Category Archives: Newsletter

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.

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Keith’s Story

Where Les Amis d’Ouganda/Forever Friends of Uganda Came From

We have already told you the stories of George and Berna Senyonga, our charity  partners in Uganda, and more recently you have seen things from the perspective of Danny’s visit to Bubebbere and Bulumbu. Perhaps our friends and supporters might be interested in knowing the story from our own point of view.

*****************

Keith and Janette Mills at the Balade Contée for Africa Friends of UgandaJeanette and Keith Mills

In 2002 Jeanette and I reached the milestone of our 60th birthdays and decided that we should like to celebrate the start of our next decade by returning to Uganda where we had been teachers in the early 1970’s.

The idea was to hire a car and travel around the country to places that we had known and loved in those times when our two sons (who were both born in Zambia) were still very young. Those plans started to go awry when we listened to a BBC “Woman’s Hour” broadcast, an interview about a British involvement  in setting up  the Ugandan arm of a UK charity called Dream Scheme.

We were only going there on holiday and could not do much to help them …….. could we? We did offer to meet and give our encouragement; and that was all!

The morning of 2nd December 2002 dawned while we were on Flight BA 63 out of Heathrow. We approached Entebbe on schedule, but we seemed to spend an unquestionably long time circling the airport. Then came the Captain: “We are safer staying up here than attempting a landing!” There was a violent thunderstorm around the town.

Welcome back, we thought. On the occasion of our last departure 28 years earlier in 1974, the plane had been heavily laden. Over-loaded? We were not the most experienced of globe-trotters but that is still the only time in our experience when the passengers were weighed with their luggage. And of course the runway does come to an end at the shores of Lake Victoria!

1972. The Mills family with our old friends from way back, Charles and Kevina Ssentamu. We still see them on every Uganda visit.

1972. The Mills family with our old friends from way back, Charles and Kevina Ssentamu. We still see them on every Uganda visit.

The following morning two members of the Dream Scheme group were waiting for us at our hotel’s Reception Desk. And so it started. Much of the rest of our holiday was taken up with visiting schools, churches, Dream Scheme groups. We picked our way through alleys and across foul waterways in the suburbs of Kampala to be warmly welcomed in the poorest of homes. We were also able to visit our old friends Charles and Kevin Ssentamu (we had been fellow students in Sheffield at the beginning of the 1960s), as well as spending time with my old headmaster at the last school where I taught all those years before.

Even though we never got our safari around the country, it was a truly memorable holiday.

To get to Bubebbere, where a lot of our work is now concentrated, was a journey into what seemed, at that time, like a visit to the end of the world. The village is only an hour’s drive from Kampala, but the way (it could not be called a road in those days) was impassable without a 4×4. It is on the shores of Lake Victoria, a 30 minutes trek beyond the last power lines. And it is truly a “road” to nowhere for even this track  goes no further than the small trading centre.

This picture shows the horrible state of the classroom roof.

This picture shows the horrible state of the classroom roof.

It was no surprise to learn that many people saw no reason to stay in the area. There was no future for them there. In total contrast was the vibrancy of the children and the enthusiasm of the volunteers at the Little Angels Primary School. On one visit the place was full of shouting, excited youngsters who, although it was in the middle of the school holidays, had come in to to collect their examination results. They sang for us; they danced for us; we watched a display of gymnastics. It was also prize-giving time. Winners received two biscuits as their prize; runners-up only got one!

The classrooms at Bubebbere as they were on our fist visit in 2002.

The classrooms at Bubebbere as they were on our fist visit in 2002.

It was at this stage, witnessing the contrast between the terrible classroom and home conditions and the joyfulness of these children whose futures were bleak, that we decided that we should have to do a small something to help.

What could we do to raise some money to help them at Bubebbere? Just as a one-off effort, you understand. After pondering all sorts of possibilities, we came up with the idea of a Garden Party; a very English event in the middle of rural Normandy.

We discussed it with our neighbours; we should certainly need their support – and probably their gardens. They liked the idea, but we couldn’t call it a garden party, we were told. Such an event in France is only for posh people; in the local parlance, it is very “snob”.

