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Establishing Fiona and Sunday at School in Pajok

This morning I took a call from Lino in Pajok.
He wanted to pass information on to sponsors of Fiona and Sunday.

An accurate exchange rate between South Sudanese Pounds and Sterling is tricky to obtain.
The latest exchange rate I have is from Nov 2012: 1 SSP = 520 ugx (Uganda Shillings)
Sterling to shillings: £1=4028 ugx
Cross-rate from £ to SSP: £1=7.75 SSP
or 1 SSP = 13p

Per child:
School Fees for one Term: 250 SSP (£32.27)
School Uniform:                    80 SSP (£10.30)
Stationery:                            75 SSP ( £9.68)
TOTAL:                               405 SSP (£53)

So the total for Fiona and Sunday together is £106 for one Term.

How to get money direct to Pajok? Western Union does not yet operate in Pajok, a legacy of when Sudan was a united country and some Western firms were barred.
We could easily send the money via Western Union to Okenggo John in Kampala.  He could take the money to Pajok on his next visit, but he may not be going for a week or two, and it is 350 miles from Kampala to Pajok!
Amal Express operates in Torit, a nearby town 38 miles from Pajok.
Lino could then pick up the money from Torit.
The problem is that Amal Express has no agents near St Helens.
Their main office Telephone No in London is 0208 749 6050.
The nearest agent to St Helens is in Manchester, Tel 0161 256 0086.
The agent is a shop trading as AB Telecom, at 358 Great Western St, Manchester, M14 4BY, 28 miles from St Helens.  They send money in US dollars.
To send a principal amount of £150 would cost $220 including the fee.
With Amal Express you have to call in person at the office. You cannot send money electronically.

Bandit country

Stop Press, 20th Jan. Message from Eva “This morning at 06:50am six armed people with masks attacked us in Rugano forest while taking Sonia to [boarding] school.  We have survived, but all our things were taken.”
This is a notorious bandit-infested road.  I asked Eva what the replacement costs would be:
School fees £210, Exam fee £49, Pocket money £10, Text books and uniform £73.
Total £350.
If we receive anything more than this, it will be put towards school fees for next term.

£140 (including Giftaid) received so far towards the £350 total, so £210 to go.

Update, 23rd Jan. Eva and Sonia travelled again yesterday to Kisoro.  This time they reached their destination safely.  We took the precaution of sending the replacement school fees electronically to Kisoro to minimise the risk of carrying cash on the journey.  Thank-you to those who came to their aid with gifts of money.

Therefore having food and clothing…

A few days ago I took half a trailer-full of ‘pre-owned’ clothes to the recycling shop, along with 17 kg of second-hand books.  It made me reflect on the value we place on the daily objects we used.

The clothes were worth 60 pence per kg, which converted to £81.20 cash for the project.  Food and fuel in Uganda costs about 60 pence per meal.  So the clothes paid for 135 meals.

The books on the other hand were only redeemed at 5 pence per kg, a paltry total of 85 pence. I felt sad that beloved books were worth so little, yet relieved at a bit less clutter at home!

Clothing and food, such basic things.  Would that both were shared more fairly around the world.

Dame Stephanie Shirley’s attitude to money

From The Week, 24 November 2012 (quoting the Daily Telegraph):

Dame Stephanie Shirley

“Dame Stephanie Shirley has given away at least £67m – and there’s more to come. “I do it because of my personal history,” she says. “I need to justify the fact that I was saved.”  The daughter of a German Jewish judge, she was just five when she arrived alone in London as a refugee from the Nazis.  She was fostered by a loving couple in the Midlands, and grew into an ambitious young woman with a scientific brain.  Finding interesting jobs hard to come by, she started her own IT company, later re-branded as Xansa….
Dame Stephanie eventually sold the company for around £150m – and set about giving the money away.  Much of it has gone to autism-related charities: her only child, Giles, who was autistic, died after a fit in 1998. “There is only so much you can spend,” she reflects, “and money that isn’t working has an obscenity about it.”

Saying yes or no

Saw this in a book:

“There are those who like to say ‘yes’, and there are those who prefer to say ‘no’.
Those who say ‘yes’ are rewarded by the adventures they have;
those who say ‘no’ are rewarded by the safety they attain.”


Sad news from South Sudan: John’s Aunt Albina Auma has passed away in Pajok on Monday 10th December 2012.  She will be buried in Pajok.  Albina was the first-born in her family and Lino’s older sister.  I do not have a good picture of her.  The two pictures here show her.  She is the lady with the blue skirt.

Albina in Pajok

Albina in Pajok

Albina in Pajok, December 2011

Albina in Pajok, December 2011

More background from John “ALBINA AUMA my aunt, she is Lino’s elder sister. This was the woman whom we met with those of Lino in Pajok last December and she was taking care of Linda, Fiona, Sunday and the girl left behind when her mother (Laker Grace also Albina’s daughter) died while giving her birth….in late 2009.

Albina is the first in Lino’s profile and she is the only Aunt to us. She is the mother of Okeny Charles whom you supported his education.

It is Pereji who was Lino’s mother-in law and my grand mother but Albina was my aunt.”

Update on 12th December: All the children, plus Lino and Florence hope to travel from Kampala up to Pajok for the burial.  For all the younger children, this will be the first time they have seen their home town.  This is because they were born in Kiryandongo refugee camp in Northern Uganda.

A backlog of stuff!

This website was established at the end of Nov 2012.

There is a lot of information to upload, which should be done before Christmas.

Check back soon!  Meanwhile thanks so much for your interest.


Gnarled hands
Twisted by lack of feeling
The bacillus insidious
Depriving nerves of function
A quiet grief
Mourning behind
The closed door of her hut

Pereji waits for healing
The promise of modern drugs
Multiple assault
and miraculously
Leprosy abates

The hands still gnarled
to some extent
but skin now
glows and shines.
Health regains
a foothold of hope

But TB was so much harder to shift
A long battle of wills,
with limited victory of a sort.
I grieve for that hacking cough
draining Pereji of joy
her weakened body
eventually broken by so harsh a weight.

Goodbye dear Pereji
We’ll meet again I’m sure
Forgive us what we left undone
Your life so rich in people
Yet poor in things.
You took nothing with you
Travelling light
as you always did.