From Joan Steel
This month’s talk was was from Marie Cates, an early retired ex-Primary School Head Teacher from Shropshire, who applied to do Voluntary Service Overseas. Her first work was at Nabongo in Uganda where she worked with Nabongo Primary School teachers to set up learning centres. Twenty teachers were trained and sent out on very long journeys to remote schools. Marie went to a township/village of very small shacks where people lived in extreme poverty. Here she committed herself to two years teaching and was housed in a very small hut. She was welcomed by a very large family with 28 children, some of whom had lost their parents to Aids. The head of the family was the village Elder, through whom she learned a great deal and met many good people who were very hospitable but lived very tough lives in extreme poverty. There was no water except that carried from muddy streams, which caused diseases. Also there was no electricity. Subsistence farming meant backbreaking work had to be done in the fields. Oxen were used for ploughing and cattle were reared and sometimes sold for school fees, burials etc., also to buy lamp oil, salt and sugar. The children worked very hard doing washing, cleaning, preparing vegetables and carrying water. There would be 100 to 200 children in a class. They would sit on the dusty floor and the teacher would have only one piece of chalk. All learning was done in English even though it was not spoken at home. Few went on to secondary school because they could not afford fees for tuition or uniform and equipment.
To visit all the schools, Marie needed transport and had to buy and learn to ride a motorbike, which was very difficult to ride over dusty roads covered in loose stones. Now with Gift Aid, self-sustaining community projects are being set up to improve the quality of life eg agricultural projects such as bee keeping, tomato growing, and rearing goats and poultry. There is also computer training, antenatal classes and new mothers are supplied with Mama Bags. A.V.S. promotes self help and people are encouraged to work in groups. Training is given to young people to use donated renovated tools, sewing machines etc. to enable them to find jobs, which is a good way to improve their quality of life. Marie travels out to Uganda three times a year with A.V.S.to oversee the many ongoing projects and to give advice and support as well as reporting back to the fundraising committees here. Marie found it very valuable work to do in her retirement.
We thanked Marie warmly for her interesting talk, and she answered many questions at coffee time. On July 4th we have a talk on “Hearing Dogs for the Deaf” and on 19th July we are serving tea and cakes at Village Day. Members are being asked to bring cakes to the main hall kitchen at 10 am. On August 1st we have our Pot Luck Supper in the small hall. Please bring food drink, cutlery, plate, bowl and glass and enjoy a pleasent evening with the ” Valley Friends”.
The next main meeting of the Valley Friends is an open meeting on 5th Sept in theVillage hall at 8pm. “The History of the Royal Flight” by Mr G. Laurie M.V.O.