2 euros! Cheap enough for a ride round the village.

2 euros! Cheap enough for a ride round the village.

We printed off programmes to sell, with advertisements from local business people who generously agreed to support us. The four gardens each had a different role: a craft and farmers’  market; a car boot sale, a bar and horse rides; live music all the day long. In ours, there were various stalls, competitions and games, and of course tea and scones!

Our first fund-raising event. Music in a neighbour’s garden.

Our first fund-raising event. Music in a neighbour’s garden.

Most popular of all was the recruitment of our donkey, Cipo. “Guess the weight of the donkey”, went down a bomb, especially as the prize was a bicycle. After all he was named after a record-breaking Tour de France cyclist!

Cipo with the winner of the guess the weight of the donkey competition - Pierre Decanter who at the time was “maire” of St Lucien.

Cipo with the winner of the guess the weight of the donkey competition – Pierre Decanter who at the time was “maire” of St Lucien.

We ended up with 1,000 euros in the pot and everybody confirmed that it had been a most enjoyable day.

My reaction? Thank goodness that was over. I was exhausted. Still, it was only a single  event, wasn’t it? Then came the neighbours’ question? “Can we fix the date for next year?”

Ah well! If we were going to do more, we needed to set up a committee, officially register as an “association” and get ourselves a bank account. The one-off  event had transformed itself into a permanent part of what we did. Our lives would never be the same again.

To be honest our work was very little in the early days. The wooden boards of the classroom walls were replaced by bricks; we helped to buy some land at Bubebbere; and on our next visit we ran a basic healthcare course. That was another case of us taking on something for which we had no training. But really it was no more than a new, and not very time-consuming hobby. That was going to change massively over the years.

 

Second part of Keith Mills’ story will be published soon.

Please let me give you a late summer round-up of what Forever Friends of Uganda has been up to this year.

Both before and since the Charities Commission gave us recognition in June, our trustees were, and still are, working flat out. Given our circumstances, it has not been easy. For 12 years, our British supporters have helped us under the aegis of Les Amis d’Ouganda in France, but now the work of the two charities has had to be totally separated – though both are still working for the same objectives. Untangling the finances has been a difficult and time-consuming process. We are almost there and my sincere thanks go to those working behind the scenes to achieve what has had to be done in order to enable us to move forward.

Children enjoying the reading books

Children enjoying the reading books

During this year the reading for pleasure programme has been developed and is proving to be a great success. It was  initially set up in large measure by donations from the children’s sponsors. The work in the schools has also recently been boosted by a sizeable donation which has allowed the purchase of text books,  which have been  sorely missing to date.  It is a great start which  we need to build on.

Using the ecological brick-making machine

Using the ecological brick-making machine

These classrooms at Bubebbere are in urgent need of renovation

These classrooms at Bubebbere are in urgent need of renovation

Our aim is for a self-sufficient future at both Bulumbu and Bubebbere. It will not be easy but we are developing ideas that we hope will drive this need forward.

A superb result of the brick-making work

A superb result of the brick-making work

One of the means is through the brick-making project. So far enough bricks have been manufactured to wall a local secondary school and to produce a sufficient number to construct a three classroom block at a primary school in the area. With the profits – as well as by means of another generous donation from our charity foundation friends – a second machine has  been purchased. Our Ugandan partners need such money-making ideas to develop their ability to succeed in such poor villages. We are hopeful for their future

On the capital projects front, we are in the process of renovating and re-roofing the seven classrooms at Bubebbere. Three have been completed; four more are in great need. I just wish that we could get on more quickly, but funds are limited and we must be patient. The second classroom block at Bulumbu has been completed. A sizeable payment still needs to be made to the builders. We are currently struggling  to work out how to get this out of the way as quickly as possible. It is not easy, but I am confident that we shall get there. It needs to be done before we can move forward.

