A Warm Welcome in Kalungu 

for the Newcastle HUG Group

On 14th July fourteen students from Sacred Heart High School in Newcastle (UK)
set off for their long awaited
visit to Saint Charles Lwanga GTC, Kalungu.
The girls had been preparing for over 12 months, raising money,
discovering about life in Uganda,
hearing from Sister Carmel about Kalungu ~and even trying to master some basic Lugandan.
There was great excitement, but at the same time apprehension and nervousness:
would they get on well with each other as well as the Kalungu students and staff,
would they miss home, would they get ill, eat the new kinds of food…
cope with the insects??

group hug

Then suddenly we were there: the long flight over, the long dusty roads crossed and the gates
of St Charles opened: to be followed with the warmest welcome from the community and the school.
The girls and we, the accompanying staff, were made to feel so much at home.
For the first day Sister Liz suggested our girls spend the day with the prefects,
shadowing them for a normal school day…
with the exception of not having to get up quite so early!
This was a fantastic way for the students from the two schools to get to know each other.
Good conversations took place from the beginning.
The path had been laid for more informal meetings and chats as the visit continued.
The nerves and apprehensions disappeared! They felt at home.

hug ugandainschool

Our contribution began the next day when we were invited to help Sister Mary Kajubi
and the librarians catalogue and sort all the books.
A mammoth task, as we discovered there were over 9,900 books in all!
This was an eye opener for the Newcastle students as they realised the value of
educational resources that for them are generally taken for granted.
There were a couple of painting projects too:
the pool and sitting areas as well as the stage.
We hope these helped brighten up the surroundings for everyone.
The teachers from Newcastle worked with some staff on ICT skills and
made plans with Sister Liz for further collaboration.

More diversions happened, for example when we were joined by
groups from Ireland, based at Kyamusansala,
and Austria, based in Mbikko.
After a “Splendid Lunch”, the four nationalities took part in a mini
“Sacred Heart Olympics”!
The first challenge was a netball tournament, a challenge especially for the Austrians
who had never played the game before.
The able St Charles team beat us all!
On Saturday we were delighted to be part of the celebrations
for the 10th anniversary of Sacred Heart Primary School: to witness an amazing liturgy
sample the wonderful food and watch the Irish/ Ugandan football match….
no adjective for that, just appreciation of the energy involved.


hug groupsharingameal group hugunderthetree

What will be the lasting memories and lessons for our young people?
So many: the dedication to study, the ability to live without all the “add ons”,  
a desire to want to make a difference,
the humour of your girls at their efforts at washing,
the transcendent singing at mass,
the dancing, the drums,
the poverty in the surrounding areas,
the similarities in life as well as the contrasts,
the pulling together,
the skill and passion in the debate, the head teacher playing netball so well,
the way appreciation is shown!
These are but a few examples.

carmel preparinglunchhug

Our visit to Uganda finished with a couple of days in Mbikko
where again we were welcomed warmly
both by the community and everyone at St Bernadette’s.
Here the girls saw the sizes of the classes and gasped,
all the more so when they saw the level of attainment of the older pupils.
For me a moment of truth came talking to the nursery teacher who had recently
dismissed her class of 120 3-4 year olds.
I tried to imagine the beginning of the school year. I was in awe.

The atmosphere we experienced so briefly at St Bernadette’s and Mbikko
reinforced the strong impressions we had at St Charles.
We saw so much was done (including all the extras for us as visitors)
and there is no doubt so much we didn’t see.
We also saw how it was done and how this was led by the RSCJ:
their calm and quiet manner,
their wisdom and humour, their generous spirit, their dedication and prayerfulness,
their graciousness and gentleness, and their attentiveness to each person. 
For our girls who rarely meet RSCJ or other religious,
the communities and Carmel have left a deep and lasting impression.

Janet Erskine Stuart RSCJ, an English country woman,
whose anniversary will be celebrated next year,
left many wise words.
We shared these ones with our group on their last night in Africa:

Your life is a sacred journey.
It is about change, growth, discovery,
movement and transformation.
It is continuously expanding your vision of what is possible,
stretching your soul,
teaching you to see clearly and deeply and
helping you to listen to your intuition.


Our Newcastle students, their staff and I have been so enriched,
challenged and inspired by all we have experienced in Uganda
and we promise to hold your and your students’
sacred journeys in our hearts and prayers as we return to our families back home.

Thank you so very much.

meetingthebishop huggroup


Hilary Thompson, Schools’ and College Network Coordinator, ENW and Carmel Flynn rscj

August 15th 2013

huginthe library  hug pupilspaintingtheclassroom