Progress for the Poorest

The story of a poor family

The Nalongo* family would have been destined to almost inevitable failure had it not been for our sponsorship programme.

The family when we first met them

The father’s life was disrupted by war which killed many of his relatives in the 1980s. He then succumbed to AIDS and as he weakened was unable to do even the work that George offered him to try to sustain his family. Mother, Nalongo*, tried to support her 6 children by selling vegetables on the morning market, often earning less than £1 a day.

The children were enrolled in primary school, but were sent home from class on numerous occasions because there was a shortfall in the school fees that were necessary to keep them there. Even after five of them had been sponsored, the problem did not go away because they live in town where costs are higher than in the villages where we normally work. That was another problem we had to surmount.

Even at that stage, we feared that the children were destined to failure; that the very best they could hope for would be to complete their primary school years. Pleasingly, with more regular attendance, their results began to improve. They were undoubtedly aided by the gifts that they often received from their sponsors.

The four oldest children as they are now

So where are we up to? Four of the children (perhaps I should now call them students) are attending secondary school after their sponsors generously agreed to pay the additional fees necessary for that level.

There are the twins, Patience who will take her UCE (the Ugandan equivalent of GCSE) at the end of this year and Wasswa who is a year behind his sister. Two more sisters, Hellen and Sharon, have just been promoted into the second year, while Shinan, will take her Primary Leaving Exam at the end of 2018.

Receiving a gift of socks

Despite their difficulties, they are always such a cheerful, welcoming family and it is always a pleasure to meet them on our regular visits.

*To have a family surname is unusual in Uganda, and you will have noticed that we call them the Nalongo family. The mother is called Nalongo; it means the mother of twins.

A serious but rarely mentioned problem for Ugandan girls

There are many reasons why girl children underachieve in Uganda. The country has a traditionally male dominated culture. Girls are needed at home to cook, clean and care for younger siblings. If the family can only afford education for one child, it is nearly always the girl who will lose out. Then there are the issues of pregnancy and early marriage.

Because of all these problems, we have always tried to give that extra helping hand to girl children in need. But there is an additional concern that is too often unspoken.

Many girls in rural Uganda lose several days’ education every month because they are on their periods and do not have access to sanitary protection. It is easy to see how humiliated and stigmatised they can feel when they have to use pieces of old t-shirts or even toilet paper (if the school has any available) and then fasten a sweater around their waist to hide their embarrassment.

It is hard for us to understand that this is a major cause of girl under-achievement and even school drop-out.

A selection of the sanitary products already purchased

This year we have used the income from our membership scheme to start to try to address this problem. We have purchased sanitary protection to help 50 girls in both primary and secondary school to give them help throughout 2018.

This money has come directly from membership fees. At this stage, we have only got around 50 members. If you are not already among them, please join us. Your subscription will be ring-fenced to help the children directly

How much will it cost you? We ask a minimum of £5 per person per annum – less than the cost of a take-away pizza! Please don’t hesitate to ask for details.

Primary Leaving Exam (PLE)

As I am sure you are aware by now, a pupil at the end of her or his years in primary school does not have the right to go to secondary school without a pass in this exam. I am delighted to be able to report that 6 of our sponsored children succeeded this year and that we have managed to secure funding for 5 of them to continue their education. Well done boys and girls and thank you to the sponsors.

Children receiving gifts

A mattress and blanket for a bewildered looking boy

Sponsors often go beyond what we ask of them to support their child through education. Here are two photos of youngsters receiving gifts that have been bought for them.

Harriet shows of her new school materials

Kenisha’s situation is a little bit different. After being diagnosed with diabetes, she had to leave Bubebbere as no health care is available anywhere near the village. She now lives in Entebbe, but the monthly cost of her medicines is a real drain on family resources. So her gift from the sponsor? Payment for her treatment; a life-saving gift.

Her sponsor is helping with Kenisha’s healthcare

Re-roofing the classroom block at Bubebbere

For more than 2 years, we have been slowly accumulating the funds necessary to pay for this most important job. If it is not done soon, the work we did on the interiors is going to deteriorate. We still need just over £1,000. We are determined to raise the balance this year. Until it is done, other necessary projects have to be on hold.

