Gordon Macdonald has a background in farming & farm equipment. Some years ago he talked with UK Trustees about how best to make NOTDEC's farm more productive and provide the kids fresh water. In January Gordon visited NOTDEC Uganda. This is his report.
Why I Visited NOTDEC Uganda in January 2017
I was keen to see how our plans & equipment purchases had turned out. I would also like to help plan for the future – so the farm can realise its opportunities and contribute to NOTDEC’s on-going running costs.
Making a Joyful Noise
Of course I also wanted to see NOTDEC’s childcare in action. It was a privilege to see this life saving institution at first hand – taking in young lives which would otherwise be lost, and nurturing them through infancy, childhood and their teenage years. From tiny tots they’re brought up in the knowledge and love of the Lord.
Sunday School is a particularly boisterous and joyous event. With Bible verses being learned by rote, and Praise & Worship songs accompanied by 3 year olds playing drums, a quiet time with the Lord it definitely is not!
Those Who Wait on the Lord …
It was particularly special to meet some older teenagers and students and chat with them about their educational and career aspirations. Here were young people brought up in the Christian faith, putting their trust in the Lord for absolutely everything, and now ready to take their place in Ugandan society. They don’t find it easy. Student nurses go to work on a cup of hot water for breakfast. College fees have to be financed by part time jobs. Even with good qualifications, full time jobs are desperately hard to come by. This often means months of volunteering in the hope that a fulltime placement might follow. Meeting NOTDEC students in Kampala left me with an overwhelming feeling of hope. Veronica, for example, is studying law – shunning the offer of an easier life in Canada, to specialise in Human Rights and help her fellow Ugandans. Wonderful stuff!
The Wind of Change
The shape of NOTDEC is changing. The Ugandan Government now insists that all possible efforts are made to resettle young children with their wider family out in the community. So there are fewer children permanently on site, and a much higher proportion of those left are babies. But there’s an increased workload in monitoring the children in the community, and this keeps a team of social workers team fully occupied. NOTDEC’s responsibility remains until children reach age 18. NOTDEC has grown a lot, caring for c150 children, and now needs to beef up local management. I was privileged to participate in discussions with Canon Jehoshaphat, Chairman of NOTDEC Uganda Trustees, and Anthony Johnston on a new supervisory structure, and I prepared draft job descriptions for the team. A new Director and a qualified Accountant have now been appointed, and Anthony and I are going out imminently to help with their induction.
The farm produces lots of food for NOTDEC with a banana plantation and several small vegetable plots. On Thursdays, all the bungalows are provisioned with food for the week ahead and it’s wonderful to watch the farm labourers bringing in vegetables and huge stalks of bananas to the central distribution point. Tomatoes, onions, cabbages and sweet corn are all home-grown. Over Christmas a high quality soya bean crop was harvested; the next phase is to develop profitable cash crops to generate an income stream to supplement the funding from sponsors.
Before: Gordon in the bush During: the sower went forth to sow After: NOTDEC’s crop – this one is soya
With local expert advice more land – currently bush – will be cleared and taken into production. Coffee will be the main cash crop, with more bananas to provide shade for the maturing coffee plants. Soya bean and possibly dwarf sunflower will also be grown in rotation.
Jobs for the Boys!
I also had a long list of practical duties:
- installation of a solar water heater for the shower block funded by Martin’s cycle run;
- equipment health checks on the tractor, water bowser, rotary slasher etc.;
- hanging banners arranged by Kay and reframing & hanging laminated pictures in the chapel;
- stopping leaks from the sky hydrant water filter;
- even servicing Chaplain Zadock’s bike!
Looking back on the trip, three images stick in my mind:
- The NOTDEC Welcome! Our arrival at NOTDEC and the welcome we received – particularly Janet. Within moments of getting out of the car Janet had an excited and delighted child hanging off each finger as we walked round the bungalows being introduced to the staff. It wasn’t long before the rest of us had a gang of little people escorting us round too.
- Sunday school in the chapel was a riot of colour and sound – kids in their Sunday best, shouting the Bible memory verse of the day or singing their little hearts out accompanied by drums. This picture – taken just outside the chapel after the service – captures some of the atmosphere.
- Caring in the dark – a house mother sitting on the dusty roadside in the dark, cradling an early born baby outside the closed gates of Kagando hospital with no transport back to NOTDEC. Sitting with them was nurse Doreen who comes to NOTDEC one day a week to check the kids. Fortunately, on that occasion, Tim and I were able to drive them safely back to NOTDEC that night."