Thursday, 18 September 2008


This is the final post before I hit the Africa trail.I am leaving behind me a great bunch of trustees and some fantastic volunteers and sponsors without whom none of this dream would be possible.

Every day brings something wonderful, donations of clothing, blankets, spectacles, bedding, medication, school bags, shoes and money to support our work.

I will be out buying a motor bike with funds raised by a Bedford Shotokan Karate group, a fantastic achievement from them.To those of you who have helped in any way I really cannot tell you how much difference those things make.

I leave in the early hours of Friday morning but this time I will not be alone. Keith, who sponsors 2 boys and Trevor who is a trustee will be with me and spend time working with the children, doing some DIY, building a wall around the land. Keith has a football project to deliver and Trevor plans to build a hut with some of our children to house a homeless family. How great is that? I have meetings arranged with the government office and head teachers, I will visit families and check on their welfare. We have found families for all these children and we must ensure the health and wellbeing of those people caring for the children.

I will be teaching staff and children how to use the amazing Emotional Freedom Technique to help them deal with their emotional issues and any health problems. Keith and Trevor are included although they may not be aware of that yet!

Next time I post here it will be from Uganda!

Tuesday, 12 August 2008


Our branding/logo is coming along well and stationary and promotional materials are being prepared. We are, of course, looking for sponsorship for the printing. Once this is done the website, again, being set up by a great volunteer, Lois, will be developed further than its current holding page.
Charity status is being sought and that will make a huge difference to where we get funding and gift aid will enable us to claim gift aid at 28%.

Currently we are doing car boot sales, One hundred clubs, raffles, competitions, e bay sales, the race night raised almost £600 and as I type I am planning my tasks for tomorrows BBQ in Goldington.

Dust down your ball gowns ladies as one of our next events is a Ball followed by a Murder Mystery Night and a riverside walk in February. More details later.

Our activities in Uganda have developed so much we have had to move premises to rent a 3 bedroom property with a large living area, office, kitchen and store. The compound allows us to grow food and even have 2 goats for the children to care for. (Charlie and Georgia are due to arrive soon). More children are now living on the premises instead of the streets and a member of staff moves in shortly.

That raises the issue of funding for equipment in the house such as fridge, oven, beds, curtains etc.

We have employed a counsellor for 1 day a week to support the children and the staff, as requirements on them grow, and as more children come for our help.
I can now say I am the proud owner of a plot of land 100ft x 70 ft in Lira and we have half of the £6,000 needed to start building our own property.

The first 2 volunteers will be joining me in Lira on 19 September, we have some social workers and teachers coming out at Easter and many other enquiries. We are so thrilled about that.

Some teachers have offered to do some virtual teaching via web cams and I plan to set that up while I am there in September. Does anyone have a spare web cam?

A Bedford karate group has agreed to hold an event in September to raise the money for a motor cycle to enable staff to travel to the bush and visit the children we have taken home to the villages and to get around quicker than bicycles and feet can carry them locally. A friend is getting married and asking her guests to buy a gift for One step at a Time instead of for her and her husband to be.

For those of you who donated spectacles, you will be pleased to know that many people visited us for these spectacles and the local council is delighted with the way we are supporting the wider community too. Their comments are that they have never seen such dedicated work and so many outcomes in such a short space of time by an NGO.

Following the recent press release several people have offered their help in a variety of ways and many people are setting up monthly standing orders to support the work we are doing. I could list another page showing the generosity and kindness of many, many people.

Saturday, 19 July 2008


It seems a long time since I updated you all on the progress of One Step At a Time.
We can now say we are 4 months old and we continue to move forward and change the lives of so many people.

In Uganda more than 20 children are finishing their first term in school and we are so proud of all of them. They go to 2 schools in the area, Amballa and Lira 7. They are the 2nd and 3rd best out of the 7 schools in the area and both head teachers are so happy with our children. They are attending school every day and participating fully in school life.

Some evenings and each weekend they come to our building where they share their stories and shave their heads have some good healthy food and enjoy being part of the One step at a Time family. The children who do not yet have sponsors are clearing land and getting it ready to plant, cooking food, doing washing, cleaning the house, receiving councelling and learning many life skills preparing for the day when they too will go to school which is their most important wish. Staff visit each school weekly to monitor the childrens’ progress and happiness.

