Tag Archives: Uganda

Sponsorship programme

Our sponsorship programme is good for everybody – good for the children, good for the teachers, good for the school and good for the community as a whole. And I do believe that many of the sponsors get a great deal from it as well.

Child for sponsoring: Bwogi Sone 6 yrs old. His divorced parents have left him with grandmother

Because a school is not an island, separate from the outside world in which the children live, Forever Friends of Uganda has become more and more keen to consider the wellbeing of the outside communities. The sponsorship scheme is central to that process.

Bubebbere and Bulumbu are both very poor villages, existing far from what we consider to be the necessities of life; particularly healthcare, electricity, and running water. The people living there have the benefit of none of these things.

Child for sponsoring: Kazeyire Natasha, 7 yrs, lives with needy relative. Her grandparents were refugees from the Rwanda genocide

It is not surprising that many of the children underachieve in their education and in their lives. Families which have nothing cannot afford even the lowest of school fees. Our sponsorship scheme has started to counter this situation and to change things for the better. The new communities being established around the two schools are beginning to make the villages places where it is worth staying.

The exodus of the local population that was gathering pace has been slowed, and there are encouraging signs that it can be reversed. The construction of the teachers’ houses that we have funded makes it easier to persuade competent staff to come and work in these poor villages. The school farms, the planting of trees, the clean water projects and the growing opportunities for employment which come with the projects – all of these things have started to rejuvenate the area. At the moment they are no more than the young shoots of spring, but the progress from what we found there 15 years ago can be clearly seen.

If you are already supporting our work, I hope that you will find the information of interest. If you are not helping so far, perhaps it will cause you to think about what you might be able to do to help our colleagues to accelerate that advance.

Primary school children – delighted with the support they are getting

We start with youngsters in nursery and primary school to try to put down firm foundations. At the time of writing, you are supporting more than 70 children at this level. For £70 a year, the little boy or girl that you support is given stability, both in school and in his or her life outside school.

I hope you will agree that this is a tiny amount to pay for the life and hopes of a child and his or her future. Just as important, it ensures that these youngsters do have a childhood, no matter how brief.

We believe that you will not find a cheaper sponsorship scheme anywhere. We lead the field from this point of view. We can only do this because the administration of the scheme, both in Europe and in Uganda, is carried out by volunteers who seek no recompense.

We always have a list of children in need of support. It goes without saying that all of the boys and girls on this list are poor; many of them are orphans, often from parents who succumbed to AIDS, and are frequently found to be living with grandparents. You can see above two of them currently looking for help.

Danny visiting a family home – the need is clear to see

Secondary School. When we first started the scheme in 2006, we did not even consider the thought that we might be able to help children to have a secondary school education. At that time, once these boys and girls left primary school, that was it; all hopes of continuing their education were over.

Of course, different children have differing talents and it has become clear that we need to provide support for a range of abilities. For that reason, we encourage those with academic talents to go as far as possible in that direction. Just as important though is our push to enable youngsters with practical skills to pursue the vocational route.

Already, supporters of our scheme are sponsoring some 20 youngsters in secondary school and another 7 on a range of vocational courses. Even more pleasing, three young women who have been supported since their primary school years are now pursuing university courses.

Naturally this has to cost more. Nevertheless, £220 a year ensures that these boys and girls can continue their education. Remember that there are no secondary schools in these villages, and so this amount includes boarding fees. It is possible to pay in instalments and even two or three people can come together to share support for a single girl or a boy.

Jeanette and Fred Tamale – taking the vocational route on a course in building and construction

Keith with Maria now studying at university

It is hard now to recall how I jumped for joy some twelve years ago when we achieved  the initial target of ten sponsored children. Since then, progress has been steady; but it is no more than a start. The dream is that these communities can become self-sufficient. The fulfilment of that dream is still far off. The progress to date is nevertheless heartening.

To our current supporters – thank you very much. You are helping to make a real difference.

Two little girls show off the school uniforms bought for them by Forever Friends of Uganda

To those of you just learning about our work, ask as many questions as you like. I am always here to answer them. If you like what we have to say, please come on board, and help us to enable our Ugandan friends and colleagues to help themselves.

Sponsorship Application

Please fill in the details below and return the form to the address given.

 

There is a range of ways that payment can be made

Most people prefer to make a direct transfer into our bank account:

Lloyds Bank Treasurers Account
Forever Friends
Account No: 25657668
Sort Code: 30 90 89
IBAN:  GB56LOYD30908925657668

Cheques should be made out to “Forever Friends of Uganda”
Please return to: Mr Keith Mills, Forever Friends of Uganda,
15 Claremont Road, Stockport, SK2 7AR
UK

We also have a credit card direction that you can take. Unfortunately, if you choose this method we must ask for a small supplement to cover administration charges. Please ask if this is what you want to do.

Phone: +447534936901

Email:  foreverfriendsofuganda @ gmail  . com

Keith Mills

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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.

 

 

 

 

Exciting Times

Two of our projects, both inaugurated  last year,  promise to improve significantly the lives of the children as well as the whole village  community. We are truly excited by the possibilities, even though they both have a long way to go to reach their potential.