The new classroom block at Bulumbu

The new classroom block at Bulumbu

There wasn't even a school in the village of Bulumbu when we first visited

There wasn’t even a school in the village of Bulumbu when we first visited

There are two other things that we want to work on at Bulumbu where very few parents can afford the school uniform even though it only costs in the region of £16; this lack shows the school in a bad light and hinders its ability to progress. Just as serious is the fact that many of the children lack shoes which is itself a health hazard. How it is going to work out, I am not sure but we should like to investigate a way in which we can perhaps fund 50% of the cost of these things and encourage the parents to try to find the balance.

If we can help 100 children in this way, it will be excellent progress. Our generous sponsors often purchase such things for their children and that is great, but it only helps a few fortunate individuals. We need to see how we can help their classmates in the same way.

Parents cannot afford uniform or shoes for their children

Parents cannot afford uniform or shoes for their children

We are currently building up the number of our Associate Members to Forever Friends of Uganda. I have already approached some of you directly and more of you will get the call as the months pass. I know that general appeals have limited success, but if you would like to help, please tell us. It only costs £5 a year, and always remember that “mighty oaks from little acorns grow”. Please come on board. We promise that this income will go directly to help the children.

 

Another exciting development during the month of August was the visit to Bubebbere of Danny McGregor, a teacher at Westwood Primary School, our partners in Clayton-Le-Woods, Lancashire. He  generously gave up a week of his holiday to live and work at the school. Photos and reports of what he has done will follow before too long.

 

Although it is now a separate entity from Forever Friends of Uganda, Les Amis d’Ouganda is working for the same goal in France, They are currently in the process of  organising their annual Balade Contée (a walk for Africa). For the 11th time, this promises to bring pleasure to the participants and at the same time to help our work in Uganda.

 

Thank you to everybody for your continuing support.
It is greatly appreciated.

 

Great News

Forever Friends of Uganda is now an officially registered charity. It has taken a great deal of hard work from our Trustees to get us to this stage, but it is truly gratifying that it has all has paid off and that the Charity Commission were happy with the submission in rapid time.

Tax advantages

Many of you – our generous sponsors and donors – have already forwarded your signed Gift Aid forms and we thank you. Now we shall be able to make our submission to collect the benefit from that scheme. It is not a small consideration.

Grant Funding

We hope that our newly-gained charitable status will facilitate access to increased income. Many funders are only allowed to fund registered charities. Others may choose to work in such a way.

We all have to admit that, although we have been supporting our Ugandan friends for some thirteen years, we are treading new ground as far as this new status is concerned. If there are people among you who have experience in this field and would be prepared to advise us on how we might move forward, we should be very grateful.

These children deserve a chance in life.

These children deserve a chance in life.

Positive Image

To date the greater part of our support has come through personal contact. People we know have been prepared to trust us, and I do hope that we have always repaid that trust. Nevertheless, if we are to achieve our goals, we shall need to go beyond this limited access to support. Our new status should help us to promote a positive image and give people who do not yet know us confidence that we are legitimate and worthy of support.

 This is how we are working at present

Sponsorship

To support a child in primary school costs no more than £65 a year. I am confident that there is nobody providing such support for these children in need as cheaply as we do. If you are not already involved in the scheme, please ask for more information. There are so many children in poverty that we cannot help and we always need more people to take on this role.

We need to improve the classroom learning conditions. Before.

We need to improve the classroom learning conditions. Before.

Capital Projects

We are currently renovating the classrooms in the village school at Bubebbere. These rooms have dirt floors, walls which have never been plastered and are without doors and windows. They are far from being conducive to successful study. Because we do not have sufficient funds (and it is not much more than £1,000 to renovate a classroom in this way), we are slowly progressing the work one room at a time.

We need to improve the classroom learning conditions. After.

We need to improve the classroom learning conditions. After.

Once we have completed this phase, the whole block will need to be re-roofed. The existing roof is leaking badly.

There are many other needs, but we are forced accept the maxim: slowly but surely. For reasons such as this, one-off donations are always welcome.

