Reporting by ChildFund Uganda
Jesca ate better this year. The eight-year-old, who lives in Uganda’s Busia, Buyengo community, had suffered from malnutrition. But she began to flourish after her family received maize seeds from ChildFund’s Gifts of Love & Hope catalog.
The family of nine – Jesca has four brothers and two sisters – had been scraping by. The father and mother struggled as subsistence farmers, barely growing enough to eat.
Jesca’s mother couldn’t stop smiling as she looked at the maize she had been given to plant. “This is the beginning of my new life,” she remarked. Jesca was also happy since her mother kept telling her that the maize had been given to the family because of her enrollment in ChildFund’s programs.
In addition to providing the seed, ChildFund also trained the family in modern farming techniques to increase crop yield. So not only is this gift improving the children’s nutrition, the additional outputs are also boosting the family’s income, as they now have surplus maize to sell.
With the initial proceeds Jesca’s parents have bought other seeds, including ground nuts (peanuts) and eggplant. And, for the first time, they’re been able to acquire other basic necessities like salt, sugar and soap as well as books and school uniforms for Jesca and her siblings.
“I would like to wear good clothes and shoes, eat good food and sleep on a soft bed like the children of the rich men in our village,” Jesca confided, pointing to her bed made of reeds. “I would also like to speak good English like teacher.” She dreams of one day working in the medical field.
That dream doesn’t seem as far away as it did last year. Jesca’s parents have attended additional ChildFund training sessions to learn how to improve their family savings and to plan better for the future. It’s been a remarkable year of improvements in health, education and livelihood prospects. And it all began with a simple gift of seeds.
Will you help change another child’s life?
Guest post by Ivan, a child enrolled in ChildFund’s Uganda programs
I live in the Yelekeni community in Uganda’s Masindi area. I am 11 and in form six at school.
My community is found in the mid-western part of Uganda. Our area is blessed with a good climate that favours agriculture so much that we have two growing seasons in a year. The most stable foods are beans and maize.
By culture, I am Acholi, and being a boy we spend most of our time hunting for wild animals during dry season and making evening fire for the elders. Girls are responsible for collecting firewood, cooking and grinding grains, using our local grinding stones.
During birth, according to my culture, baby boys spend three days in the house and girls spend four without being brought out. On the day of bringing the baby out, a small party is held for naming the baby. The name is given by the elders.
During burials, men are not seen to be crying. And it is men who participate mostly in the burial exercise. During marriage, it is the men who take the dowry to the bridegroom’s family.
For a child in my community, one has to wake up and groom in the morning, sweep the compound, brush your teeth, wash your face and dress up for school. During weekends and holidays, we wake up at 6 a.m., go to the garden to either dig, weed or harvest crops, then come home at 2 p.m. From 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., we play football.
Some families have just one meal in a day, which is in the evening.
At 7 p.m., we bathe and then go to sleep.
Thanks so much for sharing with you my story, and greetings from Masindi area.
Interview by Henry Bazibu, Sponsor Relations Officer, ChildFund Uganda
My name is Grace Mwagale. I am 33 years old. I work as a records officer at a government hospital in Uganda and earn a salary, which helps me provide for my family of three. I feel very proud that my children sleep on a bed, have three meals a day and have decent clothes to wear. Since I work at the hospital, I can also afford medical services for them.
I come from a poor background, and being an orphan from a young age only made my situation worse. I grew up in Lukone village near the St. Mulumba Family Helper project, which was affiliated with ChildFund.
Before I was sponsored, I stayed in a grass-thatched, pole-and-mud house with my siblings, and slept on papyrus reeds for a mattress. I wore no shoes and my dresses were tattered. I had no scholastic materials and didn’t like school much because I felt inferior to the other children. Most of them laughed at my tattered clothes and my little heart was in pain. I started receiving sponsorship in 1984 when I was seven years old.
While I was a sponsored child, I received counseling from social workers, which helped to build my self-esteem. In addition, I received school fees and gifts, and my family received cows and goats for rearing.
The animals multiplied and we sold some and used the proceeds to construct a small permanent house. Living in a permanent house felt so good. We were not worried any more that rain would fall through the roof and ruin our few earthly possessions, and we stopped counting the stars in the sky through the holes in the grass-thatched roof. It really felt great. I felt challenged to read hard and pass my exams, and never to let down my sponsors who had given me so much.
by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager
Procter & Gamble, developer of the PUR water filtration system, has partnered with ChildFund to provide a year’s worth of PUR water purification sachets to 1,000 households in Uganda’s Luwero district.
The distribution of PUR sachets (365 per household) and water purification sets will provide safe drinking water to families living with HIV/AIDS. Additionally, ChildFund, working through trained community health volunteers, will educate families on the importance of proper hygiene, steps they can take to prevent diarrhea and how to recognize the danger signs of diarrhea that require prompt medical attention.
Approximately 1,000 households (5,000 to 6,000 people) living with HIV/AIDS will now have a reliable source of clean water. The PUR water filtration system, developed in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provides a simple means of purifying dirty water in an affordable and convenient way.
Greg Allgood, with Procter & Gamble, recently visited the ChildFund community in Uganda, providing this firsthand blog.
Nearly 1 billion people lack access to clean water, which causes hardship, disease and death.
The impact on children is particularly tragic. Each year 1.4 million die as a result of diarrhea, according to the World Health Organization. Most cases of diarrhea are attributable to polluted water and poor sanitation.
In 2009, ChildFund Zambia pilot tested the “Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Improvement Training Package for the Prevention of Diarrheal Disease” developed by USAID. The goal was to get more field staff up to speed on
“The WASH program is classic evidence-based best practice that we want our projects to adopt and use worldwide,” says David Shanklin, senior health specialist for ChildFund.
