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My African Adventure

Earlier this year previous Stepping Stones students Ollie and Joe traveled to Uganda to work with our partner PEAS (Promoting Equality in African Schools). We caught up with Ollie to find out more about their trip...

I was originally quite apprehensive when Larry first introduced the idea of going to Uganda to teach and film the students and staff at some of the PEAS schools. My head was intrigued by the seemingly incredible work that the organisation did but also somewhat nervous about the distance and tasks associated with the trip. Nevertheless, after a couple days I had made up my mind, I was going to Africa.

Thankfully I wasn’t going alone, a friend of mine and also ex pupil of Stepping Stones school, Joe Johnson would be accompanying me and leading the trip. He had significant prior experience so I knew that I could simply follow his lead.

After an active flight from Heathrow to Ethiopia, featuring a broken TV arm, snoring passengers, and awkward toilet positioning, we arrived in Ethiopia and began our wait for the next flight to Entebbe. Once in Entebbe and nearly out of the airport departures we were unfortunately stopped and had our drones confiscated. Apparently only the military are allowed to fly drones in Uganda or you run the risk of them being shot down. So after that little fiasco we began our journey to our hotel in Kampala.

Once we arrived in Kampala we settled into our rooms and got ready to meet Lucy, who was the PEAS representative we would be working with. We were now as prepared as we were going to be to visit Horizon the following morning.

Our journey to horizon was something quite exceptional given what we were used to, the traffic, the mopeds, the potholes, it was so different. Unfortunately the weather was not good that day and as a result a lot of the teaching of the staff and students had to be done inside. All the staff were eager to learn about the cameras and the students were just as interested and loved using them to make films and create stories. Joe’s teaching was informative and we took turns filming and teaching, along with the help of Lucy and the rest of the team.

On day two the weather was a lot better, thankfully, and I came well prepared with a sufficient amount of mosquito spray to protect anyone within a 10 metre radius of me. So we were good to go, bright eyed and bushy tailed. Today was an exciting day because we were going to teach the staff how to use the VR headsets and also get to have a better look around the grounds and watch some performances. I was particularly fond of the mother hen and her chicks who had just hatched, who I spent far too much time chasing around and trying to pick one up. Joe on the other hand was busy interviewing and filming the students. Some of the insights and ambitions of the students were incredible. The level of intelligence and drive of the students that we had the pleasure of interviewing was beyond what I had seen in schools in England. They were very inspiring.

The next day we went to a much larger and a more campus base urban school called OU. There were far more pupils and much more room, we interviewed some past pupils and we were educated once again on the substantial work that PEAS do in promoting equality and allowing as many children possible to achieve affordable and high calibre education. The three individuals we spoke to had gone on to build aspirational lives and credited the help of PEAS with much of their success. I also enjoyed playing football with some of the students and although they were somewhat hesitant at first, they eventually incorporated me into their game and highlighted the open and considerate ethos of the organisation.

It was also notable just how invested both head teachers of the two schools were. They gave great interviews and you could clearly see the amount of passion that they had for both their schools and the organisation. They highlighted just how important a head teacher is to the output of a school.

Our final day involved the trip back to the airport and saying goodbye to Peter, the unsung hero of our trip, who drove us back and forth each day and somehow managed to navigate the treacherous roads of Kampala without causing any damage to the truck or ourselves! The flights back were less eventful and seemed to go by quicker. We had a lot to process and dissect. To witness the way in which some people live and how much work there is to be done as a species was fairly intimidating. It is a problem that needs to be addressed in many ways and on many levels. But the work that PEAS, COINS Foundation and Larry are doing out there is one hundred percent a step in the right direction to say the least.

I am very thankful for the opportunity and both Joe and I still think of the schools and the people that we met - hopefully we will return one day!


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