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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A new season begins!

One of our final trips to Lake Nabugabo
before leaving Uganda
So this last 3 months has flown by and yet it now seems a long time ago that we were bidding Uganda a fond farewell.

Here in Bristol we have been blessed with a fantastic house, a nursery place for Noah (whose behaviour has shown a marked difference since starting), lovely weather to ease our transition, and the provision of jobs. Sarah is getting to grips again with the demands of being a part time GP (which entails a lot longer hours than we had expected thanks to the nature of our NHS and ridiculous workloads), and Tim has just started part time with an organisation called Urban Pursuits, delivering alterative education and mentoring to young people at risk of exclusion, or having been excluded from school. Then of course Noah and Emily take the rest of our time!

We certainly miss Uganda, and there are times when we feel very homesick for Masaka, all our friends there, the pace of life, and the ongoing work of Synergy and the Baby Unit.

Brian and Abbey have been doing a fantastic job of pushing on with the work of Synergy as a new season is now underway. Two particularly exciting developments have been the launch of a more intentional work with girls, which Abbey has taken on, and also setting up our first Synergy home group. Brain has located a house for rent which he is now sharing with a number of our Synergy players, and is using the garage as a space to hold regular bible studies and prayer meetings – something we talked about a lot after the success of the Talk faith course earlier in the year! If you are the praying sort, then please do pray that this would continue to develop and bare fruit!

And on the Baby Unit the team there continue to push forward with the important work of helping little newborns survive and thrive. Three particularly encouraging stories of late have been that of mothers Kamidah, Nakaweesi and Margaret.

A mum of five already (one of whom had already passed away), Kamidah was undoubtedly apprehensive when her sixth child arrived – a little girl, weighing just 800 grams. She delivered elsewhere, but knew her baby needed special care, so rushed her to Kitovu Baby Unit to seek help.
Her little one had a bit of a rocky road to recovery, and when she was finally discharged, she had to be re-admitted with anaemia and poor growth a few weeks later. A good dose of malaria subsequently landed her on the children’s ward. But since then, she's been going from strength to strength and is expected back for review soon.
Kamidah's Baby Girl
Nakaweesi landed up at the baby unit after her newborn had had convulsions on & off for two days. On being told that the baby would need to be admitted, she refused and said she wanted to go home. Unlike in the UK, in Uganda there’s nothing the police or social services would do about that.
But thankfully our nurses worked with her, and persuaded her to stay, and this gorgeous fella lives to fight another day! Not only that, but he’s breastfeeding well and behaving like a perfectly normal baby. Amazing!

Nakaweesi with her baby boy
And finally there’s the lovely Margaret with her beautiful daughter Maria, who was born way too early and way too little. An initial good recovery was encouraging. But then it all went wrong, when Maria suddenly deteriorated and stopped breathing. For 2 whole hours our head nurse at the time, Cathy (now on maternity leave with her own sweet baby Jemimah!) faithfully bagged the baby, pushing air into her little lungs to keep her going.
Against all odds, Maria started to improve. And within a couple of weeks, that little girl was fully recovered and ready to go home.
Margaret & Baby Maria

We feel so thankful that despite having left Uganda, all this work continues to be a blessing to so many. It's comforting to know that God is in control and that those we have entrusted to lead these ministries are faithfully taking it forward! Thanks to you all for being a part of it with us and for having supported, and continuing to support both Synergy and the Baby Unit!

Sunday, July 03, 2016

On the Home Stretch...

First things first, as some of you may have seen on Facebook, Sarah did indeed complete the Masaka Marathon of Madness. Not only did she complete it, but despite not particularly pushing herself she managed to finished as fourth fastest woman! BOOM! Whilst there was no bare breasted celebratory activities as promised (more's the pity!), below is a family friendly photo of Sarah and Noah crossing the finish line! We are extremely grateful to all who donated allowing us to surpass our target of £3000, and in fact, with Gift Aid added, push beyond £4000!! 

