Category Archives: Uganda Visit

Our 2017 visit to Uganda in Photos

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

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

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

My attempt at addressing the company in Luganda

At least George and Berna found it amusing!

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

The student body

Making a start on vocational activities

Meeting with Golden’s sponsored students

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

Zachaeus – doing well at his new school

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

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

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

The next generation of players?

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

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

The children had gathered to greet us.

Among the invited guests

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

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

Buying crafts

A Kampala craft village

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

Alex Sekibule

Gerald Tendo

Rose Nalukwago

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

Pupils prepare to entertain us at Bubebbere

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

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

Tamale is following a course in building and construction.

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

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

Tilapia and chips on the banks of Lake Victoria.

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

James enjoying a slice of jackfruit.


Keith’s Story (second part)

… In those early days, the Dream Scheme network was much wider than it is today and over the years we were able to set up a whole range of self-sufficiency schemes: sewing, and pig and chicken raising in particular. The idea behind these is to enable children to learn skills which should help them in later life, especially if their education came to an end while they were still young – as was often the case.

A self-sufficiency project.

A self-sufficiency project.

Given their circumstances, it was amazing that some of the children had managed to get to school at all. Undoubtedly, one of the most significant developments was the start of the child sponsorship scheme which slowly got under way in the middle of 2006.

The number of orphans was high, AIDS having carried off so many of their parents’ generation. Often they lived with grandparents and when they died, the children could be dispersed far and wide to whichever members of the family were prepared to take them. Failing even this option, they had to work while they were still of primary school age.

Even the more fortunate ones have work to do, both before and after school; fetching water, caring for younger brothers and sisters and working in the family garden.

A community support programme; providing a water source for village.

A community support programme; providing a water source for village.

Just to get to school can be a real challenge. They have to walk of course, often several miles. That can be daunting enough, particularly for a six-year-old who is malnourished, but during the rainy season, the pathways become even more treacherous. It is not surprising that they do not always get there.

They also have to find their school fees. By our standards, these seem very little, but so often the youngsters would turn up at the beginning of term with a chicken or a few vegetables in lieu of money. Often our colleagues accepted them. However, without the fees, there was nothing with which to pay the teachers. How do you attract efficient, qualified staff, when there is the chance that their salaries will not be paid?

So people who are supporting one or more of the children are doing more than perhaps they know. They are not only providing the children with an education, but they are helping to give the schools a stability and a future. Thus, the whole community is benefiting; there is now a focus which makes the villages more viable.

Until recently, although we had many British supporters, we were officially a French charity. The advantage was that we were able to gain grants through French government links; from both the Region and our Department, Seine Maritime (rather like an English County). These grants and the events that we organised over the years enabled us to expand our activities.

The “road” to family homes at Bubebbere.

The “road” to family homes at Bubebbere.

If you ever join us on a visit to Bubebbere, you will see great poverty. We too see that – but much more. We see the progress: the classrooms that were not there, the teachers’ accommodation, the kitchen, the school hall. That is not to mentions the water provision and the solar panels in the hall and in the orphanage. When we first visited, there was nothing at all at Bulumbu. Now there is a complete and functioning school.

Our first sponsored girl to reach university. Here she was still in primary school.

Our first sponsored girl to reach university. Here she was still in primary school.

The sponsorship programme has added support year on year. Initially all of our children were in infant and primary school. Now we have more than 20 students at the secondary level; we have helped to train teachers (one of whom is now deputy head at Bulumbu), hairdressers and a welder. And now we are so very proud that one of our girls is making her way through university.

It sounds good, and it is; but it is not enough. There is so much more to be done if we are to achieve the dream of helping our colleagues to become totally self-sufficient so that they do not need us any longer. It is for this that we have helped with two ecologically sound programmes: the new brick-making machines and the forest plantations. Both are good for the environment and will help to bring in much-needed income.

To help achieve this dream, we decided (last year) to separate the two arms of our work. Until then, everything had been under the aegis of Les Amis d’Ouganda and our work in Britain was on an unofficial basis. That was not enough for us to try to attain our goals. It was not an easy transition but finally in June 2016, our application for official status was approved by the Charity Commission.

The biggest challenge was to separate the finances of the two charities. There were times when I despaired that it could be done, but in the end it just had to be – no ifs no buts.

Now we must work to complete what has been started.

Another home visit, together with some of our first sponsored children.

Another home visit, together with some of our first sponsored children.

As this is supposed to be “Keith’s Story”, perhaps it will not be too self-centred if I tell you something of my (our) background. Both Jeanette and I started our teaching careers in Manchester before we moved to Zambia and then Uganda where we taught in a variety of different schools. Eight years in Africa gets into the blood! We had loved it.