Children receive the books

Children receive the books

The reading Project

It is so easy to bemoan the lack of a reading culture in Uganda, but much more difficult to do something about it. In villages where the over-riding need is to put food in the belly and to survive, where carers are often themselves illiterate or read at a very basic level, where a generation was lost to the ravages of HIV, the thought of sitting down in the evening and enjoying a book is not just way down the list of priorities; it is not even on the agenda.

We now have village children who are eager for learning but until now the books have not been available. When schools struggle to exist, reading books can seem to be a luxury. Even in the classroom, a lesson often consists of the teacher copying the contents of his sole copy onto the blackboard and the students reproducing it into their exercise books.

After school finishes for the day, children have to walk home and then do their tasks; fetching water, working in the garden, cooking, looking after younger siblings. It will be dark before they stop and, without electricity, almost impossible to look at the notes they have taken during the day. There is just time to sleep, wake up, do more household chores and walk to school to recommence the cycle.

In the classroom

In the classroom

Can we change all this for the better? We truly hope so. Supporters have paid for the books needed to get the reading for pleasure programme under way. They will be stored in metal boxes which can be transported between Bubebbere and Bulumbu on a weekly basis, so that children in both schools can benefit.

We have also been able to make a start on the purchase of text books for use in the classrooms. It is no more than a beginning and much more needs to be done before the boys and girls will be able to study properly.

The children are delighted to be able to read

The children are delighted to be able to read

The teachers are excited about the possibilities for the future.  We just have to make it work. There has been a real bonus as far as this is concerned. You will recall that Florence Namitala, a sponsored student since her primary school days, has recently completed a course in early childhood education. She has now returned to the villages where, I am told, she is making a real difference to the reading project.

The signs for the future are good – as long as we can keep the momentum going to produce a future with a more literate population of children!!!!

 

Making the bricks

Making the bricks

Brick-making

The purchase of the machine, with the help of a generous donor, during our visit last year delighted us for a range of reasons:  it provides an ecologically sound approach because there is no need to burn wood during the process; it saves money; and the quality of the bricks is better than those manufactured by traditional methods.

All of these advantages hold true, but there is now the potential to offer much more.

You can see the the bricks are interlocking and so need much less cement

You can see the the bricks are interlocking and so need much less cement

The reduction of some 50% in building costs has fed the ambitions of our Ugandan colleagues. The lack of proper storage facilities for the reading scheme books was a real concern. Costs were checked and it was decided that they could build a small resource centre at the orphanage; somewhere for the children to relax with a book.

All of that is wonderful in itself, but we hope that there will be much more to come. Our colleagues have embarked on a plan to include the village community in the project, with the orphanage centre as a model for what can be done.

Already  young men are being employed to make the bricks. In an area where unemployment is a serious problem, this gives them a reason to stick around and not join the exodus into the already over-crowded city.

We should like to replace this kind of home.

We should like to replace this kind of home.

Many village buildings are mud-built, poor in themselves and at risk during the rainy seasons. There is now a vision to work with people to improve the overall situation. and to try to eliminate such poor living conditions.

If sufficient bricks can be sold, the intention is to use the surplus funds to buy a second machine to expand the production; to the advantage of our colleagues and the village as a whole.

A good start

A good start

So … in addition to the original advantages, it will become an income-generating programme, local young men gain employment and there will be (we hope) an improvement in the quality of homes in the village. If things go to plan, the benefits will go well beyond what we had anticipated.

There is much to do before this can be brought to fruition and only time will tell how far it will progress. But there is now hope where formerly there was very little.

 

Keeping the dream alive

The ultimate intention is to help the schools and their communities become independent of outside help; both successful and self-sufficient. The struggle to raise funds to allow this to happen is a perennial one.

The heart tree

The heart tree

Here is one small and innovative idea that our supporters at Westwood Primary School in Lancashire came up with. For St Valentine’s Day, people  were invited to buy and dedicate a heart for 20p. This was then attached to the “heart tree” in the library.

What a great idea to raise valuable funds. Has anyone else got a bright idea? We need you. Please.

Reading for Pleasure in the villages

Where do ideas that can potentially change things for the better come from? In this case it was an unexpected suggestion from one of our generous sponsors that got things under way. Supporters often ask me, “What would be an appropriate gift to offer” to their Ugandan child. On this occasion there was a different approach, and question was; “Is it possible to buy a reading book for my boy and maybe a few more to share with his classmates?”

 It was as simple as that.

 The schools have very few books. Most lessons are copied from the blackboard.

The schools have very few books. Most lessons are copied from the blackboard.

Experience has taught me that there are few young Ugandans who see reading as something that you do for pleasure. I have spoken to several, including intelligent, well-educated men and women, who have told me that you only read to pass exams or to learn about what is going on in the world. It is a practical thing, an educational necessity, not a leisure activity, not a way to relax. Far too few possess a reading for pleasure attitude. It is not central to the culture.

In many way, especially among the poor, that is not surprising. When you have mouths to feed and insufficient means to do it, spending money on books is hardly a priority. Filling the belly is.