Two pictures of the poor state of the classroom roof

Westwood Primary School

Our partner school at Clayton-le-Woods continues to give us superb support. On this occasion, our son Rogan has promised to try to make himself the most glamorous man in Lancashire! See the attached funding barometer. All support will be gratefully received.

Westwood/Rogan’s Fundraiser

Craft Sales

We have hand-made Ugandan crafts for sale. We are looking for community events where we can set up our stall. Any ideas will be very welcome.

Selling Ugandan crafts

Keith Mills

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Sponsorship programme

Our sponsorship programme is good for everybody – good for the children, good for the teachers, good for the school and good for the community as a whole. And I do believe that many of the sponsors get a great deal from it as well.

Child for sponsoring: Bwogi Sone 6 yrs old. His divorced parents have left him with grandmother

Because a school is not an island, separate from the outside world in which the children live, Forever Friends of Uganda has become more and more keen to consider the wellbeing of the outside communities. The sponsorship scheme is central to that process.

Bubebbere and Bulumbu are both very poor villages, existing far from what we consider to be the necessities of life; particularly healthcare, electricity, and running water. The people living there have the benefit of none of these things.

Child for sponsoring: Kazeyire Natasha, 7 yrs, lives with needy relative. Her grandparents were refugees from the Rwanda genocide

It is not surprising that many of the children underachieve in their education and in their lives. Families which have nothing cannot afford even the lowest of school fees. Our sponsorship scheme has started to counter this situation and to change things for the better. The new communities being established around the two schools are beginning to make the villages places where it is worth staying.

The exodus of the local population that was gathering pace has been slowed, and there are encouraging signs that it can be reversed. The construction of the teachers’ houses that we have funded makes it easier to persuade competent staff to come and work in these poor villages. The school farms, the planting of trees, the clean water projects and the growing opportunities for employment which come with the projects – all of these things have started to rejuvenate the area. At the moment they are no more than the young shoots of spring, but the progress from what we found there 15 years ago can be clearly seen.

If you are already supporting our work, I hope that you will find the information of interest. If you are not helping so far, perhaps it will cause you to think about what you might be able to do to help our colleagues to accelerate that advance.

Primary school children – delighted with the support they are getting

We start with youngsters in nursery and primary school to try to put down firm foundations. At the time of writing, you are supporting more than 70 children at this level. For £70 a year, the little boy or girl that you support is given stability, both in school and in his or her life outside school.

I hope you will agree that this is a tiny amount to pay for the life and hopes of a child and his or her future. Just as important, it ensures that these youngsters do have a childhood, no matter how brief.

We believe that you will not find a cheaper sponsorship scheme anywhere. We lead the field from this point of view. We can only do this because the administration of the scheme, both in Europe and in Uganda, is carried out by volunteers who seek no recompense.

We always have a list of children in need of support. It goes without saying that all of the boys and girls on this list are poor; many of them are orphans, often from parents who succumbed to AIDS, and are frequently found to be living with grandparents. You can see above two of them currently looking for help.

Danny visiting a family home – the need is clear to see

Secondary School. When we first started the scheme in 2006, we did not even consider the thought that we might be able to help children to have a secondary school education. At that time, once these boys and girls left primary school, that was it; all hopes of continuing their education were over.

Of course, different children have differing talents and it has become clear that we need to provide support for a range of abilities. For that reason, we encourage those with academic talents to go as far as possible in that direction. Just as important though is our push to enable youngsters with practical skills to pursue the vocational route.

Already, supporters of our scheme are sponsoring some 20 youngsters in secondary school and another 7 on a range of vocational courses. Even more pleasing, three young women who have been supported since their primary school years are now pursuing university courses.

Naturally this has to cost more. Nevertheless, £220 a year ensures that these boys and girls can continue their education. Remember that there are no secondary schools in these villages, and so this amount includes boarding fees. It is possible to pay in instalments and even two or three people can come together to share support for a single girl or a boy.

Jeanette and Fred Tamale – taking the vocational route on a course in building and construction

Keith with Maria now studying at university

It is hard now to recall how I jumped for joy some twelve years ago when we achieved  the initial target of ten sponsored children. Since then, progress has been steady; but it is no more than a start. The dream is that these communities can become self-sufficient. The fulfilment of that dream is still far off. The progress to date is nevertheless heartening.

