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

Reflexology Outreach International Expedition 2005 To Uganda

The 6th Reflexology Outreach International (ROI) Expedition to Uganda took place in November/December2005. The expedition team members were Mari Singleton (expedition co-ordinator), Irene McRae, Pat Griffin and Betsy Keating.

Pat and Betsy left the UK for Uganda on 10 November. They had planned to train in Tororo first but a late change of plans had them returning to Kampala. They spent their first week teaching at The AIDS Support Organisation (TASO) where they trained 27 students, including 5 who graduated as Reflexology Trainers and 8 who obtained Student Trainer status. They were comfortably accommodated at the Mill Hill Missionary in Kampala.

Mari and Irene arrived on 18 Nov and met up with Pat and Betsy at the Foyer de Charitie Convent just outside Kampala for the weekend. Our good friend Sister Harriet and the nuns made us all so welcome. Whilst here time was also spent changing our money into local currency, buying water and replacing our telephone SIM cards to provide for cheaper communication with the UK.

On Sunday, Pat, Irene and Mari travelled South West to Masaka.
Betsy stayed in Kampala and trained 6 new students from the TASO operational site at Soroti. It also gave Betsy an opportunity to visit Hospice Uganda for a day where she met with old friends to share and exchange skills with volunteers. The reflexology volunteers have met every Tuesday since 2002 to offer therapy to hospice patients. It is estimated that 60% of the patients with cancer also have AIDS.

On arrival at Masaka we were welcomed at the hotel by two nurses, Maxie and Florence, who informed us about the Masaka Mobile Unit which was to be our teaching venue. The Irish Charity The Medical Missionaries of Mary (MMM) together with Catholic Agency For Overseas Development (CAFOD) funds the mobile unit based at Kitovu Hospital.

The mobile unit travels out daily to three regions surrounding Masaka. This service provides medical help, holistic counselling and therapy to sick and vulnerable people who live in remote areas. We were invited to walk around the children's ward at Kitovu where around 100 children, most of them suffering from malaria, were squeezed into 8 wards. The hospital was so overcrowded that some children were in the corridor sitting on their mother's laps with their drips attached to a window. Many of the children will die, not of malaria, but sadly by the lack of medical care.
Our training room was equipped with a blackboard and pin boards for attaching charts. The students sat on chairs facing each other to practice and they coped admirably. They worked hard, some students learning quickly and others taking more time to learn the caterpillar walk and persuading their stiff thumb and finger joints to move! Pat and Mari would show them warm up and breathing exercises to help them with self care, and they loved the crazy Hokey Kokey dance.

Maxie, had previously trained with the ROI in basic skills was an excellent interpreter for those students who had no English. A member of the group worked for many hours translating the ROI teaching pack into Lugandan. This proved to be a marvellous contribution to our organisation and will be a huge help to the non English-speaking students in future. The student's lack of English inevitably slowed the pace of training down and we found ourselves teaching five days from 9am to 4pm with an hours break for lunch. By the end of the week Maxie became an ROI trainer and the 18 students gained basic certificates. The certificate ceremony brought great joy with singing, dancing, shaking of hands and hugs.

We felt pleased that we were leaving them in the capable hands of Maxie and we hope that she will give them encouragement to continue their reflexology practice, to treat each other and write up their findings in case studies. Maxie will then be able to take them on to the next stage of training to produce more ROI(Uganda) trainers.
We spent Saturday visiting the beach at Lake Nabugabo about 15 kilometers from Masaka. It was a grassy park by the lake with shaded picnic areas, trees and lakeside café. The lake was safe for swimming; Irene and Pat had a paddle whilst Mari had a swim. We were delighted to see some sound equipment being assembled and soon we were dancing! Here was one of those unexpected magical moments, when we danced by the lake with some of our Ugandan brothers and sisters.

Apparently every last Saturday of the month people came here to meet friends to dance and party.

Our final week was with the Medical Missionaries of Mary (MMM) at Makondo, a remote elevated, hilly area, cooler and fresher than Masaka and Kampala. Sister Rosemary Mohan, a fellow AOR Reflexologist, drove to Makondo. Rosemary is an administrator with the MMM?s and a counsellor. The journey took an hour and we travelled over some pretty awful roads. We soon realised that Rosemary had another skill which was not listed on her CV, that of rally driver!

