Preparing the Liss garden for autumn

Warm greetings to all our friends in Uganda. We have just completed the first full week of school back in Liss and some of our staff and pupils have been beginning to prepare the gardening area for autumn. Mr Stanley has been looking after the tomato plants and now the tomatoes are beginning to ripen. Mrs Marfleet has cut back some of the foliage to allow the sun to help ripen the tomatoes.

Two Year 6 pupils, Alfie and Lewis, have been busy clearing the raised beds of weeds. In the spring we will be planting new vegetables to grow.

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Final days and reflections

Uganda Day 14: 2019 

After a comfortable sleep in a room on my own in the motel, woken only by a cockerel at one point in the night, I woke up feeling fresh. We all slept in for a while before breakfast which was where we were staying. 

Then we went to a market in Fort Portal. It was extremely colourful, with a variety of fruits and vegetables being sold. One particular thing I spotted was the way tomatoes were displayed. They were balanced on top of one another like when people balance rocks in a stack on the beach which was very clever. 

For the afternoon we went to Mountains of the moon to use the pool for the day and relax. I finished my book and just relaxed for the afternoon, occasionally dipping in the pool to cool off. We stayed for dinner and I tried the beef fajitas which were delicious, then it was back to the hotel for another good night’s sleep.  

Uganda Day 15: 2019

Paul, Luke, Meg and I went for breakfast whilst Andy and Nick got some extra sleep this morning. We were almost ready for our final part of the journey back to Entebbe. The bus journey wasn’t too long, only 4 and a half hours, but time flew by playing games with Nick, Paul and Luke. 

We shortly arrived at UWEC zoo and were reunited with our huts we stayed in on our first night in Uganda so it felt a bit like returning to our second homes. As we arrived late last time and didn’t see many animals, we went for a wonder around the zoo (along with hundreds of school children on trips!) We saw lions which we hadn’t managed to see properly in the wild, more zebras, and monkeys playing on the paths. The boys were tired so we headed back to our huts but Megan and I didn’t want to rest so we went to explore more of the park as we hadn’t seen the giraffes properly. We found an elder tree, baboons and the giraffe viewing platform and had time to chat and reminisce about the trip.

Joffrey picked us up at 5pm to go shopping. We went to the craft market which was really colourful, full of paintings and souvenirs to buy but it was just nice to have a look around.

Finally, it was time to revisit the beautiful restaurant (Gorettis) on the beach from our first night. We sat back at our table and as it was still light, we could enjoy the breathtaking view of Lake Victoria. Before dinner arrived, we had time to reflect on our time here. We did our top 3 moments for the whole trip and everyone had such different moments which was brilliant. Then we remembered funny moments of the trip and things we will miss. It got a bit emotional before leaving as we prepare to go home tomorrow. Overall, this trip has been an incredible, life changing experience and one I am thankful to have had. 


Before taking this trip, I didn’t know what to expect. I was a bundle of nerves, anxiety and excitement at a fresh opportunity to see more of the world and different cultures. Having now been able to experience the Pearl of Africa, I can see why it deserves that name. It’s not just the animals, which are incredible to see in their natural habitats, and the landscape, which goes on as far as the eye can see and changes with every turn, it is the people. I have never been anywhere more welcoming and protective of visitors to their country. Just by meeting someone, you are already their brother, sister or friend. You are treated like family without hesitation just by being happy and polite. The people of Uganda’s happiness has been unfaltering in every town and city we have visited. With those who have little, they are happy. With those who have plenty, they are happy. This joy beams out of them primarily through dance and music which spreads to anyone around as it is infectious. 

My biggest thank you for this trip is to the people at Kafuro Primary School, particularly Stephen Thembo, who made me feel welcome as soon as I entered his school and began speaking to him. I felt like I had known him longer than a few days by the end of my time in his school. I would also like to thank the teachers at Kafuro Primary School for giving me free reign of their classes (and sometimes translating), allowing me to experience different styles of teaching in a different culture and try to show them some of my style. 

I am going back to England with a renewed appreciation for things we take for granted, such as getting water from a tap instantly and without thinking. Having listened to Mr Stanley talk so positively about Uganda for the last couple of years, I hope I can harness some of his passion for the twinning project and continue to ensure that the children of Liss understand how lucky they are to be twinned with such a fantastic school and to remember that they have family, the school children of Kafuro, in Uganda.

