his chair.
At the time I was focused on getting the scene on video but now I remember the details I am left almost speechless. (For those following the blog you would realize that's very unusual.)
The reality is.... well.... it's sad, really sad. On one hand we have provided a chair so that Nicolas wasn’t on the floor, was sitting up and could be wheeled outside, so that's of course fantastic news and thats why we are here.
However it’s pretty shocking. I am pausing right now, just thinking about how to describe it. You have to see it to believe it I guess and when you do unless your heart is really hard then it may well break. Mine broke and continues to break seeing this sort of thing.
Yet saying all that, Nicolas was happy from what i could see and what his Granny said. His parents had died if I remember correctly. Nicolas was smiling.
His Granny was 80 years old and she had started a school for non-disabled children which we also looked round. She plans to develop it so she can manage children with disabilities. Pray for her please! When I am 80 I only hope I have her faith, compassion and drive.
Next stop was to a girl with CP (I think) and it was a chair I had helped Pip on I believe. What struck me is how they survive on so little.
The girl was a little upset (I guess seeing me who would blame her) but we then moved on to the next visit.
The next and final visit was to Latifa. He was a boy who had come on the first day and we had been unable to finish his chair on the first day. We finished it the 2nd day however. His Dad ran away when he was born, I am assuming that he thought he couldn’t cope.
Latifa’s mum however is with another Man now who’s building their home. It’s basic to say the least but I remember Latifa as he was always smiling.
He was lying in his bed when we came but I am hoping he regularly gets out in his wheel chair. Again reflecting on it now I am blown away yet again by this little boy's reactions. As far as I can tell he was happy. When you smiled he would smile and laugh. Geeee... I am just trying to contemplate that.
In England many young children don’t even laugh when they have everything they could ask for, xbox, ipod touch etc. Here was a little boy with nothing who needed constant care and he was smiling away.
Perhaps it's time some of the youth of today got out here and started appreciating what they have. (I’ll of course try and remind myself of this when I get back to my day to day life).
So, challenge time again. Next time you're feeling glum.. or wishing you had some new gismo, gadget or handbag (for the ladies, of course) then remember Latifa or Nicolas and change your perspective on life. Then.. pray for them and others like them as well as their families friends and guardians who look after them.
We headed back to RILD after that where we found two more people hoping for wheelchairs. One of them said to Glenda that she was really hoping to go away with a wheelchair and we were happy to oblige even though we didn’t have that many chairs left.
So work completed... It’s a little anti-climactic and again I sort of expected it but knowing that's it for another year is a little sad for me. We had children who didn’t get chairs this time, so please pray that Wheels can get hold of smaller chairs for the next visit.
Glenda and I then headed back to the hotel where the rest of the team were waiting. They had a fascinating tine in Kampala with all the chaos of the markets.
Time for a swim and getting ready for our evening out at a BBQ with the RILD team. We even had a new member of the team. A good looking youngster had decided to join us, although it could have been Anna dressed up with some make up on, I couldn’t be sure...
At the BBQ we had a selection of meats and some salads. Chickens here cost around 7000 Ugandan Shllings which is about £2 - Yes, another Random fact from me. That is quite expensive here though. They don’t separate the chicken like we tend to do in the UK, e.g. Breast, Leg etc. They tend to just cut it all up in smaller bits. Our chef for the night worked in Nandos! Yes they have a Nandos in Kampala, but strangely no MacDonald's. Not that it mattered really.
We then had a RILD/Wheels debrief and discussed the good elements as well and discussing things that could have been done better. Generally the good working relationship between RILD and Wheels meant things went smoothly and the Wheels team tries to be as accommodating as it can.
As such I’d like to thank (and I am sure the rest of the team would agree, Eva & William, Titus, Dan, Daniel, Max (our Driver), Chemoi, Eddie, Kerin, John-Francis, Davey and all the extended RILD team/familes. Thanks for their hospitably, support, organization and friendship.
Of course it wouldn’t have been possible without them.
Please pray for them all and pray God will bless them so they can grow the work they are doing here.
BBQ over, we headed back to the hotel for our Team time.
The past days blog was read out and I reminded the team they would have to read this one when they got back home so they should perhaps be extra nice to me. Fat chance of that!
