Derek Toase has returned from a poignant trip to Uganda where he helped to build a home for orphaned and vulnerable children.
The two-week expedition was a rewarding but emotional one for the father-of-three, as his late wife Margaret – a long-standing union member and former staffside chairman of South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – was the person who signed him up!
Sadly, she lost her brave battle against cancer just months before the building project – made possible after a £25,000 fundraising campaign – got underway but she will always be remembered after a special plaque was unveiled at the home in her memory.
Derek, who is a member of the Salvation Army Citadel in Stockton and a bricklayer by trade, travelled out with a number of fellow members from across the region during the summer.
He said: “Originally, Margaret and I were asked to get involved in the project but with her illness, she knew she wouldn’t be able to go and so she just volunteered me!
“The purpose of the project was to raise funds to build a home in one of the Watoto villages in Kampala which cater for children who have lost their family or are vulnerable. Each Watoto family has a mother who takes care of up to eight children.”
The arduous work included bricklaying in sweltering heat and thunderstorms – despite the fact it was winter – and painting benches for a nearby classroom and Derek kept a daily journal with notes and photographs of his experience.
“It was a very rewarding experience, particularly seeing the building being put together and all the team who worked on it,” he added.
“Despite her illness Margaret was determined I was going to go on this trip and she’d have been proud of what we have achieved. It was very touching that a plaque was placed there in her memory.”
Margaret, who died in May, started her career in the NHS as a nurse and originally worked at Middlesbrough General Hospital. She was also a former governor at Ayresome Primary School, a magistrate and an active member of the Salvation Army.
Her plaque reads: “In memory of Margaret Toase – I am not forgotten, God knows my name.”