However, 1974 was the appropriate time to return to Stockport. The boys were happily at school in Entebbe, but needed long-term stability, I had an offer to resume my studies, and Uganda was becoming a more difficult place during the years of Idi Amin Dada. As an aside, we taught in the village where he was born and I met him twice (and lived to tell the tale) – but that is another story for another day!

forever friends of uganda

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

We resumed our teaching careers in Stockport and Manchester. I have always had a love of football and both Zambia and Uganda helped me develop as a referee. By the time that I had to call it a day, I had become first Secretary and then Chairman of Stockport Referees’ Society.

I believe that the community side of football is of the highest importance which is why I have maintained a love of Stockport County which had started in the late 1940s. Today, the community of fans, as well as the Club itself have become important supporters of Forever Friends of Uganda and its work.

Also on the sporting side was my running – if you could call it that – which enabled me to be part of a superb community, raising funds for a cancer charity through marathon runs.

Throughout my career, I promoted drama in schools and took that into adult life both in Zambia and at Stockport Garrick Theatre where we passed many happy hours.

People regularly ask what I taught. The answer is that I kept moving – so that nobody managed to catch me, I used to say! The early days were spent in the past, as a History teacher, before I switched to English and became Head of Department. On our return to England, I specialised in ESL. The final switch – following a year back at University – was in special education in both Manchester and then Bolton where one of my final actions was to found the Bolton branch of NASEN (National Association for Special Educational Needs).

In the end I was forced to take early retirement on health grounds. Happily that illness has departed – but far too late for a return to the classroom. Which is why for the past 22 years Jeanette and I have welcomed holiday-makers to our self-catering cottage and our own home where we offer B&B with evening meals for those who are prepared to take the risk! Even that is coming to an end – we have reached an age where we have finally decided to retire.

But not from Les Amis d’Ouganda/ Forever Friends of Uganda. There is still a lot to achieve – and we hope for many more years to do so. Please forgive me for being so indulgent as I share this potted history. We are often asked and perhaps this will answer many of the questions.

At home - a family of children from Little Angels Primary School, Bubebbere.

At home – a family of children from Little Angels Primary School, Bubebbere.

Please continue to support this work.

We know so very well how much it is appreciated by our Ugandan friends and colleagues and the children we are all there to support.

Keith’s Story (first part)

Heart-breaking reality : Danny’s Story Part Two

On day two, we walked (and baked!) to the Little Angels Primary School in Bulumbu. It soon became obvious that word had quickly spread about the ‘mzungu’ who was walking the villages with James – a highly thought of member of the community – to help the local children. As we passed, we were called into people’s homes and asked for help and for their children to join the programme. The heart-breaking reality is that it is currently unable to support any new children as it is already a struggle to sustain the current level of aid. This is why it is so important that we can drum up more sponsorship for these children as there are still so many more in need of support. I could tell that this weighed heavy on James. He, like everybody, wants to help all of the children that is physically possible, but the fact that he cannot make false promises to these parents and children breaks his heart, as it broke mine to witness it.

Meeting children on the road.

Meeting children on the road.

We finally reached Bulumbu, after meeting lots of people and children – many of whom were heading to work – children as young as 3, 4 and 5 carrying tools for farming with little or no clothing. The thought of this will haunt me forever and I will strive to help these children however I can. When we arrived at Little Angels, I was greeted by the children who were on a break, and by Berna – The school’s Head Mistress and James’ mum. I had previously met Berna at the airport and she greeted me very warmly again with another huge smile and a brilliant hearty laugh. She explained how the school works and is run and proceeded to introduce me to each member of the teaching staff.

A joyful classroom

A joyful classroom

We set about touring the school and meeting all of the children and seeing them working in class! It was assessment time and most of the older students were finishing their end of term exams. The children were an absolute delight to meet and chat to and, as in Bubebbere, each extended the utmost politeness and respect to all of the adults. We were then led into the school hall and treated to a special assembly performance of singing, dancing, drumming and drama. I feel blessed to have been there on that day.

Danny and James enjoy their jackfruit

Danny and James enjoy their jackfruit

During lunchtime, I spotted a tree growing a huge fruit that I had never seen before. James told me that it was jackfruit and asked if I would like to try some. Before I had said “yes”, five boys were already half way up the tree! I have never seen such teamwork and perseverance, seeing them attempting to release a ripe jackfruit! At one point the children evacuated the tree, escaping from what looked like a wasps’ nest. They then decided to get rid of the nest by throwing rocks at it (with incredible accuracy!). This wouldn’t have been my preferred plan of attack, but the very British plan of “let’s just leave them alone” didn’t fly… James ’reminded’ me, “We are African, Danny… We don’t do giving up!” With the use of a knife, a very long, adapted branch as a ‘poking tool’, extreme climbing and balance and the best example of team work and perseverance, the children tasted success as the giant fruit finally fell to the ground. Other children were waiting to collect the fruit, chopping it into individual pieces and sharing it out. One single jackfruit fed every child plus James and myself! I would definitely recommend jackfruit to those of you with a sweet tooth!