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Day 14: Reflections on Uganda

We’re sat in Fort Portal, nearing the end of our Ugandan adventure.  This is an opportunity to pause for breath, drink a Nile and take stock of what has been a real life-changing experience.

There is obvious impact from the Changing Classrooms Project and we’re only half way through it.  The Headteachers from Rihamu and Kafuro will visit Hambledon and Liss in March 2020. The learning has been mutual and we will take things from the experience that will benefit pupils at all schools.  A detailed exchange of thoughts about managing school improvement has already taken place and I look forward to implementing some of the ideas that I take away from this trip.

I am excited by the potential to make an enormous difference to the lives of children in Uganda for the long term.  It won’t be too tricky either.  By western standards the money and resources required to make significant improvements to the schools here is relatively small. A little will go a long way.  We have already started this with our projects to improve sanitation and the building classroom infrastructure.  I hope we can continue this to ensure that pupils don’t waste valuable learning time performing tasks that take them out of the classroom, such as fetching water.  When they’re in class, we can ensure that they can learn without being exposed to the elements.  I am hoping that our School Council can rise to this challenge next year.

The purpose of this project is to benefit both English and Ugandan schools and there is much that Rihamu can contribute to Hambledon. As well as a window to different cultures and beliefs, our children continue to strengthen their ties with their pen-pals.  We also have plans to create video links and exchange voice messages with our friends at Rihamu.  We’re getting good at recording podcasts at Hambledon and these are a great way of promoting communication between our children.

As I think back on what I experienced I am glowing with admiration for what Shakilah and her team achieve with meagre resources.  In Uganda it doesn’t matter what clothes you wear or what car you drive.  Everyone is together and they look out for each other, nobody is judging.  It is inspiring.  School children concentrate well, listen carefully and show high levels of respect to each other and to the adults that teach them.  Living standards are lower and the pace of life is slower, but levels of appreciation are high and I will take these precious memories back to the UK.

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Uganda Day 13: 2019

Hippo House has truly lived up to its name today! Last night I was woken up at about half past 4 to a hippo grazing right outside my window – a bit of a shock when I opened the curtains and it was that close! Sadly, it was our last day staying in the park and we begin our travels back towards Entebbe today, with a few stop offs over the next few days. After waking up at 4.30 to the hippo, I couldn’t get back to sleep so I knew it was going to be a long day. 

We made our final visit to Tembo for breakfast to bring our time in the national park to a complete full circle. 

The car journey was long and pretty boring, so to pass time, Luke, Paul and I played a game called Mexican handbag in which you choose a country and an item and make up a meaning which became quite entertaining and has seemingly created a new language for us!

We arrived in Fort Portal, new word meanings in tow, and found our hotel for the night. It is very different to Hippo House, mainly because it has hot water! We dropped off our bags quickly and headed off to Semuliki National Park to visit the hot springs. The scenery on the journey was magnificent, the road we took weaved between tremendous hills and felt similar to the Amalfi coast mixed with the views of mountains that you may find in Austria but twice the size. 

Once we arrived at the springs, we visited the female spring first. There is a male and female spring at the park, named so due to a couple who went out into the forest and never returned but it is believed their spirits can still be found there. The female springs were so hot we were able to cook eggs in them. I was allowed to put them in the water but they had to go into a shallower area first which wasn’t so hot so that they didn’t crack. We looked around the rest of the spring while they cooked for 10 minutes, including looking at the fountain part which was like a sauna if you stood too close – hopefully I should have glowing skin now! When the eggs were cooked, we peeled them quickly as they were extremely hot, and ate them. I had two and they were really tasty, although it felt odd they had been cooked in the water we were standing near. Then we moved onto the male spring. This was a short drive and walk across a long jetty of wooden planks through breathtaking scenery which felt like we were in a scene in Moana. When we arrived it was much bigger than the first spring. It was wider and there wasn’t a fountain as the source of the spring was under the middle of the water. We didn’t cook anything here but were able to use some planks of wood to get very close to it to see the remains of sacrifices of money and bones from animals, as the local people believe that the lake has healing and wish granting properties.  

We left the springs and returned through the beautiful scenery again. When we got to the hotel we had some time to relax in our rooms before finding a hotel (recommended by Isaac at the lodge) for dinner which was lush. I had fajitas which I had been craving! Whilst the boys watched football, Meg and I went to explore and found a swimming pool and pool table! Joffrey played Andy and almost beat him one handed! Meg and I played a game too and I lost by only one ball. 