In fact Mary, normally the quiet reserved one, had been teasing me over the past day or so. I had originally been nice to her so I am not sure what I did to deserve it. It could have been Roy’s influence who was again on fire with his quick remarks. Pip, the Ninja, as we often call her for her stealth, ability to hang from ceilings and walls unnoticed and her almost unparalleled martial arts skills. So good were these skills we never actually saw her performing any of these feats, she was obviously too fast.
Anyway, Pip was also dishing out the comments today and Anna was equally verbally beating me up.
I can take it.. and I know they were only joking (right ?).
I realized it was all my fault, even though Anna blamed Pip for making a comment about me on the plane out here, thanks Anna, but I suspect it was the result of a well oiled team who trusted each other. We had not only done some good work (well I think so) but we had been able to do it in a fun but loving way.
Glenda used the old line of “best team ever”. I guess she has to say that to avoid rebellion, but from my perspective it has been great. Glenda as always has been fantastic as a team leader and I will of course miss that should I go (hopefully) on another Wheels trip. Her successor has some big boots to fill!
A special message for Tim (Glenda’s boss) when you read this if you read nothing else please read this... “Glenda, best team leader ever !”
I wish she didn’t have to retire and I will shed a tear for the end of an era (even though this is only my third trip. I will miss her although I am hoping she will be on other tips. I’ll also miss her electrifying bug catcher that makes a great noise when it succeeds in doing its job. (Sorry Pip another few mossies became extinct tonight)
P.S. Tim it was all my fault. Glenda.. does that get you off the hook now?
We have had a lot of fun and if making Glenda cry with tears of joy is a measure of this then well it can’t be bad and as I keep mentioning that despite this frivolity we have been able to do God’s work I hope. We have also had fun with those from RILD and most importantly those wanting Wheelchairs/Crutches etc. I think more than previous trips I have seen people happy and smiling as a result of getting a wheelchair.
So THANKS GOD for making this all happen. Thanks to all my team mates. I mentioned this yesterday that I will miss you. I’ll miss the camaraderie. Who will I be able to tease now..?
To those reading, thanks again for your feedback. As you know from these blogs I am the most humble of all the team so your praise really was of no surprise to me. Seriously though it was really nice to see/hear some comments/feedback that the blog was a way for you to feel part of the distribution.
I am hoping it's helped you share in what we have done here. There will of course be pictures and some video to follow but I am hoping it's given you at least some insight into some of the things we do. The happy and the sad.
Thanks for the prayer. Please pray that the team will get home safe and any dodgy bellies will be sorted asap. So .. I’ll possibly do another blog tomorrow when we are at the airport but that would be a short one I suspect.
Anyway, pray and keep praying for the work Wheels do in Uganda as well as Kenya, Ghana etc etc. I hope I get the chance to blog again, that is of course if I get asked to go on another trip.
I think I have said enough anyway and it's way past my bed time.
And with some tears in my eyes I’ll say night all for the final time.
Friday 6th July - Day 9
So.. its Friday and I write this from the Airport in Uganda as we await our flight back to Heathrow via Doha. I can’t really believe its almost over and from a distribution point of view it is. This trip seemed shorter than normal but we did travel longer to get here having to stop off in Doha on the way. I am going to say just a few words, remembering the Pastor/Preacher on Sunday. I’ll try and keep it short and sweet though as I think I said most of what I wanted to say yesterday.
In summary it was a fantastic team and I am really privileged to have worked with them and generally privileged to be able to help the RILD team here in Uganda. Thanks so much for their support and I pray they will grow as an organization.
Thanks so much to you the readers who have supported us from a far with your prayers and thoughts. We will soon be back (hopefully) in the UK with our friends and families. Perhaps we have been missed... ? Then again perhaps not 🙂
Thanks so much to Glenda, our fantastic leader. As she takes retirement later this year I am hoping that doesn’t mean no more trips with Glenda and hopefully I’ll be still be able to go on more trips with her in the future. You are an inspiration to me!
Final thanks.. to the boss of course. God that is. Thanks for keeping us safe and for everything you provide for us. Please keep us safe now as we head home back to our friends and family.
