Autumn Newsletter 2012

Dear Friends of St James

I can hardly believe that it is now six months since I returned from Uganda (Gerry went in February 2012) after another very happy and successful, though exhausting, visit where I witnessed St James Primary School literally growing brick by brick! I am sorry it has taken me so long to send you this update.

Mr James, the teachers, the children and in fact the whole community of Nakakabala were very grateful for the wonderful contribution that we made towards the start of the construction of a four-classroom block. Your money was put to good use as soon as I arrived. The hardcore, bricks, sand and cement for the first phrase of the building were ordered straight away. This was important as it was the end of the dry season and the ground was firm enough for the trucks to get up the lane to the school which soon becomes impassible when the heavy rains arrive which they started to do before I left!

As usual the children played a big part in the building work, keeping the costs of labour down to a minimum. They helped to dig the foundations using hoes, spades and even bare hands! Whenever the builders needed any help the children would assist, even during the school day when each class took their turn! They cleared the land, moved hundreds of bricks to wherever they were needed and collected many, many jerry cans of water from the borehole for use by the builders. All the builders were local men who were grateful to be given much needed jobs.

All the materials for the building were sourced locally, so locally in fact, that one day Mr James appeared with a gift for me in a cardboard box. He put it down on the ground at my side and when I opened it up it was a brick, still hot from the village kiln! This special brick was kept aside and it was the one I cemented into the wall of the new classroom at a special ceremony of thanks to you all, especially Vernon Primary School who had raised a big proportion of the money for the first stage of the building. This ceremony which was attended by many members of the local community who support the school as much as they are able.

The day before I left Uganda Mr James intercepted me between classes to inform me that the District Inspector of Schools, Mr Kanakulya Abraham was visiting and he would like to meet me. The inspector told me he was very impressed with the new buildings and with the ‘management and organisation’ of the school and he wrote in the Guest Book that he had enjoyed his visit and St James Primary was ‘a school with vision’. It certainly is and with our help and Mr James as the leader, the vision will be accomplished!

Another visitor that day was the Parish Chief whose job it is to monitor any development in Nakakabala. It was good to see that St James is really ‘on the map’ now. Many people know about its progress and in particular the magnificent National Primary Leaving Certificate Results. The school came top of all the schools in the area and only in its third year of entering the exam! So all of you who have helped in any way should feel very proud!

I have been kept busy sharing news of my visit with many of you either individually or talking to groups, as well as going into schools that are excited about their continued friendship with St James. Vernon Primary School has played an enormous part since 2002 in helping me to help many children in Uganda and over the past two years Lower Park P.S. has joined in with enthusiasm. Before I went to Uganda in February, Prospect Vale P.S. came on board too! Then while I was actually in Uganda, I was very excited when I received an email from the Head teacher of Cheadle Heath P.S. who asked if her school too could get involved! Last term I spent time introducing all the children and teachers at Cheadle Heath to St James and I am very pleased to report that they are very keen to add their support. Last but not least the Hollies Pre-School here in Poynton continues to do their bit and is building a bond with the Nursery Class at St James.

It is wonderful that so many schools and individuals like yourself, want to be involved with the development of St James. We have made a fantastic difference to many children in the village of Nakakabala but we still have a very big ongoing challenge, that is to complete the building of the permanent block of four classrooms. By the time I left Uganda in March the solid foundations had been laid and the walls stood at six feet high but then the money ran out. Inflation has hit Uganda too with building materials doubling in price over the last year! To complete the classrooms it will take a further £12,000. By UK building costs this is not a lot but it is an enormous amount for the local people in Nakakabala to find and of course for me to raise by holding various events. I depend entirely on the continued generosity of so many people including the very valued donations from the schools who have befriended St James. So I hope that with the help of you all we can see the completion of the classrooms so that the children at St James can have a safe and comfortable environment in which to learn, just as the children at our schools do. There is still a long way to go but together we have made a wonderful start to what will be a fantastic asset to the school and the local community, and will create funds for the school  as the two middle classrooms are designed to open out into a hall which can hired out for other uses such as clan meetings or weddings.