Category Archives: Our action

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.

 

Exciting Times

Two of our projects, both inaugurated  last year,  promise to improve significantly the lives of the children as well as the whole village  community. We are truly excited by the possibilities, even though they both have a long way to go to reach their potential.

Children receive the books

Children receive the books

The reading Project

It is so easy to bemoan the lack of a reading culture in Uganda, but much more difficult to do something about it. In villages where the over-riding need is to put food in the belly and to survive, where carers are often themselves illiterate or read at a very basic level, where a generation was lost to the ravages of HIV, the thought of sitting down in the evening and enjoying a book is not just way down the list of priorities; it is not even on the agenda.

We now have village children who are eager for learning but until now the books have not been available. When schools struggle to exist, reading books can seem to be a luxury. Even in the classroom, a lesson often consists of the teacher copying the contents of his sole copy onto the blackboard and the students reproducing it into their exercise books.

After school finishes for the day, children have to walk home and then do their tasks; fetching water, working in the garden, cooking, looking after younger siblings. It will be dark before they stop and, without electricity, almost impossible to look at the notes they have taken during the day. There is just time to sleep, wake up, do more household chores and walk to school to recommence the cycle.

In the classroom

In the classroom

Can we change all this for the better? We truly hope so. Supporters have paid for the books needed to get the reading for pleasure programme under way. They will be stored in metal boxes which can be transported between Bubebbere and Bulumbu on a weekly basis, so that children in both schools can benefit.

We have also been able to make a start on the purchase of text books for use in the classrooms. It is no more than a beginning and much more needs to be done before the boys and girls will be able to study properly.

The children are delighted to be able to read

The children are delighted to be able to read

The teachers are excited about the possibilities for the future.  We just have to make it work. There has been a real bonus as far as this is concerned. You will recall that Florence Namitala, a sponsored student since her primary school days, has recently completed a course in early childhood education. She has now returned to the villages where, I am told, she is making a real difference to the reading project.

The signs for the future are good – as long as we can keep the momentum going to produce a future with a more literate population of children!!!!

 

Making the bricks

Making the bricks

Brick-making

The purchase of the machine, with the help of a generous donor, during our visit last year delighted us for a range of reasons:  it provides an ecologically sound approach because there is no need to burn wood during the process; it saves money; and the quality of the bricks is better than those manufactured by traditional methods.

All of these advantages hold true, but there is now the potential to offer much more.

You can see the the bricks are interlocking and so need much less cement

You can see the the bricks are interlocking and so need much less cement

The reduction of some 50% in building costs has fed the ambitions of our Ugandan colleagues. The lack of proper storage facilities for the reading scheme books was a real concern. Costs were checked and it was decided that they could build a small resource centre at the orphanage; somewhere for the children to relax with a book.

All of that is wonderful in itself, but we hope that there will be much more to come. Our colleagues have embarked on a plan to include the village community in the project, with the orphanage centre as a model for what can be done.

Already  young men are being employed to make the bricks. In an area where unemployment is a serious problem, this gives them a reason to stick around and not join the exodus into the already over-crowded city.

We should like to replace this kind of home.

We should like to replace this kind of home.

Many village buildings are mud-built, poor in themselves and at risk during the rainy seasons. There is now a vision to work with people to improve the overall situation. and to try to eliminate such poor living conditions.

If sufficient bricks can be sold, the intention is to use the surplus funds to buy a second machine to expand the production; to the advantage of our colleagues and the village as a whole.

A good start

A good start

So … in addition to the original advantages, it will become an income-generating programme, local young men gain employment and there will be (we hope) an improvement in the quality of homes in the village. If things go to plan, the benefits will go well beyond what we had anticipated.

There is much to do before this can be brought to fruition and only time will tell how far it will progress. But there is now hope where formerly there was very little.

 

Keeping the dream alive

The ultimate intention is to help the schools and their communities become independent of outside help; both successful and self-sufficient. The struggle to raise funds to allow this to happen is a perennial one.

The heart tree

The heart tree

Here is one small and innovative idea that our supporters at Westwood Primary School in Lancashire came up with. For St Valentine’s Day, people  were invited to buy and dedicate a heart for 20p. This was then attached to the “heart tree” in the library.

What a great idea to raise valuable funds. Has anyone else got a bright idea? We need you. Please.

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

So much to do

We are proud of our achievements, but they would be nothing without the backing of you, our supporters. You sponsor children from nursery school, through the secondary sector and on to training courses and university. The money that you have helped us to raise has (among other things) built classrooms, teachers’ homes, a kitchen and a school hall. It has funded clean water projects, solar lighting and self-sufficiency schemes. It has put smiles on the faces of so many youngsters.

That sounds good. Yes? Of course! However, I think that you can already sense my next word: But………

Despite the progress that our colleagues have made with our support, it is undeniable that there is so much more that needs to be done if we are going to secure the futures of the schools and their children: Orphans that we cannot care for because we lack the money to feed them.

Two sponsored girls in front of their home. Mother has died from AIDS and father is bedridden. If the worst comes to the worst, we should hope that they can be taken into the orphanage at Bubebbere - as long as we can find the necessary funds.

Two sponsored girls in front of their home. Mother has died from AIDS and father is bedridden. If the worst comes to the worst, we should hope that they can be taken into the orphanage at Bubebbere – as long as we can find the necessary funds.

A shortage of the basics needed to bring success for the children, including the wherewithal to pay for enough high quality, qualified teachers; even everyday items such as books and pencils are in short supply.

The cost of proper medical care. I have emphasised many times that there are neither doctors nor nurses in the villages.

This temporary classroom was very useful during the dry season.

One of the classrooms at Bubebbere. The floors are nothing but dust and a health danger, the walls require rendering and then painting, and we need to install windows and a door. We cannot re-roof the block until they have all been renovated.

These are some of the everyday problems. On a much larger scale, the schools lack enough decent classrooms and even desks.

We want to help in all of these areas, but we cannot do it without support and I hesitate to ask the same people who generously donate over and over again. We need new donors and new areas of funding if we are going to make our colleagues fully self-sufficient, which of course is our objective.

I must ask. Are you able to help us? There are many ways to do this.

Sponsor a child’s education. Our charges are as low as they possibly can be. We know of no other charity that asks as little as we do. We shall send you further information with pleasure.

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.

Make a single donation or guarantee a regular amount. When we know that your money is coming in each month, we can plan ahead in a better fashion.

£5 will buy 30 exercise books

£10 will feed a child in the orphanage for a week – with change left over for other necessities.

£15 will buy a boy or a girl a pair of shoes to protect him or her from the nasty effects of jiggers.

£16 will allow 2 or 3 children to have a desk instead of having to kneel on the floor with their books on a bench.

This temporary classroom was very useful during the dry season. Then the wind and rain came.

This temporary classroom was very useful during the dry season. Then the wind and rain came.

On a much larger scale, we need to build more classrooms, while some of the existing ones are in urgent need of improvement and renovation.

I try to be positive in these blog articles, but sometimes it is necessary to be blunt. There is so much that we cannot do.

A child's grandmother supervising the children while they write letters to their sponsors.

A child’s grandmother supervising the children while they write letters to their sponsors.

If you are at all enthused and feel that you want to do something, what about arranging a sponsored event? Or perhaps a party or quiz night? It can be hard work, but it can also be FUN. Enjoy yourself and help children in real need at the same time.

If you want to know more, just ask. I shall support you in any way I can.

Young People Can Do Wonderful Things. Please help us to give them a chance to do so?

Keith Mills