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Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas 2010

As we come to end of 2010 this blog sends the very best wishes from the HUGs Trustees in UK and the teams in Mubende and Fort Portal. Supporters are making a real difference to the lives and the futures of our special needs children at Good Shepherd and the children of St Zoe's near Mubende.

We start 2011 with finishing a new class room at Good Shepherd and plan to fund a vehicle during the year.This will allow Sister Thesesa to extend her work to the families who live in the region near to Fort Portal.
The school cow had a new calf in December and he has been named Bruno.

At St Zoes the second classroom for the secondary school, the vocational institute, a major primary school refurbishment, extended water harvesting and new sports fields and equipment are all starting to be built so it is going to be a very busy year. Many of the earliest pupils have now gone on the University, a few to further vocational education or to practical jobs in the community. The plans for the campus will allow many more to gain really valuable education and training for the future.

Rebecca and Naomi in the foundation trench for the new buildings.

Our Director, Andrew, is taking a leading role in developing the use of biogas systems in Uganda and our Ugandan Charity which is called Kagoma Educational Development Organisation, has just been asked by Ugandan authorities to train and lead the creation of 100 biogas systems on 5 regions of Uganda. The income from this venture will of course go to support the schools. St Zoe's is becoming a national training centre for this work and creating fuel from waste and not by cutting down forest is of great importance.

Monday, 13 December 2010

End of Term at St Zoes

Rebecca and Naomi who are volunteering at St. Zoes's sent this end of term report.

In the last blog, I mentioned that the Primary 7 children were in preparation for their Primary Leaving Examinations which the students said went very well. At the end of their last day of exams they all arrived back from the examination centre on the back of a pick up truck waving little white paper hats. All the Primary School cheered them as they arrived and they celebrated the end of term with a leaving party which Naomi and I attended. The next day they all departed after giving each other lots of sweets, I got some tasty humbug type sweets so was rather happy!

On the week of the 15th, it was the Secondary School exams at St Zoe, the previous week I had given endless revision exercises and continuously given questions in Prep. Mathematics in the Secondary section is a subject that is performed weakly, so after poor mid-term results I was really hoping for some improvement. I had worked mostly with Senior 1 and 2 students, so as I waited in the staff room for them to finish their papers so I could mark them, I genuinely felt nervous! Thankfully the student’s hard work paid off and there was a great improvement in their results. In Senior 1, almost all the students passed with 55% or above and in Senior 2 half the class passed with 50% or above, a huge improvement on the 3 that passed in the mid terms. I was particularly impressed with Robert in Senior 1 who got 69 out of 70 and Frederick in Senior 2 who came from being at the bottom of the class in Maths in the mid term exam to 3rd highest; both of these students (who are brothers) worked really hard to get their result, so I treated them both to a pack of Coca Cola playing cards. Across all the subjects the end of term exams went well with improvement in many of the subjects and all students have been promoted to the next year. The Director has also come up with a very good idea; he has decided that those students who get a 70% or above average in their end of term exams, can receive a school fees bursary for next term. If they can maintain the required percentage each term then they will continue to get the bursary. This term 5 children achieved the percentage required; from Senior 1, Michael, Happy and Oliver and from Senior 2, Bruno and George William. All 5 of these children are not only naturally intelligent but also work tirelessly to achieve their grades, always complete their homework first and give themselves extra work. Both Bruno and Oliver are from the same family and are also day scholars, their family works hard to fund their school fees so the bursary will greatly help. I think the bursaries are a fantastic idea as not only does it reward those students that work extra hard, but it also encourages healthy competition between students and a very good incentive to make them perform to their best ability.

During the last week of term the students relax and get ready to leave for the holidays. A sports gala was held in which the classes competed against each other in netball, football and volleyball. The girl’s football match was particularly amusing with literally all the girls legging it after the football, screaming from one side of the pitch to the other! The day before the students left Naomi and I organised an end of term dance for the Secondary students; decorations included 70 balloons personally blown up by Naomi and I! All the students had a great time and of course Naomi and I had a good dance as well. The following day on Friday the 26th, the students received their reports and then departed via various modes of transport, most on bodabodas with their huge tin suitcases and mattresses strapped on the back! In the evening Naomi and I went back to school and it was so strange to see an empty school-we wanted the students back.

