Laying eggs, laying bricks

When I was last in Uganda in November 2013, a volunteer named Daniel O’Kelly had fundraised with his family to construct a chicken house and had left enough money to purchase 200 chicks. The building had been constructed and the chicks lined up with the breeder in Kampala but KAASO lacked the funds to buy chicken feed and other essentials.


Thanks to the generous support of family and friends, we raised the money to complete the project. Trucks arrived bearing giant sacks of feed and Dominic went out and purchased the troughs, drinkers and lanterns needed for the chicken house. Money was set aside to vaccinate and de-beak the chickens on their arrival.



When Dominic and Rose drove me to Entebbe Airport, they came back with a car full of 200 chicks – this was one time I was happy to be on a one-way journey to Kampala… Now, seven months later, the chicken project is thriving. Last year in the USA, Dominic was introduced to the concept of ‘Career Academies’. The basic concept is to integrate projects into the school that will help the children learn practical skills beyond the standard academic curriculum. Rose adopted the chicken project as a career academy, selecting students to be ‘chicken monitors’ and teaching them how to raise chickens so that one day they can use these skills to set up a chicken project of their own.

Thanks to the love and care of these chicken monitors, the chicks have turned into chickens and the first eggs have been laid. When I asked Rose if they had sold or eaten the first eggs she laughed heartily. ‘Oh no! We must first eat them because we are longing! So long we have been longing for these eggs and now they have come. Eh, they are so tasty!’ The project will help vary the children’s largely monotonous diet and the remaining eggs will be sold to buy chicken feed and keep the project going. The idea is that the project becomes self-sustaining, generating income for KAASO, providing protein in the children’s diet and helping teach new skills to the chicken monitors.

Here are some of the latest shots of the chicken project from Amanda and Kartal Jaquette who have just returned from KAASO:


And here we have it – our precious first egg!!


With thanks and love to the generous donors behind this great new initiative:

Willem Jan van Andel

Don & Maureen Robertson

Christine Belanger

Judy Blackman, Shelley Duncan & Margaret Koski

Catherine Smith

Alwyn & Wendy Harvey

Not only are the chickens laying eggs, but the workers have been doing their own laying – brick laying! With another amazing donation from Willem Jan van Andel, the KAASO school perimeter will finally be enclosed. Here are the latest images coming out of the village showing the front wall that now separates the school from the road. The fence will soon be completed with metal gates at the main entrance and iron bars filling in the triangular spaces. KAASO has children as young as 3 years old and now the entire school can be closed off, helping keep the children safe and secure.

It is an exciting time at KAASO with Dominic about to head off to the USA on Saturday where the KAASO network will no doubt grow further.

Thanks so much to you all for reading, for caring and for being a part of this inspiring journey.



Back in the village

Sitting in my old favourite Nile Internet ‘cafe’ with the generator roaring in the background, the dust swirling across my skin streaked with red earth, cables and wires snaking across the shaky wooden desk and yet miraculously the internet is connected and the outside world is at my fingertips.

It has been the most incredible week back in the village, reunited with Dominic, Rose, Cherie, Kirsty and of course the 600 children that flooded through the gates as our car bumped into the compound.

The school has continued to grow and the progress they are making is staggering. I am constantly in awe of what they manage to achieve with so little and the dedication and passion of all who make KAASO operate, it really is inspiring.

My fingers are raw from guitar playing, my skin is scorched from the relentless sun of the dusty dry season and my face is aching from smiling as I try to comprehend the enormity of what it means to be back here with the two girls with whom this adventure first began.

It feels so special to be back and time I know will fly all too quickly. But this school is not going anywhere and I know that I will forever return.

P1060740 P1060760 P1060839 P1060927

Full and fulfilling

It never ceases to amaze me that in a country characterised so fully by ‘Africa time’ you can still feel as though you have lived a week in a single day. Every morning I write a huge list of all the things I hope to get done and every evening I laugh at myself as I see how few of them I have actually managed – and yet the days are so full that I often can’t remember the morning by the time I go to bed. Full and fulfilling.

