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18-hole golf course by Lake Victoria

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By GAAKI KIGAMBO
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Well-manicured golf courses are the ultimate image of beauty and serenity. They are perhaps only rivalled by large water bodies whose health and wellness effects are empirically proven.

So, imagine a landscape that provides both these features and you have the Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort and Spa.

Located 18km south of Kampala on the banks of Lake Victoria in Kigo off Entebbe Road, the 18-hole course is part of a luxury real estate complex on about 300 acres.

It includes, among other features, Uganda’s first marina located on a man-made bay that, like the course, was sculpted out of Lake Victoria. The marina’s channel is about 30 metres deep and 100 metres wide, and meanders between the ninth and 18th hole.

The 18th is touted as the course’s signature hole — an island green near the centre of the channel that is well-guarded by bunkers.

Some local golfers who have already played the course lost several golf balls over its stretch of 347 yards from tee to green.

The course was developed in two phases by Golfplan Inc, an American architectural company that has built a global reputation for the finest golf courses in the world. The choice of architects aligned with the aspirations of the Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort and Spa to build the best possible course in the region and tap into sports tourism.

“The vision of the developers for the entire complex is to offer a fulsome experience both to guests at the hotel, which was developed first, people who take up residence in our Italian-styled villas and apartments and national and foreign golf enthusiasts seeking to play a tough course. Although the location of the complex at the lakeshore is already pristine, the course enhances that natural beauty and introduces the sort of challenge we believe is irresistible to golfers,” said Frank Nyakundi, the resort’s general manager.

The completed Serena Golf Course aims to attain the rating of Baobab Golf Course in the 2,500-acre Vipingo Ridge estate on the Kenyan Coast.

The course is the only one in East Africa approved by the world-renowned Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA), joining the ranks of a select number of clubs around the world.

The affiliation, as the PGA touts it, “serves as a highly valued international seal of approval and assures visitors and owners that the course is built and maintained to a certain set standard.”

Interestingly, works on both courses actively began in 2009, with Serena’s involving part reclamation of some marshland adjacent to the picturesque Kampala-Entebbe Expressway.

Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort and Spa

The Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort and Spa clubhouse. PHOTO | GAAKI KIGAMBO | NMG

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The course incorporates small water bodies that teem with birdlife. The downwind from the lake supplies a constant breeze.

To golfers, this is certain to add to the challenge of playing the course. The course also utilises natural growths, especially the studded acacia trees, to amplify its natural theme and to blend in with its surroundings.

The result is a work of fine art with immaculate zigzagging freeways offering as much a cool ride for golf carts as a quiet stroll for anyone seeking some quality time alone. It is unsurprising that its proprietors position it as ideal for a romantic walk as well.

The first nine holes were completed in 2015, and unveiled in a championship sponsored by Johnnie Walker whiskey.

The second phase, which includes the marina, was started in early 2016 and will be unveiled on October 6, in an invitational-only competition slated to attract some 220 players, 42 of whom are professionals. Once again Johnnie Walker is the main sponsor and has put up Ush25 million ($6,500) as the prize for the overall winner. Such partnerships are central to the resort’s ambitions to get PGA approval.

“Partners are very important in the development of these facilities, since the bigger the prize money the more attractive the event. We are already in discussions with the organisers of the Sunshine Tour since it offers great short cuts to PGA recognition,” said Nyakundi.

Uganda Breweries, which markets Johnnie Walker in the country, agreed about the importance of partnerships. The company views the Serena Golf Resort as “an embodiment of progress” as its expansion provides world class facilities previously unavailable in Uganda.

“It is a triumph for golf in the region that Johnnie Walker is proud to associate with as a stylish global icon, which represents the idea of personal progress,” said Anne Nakiyaga, UBL’s luxury portfolio manager.

She added that the company is keen to maintain and grow its relationships with golf in general, and the resort in particular, because, “It is only through associations like these that the game can grow. UBL is keen to facilitate the building of progressive networks and connections at both personal and corporate level.”

Previous attempts to build professional golf courses in the country have failed. For example, Marasa Holdings tried to develop courses at its breathtaking safari lodges at Chobe and Mweya, located in the middle of Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Parks in the north and west of the country respectively.

Their plans were successfully resisted by conservationists who made watertight arguments about the distortions the specialised nature of golf course development would introduce to wildlife habitats, to the detriment of tourism.

Luckily, both lodges are within a short distance of existing courses in Pakwach (for Chobe) and Kasese (for Mweya). With or without courses inside the national parks, luxury golfing in Uganda is about to tee off.

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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