On Saturday was the Get Together Party for both the Primary and Secondary staff members of St Zoe; there were also invited guests which included parents and other directors of the school. This was a full day occasion comprising of a speech from the Director and a speech from Master Lauben and Master Tamukedde with their end of term reports for the Primary and Secondary sections. Their was also a speech reviewing the ‘Think tank workshop’, this was very interesting to here about and was very productive in its aims to improve the school, addressing problems such as litter around the school and over-crowding in the dormitories. We then got a special lunch all prepared by staff members, Naomi and I played our part- first witnessing the slaughtering, skinning and then cutting of 2 goats, I then used my farmer background to chop chickens into 8 or so pieces-my mum (who is a butcher) would be very proud! The lunch was really delicious and everyone had humungous plates full, there was also a selection of sodas and beers. After a very hunger satisfying lunch, the non-teaching staff members held the equivalent of a secret santa-this was a really fun event with each member dancing around with their present before giving their gift and then they would dance together. It was really joyous and everyone had a right good time clapping along to the music. After that we had a small dinner sat outside in the school gardens, which was also very tasty. Then there were lots of photos taken and finally a dance until very late. The day was really lovely and the staff had put a lot of hard work into making the occasion special, it was nice to see interactions between the staff members of Primary and Secondary. I feel that this kind of interaction between both schools will lead to better co-operation in the future, which is how it should be. The event was a brilliant way to end the term.

So now all the students have left and the teachers are departing back home swiftly for Christmas, although we are still a little in disbelief that it is nearly Christmas with the sun shining away as brightly as ever. The school is very empty although this afternoon I witnessed a match between the locals on the school pitch, there were men in brightly coloured shirts everywhere. They were using the football given to them by the school for the work that they have done in clearing the weeds across the school, which was good to see-they do love their football in Uganda!

Tomorrow Naomi and I are heading off to Kampala and then Rwanda as we need to renew our visas by the 3rd, otherwise we will be highly illegal. Aside form the goings on at St Zoe the main event in Uganda at the moment is the forthcoming elections which is creating a buzz across the country. Every available space in Kampala has been taken by candidate posters! That is all for now, I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

 Best Wishes

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Some stories about Good Shepherd Special Needs Children

Sr. Theresa send these stories about some of the children at Good Shepherd school

Derick is a boy aged 13 years; He is in primary four class.  He likes playing foot ball and is like a professional goal keeper, and even the teachers are proud of him! He also like running around, helping everybody who needs help.  He also likes drawing funny pictures.  In the class he can concentrate for few minutes the rest of the time will be disturbing others, but when given individual attention, using sign language and a variety of learning aids after which he can really concentrate. 
The story of his life is not all that good because he has some impairments that is Speech and Hearing (totally deaf) but doing very well in his studies when given individual attention.  His parents neglected him since Child hood until Good Shepherd was put in place, now He is happy and enjoys the whole environment of the school. 
He is very good in sports and football and art
He is very good in keeping time
Has Team Spirit and friendly 
Sweeping the class

Sharon 10 year old girl, She is in primary two class.  She has visual impairment (partially blind), and with Intellectual impairment.  She likes running around and playing net ball.  She stays with her Aunt who cannot meet her needs at all, as a school struggle to meet her needs because her parents run and leave her behind alone.

She learns very well when given special attention with a variety of learning aids
She likes sweeping the class all the time even if not instructed
Likes the School very much that’s why She cleans all the time

She is very shy but sociable
She is very hot tempered when frustrated

Bob is 6 years of old he is in Nursery class.  He has severe intellectual impairment, he lives with parents who are very poor who cannot afford paying school fees and other needs.   He is always punctual and attentive in class, but very slow in areas like learning, playing, associating with his fellow learners and sharing material things in class and outside class.  Apart from the above mentioned, Bob is also a stubborn boy who doesn’t like or respond to teachers’ instructions, sometimes violent whereby he needs to calm him down with calming tactics in a calming room!  He behaves like an adult person by not wanting to be directed and helped whenever he is in difficulties.  So he needs special attention, and persuasive tongue.

Written by Sr. Theresa Abigaba

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Future plans for St. Zoe's

St Zoe's school campus at Kagoma is the location of our biggest projects and is about 4 hours to the west of Kampala. This year has been one of great change as we formed the Ugandan NGO called Kagoma Educational Development Organisation which is a legally constituted charity with Trustees who are professional friends of the work together with parents and villagers.
During 2010 a number of new initiatives in both UK and Germany have resulted in the Ugandan team to be able to start a really important set of new works.

Preparing a new garden near the primary school

Primary School refurbishment was started with very generous UK donation about 18 months ago and this let us make a start. But in the middle of the year the German parishes who also support this work have committed to raise the money to complete this work over the next 2 years. This will improve class rooms, roads and paths and school access and gardens.

Brick making machine which will help to create good paths and roads on site

Water supply at St Zoe's was developed a few years ago thanks to the Bishop family donations and fund raising. But as the school and site numbers grew and the changes in weather hit Uganda there was a real shortage of water last year. With a school pick up truck we were able to travel some distance and purchase water but this is a poor solution. We have just let a contract to enhance all the site water harvesting opportunities by fitting guttering and storage to all building and this should be complete by January 2011.

