200,000 refugees straining stretched resources
The main focus of the Pure Water project is centred on the border with Uganda and South Sudan. Myself (Paul Lightfoot) and my friend Paul Leonard arrived in Uganda on the 23rd of March for our 4th trip. After 3 days of travelling we arrived in Dzaipi in the far North West corner of Uganda.
While recovering from the occupation and atrocities carried out by the Lord’s Resistance Army led by Joseph Kony, they were also overrun in 2013 by several hundred thousand Sudanese refugees fleeing the Civil War over the border. Around 200,000 have settled in the area local to our project in the Adjumani District and are putting a huge strain on already stretched resources.
School progress slowed after a good start
The UN, Oxfam, Save the Children and the Red Cross are all now operating in the area. Boreholes are dangerously low as the water table is stretched and the dry season has led to water in general being in short supply.
We built the primary and infant school in Dzaipi during 2013/14 on land donated to us by the local community and had left the school in a functional state with registrations in progress. Unfortunately Jesus, the Village Chief and Physician, who was also leading the school died as the result of an accident after our departure. Consequently, further progress with the school was very slow.
Re-energising, leadership and gaining trust
Our first priority on this trip was to re-energise the school and appoint a new leader. To help with this process we asked for help from our friend Richard who was the head at our original project near Kampala. He now runs his own school, St Peter’s in Adjumani, and is acting as a management consultant, training our Head and teachers. He has also helped us set up the PTA and is aligning the curriculum with national education standards.
The biggest challenge we had was gaining the trust of the local villagers who had misconceptions about our reasons for being there, born out of the atrocities they have witnessed over the years. Their natural thought process was to think we were there to exploit them. The roasting of a goat on Easter Sunday and several evening meetings in the village while we were living in our tent amongst the sprawl of mud huts helped us gain trust and we felt we had integrated with the community over the two week period.
During our time in the north we added a traditional African Hut to be used as an office and also a staff room and store room. The Pit Latrine was plastered and a temporary kitchen structure was erected. The classroom dividing walls were made more permanent and 3 blackboards and furniture were built on site. We now have 62 pupils, a Head and 2 teachers, a cook an Administrator and a night watchman. As a thank you to Richard for helping over in Dzaipi we finished the construction of the boys’ dormitory at St Peters School by adding the roof, floor, doors and windows.
The Impenetrable Rain Forest and mountain gorillas!
At the end of the first week of April we travelled south and took a bit of R&R (Rest and Recuperation) time, seeing some of the animals in the Queen Elizabeth National Park transiting along the Nile via Lakes Albert and George. We stopped off at the Bwindi Impenetrable Rain Forest and climbed 7500 feet up into the mountains which border The Congo to track mountain gorillas which was an amazing experience.
Our next stop was to our first project near Kampala which we worked on in 2012. We moved the school in 2015 from Wampeewo to Kitezee. We were pleased to find 120 infants and juniors in lessons. Although a little crowded the project is functioning well with minimal input from us now.
Both Schools are twinned with Brookland School in Kent and have been renamed Mount Zion Brookland School (Kitezee and Dzaipi).