We have one very sad story to share. We took one boy from school to live with us back in our office as he was not coping and has struggled to live with the trauma of his past. He saw his mother murdered when the rebels burned his village and abducted him and his siblings who he has never seen since. On his escape he was set on fire but managed to get to Lira town where he lived on the street for 3 years alone with these memories. The last few weeks have been difficult, as his behaviour changed and he was influenced by some older bad boys from the street. He has been detained by the police and we find that the gang had robbed a woman in the street. He was not involved, but implicated by his presence and must adhere to the Uganda law. We think this new trouble has enabled him to start to speak about his trauma, which he has not been able to do, even in his counseling sessions. The shock of this has brought everything to the fore and I quote from his latest letter which may shock you.

‘’Sandra and Moses gave me so much love and now I think I have spoiled it. God did not make me a bad boy. It was only when the rebels took me and made me to kill my friends and eat human body. My head burns and then I do a bad thing’’

I tell you this to show you the kind of situations we are dealing with and how committed we are to not just taking the easy route but will love and support these kids who have lost all hope of a future.

Trustees and staff are totally committed to getting this boy and others like him to a place of peace where they can grow and make a great contribution to the future of Uganda.

I am being trained, at no cost to us, by Sue, a local therapist, in Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) which helps to relieve the trauma. I will pass this on to children and staff as a coping mechanism when times are difficult.

Let’s cheer things up with a great story about a homeless 15 year old and his mother. He sleeps on the street and his mother sleeps wherever she can each night. He comes to us every day for love, food, clothing and teaching. During a conversation he stated that he could build a house. The staff questioned him and were so impressed with his determination that we gave him the money for materials. That boy has almost finished a mud and grass hut for his mother and is so, so proud. We are also so proud that we have found a very kind sponsor, Helen, who will pay for him to do a 2 year carpentry course.

That is another 2 lives turned around because of the generosity of ordinary people in this country.

Saturday, 24 May 2008


On 26th May 14 boys and 3 girls will be starting a new life of education and hope.They will begin school feeling smart in school uniform, with books, pencils, shoes, school bags and 2 meals a day paid for.This relieves the pressure of the family to provide food for the child.

Those children who were on the streets have been found guardians and 2 who had no family will be boarding at school. 1 younger boy will begin nursery and 2 older boys are a few weeks into their 3 year mechanics course, they will also be taught to drive, and one had his first trial at the wheel last week.They are very proud in their overalls and strong boots and carrying their tool box full of all the tools required to fulfil their dream. One of them who had spent some years as a child soldier, managed to escape and lived in very poor and sad conditions told us ''One day I may be able to get married because I can now work.'' This hope, due to the generosity of his sponsors. His uncle has been traced and is now providing him rent for a small hut and some food.

One orphan of 20 years was in a desperate state after the death of his father in February. He was left to support his father's 2 old wives and 13 other orphans. He told me the children ere getting thin and crying with hunger at night. Some responsibility for a 20 year old.£100 from a sponsor has paid for a very large plot of land, seed, beans, and tools. He now has a field full of food for his family. There are 2 growing seasons a year so he will be able to feed everyone and have some surplass to sell at the market. The sponsor has agreed to support the family further.

3 boys have been returned to their village with support for the families and funds for school.They will be monitored and supported with money from the general funds. One of those boys had been lost from one of the large displacement camps over 6 years ago and had been living on the street, his family believing he had been abducted and died. As they went back to their village they had a memorial service for him. One of our staff, Isaac took him back to his village but he could not remember where his home was. While they talked he spotted his mother in the market. Imagine the joy and tears. So many of these children are in similar positions and I could tell you many stories that would touch you heart.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008


It is now 5 weeks since I returned from my amazing experience in Lira, Northern Uganda.The time there went so fast and since arriving home it has moved at an equal speed. I sat back this week to look at and assess what had happened and been achieved during the last 9 weeks.I was amazed, excited, emotional and suddenly I felt exhausted One Step at a Time is now registered as an

International Non Government Organisation (NGO) in Uganda.We are also well on the way to submitting our request for charity status in the UK.This will enable us to claim back the Gift Aid tax on all of the past donations and to apply to major funding bodies here and abroad.
Thanks to all you fantastic people we are almost half way to reaching our target of £6000 to enable us to start building our own property. I was unaware of Lianne's determined efforts whist was away and I would like to say an enormous thank you to her, to Keighly and to all of you who contributed so generously to that cause.