The secondary school with 72 pupils now has one 3000 square metre 4 room building. We have now raised enough money to start a second similar building and the work will start in December this year. This will allow us to cover 6 years classes.

The first secondary school building with the Director and teaching staff 

Sport is really important for children and thanks to Matt Houghton and his Engage for Africa project we have been able to fund the local farmers and parents to spent time creating proper sports fields for football, basketball, and athletics and these are being built now. Bit also we have been able to fund a very wide range of sport equipment.
"Girls don't ride bicycles" is the cultural norm".  Our local team said "why?"

So they have purchased 3 girls bicycles and the excitement and joy for the girls was amazing. "Now we can ride too."

Our two 12 month volunteers, Rebecca and Naomi taught the girls to ride.

The Kagoma Vocational Skills Institute is the  really big venture which will take a number of years but which could really help to transform the lives of the local people. The Institute which is on the 80 acre site will be run separately from the schools and will over time provide a wide range of skills needed by the children and adults to help them get or create real jobs. We start this building work in December also and the first skill areas will be tailoring, building and wood work, tropical agriculture, book keeping and domestic skills.
We plan to engage with the local communities to make sure that the skills chosen are those most needed for the future.
More about this project on later postings.

But is is nice to hear what Happy Kukunda has to say about this;

And maybe Happy could be a doctor one day. We are already sponsoring a medical student at University in Gulu and she is in her second year.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Trustee message to Rebecca


Thank you for the lovely letter and Pics. You gave a superb account of what is going on at St Zoes and of the tremendous progress that has been made since I was there in 2006. Attached are pics taken during the visit of my grandchildren, James and Melissa enjoying football and netball at the School. I found you blog quite inspirational. Thank you.
Bob Blundell

I have some pictures of my grand children playing at St Zoe's in 2006

Volunteering at St Zoe's

Rebecca Nixon and Naomi Perryman volunteered through Project Trust to spend a year at St Zoe's schools which are about 3 from Kampala Uganda. Here is Rebecca's report on the first two months.

Firstly let me talk about the teaching; the secondary school children are all very welcoming and friendly and keen to learn new things. Their English is of high standards and although at first my farmer accent posed several problems, I can now have a proper conversation with all of them talking at a normal speed. I was surprised at the high level at which they are studying, with topics I studied at A Level being covered in S3- Year 9 equivalent! In fact I have found that there is a high standard in all subjects covered throughout the curriculum. In general the students find Mathematics very challenging, so I am trying my best to improve their understanding through attending prep every night, where I am able to work with students on a more individual basis. I have literally gone to the extent of teaching Algebra in my sleep, much to Naomi’s horror! I have also taught Primary 7 several times, who finished their Primary Leaving Examinations last week. They were a very intelligent and eager class so I hope to see lots of them in S1 next year; they have also encouraged me to become more involved in the Primary section in the new academic year.

Extra curricular activities in the School are very popular with children across both Primary and Secondary taking part. Recently new sports equipment has been purchased, including javelin, discus, shot put, badminton sets, footballs and netballs. After school the children and teachers alike enjoy using the equipment encouraging interaction and of course physical exercise. It was lovely to see the Director in his suit coaching the boys in discus and shot put, using his athletic skills acquired from his primary days, to beat the boys throws. Three girls’ bikes have also been purchased and Naomi and I have spent time after school teaching the girls to ride bikes; of which I found slightly easier than Naomi- my 5ft11 height proving and advantage in supporting some of the slightly larger girls. It is really good to see the girls determined to learn something that every single boy in the school can do; one girl called Elizabeth, who is in Senior 3, initially thought learning to ride a bike would be easy and voiced this opinion quite loudly-she had a shock. However now, after a cut knee and endless practice, she can happily ride the bike and I have also seen her instructing the other girls-which is great.

The children also play netball and football after school frequently and I have played netball regularly, as it’s a good chance to spend time with the girls out of class and it also helps me from getting fatter on the Ugandan carb diet! On the 29th of October the only local government school called Kitenga, came to visit St Zoe for a football and netball match. The matches were held in the afternoon; it was amazing how many children appeared on bicycles and boda’s. The generator was brought out towards the netball pitch and music was blasted out whilst the matches were being played, much to the delight of the hundreds of dancing primary school children. The netball match started badly with the score at the end of the first half being 4-1, in the second half we played much better and the end score was 4-3 to Kitenga, so I was happy that the St Zoe girls had managed to pull back a couple of goals. The football match was much longer than the netball and we won 1-0, so that was good. The whole atmosphere of the afternoon was really friendly, with everyone enjoying themselves, spectating together and having a good old chat.

