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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 2004 TO UGANDA

A PERSONAL REFLECTION

It seemed like an age since my previous trip in June 2003 but after months of preparation with Al Hunter (joint co-ordinator), Uganda 2004 came around.
The team of 6 consisted of Al and myself, and new expeditionists Jean Reed, Katie Wellings and Alison Crouch, with Ruth Roberts to join us two weeks later. We left Heathrow on 14 October for the beginning of a new adventure.

KAMPALA
The next morning I was woken to the sound of my name being shouted excitedly down the corridor of the accommodation block at the Foyer de Charite convent. I recognised the voice of Sister Harriet and ran out for a big hug. This was one of the best things about this visit, meeting up with all the people we had made friends with last year. After introducing Harriet to the group we all had breakfast and listened to her news. Afterwards, we had a lot to fit in and set about all our tasks, photocopying the teaching packs, getting supplies etc.

We were able to visit the Chimpanzee Sanctuary at Ngamba Island, about an hour boat trip from Entebbe, where we were treated to watching the chimps feed. We listened to the sad tales of cruelty that bought the chimps to Ngamba. It was a moving experience to put us in the right frame of mind before starting the teaching programme.

Our first week was based at The Aids Support Organisation (TASO) training centre in Kampala, and organised by Mary Lukubo, our main ROI contact in Uganda and a founder member of TASO. Al and I taught the Advanced as we didn't want to throw the new team members in at the deep end. There were no Basic courses till the next day and, they were able to watch how we went about a mammoth practical session. It was a large group that kept Al and I busy marking case studies until 11pm most nights. By the end of the week we were tired. But the organisation by Mary was excellent and the students were really keen showing wonderful abilities with their reflexology techniques and understanding of A&P. I also managed two afternoons at TASO Mulago Hospital giving treatments on clinic days and letting a handful of advanced students watch so they could see how reflexology works in a clinic-type environment. TASO now have access to antiretroviral drugs for up to 20% of their clients .

Friday was Graduation Day, and although there was a feeling of success for our wonderful students, there was also that sinking feeling of saying goodbye. Why does this part never get easier? At the end of the day we packed up under the glow of a magnificent rainbow, our ROI rainbow, and headed back to Foyer de Charitie.

MBALE
We travelled the next day to Mbale (singing most of the way of course) to begin our next week of teaching. I love Mbale and it was my favourite place last year. It was lovely to catch up with people that I knew there.

Although not quite as well organised as Kampala, our students were all eager and TASO staff managed what time they could in between their busy working schedule to attend training sessions. This time we came across a language problem due to the fact that Advanced students need to take a written A&P exam and not all of them could read or write in English. This is an issue that we need to address. But they have started their own Reflexology Group, overseen by one of Mari's(a previous ROI expedition) students Ali. He had drawn his own foot chart for studying and helping others in the group. They had even printed T-shirts, which they all wore on Graduation day.

The bulk of Basic students were nurses from Mbale Hospital who were also very eager to learn and seem keen to incorporate reflexology into the hospital. I also remembered many of our advanced students from last year and it was lovely to catch up.

However, there were sometimes situations which I found challenging.
I witnessed the prejudice that prevents a lot of men from going to TASO for treatment Many don't want to be seen walking into TASO for fear of people knowing or thinking they have HIV/AIDS. These socio-cultural reasons still hinder the progress of treatment and add to the spread of the disease.

Mbale is one of the busiest TASO centres and you can't help but admire the dedication of everyone that works there.

Graduation day came around quickly and once again we were treated to the Drama Group's singing and dancing. The Drama Group goes out into communities singing about their experiences of HIV/AIDS and their songs are incredibly moving. Listening to the words brings tears to your eyes and a realisation of the struggle this disease brings to millions of people.

The next day TASO had arranged for us to use one of their 4wd vehicles with driver, Patrick, to go for a trek up Mount Elgon. Of course this was Uganda time and we waited from 8.30 in the morning until Patrick finally came at almost 11.30!! Clemencia (a previous student) was with him, and between them they managed to give us one of our best days in Uganda. We were taken to a village before walking some way up the mountain. It started to rain and Clemencia gave us a banana leaf each to use as an umbrella. Eventually we met a lady Margaret, who Al and I had briefly met at TASO and we were taken into her parent's home where bizarrely her sister was meeting the man she would marry. After agreeing a dowry the wedding commenced while the rain fell heavily outside. They welcomed us into their house, fed us and gave us tea. It was most definitely one of those 'Uganda moments'.

