At our October meeting we welcomed speaker Alison Brain, a children’s nurse who has worked in several Suffolk hospitals.
About six years ago a friend of hers who was visiting Uganda urged Alison to come out and join her to see for herself the predicament of children at a school and orphanage on the outskirts of Kampala.
More than half of Uganda’s 35 million people are under fifteen, there is a high poverty rate, life expectancy of 53 years, an infant death rate of 62 per 1000 plus a high mortality rate for mothers in childbirth. Add to this the highest death rate in Africa from HIV Aids, with over a million deaths to date, and 2 – 3 million orphaned children. Many children are abducted and end up as child soldiers.
With such a devastating backdrop it was not surprising that conditions at the orphanage were quite poor. The buildings were in a bad state of repair, there was no clean water and very little food. The children were sick, with stomach bugs and head lice, and there were no proper toilets or a kitchen. Alison was shocked at all this and returned to the UK determined to raise money to help.
After numerous coffee mornings, selling the family china and whatever she could lay her hands on, Alison had raised enough to build the school a new kitchen, which would give the children well-cooked, nutritious food to improve their health. However, she realised she really needed a permanent way of funding the school.
At the bead market in Kampala she found some women making necklaces using coloured beads made from rolled-up scrap paper. Alison brought a small bag of necklaces home to the UK and very quickly sold them.
Now when she goes out to Uganda, which she does two or three times a year, she takes 3 large suitcases with her. On the outward journey they are full of clothes and useful items for the children, and on her return to the UK they are bursting with beaded necklaces to sell!
Over the years Alison has raised funds to build a new toilet block with flushing toilets and wash basins, a clean water supply and a water tank to catch the rain in the wet season. The children’s dormitories have been repaired and decorated and they now have beds, bed linen, towels, and individual mosquito nets. Her next project is a bore-hole to ensure the water supply.
After Alison’s talk there were numerous questions and a chance to buy the necklaces. I think it had also made us realise how many things in our own lives we take for granted, and what wonderful work she is doing.
Coming soon we have an evening of Optical Illusions, a shopping trip to Cambridge and a talk on Crafts and Textiles.
– Sue Woolgar, secretary