UGANDA BUSINESS TRAVEL IN 1953; How Catherine Hall Found a Home In Uganda
EVERY morning at 6:00am, Joan Hall gets up as if on command.
She makes a cup of tea and then has her morning devotion.
“I committed my life to Christ when I was 13, so I read the Bible everyday with the help of the Ekishumuluzo (a Runyankole/Rukiga bible guide) which I enjoy,” she says.
Hall is fluent in the Runyankole/Rukiga dialect.
“I enjoy those morning hours; it is time to think and be quiet,” says Hall.
We are seated in a restaurant at Namirembe Guest House. It is 11:00am and the sun is starting to peak out of the misty morning sky.
Hall is a small white lady with a full head of short grey hair and horn-rimmed glasses with a pink tint.
I first met Hall on the evening of January 24, 2008 at the British High Commissioner’s residence in Nakasero.
She was being honoured with the Member of (the order) of British Empire (MBE) award in recognition of her work in the education and medical sectors in Uganda and England.
It was presented to her by the British High Commissioner, Francis Gordon on behalf of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of England.
Gordon praised Joan Hall’s achievements saying: “She has thoroughly merited this award. Her legacy is very much in the people who she has taught, touched and worked with.”
Amid cheerful applause and Tukutendereza Yesu, a praise chorus, Hall said not only did she get to meet the Queen when she came here in November 2007 for CHOGM, she was also honoured to have her friends and family present at the ceremony.
“I’m very humbled. Thank you all for being here.”
Traveling from England to Uganda
Joan Catherine Hall was born in England on June 1, 1930 to Kit and Cecil Hall.
The first of three girls, she was a sickly child. At the age of eight, Hall lost hearing in both ears.
Her frightened parents rushed her to hospital, but the doctors could not find any plausible reason for it.
She underwent an operation which corrected her hearing.
However, she started wearing hearing aids three years ago.
Hall was 22 years old when she first came to Uganda in 1953 as a missionary.
At 21, she was looking after a neighbour’s children at night and while there, she started reading a magazine on the Church Missionary Society.
There was a vacancy for a primary school teacher in Uganda.
Hall says she felt that God wanted her to apply for the job. Her family and friends feared that since she was prone to illness, she would not be accepted, but the mission somehow forgot to give her a medical check-up and she was soon on her way to Uganda.
“I came by boat. It was cheaper than flying. It took us about 17 days to get to the coast.”
Working in Uganda
After a night in Kampala, they took another two days to get to Kabale Preparatory School.
At the time, she could only teach European children because she was not yet 25 years, which was the required age to teach African children.
After about three years, she left her teaching job to become headmistress of present-day Hornby High School in Kabale. It was a primary school then.
In 1961, she was transferred to Bushenyi to head Bweranyangi Primary School which also had a junior secondary school (S1 and S2).
Early Uganda business success strories
During independence in 1962, the World Bank was giving loans to 25 schools to be turned into secondary schools.
Since there was no all-girls school in the west, Hall mobilised the people in the area to give about 100 acres of land for a farm.
They would be the only girls’ school offering Agriculture as a compulsory subject.
They applied for the loan and were successful.
“When the list of the 25 schools came out, we were among them and I was selected to lead Bweranyangi into a full secondary school,” she says, laughing.
Hall was at Bweranyangi for 11 years. Kedras Turyagyenda, the Inspector of Schools, also an Old Girl of Bweranyangi, says Hall “was a builder of souls and character, a counsellor and disciplinarian.”
Teaching the President of Uganda
It was at Bweranyangi that Hall first met President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.
His sister Violet asked her if she would give her brother a teaching position at Bweranyangi.
She interviewed him with several other candidates and he was hired.
“I never dreamed that he would be President,” she says with a chuckle. She also taught Janet Museveni, the First Lady.
Traveling back to England from Uganda
In 1974, she became headmistress of Kyebambe Girls School.
Hall was there for only four months and had to return to England.
“My father and sister Betty were both ill and there was no one to look after them.”
While there, she got a job with the Church Missionary Society, working as a link between Uganda and UK.
She was to come back to Uganda to see what the church wanted and to take Ugandans to UK, so that they could share their insights into Christianity because the Ugandan Chirstians were more active.
“I organised tours for people like Bishop Kivenjere and Stanley Kashiringi so that they could preach to the people in UK,” she recalls.
She did this for ten years.
My last Job in England
In 1984, she took up a teaching position at Cranmer Hall, a theological college at Durham University in England and introduced Mission Studies onto the college curriculum.
In 1990, she retired.
“I remained at the university mentoring and advising students,” Hall says.
Traveling back to Uganda
In 1995, Hall came back to Uganda to do research for the mission on the East African Revival.
For a year, she went around Kampala, Ankole and Kigezi talking to people like William Nagenda, Simioni Nsibambi, Erica Sabiti and Yosya Kinuka about the early days of the East African Revival.
The point of the research was to find out the testimonies of the people who had started the revival.
Working in Uganda on appointment by the President
In 1998, President Museveni asked Hall to be hospital director of Rushere Community Hospital in Kihururu district.
They had remained friends from his teaching days at Bweranyangi.
She turned what was a one-structure medical centre into a flourishing community hospital with dental, eye, maternity and other services.
“When I first went, there was no water or electricity,” she is laughing as she says this, “but I felt that it was the right thing for me, plus I knew the language.”
She adds that she had a lot of support from the people both in Uganda and the UK.
“While I saw Jesus as a Saviour before, now I saw Him as a provider,” she says.
Hospital administration, she says, was not very different from teaching and being headmistress.
She used the same skills she needed to run a school to run the hospital.
My retirement home in Uganda
At Hall’s recognition ceremony, the area member of Parliament, Mary Mugyenyi, also the chairperson of the Hospital board and an Old Girl of Bweranyangi, said she was lucky to work with Hall.
“Hall’s ability to work under difficult circumstances is amazing.”
Hall retired again in April 2007 at the age of 77.
She has lived in Uganda for over fifty years and calls it home.
She has made many friends, which was evident on the evening she was awarded the Member of the order of British Empire (MBE).
She has a home in Bulange and says her typical day involves framing pictures, opening her mail and settling into her new home.
Hall enjoys calligraphy, embroidery and interior design.
She is also an avid fan of tennis and has been to Wimbledon several times to watch the international championships.
Hall is looking forward to learning Luganda now that she is living in Kampala.
Original article is by By Carol Kezaabu; New Vision.
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