Teacher Training Trip - Uganda

When I first arrived at Chilwell School in April 2012 Ian Brierly handed me an information pack about Operation Orphan and said "I think this is right up your street". He was right!

Ian had a vision to form a school link with the charity so we could support them in their very worthwhile mission to help orphans around the world – ‘Changing Lives for a Brighter Future’.

I soon met Cyrilyn Moore and knew instantly that this would be the start of a fantastic partnership between the charity and school. It was September 2012 when I was first asked to be part of a team who would travel to Uganda to work on supporting and improving the Teaching and Learning at Pencott Valley Primary School in a slum in Mbale. Excited was not the word – this was something I had always wanted to do.

Operation Orphan guarantee that 100% of funds raised go directly towards resources for the project – they do not cover costs. So with Ian’s support I began to arrange fundraising opportunities within school so we could buy a significant amount of resources for the school I was visiting. We raised a fantastic £1165 which wouldn’t have been possible without all the staff and students at Chilwell being on board. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who contributed, including parents and students who made donations. Our fundraising included a non-school uniform day, sponsored silence, cake sales, year 7 disco…the list goes on.

Hopefully the diary below will give you an insight into our fantastic trip…

Saturday 16th February 2am

Middle of the night and we’re on the coach from Nottingham to Gatwick Airport. The team- Ian Wood (Head of Science at The Trinity School), Becky Taylor (Music teacher from Norfolk), Cyrilyn Moore (director of Operation Orphan) and myself. Not to mention a very funny coach driver who insisted on using the microphone to talk to the 6 of us on the coach! It was a long but fun journey arriving very early on Sunday Morning.

Sunday 17th February

We arrived in the capital Kampala about 5am Sunday morning (following a small hiccup where our minibus didn’t arrive). After a rest, shower and breakfast we began a seven hour trip across Uganda to Mbale. Despite being so tired, I was mesmerised by how beautiful the country was. I particularly enjoyed a stop at Jinja the source of The Nile. That afternoon we arrived at our base for the week – Sunrise Inn, Mbale.

Monday 18th February


Today was our first day at the school. We arrived at 10am to a very warm welcome from the students. They were so pleased to see us and we spent the day seeing how school life worked at the school. We used this to decide how we could best support the teachers and students at Pencott. I have to say sat outside in the sunshine was a great way to plan lessons for the following day. We were rewarded in the evening by a lovely supper made for us by our hosts Philip and Margaret and my first experience of eating goat!

Tuesday 19th February

We gave each of the teachers a journal to record their notes and reflect on their progress when using these activities – these were kindly donated by Chilwell School. In the afternoon I had my first glance at Mbale city centre and the markets – what a sight! The people were so friendly and helpful and the fresh fruit was amazing.

Wednesday 20th February


Another day training teachers, this time from the nursery and KS1 classes and again focusing on interactive learning. The teachers worked well and enjoyed our sessions. On both days whilst we worked with the teacher, Becky prepared a concert with the students, teaching them a few new songs. Some students had their first play of a recorder! In the afternoon, Ian introduced the students to the game of Rugby using a ball donated by Sam Williams (a student from Beeston Rylands Junior School).

Thursday 21st February

Today was our day to demonstrate some of the activities we had been telling the teachers about. After an evening of planning, Cyrilyn, Ian and myself were set with our lessons – it was time for the teachers to become the students. We demonstrated Science, RE, English, Social Studies and Maths lessons using only the resources the school had available – it worked well and the teachers felt we had really helped them understand some of the things we had been talking about earlier in the week.

Thursday afternoon we made our first visit around the slum to see some of the families of the children we were teaching. It is staggering to see the conditions that some of the children were living in and had a profound effect on all of us that will last well beyond our trip! We invited the families to the concert we were holding at the school on Friday. After getting soaking wet and caked in mud we rewarded ourselves with an afternoon/evening off and found our way to a lovely hotel in Mbale with a swimming pool – time for some fun!!

Friday 22nd February


Today was hot! We arrived at the school in the morning to rehearse our concert. Becky had worked hard to put a programme together that included all the students at the school and we practised before the parents arrived…and then we waited…and waited. 12pm our concert should have started – 2pm it actually did- this was Africa time. But an amazing time was had by all and despite being burnt to a small crisp it was worth every minute out in the sun when our visitors joined in with the final number that brought the concert to a close. We followed the concert with a lunch for the whole community. By 5pm we

Friday night was a time of reflection… and bug dodging for me – my first encounter with a large praying mantis! But we all agreed it had been a fantastic and very worthwhile trip.were four very happy people – we had done it, a successful week and an amazing finale!

Saturday 23rd February

After a lovely breakfast in the sunshine it was time to depart Sunrise Inn and head back to Kampala, Philip and Margaret arrived to say goodbye and suddenly I wasn’t ready to leave – yes there were tears as we hugged our hosts and the staff at the Inn. It was another beautiful day as we drove back across Uganda and I was able to take the sights in properly this time (not spontaneously falling asleep).

That afternoon and night we left the slum behind and took full advantage of the ex pat life style with good food and some Rugby on the TV.

Sunday 24th February

Time to come home – I packed up my backpack with a sad heart. Not wanting to leave Uganda and not wanting to leave the team I had worked so closely with that week. We had all become firm friends and knew that our trip was about to come to an end. But I also knew for a fact that this wouldn’t be my last trip to Africa and it certainly wouldn’t be the last I saw of this group of people who had given up their time and money to spend a week doing an amazing thing. This was something I would remember for the rest of my life – and yes I am crying again now just writing this.

If you wish to see more from my trip to Uganda there are videos and photos available on the Chilwell School Website – and thank you again to everyone who helped us raise money – you really have made a difference.

Lucy Smith