Tag Archives: Primary school in Uganda

This is Very Largely a Thank You Blog

The Westwood Primary School Run for Uganda

A massive thank you to the teachers and children for running 6,575 miles, the distance between Lancashire and Entebbe. Even more impressively, they covered 1,000 miles more than was required.

The generosity of everybody who sponsored their efforts and gave us the wherewithal to make progress with our work made it all worthwhile.

The little ones give it their all

Thank you Westwood. You raised valuable funds for the village children at Bulumbu and Bubebbere.

 

The Teddy Bear Project

What a wonderful initiative from these girls who raised funds by donating two teddy bears and organising a guess their names competition.

We have ring-fenced the money raised to help children directly. We shall and use it to buy books in support of our reading for pleasure project.

Very many thanks – to both of you.

Well done girls – an excellent effort

Southport Half Marathon

Danny Mac not only came up with idea for the Run for Uganda, but he followed this up at the beginning of July by running a Half Marathon to bring in even more funds for our good cause.

Another great success

The New Kitchen at Bulumbu

The roof on the classroom block is in urgent need of replacement.

As most of you know, the old one was destroyed in a storm and its replacement – just like its predecessor – was no more than a temporary expedient. By western standards, it is still very basic, with only a wood-burning fireplace inside the room, but it is an enormous improvement for the ladies who have to cook there. It still lacks windows and a door, but it is nevertheless usable.

The children line up for their lunchtime porridge

We should have struggled to get this built so quickly without some very generous donors who provided funds for the construction of this highly important new addition. Many thanks – you know who you are!

he ladies cooking for us on our first visit to Bubebbere

Just for interest’s sake. When we first visited the village, the ladies had to cook for us under the trees in the grounds.

 

Lap-top Computer

Thank you to those who donated towards the purchase of a lap-top computer for Daniel Kato This young man, who has been sponsored since his primary school years, has had serious health problems, but he has stuck with it. This year he was offered a place on a course studying videography, but he could not take it up until he had a lap-top. Which of course he could not afford. He is now enjoying the opportunities you have helped him to grasp.

Kato with his laptop

New Latrines at Bulumbu

The income that has recently been raised has enabled us to send funds to construct new latrines at Bulumbu. The current ones, which are insufficient, are also too close to the classrooms and the water tank.

More information in due course.

 

Classroom Renovation at Bubebbere

The classroom renovation is under way.

Thank you to our French friends at Les Amis d’Ouganda for providing the funds to renovate the 7th and final classroom. Once it has been completed, we shall need to raise the money to reroof the entire block. The roofing sheets leak and without this being done, the rains threaten to undo the good work that has been achieved.

The roof on the classroom block is in urgent need of replacement.

Forever Friends of Uganda AGM

Your trustees at the AGM

Thank you to the Trustees who travelled to Chorley for our AGM at the end of May. We came from far and wide. Gill (our Chair) and Andrew Partridge (our Secretary) from Surrey, Fil Jones (our new Treasurer) from Belfast, Danny Mac (who agreed to look into future fund-raising possibilities) from Southport and I (still your Co-ordinator) from Normandy. The meeting expressed its sincere thanks to Martine Acoulon in her roll as Blog Administrator.

The meeting considered the Co-ordinator’s Annual Report and the Financial Report, and discussed proposals for the coming 12 months. Pamela Winders was thanked for her hard work in getting Forever Friends of Uganda formally set up and running until her recent decision to leave this role. Thank you Pam.

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

 

Lancashire to Uganda

A Partnership – Westwood and Little Angels

danny-mcgregor-forever-friends-of-uganda

The recent visit to Uganda by Danny McGregor has highlighted the partnership between Westwood Primary School and the Little Angels schools at Bubebbere and at Bulumbu. That being said, we must not forget that this relationship has been going on for more than three years.

In the early days Mrs Martin (the headteacher) was happy for the school to “twin” with the Ugandan children  at the early infant school level, but as time has passed this support  has widened its scope.

Rogan with some of the children who had just received school uniforms

Rogan with some of the children who had just received school uniforms

The first fruit was the purchase of school uniforms for 15 children whose parents could not afford to buy them. A happy side to this is that it coincided with the visit of Rogan Mills to the villages where he acted as the school’s representative at the presentation of the gifts. Not only was he able to report back to the school, but his OSH Club took on the sponsorship of one of the children.

Forever Friends of Uganda help the poorest

Since then, donations from Westwood have been used for a variety of purposes; to purchase uniforms for children in the orphanage, to buy maize flour to help feed them; to obtain stationery – books, pens, pencils and so on. Most recently a donation was used to help us kickstart the reading for pleasure literacy programme. From a European perspective, these may seem to be modest things, but from the viewpoint of two schools in very poor villages, this has been an extremely valuable support.

Now of course the focus has become much more highly charged. The presentations that Danny has made at the school have brought far more individuals on board. Already, at the time of writing, we have another 12 children’s education being supported by staff, parents and friends of Westwood school. A recent Harvest collection has also boosted what we are able to achieve in the villages.

harvest-collection-forever-friends-of-uganda

There are other ideas in the pipeline and we shall of course keep you up-to-date with the progress.

I have to say that all of us at Forever Friends of Uganda, as well as our colleagues on the spot, are tremendously grateful to everybody connected with Westwood for helping us to make such a difference.

 

 

 

 

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

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.