On the beach - the shores of Lake Victoria

On the beach – the shores of Lake Victoria

The end of the week gave me the chance to experience life in Nateete and Kampala and officially become a Ugandan! James took me to Lake Victoria to meet friends and to join in a double celebration – one being the birthday of James’ friend Danny (not me – somebody else with a very good name!) and the other being a send-off for another friend, Charles, who has been awarded a scholarship to study for a Masters’ Degree in China. I felt really accepted into the group and thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon and night with these new friends.

Time for football - at the National Stadium

Time for football – at the National Stadium

We also visited Mandela National Stadium and caught a football match between Buddu FC and Gomba FC. It was attended by the Prime Minister of Buganda, Owekitibwa Charles Peter Mayega, and later the King (Kabaka) of Buganda.

With George and Berna outside the secondary school at Nsaggu

With George and Berna outside the secondary school at Nsaggu

My final trip was to Golden Christian College, in Nsaggu, which is the secondary school attached to the programme and met some of the staff. I was delighted to meet Majo who is something of a celebrity in the programme as she is academically the highest achieving sponsored student. The high school is another hive of promise and potential and with funding, it can become somewhere really special.


My last day in Uganda was a sad one. I was accompanied to the airport by James, Berna, George, Fred, Rebecca and James’ neighbours, with special mention to Mohammed, an extremely friendly and accommodating man with whom I also wish to keep in touch. This trip was far and away the best experience of my life. I can’t wait for the day when I can return. I will miss all of the people I have met and they each have a place in my heart, especially the children of the orphanage. But of course, there is one person to whom I have grown extremely fond of and whom I consider myself lucky to now call a friend… James. My visit would not have been possible without him and he made sure I got the most out of it. Thank you James for everything you did for me. You are an inspiration to children and adults alike and I look forward to seeing you again soon!

Weebale and Tunaalabagana!


In James’ words

On Thursday, we embarked on a deadly task. The day’s mission was to walk over 12kms from Bubebbere to Bulumbu; there and back!!! Although it was very tiring, it was worth every bit of the pain. On our way, we met young children with hoes bigger than themselves who walked 10kms to go and dig. Danny gave them sweets to motivate them to carry on with their work.

Danny and the Bulumbu teaching staff

Danny and the Bulumbu teaching staff

At around 11am we arrived at Little Angels Bulumbu where we met kids doing their end of term examinations. Danny took a tour around the school, met and spoke to every child and teacher. Then, on the field, he gave out clothes and a ball he had brought. There was a question and answer session where Danny talked about himself and the history of England with a map in his hands; the kids loved it. They had attended lessons conducted by a white man!

Back at Bubebbere, another incident occurred! One of the pigs from the orphanage had escaped. We had to get it back to the sty and Danny offered us a hand. With Ivan on one side and Danny on the other, they managed to tussle it in.

On Friday we met the children from Bubebbere who had come to collect their Reports. Danny offered t-shirts to the teachers and other clothes to the children. We had our last meal there and then left for Kampala. We rested and in the evening and were served dinner by my girlfriend, Mirembe Shammah.

On Saturday we visited Kampala and went to watch the final match of the Buganda Football league between Buddu FC and Gomba FC. We took a collective taxi to Nambole. At midday the prime minister of Buganda Owekitibwa Charles Peter Mayega arrived and the first match began to determine the third position winner. Unfortunately we left before the King of Buganda (the Kabaka) came for the final match.

We then walked through the city and I could see Danny struggle. He would later tell me that Kampala is the busiest city he has ever visited. The biggest challenge he faced was crossing the road! He looked left then right then left again then right; finally he just gave up and ran straight across even though the traffic did not stop!

Suffering in the gym

Suffering in the gym

On Sunday, we decided to hit the gym; and stretch our muscles before we headed off to the beach. We did basic drills since it had been a long time since either of us had done such a thing. Thankfully the trainer was very kind; he taught us like nursery kids! After that we met up with my friends and went to the beach. We were over 20 people in two collective taxis. It was party time – a birthday and a farewell.

