Parish Project 2006
Becca's Letter from Uganda
I suspect that hardly anyone reading this letter will know me, but those of you who have lived in the area for many years will perhaps know my family.
My name is Rebecca Baldock. My grandfather was Eric Baldock who used to own the chemist shop at the top of George Street in Dunstable until he retired and who was a Reader at the Priory Church in Dunstable for many decades. My father is Martin Baldock, who went to school at Dunstable Grammar School (1963-70) and was Head Boy in his final year there; he is now a vicar in York.
Me? I arrived in Africa on 6th July 2005 on a three-year placement and am working as a physiotherapist and missionary at Kagando Hospital here in SW Uganda. Kagando is set in the foothills of the Rewenzori mountains. It's a quite rural setting and it's nearest town, Kasese, is about 1hr drive away (owing to the poor state of the roads).
Kagando hospital is part of a larger project, including a farm, and primary school. The hospital was originally a Leprosy centre, but was made into a hospital in 1965 when missionaries had to move out of Congo. It now has 8 wards: Paediatric, Maternity, Surgical, Male medical, Female medical, Leprosy, TB, and Cholera.
So why am I writing? Well, recently I learnt that St Maryís Church in Eaton Bray has chosen Kagando as its principle charity for 2006. I had been praying that Kagando might be selected as the needs here are great but I didnít dare to hope that it would be chosen.
My parents spent some time in Zambia as missionaries before I was born and I was brought up on stories about Africa, so it has always been a big part of me. When I was at university it kind of became a bigger idea. Then after a year working as a physiotherapist I started praying and thinking about what the next stage of my life would be and whether this was the time to go to Africa. I wanted to go with a mission so I wrote to several to see what the options were. I ended up applying to, and being accepted by, African Inland Mission (who actually founded Kagando Hospital); they suggested this place. I was really unsure about it at first, felt neither hot nor cold about it, but as I spoke to people who had been there, and prayed about it, it started to feel that this was where I was meant to be. And having come here it's very me. God certainly knows us very well.
When I was investigating, it became clear that most missions recommend that you have some biblical training, although it isn't compulsory. So I prayed about it and applied - only to All Nations College in Ware, as that seemed to be the best one. All Nations College lets people come for only a term. I had exactly the right amount of money to do that, and the term that I was able to go to was the term that I was able to study the subjects I was most interested in. It was an amazing time. At the College I was surrounded by Christians from all over the world, studying the bible and praying together. It was amazing to be able to spend that much time focused on God, and time with God.
Since arriving in Uganda Iíve been working hard to learn the language. So far my biggest error has been saying that God was pregnant! Still it is quite fun to make the mistakes and laugh about them together. Itís very interesting the different reactions Iíve received to learning Lukonzo. The elderly people love it. Their faces just light up when you greet them and try to talk to them. Other people think itís quite funny, but help and get their friends to help as I try and talk to them. Others just think it is strange, they stare at me and donít understand what Iím saying even when Iím talking correctly, just because they donít expect a Mazungu (white person) to speak their language.
I realise now that we take so many things for granted in England. The water went off for part of today, although generally that has been quite reliable. The power is frequently off. At first it seemed to be working once every three nights, but it has been off for the last 7nights. It would be nice to have matches that work and hot, clean water and warm showers. Yet itís amazing how quickly you adapt and donít miss such things, and just regard it as a blessing when we actually have them.
Due to it getting dark at about 7.30pm, not much happens after 8. Iíve had people over for dinner a few times, but otherwise I get the time pretty much to myself. Iíd thought Iíd get really bored by this, but am actually quite enjoying it. Itís nice to have some space at the end of the day to relax, learn more Lukonzo, write letters, play guitar etc. A few of the nurses/students here want to learn more guitar. They know A, D, G and play every song using just those three cords, so itís quite fun to learn with them.
Before coming here I thought Iíd see much of the effects of AIDS. However since being here Iíve really not seen much evidence, possibly a child and two adults who may have had the disease. What I have seen however is the effects of Malaria. Of course, I had expected to see people with Malaria, but the Childrenís Disability Centre is treating people who had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. It is true that the symptoms were similar to cerebral palsy, but the effects were as a result of poorly treated malaria becoming cerebral. Some children also presented with is called ďpost injection paralysisĒ. This is basically where a child has been given a quinine injection for malaria, but poor technique results in it affecting the sciatic nerve. This results in muscle paralysis generally around the foot. Some get spontaneous recovery others are left with residual paralysis. On top of this many adults and children are affected by sciatica post injection. I canít quite get my head around this, to me all the paralysis and sciatica should be completely avoidable, but I will have to investigate more.
I will try to write a letter each month for Focus.
- Please pray for Kagando and its staff
- Please to pray for my learning of the language Ė I can now instruct a patient in a simple treatment session in regards to what I want them to do, but canít explain anything or understand much of what they are saying
- Please pray for understanding for me in regards to the culture as there are certain work ethics etc that I donít understand.
- Please continue to pray for Uganda and its people in the uncertain political situation in advance of this yearís elections.