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Spring 2021

We know for many of us this past year has been a difficult one, but there is

hope on the horizon. As lockdown restrictions are starting to be lifted in the UK, the same is happening in Uganda. We are thrilled to say that Bethel Primary and Secondary schools have now reopened, if only for the examination years Primary 7 and Secondary 4 to allow them take their national exams. We recognise that these students haven’t had the same support with their class work having to be at home, but we know that they will try their best as they sit their exams. We have shown a couple of personal stories of the fears, hardships, worries they have had along with the resilience and resourcefulness families and students have been to help get them through this difficult season.

I am Jane Acen, Matron at Bethel Primary

The biggest lesson I have learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic is the need to save. When schools were closed in March, I thought it would be a short time and we would come back to work and earn money. Little did I know that Corona had come to stay. Whereas for us at Bethel we earned some salary for some months after the school closure, our friends from other places were not even paid the March salary since schools were closed in the middle of the months. This led to extreme desperation of parents who had to feed their families but weren't unable to. There are families that I know that were split as a result of this.

I also learnt that besides my employment, I should keep my farming skills; this is what I resorted to during the lock down. I harvested ground nuts that I had earlier planted and embarked on growing vegetables and other crops to earn food. Whereas the issue of food could be resolved through cultivation, other basic needs which also needed money was for treatment in the situation of sickness, I learnt that irrespective of what we earn, we need to save a little fraction, to fall back on during emergency.

What has kept me strong is the hope and faith in God. Prayers kept me going and am thankful that God has preserved us, and that I am back again working. I am praying that schools will be fully opened so that all the staff can come back to work again.

Olara Wellborn, S2 student at Bethel Secondary

My name is Olara Wellborn. I am a student in S2 at Bethel secondary school.

In March last year, when schools came to a sudden stop due to Covid-19, I was so frightened. All information about the virus was so scary, and all of a sudden, life changed in our communities. The closure of schools was followed by closure of churches and other social gathering. Then came the dreaded lockdown, where people were confined in their respective villages. We thought it would just last for weeks, but weeks turned to months, and now it is coming to a year.

I missed school a lot, and kept hoping we would be called back. When it dawned on me that the situation was going to last a while, we started adjusting. Luckily there was still some rain so I embarked on cultivation of the fields. I planted some ground nuts for myself and also supported my family to grow vegetables and other food for consumption. I have harvested my ground nuts and sold it. From the proceeds I have bought 2 piglets, which I hope to keep.

I am grateful that during this time, the school kept in touch with us and kept encouraging us. I am thankful to God for his protection, and for the fact that our country has been opened up again. Most of all, I am so happy that I now have a date to look forward to for returning to school. In the meantime, I am reading my books and supporting my family with domestic chores. I am thankful to the GMI team for their support, and know that I pray for you.

We want to say a huge congratulations to Allison and Collins on the birth of their baby boy, Ezra. Allison is our child sponsorship coordinator for Gulu Mission.

Simon Peter Wokorach (pictured centre) serves as Bethel Primary school's vice chairman on the school management committee also the governing board for the Secondary school, and is a very strong supporter of Gulu Mission, has been recently elected as Member of Parliament for Aswa, in Gulu district.

We send many congratulations to Simon on his appointment.

We are at phase one of the A level block for the secondary school. Once finished this block will be registered as a centre to facilitate the national exams.

This is a major step forward for us as it will mean that students won't need to travel to take their exams.

Covid vaccination programme

We are super excited to share that the teachers at school have been registered for the vaccination and their names put forward. We pray it isn't too long before they receive their vaccinations.

Distribution of food and essential supplies to the vulnerable

Phoebe continues to visit around 100 people each week in different sub counties, Owalo and Paicho with sugar, soap and posho. The need still continues.

Easter conference

James and Phoebe are busy organising an Easter conference which will run for three days, for the majority of churches in and around Gulu city.

Grants received

We would like to acknowledge with gratitude the very generous grants received from the following organisations towards the upcoming building projects, The Souter Charitable Trust, Matthews Wrightson Charity Trust and Heb FFin, and we recognise the huge impact this funding will have on the lives in the communities we serve. •

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