On Monday we woke up quite late and George, Berna and Fred came and picked us up. George had arranged to take Danny for a tour along Nateete-Nakawuka road. We got onto the back of the truck and then off to our first stop; Golden Christian College Nsaggu. It was raining along the way to Nsaggu which made the unpaved roads treacherous. We toured the school premises and then continued our drive. The fun in this was riding behind in the cabin of the truck for over four hours. Even when I understand it was risky, we took our chances and enjoyed the moment. Riding at the back we could see everything. When we got back home, we experienced a Kampala power cut.

Leaving Danny at the airport on Tuesday was an emotional moment. He is a brave man. He reached out to the unknown and he succeeded. He came along with a lot of gifts for everyone and the kids still ask about him; we all do! We hope to see him again someday with more friends. Having witnessed first-hand the suffering of the needy children that we deal with, I believe he will persuade more to join in the work. I learnt a lot about humility and service beyond self. Thank you for coming to Uganda, Danny.


An experience with one of the orphans

Having lost both her parents, Nana (not her real name) has been in the orphanage for 2 years. Both her parents were victims to the HIV/AIDS monster that has robbed us of a big number of our loved ones. Fat, tall and relatively healthy, the 12-year-old keeps a low profile. She is now in primary six. She is jolly and fun but she lives every day knowing that she will one day have to go and join her parents. She takes daily medication, understanding very well that the day she stops is the day her heart will stop. She too is HIV positive! Danny couldn’t hold his emotions in check while he was being told the story of this young girl. He had interacted with her for 3 days not knowing her situation. This was the girl that had helped him around and had given him company in the evening preps. She lived her life like the rest of the children. He was so shocked by the news. He was very inquisitive about her; he just couldn’t believe that she could live that freely knowing that she might die soon.

During the lunch break, Danny kept to himself on the phone. “Is everything ok?” I asked.

“Of course, I was just talking to Lotte (his fiancée) about this young girl with HIV. She has been crying all day and thinks nobody deserves to live such a life.”

She had been talking to her mum and they had decided to do something about it. They would want to get on board too by making a monthly donation to help the needy children. I did not know how to respond. The story of this young girl had changed a person at the other end of the world to come on board and help us. I was hesitant in telling him the girl’s story. I had not wanted to humiliate her by telling Danny, but doing so had opened up a door for the rest of the children at the orphanage.


A first-hand view of the villages where we are working : Danny’s Story Part One

Danny McGregor is a teacher Westwood Primary School, FFOU’s partner school in Lancashire. He decided that he wanted a first-hand view of the villages where we are working and we were delighted to support his wish.

He spent a week of his August school holidays living at the school and with the children, supported by James Ssenyonga, the son of our long-time colleagues and friends, George and Berna.

Here is the first part of his experiences, told in the words of both young men.




After 18 hours of travel, I arrived at Entebbe Airport, cleared security and proceeded to the bureau de change. Whilst waiting for my Ugandan Shillings, I received a tap on the shoulder. I turned round and was greeted by what I perceived to be a soldier, but who was actually a policeman, holding a huge rifle in my direction. This was my initial ‘Welcome to Uganda’! I had never seen a gun in real life before this moment and I can safely say that I could go a long while without seeing another! As it happened, I saw many over the next week during my visit, as security is paramount here, and by the end of the week it gave me a weird sense of security to see them. As it turns out, the policeman who had greeted me was there to point me in the direction of a man wearing the biggest smile I have ever seen!

This smiling, waving man, was James Ssenyonga – son of George Senyonga, founder of the schools and orphanage. James had the task of looking after me during my stay in Uganda and I must say that he did a wonderful job of introducing me to the real Uganda. Outside I was greeted by Berna, James’ mother and head teacher of Little Angels Primary School in Bulumbu, George, his father, Maria, his middle sister and finally cousin, Fred. They all extended the warmest of welcomes and I can’t thank them enough for their friendliness and hospitality.

At the Bussi ferry with Maria

At the Bussi ferry with Maria

We travelled through Entebbe stopping only to pick up some fruit from the roadside, until we arrived at Lake Victoria. We had to cross a small section of the lake to prevent adding an extra hour to our drive. To do so we waited for a ‘car ferry’ to transport us. This was my first opportunity to see Uganda’s real natural beauty.

On the other side of the lake, we encountered a mass of people, who were part of a funeral. James explained to me that when a funeral takes place, people from all over the area walk to pay their respects to the deceased. There is no shared cemetery, as in England, people are laid to rest in their own family area of burial. It was here that the car was stopped by a policeman; not just any policeman, but the Officer in Command of the area. After a short conversation, he proceeded to climb in to the car asking for a lift to the station. Initially, this made the journey a little tense for me as conversation was in Luganda and I was oblivious to it all, but I soon relaxed in his company.