To our current supporters – thank you very much. You are helping to make a real difference.

Two little girls show off the school uniforms bought for them by Forever Friends of Uganda

To those of you just learning about our work, ask as many questions as you like. I am always here to answer them. If you like what we have to say, please come on board, and help us to enable our Ugandan friends and colleagues to help themselves.

Sponsorship Application

Please fill in the details below and return the form to the address given.

 

There is a range of ways that payment can be made

Most people prefer to make a direct transfer into our bank account:

Lloyds Bank Treasurers Account
Forever Friends
Account No: 25657668
Sort Code: 30 90 89
IBAN:  GB56LOYD30908925657668

Cheques should be made out to “Forever Friends of Uganda”
Please return to: Mr Keith Mills, Forever Friends of Uganda,
15 Claremont Road, Stockport, SK2 7AR
UK

We also have a credit card direction that you can take. Unfortunately, if you choose this method we must ask for a small supplement to cover administration charges. Please ask if this is what you want to do.

Phone: +447534936901

Email:  foreverfriendsofuganda @ gmail  . com

Keith Mills

Our New Start

Forever Friends of Uganda has been very quiet on the publicity front recently, and for that I can only apologise. An enormous change in our lives has meant that our attention has been focused elsewhere.

As most of you know, we lived in Normandy, France, for 23 years. During that time we welcomed tourists in a range of ways, and it is something that we enjoyed immensely. However, we reached a stage in our lives when we believed that the time had come to finally retire from the business. For a variety of reasons, we decided to return to our roots, and so it is that we are now established back in Stockport.

That does not mean we shall ease off in our efforts to help the Ugandan children in need who have been at the centre of our work for the past 15 years. Quite the contrary.

So ……. watch this space!

Teachers’ Accommodation

We told you earlier in the year of the problems teachers at Bulumbu have to put up with because they must live on the premises and there is no accommodation available for them. It is something that has engaged our attention since we saw first-hand how they were having to sleep in a classroom or in the church. It was unacceptable and unsustainable.

Teachers’ Accommodation

This is where the teachers have had to sleep

I am delighted to report that funds have now been transferred to Uganda to enable work to commence on a block of three bedrooms. The funding is very much one of partnership, with money coming from us in UK; from our colleagues in France (with support from our ever faithful Uganda charitable foundation friends) and from our Dreamscheme Uganda colleagues who have managed to become a full partner in this work.

We are so much stronger working together.

The Story of Florence Namatali

Nine years ago, it did not seem likely that Florence would have much in the way of a future. She was just starting her penultimate year at primary school, but only because our colleagues had taken her into their orphanage at Bubebbere and were taking as much care of her as their limited funds would permit.

Fortunately for this charming girl, we had just started our sponsorship scheme and she was among the first children to be able to benefit from it. She was regularly at or near the top of her class and was encouraged further when her sponsors bought her a blanket and mattress to improve her comfort.

At the end of Year 7, she passed her Primary Leaving Examination with a Grade 3 – easily good enough for her to progress into secondary education. As long as the funding was available. Once again her sponsors came up trumps with the increased amount that the next level of education required.

Forence when she was a secondary school student

Florence did well at first, but as the years passed, she found the academic setting more challenging. That being said, she managed a pass in her Uganda Certificate of Education (the equivalent of “O” levels).

It was at this stage that we were able to offer her the possibility of a secure future and career with a two-year course in Early Childhood Education at the Nangabo Vocational Institute on the outskirts of Kampala. She was funded by a combination of her sponsors (once more) and our charitable Foundation partner which has been generous enough to support us in a whole range of ways.

Florence took full advantage, passing the course with a grade A score. An excellent result for a girl whose origins were so difficult.

So far so good – but things got even better. After graduation she was happy to return to Bulumbu and to commence her teaching career “back home”. Not only was she a great success in the classroom, but she loved the work. She has now progressed to take charge of the nursery section and to become deputy headteacher.