So ….. when the simple question had been put, the seed had been planted. Several other sponsors have now volunteered to participate and have provided funds for us to get under way. Westwood Primary School in Lancashire (England), a partner school with Bulumbu and Bubebbere, is also taking part. That is more than welcome, it is truly appropriate.

And where better to make a start on changing this than among some of the younger children in the classes where that particular child is a pupil? We can build up from there.

 

A mother helps the children with their work.

A mother helps the children with their work.

It will not be easy to make it work, but our Ugandan friends are happy to make the effort to get a reading for pleasure club under way at the beginning of the new school year in 2016. Teaching staff will need to be brought on board and we need to explore the best way to store the books.

We have sent the first, small amount of money to enable our colleagues to buy the first few volumes. We shall send more in January. Perhaps in time we shall be able to build a reading or book room. The idea is also to include stories from the oral tradition and to encourage story writing, but we must start small. As the saying goes, “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.”

What a wonderful Christmas present; one that may be able to change the attitudes and potential of a generation of Ugandan village children. The gift of reading. Truly a gift for life.

With acknowledgements to Sasha Salmina.

With acknowledgements to Sasha Salmina.

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

President’s Report for 2014

It is fair to say that our progress in 2014 was solid rather than spectacular, but that is not to denigrate what we have done. That could not be so when we were able to complete our biggest and most expensive project in all the years that we have been supporting our Ugandan colleagues. I refer, of course, to the construction of the school hall at Bubebbere which was completed at the end of the year with considerable support from the Region of
Haute-Normandie.

The hall at Bubebbere approaching completion

The hall at Bubebbere approaching completion

Some years ago we initiated a small revolution in the village with the introduction of electricity by means of a solar panel in the orphanage. We have now continued that process by
their installation in the new hall. This will expand the possibilities for everybody. Not only will it benefit the staff and orphans but also the school as a whole. In addition it will be a considerable asset to the whole community which until now has had nowhere (apart from outdoors) to meet.

Ready for use

Ready for use

I should also like to take this opportunity to offer sincere gratitude to a charitable Foundation based in Kampala which over many years now has supported our work. Although our contacts have requested anonymity, that must not stop us saying: “Thank you enormously for your help. It is truly appreciated and valued. We should have achieved far less without you”. The Foundation has financed the three classrooms at Bulumbu and is now helping with the fourth one which is currently under construction. It has supported us with fees to train the young women taking courses in early childhood education at the Nangabo Vocational Institute, as well as with another project for 2015 which I shall talk about later.

Work is under way on the 4th classroom at Bulumbu

Work is under way on the 4th classroom at Bulumbu

Back in Europe.

The sponsorship project has some 90 supporters. My pleasure in how this has been such a success must not mask the enormous amount of time it takes, both for us and for
Berna Senyonga in Uganda, to keep things personalised for the sponsors. I believe the effort is well worthwhile. The whole thing has also become much more complicated to operate. In the early days it was straight-forward enough; it was the same fees for all of the children as they were all in primary school. Now we have secondary school children, youngsters on vocational courses and the young women in training. Of course that requires a whole range of different fees. I thank all the sponsors who have accepted extra costs as well as others who voluntarily, without any prompting, pay more than we ask.

The sponsored secondary school students at Nsaggu

The sponsored secondary school students at Nsaggu

Perhaps now is a good moment to repeat that we have the cheapest sponsorship scheme available anywhere, thanks to the voluntary work performed in both countries.

Lilian with the dolls sent by her sponsor

Lilian with the dolls sent by her sponsor

Our Blog has now established itself, both in French and in English. As well as being a means of keeping supporters up-to-date with our activities, it has helped them to understand the
difficulties of everyday life in the villages. May I pick out two recent examples? Many people were shocked by the dangers of jiggers. The result was twofold; some sponsors decided to buy shoes for their children and others offered second-hand pairs for the benefit of the children in general. Then the piece on the problems of water supply brought in a number of donations to enable us to make more progress with our plans. Many thanks to Martine Acoulon for her support in making the Blog a success. On a more everyday basis, we can use Facebook for communications but as many people do not use that site, it is of more limited value.

The Balade Contée in the sculpture gardens at the Château of Bois-Guilbert by Friends of Uganda

The Balade Contée in the sculpture gardens at the Château of Bois-Guilbert (by Friends of Uganda)

Our 9th Balade Contée signalled a new departure. Instead of the wander around the highways and byways of a local village, we strolled through the beautiful statue gardens of Jean-Marc de Pas at the Château of Bois-Guilbert. We were blessed with beautiful end of September weather and the event was a tremendous success. Our thanks go out to everybody who helped in this: Jeane Charionet-Herrington and all of the story-tellers, donors of prizes and refreshments, as well as to the participants and not least to the De Pas family for their welcome.

The sales of Ugandan crafts continued to help our income stream. Although we sold on fewer occasions than usual, both the Balade Contée and most particularly the support from Céline
Romano meant that it remained an important source of revenue to help the Ugandan children in need.

This little girl is the future. Help us to keep her smiling.

           This little girl is the future. Help us to keep her smiling!

Thank you to everybody who has supported us in the past year. We now look forward to the challenges of 2015.

Keith Mills

March 2015