As we travelled through the streets of Kampala, I had cause to wonder when on earth Ugandans sleep! We’d finally gotten to bed at gone midnight, the streets still a hive of activity, and fallen asleep to the sound of distant music and laughter. As we left the following morning, the streets were already busy, with shops open and cooking at the roadside once more.
Our first order of business was to change money into Ugandan Shillings, and we headed to the exchange underneath the Grand Hotel. I wish I’d been able to take a photo, but there were armed police nearby, and I’d been warned by a previous volunteer that they’d narrowly escaped being arrested after pulling out their camera in the vicinity of armed police! The exchange really had to be seen to be believed. It was more like a tiny little cabin buried underneath the hotel, with 4 women counting out the currency. The exchange rate was mind-blowing – 4415 Ugandan Shillings to the pound! Our very first round that evening – 2 beers, 2 bottles of coke and a bottle of fanta – cost just £2!
After we’d changed our currency, we visited the offices of Sightsavers – Vision Aid Overseas’ partner in Uganda– where we were given our itinerary for the fortnight and a talk on the work Sightsavers do in Uganda– training local people to work in eye care, educating the public on eye health and distributing drugs to help prevent river blindness. Additionally I have since learned that Sightsavers introduced the idea of blind and partially sighted children being included in the education system, something that I feel particularly passionately about, given that we saw many children during our Project who were not “blind” but merely required spectacles. Had they not been attending school, they would not have seen us for an examination and would have gone through most of their life with poor vision.
Our next stop was for some well deserved breakfast…for which we had pizza at Nando’s! It was wonderful to sit and watch African life go by. Kampala had tarmacked roads and was, perhaps unsurprisingly, very built up. That being said, if you compare to cities in more developed countries, it was still relatively low-rise.
Our next stop was the Vision Centre that Vision Aid Overseas set up at a hospital in Jinja. The Vision Centre had a testing room, a dispensing area where spectacle frames were hanging on string for patients to make their choices, and a glazing room. We collected a huge box of low vision aids, although we weren’t really expecting to use many. Then we were off to our very first clinic!