On the 17th of October there was visitation day, which is when the children get a visit from their parents or other family members and get their mid-term results. This was a really lovely day; the parents arrived bringing food and small gifts for their children and then sat in the shade and enjoyed each others company. Naomi and I were shocked to see so many people sat around the school on the grass, eating lunch. By mid-term the boarding students are starting to feel a bit home sick, so seeing their parents on visitation day perks them up again for the remaining half term. Depending on their mid-term results and what their parents have to say about them, it also encourages them to work harder for their end of term exams.

Other things that Naomi and I have taken part in since our arrival includes teaching the Sunday School Children the ‘Okey Kokey’, which was great fun. The teachers are not involved with Sunday School and it is solely run by some of the Secondary School students, -this kind of interaction between the Primary and Secondary section is encouraging to see and also develops level of responsibility and leadership skills within older students. These kinds of skills are very prominent within the secondary students, with different prefects in charge of a variety of areas such as Entertainment, Sports and Health and Sanitation. Each prefect has specific roles, which they take very seriously and carry them out dutifully. The entertainment minister is in charge of organization of events such as Talent shows, dances and has control of the DSTV remote. The DSTV not only provides the children with entertainment during the weekends, but is also used during weekday evenings to enable the children to watch the news. On the 30th of October Naomi and I attended our first Talent Show, which was highly entertaining. The Secondary and Primary school children took part in mimes, traditional dancing and comedy acts. Miming was a new experience for us both and is definitely a Ugandan thing. Our favorite act had to be the mime from Mutyaba  George William and Bonja Wasswa Peter; George William making his entrance to the mime riding a bicycle, wearing a flowery orange and white dress with silk ribbon, some particularly dazzling girls sunglasses and girls knee high lacy white socks as gloves up to is elbows! We were all in stitches. After the Talent show there was a dance, where students and teachers alike had a real good time.

This week is the last week before exams, so the students are studying hard in preparation. The following week is the Sports Gala where the new sports equipment will be put into good use and Naomi and I are organizing an end of term leaving dance to celebrate the end of exams.
St Zoe is a welcoming and well-organised school with a dedicated director who will continue to encourage development within the School. Naomi and I are thoroughly enjoying our time here and spend most of our time at school with the students. We are trying to be as helpful and productive as we can to the school during our time here and will try to keep you as updated as possible with school life.

Best Wishes from St Zoe, UGANDA 

Sunday, 7 November 2010

How the Batooro chose a partner

Good Shepherd School for Special Needs Children at Fort Portal is where the Batooro Tribe live.
 They are said to have broken off from the great kingdom of Bunyoro during the time of Omukama Kabalega. Kamurasi his brother rebelled and ran away forming a separate kingdom currently occupying mostly Kabarole and Kyenjojo district.
Traditionally before colonialism families used to choose marriage partners for their children. The girls had no say in deciding who to get married to. Parents through friends would identify a man who was looking for a woman to marry and request the parents of the girl to accept their proposal.
Both sides would sit to negotiate the dowry (which was usually cows) and all this would happen without the knowledge of the girl and her mother. After the bridegroom's side completed the payment of dowry then a date would be set when the girl would be taken.
A traditional suit (omutooro) would be prepared for the girl behind her back. Her paternal aunt and her mother would then be informed to prepare the girl. This was done through teaching the girl on how to manage her marriage. She was told things like 'you are ripe for marriage, a man has been identified to marry you and he has already paid dowry'. She was also told she could not refuse to get married to a man whom your clan has appreciated for you. She was also urged to be obedient and to implore to be clean both her personal hygiene and her home.
The bride to be was also taught to respect her in-laws as if they were here own parents. Also she was to be generous and share with her neighbors especially if she harvested before them. She was to give them part of her harvest. Most families were monogamous. It was prestigious for a man to have many wives and children. In some cases the young girl would get married as the second, third even fourth wife in the family. However the rest of the wives were expected to respect the first wife. In polygamous marriages all the wives and children and their husband would live, eat; dig, fetch firewood together, and the wives would cook in turns.
Upon the arrival of the first missionaries the Gospel was spread allover Uganda. Many were converted to Christianity and a large number of the Batooro are Catholics as well as Anglican. Islam is also a prominent religion. It is rare for people to get married in this traditional way. Currently when a young lady meets a lad and accepts his marriage proposal, she will tell her parents about him and with their approval arranges for an introduction ceremony. This is called okweranga where the bridegroom and his family officially visit the bride's home to meet the parents. These days even a certificate is given by the kingdom and the two have a valid African marriage. Although in many cases they later have a church or Islam ceremony.