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Uganda Day 12: 2019

This morning I woke up to see off Steve, Karen, Jan and Ashlea as they set off super early. I managed to go back to bed and have a super relaxing morning. We ambled to breakfast late and tried the hostel which was nice. Andy and Paul were brave and tried the Rolex (omlette in chipati) which I think they liked! It was a relaxing day today as we spent it at the lodge, swimming and (for me mainly) reading, so there is not much else to report!

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Uganda Day 11: 2019

Unlike the CM sports gang, Paul and I had a later than normal start. We headed to the Conservation Cup tournament which kicked off just as we got there – perfect timing! Whilst supporting Kafuro during their football and rugby games from the sidelines, I had time to chat to Ashley who leaves tomorrow! I can’t wait to catch up with her when we are both back in the UK. I also chatted to some children on the side of the pitches who had lots of intriguing questions about England. 

A few games completed, it was time for lunch. Children were served first and then the adults ate in a classroom which felt like being back at school during wet play! 

I was also able to meet lots of people whilst I was there. I met Stephen’s wife who was very kind, and Stephen Biru who is Director of Education and Conservation. 

The finals took place in the afternoon and it went very quickly. Kafuro didn’t win either of the tournaments but they showed fantastic sportsmanship and team work. I’m sure they will come back stronger next year! The winning teams were awarded the prizes and all teams were given a football from the kit used for training. Once all teams had been celebrated, it was time to say some sad farewells. It was hard to get away from the school as no one wanted to leave. As we were driving away, we passed Stephen who had very kindly been to buy me a present – a lovely wall hanging in the shape of Uganda! A wonderful reminder of my fantastic time in Africa. 

Driving home we passed some small shops selling souvenirs. I purchased an elephant carving, a keyring with the uganda flag and a small drum to show the children at school for music lessons. 

At Tembo in the evening, we had our usual meals, followed by more farewells. This time we had to say bye to Steve, Karen, Jan and Ashley. I’m sure I will be making visits to QECP when I am home for a catch up!  

When we went to the Lodge in the evening, a huge storm came over, which we’ve had a few of whilst being here. The lightning here is brighter than England, it completely lights up the sky for longer than usual. Strangely there is no thunder to accompany it and it is still unusually warm during the storms. Joffrey explained that this storm was a farewell to Steve and his group, just as the rain on our first day had been a greeting. If this is the case, England must be saying hello and goodbye to lots of people all the time!  

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Uganda Day 10: 2019

Resorting back to my usual French toast at Tembo for breakfast this morning, I was ready for a busy day ahead at Kafuro. 

Ronnie drove Paul and I (very smoothly, the complete opposite to Joffrey) to Kafuro. Shakilah met us at the school, her first visit there, but upon meeting Stephen she realised he was her old teacher from P6/7 for English! It’s a small world, even here in Uganda. Shakilah was shown around the school with Paul whilst I taught my final lesson to P7. We tackled sanitation which most children believed to be keeping the environment clean but, with discussion, they were able to connect to the disposal of waste, including that of humans. I explained about the challenges girls face in education due to having to collect water and carry out other chores which the children understood well, collecting water for their families themselves. Having a tap with drinking water at school has enabled them to focus more on learning. This is as a result of previous fundraising by Liss pupils.  

Lesson finished, it was straight to the kitchen to cook pizza for all of the school! Assistant chef, Paul, was very handy to have around today! He really knows his stuff about pizza. The children all partook in the making of the dough, mixing it all together and getting very sticky in the process which was hilarious. Whilst the dough rose, we made the sauce. Children chopped tomatoes and small onions grown just across the road and mixed with some water which they reduced down over the fire. It was a lot cooler today outside but when I went into the kitchen it was too hot to handle! 

As the pizzas cooked, Paul and I joined the other teachers for lunch which was delicious as ever. The children were fantastic at minding the pizzas while we ate to make sure they didn’t burn! 

When we had finished lunch, it was time for the school to try the pizza. Each pizza was cut into about 40 tiny slices so P3-7 all got a change to try. Their faces were a picture as it looked like chapati but certainly didn’t taste the same! It was heart warming to watch them try something so different to their normal cuisine. 

Then the heavens opened and rain poured down, the storm had been in the air all morning. At a break in the downpour, there was a chance to watch the reigning champion tag rugby team practice. They were fantastic and showed great sportsmanship and team work just like the children of Liss. 

