Time to rest by Anna Davis

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I am sat writing this at my desk back in Devon. I safely arrived in the UK on the 7th of July 2013, from there went straight to a canal boat where I spent a six days with friends, this was the best thing I could have done to come back to the UK. It gave me space to absorb everything that I had seen in my six months and a place where I was not bombarded with questions by people – how was your time? Are you glad to be back? What did you miss about the UK? What’s next?

That question – ‘what did I miss about the UK?’ was posed to me whilst I was away and it was then I really began to understand the magnitude of this ‘adventure’. So often whilst I was out in Uganda I felt like I was being blessed more by the people I was surrounded by, more than us blessing them by serving them as a ministry.

I arrived home but really what is a home? It’s a place that we build foundations and to start a life and that is where I see Revelation Life, they are a charity that has been working in the slums of Kampala since 2009, but still they are just developing. My time there was unforgettable and I am so glad that I got the chance to go, even if it was just for six months, it has definitely sparked the African bug in me to go and serve again.

In my first write up I gave a brief explanation of my work, I would like to tell you a few more stories and how my time there really has shown me the importance of life.

I was part of a team within Revelation Life that organised the Feeding Programme for children that had been identified as malnourished in the slums, my work was a routine of giving a food bag; containing foods which were appropriate for that child to gain strength and grow, weighing children and giving a repeated message to the caregivers that the food bag was just for the child and not for any other child. We soon faced a problem! We were not really teaching the caregivers anything about the food or even why their child had got to that stage of malnourishment.

So after a few meeting with the senior team and with the help of a resource provided by a nutrition rehabilitation centre, I set about putting together our own training programme for caregivers in the slums who’s children were on the feeding programme. It took more time than it should have done as I was working through a charity in its early stages where if you had an idea it was solely up to you to carry it on. But the result I ended up with was a training programme which could be used in all four of the slums we work in if necessary on breastfeeding, weaning, foods, proteins, carbohydrates, fats and sugar, fruit and vegetables, a Ugandan balanced diet, the importance of water, signs of malnourishment to look out for and hygiene and sanitation.

I could write about each training session here but I have so much to say that you may get a little tired of hearing the stories. But one success story is that of Mama Ratifa, mothers don’t generally use their names after a child has been born they take the name of the child and add Mama in front. I met Mama Ratifa nearly two weeks after first weighing Ratifa, she was by our terms and the terms of the World Health Organisation acutely malnourished. We discussed the possibility of bringing a food bag weekly for Ratifa so that the strain on her family as a single mother would be eased, allowing Mama to feed her other children with the food that she could afford to buy and by us supplementing Ratifas diet.

Mama Ratifa spoke broken but illegible English, she was the first Mama whose child had been put straight on the Feeding Programme to come to the training programme instead of us visiting their home and weighing the children which was time consuming. Mama Ratifa would come with Ratifa every Thursday morning when we held the focus group in her slum without having to be asked or invited by a Revelation Life team member to be join us which was remarkable as we spend so much time inviting that often our training sessions start an hour later than expected once we have gathered all the Mamas together.

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I knew there was a turning point in Mama Ratifa understanding when I asked her to recount what they had learnt the week previous, she would recount what I had said exactly one week on perfectly all from memory. Mama Ratifa is 20 years old and has two children but she is so eager to listen that it really encouraged me to keep going.

I would often get frustrated with the way that the charity was organised and mismanaged and this would culminate in often speaking bluntly to the people we work with in the slums, as is the culture, but Mama Ratifas attentiveness to our training sessions showed me a new form of compassion and that really life is only as complicated as you wish to make it.

Because of the amazing sights and revelations I had seen and experienced I found it hard to come to terms with the fact that I would be leaving a running training programme, and for a long time I was battling with the decision of whether to stay on in Uganda, but I came to the conclusion that I would be staying just to see the success of the Feeding Programme, really my work in Gods eyes and my own had been done for now.

My one regret is not being able to write more to you during my time away, my trip really has challenged me in ways that are more profound than I ever could have imagined before I set off from my six months in Uganda, in the West we focus so much on material wealth but we also need to remember our inner happiness as well and that is partly what my time away has taught me. So, what brings you life? And, what makes you feel loved? Focus on those two ideas and see where it takes you!!

Whilst I was away I very quickly came to see how my past actions and the things that I had accomplished in my life, were not down to my own strength but through Gods power and it was by his hand over my life that I was able to succeed.

What next? I hear you cry! – I wish to tell you that I will be moving from South West Devon in late August 2013 to Aberdeen (brrrrrr – I know) to start a Postgraduate Diploma in Secondary Education Home Economics. I am hoping to continue my passion for teaching at secondary level, taking with me all of the memories from teaching Mamas in the slums of Uganda to the East coast of Scotland.

I would like to end by saying how grateful I am to Hazels Footprints and for all their support during my time away, I was truly blessed by this opportunity and my only wish is that others are able to go and serve, help the lost and the broken whilst also having life changing experiences themselves.