The bride on the right-hand side and a friend who escorted her for the give away ceremony

The groom, second on the right hand side and his companions drinking milk from ebyanzi (jars) presented to them by the bride's family.

The bride is escorted by her friends before the guests from the groom's home.

 Bride and friends before guests so that the groom can publicly choose his bride.

The groom chooses his bride and gives her a special necklace as a token of his love and identification.

The groom asks the girls parents for permission to marry her and after he is accepted the girl gives her groom a flower.
Then the bride and groom signing a certificate from the kingdom.

Sent from my iPad but written by Doris Kahuura

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Uganda Local Government

This Blog entry was written by Doris Kahuura an undergraduate student lawyer and daughter of our friend Victoria who is Director of Education in Kabarole (Fort Portal)

 Currently Uganda has 111 districts with a couple of districts that have been tabled as new ones.
The local government operates under the principle of decentralization. This means that the central government passes on some of its powers to the local government. Some of the powers passed on to the local government include catering for education in the various districts, health services, planning of the towns, sanitation and so on. This passing on of powers is meant to enhance good governance and the principles of democracy. However this well intended law is yet again overlooked and misused as many laws in Uganda have been.

The local government has the power to make local laws (byelaws) and to enforce their implementation. This includes the making of local policy and regulating the delivery of services. Such services include education, sanitation and security. However these laws must be consistent with the constitution and any other laws that have been passed by parliament. So a bye-law proposed by the district or any other level of the local government cannot be passed if it fails this test. This legislative power is orderly. It must be forwarded to the minister and later certified incase of  inconsistencies. The minister with advice of the Attorney General is to return the ordinance within 90 days with his comments. A similar process is undertaken at the lower local governments.

Andrew with the elected leader at Kagoma 2004

Local government also has the authority to formulate development plans based on locally determined priorities. The administrative unit councils serve as the political units to advise on the planning and implementation of services. For instance it oversees the construction of roads and all other developments made have to go through the local government for approval.
The local governments also assist in the resolution of disputes, monitoring and the delivery of services and assist in the maintenance of law and order and security.
Finally it has the power to receive, raise, manage and allocate revenue through the approval and execution of its own budgets. Under the Constitution and the Local Government Act the local government is to have a local government finance commission which is to consist of seven members appointed by the president. Their duty is to advise the president on all matters concerning the distribution of revenue between the government (central government) and the local governments, consider and recommend to the president the potential sources of revenue, advise the local governments on the appropriate tax levels to be levied and perform other functions as the parliament may prescribe.

Written by Kahuura Doris Rusoke

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Save a small forest?

We had an idea which might both help to save a small forest and also perhaps be a fund raiser for our Uganda Schools.
Why do we send postcards to our friends when we are on holiday but when it comes to Christmas we send a much more fancy card in an envelope? What a waste of paper and of trees!
Could we design a new sort of Christmas card which was like a postcard but designed so that it could stand on a shelf.
Our great supporters the media company Taylor O'Brien once again came up with a great set of designs and we hope lots of supports will buy them.

They flyer is below and can be seen in larger format on our web site at www.helpingugandaschools.org
 Or please email if you would like to see a real sample.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

What happened in Lira?

A child goes missing, abducted, in the United States. The police are notified and they issue what in America is referred to as an Amber Alert. Radio stations begin broadcasting descriptions, while TV stations flash pictures of both the abductor and abducted across the screen. Billboards along major roads flash pertinent information regarding the abduction. The police move out in force with helicopters and planes and the Army National Guard may even be engaged. Everything is put into operation to bring a child home to its family. At the same time, they go after the abductor to put him behind bars, so she or he cannot harm any other child.

In another part of the world, on the other side of this globe, in the northern districts of Uganda, 30,000 children have been abducted in the past 20 some years. Alost every family in the Acholi and now Langi area has been affected. Many families have lost a child through abduction, or their village was attacked and destroyed, families burned out and/or killed, and harvests destroyed by an army of abducted children. The countryside is virtually empty and people have moved into safe villages. At night the children of the north flee into towns to sleep, fearing that they might be abducted. They find safety in numbers in towns such as Gulu where even the local bishops and ministers have joined them as they seek safety.

Lira, located 215 miles north of Kampala, was one of those sleepy towns in Africa where you could simply be. It hardly made the international news, and one of the few articles. Its claim to fame is that the former President Milton Obote had his home here, which you can still see, or what is left of it.

Thousands of children have been robbed of childhood and, in many cases, of life itself. Boys and girls are turned into ruthless killers who no longer feel, but are numbed within, and their souls have become seared by the atrocities they have seen and in which they have forced to participate.