A successful teacher at Bulumbu

Well done Florence. And thank you to everybody who has helped to make this such a success story.

 

A few bits and pieces

The completed latrine block

The latrines that we financed earlier in the year are now complete and in use.

The children at the wildlife centre

A small group of children were able to benefit from a trip to Entebbe Wildlife centre.

Is the escalator in a shopping mall more impressive than a wild animal for a village child?

 

Our next major project – necessary but a real challenge – will be to find the funds to reroof the classroom block at Bubebbere. The rooms have been renovated, but if the leaking roof is not replaced all of the good work will be undone.

The leaking classroom roof is a hazard to the children and risks undoing the renovation work already completed.

 

The first fund-raising attempt since our return has just taken place. We sold our Ugandan crafts on the Cheadle Hulme Artisan market.

 

Our stall on the Cheadle Hulme Artisan Market

A Happy Christmas and New Year to everybody

Keith Mills

An Autumn Roundup

The New Latrines at Bulumbu

Another essential project completed. The school now has use of the new latrines that were so urgently needed. The construction still needs plastering, but it is in use.

Stockport County Bucket Collection

A great – and enjoyable – success.

On Saturday 23rd September, we paraded around the stands at Edgeley Park asking spectators to throw coins into our buckets.

Our sincere thanks go to the SCFC Community Foundation and to Stockport County for helping to make this happen. On the day, our 12 “bucketeers” worked hard and cheerfully to persuade the fans to hand over their money. The £560 that we raised will go a long way to help us with our future projects

The bucket team at Stockport County

Teachers’ Accommodation

During our visit to Uganda early this year, we were absolutely delighted to open the new classroom block at Bulumbu, to meet the sponsored girls and boys, and to welcome the progress that was being made in the education of these needy children.

That being said, our schools are still very poor and the income is inadequate for everything that needs to be done. A major difficulty is in the recruitment of competent teachers. The lack of money to pay salaries is one part of this problem, but so too is the remote location of our schools. Young men and women are not keen to stay in isolated villages.

But just as important is the problem of where can they live if they are not from the area. One of the things that disturbed us most was the lack of sleeping accommodation for these teachers. At present two of them sleep in one of the new classrooms – which of course means that they have clear out all of their things every morning before lessons start. Others sleep in the neighbouring church. Hardly an ideal situation!

So …. we intend to make a start on improving things by constructing a block of three small bedrooms. That will be the next call on our funds. Watch this space for further details!

University Education

Our first sponsored student to go to university is now completing her second year at Kyambogo, Kampala. We are delighted to report that two more young women who were supported from primary school through to the end of their 6th form studies also attained excellent “A” level results.

Diana Nakimbugwe

So we are pleased to report that Diana Nakimbugwe has been admitted to Mbarara University where she is studying medicine and Maria Nanyonga is studying for a law degree at Kampala International University.

Maria with Danny

Our congratulations and best wishes go to all three of them.

 

 The teddy bear girls

In our last edition, we told you about the wonderful initiative from two young girls who raised funds by donating two teddy bears and organising a guess their names competition.

It is with pleasure that we can report that we kept our promise to ring-fence the money they raised to purchase books in support of the reading for pleasure programme.

Books bought thanks to the teddy bear girls

Child Sponsorship

I never tire of telling you that at the heart of our work is the child sponsorship programme. At the time of writing we have in the region of 100 children supported in this way. They range from the little ones in the nursery section, through the seven primary school years, into secondary school and vocational courses and now, as you will have read above, into university.

It is a great satisfaction for FFOU as an organisation, but possibly even more so on an individual basis to those who support these children. What can be more wonderful than seeing a little one who possesses nothing turning into a successful young man or young woman who with their help has the opportunity to make a real success of his or her life?

Two happy little girls show off the sportswear bought for them by their sponsor.

For only £70 a year (or by instalments if necessary) you can give a boy or a girl a year’s education. £1.35 a week is a very small price to pay to give a child with nothing the possibility of a meaningful future.

If you are interested, please send us a message on: foreverfriendsofuganda@gmail.com . We shall be delighted to give you more information.

Two children looking for sponsors.

Nalubega Sharon is 6 years old. Her parents are missing. She was just dropped off at her grandparents’ home.