So.. thats it for now. Until the next time.. (assuming that if there is a next time they let me near a keyboard again to write a blog of course!).
Wheels in Uganda - Phil's Blog, Day 7
Wednesday 4th July
Normal procedure now.. up and showered. Still cold and I haven’t been stupid enough to see if its still shocking. Breakfast out the way then we waited for our driver. He was unfortunately late as he had been stopped by the police. He had been given a ticket for driving without consideration for others. Now I find that very strange as I haven’t seen one driver driving with any consideration for anyone else.
Driving here is an experience for sure.. they drive on the left as the UK but giving way on a roundabout.. well no-one gives way for anyone. Bikes weave in and out all the time and I am not sure what the accident rate is but I suspect its high.
The day was spent at the RILD offices, not across the road this time but in the small courtyard in front of the offices. It was a bit of a squeeze but we managed. Glenda and I were sorting chairs and replacing damaged wheels etc.. well Glenda did most of the work I just helped with the initial un-tightening of some of the nuts.
The reality is that it is a team effort. We work as a team and I must say it's a great team to work with. We bounce ideas around to come up with a solution. If we need help we ask.
Roy was on fire with his funny remarks today, but I think I have been a bad influence on him. I heard him say “no” several times when asked if he could do something and get “on with some work” to the OT’s. So to his wife when he gets home, I’m sorry and I am hoping my influence has worn off by then.
I was really excited to know that both Pip and Roy were going on the trip as we were in Kenya together. I have the upmost respect for both of them. I will miss both of them and of course the rest of the team when we return home. I also wanted to correct something from the previous day's blog where I said Pip shopped at Waitrose... in fact she doesn’t as she has “people” that do her shopping for her.
Just in case those reading get the wrong idea, the team has gelled really well.
As such we can joke around and not be offended by comments made but instead have a good laugh. We still of course manage to do the important stuff and we do know that it’s serious business. Helen mentioned that she felt she had been blessed by one lady today who was suffering from cancer and despite not being able to communicate properly with her due to language, Helen felt they made a connection.
The day was generally quite hot and as we had no marquee today we spent a little more time in the sun. There was a little rain shower later in the day so I guess it was a little respite from the Sun... Geee.. am I moaning about the weather.. typical Brit I guess. It’s actually been pretty good here as its not been too hot. In Ghana I remember it was really hot which made working quite difficult being soaking wet with sweat. Here it’s been more comfortable. At this point when I read today's blog to the team, I am sure the team will be saying, no, it's because I haven’t done anything to get into a sweat. The team look forward to me reading out the blog to them for some reason.
I am however really grateful to you the readers as I have heard that you like to hear about what's going on here. I will apologize, as when I send the blogs off I don’t always proof read them properly so I am hoping you understand what I am saying. So bear with me please I make a mistake it's usually at the end of a long day I write this. I enjoy it though as it's a bit like writing a diary and being able to provide at least some amusement is a good side effect. It’s made me think about things that have happened to all the team, and not just me.
Anyway back to the day.. as we actually finished fairly early today. We had one chap turn up after we had packed up but he wanted some crutches so we were able to help him. I am sure that even if he had needed a chair then we would have sorted it out if we could. For all those who want to know how many OT’s and Physio's it takes to fit a pair of crutches... well all of them. I have a photo to prove it !
Now I mentioned tomorrow would be a day off. (I did say possibly) We will be going to the RILD offices in the morning just in case anyone turns up. However the plan is that for the rest of the team will hopefully get to see some of the Kampala markets and that Glenda and I will go out to do some house visits and do some interviews/filming of people who have had chairs from past distributions. Anyway we are always pretty flexible as a team to deal with what ever comes at us.
So we got back a little earlier today after packing up and sorting everything out. There are a few chairs left but they will get homes by the RILD team - I am sure fairly soon. Some of the team, myself included managed to even use the swimming pool here. Did I mention we are staying in a 5 star luxury hotel? Joke of course. We discussed before that in reality a few changes to the hotel (like not trying to electrocute your guests with shocking showers for example) could really make this a great place to stay. I sort of feel a little bad for saying that, I am not sure if it makes me sound like a snob and I am hoping that I am not at least. The hotel has been just fine, we didn’t need more but compared to what we have back at home then it's far from the same. I guess thats why this is the developing world but like on other Wheels trips I realize you don’t really need the luxury or even some basic items we have at home to survive. Sure they are nice but as long as it’s generally clean etc then tha's the main thing.
