Latymer Uganda Project 2018: Latymerians report on their experiences in Uganda

Reporter: Grace Lloyd, Year 12

Over October half-term, 50 Latymer students, between Years 10 and Upper Sixth travelled to Uganda, in order to visit the charities that are currently supported by the Latymer Uganda Project. Prior to our visit, through a combination of fundraising events, including bake sales, a sponsored run/cycle and t-shirt sales, the group was able to raise £20,624 that would later be split between the four charities.

In Kampala, we spent time with M-Lisada, an orphanage and youth centre that is centred around music, dance, life-skill and education. Here, Latymer Upper School sponsors eight children to go to school, to continue Edward Latymer’s legacy of sponsoring the eight poor boys of Hammersmith. Upon our arrival, we were given a very warm welcome, with various performances of singing and dancing, which became a recurring theme throughout the trip. This year using the money that was fundraised we decided to give £5193 towards buying the Dream House, which houses orphans from the ages of 16-18, who are too old for the main M-Lisada accommodation but still need a place to live in order for them to continue their education.

In the Nsambya slum, we also visited the Mummy Foundation, which provides emotional support and education to women who are victims of rape within the slum, with the intention of getting them back into education. The Mummy Foundation also looks after the children while their mothers are in school or working, allowing them to support their families. We have given £3,000 to support a complete renovation of the Mummy Foundation’s facilities, while also providing additional toys and books for the children.

Latymer also supports Hidden Treasure Infant School, a primary school located in the slum that is attended by some of the children from the M-Lisada Orphanage. In 2016, the Latymer Uganda Project provided the funds for the construction of a new classroom block, transforming it from a corrugated iron and wood structure, into a 3-classroom building with brick and plastered walls. We spent a day at Hidden Treasure, painting the buildings and play equipment, including the block that Latymer had financed, giving the school a new and refreshed look. In addition, this year, we have supported and fully financed the construction of another three classrooms, as a second story will be added to the block that was built in 2016, costing £7,240. This will help the School to accommodate more children and have smaller class sizes.

Following our time in Kampala, we travelled to Jinja, where we spent time working with Soft Power Education. Some of the money we had raised before the trip went into refurbishing the St Gonzaga primary school, painted in Latymer colours of blue and white, incidentally! While we spent a day in Jinja repainting the newly refurbished classrooms, we also spent a morning teaching art, music, dance and sports to the children at a pre-prep school in the rural area outside of Jinja. Later, we visited the Soft Power Education special needs school - one of the highlights of the trip. We played games with the children and even learned some Ugandan sign language.  We gave £5,193 to Soft Power Education, a large portion of this going to the special needs School.

Overall, it was a really enjoyable experience which everyone found to be very enlightening and heart-warming.

Latymer Uganda 2018 - A Trip To Be Remembered          Reporter: Luc Mondon-Ballantyne, Year 11

Landing at Entebbe Airport, hearing the rubber of the wheels screeching against the potholed tarmac runway, we stepped off the plane into the 1:00am darkness and the smell of warm, moist vegetation in the air. We ambled down the steps soaking up the first feelings of Africa, being drawn out of our “western bubble”.

Despite the smells and dim airport lights in the distance, we had an overwhelming feeling of the great days ahead: visits to multiple primary schools, orphanages, dancing, music, painting and sightseeing to name but a few of the great experiences on the Latymer Uganda 2018 trip.

After leaving the airport, we drove down the cobbled roads in a traditional African bus with the widely spread windows open to their fullest extent blowing thick, cool air through our hair. There was no air conditioning. This is when I first became aware of the extreme poverty of the surroundings. Makeshift homes appeared amongst the occasional sturdy brick building every few hundred metres.

After the bus journey, we heard loud music, smelt barbequed food and saw flashing lights and people dancing and singing together in the early hours of Sunday morning. As M-Lisada (the orphanage we visited) says, “music plays to your soul” – it really seems to for many people here.

When we woke up on the first day with the knowledge we were on our way to the orphanages we felt somewhat anxious - nervous that we would not know what to say to the children or that the language barrier would be a difficulty to bypass. But as we walked through the slums and were met by a marching band, that all changed. The bass from the trombones, trumpets, drums and many more instruments shook our bones happily and altered our anxiety instantly.

As soon as we arrived at the schools and orphanages we were greeted by songs, dancing, hugs, the shouting of “Mzungu!” (a term of endearment used for people of European descent). It was such a heart-warming feeling and one I will never forget in my life; I can hardly put it into words.

After days of hard work: painting buildings, dancing and carrying many different kids on our shoulders, a break was very welcome. We stayed in a safari lodge only metres away from the bush that homes lions, elephants, giraffes, hippos and so many more African animals.

As the cliché goes, ‘my trip was truly life-changing’. It really was. I will never forget my 10-year-old friend Tonny from Hidden Treasures Primary School, along with the M-Lisada Orphanage and the hundreds of other children that we made close friendships with. We were entertained like no Netflix series can ever do. I hope to go back in the future and volunteer at one of the schools. It has made me realise how truly lucky we all are at Latymer, as we receive a great education which some may take for granted. The respect that the children have for their teachers is amazing, and that is because they know they are lucky to be receiving an education.

I would thoroughly recommend pupils go on this trip. If they are lucky enough, here are some tips: get any anxious feelings out of the way - so you can enjoy the time for longer; choose the right malaria tablets and sun cream; lastly, don’t get on the wrong side of Mr MacMahon at 2:00am in the morning!

A huge thank goes out to all the teachers who came: Mr Bladon, Miss Cole, Mr MacMahon, Miss Green, Mr Wright and of course Miss Monahan who lead it all. A truly memorable trip: thank you!

Follow @latymer_uganda on Instagram for more photos and videos.

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