Mutaasa Kafeero is 4 years old. His parents are divorced. Mother has abandoned him to his father who finds it difficult to care for him because of a “drink” problem.

Membership

Another way to help for a very small amount is to become a member of Forever Friends of Uganda. We promise to ring-fence the money in this account to help children directly – often those who get support in no other way.

We ask an annual minimum of only £5 per person for this. Although – of course – there is no upper limit if you want to be generous.

This is Very Largely a Thank You Blog

The Westwood Primary School Run for Uganda

A massive thank you to the teachers and children for running 6,575 miles, the distance between Lancashire and Entebbe. Even more impressively, they covered 1,000 miles more than was required.

The generosity of everybody who sponsored their efforts and gave us the wherewithal to make progress with our work made it all worthwhile.

The little ones give it their all

Thank you Westwood. You raised valuable funds for the village children at Bulumbu and Bubebbere.

 

The Teddy Bear Project

What a wonderful initiative from these girls who raised funds by donating two teddy bears and organising a guess their names competition.

We have ring-fenced the money raised to help children directly. We shall and use it to buy books in support of our reading for pleasure project.

Very many thanks – to both of you.

Well done girls – an excellent effort

Southport Half Marathon

Danny Mac not only came up with idea for the Run for Uganda, but he followed this up at the beginning of July by running a Half Marathon to bring in even more funds for our good cause.

Another great success

The New Kitchen at Bulumbu

The roof on the classroom block is in urgent need of replacement.

As most of you know, the old one was destroyed in a storm and its replacement – just like its predecessor – was no more than a temporary expedient. By western standards, it is still very basic, with only a wood-burning fireplace inside the room, but it is an enormous improvement for the ladies who have to cook there. It still lacks windows and a door, but it is nevertheless usable.

The children line up for their lunchtime porridge

We should have struggled to get this built so quickly without some very generous donors who provided funds for the construction of this highly important new addition. Many thanks – you know who you are!

he ladies cooking for us on our first visit to Bubebbere

Just for interest’s sake. When we first visited the village, the ladies had to cook for us under the trees in the grounds.

 

Lap-top Computer

Thank you to those who donated towards the purchase of a lap-top computer for Daniel Kato This young man, who has been sponsored since his primary school years, has had serious health problems, but he has stuck with it. This year he was offered a place on a course studying videography, but he could not take it up until he had a lap-top. Which of course he could not afford. He is now enjoying the opportunities you have helped him to grasp.

Kato with his laptop

New Latrines at Bulumbu

The income that has recently been raised has enabled us to send funds to construct new latrines at Bulumbu. The current ones, which are insufficient, are also too close to the classrooms and the water tank.

More information in due course.

 

Classroom Renovation at Bubebbere

The classroom renovation is under way.

Thank you to our French friends at Les Amis d’Ouganda for providing the funds to renovate the 7th and final classroom. Once it has been completed, we shall need to raise the money to reroof the entire block. The roofing sheets leak and without this being done, the rains threaten to undo the good work that has been achieved.

The roof on the classroom block is in urgent need of replacement.

Forever Friends of Uganda AGM

Your trustees at the AGM

Thank you to the Trustees who travelled to Chorley for our AGM at the end of May. We came from far and wide. Gill (our Chair) and Andrew Partridge (our Secretary) from Surrey, Fil Jones (our new Treasurer) from Belfast, Danny Mac (who agreed to look into future fund-raising possibilities) from Southport and I (still your Co-ordinator) from Normandy. The meeting expressed its sincere thanks to Martine Acoulon in her roll as Blog Administrator.

The meeting considered the Co-ordinator’s Annual Report and the Financial Report, and discussed proposals for the coming 12 months. Pamela Winders was thanked for her hard work in getting Forever Friends of Uganda formally set up and running until her recent decision to leave this role. Thank you Pam.

A Run For Uganda – What a Brilliant Effort

The Run for Uganda poster

How do you fancy running 6,575 miles?

That is just what the 200 pupils and 20 staff at Westwood Primary School in Clayton-le-Woods, Lancashire are doing this term. It is the distance between the school and Entebbe in Uganda.

