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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.

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Uganda Visit May/June 2013

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

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

Happy faces at the window (Bulumbu).

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

Preparing the foundations for the new school hall at Bubebbere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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