Anyway the pool was cool.. perhaps cold but it was refreshing. As soon as you got out the pool the sun was quick to dry me off, then a quick change, before we headed for dinner. Team time and we discussed lots of issues and actually got into some quite deep topics. I read the previous days blog and despite being really nice to Anna she was obviously getting her own back on me. Don’t tell her this but I am hoping we keep in touch, she’s a great person and has I think done a fantastic job, obviously she’s still pretending to be a physio of course but I’ll have to forgive her for that. Friends like her and I don’t think you would go far wrong. Now after this comment she’s probably again wondering what I am after or what I’ll then say about her. I can be sincere at least sometimes so I’ll make this one of those times. Now thats not saying I don’t want to keep in touch with the rest of the team of course.. before I get chastised by them !
We then prayed for various items, including the work that RILD do and also for the son of one of the RILD volunteers who has Malaria. Please pray for these two items also.
I was just thinking that writing this blog is perhaps giving you an insight into the way I think. Not sure if thats a good idea as sometimes it’s a random brain dump. I am sometimes, well actually most of the time, challenged by the things I see here. Seeing generally how people live is one thing. Seeing how disabled people live is then another. Sometimes my little brain can’t take it all in. Again for me it's the children that highlight this the most and seeing more children today and being able to fit them into the chairs we had with inventive adjustments was really rewarding.
So now, at the end of day 7. The rest of the team are tucked up in bed. (I didn’t tuck them in though just incase you were wondering). Been a bit of a sad day in a way for me, but after two previous trips I do sort of expect it. It’s the thought that our time of helping here is coming to an end. We have to go home soon. I’ll miss the friendships formed or reformed and I’ll miss being about to help the disabled people here. I’ll try not to think about it tonight anymore though and as it’s 11pm so I’ll actually get an early night perhaps.
Night night again from Uganda.
Please keep praying for the team to sort out upset tummies and of course for RILD and God’s work in Uganda.
Wheels in Uganda - Phil's blog, day 6
Tuesday 3nd July
I think I should be sleep deprived but remarkably woke up at 6:30 after about 4 hours sleep. We had breakfast at 7 and the minibus was ready for us at 7:30. So far soo good...
Now, we had a minibus that could seat 11 but with very little storage space. We had supposedly 11 passengers as we has some of the RILD team with us. The theory was that the chairs and seating systems we were due to take would easily fit in the vehicle. Glenda and I had one of those.. 'hmmmm reall?' moments when we had discussed it the other day.
We got down to the RILD offices and I quickly looked at the chairs and other bits we had to take and realized, as they were, we had no chance of fitting them in, even though we planned to use the roof of the vehicle as well. In the end we removed the wheels and stripped down the chairs as much as we could. We literally hung (with velcro) some of the chairs in the boot space available. More on the top of the minibus and then the rest including the tool kit which weighs about 25kg had to go in the back with us. Thankfully one of the people due to come didn’t turn up so we were able to get everything in. We were told it would take 2 hours to get there.
At the first toilet break, (well done to Helen, Anna and Roy for testing out the facilities, chalk one more up to you guys) we ate mango straight from the tree. I thought it only grew in Sainsburys. The next stop was unscheduled and was due to the bus overheating. In typical African fashion there was no waiting for it too cool down, simply go for the radiator cap. Which in this case was inside the vehicle. After spraying the front of the van with boiling hot water (thankfully in order to get at the radiator you had to have the front seat up so the front was empty when it exploded) our driver Max put some more water in there and within about 10 mins we were off again.