My friend Richard with a little orphaned baby at Lira in May 2010

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Lira Babies and the LRA

Lira, a town of about 90,000 in the north of Uganda has become known throughout the world for the dreadful atrocities brought upon its children and families by Korny and his Lords Resistance Army and I will write more about this later.
Being close to the Sudan border it also became a home for many thousands of refugees from Darfur.
But it is also the home of a quite remarkable initiative called the Lira Babies Home.
It is an orphanage with a difference and is run by a Sister Demmy. In her words she says "the babies come to us after mothers die in pregnancy, they are unwanted and left on the garbage heap, their parents have HIV/Aids/ and maybe the parents or the mother is insane".

Right now they have 38 babies of whom 10 are HIV positive and most of these will die.

A local rich benefactor was supporting them but he had to stop because his resources ran out.

The thing that is special about the Lira Babies Home is that when the children reach about 3 years of age most of them are either returned to a relative or are adopted and as a result they not only get a better start in life but have the support of loving carers when they are tiny and then as they grow up.

The total annual cost of running the home is about £12,000 per year but right now they are really struggling for any money at all. We have some ideas about this and some of you might be interested in getting involved. Do let me know.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

The Nile

This posting is sent from the River Nile and I am overlooking one of it's branches in Cairo. We now know that one of the many tributaries which lead the Nile into the Mediterranean was probably where Moses escaped from the Pharoes when strong winds of around 65 miles per hour could have swept back the 6 foot deep waters for about 3 miles and allowed Moses to escape. The location is thought to be 65 miles north of Suez.

The Nile is over 6600 kilometres long and is the source of all the agriculture in most of Egypt. It powers the main hydro electric installation at Aswan providing much of Egypt's electricity. It does the same for Uganda at the hydro plant in Jinja which is still considered to be the source of the Nile. Recent thinking puts the source in Rwanda and actress Joanna Lumley went there for a BBC documentary. But surely any river entering Lake Victoria on it's southern banks could be called the source?
The Aswan Dams are really worth reading about and have successfully stopped the regular flooding of the Nile, created Lake Nasser which is now the largest source of fresh fish for Egypt but like many great projects it has brought some problems with silting up, water loss through evaporation and some new diseases to Egypt

Without the Nile we would not have had the Pyramids

Or the great Sphinx at Giza. How did she lose her nose? There are two theories. Wind and rain over a period of 6000 years is one. The other is the a religious zealot broke the nose because he was angry that local farmers were worshipping the Sphinx as a god and praying for rain. A bit like the Taliban blowing up Buddhist statues because they objected to their religion

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Water water everywhere but....

After some of the rain we had in Englnd recently it got me thinking about water in Uganda. You would think that with the second largest freshwater lake in the world there would be no shortage. But live up country things can be very different.
Uganda used to have fairly predictable dry and wet seasons but like much of the world this really seems to be changing and not for the better.
Our St Zoe's schools used to rely on a large and rather forbidding pond for all the water needs of perhaps 300 on the site during term time.

We brought a hydrologist from Kampala to carry out sonar exploration to see if it would we worth sinking a bore hole.
The answer was disappointing.
So with the help of Bob Bishop's family and other donors we funded a water harvesting system with capacity of 250,000 litres. This was enough to cover all the needs for the dry season.

But not any longer. Last year we had to use our truck to travel 12 kilometres to Mubende and purchase water from stand pumps.
So this year we are just starting a major enhancement costing £14000 and this will collect water and filter and store it.
I am writing this in Cairo, 6000 kilometres from the source of the Nile in Jinja, Uganda. This extraordinary river brings life to much of Uganda and all of Egypt and the 22 million people who live in Cairo.
It is no surprise that nations go to war over water.

We will say some more about water in later messages

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Doctors in Uganda

In England we have about 100,000 Doctors working in the NHS and with a population of 51 Million that works out at one doctor to every 510 people. In Uganda with a population of 32.3 million there are about 2600 doctors which is one doctor for every 12,500.
But it gets worse. Population is growing at 2.69% compound and when you add this population growth to the doctors who die or retire and then add on the 152 who will graduate this year the patients per doctor goes up to !2,800 a worsening of  2% every year.
Infant mortality is 65 per 1000 live births compared with our 4.85 which is bettered by many developed countries.
A new Medical School was opened at Gulu about 3 years ago and this makes 3 in the country but it is going to take a lot more to make a real difference.
Uganda has 32 Nursing Colleges but here the ratio of nurses per 1 Million  of population is only 60 whereas in England it is 7800 per million.
This represents a major problem worsened by the average nurse salary of less than £100 per month and a recent survey showing that 70% of Ugandan nurses are hoping or planning to leave the country to work in Europe or USA.
The NHS works hard to ensure that no recruitment is done in Uganda and many other Sub Saharan countries but sadly the same cannot be said for non NHS health organisations.

