Travelling Jinja-ly Through Africa

 

Room for another?!

Since my return one of the starkest contrasts I’ve noticed between life in the UK and life in Africa is the difference in transport systems! A trip I made recently by car from Newcastle to see friends in Leeds demonstrates the point.

I was guided, in my own car, from door-to-door by my sat-nav in exactly the 1 hour 45 minutes that it had predicted it would take. The tarmacked roads and hassle-free service stations (with pretty good toilet facilities) made the whole experience a pleasure when you consider that my journey from Ghana to Jinja in Uganda included:

  • A ride in a bus operated by a company priding itself on “safety, comfort and reliability” but which nevertheless hurtled down wet, potholed roads with me sandwiched between fellow passengers not to mention their yams, chickens and babies! I was finally delivered to my destination an hour late.
  • A six-hour flight seated next to a first-time flyer who spent the duration digging his elbow into my increasingly bruised ribs, coughing over me at regular intervals and, most unforgivably of all, tutting at me for enjoying a glass of wine with my meal!!
  • Waiting 30 minutes for a Matatu (public mini bus) to fill up before we set off on the next leg of the journey during which passengers regularly had to climb over one another to swap seats as people were dropped off and picked up. This was made a little tricky for me due to clutching a backpack containing all my worldly possessions!
  • On being dropped off at the bus station I was immediately targeted by dozens of touts and salespeople asking me where I wanted to go, if I’d like to buy water, plastic toys, fish pies and a whole host of other goods.
  • Finally, there was a short but hair-raising pillion ride on a boda boda (motor cycle taxi) to my final destination – a backpackers that would be my base during my time in Jinja.

I will never speak ill of UK trains, buses, service station food or road works ever again, well, not until May Bank Holiday at least…

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Ghana Getting Results!!

COCO in the thick of it in Ghana!

I’ve been back in the UK long enough to collect my thoughts and reflect on what I witnessed and learnt during my 10 weeks in Africa. As such I thought you might appreciate an update on one of the sites that was mentioned earlier in my trip, so let me take you back to Shia…

I was incredibly sad to leave Ghana where we are working with some amazing organisations that are really up against it, whether that be due to lack of water, sanitation, electricity, government cooperation, funding or all of the above!

It’s therefore a source of genuine pride that I can tell you about real progress in the village of Shia where COCO had helped fund the construction of an IT Centre as well as a cocoa farmers’ cooperative.

The IT Centre (part of the Shia Secondary School) is now complete and a Ghanaian donor has been found to assist those students at the school who had been struggling to pay school fees; as a result the headmaster is much happier with how the future looks for his students.

As for the farmers’ cooperative, the plan is to provide small loans that will give farmers long sought after access to capital to enable them to put their cocoa farms on a sustainable footing. All the loans will be repaid without interest and only after the cocoa plantations have started to produce – something that traditional sources of funding (i.e. banks) often do not take into account. The money will go back into the cooperative rather than returning to COCO meaning other farmers can benefit.

All in all the trip to Ghana was very successful, eye opening and a great opportunity for me to find out what COCO should be prioritising for these fantastic communities to ensure sustainable futures for the many children and families we are working with.