Volunteer Blog

8-8-2017, HUG Lives Up To Its Name - Help Us Grow

As I sit down to write my final blog entry of the trip we have just completed in Uganda, I feel the now quite normal, mixed emotions of being home. After 11 visits, you would think it would get easier to resettle back in, but not so. Every year the same thing happens; I feel such happiness to be home with Browny and more easily able to communicate with our sons and their families who a scattered across the world, but at the same time I feel such sadness to have left my Ugandan family and still struggle with how I can fit back in to day to day life here again. 

As Beth and Aaron have so articulately written in their earlier blog entries, once you have been to Uganda, your perspective on life in the western world changes forever. We have so many 'things' here, so many choices, so many opportunities, but so many people seem to be so unhappy. In Uganda, the important things in life, like having a healthy, happy family are not taken for granted and the smallest opportunities bring great happiness and gratitude. If only we could get more people in the West to live like this, instead of constantly searching for validation via buying a bigger 'thing' or how many 'likes' they get on social media. 

While not everyone longs to return to Uganda year after year like some of us, I get enormous joy out of seeing that HUG, Suubi, and more recently Smiling heARTs, has provided a place where so many people have been able to open their hearts and minds; refocus their attitude and perspective on what can truly make us happy. Being back in Australia allows all of us, who have been lucky enough to actually become part of our ever growing Suubi family, the chance to spread the story so that both Ugandans and Aussies can continue to grow - just as the HUG (Help Us Grow) name suggests. 

I'd also like to fill you in on my last 10 days of this years trip. It was wonderful to be able to totally immerse myself in village life; spend unrushed time with the many happy 'Muzungu' calling children that I met throughout my days and have a chance to simply sit and chat with the Suubi ladies, students and staff. It was also wonderful to have time to witness the positive impact of the items we had taken over, or arranged while being there, was having:


At the beginning of our trip the parents had been extremely impressed with the laptops and science equipment, we had brought with us for Suubi SS.


While the microscopes and laptops were considered out of date or too slow back home it was fabulous that people had thought to donate them to HUG. This means the students at Suubi SS will also have the opportunity to use machines they consider state of the art.


During my last week in the village I was lucky enough to see the new laptops being used by the Senior 3 computer studies students. Such a contrast to what I had seen last year when a whole class had been trying to squeeze around the 7 old laptops we had available at the time. This year the computer class saw students seated at tables and not more than two of them having to share access to a machine.


This enabled the students to each have extended periods of hands on time on the laptop which means their skill level will improve significantly quicker with each lesson. A huge thank you to everyone who donated a laptop this year - what you may have otherwise left sitting in the back of your cupboard or thrown in the rubbish is now helping our students at Suubi SS to learn valuable IT skills. Perfect!

In another classroom I found the rest of the Senior 3 class, who had not selected computer studies as one of their electives, doing revision work. This normally involves reading or copying notes that someone else had taken during class time so they can go over it again in the lead up to exams. As you can see Jane was quite happy doing this but also had the option of reading from the text books we had recently bought.


With a small number text books now available for all 15 subjects, the students are taking advantage of the extra information they can get from them and therefore broadening their understanding of what they have been taught.


Sharon and Lynet read from one of the chemistry books and took time to discuss and learn more together.


While Saidat took great interest in life drawings that will help her with her fine art studies.

The science equipment which had been sitting in a shed in Shepparton for a number of years because the O'Connell family had been unable to get it to a school in Nepal, is now also being put to great use. Thanks to Jenny and Pat for contacting HUG about the variety of science equipment that their daughter, Kate, had sourced from a Melbourne university after volunteering in Nepal in 2010, and to our willing contingent of volunteers to take it in their luggage this year, I was also able to see the Suubi SS students thoroughly inthralled during their science practicals. 

The microscopes are certainly a hit in biology classes as students are now able see micro-organisms that they had previously only seen pictures of or been told about. 


Joan, Dorothy, Alex, Sylivia and Norah gained a greater understanding during their physics lessons with the help of some of the new science equipment.


Shannah and Shadia were a picture of concentration as they worked.

I can't even begin to thank everyone enough for all of the books and equipment we have been able to provide for the students at Suubi SS this year. I know many of you think that buying a book for $20, or donating a laptop that you would have probably thrown out, or clearing out your shed of boxes is not much of a big deal, but I'm telling you it is! Small gestures like these can, and now are, changing the lives of our students at Suubi SS! I have seen with my own eyes what a huge difference this is making, so please continue to tell your family, friends and work collegues that they too can help us to make Suubi SS even better. If they have an old laptop or other suitable educational equipment, email me and let me know so we can try to organise to send it across with our next group of volunteers. Or you may know others who want to purchase a book/s so we can eventually fill a Suubi SS library!

Finally, before I sign off for another year I want to let you know that we had a very special arrival the day before I left Uganda. Two of our dearest Suubi family members, Elias and Fatumah (Tit) welcomed a brand new baby girl in to the world. It was both a harrowing and joyful experience to be around for. It started with an extremely long labour that lead to an emergency caesarean. As we waited for hours, not knowing whether Tit or the baby would survive, we all supported each other in the usual Ugandan way, by simply being there to help each other through. Although Maria (Tit's Mum) and I may not share the same language, we shared hugs and comforted each other. As a mother far away from my own children I was confronted with the thought of what it would be like sitting, waiting to hear if one of them was going to survive. Although neither Maria's grown up children, nor my sons can be classed as a child any more, the love of a mother never lessens - the heartache was palpable. Maria and I clung to each other and finally shared in the excitement and joy when we realised that both Tit and the baby were going to be ok. Maria and I have always been very close but I'm sure this experience will bind us together in yet another special way. 


Elias, Tit and their beautiful little daughter certainly didn't have an easy start to this life; they and their extended family will always be grateful as long as they are all healthy and happy. 


So cute - she looked just like a baby doll!

Although I'm now back sitting at my desk in Kyabram writing this blog post, part of my heart will always remain with my Ugandan family ...... just as part of it is in Queensland with Dustyn, Loz, Archie, Bren, Angy and Sunny, part of it is in the UK with Chad and Maria and part in LA with Ryl and Jooch. I know I definitely can't physically be with everyone I love, all of the time..... BUT my heart is always with them and WILL physically be with them all again in the not to distant future! Until then - Thank God for Skype!

So it's see you later to little Dalvin for now. (what a lucky boy to have so many Jja jjas that love him so much!)


We may be on opposites sides of the world right now but our hearts and families are forever joined!

HUGs from Helen


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