2.5 to 3 hours later we arrived. I keep forgetting African timing is whatever they initially say plus an hour or so at least! We had driven 135km over some good”ish” road and some not so good. Arriving at the school at about 12 noon we quickly unloaded and were eager to get started. We had been told we would finish at 3pm so the clock was ticking. However, we were given a full meet and great from the school kids and staff. We stood for the Ugandan national anthem and then some other songs the children sang. It’s a school for children with disabilities that we had been asked to go to and we were providing chairs to some of the children that went there and also some children and adults from the local area. Once the children had sung to us we were then given a brief history before we had to introduce ourselves. Of coure we can’t be rude but I was wondering when we would get started. Eventually though we started work.
I was helping a young lad, along with Anna (at this point the team will be wondering what name I am going to give her today - but - I am just going to call her Anna today, yes just Anna). I am now also hoping she’s really confused and wondering why I am being nice to her and to lull her into a false sense of security, perhaps. Anyway, back to our young friend. He had been crawling around on the floor - I have seen quite a few people doing this and it has an awful effect on their posture and of course their hands and knees. Imagine walking round Basingstoke on your hands and knees all day, now imagine it with mud, rubbish and other unimaginable etc on the ground. Yes.. pretty grim.
Anyway we fitted the lad with a wheelchair and by-golly he was desperate to get out and use it. He was a really switched on young guy. Not sure how old he was. I remember Roy playing with him on a ramp, he was letting him go part way down and he just loved it. He would sit there smiling and he’d stick his thumbs in the air. Again like yesterday something so fantastic (not sure if thats the best way of describing it) but it makes your insides go funny, seeing the joy in this young life and yet he’s got to live with such disabilities.
Now the time was nearly 4pm.. Yes you guessed it - it must be African time since we should have left at 3. There was then a suggestion we would then go to the lady who ran the school's house. Gordon who was just dying to exercise his deputy position (as Glenda wasn’t with us) took full control and politely explained we needed to get back to Kampala. Again it may seem rude but it's a long way and dinner gets served at 6pm and some of the ladies of course need a shower. Roy and I always smell like roses by the way. In reality the ladies, bar Anna, yes still just Anna, had been doing some washing. They hadn’t done mine though, which is of course a little disappointing. I had thought my title of most humble would have counted for something! As such I had worn the same mucky sweaty top for three days now. It’s ok though, I believe ladies like that manly smell... that's right yes?
Anyway, back in the minibus we set off back. We had a few stops for Max our drivers shopping it seemed. Rather than Sainsburys delivering to your door in Uganda you drive down the road and simply stop at a place where they sell what you want. You instantly get mobbed with all the sellers thrusting their goods in your face in the hope that you will select their goods. The first stop was for Bananas (the green ones, which we would call plantain). Now in Sainsburys (or if I were Pip I am sure it would be Waitrose, if I were Anna however I am sure I’d be shopping.... well wherever she wanted - still hoping I am leading her into a false sense of security as I am being nice to her so far), anyway back to Sainsburys where normally you buy a handfull of bananas, say 8 tops perhaps. Max our driver bought two branches (or to me small tress) with what seemed like a hundred bananas. One had to go on the roof. The next stop was for Pineapple. 1000 Ugandan shillings each. About 25p! Then the next stop was for paw paw and some tomatoes I think. Final stop just down the road was fresh fish from Lake Victoria - large fish for about £2.50 each - strangely though this was securely mounted to the front of the vehicle. Good idea really as otherwise it would have smelt really bad in the minibus. Should try that at home I think, put my selection of food on the bonnet in case it smells. So the equivalent to Sainsbury’s is a 135km stretch of road you drive down in Uganda.
All was going fine, and we even stopped for a few pictures as we goto the equator, until we hit a traffic jam...
It turns out a lorry had gone off the road. We had in fact seen it on the way to the school. However the authorities here had decided that the best time to recover the vehicle (even through it wasn’t in anyone's way, was in the peak of rush hour. Looks like there is still British influence in Uganda after all! This added a fair bit of time. Whilst waiting I was getting a bit of video and started filming some of the cows they have here with large horns... massive horns in fact. The cows were in the back of a lorry. Within seconds of starting to record I was greeted by some men in the back of the lorry saying "Masungu (meaning White man), no no no". I could only suppose that the cows were in fact movie stars and the men in the back their agents and didn’t want unauthorized videos being made. I guess come to think of it now they didn’t look like they had much make up on. They eventually cleared the road and we headed off again.