Lots of our HUGS supporters work in health and we decided about 2 years ago to sponsor a highly experienced practise nurse call Grace who has been working for some years dealing with maternity, HIV/Aids and Malaria among other things. She won a place in the University at Gulu and completed her first year training to become a doctor.
She is a very courageous Nun and loves playing football and netball with all the other students where she is the only Sister.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Erhard and Kilimanjaro

As a fund raiser to raise £10,000 to provide a vehicle for outreach at Good Shepherd, Erhard Paulat returned today from climbing Africa's highest mountain Kilimanjaro in Tanzania

This is a wonderful initiative and will be supported by lots of General Motors and Vauxhall dealers in the UK.
The vehicle will give our friends in Fort Portal the opportunity to visit the children and families with handicapped children and bring them teaching and support.
In Africa many children like these are totally neglected and thought of as worthless. Their lives can be helped enormously by quite small things.

 Well done Erhard.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Dance and Music

Children in Uganda really love to sing and dance and for we Europeans it is really quit a surprise to see how confident and uninhibited they can be.
One of the lasting memories you get when being welcomed at any Ugandan school is the entertainment. Wonderful singing by children with no fear or inhibition. This picture shows some of the children at Good Shepherd school for special needs children at Fort Portal.

The children who attend are not the most seriously disadvantaged or handicapped but all suffer from learning problems. In a normal Uganda primary school if any of these children were sent to school they would be in a class of sometimes 100 plus and no teacher could give then the special attention and help they need. Most would not be sent to school because parents who may have six other children often see it a real waste to money to send such children to school. If they do go then they are often bullied, a worldwide habit.
But now after Good Shepherd has been open for two years we can see some really incredible changes and parents have discovered new value in their children. 

Sent from my iPad

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Continuity for our schools

John Baptist and Charles, two of our KEDO Trustees

When we started the St Zoe school buildings back in 1998 we had no idea just how it would develop. A few acres of land and one building is now 80 plus acres and around 10 buildings with more to come.
Fifteen sponsored children at the start but the school and others we have been able to help have assisted well over 1000 children get a primary education and now starting both secondary and vocational training.
We decided that long term continuity is really important and for that reason all the assets and real estate in Uganda are being transferred to a newly registered Non Governmental Organisation (NGO)
The Trustees are being appointed andcare being chosen to bring strong professional cultural and local skills to the group.
In the early stages we recognize the need for top class skills in civil engineering and both Charles and John Baptist (in the photo) are top class professionals. Like all Trustees of charities they work for us unpaid.
The NGO is called Kagoma Educational Develoment Organisation. It now has it's own bank account and constitution.
Our Ugandan Trustees have proved invaluable in the design and tendering processes for our next 3 projects which I will cover in later blogs

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Mud huts to Brick buildings

Whenever we see TV programmes about Africa we so often see the traditional mud and wattle construction of peoples homes. But now you can travel across from Kampala to Fort Portal which is about 5 hours and the only ones you see are used for storage. People build brick and cement houses which are much better. But the downside of course is that there is a huge demand for bricks and for brick making. If they are made locally then the technique is to use a simple clay mould to make the brick, then dry it in the sunshine and finally build a sort of large igloo and light a fire inside it. 

William is keen to develop his skills and we have a machine at the school which lets him learn and make bricks much more quickly than the old hand method where a man can make about 400 in a day

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Cooking Biogas and the Forests

Sub Saharan Africa has a large population growth with ever increasing demand for fuel for cooking and heating. But people cannot just throw a switch and get electricity or turn a valve and get natural gas. They have to rely almost entirely upon wood and charcoal.
Charcoal is produced by driving off the water in wood by slow heating in the absence of air.
All over Uganda you will see people carrying huge sacks of charcoal and it is sold all along the main roads through the country.

This is resulting in a dangerous reduction in forest and the desert lands of the Sahara are moving south and taking over good farmland and dead forest regions.
One solution which has been used extensively in India and Pakistan is the use of methane gas for cooking. The methane, referred to as Biogas, is created naturally by the breakdown of vegetable and waste organic materials. The gas produced is about 75% methane and 20% carbon dioxide plus some other impurities. Untreated is cannot be used for fuelling motor cars but it can be used for cooking and for lighting.
Andrew Ssempiija Director of St Zoes has developed some real enthusiasm for this and with help from Makerere University he built the first school biogas plant on 2008.
It meant rebuilding all the school toilets so that this waste plus other animal waste can gravity fall into two underground concrete digester tanks.
The gas starts to be created very quickly and St Zoes is now able to provide enough for nearly all the cooking for over 500 people each day from biogas. There is no smell and and the other byproduct from the biogas plant is a very good fertiliser liquid.

