You This is a guest post written by Monika Svehlova – She is one of several inspirational people I have met on my travels. How did it happen with her? We were writing emails to our friends in the same net cafe in Kololi which is the town in the West African country called The Gambia. Let me introduce you to Ann Rich.

It was a hot November evening where all you could see on unlighted streets were the white teeth of smiling locals, their glittery neclasses and blinking mobiles in their hands. The mosquitos were doing their best but a carefully chosen chemical protection stopped most of them from biting us. She just came back from her charity work in Uganda and that intrigued me. Month later, in her house in England where she generously offered me a shelter, I hold her book Mother Ann in my hands which she wrote from heart for the kids she has been helping over there.

How did it all start with your Uganda trips?
From being very young, life was never easy. But with God in your life you can overcome many things . My life changed overnight 4 years ago when I found myself out on the street with just me and my handbag. This changed it all for me, but the good thing that came out of all this is it enabled me to go to work in Africa with the orphans and now I have an African family and many wonderful friends. I feel very humbled… It all started when I got the computer and was looking online at people helping in Uganda. I saw a picture of Emma and it stirred my compassion more to help there as I saw the huge suffering and poverty. So, I wrote to Emma and said I wanted to help him. It was 7 years ago and still continues with him but since then I have branched out to others and also help in the Ministry with Peter. Now I am part of the family. Europeans normally avoid seeing painful photos of hungry and ill children. They usually send some donations once a year at Christmas time but to go there and finance it yourself is rarely seen… How was your first trip? My first trip to Uganda was rather daunting as I was going on this journey on my own not knowing what to expect but was greeted with open arms and much love. I was shocked to see much poverty and suffering as I went to live in the slums. There are a few joys living in the slums but despite of it you are still greeted by the sea of beautiful smiles. About 60 percent of people live in the slums due to unemployment and have no money at all. The slums go from bad to worse, most of them have only one room and the children sleep on the floor. If lucky, they have mats. The toilets are outside just a hole in the ground used by very many people. There is a bathing area where you take your basin of water to wash with. This is used by many people too. You collect water in jerry cans, sometimes near to you, sometimes far away at the nearest water tap or a pump. Cooking is usually done outside on a small charcoal stove. Children play ball with plastic bottles or home made balls or find an old tire to play with what ever they can get. There are no dolls here, no many toys… Some children go to school but many don’t as they cannot afford the uniform, pen, pencils or books to go with. So they stay at home to help wash, cook and look after the younger siblings. Many children have a lack of hygiene, often are ill and get malaria and childhood diseases which they can die from. Sickness always hovers around and the pregnant women, children and elderly struggle a lot. It is sometimes hard to find the money for medicines when sick and many pharmacists sell fake drugs. Roughly, 350 die each day, many women have a lot of children as a life insurance so they can be looked after when older. There is a little future or hope for these people… This is a little to say about the slums, it is filed with sewage and rubbish dumps and when rains all this gets flooded but: the people living here lead their lives the very best they can, God be with them. What is fascinating about you apart of other things is that you were not the youngest person when it all happened… No, this is true but many years ago an old lady said I would do Gods work in Africa at the time. I laughed at this and thought never but I knew it would be when I was much older and this would come true not knowing how it could be as I was married and didn’t think this would be possible. My life changed over night and in time I was able to go to Africa. I think being older has given me the wisdom to cope with all of this and also the understanding of the country and way of life… I am filled with compassion for these wonderful people who never give up on life how ever bad it is. I am humbled to be able to go and do the little I can for them. What do the children need the most if there is a chance to answer such a question? The most they need are the food, clothes, money for school and much love, have somewhere decent to live and have the basic needs in life As the things are now, this is not going to happen soon as the government is corrupt and the people suffer. It is so sad but with faith and the love they have in God, they will carry on… Ann, you never go empty handed over there… The things I take for the children are very small gifts like balloons and sweets and pencils, clothes and writing books, tooth brushes, also the sanitary pads for the girls are so important, etc. They are overwhelmed that you think of them, they reduce me to tears with their love and thanks.

What do you cherish the most from the activity you have been doing in Uganda?

The smiles of children who ask for nothing but give you all their love. I am deeply humbled by such gift they give me … When I am there I sometimes teach in the classroom and visit the sick and go with my friend the pastor to the churches and give talks. Simply, trying to help answer their questions and be there to love and support them when I can… Ann lives in a small town near Nottingham in UK, on her own and she is retired. She finances her trips herself only from her small pension and does fundraising for the orphanige herself with a help from people around and her friends. It is an honor to know her, honestly… She wrote and published a book about her trips called Mother Ann and you can order it just writing her to. Contact: Photos: archive of Ann Rich Written by Monika Svehlova