The sun set and the moon appeared... we debated films and family soap. (There is a joke in there but you have to have been on the journey). Anna had started another little competition which was to see if I had seen any of the favorite films of the other members of the team. The logic is that I would of course be completely uncultured and not have seen the favorites of the others. As it turns out she was right, I hadn’t seen many of the films mentioned. From Gone with the Wind to Fly Fishing in the Yemen etc etc. So it is true, the rest of the team is completely uncultured and I’ll stick to watching James Bond and Iron Man.
So.. he journey took a little longer than expected. As it turns out in African time the 2 hour journey home too us nearly 5 hours ! Thankfully dinner was still available. Followed by team time where, yet again, I was forced at gun point and with much coercion to read out the previous day's blog. Good job I’d stayed up the night before to finish it. Glenda and Mary both pretended they’d had a really busy day too. It turns out they were watching the tennis ! They even managed without a techie they said which again made me believe they didn’t actually do anything, since techies do all the hard work. Yes the humility is still with me. No really though, they had been busy with various people turning up though out the day. So they were back at 6, which is of course still late.
Now, what about Anna. I have I think been really nice to her today. Is she left wondering if there is some snide comment or little secret I am going to share about her (apart from the fact she lives in Slough ! - I guess someone has to). Well Anna.. just for today (apart from the Slough comment of course) .. I’ll be nice. In fact I commented that it's quite nice that a physio tries to fix the chair as much as she can without asking a techie for help.
Anyway, as it turns out it's the penultimate day for us as Wednesday will be our last distribution day. Thursday it seems (so far at least) will be a pack-up day. My respect of course again to the OT’s and of course Anna the physio as they do the hard work I think and do a great job getting people into the wheelchairs.
Please pray that the final day of distributing chairs will go smoothly and that those we help will be blessed in ways we can’t imagine. Pray for those children we saw and that God will remind me (at least) about those things, the joy and happiness, that those children had despite having very little physical things in life. Remind me to be more like them every day in that respect.
Night all at the end of day 6.
Phil's Blog - Wheels in Uganda, day 5
Monday 2nd July
Surprisingly awake this morning after about 5 hours sleep and up and ready for breakfast.
Back at the main distribution point this morning and again did an initial count of the chairs. As yesterday we are struggling for small chairs so I spent some of the morning trying to make sure the ones we had were in good working order with foot plates etc so that they could be used if needed. We actually had quite a lot of Children again today and like yesterday, in some cases we had to say no to some people as we simply didn’t have chairs for them.
For example at (if I remember correctly about 4pm) a mini bus from a school turned up with over 20 children, I don’t remember the exact number. Some had old crutches and some of the young boys were amputees. Some had to be carried out, helped by their teachers. So even though we didn’t have many chairs we did what we could in terms of crutches and shoes. Glenda even reached a new achievement, fitting two people into one wheelchair! Of course not your typical NHS practice (well not unless cuts get really bad I guess) but it worked in this case with a slight adjustment to the foot plates so their feet didn’t fall through the gap in the middle.
One lady I helped with “Anna the fantastic bladder” (I’ll explain that later) came on a taxi-bike but usually crawled on the ground. Not sure on the technical term for her disability but when we fitted her into a wheelchair we basically had to try and unfold her. She was quite a vocal lady and was with some of her family that looked after her from what I could gather. They said she didn’t really know what she was complaining about. I suspect they didn’t really listen to her.
Helen was fitting crutches but needed them shortening for some of the children. I was helping Roy with them and said jokingly to him, “I hope Helen measured them correctly and doesn’t then come back to us to ask for more taken off, but if she did just say no to her”. A minute later Helen appeared and started her sentence with something like, “sorry to be a pain but...” at which point I interjected, “go on Roy tell her no”.
Roy is of course too nice for that.. that was until Helen started making some jokingly snide comment.. at which point Roy simply replied, “Go and get some work done”.. perhaps you had to be there but I was laughing my socks off. I couldn’t think of a nicer guy to be out on a trip with (in the techie department, just in case Gordon thinks I don’t like him!).
It was another long day and we returned back at the hotel again at about 6:30 local time.