This enormous sponsored event is to raise funds for their sister schools in the villages of Bulumbu and Bubebbere.

I try to keep my appeals to our existing supporters to a minimum because I know that many of you help again and again. But this is something very special and deserves their encouragement.

Ready, steady, go. At the start.

Ready, Steady, Go!

Wow! After week one, the team had achieved 1,525 miles and had already reached Rome!

By the end of week 1

 

The youngest children and their teachers are getting into the swing of things and making an important contribution.

The Reception Class helping to make a difference

The teachers setting a great example

Week 2. They have already crossed the Mediterranean and are heading off into the Sahara Desert. 2,793 miles have already been achieved. Another 3,782 to go.

Danny leads the team into the Sahara

The arrival of the rain slowed things down, but it did not halt these enthusiastic youngsters.

Year 5 children (9 & 10-year-olds) joyfully running to escape the rain

Week 3. Amazing. The brilliant progress continues. This week they have run another 1,544 miles and they are now half way across the Sahara Desert.

They have completed a total of 4,337 miles. Two-thirds of the entire distance. Only another 2,238 miles to go.

Only 2,238 miles to go

These young people deserve the support of all of us for their efforts.

Help them to help the Ugandan children who have nothing.

Please sponsor their efforts on our MyDonate page:

 

Our 2017 visit to Uganda in Photos

The first great pleasure was to get together and chat with our friends and colleagues, the Senyonga family.

Our first day get-together with George, Berna, James, Esther and Maria

An early task – and a very pleasant one at that – was to help perform the opening ceremony for the new Vocational Training Centre at Golden College Nsaggu. The project is in its very early days, but has an enormous potential to change for the better the lives of a large number of young people.

My attempt at addressing the company in Luganda

At least George and Berna found it amusing!

The prefects showing off the charity t-shirts that we donated.

The student body

Making a start on vocational activities

Meeting with Golden’s sponsored students

Some of the senior students are spread far and wide across the region. That meant quite a lot of travelling to meet them…

Zachaeus – doing well at his new school

Joweria has moved away from Kampala, but is a great success at her new school where she is Head Girl.

The link between Stockport County and the Maganjo Wisdom Academy has prospered for almost 10 years. Thanks go to the SCFC Community Foundation for their donation of tracksuits.

The boys showing off the tracksuits donated by Stockport County Community Foundation.

The next generation of players?

Bulumbu’s scout group met us on the road and – slowly – led us to the school.

Ten years ago there was not even a school at Bulumbu – nothing. Now it is a fully functioning school and, following a great deal of financial support from generous donors, there are two blocks, each housing 3 classrooms. We were delighted to be able to participate in the official opening of the second of these blocks. The occasion was made even more memorable by the presence of a group of these donors.

The children had gathered to greet us.

Among the invited guests

Cutting the “ribbon” to officially open the new classroom block.

Visiting various craft villages to bargain for and to purchase crafts is always an important part of our time in Kampala

Buying crafts

A Kampala craft village

With around 75 children sponsored at the infant and primary school levels, it is a major job to make sure that we see as many of them as possible.

Alex Sekibule

Gerald Tendo

Rose Nalukwago

Our final official event was at Bubebbere, with lots of singing by the children and – of course – speeches!

Pupils prepare to entertain us at Bubebbere

A major development has been the progress made in enabling our sponsored students to benefit from vocational courses and giving them increased chances for employment. This does not mean that we neglect academic achievement. We already have one young woman at university and two more hope to join her later this year.

Brenda could not go to secondary school. Now she is studying Cosmetology.

Tamale is following a course in building and construction.

Polline is the latest young woman to attend Nangabo Vocational Institute. She will become a nursery teacher.

Café Victoria on the banks of the Lake at Entebbe for a plate of tilapia is a regular destination for us to relax by the water. On this occasion, we stopped off on our way to the airport for this year’s departure from Uganda.

Tilapia and chips on the banks of Lake Victoria.

Finally, let us say thank you to James Ssenyonga who accompanied us throughout our two weeks in the country. It was not only helpful to have him with us, but also a great pleasure. Here he is sampling the delights of jackfruit.

James enjoying a slice of jackfruit.