About Us

13 Herschell Sq,
Walmer Kent CT14 7SH.

The ROI became a recognised UK
charity on 2nd September 2004
and its number is 1105706.
Reflexology Outreach International

Uganda Feat - Aid to AIDS Victims
Good news - the seven of us got back safely! Wonderful to re-experience a hot bath, carpets, bugless beds, drumless nights, roosterless mornings, potholeless roads, cats-eyes, taxis with lights/breaks/steering, good water, public toilets and cappuccinos! Not sure about TV, telephones, newspapers, PCs, shopping and all the other responsibilities that have reinvaded our time and consciousness. We miss the Ugandan people and their genuine warmth and friendship. We also miss the wonderful richness of the exotic Ugandan countryside and animal life - except mosquitoes, cockroaches, snakes, ants, the Nairobi Eye and their many friends! We do not miss the poverty, the illness and the sight of street children.

In the last edition of Reflexions, Betsy Keating provided a 'letter from Uganda' describing the ROI Team's recent experience in Tororo, which is a large town in East Uganda. Tororo is some 200km east of Kampala and is famous for its volcanic plug landmark that reaches 1500 ft into the air from a fairly flat countryside. We were touched by the warmth and sincerity of the people we met, and impressed by their enthusiasm to become reflexologists. From our records, we trained people from 28 different organisations in the Tororo area, including HIV/AIDS organisations, hospitals, local government and villages. We were asked to meet the King of Tororo, Moses Owor Tieng Adhola, and the Queen, for a 20 min audience - we ended up in discussions with them and the King's ministers that lasted for over an hour. We also returned later to treated the King & Queen - he really appreciated the advanced reflexology techniques! He praised the Team's initiative and recognised the great potential that reflexology offered to sick and healthy people in Africa. In an interview with The Monitor, a Ugandan national newspaper, he said:

'Since most African Countries have similar problems, there is a need to join hands, to teach one another the skills that they have acquired from the developed countries to reduce the burden on the developed world'.

The King's son, Prince Joseph Owor, was so impressed by what he saw and heard that he joined the training sessions. He and Louis Masaba from Kampala, helped us teach reflexology and also acted as escorts during the whole visit to Uganda.

We also visited schools and orphanages in the area where letters from children in the UK were exchanged with Uganda children. By the time we left Tororo we had all become effective teachers of reflexology despite some language difficulties. Saying goodbye to our many new-found friends was hard.

After 10 days in Tororo, and experiencing driving on spine-jarring roads, which seemed to get longer as time went on, we had a welcome 2-day break at Jinja, the source of the River Nile at Lake Victoria. Our plush hotel overlooked the river and it was wonderful to have all the benefits of a modern hotel including a swimming pool. Whilst in Jinja we visited the location where Ghandi's ashes had been placed into the Nile - some four months later they would have reached Egypt. A little further down the river was an enormous hydroelectric dam that blocked boat movements from Lake Victoria. We also watched local daredevils shooting the rapids, clinging only to an empty yellow 10-gallon drum.

After this well-earned rest we set off for Kampala, in our trusty old Landrover (funded by Tina) and a hired minivan taxi. Our accommodation in Kampala was provided at the French sponsored Foyers de Charitie Convent. Unlike the Benedictine Convent in Tororo where we had stayed previously, the sisters wore no nun's habit and only dressed in everyday clothes. The accommodation was basic but offered mosquito-free rooms, hot showers for the women, electricity, hurricane lamps for emergency use (one caught fire!) and a laundry room. An unusual feature was the solar-powered water pump that not only pumped water from an underground source but also provided emergency electricity for the dining and kitchen areas. Another special convent feature was an armed guard who, with his bow and poison tipped arrows, protected us at night - the sisters advised that it was much cheaper than a guard with a rifle - none of us dared move after dark for fear of Robin Hood activities! The convent was virtually self-supporting in food and had its' own vegetable and fruit plantations, dairy herd, chickens and turkeys. The food was good and we held dinner parties for our friends - the highlight was roasted ants. The sisters were very musical and entertained us with drumming and singing.

They also ran a small medical clinic and it was here that we met 2 year old Joshua. He was very ill with AIDS related illnesses and despite our efforts with reflexology and Reiki he died - such a waste of potential, but bringing home the tragedy that AIDS has brought to so many families in Uganda and Africa. It is sobering to reflect that 8% of the women and 4% of the men in Uganda have AIDS. It is also tragic that there are around 1.8 Million orphans in Uganda (even worse in some other African Countries). Additionally, we were aware of the relative poverty in Uganda but, although poor by our standards, the people we met had a natural dignity and self respect. When we requested some Ugandan organisations to ask their trainees to bring 3 towels, a pen and paper and a pillow. One organisation replied as follows:

'People living in the village are very poor. There is no awareness of the existence of pillows or even hand towels. I would suggest that you procure these locally when you get there, a hand towel will cost about 50p and so will soap. Do have some spare pens available just in case somebody doesn't bring one along. Participants can provide a cup full of flour, which will very unlikely be maize flour. The staple food is millet and everybody will readily have it available. Maize is the posher, expensive version, they might afford to buy once a year on Christmas day. Please let us know if millet flour would do. If not, maize flour will cost about 40p per kilo and can be purchased in almost every shop.'