After dinner we again had our team time and Gordon’s topic was humility. Now of course we quickly had a discussion on who amongst us was the most humble. I as blog writer (at this point at least, facing possible rebellion from the rest of the team) decided that I must of course be the most humble. I am of course joking.. as if you think you are humble then I am pretty sure you have failed at it. Humility is something I may not master anytime soon.. and even if I did I wouldn’t know it, since again, thats surely the point.
We discussed toilets again and in fact Helen - a self confessed self defense expert (but that's another story) as well as cake eating master/monster, your choice - decided we now have another competition in play for the one who frequents the most non-hotel toilets whilst we are here. I so far appear to be winning... whoop!
but I think its fair to say its a lot easier for a guy here. Helen is coming in a close second. Kudos has to be given to Anna who explained that she had started the day wanting to go to the loo... yet held it in all day!
As such “Anna the fantastic bladder” is her new name. I mentioned before the toilets here are basic at the least, so it is understandable. For those reading this, Anna does know I am joking and in fact Mary suggested I should have names for other members of the team. Well Mary if thats what you want... from now on you will be called
Wait for it...
Anyway we need to get an early night since most of the team have a long journey to a school over 2 hours drive away to distribute chairs tomorrow. I’ll be up last I bet writing the blog again... oh .. yes I am, doh.. again flaunting, no flouting (not sure which) Glenda's orders to get to bed. There goes my pocket money again.
We did have to wait up however as some confusion lead to the tool kit and some other bags being left in the back of our driver's car. Thankfully he agreed to drive it over at 11pm to drop it off, so it's safe and sound and ready for tomorrows trip.
The team are now fully versed in my blog writing habits and for some reason look forward to the next installment of me telling you, the reader, all their little secrets. As such they have started throwing things in expecting me to write about it in the blog. However.. I won’t be mentioning Pip getting a composting toilet or Glenda’s inventing a new word “Gongleling”. Ooops.
Frivolities aside again, the team is in good spirits still. Perhaps I may make light of too many things, I know what we are doing here is serious business but I hope that God doesn’t mind the joy that we have in doing what we do. We remember the good and the bad, we laugh and for me at least I have cried. I know I am not going to be able to change the world and whatever we do will be a drop in the ocean, but we are trying to make a difference and I think thats what counts.
I am rewarded with the smiling faces in most cases from children with all sorts of problems (Cerebral palsy, amputees, learning disabilities etc). Surely there is another lesson we need to learn here. Back home I often think that things are tough but the reality is, its nothing compared to what we see here and my prayer is that God remind me of that. I found this on previous trips - that children can teach us a lot.
Anyway.. time for bed at the end of Day 5 (already!)
Please again pray for protection for the team, for things to run smoothly and of course most important for me at least for the lives of those individuals we see in Uganda. I hope they see God in what we do.
Night night !
Wheels in Uganda - Phil's Blog, Day 4
Sunday 1st July
Sunday started with a lie in for me, I got out of bed a whole 10 minutes later than normal since breakfast was still at 8am. Church service started at 9:30 and we were due to sing... hmmmm.
Delays with transport meant that we arrived late, I quickly visited the public conveniences whilst the rest of the team went inside. The toilets in Uganda for those who are interested, and I am sure you all are, range from your usual toilet in the hotel (thankfully), pit latrines and even just a hole in the bottom of a wall! Guys have it easy (again thankfully for me) but there are often no doors on the toilets we have seen, so the ladies .. well.. probably have good bladders!
Anyway when I got inside Anna (yes 'Physio extraordinare' - its Sunday so I’ll try and be nice - for the first paragraph at least) whispered that as we were late we wouldn't have to sing. Relief appeared across my face. It was however short lived as the church leader (Richard) about 10 minutes later invited us all up to sing and then for Gordon to preach.
Thinking about it now I believe Anna was just getting her own back on me! (I guess I probably deserve it)
My singing voice was simply fantastic, I was having to hold back though in order to not make the team out to be complete amateurs. OK, the reality is my throat was killing me and I must have sounded like a cat being strangled. That reminds me I must enter for the UK Eurovision entry next year... The rest of the team however performed admirably.