TORORO
Next day we travelled to Tororo to the Benedictine Convent and the sanctuary of Sister Benedicta; it was lovely to see her. It had changed a little and some of the faces we saw last year were no longer there. A new guest block had been built which the sisters were hoping would be finished and we would be their first guests. Scholastic was in charge of the catering, and it was just as good!

So began our week in Tororo in the safe hands of Sister B, which is a very good place to be. As soon as I heard her mobile ringing to the tune of Amazing Grace I knew we would have another 'Uganda moment'. We had to teach at the Crystal Hotel which was not the most inspiring of places. Some of our advanced students were students we had taught at Basic level last year and it was wonderful to see them for further training.

We were disappointed with the progression of the teaching of both basic and advanced courses, and by mid week we were at a point of despair. For the first time Al and I thought that we would have to fail quite a few of our group on their practical. But miraculously they turned up for the exam and surpassed themselves. We were ecstatic. It was a complete and very welcome turnaround that really made our day.

My highlight of the week was most definitely going to visit Sister B's 96 year old Mother, who I became close to last year. I had a wonderful afternoon with Mamma and all the children. We sang, they sang and we all sang a little bit more. Mamma disappeared and came back some time later with a live chicken with its legs tied together and placed it on my knee. A gift that it would be rude to refuse. She had been waiting all week for me to come and was very excited. We also had an audience with the community one evening where, surrounded by some of the giggling Sisters, we were each asked about our lives and reflexology.

JINJA & ENTEBBE
And so we said our goodbyes and headed for Jinja for a well-earned break by the lakeside. We shopped, visited Bujagalli Falls and had one of the best curries I've ever eaten outside of India

Katie celebrated her birthday in Jinja and we organised a boat trip on Lake Victoria for her in the evening. We went out on a little fishing boat and took in the views at sunset, no hippo's but a lovely evening anyway and something different for her birthday.

Back to Entebbe to find that the hotel we wanted to stay in had double booked our rooms. Disappointed, we were booked into their 5 star sister hotel (a hideously gaudy modern building complete with plastic palm trees lined up at the entrance) instead. After tears and tantrums everybody accepted that we needed somewhere to stay and that we only had half an hour to get ready for our audience with the Mayor of Entebbe which had suddenly been upgraded to a TV interview. This was our last official ROI business and we would put on our best show for it. We returned home on 12 November.

TRAINING
We left Uganda having trained 126 students in all, and Kampala with 9 Trainers, Mbale 2 Trainers and Tororo 1 Trainer. Each course consisted of 3 hours training per day for 5 days and is made up of both practical and A&P sessions. Each student has to attend all of the classes to gain a certificate. At the end of the Basic course a student can go on to take the Advanced Level Course. All Advanced level students need to sit an exam and complete at least 6 case studies (minimum 6 treatments each) to gain Trainer level where they will become Reflexology Trainers in Uganda. The case studies, some of which are truly amazing, are also a great source of research into the affects of reflexology on people who had HIV/AIDS. We were very keen to stress the importance of these studies. Although the teaching is 15 hours per week, this really is a minimum. Since 2001 we have sent 5 expeditions to Uganda and trained over 600 people

BECOMING AN ROI MEMBER
Working with the ROI in Uganda is not always easy. You have to remember that you're not on holiday with your friends, that sometimes you just have to be professional and do things that are new and challenging. You don't get much time to yourself and it is hard work. But hard work that is both rewarding and fulfilling. Waking up in the morning with joy that makes your heart want to burst is just one of the reasons that made me come here and hopefully to go back again in the future.
Being a member of ROI is a commitment and although we welcome whatever help a person can give, we are particularly looking for people who are able to offer long term commitment and who can work well in a team. If you are interested, we would love to hear from you. The ROI gained charity status just prior to this expedition and needs people with all kinds of experience to help us grow and develop.

As usual, thanks goes to all those involved in the UK and in Uganda for making Expedition 2004 to Uganda such a memorable and rewarding experience.

Nancy Porter MAR, MROI

If you are interested in becoming a member, please visit the membership page If you would like to support the humanitarian work of the ROI then please visit the sponsorship page

The ROI website http://www.roi.org.uk provides details of previous and future expeditions. It also gives useful ROI contacts and information about our on-going work.





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