Kampala in lockdown – a very different place

Published: 22 Mar 2020

MAF staff Jill and Greg Vine (R) with their three daughters (L)

MAF Uganda Comms Officer, Jill Vine, has been serving with MAF since 2007. The mum of three is married to MAF Pilot, Greg Vine. Together, they’ve been navigating their new norm – life in lockdown. Jill lifts the lid on life in the capital, Kampala…

The predicted infection curve for Uganda has baffled everyone - it just isn’t as high as everyone thought it would be.

Every time a coronavirus patient recovers and is discharged, medical staff from various hospitals have been filmed dancing and praising God. Another response, which has been outstanding, is the government distributing food, door to door, to the poorest of the poor in the slums.  

Society is being shaken by this sweeping virus – bars, gambling dens and unsavoury businesses have all closed.

‘I’ve never seen such clear skies over Kampala’

By day, I hear the happy sounds of my neighbours’ children and parents having time together, enjoying this rare time to stay at home.

At night, I’ve never seen such clear skies over Kampala. I hear frogs croaking in the evening, which we don’t usually hear in these parts of the city - a good sign that the air is cleaner.

I notice a lot more bees in my garden. The birds are so loud – I can hear them more easily in the quiet that’s resting over Kampala. The lake is taking a rest from over-fishing.

I also enjoy quality time with my husband, Greg – a MAF Pilot - and our two younger daughters. Bonds between us all are deepening – we’re realising how much more we need each other in person rather than mindless scrolling on our phones.

Sadly, my eldest is in lockdown in London, but is at least, with family and has company. Disappointment has been hard for her because she was looking forward to her prom, school trip and graduation with friends, before being separated from them.

Time with one of my daughters at home, who will be leaving us in June, has been a gift. We’ve been playing badminton together as a family and baking has become a lockdown-passion! 

A very different routine

Schools, churches, shopping malls and non-essential shops have all been shut.  

For weeks, there has been no public transport or cars. Gatherings of five or more have been prohibited including group exercise. Before, thousands of Kampalians were running up and down hills and streets making everywhere very crowded.

Greg has been working from home and virtually meets with the MAF emergency team most mornings.  

Our MAF engineers are finally allowed to access the airfield and hangar in groups of five. We now have permission to fly in any emergency, which may arise. Our programme has just been authorised to use four work vehicles after only having access to one for the entire programme.

As for me, I play classical music on the piano to kick start my morning, while my girls work solidly through their online workload.  

I’ve had time to work on my blog and complete some online courses. Normally these would end up on the back burner, crowded out by so many other obligations and events.

Walking up and down our local hill has been hugely beneficial, not just for exercise, but also for getting to know our neighbours. We greet each other from a safe distance. One afternoon, we helped a young girl carry a large bag of potatoes and have greeted her every day since. 

‘My people will dwell in secure dwellings and in quiet resting places.’ (Isaiah 32:18) 

‘We cannot ignore the rising suffering in Uganda’

Of course, not everything is rosy. Lockdown has heavily impacted those with fragile livelihoods, which have been frozen.

Outside of our walled compound, we cannot ignore the rising suffering that is going on in Uganda. We have relationships with local people who keep us informed about the most urgent needs.

Our list of families in desperate need is growing by the day as lockdown continues to cripple livelihoods. We help whoever we can. Our bucket never runs dry – God takes care of it.

‘MAF was born for times of emergency and crisis’

We are here in Uganda indefinitely to serve through MAF in whatever way is needed. MAF staff worldwide are staying in the field to do all they can to fulfil the work MAF is called to do.

MAF was born for times of emergency and crisis. I believe and hope that MAF will have all that they need to fulfil their purpose, until the world resumes.

Like everyone else in the world, we are waiting for this to be over, but our prayer is that we will be light and salt to the communities we’re in. We pray that the world will not return to the way it was, but become a healthier, more ethical, more God-centred and humbled planet.

I want to leave you with a verse that helped us decide to remain in Uganda after final international flight left: ‘My people will dwell in secure dwellings and in quiet resting places.’ (Isaiah 32:18).

Wherever you are, whatever uncertainties you’re facing and whoever you’re missing, I hope that this will encourage you.’