We continued our journey through what was increasingly rural Uganda. At around 5:30pm, we arrived at Little Angels Primary School and Orphanage. I was shown to my new home which was very thoughtfully prepared for me. After encountering a cow, a small pig and a number of chickens, I was introduced to five of the most charming children. These children were orphans at Little Angels and each held out their hands, bowed their heads and introduced themselves as Phoebe, Carol, Shadiah, Shakibu and Ssekyanzi. I have never met children with such a joy for life, and motivation for their own education, regardless of their situation. This had a big effect on me and has raised my own expectations of the children in my own class. Ssekyanzi had a Spiderman t-shirt on and when I mis-pronounced his name and jokingly called him Spiderman instead, I saw five of the biggest and most heart-warming smiles I have ever seen. This melted my heart – something that was to happen an awful lot in the coming week.

Danny was welcomed with many smiles

Danny was welcomed with many smiles

I was then delighted to meet Ivan. He is 19 years old and is currently studying at high school. He has been with the sponsorship programme since his first year at school as a young boy. Ivan regularly heads back to the orphanage to spend his time trying to repay it somewhat by working there, doing anything that needs doing, from farming to chasing escaping pigs! Ivan speaks very good English, which is a testament to the teaching at the school, and is shyly proud of his fortunate journey through the programme.

That evening I also had the pleasure of meeting the teaching staff at their staff meeting. These teachers do an absolutely wonderful job, especially when one considers the constraints in which they are forced to work. No electricity, next to no resources, and with poor pay. They live at the school in conditions that are a stark contrast to those that we in the west take for granted every single day. I consider myself extremely lucky and privileged to have had this wonderful opportunity to live and ‘work’ alongside these truly inspirational people.

The following day was one that will live in my memory forever. James and Head Teacher Isaac took me on a tour of the classrooms and living quarters, which again are a world away from those that we are used to seeing in Europe. These classrooms are still in need of much more funding.

The children are not always sure what to make of things

The children are not always sure what to make of things

James then continued our tour of the school ‘gardens’ and grounds where there are various projects such as the forest areas and growth of many plants and trees. In addition there are projects for the children to run in an attempt to equip them with much needed life skills that will help them to survive. These consist of farming the land and caring for the animals. The work that goes into this is unbelievable. In all honesty, I hadn’t given much thought to these things before my visit, but am in awe of the scale of the full project here and the scale on which it is being planned. They are in the early stages but their potential is huge, with the end goal being self-sufficiency. Again, the biggest stumbling block is lack of funding.

Working on the school farm

Working on the school farm

After the tour, Isaac invited me into his office to discuss the difficulties that the staff and children are currently facing. He explained that it is a constant struggle to educate children who have empty stomachs and no shoes, yet they have to walk kilometres on dirt roads to school each day and then go and work on the farms to help provide for their families. It is hardly the ideal working environment for adults, let alone for small children.

The afternoon, however, was to be one of my favourite experiences of the week.

He was welcomed into the homes by family members

He was welcomed into the homes by family members

Alongside James, teacher Moses, teacher Rose and some of the children from the orphanage, I set out to ‘move’ through the village to give me an insight into what real life is like here, to meet the children and their families and to drive home the reality of their daily struggles. It is hard to summon adjectives big enough to describe the kindness and openness of the people here and the friendliness that each and every person I met extended to me. It really struck a chord with me. Everybody was so very grateful for the work being done by the charity and sponsors. It was here that I had a really special moment, meeting Kisenyi Ronald – my own sponsored child. I was very emotional meeting him in person and seeing him in his natural surroundings. The trip has inspired me to sponsor more children!



From James

After meeting Danny at Entebbe Airport, we headed to Bussi on the shores of Lake Victoria where we took a ferry to Buwaya and drove to Kasanje and then Bubebbere. We arrived at the orphanage at around 5pm, rested then at around 7pm went to have evening preps with the kids at the orphanage.

On Wednesday we woke, had breakfast and started our visit. First we toured in and around the teachers’ quarters, the new block being built with interlocking bricks, the school gardens, the eucalyptus trees, the pine trees and finally the gazetted forest reserve.

Visiting sponsored children at their homes

Visiting sponsored children at their homes

After lunch, since the children were on holiday, we went out to look for them in their homes. We visited over 50 families on a door to door mission to check out both the sponsored children and their parents. This was one of the most fulfilling adventures to the whole group; we went with teachers, Rose and Moses and seven children from the orphanage. The community was so excited. Often, Danny followed the culture of kneeling to greet and this I think lowered down the guard of the people he interacted with. They felt very comfortable in the presence of a man who made them feel welcome. A combination of his very big smile and the sweets that he brought to give out to every kid that we met on our way made him very famous. On the same trip we visited the young men who work with me in using the brick-making machine. We finally went back to the orphanage. Danny was entertained by the kids and teacher David who taught him how to dance some new moves.


