Happy International Women’s Day from ‘Planting for Hope in Uganda’. Kate and I singing with the Women’s Cooperative and at Cornerstone Primary School in the bush village of Kititi.

Three years ago this village was in a state of hopelessness and despair. Thanks to Kate Oakley and her friends at Hope House here in Uganda families now have food, shelter, a school with teachers, a doctor and clinic, a field of crops, a bore hole for clean water, chickens and pigs – and above all confidence and hope.

Kate is the founder and director of the charity, and lives near Bewdley, spending many months of the year in Uganda, working in partnership with Apollo Saku, the Ugandan Director.

During my short time here we have been teaching music to the women and children, creating a choir, and making uniforms for the children at Cornerstone School. With volunteers Pauline Mills and John Talbot we have been helping Dr Baker with the clinic at Hope House, visiting families in the village who live in mud huts, often with no windows or beds, delivering posho (a kind of porridge) and assessing the needs of families.

Uganda has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, malaria is the biggest killer for children under 6. Abject poverty is evident in a high percentage of the 65 homes in Kititi’s Women’s Cooperative, with the average life expectancy being 47. Even one meal a day is unavailable to many of these people. Despite all of this, I’ve never known anywhere richer in heart, joy and spirit!

I can’t thank the people enough for welcoming me to their community and making me feel at home. I’m inspired and overwhelmed by what I’m experiencing here, seeing what has been achieved by volunteers and sponsors in just three years and the potential for their futures.

The children have been arriving at Hope House at 7am on weekend mornings still proudly wearing their new uniforms, keen to write thank you letters to their sponsors. We have visited a new born baby and to celebrate International Woman’s Day we gave foot massage and manicures to all the women in the cooperative who work hard out in the fields planting maize and pineapples. The overall aim of the charity is to make this community self sufficient and sustainable so that when volunteers are not here they can survive independently.

On a personal note my great uncle lived in Uganda for 17 years, he worked in Masaka, where I am writing this now in an internet cafe – 40 miles from the bush village “Planting for Hope” supports. He came in March 1955, it took him 30 hours to fly with five refuelling stops, and his flight cost £97. When he passed away he left me his journal .. and this is how it begins with a quote from Winston Churchill.

” Uganda is like a fairy tale. You climb up a railway instead of a beanstalk, and at the end there is a wonderful new world. The scenery is different, the vegetation is different, and most of all the people are different from anything elsewhere to be seen in the whole range of Africa.”

It’s true. The people are different. They have nothing and everything – a natural happiness, kindness and patience that shines out from a place deep in their souls.

I hope with all my heart this will be just the beginning of my experience with this community in Uganda.

There was an inspirational talk in Stourbridge on Saturday 19th March 2016 with Kate Oakley director of ‘Planting for Hope’ who I spent time with in Uganda, about her experiences in Africa – alongside artist ‘DJ’ painting a Ugandan landscape.

The painting will be auctioned at the end of the evening and money raised will go towards a plot of land to enable the women of Kititi to plant crops. The event is taking place between 7 – 9.30pm at St James Church, Wollaston, Stourbridge, DY8 3SE. Would be lovely to see any friends and family there … there’ll be wine, craft and many other delights with Planting for hope Uganda