Gordon more than made up for my singing inability and I thought he spoke really well. It was being translated as well so he had to keep pausing in order for the translation. Just so he knows I was listening, he spoke about Peace.
Some bad news though came in as the RILD offices had been broken into. A laptop was stolen and we are not sure if any bibles or other equipment has been taken. Let's hope if the bibles have been taken they get read by those doing the taking!
We had lunch at Richard's house (the Church leader) and then headed back to the hotel for a quick break before heading off to the Cultural Centre with Eva, William and Richard providing transport. The Cultural Centre is basically a performance of Ugandan dancing and tribal history (well that was my take on it). It’s a great experience there and I got plenty of photos from the show.
Helen (whose claim to fame is eating 30 cakes in succession!) even went on stage as anyone with a birthday today, this week or this month was invited up. The customary happy birthday was sung and they had.. yes, you guessed, cake ! This time though the cake was shared around the audience as well as those with birthdays.
As a team we are getting to know each other more and more, however the team are well aware of my blog writing and I suspect they may feed me with false stories about themselves. I’ll need to improve my investigative journalism skills I suspect. In fact for the first two nights the blogs have been read out in our team time so what ever I write here the team will see before they get home... It makes is difficult to “spill the beans” as it were about all the bad habits the rest of the team has, without putting myself on a 'soon to be extinct' list.
For example......... (Pause)..........I wasn’t really going to say anything bad about the team... (not more than I have written already). I am hoping that bit gets me off the hook at least if we read today's blog out in the team session tomorrow.
It does make me think about myself however as there is so much to take in here. Some good, some bad, some fun and some not so fun. I am generally a jokey guy but I do realize that to some people who don’t understand me well, it could come across as offensive. So to those people I say I am sorry.
Deep down I am actually a fairly sensitive guy. Thinking on what I see here in terms of the poverty, the levels of healthcare or just what people with disabilities here have to go through and live with, always shocks me.
Seeing the Children here especially those of course with disabilities makes an impact on me. It’s a balance between crying and getting on with things and helping as much as we can. For me I suppose I cover up some of those feelings by being “jokey” with the team. When I go to bed though or sit writing the blog my heart starts to melt a little thinking about all those young lives. I am glad God is so big since I couldn’t cope with it on my own.
I am no preacher so I always hope that being here doing what I can to help is pleasing to God. I also want this blog not only to document what we get up to here (and perhaps provide some amusement) but I do want it to be a way of sharing God's work or at least to ask you to pray and ask that God's will, will be done here.
In my own walk of faith I am struggling to find a Church back home so being able to do something practical for God is a fantastic privilege (and working with such a team is equally a privilege) and being here is a way of putting me second and doing something practical to help others. For me right now it's a simple faith, going out into the world and helping others when and where I can, I want the skills I have to be used in order to serve others. I think it's something others could get hooked on doing, it can’t be a bad thing after all.
With also the issues we had today, RILD’s break in, some transport problems etc is this just bad luck or are there other things in play here... either way for me it made me think about Glenda and as team leader these things could be a burden for her yet she just keeps going. She’s fantastic and one of the reasons I enjoy doing Wheels trips. So.. prayer for today, strength and peace (thanks Gordon for the timely sermon) for Glenda and the the rest of the team of course. In fact having all the fruits of the spirit would be be great for all the team. At the same time please pray for the RILD team and that the break in wouldn’t impact them in a negative way but make them even more determined to do what they do. And of course (almost finally) as mentioned, pray God's will be done here.
I didn’t actually think I would have much to write about today but I must be like the other guest speaker (not Gordon) this morning at Church who said "I’ll only say a few words", then over an hour later was still talking, actually shouting.
I will finish for the night though and again say night night as its after 1am here and I really should get some sleep. Thankfully I seem to survive on little sleep when out on Wheels trips ! (Don’t tell Glenda I stayed up writing this though or I’ll have my pocket money allowance stopped whilst I am here).
Charlotte's Cheviot Challenge!
Charlotte is taking on a big walking challenge to celebrate being well again after years of illness caused by ME/CFS.
Please do read Charlotte's story and support her efforts for Wheels for the World! You can read and download the article at Charlotte's story and donate directly to her Wheels page at Charlotte's Cheviot Challenge