Danny with teacher Rose

Danny with teacher Rose

An experience with teacher Rose

For our first activity, we visited the teachers’ homes. Rose, a lower primary teacher, was the first to be visited. Knock… knock, the head teacher, Mr. Kirinya banged on her door; she hesitantly opened. You could tell that she had just woken up. She looked at us very shocked for the early morning visit to her single room doubling as both her bedroom and sitting room. She was not expecting visitors that early, especially a mzungu. She tried to hide some of her belongings but there was nowhere. She was embarrassed at her situation – that a teacher would live in such a room. I knew that her situation was no different from average teachers in Uganda, but Danny would not understand that. To him the room was inadequate! Danny looked on, sincerely touched, as the head teacher explained Rose’s situation.

Later in his room, he talked about it. He compared an average teacher’s standard in England and that of a teacher in a rural area in Uganda. The difference was enormous. He remembered the times he had complained about poor treatment in England. I could feel he wanted to pour out his heart to me. The poor conditions he had seen of a teacher in Uganda changed his perceptions.

Later on in the day he told me that he will be more grateful about his life than before. Rose could have been Danny under difference circumstances. Had Danny been born in Uganda, he would  have been in Rose’s situation; sleeping in a room that is no bigger than a kitchen.

He wanted to know how much we pay these teachers and how we manage to keep them engaged. I then broke his heart even more; their salary is about £50 a month! Danny just could not get it. How could a qualified teacher earn so little!! We should like to pay these teachers what they deserve but we cannot. We can barely afford what we do pay. Most of the children in the school are needy children, supported by the few who are sponsored. The rest come along, but cannot pay the fees. Of course a teacher is paid the same amount whether she teaches 5 children or 30 children so we make up the numbers. I could see him nod his head. He later told me that there is just one solution to take away all these problems, Money! None of us have it. We take pride however in knowing that at least we understand the problem and we look forward to a day when teachers will earn what they genuinely deserve for the difference they make in this world.

At the water pump

At the water pump

END OF PART ONE: Danny’s Story Part Two




George’s Story

Jeanette and I first visited Bubebbere at the end of 2002. Although we were assured that it was little more than an hour’s drive from the capital, Kampala, it was like entering a world apart in the middle of nowhere. In those days, the way (you could hardly call it a road) was virtually impassable and truly was (and still is) a road to nowhere as it terminates in the small trading centre on the far banks of Lake Victoria.

George among the children during a special event at Bulumbu

George among the children during a special event at Bulumbu

Our visit was during the school holidays but it was nevertheless a joyful experience with children coming along to receive their exam results and be awarded their end-of-year prizes. The top of each class, gymnastic champions and so on were awarded two biscuits as their reward; runners-up were only given one! The children sang, danced and performed for us, but it was obvious that there was a real need to do something very urgently to give these youngsters a chance in life.

But where could they find somebody prepared to devote his life to giving them that chance? Enter the stage – George Senyonga.


George was born in Bubebbere, but he was only 18 months old when the family moved to Kampala. In due course he was able to start his education. It is a sad fact – but not an uncommon one in Uganda – that his school career did not last long. Part way through his primary school years, the money for his fees dried up. By then, he was going on 14 years old and was forced to earn his own living. He started as a domestic houseboy, then he fetched and carried water for building projects. Because he lacked literacy skills, he had to take whatever work was available: domestic, acting as a porter, making bricks.

But George is nothing if not determined and he used his small earnings and initiative to attend literacy lessons at the YMCA.

His persistence paid off after he took a job repairing shoes at the Nateete shop of a wealthy businessman. When this employer died, and as a sign of his respect, he left the plot of land to George who did not hesitate to take full advantage, using it to sell a range of products; at first foodstuffs and watches; later on electrical goods.

However life did not go smoothly even then. In the turbulent years prior to the advent of the current President, Yoweri Museveni, his stock was regularly looted, often by the security forces nominally there to protect him. Each time he was knocked down, he got up and started again. Eventually the country became more stable and his business went from strength to strength.

George & Berna

George & Berna

He married Berna who has ever since been a constant support to him. At the height of his business success, he had his electrical shop, a small supermarket and he imported used cars from Dubai.

But George is not the kind of man to sit back and relax on the fruits of his labours. He knew that the village of his birth was still suffering from extreme poverty which meant that the children there were unable to go to school. He was determined to do something about it. He raised enough money to start a nursery school some fifteen years ago. That was the beginning of Little Angels at Bubebbere.

At the start of the new water project at Bubebbere. Clean water is now being pumped up to the school and orphanage.

At the start of the new water project at Bubebbere. Clean water is now being pumped up to the school and orphanage.

