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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
ROI EXPEDITION 2002 TO UGANDA

I first read about Reflexology Outreach International in a copy of Reflexions, the AoR magazine and the subsequent seminar in London last February 2002. I was very impressed with the dedication of the first team and the way they shared their experiences with the group. I was inspired! My name went down on the list and I looked forward to July 2003 when I was hoping to be one of the new volunteers going out to Uganda to teach reflexology. It seemed a long way into the future, well over a year!

I was very surprised when at the beginning of September, I was telephoned by Marilyn Williams who asked if I was still interested in going out to Uganda. I assured her I was but was unprepared for the next question,'Can you go on October 10?' six weeks time??

That is how it all began. And that is how I found myself travelling down to Heathrow on October 10 to meet up with Joyce Salin and Marilyn for our trip to Africa.
Our first problem was at the airport. We had packed very light possessions for ourselves but the cases were overloaded with teaching packs, text books, wall charts, AoR tee-shirts, first aid kit, pens, labels, staplers, in fact anything and everything you could imagine in the way of teaching aids. Of course at the weigh-in each of us went into excess with our baggage and the surcharge was going to cost over £700. So then began the task of unloading and leaving the inessentials behind with Joyce's husband who kindly helped us out. Eventually we boarded the plane to start our adventure. It was an eight hour flight and thankfully uneventful. On reaching Uganda my first impression when alighting from the plane was the warmth, the greenness and the vastness of Lake Victoria, spread out in full view at the airport. A taxi was waiting to take us to the capital city of Kampala, the first stage of our expedition. I had never been to Africa before and I was mesmerised by the journey. So much to see, the countryside and vegetation, the brick red dustiness of the road, the people living very near to the roadside, selling everything from a few tomatoes to three piece suites. The traffic ? hundreds of bikes with seats on the back that carried passengers, bananas, pigs and even a wooden bed frame complete with mattress! Nearer to Kampala the traffic jammed up with many taxi vans which are the most popular form of transport.

We stayed in Kampala for two nights at a home belonging to Joyce's friend. There were many contacts to make and preparations for our Sunday journey to the town of Tororo where we were to stay for two weeks. Joyce purchased a mobile phone which was invaluable during our time away. We made contact with Angela Nampewo, a reporter on the Sunday Vision newspaper, and she agreed to accompany us to Tororo and attend the reflexology course. She also wrote a positive article about the course after the training.

We had to hire a taxi van for the journey as there were four of us plus baggage, as well as massive containers of drinking water. The journey was long and hot but the scenery was interesting, lots of crops, tea and sugar cane plantations, many townships and small village communities at the side of the road plus some baboons hoping for food. After four hours we arrived at the Benedictine Priory which was to be our base for the next fortnight. The welcome we received was overwhelming , the sisters were so pleased to see us.

On the Monday we had a meeting in the morning to plan the first day's lesson then on to the Crystal Hotel in Tororo where a room had been booked for us as a teaching base. We taught every afternoon from 2.00 pm to 5.00 pm and the full course consisted of fifteen hours tuition. Each student was expected to commit themselves to the full five days on the understanding that they would receive a certificate on completion. This certificate enabled them to carry out reflexology treatments on friends, family and those that were sick but only on a voluntary basis.
Our first group of students arrived and soon settled in. We found that they were mainly drawn from a health background including TASO (The Aids Support Organisation), Tororo Hospital, St Anthony's Hospital and Action Aid. All were very keen to learn and over the week they picked up the reflexology routine, based on the Ann Gillanders method, very quickly. From this group we formed very strong links with TASO Mbale and subsequently visited the Centre and made teaching arrangements for next July when ten volunteers will visit Uganda and continue the good work.

Our second group of students were very different. They had similar backgrounds but also included three fathers from the Dominican Priory in Tororo. They were a joy to teach, full of fun and so enthusiastic. These students were very keen to continue meeting as a group after we returned home and Father Matthew was to liaise with Charles at TASO in Tororo to co-ordinate this. After two weeks we had trained 32 students.

Apart from teaching in the afternoons we had many outings to schools, and a seminary to visit orphaned children, plus a couple of small remote villages to see their orange tree planting project. The uniforms of the children in the school were so vibrant with colours ranging from shocking pink, bright purple, sunshine yellow and cornflower blue, each school choosing one of the colours for the whole school. The girls wore tunic dresses and the boys wore a matching bright coloured shirt. Everywhere we went we were met with an enthusiastic welcome.

After two weeks, it was time to say farewell to Tororo and head back towards Kampala for a well deserved two-night break at Jinja. Here we stayed at a hotel so that we could relax and recharge for the final teaching week.

Jinja was quite a contrast to Tororo. It was situated on the banks of the Nile and was very green and fertile and the town has a healthy tourist industry. The 'Source of the Nile' was the nearest attraction. It had many gift shops which Tororo lacked so we were eager to browse and indulge in some retail therapy. Jinja even had a coffee shop which sold cappuchino and an internet café which was overrun with Australians when we were there. Also we found a wonderful hotel where we had lunch twice. It had a restaurant that overlooked the Nile and it was so relaxing to sit, eat and watch the fishermen with their nets and to enjoy the fantastic birdlife.

All too soon we were loaded back into a taxi and on our way to Kampala. Here we stayed at Hospice Uganda in the Makindye district, fifteen minutes by taxi from the centre of the city. Our next teaching week was located at the Hospice where we taught morning sessions from 9.00 am - 12.30 pm. As Marilyn and I were heading home on the following Friday morning, we had to fit the teaching package into four days, quite a challenge! Teaching onsite was much more convenient as we only had to walk from our accommodation to the main building every morning. In Tororo, the priory was situated a few kilometres out of town and had necessitated the use of a taxi every afternoon.

On the Monday morning we welcomed our new group. They were mainly from Hospice itself, some from TASO and also Joyce's sister Milliam and friend Lydia who was an art lecturer at the University. Again it was a very dedicated group who really worked so hard to encompass the whole reflexology routine in four days. We were helped this week by Sister Anne, a Franciscan sister from Ireland who has been living in a Ugandan convent for many years. She was an invaluable source of support to us and she has agreed to co-ordinate the group at Hospice Uganda where she attends every week to carry out voluntary work for the patients. She has also agreed to be the main contact for those in Tororo who wish to start taking case histories to further their study of reflexology. Another supporter was Kati Skilton, who last year?s group would remember, she came to work with us on two occasions. She is also a volunteer at Hospice and offered help with co-ordinating the group of new trainees in the future.

Sadly, we came to the end of our stay in Uganda. In the last week we had trained 15 more students, a total of 47 altogether. The three of us were extremely tired but felt it had been a wonderful and worthwhile experience. The Ugandan people were lovely to teach and very quick to learn. It is satisfying to know that in some small way we may have helped to alleviate the suffering of others by passing on our knowledge of reflexology, especially those with HIV/AIDS.

Next year there will be a team of ten volunteers planning to visit Uganda in July 2003. They will consolidate the work that has gone before and will also train new students in the skills of reflexology.

The ROI is applying for charity status - ed the ROI is now a registered UK charity. Anyone who wishes to become a member or would like to contribute to our funds, please visit the membership page. For more information please visit the contact page.

We would like to thank the AoR for their continued support and Ann Gillanders of the British School of Reflexology for helping with resources.

On behalf of the team

Pat Griffin



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