Since the marathon, time has flown by, including a wonderful 12 day visit from Tim's parents and the completion of the Synergy Talk Faith course with the Academy players. With such speed have things been moving that we find ourselves now with only 8 days until we bid a fond farewell to this place we have called home for the last 5 years of our lives (in fact 8 in total for Tim). 

As this day approaches we have many mixed feelings: sadness due to the wonderful people, the challenging work, beautiful country and vibrant culture that we will be leaving behind; pride in those who are already stepping up to fill our shoes; joy at the prospect of being back with friends and family in the UK; and relief to finally have consistent power and water!

For me (Tim) it is going to be particularly hard, as in many ways I have felt more at home here in Uganda than anywhere else in my adult life. Thankfully there is always a reminder just around the corner about the problems we will no longer have to endure, to lessen the blow for me! This week that thing was spending the best part of 2 days working on getting a new log-book for our car in order for us to transfer it to the person who is going to buy it. A simple job that would involve filling out a form in 5 minutes in the UK, has been made impossibly difficult by some complete numpty who felt that in a country with insufferably slow internet and a population not especially adept with technology, the best solution would be to shift the whole process on-line! 
Added to this is the classic Ugandan customer care experience: I laughed to myself standing at the Uganda Revenue Authority whilst noticing, in the midst of trying to sooth a very tired and disgruntled Emily, who of course was vocalizing what all us waiting punters were feeling, the sign that said “our goal is customer satisfaction” (HA!! Customer satisfaction my arse!). Anyway add that together and you get a very powerful tonic to sooth those leaving blues!

Whilst Sarah doesn't need so much convincing that moving back to the UK is a good idea, she also appreciates the odd incident to help remind her of the things  that won't be missed. Step up Mr. Cockroach who felt that a good place to rest from his generally filthy activities, was on Sarah's head whilst she lay half-dead on the sofa after a rather sleepless night thanks to Emily's incessant need to feed! Needless to say she was roused as quickly as if a hot poker had been shoved somewhere rather delicate. Despicable creatures! 

Such frustrations and horrors aside, We have both spent much of our final months here handing over our responsibilities. Brian will be taking over the future direction and day-to-day running of Synergy and I have been so blessed to see how focused he is on the task in hand. After initially living in denial about our leaving, which involved Brian locking himself in a room and beseeching God to make us change our minds, he soon came to terms with the changes ahead and since then has been planning, networking, praying and already implementing new strategies and ideas for the future! This brings me great joy, confidence and peace!
On Sarah's side, there’s so much to say about the Baby Unit that we have to pick just a few stories.  On the logistics side, we’ve teamed up with the Children’s Ward to offer an adapted ETAT (emergency triage, assessment and treatment) course for staff on the Emergency Department and Children’s Ward, and have run two courses over the past month.

We have finally (after much debate, sweat, tears etc) been granted permission to use a small bit of maternity as a small extension for the Baby Unit – not much: just space for 2 cots, but it will help us a lot when things are as busy as they are right now.

We’ve also recently treated our 1000th baby since the Unit opened about 3 ½ years ago, and how fitting it was that the mum was actually from Nyendo (where River of Life Church is located!). 

Then finally, how about a couple of before & after photos….
You may well remember Asiimwe’s baby – a tiny tot of 760g on admission (and 27 weeks gestation) who went home near the end of last year.  Well this beautiful little girl popped in to see us the other day!

Then look at Kamusiime’s baby – who we only met on day 5, then 920g in weight at an estimated gestation of 26 weeks, with an arrival temperature of only 32.3 degrees Celsius!  There were ups and downs, for sure, but look how proud her mummy is now!

As we leave Uganda, all this work will continue, and as such, this blog will also continue in order to tell the stories of how things are going. But as this particular season draws to a close, all that is left for us to say for now is a massive thank you to all those who have supported us and our work, be it through finances, donations of equipment, advice, prayer, encouragement and/or banter! We are sad to say goodbye, but it also brings a new beginning! 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Countdown Has Begun!