Associate Membership

This is a non-voting contribution, which not only helps to add to our progress, but gives us the satisfaction of knowing that you are standing alongside us. It costs a minimum of £5 per person per year. For that small amount you will receive a members-only newsletter twice a year and a promise that the income will be ring-fenced to support the education of the children at the two primary schools in Bulumbu and Bubebbere.

The children are loving the new opportunity to read.

The children are loving the new opportunity to read.

Please help us directly if you can, or with your advice about how we may add to our income. In addition, if you have friends who you think may be sympathetic to our cause, please share the blog with them, suggest they look up our Facebook Page or get in touch with us directly. We are always pleased to receive and reply to such contacts.

Forever Friends of Uganda – the way forward

As you all know by now, I have written it often enough, these are exciting times for Forever Friends of Uganda. However, I also have to admit that they have been difficult times. As transparency is important to us, it would be wrong to try to hide the problems we have been facing.

The way things were. Cooking under the trees to welcome us 12 years ago.

The way things were. Cooking under the trees to welcome us 12 years ago.

For 12 years, our British supporters did not have the recognition that their goodwill and generosity merited. During that period everything was done under the auspices of our French partners at Les Amis d’Ouganda. But as we grew, it became useful and then necessary to separate the two arms of our support for DreamScheme Uganda.

That is where things began to prove difficult even though we understood the importance of doing such a thing.

Developments at Bubebbere with the school hall and the orphanage.

Developments at Bubebbere with the school hall and the orphanage.

For circumstances totally outside our control, we had to move to a new British bank and that in itself created uncertainty for a much longer period than we should ideally have wished. Nevertheless, by the end of last year we were back on course after that setback.

Then we became victims of our own success. The original idea had been to set up as a Small Charity. It is a pleasure to report that, with your support, our income in the last financial year far outstripped the limits of that form of organisation and we had to face the far more rigorous registration obligations that go with such progress.

The great thing is that we now have in place a small body of dedicated trustees in UK who are working tirelessly for our good cause. With their help, we are well on the way to getting the administration side of things sorted out, so that we shall be able to look positively to the future.

We need to do so. Our aim is to get our Ugandan colleagues to the level where they can become totally self-sufficient. Quite simply – our intention is to do ourselves out of a job. However, we have to be realistic and understand that there is a long way to go before that objective can be realised.

We are optimistic that we shall get there in the long-term, but in the meantime we need your continuing support and to try to expand our sources of income to reach that end. The children whom we support have nothing. First and foremost our desire is to give these boys and girls a childhood worthy of the name and after that to give them a meaningful chance in life that without our support would be far less likely. Please help us to help them.

At the heart of what we want - helping the boys and girls to enjoy their childhood with a playground.

At the heart of what we want – helping the boys and girls to enjoy their childhood with a playground.

We promise to continue to keep you informed about the work and the progress that is being made. Beyond that ….. if you have any suggestions or thoughts about anything to do with the country or about the children in need whom we are here to support, please tell us. We want Forever Friends of Uganda to be your charity, your good cause, as much as ours.

What we achieved in 2015

Sponsorship The only disappointment during 2015 was that we failed to attract as many new sponsors as we need. Although this is a great challenge for 2016, we must not allow it to mask the real pleasure we gained elsewhere.

With Florence at Nangabo - in her college uniform.

With Florence at Nangabo – in her college uniform.

It was so simple in our early days. All of the children were in nursery or primary school, but success gave us a real challenge as the youngsters moved on beyond this level. We now have 14 children at various stages of their secondary education; with several more due to join them this year. Several young women have gained a certificate in early childhood education from the Nangabo Vocational Institute. The latest success from there is Florence Namitala who gained a Grade A pass. Florence has progressed as a sponsored girl from the village to secondary school and now beyond.. She has returned to Bulumbu to work with the little ones there. She is determined to give back something of what she knows has been done for her.

Ronald on his welding course

Ronald on his welding course

We have had other successes: a young woman is now earning her living as a hairdresser and a young man has just qualified from a welding course. A third is about to start his second year on a hairdressing course at the YMCA in Kampala. Perhaps the greatest pleasure rests with a girl who has been sponsored since her primary school years and has become our first ever university entrant.