Facilities were generally better in Kampala. In Tororo we basically had the use of the 4 Lafuma chairs kindly provided by the AoR - most of the time the trainees trained sitting on benches, chairs or the floor. In Kampala we had the use of additional couches. On teaching aspects, we were well-prepared for both locations and had designed a 15 hour training programme utilising our newly written ROI Basic Reflexology Teaching Package based on Ann Gillanders' book, The Essential Guide to Foot And Hand Reflexology. Because of time constraints we deliberately excluded hand Reflexology in the package, although we sometimes used and demonstrated the technique. The Teaching Package included, foot Reflexology techniques, a history of Reflexology, anatomy and physiology, contra indications, tropical diseases, case study taking, treatment records and client care, and a diagrammatic representation of the complete treatment cycle; it was made available to all students and some 300+ copies were provided. In addition, we gave all trainees a copy of a miniature foot chart. During training we also made use of large wall charts and supportive books. In the practical sessions we tried using millet and even 'expensive' talcum powder, but most trainees preferred the use of cream. Despite our initial concerns there was no need to use any form of Reflexology instrument. On only two occasions did we need to use synthetic gloves: a disabled teenager with foot sores and a seventy-year old priest with leg ulcers.

In Kampala we dealt with individuals from 26 Organisations including The Aids Support Organisation (TASO), AIDS Care Community, Hospitals, Hospice Uganda (cancer care), The Mildmay Centre, Save The Children (UK), Foyer de Charitie, and even the media.

At TASO the trainees openly discussed their lives with us and were happy for us to pass on their life stories These stories were so moving and an example of one is as follows:

NAME: Agnes
AGE: 49
My health is fair at the moment, but I am HIV positive and found out 9 years ago.

I hope to learn skills of Reflexology so that I can use them on my fellow clients at TASO and on my family members.

I was born in western Uganda. I grew up with my mother because my father died when I was nine months old. I went to school and qualified as a nurse. I got married and had ten children ? four girls and six boys. I lost two boys, one of seventeen years old. He got mentally disturbed and now for eight years I have not seen him. I don?t know if he is alive somewhere or dead. It is very painful and I remain in suspense not knowing what has happened to him. I also lost my son Christopher at age six and a half to AIDS. He was very sweet and died in great pain and I live with the guilt of knowing that I infected my son with HIV. It very painful to think of his death, instead of giving my son life I gave him death.

Three of my children are in secondary school. My biggest problem school fees. For them I work very hard to maintain them in school.

I am very grateful to God that I am still alive to care for my children. My friends have been very supportive and most of them are also HIV positive and we share the problems and council each other. I work as a volunteer at TASO as a chair person of TASO's Positive women?s network. This has a branch of NACWOLA ? The National Community of women living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda. I enjoy my work but sometimes I get depressed when some of my friends come to me with a lot of problems and I am unable to help them. I do what I can.

During our time in Uganda we were helped by Kati Skilton, a recently qualified Reflexologist, who jumped at the opportunity to help us and become a member of the ROI. Kati served as an in-country co-ordinating link prior to our arrival and organised a large reception at her house the day after we arrived. From the reception we made all the necessary contacts including the media and medical/social services, and were offered logistical support from several attendees. It was also an opportunity to plan our training programme for Kampala and interview individuals who wanted to be trained as reflexologists. Kati also provided her home as a training base for one of the groups during our Kampala stay.

We were also helped by Tina's brother Hayden and his partner Laura, who live in Kampala. They met us at Entebbe Airport on our arrival, provided and ferried us to our overnight locations, fed us, gave us a malaria testing equipment, organised bank runs and generally looked after us. Laura organised a Reflexology treatment day at the American Recreation Facility in Kampala and we were able to raise some funds for the expedition. There was considerable interest in the Lafuma chairs which could have been sold several times over.

What did we achieve whilst we were in Uganda? On 1 July 2001 there were 2 Reflexologists in the whole of Uganda - one British and one German. On 26 July 2001, when our expedition ended, there were 284 Reflexologists in Uganda- 277 Ugandans, 6 British and one German. These figures show just how successful the expedition was. Apart from the training we also gave treatments and briefings when we had spare time. As a result of our initiative, the Ugandans, using the AoR constitution as a basis, formed the Uganda Association of Reflexologists (UAoR) in October. Joseph and Louisa have taken the lead in establishing the new association and have included all the organisations that we dealt with. The AoR have already helped the UAoR and we expect that both associations will forge a strong bond. Members of the UAoR are carrying out case studies and we look forward to providing copies for inclusion in future issues of Reflexions.

What next?
The next major expedition to Uganda is planned for summer 2003. In the longer term the ROI will also be looking strategically at organising expeditions to other countries in Africa and around the world. If you would wish to share in these experiences, then become involved with the ROI. The AoR are running a 2 day seminar on 16/17 February where the focus will be on overseas initiatives; the ROI will be giving briefings in order to share our experiences more fully and look for future expedition members.

It was a privilege to go to Uganda and an experience which all the Team value. There are many memories and stories that we treasure. We empowered extraordinary people. When we reflect on what we did in Uganda it gives us that warm thought that whatever happens in the future, we did something in the present that is touching many lives in Uganda now, and eventually will affect others around the world.

During our early days, when we were planning our expedition, we received a message from Leslie Kenton, the author (Passage to Power, etc.) who described our expedition as follows:

'This grass roots initiative inspired by compassion, and fuelled by extensive training and skill, is a prototype for how human beings can, with deep respect for life and for each other, bring help and hope where it is needed most.'

25 May 2001

We could not have put it better.

In appreciation
Our thanks goes to all the many people in Uganda and the United Kingdom who are not identified in this article, but helped us and showed such kindness and hospitality during our stay. Additionally, we thank the AoR for its' proactive, practical and continuing support.

On behalf of all The Team,

Bob Lewis


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