Tag Archives: Bubebbere

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)

Keith’s Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This picture shows the horrible state of the classroom roof.

This picture shows the horrible state of the classroom roof.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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.

 

PART ONE

DANNY’S ARRIVAL IN UGANDA

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!

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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.

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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

 

 

 

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

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

Children enjoying the reading books

Children enjoying the reading books

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

Using the ecological brick-making machine

Using the ecological brick-making machine

These classrooms at Bubebbere are in urgent need of renovation

These classrooms at Bubebbere are in urgent need of renovation

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

A superb result of the brick-making work

A superb result of the brick-making work

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

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

The new classroom block at Bulumbu

The new classroom block at Bulumbu

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

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

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

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

Parents cannot afford uniform or shoes for their children

Parents cannot afford uniform or shoes for their children

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Great News

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

Tax advantages

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

Grant Funding

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

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

These children deserve a chance in life.

These children deserve a chance in life.

Positive Image

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

 This is how we are working at present

Sponsorship

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

We need to improve the classroom learning conditions. Before.

We need to improve the classroom learning conditions. Before.

Capital Projects

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

We need to improve the classroom learning conditions. After.

We need to improve the classroom learning conditions. After.

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

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

Associate Membership

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

The children are loving the new opportunity to read.

The children are loving the new opportunity to read.

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

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.