REPORT FROM FORMER HEAD OF SCHOOL TOM ROBINSON’S (P 10-15) TRIP TO UGANDA

I would just like to begin by expressing my appreciation for your generous donation towards my visit to Uganda in September, 2015. I had a meeting with Mr Horsfall in the months leading up to the trip and his support was greatly appreciated.

I was appointed Head of School (2014-2015) last year, and one of the privileges is to have a goat…! Unlike Imogen Schofield, I did not warm to the idea of having to take care of one, but I did feel I had to do something, as my Mother runs a charity called ‘The Goat Project’! As the charity began in Uganda, I suggested that the privilege be extended to the rest of the School and it was decided that each boarding house would sponsor a goat! However, I did not plan to go to Uganda with just the Goat Project, but instead, I wanted to also teach English and run football camps in some of the most impoverished areas of Uganda, whilst my mother saw to the well-being of all the goats!

The car journey from Kampala (the capital) took around 7 hours, but we did eventually arrive in Lira, a region in the northern part of Uganda. I’m sure many of you will have heard of Lira as this was one of the many regions that Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army took control over. Kony was the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army and he led a terrifying regime throughout Northern Uganda by targeting attacks on innocent civilians, kidnapping children and forcing them to fight in his rebel forces. One morning, we attended the memorial site for the 121 people that died in the massacre inflicted by the Lord’s Resistance Army and Joseph Kony. It was a truly emotional morning and it put some background and perspective to the area, but also to the road that we travelled on every morning which was completely controlled by the rebels. On the final night in Lira, I was woken up at around 3oClock in the morning with the sound of gunshots outside my room (which was an experience that I hope doesn’t ever happen again!) but it was a gentle reminder of what Kony had actually done to this region and on reflection, I suppose I was experiencing something which had become a normality for the people who lived there.

I has a really good conversation with a man named Francis, who was head of the local church in Lira. He explained his traumatic experience from when he was kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army. At 3 oClock in the morning, they knocked on his door and took him hostage, just because they thought he was a soldier. After months of being away, they finally released him and he kept saying “It is a miracle that I’m still alive.”

During the time I was in Uganda, I taught English in 4 different schools; 3 secondary schools and 1 primary school, which was a fantastic experience as all the children have such an eagerness to learn. They could easily choose to not go to school if they didn’t want to, but many of the children I taught were orphans and every single one of them wanted to make the best of the situation in which they found themselves in and that really was such a humbling experience.

As well as running the football tournaments, I also spent a few days at a village in Lira with the younger children and we must have played football in the boiling sun until it went dark! I did some coaching with them, as well as a running a few competitions, one of which was a penalty shoot-out which appeared to attract every child in the village! It took a long time to find a winner, but a boy called Emmanuel was too good for my goal-keeping skills and as a prize, I gave him my Leeds United shirt…! The football tournaments were a real success and both finals, in the northern and western regions, attracted nearly a thousand people, which was brilliant to witness. The winners were awarded trophies and a goat, as well as keeping the football jerseys that they played in, and the OS clubs donation contributed to all this, whether it be the paper and pens for the teaching or the footballs or jerseys for the tournaments.

It was such a fantastic experience and one that I will always remember and the club’s contributions made it possible, so Thank-you for that.

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Tom