George had a dream and that did not make things easy for his own family. On paper he and Berna were not badly off (by Ugandan standards), but this did not bring comfort to his immediate family as he was also caring for his extended family, putting the children of his brothers, aunts and uncles   through their education. He was the bread-winner for the whole clan. This meant of course that his own sons and daughters were not always offered a well-balanced diet, nor did they enjoy a single holiday. This was not because the money was unavailable, but because George saw the suffering and needs of the children in the village communities as no different from those of his own flesh and blood. Their needs were often put before those of his own children.

Soon after our first visit, he made the decision to found a second school at Bulumbu, up the road from Bubebbere, together with a simple church (he is a pentecostal pastor). Why on earth would he want to take such a risk when he was struggling to make the first one permanently viable? Quite simply, he believed that he had no choice; 6 kms was just too far to expect nursery age children to walk to school in their bare feet; especially during the “rains” when the tracks became almost impassable and the youngsters lacked any rainwear.

This was the site we were shown for the secondary school at Nsaggu. On our next visit the classrooms and dormitories had been built and the children were having their lessons.

This was the site we were shown for the secondary school at Nsaggu. On our next visit the classrooms and dormitories had been built and the children were having their lessons.

When we next visited Uganda in 2005, we were taken to have a look at a piece of undeveloped bush-land at Nsaggu. This was where, he told us, he was going to build his secondary school so that the village children would have the chance to benefit from the next stage in the educational cycle. It was another dream; one which I could not see coming to fruition for many years to come. How wrong I was!

At the Nsaggu Dream Scheme pig project

The Nsaggu Dream Scheme pig project at the secondary school.

Our next visit was in 2008; and what did we find at Nsaggu? An already functioning secondary school. How on earth had he managed to get so far in such a short time? And where did the funds come from? I still find it amazing when I contemplate what he did. George was so determined to make this dream come true that he had sold all of his businesses and used the proceeds to make it happen. At that stage he had nothing left but his own home.

There is still an enormous amount to do, and I know that there have been occasions when he has been tempted to give up. It speaks volumes for his courage and determination that he has not done so.

The spring outlet at Nsaggu. George ensured that it emptied onto the main road so that the whole community could benefit.

The spring outlet at Nsaggu. George ensured that it emptied onto the main road so that the whole community could benefit.

People regularly ask why I am prepared to work so hard to try to make these distant schools a viable long-term success. It is quite simply because whatever I do in terms of effort, George and Berna do the same and more, and in very difficult circumstances. I have told people so very often: I get exhausted just watching George. He never stops.

The "walking tractor" - helping to feed the children at Bubebbere.

The “walking tractor” – helping to feed the children at Bubebbere.

A Fresh Start: Forever Friends of Uganda

Musicians generously gave us their time at our first fête in 2003

Musicians generously gave us their time at our first fête in 2003

Just eleven years ago, we held our first, totally unofficial, fund-raising event. It was intended to be a one-off effort in support of some hard-working men and women whom we had met during a holiday in Uganda. We had looked at their work, visited their schools and homes, and were blown away by how much they were able to achieve with very few resources. How little did we realise at the time what that event would lead to! Our friends and neighbours in St Lucien suggested that we should do the same thing the following year. And so it started.


The immediate implication was that we needed to register to allow us to set up a dedicated bank account. It was in this way that Les Amis d’Ouganda officially came into existence in the middle of December 2004. As time passed, more and more British friends joined our French supporters in driving things forward. We managed to open a UK bank account as Friends of Uganda and that helped us to progress.


We were still concerned about the British side of things however. We were a French registered “association”, but totally unofficial on the other side of the Channel. As the years passed, despite all of our successes (and I think that we are right to be proud of them), we could see how that was limiting our work with our British friends. There was so much more that we wanted to do, but could not.


We had toyed with the idea of setting up a UK arm, but had failed to find anybody to sign their names on the dotted line and take the responsibility. It couldn’t be Jeanette and me; we live in “foreign parts” after all! Finally we found a volunteer to be responsible and truly get things moving; or rather she found us. Pam Winders first came to Uganda with us in 2012 and then again this year. Not only did she enjoy the experience, but she became enthused by what she saw and was able to help us in a range of different ways. Finally, she generously made the offer to get us properly registered in Britain.


A photo of Pam Winders handing over a full set of football kit. It had been donated to her for our visit in 2012.

A photo of Pam Winders handing over a full set of football kit. It had been donated to her for our visit in 2012.

During our time in Kampala this February, we all sat down and explored the possibilities. We have always called ourselves Friends of Uganda, but that had to change as the name was already the property of others. Perspiration turned to inspiration one evening while we were looking at a newspaper article about our work. The headline was “Forever Friends of Uganda”. Problem solved! We hope you approve of our choice.