Finally, and sadly, it was time to say goodbye. I popped into P6 and P7 but the other classes were having lessons so I didn’t want to disrupt. The whole school then came to their windows as we drove off, beaming smiles on their faces and waving enthusiastically. I felt very special and privileged to have spent the last few days at such a fantastic school which I am proud Liss Junior School is twinned with. 

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Uganda 2019 Day 11: The Conservation Cup

Every night of this trip the whole group has sat together and chatted. As part of this conversation we have all nominated our top three moments of the day. Today, I will find it impossible to nominate just three. There were so many amazing moments that made this the perfect day in Uganda.

The Conversation Cup is a competition between all 10 schools in the QE Parks Project on the playing fields at Kyambura School. Ten children from each school participate in Tag Rugby and Football and also deliver a presentation with a conservation message.

Of course I was cheering for Rihamu. The children had only received their tag rugby kit a week ago, but have been training hard since. Many of the schools have been playing for years and Rihamu improved every game. I was delighted that by their final game, the children put up a stiff challenge and managed a 1-1 draw.

At break I handed the children some biscuits I’d purchased at a shop in Kampala on day 1. One little girl reached into the jar and pulled out a ginger nut. “Don’t eat yours yet!” called another child. “I’m not going to eat it,” she replied. “I’m only looking; it’s from the expensive super market.”

Rihamu’s football team are very skilful and performed brilliantly. I was on the side-lines cheering every kick. I must admit that the ecstatic cheer that I let out when their first goal was scored rang very loudly around the playing field. Rihamu went on to win that game and the next! The team qualified easily from their group and progressed as far as the semi-finals. The semi-final was a very tense affair with New Life School. Two very evenly matched teams. At the full-time whistle the scores were still 0-0 and extra time beckoned. Memories of Italia 90 and Euro 96 resurfaced as Rihamu let in the first goal in with literally the last kick of extra-time. This was the first time the children have taken part in a competition and to progress so far is a stunning achievement.

That left the conservation presentation. Rihamu performed a poem written by the Headteacher Shakilah, last weekend. The children had it memorised by lunchtime on Monday and spent the week perfecting their performance. I blogged earlier in the week that I thought they stood a great chance, but this performance brought things to the next level. They took to the stage in costume, having used a nearby tree to manufacture ‘branch’ headdresses. The performance was loud, slick and synchronised and brought huge cheers at the end. For me the result was never in doubt and as expected Rihamu were crowed Conservation Champions, winning a valuable prize of a boat safari in the Queen Elizabeth National Park!

Shakilah and her team are amazing. They achieve so much with so little, making a daily difference to children with extremely meagre resources. In Uganda it doesn’t matter what clothes you wear or what car you drive. Everyone is together and they look out for each other, nobody is judging. It is inspiring.

Huge congratulations to CM Sports for organising an excellent tournament. The sight of the post-presentation celebrations, hundreds of children dancing on the field, brought home to me the difference that a simple sports tournament had made. Then it was time for emotional goodbyes.

I return to the UK with pen-pal letters for the children and staff of Hambledon. Also with a snazzy hat and a plaque for my office. But more than that, I return to England having fallen in love with Rihamu School and the many friends I have made there.

As I went for tea at Tembo there was time for yet another Ugandan surprise. We have to drive everywhere in the park in the evening and night. This is because of the risk from wild animals. As I walked into the garden of Hippo House to board the bus I froze. Literally no more than 10 metres in-front of me, walking through our garden was a herd of elephants! I stood agog as 30 Elephants walked through past us, occasionally stopping to rip some leaves from the trees to eat. Perhaps I got too confident, but to get a better shot on my mobile phone I stepped towards a giant elephant. He decided to remind me who was in charge! Letting out a loud trumpet, he turned and started to run towards our group. Obviously I panicked and hid safely behind the bus. An exhilarating finish to a heart-pounding day.

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Uganda Day 9: 2019

This morning I was so excited for breakfast at Tembo, pancakes with golden syrup, but I had to settle for pancakes with lemon once we discovered an army of ants had got into the golden syrup. I needn’t have worried though, as when I got to Kafuro, Stephen had put on a morning spread of Tilapia, boiled eggs and tea. 

I wondered off as Stephen was organising lunch to watch the dancing. The children were practising for their afternoon performance during their break time and those not participating were watching, singing or clapping along. 

