Category Archives: Our action

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

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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.

 

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.