Majorine is now at university. Here she entertains us during a visit to her home.

Majorine is now at university. Here she entertains us during a visit to her home.

Of course, none of this could have happened without the generosity of the people who support them. Each level of education naturally becomes more expensive. Our congratulations go to the students; but our gratitude goes to their sponsors who have often built up a relationship with the boy or girl whom they are helping, and that in itself is a real delight.

Gifts Our thanks also go out to those who over the year were even more generous with the purchase of gifts for their child: clothes, shoes, school uniforms. One sponsor bought mosquito nets for his child and for his friends, to try to help them to avoid malaria which is a constant threat. Another, whose boy had been intermittently ill for many years, has helped with the payment of medical fees to help him to overcome the problem.

The new water tank being installed.

The new water tank being installed.

Clean water project at Bubebbere It is with great pleasure that we can report that this project has been completed. Water can now be pumped from a protected spring to the school and orphanage where a tank has been installed to store the water as well as, during the rainy season, taking it from the roofs of the school buildings. We thank the Department of Seine-Maritime for its help with this. Their grant made a great difference to the work.

The school at Bulumbu is slowly being developed.

The school at Bulumbu is slowly being developed.

Fourth classroom at Bulumbu The construction of the 4th classroom at Bulumbu has been completed and a start made on the 5th and 6th rooms. This would have been impossible without the support of a charitable foundation which, although it wishes to remain anonymous, knows how grateful we are for its support over many years.

The same organisation enabled us to purchase an ecological brick-making machine. Not only will this help us to cut costs on building projects but will in due course bring in further revenue at the same time as protecting the environment.

Before renovation. Earth floor, bare bricks, no windows or doors.

Before renovation. Earth floor, bare bricks, no windows or doors.

The classrooms at Bubebbere Because of the shortage of funds, these were never built to an acceptable standard and over the years they have deteriorated. We have started a rolling programme to renovate them in order to try to give the children a decent place in which to study. We have not got the wherewithal to do them all in one go as we should have wished. The first two have been completed and the others will be done one at a time as money becomes available. Finally, we shall need to replace the leaking roofing sheets.

Preparing the windows for installation.

Preparing the windows for installation.

Reading for Pleasure The initiation of this programme has been a great delight. A dozen individual sponsors and Westwood Primary School in Lancashire have provided funds to buy the first set of books and we shall follow the progress of the scheme with great interest. If enough money becomes available, we hope also to be able to purchase text books for the school. It sorely needs them.

Books for the reading project

Books for the reading project

Forever Friends of Uganda After an initially difficult start, a partner charity to Les Amis d’Ouganda is now up and running in UK. We could not have got where we are without the support and work of Pam Winders in London. We shall keep supporters on both sides of the Channel up-to-date with what is going on with this partnership.

At the entrance to the new school hall.

At the entrance to the new school hall.

And Not To Forget In February 2015, three of us (Jeanette, Pam and Keith) visited Uganda. We were able to meet the sponsored children at all levels – always a great pleasure. In addition, we participated in the official opening ceremony of the new school hall at Bubebbere. This was another partnership development, and our thanks go out to the Region of Haute-Normandie for the generous grant that contributed significantly to the success of this project.

 

There is so much more that we should like to achieve but at present cannot. If current supporters/readers could spread the word it would give us a real boost. The more people who know about us, the more we should be able to achieve.

 

Keith Mills

Happy Christmas & New year

Forever Friends of Uganda

wishes you a

Happy Christmas & New Year

 

See the card of Forever Friends of Uganda in pdf

Classroom in Bubebbere.

Classroom in Bubebbere.

We are delighted to report that our newly registered charity is now up-and-running and looking forward to a bright future helping these children in need.

A sponsor paid for books and pencils for his child's class. They were so grateful for the gift.

A sponsor paid for books and pencils for his child’s class. They were so grateful for the gift.

Forever Friends of Uganda; working to construct a better future for children who possess nothing.