My lesson today was teaching P5. We discussed what a community is which they identified as a place and later came to understand that people are part of the community also. Their task was to draw their own community which was Kafuro and then begin to add more amenities they would like such as hospitals. I then asked the children to explain why they needed these places to make up the community. One group explained that they needed a school to gain knowledge and then get jobs – including being teachers which made myself and their class teacher very happy. Once they had drawn their communities, I showed them Liss on the board, drawing a rough map from memory. The map showed some similarities between the communities, such as the allotments and their farms to grow fruit and vegetables. Whilst I was drawing, it drew out some questions from the children about England, particularly about farming which I don’t have a vast amount of knowledge on, but I tried my best to answer! One girl asked me to sing which really threw me but the first song that came to mine was heads, shoulders, knees and toes which the children in Uganda (luckily) know already so it wasn’t a solo performance from myself!

At lunch time, the children return home for food as lunch is not provided at school like in England. However, some children remain at school if there is no food at home or if they have been able to bring sometime to eat at school. Some children were playing a game which looks similar in layout to King-Square but is actually a version of hopscotch. I had a few goes but I need to practice my balance if I want to improve. 

Stephen then took me for a walk around the farming fields behind the school. The primary crops are banana trees and coffee bean bush. I had never seen the process of a coffee plant before and what the pod looks like before it is dried which was very interesting. 

Lunch today was tilapia, rice, potatoes, chicken, cabbage and tomatoes which, as ever, was delicious. 

In the afternoon, the children gave a performance to the school, singing and dancing showing me their cultural dance. Yowasi was very encouraging and I joined in with the dance which I thought looked good until I saw the video back! Once the performance was over, it was time to head home for the day. 

CM Sp0orts were at another school so we drove to collect them. While the boys were showing the teachers how the gifted equipment could be used, some children performed songs for us – and some children even rapped!
In the car home, Joffrey’s playlist became 90s and 00s classics, which turned into karaoke singing in the car, even when we saw some elephants with a baby, the singing didn’t stop. I think the elephants enjoyed the Spice Girls 2 become 1! 

For the first time since arriving, we ate dinner at Tembo in the light as we made it home early enough which was nice to be able to see our food. Then we moved onto the Lodge. For the first time, we took Ashlea along and there was a tribal dance performance which doesn’t normally happen! It was amazing, Ashlea and I joined in for a while which was entertaining. Later on, no one was watching so for 20 (excruciatingly hot) minutes, Ashley, Luke, Paul, Nick and I joined in which was a highlight of my whole trip. 

Tomorrow is my last day at Kafuro and a very busy one!  

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4 Memorable Days at Rihamu Junior School

What started as a big dream finally came to fruition. It was on Friday 02nd August 2019, when the visiting team from the UK entered the school gate. Cheers and happy moments started flowing and everyone was excited the whole day until when our visitors left.

From Monday 05th until Wednesday 07th, a lot of good things have happened. From training and lessons about Children Needs, Wants, UN Human Rights to Sanitation and lots of comparisons drawn between Hambledon and Rihamu Junior School much to everyone’s surprise. Lots of academic learning have taken place and we very much appreciate the visiting Head Teacher from Hambledon for conducting the lessons. He used lots of learning aids that made the lessons interesting. The participation and engagement from the children was always superb. I particularly liked the teaching methods and how Paul Davies used his time so well at the same time covering the key content with the children. I am now sure that our children now know much about Hambledon school, Hambledon community, the old and new buildings, the pitch, the children and entire staff. Paul came in with letters that the children from Hambledon had written to the children at Rihamu School and our children have already decoratively written their replies to there friends.

After the lessons, I always had an opportunity to take Paul, Karen Jannie around to see some of the community changes. These have included the old copper mine at Kilembe, the great flood trail, Kiwa Heritage hot springs, the UBC radio, and the airfield which is still under construction – we found plane which was about to take off, the operators mistakenly thought we were coming to board the plane!, Then we visited the old and new market – where Paul bought a Jack Fruit to have a first time taste. We also visited the old Railway Station, here Paul could not see any metal rails since the rail land and staff quarters had already been encroached on by the local people.

We have shared a lot together, thank you for enjoying our food choices and fruits, we remain thankful to our visitors for all the sports kits, for the great and wonderful training in tag rugby, darts, dominoes, football and cricket! We now have the required skills and we shall keep our children busy on the field.

Thank you for the 5000ltr school water tank, this will go along way to improve the general sanitation at school, and the contribution towards the P1 block!

We remain thankful and grateful to the entire team – Paul, Steve, Karen, Andy, Ashly, Jess, Luke and Nick and Megan.


Head Teacher RJS.

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