As many of you will know, in a few short days, Sarah will be gritting her teeth and steeling herself for a feat of endurance unlike any she has ever undergone – the Masaka marathon. Sarah is no stranger to feats of endurance. Being the mother of 2 crazed toddlers and wife of a juvenile joker of a man has prepared her mentally, but physically she has had to spend many hours of hard-graft, running over 160km in the last 5 weeks in order to build her strength for what is about to take place.

She will be raising money for the work of Synergy, the sports and discipleship program that Tim heads up. We are very grateful for the many generous donations so far, but need another push to reach our target of £3000. As promised, we have been sharing some of the reasons that this is such a good cause on the River of Life Facebook page. However, for those of you who have missed these posts, or only seen some, below are the top 5 reasons why you should part with your hard earned cash and sponsor brave Sarah!

 This year 109 Synergy players have received educational bursaries, giving them a chance to attend schools and courses that they might otherwise have struggled to afford. However, there are many other requirements they struggle to pay for such as examination fees, uniforms, books, medical care and transport. The money you donate will go a long way to making sure these educational opportunities don’t go to waste!

Football players at school are notoriously ill disciplined. But not Synergy players! One of the reason’s so many of our players receive football bursaries is that head teachers from schools like Masaka Secondary School, are always impressed by the attitude and discipline of our lads. In fact the headmaster at Masaka Sec says that in all his years of teaching he has never encountered players like those of Synergy! Help our lads to shine a light and lead the way!

We believe in our lads, and know they can achieve not only on the pitch, but also in the classroom! Many football players are seen as useful for football only, and are expected to do poorly academically. But many of our players continue to surprise even their teachers. Want an example? Look no further than Ali (17 years). 3 years ago this boy was on the streets. He had finished P7 with the worst marks possible and struggled to even read or write! With the help of Synergy he received a football bursary at one of Masaka's top schools, starting in Senior 2. Despite pulling up academically, the school was not confident of him doing well, and as they were concerned about how this might affect them in schools’ results tables, asked that he take his exams elsewhere. Brian arranged for him to sit his exams and Ali returned Brian’s faith in him by achieving a very respectable 3rd grade! The school were of course extremely happy (if not some what sheepish) and have gladly offered him a bursary to continue onto study A-levels.

At Synergy, our players know that they are blessed and so they know that it is their responsibility to pass on this investment. That is why some of our more senior players, Like Andy here, take time to invest in others including both the Synergy academy and also the girls squad at Masaka SS.

In a country where self seeking and corruption are rife, your money will only be used to directly help our players in need. How can you be sure? The story we shared 2 blogs ago will help you to see: If you happened not to read it, here it is again:

Recently a 17-year-old lad called Lawrence
joined Synergy. He has great passion,but not a great amount of natural football talent. His granny took manager Brian aside and offered him 300,000 shillings to find him a bursary to school. Brian explained that he is not involved in “buying” bursaries for players, but told her to keep her money and let him work with the boy and see what he can do. Having worked with him and seen his ability and attitude, he took Lawrence to one of Masaka's top secondary schools, where we have many players with bursaries. Brain explained to the Head master that he is not the most talented player, but has passion and discipline and a desire to achieve. Such is the high regard for Brian’s opinion, Lawrence was given a full bursary that very day. The granny, wanting to show her gratitude to Brian, again put the money in his hand, this time as a thank you. Did he put this in his pocket as he so easy could have done? No, Brian took this money straight back to school to pay for some of Lawrence’s requirements not covered by the bursary. The granny’s response? “I never knew that in Uganda there are still honest people like you alive today!”

If none of these 5 reasons are enough to convince you, then here is one final shameless plug: look at the graph of the elevation change that the marathon will involve and then look at Sarah’s blood soaked arms having taken a tumble during one of her training runs. 

Make her suffering worthwhile and help us blow through our target of £3000 by going to the following link: 

Thank you so much!