An ecstatic group comprising of members and guests of Rotaract Clubs of Nairobi Central (RCNC) and Muthaiga left for Uganda in the evening of 22nd October 2015. The enthusiasm was at the top even after spending many hours on the road, which called for a random selfie and groupie session at the Kenya-Uganda border point in Busia. Well, this landed two of us in a hitch with one of the immigration officers. What resulted is a story that is better left as history but lesson learnt – no photography (not even with cellphones) at any customs area. With that ‘small issue’ behind us we continued with the rest of the journey and our spirits still very high.
We arrived in Kampala at 8.30am after nearly fourteen hours on the road. Marvin Mpwereirwe and Robert Byamukama both from the Rotaract Club of Kampala Ssese Islands or simply Sailors warmly received and took us to a nearby hotel where we quickly freshened up and later went to the foreign exchange bureau to obtain some money in Uganda’s monetary currency. Thereafter, a taxi or what in Kenya is referred as a matatu drove us to Zodiac Lounge and Grill’s- meeting point for all participants travelling to Ssese Islands for the community service project at Serinya Primary School. Our amazing host had also made breakfast arrangements for the Kenyan delegation that we gladly devoured.
MV Kalangala plies from Entebbe. Photo by C. Njoki
At about noon, the entourage left for Entebbe to catch the two o’clock ferry to Bugala (Kalangala) Island, one of the eighty-four islands north-west of Lake Victoria that make up Ssese. The Islands derives its name from an insect that transmits sleeping sickness- tsetse fly. The Islands’ sizes differ, as some remain uninhabited and inaccessible. It is believed that the Bassese people left the Islands to escape the vector-borne disease at the beginning of the 20th century. They eventually returned. Fishing, tourism and agriculture are the main economic activities.
It felt like the entire party had known each other for a long time but with three and a half hours of bonding, eating and drinking whilst enjoying the breeze from the freshwater lake that was inevitable. Mind you, the Ferry (MV Kalangala) has a well-stocked canteen for snacks and beverages. Upon arrival, our eyes were met by breath-taking natural beauty of the island (Bugala) from white sandy beaches, indigenous forest to a variety of birdlife. Although vast tracts of natural forest have been replaced with palm plantations, the island still holds its pristine charm.
Bugala Island in Ssese Islands is simply breathtaking. Photo by C. Njoki
We checked in at Panorama Cottages where the Sailors President, Rtr. Carl Philips gave his welcoming remarks and a brief programme for the evening. After dinner, we joined the Rotary Club of Kampala Ssese Islands for their fellowship conducted over bonfire. It was graced by the District Governor of D9211 (includes Uganda and Tanzania), Rtn. Robert Nsibirwa. Earlier on, the Uganda Rotary Clubs held a medical camp at one of the health centres in Kalangala to mark Rotary Family Health Day and a mentorship session for one the secondary schools the following day. Rotary Vijana Poa Bank was also launched as well as graduation of 30 youth who underwent 8-days training on entrepreneurship and employability.
The next day, we set off by boat to Serinya Primary School, which is located in another island (Serinya) for the community service project. Our tasks were very clear and they involved fetching water and carrying aggregate. This (water and aggregate) was then mixed with cement for plastering the veranda of three classrooms by the construction workers on site. A delicious traditional meal kibeelo (boiled fish and cassava) was then served. After lunch, the children entertained us with songs followed by the Headteacher’s parting words to the visitors. The children also received a donation of sandals.
Fetching and carrying water was fun. Photo by C. Njoki
A friendly football match between Men (Sailors) versus Boys (Serinya) was the highlight of the day. The first half was largely dominated by the Men but the arrival of the cheering squad from the Boys side changed the eventual outcome. The Men’s goalkeeper, Charles Muthui got carried away with Serinya’s music and the agile Boys took advantage of this and scored. With that and the referee’s final whistle it was time to leave but not without a group photo.
The Men Versus The Boys Football Match. Photo by C. Njoki
Back to the main island and it was time to swim, play cards, stroll by the sandy beach and of course take photos as a reminder of the beautiful people and moments. Sailors marked their 9th anniversary by cutting and sharing a cake with all present during the last fellowship held in the evening. All Rotary and Rotaract Clubs from Kenya and Uganda that participated in the project received a certificate of appreciation. With Rtn. Lugubrious final hilarious joke, the dance floor was opened. There was lots of barbecued pork too. The effects of partying were felt in the morning and it took Carl Philip’s efforts to go round all the cottages to ensure people were up in good time to take breakfast and catch the only ferry back to Entebbe that departs at 8am. Everyone made it and it was another three hours of hilarious chats despite the chilly weather.
A game of cards by the beach. Photo by C. Njoki
Sailors celebrate their 9th anniversary. Photo by C. Njoki
Ssese-Central twins. Photo by C. Njoki
Sailors in partnership with other well-wishers have carried out various projects in Serinya Primary School that have greatly improved access to water, sanitation and a conducive learning environment. A borehole has been dug, biogas and water tanks installed, classrooms and dormitories constructed and furnished. Most of the children now reside in the school and only go home over the holidays. A separate toilet block for girls and boys was completed last year. Construction of a multi-purpose hall has been started but yet to be completed.
Sssese moments worth a group selfie. Photo by C. Njoki
Friendship between RCNC and Sailors can be traced from Reagan Namanya’s (a former Sailor) stay in Nairobi but this was made official in early February 2015 when the two clubs signed a memorandum of understanding in Kitengela, Kenya. The two clubs contribute and participate in each other’s signature projects.
RCNC’s other twin is Rotaract Club of Mella in Ethiopia hence the club’s liking for random hangouts at Campia Restaurant in Nairobi for Ethiopian cuisine and music.