This illustration gives a good idea of how it works.
One of the special skills courses which have already started at St Zoe is to teach local farmers how to build their own domestic biogas plants and already we have done about 6 of these. The benefits to the ecology are clear. But the benefits to the people are in not having to buy charcoal or kerosene which are huge benefits.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Engage for Africa

Engage for Africa is Matt Houghton's fund which is raising money to provide sport facilities at St Zoe's and later at Good Shepherd.
Matt ran football coaching during his visit in 2009 and this was a great success with all the boys and girls.
Matt's company is called The HQ Coaching Centre and they provide a very wide range of sport coaching in schools throughout Merseyside and Cheshire.
He collected many hundred football shirts and brought them with him for the children.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Homes for the teachers

St Zoe's Schools are about 12 kms from the nearest large town and we have 34 teachers and other staff. Many have moved to be near the school for their work. So this means that we have had to find some ways to help them with housing. It is also part of the way of life for many people to have what they call a "garden" and we would call a smallholding where they can gow domestic crops.
Over the years we have built some houses, have allowed teachers to build on our 80 acres of school land or have acquired some property as we have expanded the school land over the years.
The future plans include more staff accommodation as we grow the secondary and vocational schools and our school farming.
Lasr year we funded the purchase of about 5 acres and this traditional Uganda house came with the purchase. Brick houses are replacing this sort of mud and wattle construction and we might use it as a store.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Good Shepherd and Learning Disability

Good Shepherd School is the only Special Needs School of its kind in Fort Portal and in the whole of Western Region.  It started in September 2008 with 35 Children.  In 2009 the enrolment increased to 50 Children and 9 Teachers, then this year 2010, 72 Children have been admitted to the school aged 4 to 17 years, all with a learning difficulty, two with a hearing impairment, at least three with additional physical problems, one with epilepsy, down syndrome and one with visual difficulties. One of our UK Paediatricians does a formal assessment of their problems and needs every year. At the moment a School has six classrooms that is from Nursery up to primary five, then we have also a Vocational class for the Children who are 16 years and above, who have severe intellectual impairment that cannot cope with academic work.  
These Children are vulnerable to many misfortunes like sexual and drug abuse, when they stay redundant in villages.  The aim of this Vocational class is to equip Children with practical skills so that they can feel they are worth human beings and useful Citizens with a future.   

Monday, 2 August 2010

Career Aspirations

Happy Kukunda is one of our secondary school girls who lives near the school. She is keen to learn some new skills and if she has the ability and the opportunity then maybe one day she can become a doctor.

This is what she has to say;

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Skills and Jobs

All over the world the message is the same. Give me a skill or a trade and I can make a living. No skill and I have nothing to sell. I am abandoned!
We took a hard look at what are the really important skills which will give our boys and girls the confidence to make their way in the world.

For Uganda and for much of Africa the answer was very easy to find.

The population is rising fast. So people need houses  (building skills) they need food (modern high efficiency tropical agricultural skills and animal husbandry), they need clothes (garment making), they need heat and light (we have focused on Biogas) and they need health education.

These are the core skills which we aim to give our children and we know that they will make a really big impact.

The first Secondary school class room

We decided to start St. Zoes Secondary school during a visit in the summer of 2008. The groundbreaking was done during a visit in February 2009 and the building was completed in the Autumn.

This is our first building for the secondary school and it opened in September 2009.
We are planning to build two more more like this and also at least two special buildings for vocational skills teaching

Secondary Education at kagoma

Back in 2008 our Uganda Director, Andrew, carried out a survey of the children who has finished primary school in the 50 or so schools in the sub county.
He found that of the 700 or so who were qualified to go on to secondary schooling there was only one school in the area and it had 100 children in the first and subsequent classes. So there really was no opportunity for 600 plus children to get any form of secondary education.
We met with all the villagers and parents to discuss this and there was an overwhelming vote to make this the next big thing for St Zoe's. So in June 2008 we decided to support this.
Four days later we were informed that the villagers had already started to clear the site for s three class room building to start the secondary school.
The building work started in February 2009 and finished in August.
There are now 76 children attending and this year we start the next building.



Malaria kills many thousands of children in Africa every month and our children at Good Shepherd and at St Zoes have not escaped. In fact some have died.
So our supporters made a big effort this year and we managed to provide impregnated nets for all the 300 plus children who either attend our special needs school or who are staying as boarders at St Zoe's.
Sr. Theresa went out to many of the parents homes to teach them about mosquitos and how to minimise the risk as well as how to use the nets.