Dear Friends,

Greetings from a very hot and sunny Mbale! Just a brief update for now; I’ve been back in Uganda for 2 weeks and I’m slowly adjusting to the heat and the many cultural differences. I’d like to thank you all for your support and friendship during my sabbatical. Many of you offered me hospitality as I travelled around the UK catching up with friends and family. I enjoyed the countless chats over coffee and cake and I’m missing many of you already ? ? Special deep appreciation to my donors. My sabbatical was a weird and wonderful mix of activities, people, events, visits, trips, great food, highs, lows, and lots of badminton; the usual substance of life!

Having spent 9 months in the UK I’d begun to feel a little settled there and so it’s quite some transition again to settle back in Africa. However, I received a very warm welcome from all my friends and colleagues here who help me feel ‘at home’ quickly. Ugandans certainly know how to celebrate the return of a loved one ? Although I have been away for a long break, I have also still been very much part of the JENGA family in Mbale and it’s been lovely to see everyone again and catch up on news! I’ve enjoyed Ugandan hospitality and plenty of good African food already.

I’ve returned to find new staff within the JENGA team, new projects and programmes, more sponsored children, more local partnerships, more donors and plenty of fresh new vision for community development and transformation for 2011. The accounts team is now extremely well established so I am no longer involved with finances and I am resuming my previous role of working within the Women’s department supporting our Ugandan staff in their activities. This includes our flagship women’s programme whereby we co-ordinate around 1000 women meeting in 10 groups in local deprived slum and rural communities teaching, skilling, empowering and training them in many diverse topics and skills.

This department also includes our literacy training, our craft and income generation projects and the brand new savings and loan scheme; a safe way in which our women can slowly put small amounts of cash aside to save for future need. Also, a key part of my role is to continue work in JENGA’s Health ministry which co-ordinates our 200 community health promoter’s, and our HIV programme caring for numerous HIV positive clients, plus helping to develop and expand our existing partnership with Mbale Regional Hospital, a project I helped begin 3 years ago. All the above I’m looking forward to getting stuck into and knowing life in Uganda very well and JENGA in particular, I’m sure there will be plenty of extra tasks and opportunities to be involved with at work and at church ?

If you pray, please pray for peaceful and fair national elections on Friday February 18th. We’re following British Embassy advice and staying home for 5 days in case of any trouble on the streets but the expectation is that there will be none at all. I was in Uganda for our last elections in 2006 and all went very peacefully then and we’re sure of the same this time. We’ve stocked up food, water and supplies (and DVD’s!!) for several weeks so we’re all prepared and will be very safe so please don’t worry ? For now I’ll close; I look forward to emails and calls with many of you.

Much love, Jo (