So much has happened since I last wrote that it’s overwhelming to try and choose what to share with you in your far-flung corners of the world. I have sat on a white sand beach and watched the sun set over Lake Victoria, travelled over more potholes than I ever thought possible in one road, danced at a traditional wedding ceremony amongst over 1000 Ugandans, joined the school choir singing in three part harmony in Luganda, attended an inspiring and heartbreaking AIDS workshop, helped at a fundraiser for an incredibly poor school near the Tanzanian border, shared a beer with the Chairman of the district and watched hundreds of school children perform in a music festival under a makeshift marquee held up with sticks. And that’s just the last week!

The Ssese Islands were stunning. Breathtakingly so. After one of the longest short journeys of my life (how can you travel so far and cover so little ground?!) we arrived, barely recognisable we were caked in so much dust, at a campsite by the shores of Lake Victoria. We were overwhelmed to see so many fellow muzungu, it almost seemed indecent to see people in bikinis after so long of our modest village dress. It was amazing to enjoy a beer that was actually cold and to meet an mixture of interesting people from around the world who had been volunteering and travelling in various parts of Africa. The sunset was spectacular over the lake and as we sat sipping our drinks it was easy to forget where we were. There is a kind of bitter-sweet feeling to be somewhere so overwhelmingly beautiful as it’s constantly undercut by guilt at being so lucky to enjoy such paradise while so many suffer.


We met a local boy working at the campsite named William. He had dropped out of school last year when his father died and his mother was unable to pay for his school fees. He was spending this year working to try and save enough money to finish his final year of secondary school. He was 22. The dedication to education here is phenomenal, if children back home had any idea how hard people here worked to put themselves through school and just how devoted they are to their studies – it’s inspiring! We returned to KAASO dusty, battered and bruised from another epic journey crammed into a taxi van with 20 people, 10 sacks of sugar, 4 babies, more bags than I could count and no doubt a chicken or two had found their way in… It felt good to be ‘home’. Continue reading

Muddy feet, music lessons and many mozzies

P1000260Africa is inspiring. I am constantly lost for words, overwhelmed and blown away by the spirit of the people in this place. There is so much to absorb, so many wonders around every corner that it is hard to keep track of them all. I am a child again. Muddy feet and wide eyes, everything is new. I truly love it here.

Sitting down and trying to capture it all is a challenge but I will attempt to rise to it, to bring this place to life for you all wherever you may be. At first it was a little daunting, trying to work out what exactly we was best for us to do and we quickly learned that there is no such thing as a direct answer around here. Life is not black and white but shades – time is flexible, schedules are constantly shifting (if they exist at all), you start one thing and then find yourself half way through another, spontaneity is the name of the game and yet there is some kind of organised chaos in which everything gets done in the end somehow, in someway. You soon let go of any attempts to pin this place down, it moves to the beat of its own drum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASchool has begun. Monday saw a flurry of activity as children arrived on the back of motorcycles, bicycles, some lucky enough to come by car but the vast majority on foot. The arrival of the students meant a flood of sugar, laundry soap (used for washing: clothes, dishes and people), books, sugary toothpaste, razor blades (used for sharpening pencils, cutting fingernails and shaving hair), pens, pencils, safety pins, brooms (bundles of tied-together straw), hoes (?!) and of course jelly – the wonder cure which boasts to fix pretty much any illness, including every kind of rash imaginable. I’m sticking with my talcum powder for now… The arrival of the children was exciting and heartbreaking at the same time. So many of them were without parents, without school supplies and or any money to pay for them. We soon learned that there was no set rule as to who paid what – or didn’t pay at all and so we quickly resorted to stacking the supplies and left the decisions to the teachers. The school is now filled with laughter. The children are so spirited, so excited by everything and they never stop laughing. There is so much joy here, it is contagious. We are still only half way through receiving the students but by next week we will be: 623 children, 19 teachers, 9 cooks and matrons, Dominic, Rose and 3 muzungu. We are quite a sight.

P1000195      Continue reading