13 September 2019
Having raised over £13,000 for a school in Mitete, fourteen Year 12 students set off on an expedition to Uganda. The money raised financed the sinking of a borehole, a new classroom block and two solar panels. The borehole struck water on the final day at the school and was a cause for celebration as it will provide a source of clean water not only for the school but also the wider village. The small fee the school charges villagers for its use will provide much-needed revenue for the school as well as a source of funds for inevitable future repairs. The girls worked alongside local labourers to plaster the walls, lay floors and paint walls, doors and windows. The girls delighted the staff by purchasing desks so that every child now has a seating area despite the classes consisting of about 50 children. The solar panels brought electricity to the school for the first time; with a light in every classroom and security lighting outside, the school will now be able to offer night classes for those children having to work during the day.
At the farewell ceremony, the Headmistress and the parents expressed their gratitude by presenting the girls with small hand-made woven bowls made in the village. The district education officer and district engineer praised the efforts of St Helen’s wider community for the funds raised and extended a special welcome to those girls who had family that had fled Uganda during the government regime in the 1970s. Despite the difficult manual labour, the girls worked with good humour and camaraderie, sharing songs with the school children, staff and labourers at every opportunity, and even presenting their own handmade song book to the staff on their departure.
The second phase involved trekking in the Rwenzori Mountains and this challenged the students’ levels of endurance, both physically and mentally. During the trek old friendships were strengthened and new ones established, and the essential nature of teamwork and kindness truly appreciated.
Reflecting on the insights this expedition has provided into the world beyond their own lives, the girls noted that they have found joy in the little things: a shared smile, laughter and song. They have been inspired by the willingness of the poorest children to share what little they have and commented on the perspective that the experience has brought to their own lives and anxieties.
Individually and collectively, the girls have been exceptional. The Headmistress commented that they willingly opened their hearts to the children of her school, many of whom have been orphaned as a result of the Aids epidemic, and despite the language barrier have enjoyed many individual moments of connection through gesture and laughter. The Far Frontiers representative travelling with us, Steve Gorman who has been a trip leader for over 20 years, commented that he was “blown away by the girls’ willingness to get stuck in” and found their attitude to the project “inspirational”. It is these sorts of opportunities which nurture girls’ character and which ensure they have the resilience, confidence and can-do attitude to be successful and productive in the world beyond St Helens.