Moira surgery staff take 
on the Uganda Challenge

Despite the restrictions of lockdown, the staff at Moira Surgery are currently trekking across the Sahara desert, virtually at least.

Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 2:45 pm
Dr Dickie Barr pictrure in Uganda in January 2020

Two teams from the local doctor’s surgery are pounding the pavements, counting their steps, and jumping on their bikes to cover the same number of miles as if they were travelling from Moira to Uganda.

Currently about a third of the way to their target, the teams have covered the equivalent miles from Northern Ireland to Algeria.

The Uganda Challenge was the brainchild of Dr Dickie Barr, who is hoping to raise funds to build a secondary school in Uganda in memory of his daughter Charlene, who passed away at the age of just 20 in 2010.

Staff from Moira surgery who are taking part in the Uganda Challenge

Following her battle with Cystic Fibrosis, Charlene decided, when she was 19, that if she couldn’t go to school anymore, she would raise money to build a school for others instead, “We went to Uganda as a family in 2008,” explained Charlene’s father Dr Barr, who works in Moira Surgery. “When she went on the lung transplant list she said that if she couldn’t go to school, she would raise money to build one in Uganda. She raised £70,000 very quickly and £120,000 before she died.”

Just 14 days before she passed away, Charlene said: “I loved Uganda and saw how little the children had. I want to make it possible for some children there to get an education. That way my waiting for a double lung transplant will have made their life better. Thanks to everyone who has, and is supporting me in accomplishing my dream.”

After her death, Charlene’s family set up ‘Charlene’s Project’ in her memory and have so far built a primary school, teacher accommodation, and a well to supply fresh water in the area. The next step for the project was to build a secondary school in Western Uganda and Dr Barr, along with the charity’s many supporters, have been working hard to raise the money for the build.

“Moira surgery has always been so supportive all the way along,” continued Dr Barr, “Obviously we couldn’t do the walk in reality, not only because of coronavirus, but because we would have been going through some very dangerous areas. The software we use means we can track where we would be on the route if we were walking to Uganda.

Charlene Barr in Uganda in 2008

“We have two teams from the surgery involved. They are walking, cycling, counting their steps and so far we have covered 2,400 miles, which takes us from here to the edge of the Sahara.

“It has given everyone so much momentum and energy, and it is great for mental health as well. I do a lot of my miles on an indoor bicycle. Even being a doctor, it was starting to get used more as a clothes horse. Now I do 5-10 miles in the morning.”

Setting themselves a timescale of six months to complete the challenge, Dr Barr and the teams are aiming to raise £100,000 for the project, and they are already a third of the way to their goal. “We will be delighted with whatever we get,” said Dr Barr. “It will all help towards the goal of getting the secondary school built.”

The project has already purchased a plot of land in Uganda for the school and have architects on board working on the design.

Doctors from Moira surgery who are taking part in the Uganda Challenge

Dr Barr travelled to the site last year before the pandemic struck to inspect the site and there was great disappointment that due to the lockdown, work had to be put on hold. However, everyone is hoping the work will get underway later this year.

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