Uganda Expedition 2017
9 October 2017
Two years in the planning, 33 pupils and 3 staff travelled from Manchester to Uganda in July, for a month of community and conservation work in the heart of Africa. Pupils had been fundraising for over 18 months, giving up their time to pack bags and wash cars, in order to pay for the experience of a lifetime.
After leaving Manchester Airport, we travelled to Entebbe, the capital of Uganda. Met by the in-country staff, we jumped onto the buses to start our adventure.
Our first activity on the expedition was a visit to Ngamba Island chimpanzee sanctuary, viewing many of the animals that are being cared for before one day being released into the wild. We helped out with feeding time and spoke to the vets about their work.
The Camps team then drove us in the buses to Hairy Lemon camp, an idyllic island in the Nile. This was our base for the first project at Kirindi Primary School. Each time we travelled between the island and the mainland, we had to be transported in longboats, as there was no other means of access. Certainly a memorable commute into work!
At the school, we laid the foundations of a new classroom, replacing the old wooden structure. A week of digging, cement mixing and brick making was tough going, but worth it to see the result at the end.
Our second base was in the Sironko district of Uganda, in the far east of the country. We stayed at Mama Rose’s camp, named after the legendary local woman who ran it. After a night in camp, the group then started the ascent to Mount Elgon, a 4321m high peak. After two and a half days of hiking, battling the weather and altitude, we summited. The expedition was the equivalent of climbing Ben Nevis on three consecutive days, so was a huge achievement for everyone in the group.
Mama Rose’s was also the base for the second school project, at the local primary. We were given a wonderful welcome by staff and pupils, as they performed songs to us as they led us up the road to their classrooms. Our time here was spent putting the floor into a classroom, pointing the bricks to make them safe and laying a concrete walkway to replace the old mud path. The performance given to our group at the end showed how much our work was appreciated, with the whole school singing and dancing to show their thanks. Our renditions of Don’t Look Back in Anger and the Hokey-Cokey didn’t match the heights of the Ugandan displays, but entertained the local kids nonetheless.
After leaving Rose’s, we spent 4 days at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, where we observed the keepers going about their daily jobs, assisting them in the conservation of the animals and their habitat. The huge, majestic rhinos were incredible to see, with us getting within feet of them as they ate and slept.
The last few days were a chance to relax after a lot of work, with the team going out on a safari and sailing up to the magnificent Murchison Falls, an impressive waterfall on the Albert Nile. A celebration evening on the last night, complete with pizza and songs, was the perfect way to end our time away.
Our month in Uganda was an enlightening and humbling experience, which has opened our eyes to cultures and people we’ve never had the opportunity to see before.