Rosemary's wish is to combine her two therapies to help bring people to better health.

She had already trained the group at Makondo for one week in January and another in July. Our task was to adapt their training with the ROI Teaching Pack. We had a basic group of 15 who trained with Pat and Irene, and a group of 4 who worked with Mari and Rosemary to become ROI(Uganda) Reflexology Trainers.

The training facilities were excellent and we had a large airy room. There were lots of tables with foam mattresses on which the students sat to have their feet worked on and to practice their techniques. So they were training in relative comfort. We even had two six-week-old babies who were amazingly content. There was a Lafuma recliner, which had been left by Louisa and Sandra from a previous trip to Makondo in 2003.

Margaret Hassana was our ROI(Uganda) Reflexology Trainer and interpreter at Makondo. She intends to visit the location regularly and to assist the students and help develop their skills.

We lived at the MMM Health Centre. The centre is constantly busy seven days a week and available for the local community. They take a variety of blood tests for ST D's, Sickle cell anaemia, Haemoglobin/blood count, HIV and malaria. The constant sound of babies crying became a familiar to us as we trained next door.

All students gained certificates, the majority received them at basic level. James, a retired teacher, was awarded an ROI(Uganda) Student Trainer certificate. Before he gains trainer status, he needs to complete six case studies. We were pleased that Joseph, Florence and Immy became trainers.

A highlight of our time at Makondo was the nursery schools nativity play. We photographed over 100 little children with silver foil bands around their foreheads, walking down the hill singing the following words to the tune of Freres Jacques:

'Baby Jesus, Baby Jesus, I love you, I love you,
You are my Saviour, You are my Saviour,
Every day, every day.'

The MMM's have created a school for three to six year olds. There are three classes with a special unit to teach a few children with learning disabilities. They have a daily feeding program where each child is provided with a nutritious millet drink, and they have two eggs a week. Sister Celine told us that her sister's retired friends in Ireland pay for one egg a week for each child in the feeding program. They also provide food for over 400 children in the local primary school.

Sister Celine told us that it costs 6,000 Ugandan shillings (around &gbp;2) a term to educate each child and around 1,500 Ush (60p) to buy a pair of shoes. Many of the children walk miles to school with no shoes.

On our final day we were treated to some drumming, dancing and singing. We celebrated with plates of doughnuts, biscuits and the local delicacy of roasted grasshoppers. They look like little fish, and taste salty with a crunchy texture.
Grasshoppers are seasonal in November and April and are a good source of protein.
It was really sad to say our goodbyes to the Sisters and we left with the hope in our hearts of visiting there again one day to see the fruits of the reflexology training and visit old friends.

It certainly is a great experience and privilege to take the training to Uganda. We can now say, hand on heart as we shiver in the UK, that despite the sound of the crickets at night, the cockerel at 6 o'clock every morning, the cold showers to waken us up, and chasing flying beetles and mozzies around our rooms, we miss Uganda and the satisfaction of making a difference.

One of the main challenges for the UK ROI trainers is to motivate the Ugandans to carry on after we leave. This challenge is being met by the capable and enthusiastic trainers in Uganda and I feel sure that our therapy will continue to grow and flourish.
On a final note - Uganda is one of the few African countries where HIV prevalence rates have declined, and it is a rare example of success in a continent facing a severe AIDS crisis.

In Appreciation
We would like to thank TASO, Hospice Uganda and the Sisters of the Medical Missionaries of Mary for their invaluable help and support during the expedition. We would also like to thank all those members of the AOR who kindly sent reflexology and A&P books to us for setting up reflexology libraries in Uganda.

The ROI Website
If you have resonated with our article and would like to know more about the ROI charity and support us, please look on our website at www.roi.org.uk

You can also access through our web site links with several other websites including: Hospice Uganda, TASO Uganda and AVERT (global information about HIV/AIDS).

Mari singleton and Irene McRae, on behalf of the Expedition Team


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