On Saturday morning our group of volunteers said an emotional goodbye to the BMK school, where we have been living and working for the last few weeks. We travelled north through Iganga, Jinja and Kampala and eventually arrived at Entebbe, where many of us are staying at a hostel until we fly home tomorrow.
Friday’s opening ceremony at BMK – the day the volunteers and the community had been awaiting for so long – was just as hectic, disorganised and crazy as we had been told it would be. It started at about midday when a huge sound system arrived at the school and a DJ started playing African dance music. The children went wild, the volunteers joined them and we had an impromptu rave in the sunshine.
The formalities began at about 2pm as members of the local community joined church leaders, political figures, parents, teachers and school committee members in saying thank you to East African Playgrounds for the work that had been done. There were speeches, there was dancing. There were more speeches, there were gifts. There were some more speeches, there were handshakes, and after a few more speeches – five hours had passed by now – the playground was officially opened.
The whole ceremony was conducted in the pouring rain, but that didn’t seem to bother the locals. One particularly heavy downpour prompted the master of ceremonies to reassure us that “The drizzle just means that we are blessed.” The volunteers were each handed yellow T-shirts bearing the slogan “I support BMK”, and it seemed as if everyone and his Ugandan uncle was queuing up to heap praise on the charity.
Despite the continuing rain, it was fantastic to see the playground finally being put to use. The volunteers spent so much time and energy painstakingly constructing and painting it, and our tired bodies and frazzled minds needed this reminder of why we were here. For me personally, one of the things that attracted me to EAP last year was the photos of the children swarming all over the playgrounds. I thought it looked like something out of a comic book, and now I was standing here watching it in real life.
It will take a while for me to appreciate just what I have achieved, along with my colleagues back in Dorking and my fellow volunteers out here in Africa. I think I have one more blog post left before this incredible adventure comes to an end, so I’ll save my closing thoughts until then. For now, I have one last night in Uganda before it’s back to jolly old London. And maybe some decent sleep without the joy of mosquitos, mooing cows, crowing cockerels and singing children.