Hitchin duo receive ‘overwhelming’ Ugandan welcome

Kimei with his extended family and Sally Turner and grandson Jake Elkins

Kimei with his extended family and Sally Turner and grandson Jake Elkins - Credit: Archant

A Hitchin grandmother and her grandson have just returned from Uganda after visiting two youngsters they sponsor through a child development charity.

Sally Turner and her grandson Jake Elkins from the town met 13-year-old Kimei and 12-year-old Jessica, who they back financially through the Compassion UK charity.

The trip was Sally’s second visit to Uganda – she first met Kimei 10 years ago when she began sponsoring him.

This time, she returned to the country with 11-year-old Jake to visit the pair again, having also sponsored Jessica for the last three years.

“The first time I met Kimei he was very shy and hardly smiled, now 10 years later he can’t stop smiling,” said 67-year-old Sally.

“It’s been lovely to see him grow into a fine young man, he’s now much taller than me.”

Sally wanted Jake, who is a similar age to Kimei, to experience the work of Compassion and see what life is like for a child growing up in poverty in Uganda.

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Jake reflected: “I felt quite nervous before the trip, but also very excited at the same time. There were no taps in the houses, but we saw quite a lot of water pumps and people would walk every day to the pumps to collect the water they need. We had to wash our hands using a jug and bowl.

“The children all love going to school because they know that it will make a difference to them later on in life – but not all the children in a family can go to school which is sad.

“There was also no electricity in the houses at all. I wouldn’t be able to live without electricity. Since I’ve come home I appreciate what we have more and I’ve not been using my phone so much.”

The pair from North Herts met the children and got to know them more. Kimei told them his favourite subject at school is science and he hopes to become a doctor one day.

Sally was amazed by the holistic approach that is used to take care of the children’s physical needs, as well as their educational, emotional and social lives.

The duo from England then went on some home visits which left Sally and Jake humbled.

She said: “What a welcome we received – all the neighbours, friends and families came out to celebrate our arrival.

“It was quite overwhelming and very moving to see such generosity from families who have so very little. The houses have just the one room with a mud floor and only a couple of chairs and a small table – but they honoured us by letting us sit in special chairs with arms.

“We were pleased to see that the children all had mosquito nets provided by Compassion, reducing their risk of catching malaria. There was no electricity and no running water, yet a great feeling of positivity and happiness. It was very humbling and made us question how much of what we take for granted is actually necessary.”

The children sponsored by Sally live in the hillside community village of Chemwania, around 200 miles north east of the capital Kampala.

The settlement is home to approximately 3,500 residents and houses are typically made of mud, with thatched roofs.

In most parts of Uganda education is encouraged and the government has made the first two years of secondary education free. However classrooms can be extremely overcrowded – classes of more than 70 children are common and there are often not enough adequate school resources to go around.

Sally added: “Having the privilege of meeting the children and their families in their homes and seeing the huge amount of work that Compassion does with the little money we send was a real eye opener and so worthwhile. If anyone is wondering about making a visit, I would say please do go, it’s an experience that will stay with you forever.”

Sally’s sponsorship of £25 a month per child enables Kimei and Jessica to be part of their local Compassion project where they receive nutritious meals, emotional support, medical attention and the chance to get a good quality education.

For more information about the charity visit compassionuk.org.

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