How things will develop in Britain only time and hard work will tell, but the immediate bonus is that for the first time we now qualify for Gift Aid – not an inconsiderable matter for a small charity like ours. If you sponsor a child, or if you wish to make a donation, we shall ask you to complete a form to enable us to claim this bonus. The more we can gain in this way, the more we shall be able to achieve.


We shall also ask you to commit to our work by becoming a member. Whether you choose to do so or not will be completely your decision. There is no obligation or pressure whatsoever. However, we must try in all possible ways to raise more funds and make supporters feel that they are involved and valued. There is so much more to do and every GBP that we earn will take us closer to our objectives.


Handing over a gift to a sponsored child at Bubebbere earlier this year.

Handing over a gift to a sponsored child at Bubebbere earlier this year.

It is an exciting prospect: twin charities. Forever Friends of Uganda in UK and Les Amis d’Ouganda in France – both working together for the same objective: to help children who have nothing.

Uganda Visit May/June 2013

Bubebbere. Presentation of school uniforms to Baby Class children. Donated by Westwood Primary School, Clayton-le-Woods, Lancashire.

This is what it is all about
Central to our regular Uganda visits is the wish to meet the children that you all support. However, this particular visit was even more special as we were accompanied by our two sons, Nick and Rogan, who were (long ago) schoolboys in Entebbe. This was their first return “back home” since 1974; a memorable trip for all of us.

Happy faces at the window (Bulumbu).

Little Angels Primary School Bulumbu
The afternoon spent in this village school was a real pleasure. First of all we saw the children in their classes. Then the youngsters and their teachers sang and danced for us. Of course they did; this is Uganda after all.
A new development, here and at Bubebbere, is that Westwood Primary School in Clayton-le-Woods, Lancashire has generously agreed to “twin” with the Baby classes in the two villages. The first  fruit of this partnership is their purchase of uniforms for 15 children whose parents cannot afford them. Rogan, as the school’s representative, was photographed with the little ones receiving their gifts (photograph above). He has now reported back and recounted the experience to the English children at Westwood.
Afterwards there was a truly joyous occasion. Supporters in England and in France had donated four full suitcases of clothes for these poor boys and girls. Every single child received something; their shouts of pleasure and their happy faces made the visit worthwhile for that alone.

Preparing the foundations for the new school hall at Bubebbere

From here we drove the 6 km to Bubebbere. Once again, the sponsored children gathered to be photographed and receive the messages and gifts that many of their sponsors had sent with us.
Our Ugandan friends operate an orphanage here, and a high proportion of the sponsored children are resident in it. As well as giving them a home, another benefit is that they can learn about, and help with, food production on the school farm.

Until George Senyonga built Golden College at Nsaggu, it was a rare event for the children of his village to be able to attend secondary school. This lack of opportunity distressed him and he went as far as to sell his own business in order  to raise funds to achieve the dream of educating these youngsters.
Our first visit was 9 years ago. At that time the place was nothing but virgin bush. Now it is a fully operational school and there are already students in the 6th Form. It is an amazing achievement.
Of the 13 sponsored youngsters at the secondary level, 9 are being educated here. It marks an enormous step forward from just a few years ago, both for the village and for our project.

Irine, who is one of the sponsored students at the Nangabo Vocational Institute, with some of the children at Bulumbu where she was helping out.

Nangabo Vocational Institute
A debilitating problem for isolated villages is the lack of qualified people, both on the educational and medical side,who come from and live in them. There are no doctors or nurses for instance.
When a Ugandan colleague came up with the idea of  finding three teenage girls to undertake pre-school training, we jumped at the chance.
All three of them are now studying a two-year Early Childhood Education/Nursery Teaching course and will become fully qualified Nursery Teachers.
Two of them will complete their studies this year and a third in 2014. We truly hope that they will help to make a real difference in the two villages.

Truly Wonderful  When we set up the sponsorship scheme in 2006, we had no inkling of how successful it was going to be. To have 90 children supported at nursery, primary and secondary levels, let alone in further education, was beyond our wildest dreams. Thank you to everyone who has helped to make it happen. Do you know others who might  help?

In April we sent funds for the building of a chicken house at Nsaggu Dream Scheme. By the time of our visit, the construction was well under way. We shall send further funds in July to cover the cost of the birds, vaccination, foodstuffs and other necessaries to get them started.

We have started to make a difference, but there is so much more to do. Please ask people to look at the sponsorship page on our website:, to look at our Friends of Uganda Facebook Page, or to get in touch directly by writing to us at:  4.oiseaux @ wanadoo . fr