Meet Berna Senyonga
Berna Senyonga is the public face of Dream Scheme Uganda. It is a cheerful and enthusiastic face, but what about the person behind it. We hope that these few questions and answers will explain something about the real woman behind the post that she holds.
Berna at the microphone
1. Berna, where and when were you born?
I was born to Federesi Wanyana at Mulago Hospital, Kampala on 5th March 1968. At the time the family was living in Kawempe just north of Kampala, though we moved to Mukono later.
2. Can you tell us something about your parents?
My father was an official in the Uganda prison service. He moved around because of his work and he had three official wives. I, their first child, was born after my parents had been married for eight years, but my mother later gave birth to three other children although the last-born died when he was two.
My father was polygamous and had nineteen children from five women. Unfortunately he became alcoholic and my parents separated when I was six years old.
3. What was your childhood like?
It was very difficult when my mother was alone. She was weak after two caesarean births. She was rejected by her own relatives and by my fatherʼs family. At one time she had to travel 80 miles on the back of a lorry to get matooke (green bananas) which she could sell to allow her family to survive. She rented a two-room house for the family and for her small grocery business, and she looked after her blind mother all of her life.
We felt worthless. I never had a male figure in my life and for a long time I kept my distance from men because I thought all of them were like my father.
4. What about your education?
After seven years at Kawempe Muslim Primary School and four more at secondary school, I went to Teacher Training College and gained a grade three teachersʼ certificate. I worked as a cleaner in order to supplement the family income and to help with school fees.
I also have a Diploma in Theology and hope to graduate next April with a B.A. in Bible and Theology.
5. And your own family life?
I married George in 1990 and we have four children together, James 22, Esther 20, Maria 14 and Rebecca is now 9.
Berna with husband, George and daughter, Esther à Busega
6. In addition you do a lot of voluntary work, donʼt you?
As well as community work at churches, I have been the Trainer for Dream Scheme Uganda since 2003, I am project manager for Busega Dream Scheme and last year I was elected Chairman of the organisation.
I am one of the founding members of the Little Angels Primary Schools at Bubebbere and Bulumbu where I have acted as Headmistress and volunteer teacher. An important part of my work is to co-ordinate the sponsorship project run by Les Amis dʼOuganda from France and to help to oversee all the work financed by that charity.
7. What is your dream for the future?
I want us to grow into a bigger, unified school with more classrooms around the orphanage at Bubebbere; and we need more accommodation at Bulumbu as we shall have a full school there from next year, right through to Primary 7. As well as formal education, we have to teach the children self-reliance skills so that they can help themselves, their families and the community. We have needy boys and girls in the orphanage who have to learn to look after themselves.
Some children still have to kneel on the floor to received their lessons
The challenge is to raise the finance; to build, to pay salaries, to feed and care for the orphans. The sponsorship money sent to us helps, but we need so much more if our dream of being a model school at a high standard is to be fulfilled.
In case you forget!
Perhaps you will get tired of me repeating it, but that is not going to stop me. If we are going to help our Ugandan friends to make real progress, we need others to help us. Last year the seeds were sown. A group of English friends from S.W. France and our grandson in England raised valuable funds on our behalf. We did not need to ask them. They could see what was needed and they got on with it. This year those seeds have begun to grow and bear fruit.
Chris and Nicole climb Snowden three-legged
Once again our grandson Chris, this time with his girlfriend, Nicole came up trumps. Their three-legged walk up Mount Snowden in June was not only a great achievement in itself but brought in valuable funds for our cause.
Brook house Hotel
In past years Brook House Hotel at Clayton-le-Woods in Lancashire have held raffles to raise money for us. This year, they took an enormous step forward in organising a concert and dinner on our behalf. We backed up their work with our African craft market. Supporters came from all over England to assist us and a loud and lively event made for a very special evening.
Rogan with some of the children who had just received school uniforms
In the same community of Clayton-le-Woods, Westwood Primary School has twinned with classes at Bulumbu and Bubebbere. In the spring, a non-uniform day was a unique way for the children to buy uniforms for their African twins. Later in the year, instead of bringing in the traditional harvest fruit and vegetables, they contributed coins. It is incredible how this added up to a substantial amount.
Further south in Surrey, at the beginning of November, friends organised a party at their home. We have received more valuable income from this. And these same people will be selling our crafts on a Christmas market near to their home.
Finally a young sponsor persuaded a charity with which she was associated to make us a donation.
Another of our sponsors organised a raffle; and once again it was a superb result. What made this even more impressive was that she had not told us she was doing it. The first we knew was when we received a transfer into our bank account.
Incredible! Many thanks to our friends across the Channel
Once again, without our knowing about it in advance one of our close supporters sold second hand goods on a foire à tout (car boot sale) and brought in more than we could have dared to hope for.
Thank you to everybody concerned. Here’s hoping that their efforts will inspire others to help us to make a difference in 2014.
We ask you for your support, but of course, we have to make the effort ourselves.
Sale of Ugandan Crafts
Les Amis d’Ouganda has set out its stall at two events this year. At the beginning of June, we were present at a Weekend Africain at Forges-les-Eaux and in August our products all but flew off the table at an Afternoon under the African Sun at Lammerville.
Balade Contée in France
Early October brought our 8th annual Balade Contée, our Walk for Uganda. This year some 60 participants explored the highways and byways around the village of Sigy-en-Bray. As ever Jeane Herrington-Charlionet led a great team of story-tellers to entertain the participants. Raynald Flory joined us for a third time and Isabelle Modard was a welcome debutant. To make things even more entertaining, we were able to welcome musicians Sophie and Hélène. We knew nothing of their help until they turned up on the day.
Thank you to everybody who helped to make it another great success.
So where has your money gone in 2013?
Chickens at Nsaggu
Construction of the chicken house at Nsaggu
Every year we try set up another self-sufficiency scheme, something that will teach the children practical skills and which they can keep going by their own efforts. This time it was the turn of Nsaggu Dream Scheme. Their chicken project is now up and running. The building were constructed in the first half of the year and now they have purchased everything else needed to get them going: the birds themselves of course, but also medicines, vaccines, foodstuffs, stoves, drinkers and feeders. We wish them well in their efforts.
School Hall at Bubebbere
Construction of the school hall at Bubebbere
This is the biggest project we have undertaken. Capital projects already funded include classrooms, latrines, a kitchen and staff housing, but this is taking us to another level
The construction is important for a whole range of reasons; as somewhere for the orphanage children to eat and relax in poor weather, as a centre for school and community meetings and not least as a centre for school and government exams. At present, Bubebbere children have to attend other schools for the latter.
It was going to be an enormous “ask” to raise funds for this project and so we applied to the Region of Haute-Normandie for a grant to support us. We shall always be grateful for their help. The Region will supply 50% of the total needed and we have to find the balance. We sent the first tranche of payment in July and already the foundations are dug and the building has started. We are now sending the second contribution and we are planning for the building to be completed before the end of 2014.
Jeanette & Keith with a family of sponsored children
Your support of children’s education remains at the heart of what we are doing. As I write, you are enabling 75 primary school children, 12 secondary school students and three young women in further education to benefit from free tuition. That is great. But if you are not already part of our project and think that you would like to help, please talk to us about it. There are many more youngsters in need.
The sponsored children at Bubebbere.
Please sponsor a child and give him or her a future.
That will be a real Christmas present
Or… a seasonal donation towards our work will be gratefully received.
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