Tag Archives: Children Youth and Family

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)

What’s in a Ugandan Name?

There are various sides to this; things that can confuse us in the western world. Let’s try to bring a little light to it all.

First of all – the family name (the surname) as we know it in Europe is not part of African tradition. Children have a given name, often Christian or Muslim. Far more important though is the clan name, and there are more than 50 clans within the Buganda kingdom. Sponsors will have noted that on the school reports this appears ahead of the western-style name.

What we find strange for instance is that two sisters may have totally different names. A clan is like an extended family, but even so this name is also a given one, traditionally chosen by the child’s paternal grandfather. The name might also have specific family importance. For example the name Babirye can signify that the child is a twin and Kizza suggests a child born after twins. KIbuuka is a brave warrior. It is rare for people within a clan to intermarry.

Helen Nabayiki is ready for the PLE challenge

Helen Nabayiki is ready for the PLE challenge

A clue to gender can be seen in the first few letters of the name. If it starts with the two letters “Na”, you can be sure that she is a girl. The equivalent for a boy is “Se”.

Richard Ssali - a PLE candidate

Richard Ssali – a PLE candidate

That is the formal side – but there is another aspect that often puzzles our sponsors.

You may find that the name of your child is different this year from last year. This is often simply a matter of pronunciation, especially when it comes from the oral tradition. The sound of the name can dictate the spelling and it gets varied as the child grows. Sometimes it is a matter of preference. Names can be a moveable feast in Uganda.  So Phoebe can be Feibe; Sharon becomes Shalon; and so on. In fact in Bantu languages, of which Luganda is one, the letters “l” and “r” are often interchangeable.

With some of the secondary school students - following success at PLE

With some of the secondary school students – following success at PLE

We understand, and often joke about, this identical situation among our Chinese friends. If you do not hear the difference, you will write it as you hear it. When we lived in Zambia, a neighbouring town was Mufulira – even on the radio, the “l” “r” question meant that we heard it pronounced in at least four different ways. Later, when we lived in northern Uganda, we were among people who did not always hear the difference between “p” and “f”. Our own children learned to count: one, two, pee, pour, pive!

There also seems to be a trend among the youngsters themselves, as they get older, to change their own names – to something they find more “in” or “with it”. We receive school reports for students we don’t seem to know! The same child; a different name.

Tubagaliza omwaka omuja ogwemirembe.

Happy New Year

 

Primary Leaving Examination (PLE)

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

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

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

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

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

sponsored child by Forever Friends of Uganda

sponsored child by Forever Friends of Uganda

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

sponsored child by Forever Friends of Uganda

sponsored child by Forever Friends of Uganda

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

We do not want to let them down.

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.

BACK TO PART ONE

Forever Friends of Uganda – the way forward

As you all know by now, I have written it often enough, these are exciting times for Forever Friends of Uganda. However, I also have to admit that they have been difficult times. As transparency is important to us, it would be wrong to try to hide the problems we have been facing.

The way things were. Cooking under the trees to welcome us 12 years ago.

The way things were. Cooking under the trees to welcome us 12 years ago.

For 12 years, our British supporters did not have the recognition that their goodwill and generosity merited. During that period everything was done under the auspices of our French partners at Les Amis d’Ouganda. But as we grew, it became useful and then necessary to separate the two arms of our support for DreamScheme Uganda.

That is where things began to prove difficult even though we understood the importance of doing such a thing.

Developments at Bubebbere with the school hall and the orphanage.

Developments at Bubebbere with the school hall and the orphanage.

For circumstances totally outside our control, we had to move to a new British bank and that in itself created uncertainty for a much longer period than we should ideally have wished. Nevertheless, by the end of last year we were back on course after that setback.

Then we became victims of our own success. The original idea had been to set up as a Small Charity. It is a pleasure to report that, with your support, our income in the last financial year far outstripped the limits of that form of organisation and we had to face the far more rigorous registration obligations that go with such progress.

The great thing is that we now have in place a small body of dedicated trustees in UK who are working tirelessly for our good cause. With their help, we are well on the way to getting the administration side of things sorted out, so that we shall be able to look positively to the future.

We need to do so. Our aim is to get our Ugandan colleagues to the level where they can become totally self-sufficient. Quite simply – our intention is to do ourselves out of a job. However, we have to be realistic and understand that there is a long way to go before that objective can be realised.

We are optimistic that we shall get there in the long-term, but in the meantime we need your continuing support and to try to expand our sources of income to reach that end. The children whom we support have nothing. First and foremost our desire is to give these boys and girls a childhood worthy of the name and after that to give them a meaningful chance in life that without our support would be far less likely. Please help us to help them.

At the heart of what we want - helping the boys and girls to enjoy their childhood with a playground.

At the heart of what we want – helping the boys and girls to enjoy their childhood with a playground.

We promise to continue to keep you informed about the work and the progress that is being made. Beyond that ….. if you have any suggestions or thoughts about anything to do with the country or about the children in need whom we are here to support, please tell us. We want Forever Friends of Uganda to be your charity, your good cause, as much as ours.

So much to do

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This temporary classroom was very useful during the dry season.

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

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

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

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

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

A sponsor paid for books and pencils for his child's class. They were so grateful for the gift.

A sponsor paid for books and pencils for his child’s class. They were so grateful for the gift.

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

£5 will buy 30 exercise books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keith Mills

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.