To enable that project to move on, I have personally invested a sum of money to purchase a plot of land in Lira 125 x 65 feet. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine I would ever own land in another country but this is what happens when you really believe in something.

I will be donating it to One Step at a Time and hopefully claiming back around £600 in Gift Aid for other use. No new car for me this year, I will have to get the sander out on the rust.

In Lira we are renting a property with 4 rooms and storage within a good compound.3 staff, Moses, project co ordinator, Isaac, social worker and Lillian, housekeeper, manage the project and are working hard to make it a success. 40 street/orphan/vulnerable boys and just 2 girls are fed twice a day. They are being taught how to cook porridge for breakfast and beans, veg, rice, and twice a week, meat for dinner.On the street their meal was whatever others threw in the skips or what they could buy form collecting scraps of metal or empty bottles to sell for a few pence.

They are now able to:- -

Wash themselves-
Drink treated water-
Clean their teeth-
Wash their clothes-
Eat twice a day-
Dress appropriately-
Shave their heads-
Draw their experiences-
Receive Counselling and love-
Feel cared for and safe during the day-
Be loved and feel part of a family
What they cannot do yet is sleep safely and that worries me. I had established a place but the woman rented that for more money and we don't have so much money in these early days. The search continues.....

Tuesday, 11 March 2008


I have been asked many times why I went to Africa to start this charity.

I suppose it was almost 13 years ago when I found myself living alone following divorce and my 2 daughters leaving for University. There had to be changes and I began the long journey.
Sometimes exciting, sometimes painful and often difficult, but I am so happy to say that I feel I have made it.

When I began to notice the materialistic way most of us were living in this country I found myself wondering what it would be like to live with nothing. That was the beginning, the only way was to go and have a look for myself so in 2004 I went off to India to do some work for a charity in Himachal Pradesh. Himalayas here I come.

It ticked a few boxes, trekking the Himalayas, visiting and seeing the Dali Lama and the displaced Tibetan community, the true Buddhist experience, living life in a very poor area in the foothills amongst the community and hearing their stories. Watching the Indian world wake up to sunshine, eagles flying overhead, views of snow capped mountains and then the eyes lower to small boys milking goats for milk which will sell to provide some rice for lunch. To toileting taking place in the undergrowth and the few children whose parents could afford the fees walking to school.

I worked in a school with the poorest children with learning difficulties and deafness. Their classroom was stuck at the end of a boy’s school with bars on the windows and NO appropriate equipment to be seen. The teacher was a physiotherapist with no experience except in the making of Chai to keep her awake. The children were hit with sticks for fighting, and expected to learn by that.

I took prisoners who were addicted to drugs and alcohol on guided meditations to places of peace and was touched by their commitment to these exercises. Great experience. Then I had cancer which is a story for another time.

I returned the following year with a friend and had a wonderful time but this was not what I was looking for. I needed to go to Africa. I had had dreams the previous year of me being surrounded by black children, perhaps this was Africa. A return to the internet provided links to various charities and I chose a church based organisation from Milton Keynes. They were bound to do everything with love and compassion.

On arrival in Lira a town in North Africa, an area affected by 20 years of rebel activity I travelled over the month to remote villages where families were trying to return to some normality in life. I saw the displacement camps which were supposed to keep these people safe but had actually been the breeding grounds, for the spread of HIV, where women and children had been abused, where aid was the only means of legal survival and theft and prostitution providing other ways.

I cried and laughed at the same time, made some long lasting friendships and began to feel the way personal relationships unaffected by physical things worked. I saw how faith in God provided a great support for these people and how communities were one in their strength and determination to stay positive despite everything. The charity I went with had a project leader claiming to be a Christian Pastor from the Milton Keynes Church. I was saddened by the bullying tactics I witnessed, by the racist remarks I heard and the fear shown on the faces of African workers as he shouted his instructions and humiliated them in front of others.

That was my decision made. I had to come back to do it properly.

I returned on 11th March 2008 and that is where this story begins.