On 23rd March 2017 Parish representatives, Terry Murphy, Geraldine McGreevy, Paula Maguire, Grainne Smyth, Kasia Wawrzynek, Una McClements and Oonagh Rowden (Downpatrick Parish), travelled to our link parish of Kibiri in Uganda.
This proved to be a very worthwhile and successful visit. On arrival at Entebbe Airport on 24th March we were warmly welcomed by our host families.
After a very exciting journey to Kibiri, we settled in very quickly before our hosts provided us with a welcome dinner and a ‘get to know you’ evening. This was very relaxing and put everyone at ease. We had an early night in preparation for the busy week ahead.
Next morning we attended mass at 7.30 a.m. We received a very warm welcome from Fr. Joseph, Fr. Moses and all the parishioners of Kibiri. The next stop was a visit to the Legion of Mary where we met the group and passed over gifts from the our Parish Legion of Mary. They were very grateful and told us we would all be kept in their prayers
The one thing that struck all of us is how happy these people are, they may not have very much but they were happy and excited to see us and made us so welcome that it overwhelmed us and made us feel very humble. The children in all the schools read, sang, danced and showed us their painting and sewing skills. They are enthusiastic and eager to learn, but have so little materials with which to do so.
Maria Assumpta Nursery School Pupils
All of the children and adults have a very strong and religious ethic. They attend 7.30 a.m. mass each morning and mass on Sunday lasts two hours. Everywhere we went, no matter what the time of day, there were people praying and doing adoration
The Parish Church at Kibiri
Fr Joseph (PP), parish team members, Hedwig (chair of Kibiri Parish Council)
Throughout the rest of the week we had a very busy schedule of activities, including the parish schools: St Maria Assumpta Nursery, St Kizito and St Dominic’s Primary and St Charles Lwanga Secondary. We were able to see for ourselves the deprivation these children are living in, they have very little and on many occasions they are sent home from school if their parents cannot afford to pay for them. The dormitories in which some of the pupils board during the school year are very cramped and dark and lacking mosquito nets.
The ‘kitchens’ in all of the schools are basically a few bricks thrown together and a fire in the middle in which to cook the ‘one’ meal that the children (who are lucky enough to afford it) get each day. The latrines are a hole in the ground and the ‘showers’ a cubicle where they stand and throw water over themselves.
The money that was raised to install the well at St Dominic’s Primary School is not only proving to be a great asset for the staff and pupils, but is also raising some revenue to pay for the electricity used to pump the water, by selling it to the local community.
The well at St Dominic’s
We also had a number of meetings with Kibiri Pastoral Council members about the management of the Pupil Sponsorship Scheme. The aim of the scheme is to help children from the very poorest of families to be able to attend school. This is important as it gives them hope and helps them break free from poverty.
We went to visit one of the local ‘government’ health centres; this is manned by one doctor, with patients queuing outside in the heat to wait their turn for treatment. The facilities are tribal with a few beds strewn here and there. The ‘laboratory’ for testing blood etc, is a basic room with very little equipment. There is a maternity unit, (unfortunately we were not allowed entry to this), but we did see the labour ward which had three very old beds in it, all very close together and again very unhygienic and no privacy whatsoever. This was a heart wrenching place.
Another of our visits included a home for the homeless, which is run by the Good Samaritan Sisters and was a very sad place indeed. We witnessed first-hand children with disabilities, some of whom had been left at the gate as their parents either did not want them or could not look after them. Some of the children were lying on blankets on the stone floors and frail elderly men and women in tiny rooms with only a blanket over them.
All of these scenes affected us all very differently; it was a rollercoaster of emotions from start to finish. There were very high and low points, but we would not have missed it as it gave us the opportunity to see what we need to do in order to help the people of Kibiri as much as we can.
To sum up our visit, we all agree that the people of our twinned parish of Kibiri are very good people who need some help in order for them to be able to sustain and be able to provide for themselves. We need to give them the tools and assistance to keep going with the work already started.
Proposed next Steps by Parish Uganda Link Group:
Since our return home, we have identified a number of possible projects that could be supported in Kibiri. Agreement of spending priorities to include;
1.Installation of electricity and start-up costs for the new parish health centre
2. New Latrines for St Kizito’s Primary School
3. New basic kitchen structure for Maria Assumpta Nursery School
4. Two solar panels for the government health centre
5. Reporting progress to the Parish Pastoral Council
6. On-going evaluation of pupil sponsorship scheme.
The Parish Uganda Link group would like to acknowledge the tremendous fundraising efforts and significant financial contributions from:
Parishioners of Kilmore and Killyleagh
Downpatrick Third World Group
Down Netball (equipment and Netball bibs to Kibiri Parish Schools)
St Vincent De Paul (Cushendall)
Holy Family Primary School (Teconnaught)
Members of the group who travelled to Uganda.