In January I was incredibly privileged to be asked to go to Uganda and see the extraordinary work Sport Relief does out there.
Obviously I was expecting a trip like this to be pretty tough, but you really can't prepare yourself for an experience like this.
On the first day we visited a health and sanitation project in a community in Kampala.
Seeing children who were barely clothed and nearly all barefoot having to run about in raw sewage was very distressing. These smiley, friendly, inquisitive, gorgeous little kids in such appalling conditions due to the lack of basic, decent drainage.
Drains... I mean a blocked toilet is something we can all relate to - annoying and usually fixed pretty fast; oh the inconvenience of using the 'downstairs' loo for a couple of days...
Well, here huge numbers of families rely on just one communal 'long drop' which flood at least three times during the rainy season and are then unusable. The lack of drainage means the sewage floods everywhere, even into their homes.
Imagine people have to leave their homes or sleep on the rafters to avoid this rancid water which of course attracts the mozzies. Drains. Something I have never really considered and yet here I am thinking - wow - a drain would save all these people from the threat of disease and even death. Decent drainage.
Sport Relief is helping fund the building of such drains that will have a massive impact on these people's lives. The people who graciously invited us into their homes were quite extraordinary. Desperately keeping what little they had clean and fighting an endless battle against flooding and sewage. I was amazed at the strong sense of community and people sharing what little they had with a neighbour who was worse off.
The next day I went to the Refugee Law Project, a project funded through Sport Relief. They provide legal and psychosocial support for people who are forced to leave their homes because of conflict or government policies. I had the privilege of meeting two such refugees who had fled their countries and were still suffering even in Uganda.
Janet is a blind teacher from Eritrea. Her disability was not recognised in her country as it was not a 'war' injury. Janet, who is a qualified teacher and an articulate, intelligent woman who should be valued and prized in her community was instead shunned. She was also writing poetry that was frowned upon by the government and heard rumours she was to be arrested. She fled to Uganda , knowing she may never be with her family again. I cannot imagine how frightened she must have been to make that journey .
On arriving in Uganda as a lone blind woman, it is impossible to think what Janet must have gone through. Through this project she has started a group for disabled refugees and is beginning to find hope. Life is still extremely hard for her and she faces daily battles which she cannot even share with her family when she speaks to them on the phone as she doesn't want to worry them. Such selflessness moved me to tears, from a person who has already suffered so many injustices and leads a very hard and quite lonely life. The idea that this project can support her and put her in touch with others to share their stories is a lifeline.
I was truly humbled and inspired by Janet and I will never forget her as long as I live. I feel privileged to have met such a dignified and strong woman who has never given up and still believes that there are others in the world that will help. That's us! We are those others and we have a duty to help people like Janet, they are relying on us. I can promise you that every penny that you give helps people just like Janet and will be the best money you have ever spent.
The people from Comic Relief: Rick and Mark and Jackie were amazing, truly dedicated and passionate about helping people in need in the most responsible and accountable way.
Now come on people! We all can do something to help - so get "what I call baking" or "what I call running" and more importantly ask yourself this... "What have YOU done today to make you feel proud?"
Enter the Sainsbury's Sport Relief Mile now at www.sportrelief.com
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