Category Archives: Our action

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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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.

Lancashire to Uganda

A Partnership – Westwood and Little Angels

danny-mcgregor-forever-friends-of-uganda

The recent visit to Uganda by Danny McGregor has highlighted the partnership between Westwood Primary School and the Little Angels schools at Bubebbere and at Bulumbu. That being said, we must not forget that this relationship has been going on for more than three years.

In the early days Mrs Martin (the headteacher) was happy for the school to “twin” with the Ugandan children  at the early infant school level, but as time has passed this support  has widened its scope.

Rogan with some of the children who had just received school uniforms

Rogan with some of the children who had just received school uniforms

The first fruit was the purchase of school uniforms for 15 children whose parents could not afford to buy them. A happy side to this is that it coincided with the visit of Rogan Mills to the villages where he acted as the school’s representative at the presentation of the gifts. Not only was he able to report back to the school, but his OSH Club took on the sponsorship of one of the children.

Forever Friends of Uganda help the poorest

Since then, donations from Westwood have been used for a variety of purposes; to purchase uniforms for children in the orphanage, to buy maize flour to help feed them; to obtain stationery – books, pens, pencils and so on. Most recently a donation was used to help us kickstart the reading for pleasure literacy programme. From a European perspective, these may seem to be modest things, but from the viewpoint of two schools in very poor villages, this has been an extremely valuable support.

Now of course the focus has become much more highly charged. The presentations that Danny has made at the school have brought far more individuals on board. Already, at the time of writing, we have another 12 children’s education being supported by staff, parents and friends of Westwood school. A recent Harvest collection has also boosted what we are able to achieve in the villages.

harvest-collection-forever-friends-of-uganda

There are other ideas in the pipeline and we shall of course keep you up-to-date with the progress.

I have to say that all of us at Forever Friends of Uganda, as well as our colleagues on the spot, are tremendously grateful to everybody connected with Westwood for helping us to make such a difference.

 

 

 

 

Primary Leaving Examination (PLE)

This is an important time of year for Ugandan children. The end of the third school term marks the examination season. It is when children in Class 7 have to take their Primary Leaving Exam (PLE) which is the culmination of their three years in nursery classes and the seven in primary school.

But it is far more important than that because the results are capable of shaping their entire future lives.

If the boys and girls fail, they must either repeat year 7 and hope to succeed  next time, 12 months hence, or their formal education is over. Success at PLE is the only path to secondary school. Fail and your education is over. Quite simply, you cannot progress into the secondary sector without a pass. That – quite brutally – is nor permitted.

If you do pass, it then depends on whether your parents can afford for you to stay in education. Or whether, in the case of our sponsored children, the sponsors are able to find the increased fees that the next stage requires.

An additional problem is that there are no secondary schools in the villages where we work. So Bubebbere children have to go to boarding school which of course requires additional expense. On the positive side our colleagues have founded a secondary school specifically to help these youngsters.

sponsored child by Forever Friends of Uganda

sponsored child by Forever Friends of Uganda

It is an annual challenge when we must approach sponsors and ask them if they are able and prepared to find the additional costs. When they say “yes”, the child’s educational future is assured. But of course not everybody can afford the extra, so the challenge is on to find people to share the sponsorship costs. To date, we have not failed a single one of these youngsters and in 2016, our UK and French sponsors are supporting 20 students at this level and beyond.

sponsored child by Forever Friends of Uganda

sponsored child by Forever Friends of Uganda

This year we have another five children taking their PLE. The challenge is on to ensure that, if they pass (and “mock” results suggest that they will), they will be able to continue their education. We are discussing the possibilities with their sponsors.

We do not want to let them down.

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.