When applied in school settings, WASH interventions—including gender-specific sanitation facilities, hygiene education and safe drinking water—support child health, which furthers educational access and attainment.
The way up and out of poverty can begin with a reliable source of clean water, good hygiene and sanitation. It’s a powerful concept and worthy of our ongoing support so that children can thrive.
Every year, a unique cattle roundup takes place in Soroti, Uganda. But instead of an auction, there is a community celebration of sharing a valuable resource with those less fortunate.
Partners for Children Worldwide, the ChildFund-supported federation in the Teso Subregion, works with the Acowa community to provide heifers to families of orphaned and HIV/AIDS-affected children. Since 1997, community members have shared 816 head of cattle with those most in need.
This year, 27 families received heifers, which provide nutritional milk for the family and manure to improve agricultural yields. Surplus crops mean extra income for families who have been struggling to survive. Owning a heifer is the fulfillment of a long-held wish for food and income security.
As a result of the heifer-sharing program, household incomes in the Acowa Community are gradually increasing. The Cattle Dispersal Committee is working to reach more families every year. As milk production increases, the committee envisions forming a community co-op to market and sell surplus milk to other communities.
More than 1 billion people in 190 countries are participating in activities to mark the 40th anniversary of Earth Day today and this week.
Those living with the fewest personal resources in developing nations often bear the brunt of environmental disruptions — severe drought, water scarcity, extreme flooding, erosion and food shortages.
The natural environment faces many challenges, yet it is the cumulative effect of many small efforts by individuals and organizations that adds up to larger progress to sustain the planet and its people.
Here are four positive things we’re doing through ChildFund:
> Solar panels at the Kokwa Island school in Kenya: This girl’s boarding school in the Lake Baringo community has installed four solar panels to deliver electricity to eight classrooms, two dormitories, a staff room, kitchen and dining hall. By harnessing the sun, “children are now able to have longer study periods in the evenings, between 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., and again in the early morning hours, between 5 a.m. and 6:30 a.m.,” reports Jackie Mollel of ChildFund Kenya.
> Eco-friendly stoves in Uganda: Confronting severe poverty often means thinking creatively while keeping the environment in mind. The introduction of energy-saving stoves in Uganda’s Wattuga Subcounty is creating manufacturing jobs, and it’s changing cooking practices. Families in Wattuga have typically cooked on open fires, using considerable amounts of firewood. The eco-friendly stoves hold heat, reducing the amount of wood needed to cook, and they produce less smoke than an open fire.
> Tree planting in Kenya: The widespread cutting of trees for fuel and construction is a leading cause of environmental degradation in eastern Africa. ChildFund Kenya has launched a major tree-planting initiative involving children, youth and communities in reforestation. For example, the Wamunyu Breakthrough Youth Group has started a tree nursery, growing and then selling tree seedlings. Proceeds from the tree nursery have helped fund the group’s efforts to address unemployment issues among youth through vocational skills training programs.
> Growing food locally in Guatemala: A collaboration between ChildFund and the Family Parents Association of Kajih-Jel of Tecpan, Guatemala, is producing a bounty of tomatoes through efficient growing techniques. Bypassing costly traditional greenhouse structures, ChildFund and Family Parents Association opted for an alternative method known as the “macro tunnel.” Shallow dirt canals are dug into the soil to use as walkways, and slopes between the canals act as elevated planting beds. The tunnels are then covered with a tarp in the same dome-style fashion as larger greenhouses. Not only are the tunnels more cost efficient in technique, they also yield a better harvest for tomatoes based on climate and weather conditions.
ChildFund International’s commemoration of World AIDS Day continues with an interview with Ruth Nateleela, who is living with HIV/AIDS in Kireka, a township in south-central Uganda. She is receiving care and support from ChildFund and its program partners. Sheila Birungi, ChildFund Uganda project affiliate, conducted the interview.
Are you able to work, and, if so, what type of work do you do?
Yes, but right now I am not working since I have just given birth. However, before I was doing petty trade, selling charcoal and other consumables like tomatoes and onions.
Do you have children? How does this affect your outlook on the future?
I have four children. I know the future of myself and the children is bright because my child who is HIV-positive is taking ARVs (anti-retrovirals), and they told me that she can live as long as the drugs are taken well. I am also taking my drugs well. For the youngest child of three months, I was given PMTCT (prevention of mother to child transmission) capsules, and the doctors told me that that she will be fine.
How long have you lived with this disease?
I knew three years ago.
What education have you received?
I was first told that if you test your blood you will be able to know your status. After that, I went to ChildFund offices at the Kireka project and tested the first time. They told me that I was HIV positive and I did not believe, but I went to Mildmay Centre and they told me the same thing.
When I went, they told us on how to eat and about using condoms. They also told me to tell the doctors that I am pregnant since they have to take care of the baby such that she does not contract the disease.
How have ChildFund programs helped you?
ChildFund’s Kireka project is the one that gave me light on everything. I would be even dead by now if it was not for the project. They gave me access to the blood test. They also [referred] me to Mildmay, and now they are the ones who come to remind me on how to take my drugs. They have been giving food to my child for a long time — the one who is HIV-positive — and taking her to their centre to play. Mrs. Sseruwaji Nuru [home-based volunteer] is very instrumental to me. I ask God to bless her because she made me regain my life and I must say thank you to ChildFund.
As a person living with HIV/AIDS do you feel accepted? And do you feel safe?
Yes I am. Why are you shaking my hands? It’s because you do not discriminate against me, and I am not any differently treated in the community. I am so happy about life generally, and I don’t have any problem.
How is this disease affecting the community in which you live?
People are very sick, but the good thing is that now no one can laugh at any one with HIV. Actually, these days, people share a lot about the experiences, and they even direct each other to the service centres.
Do you thing HIV prevention, treatment, care and support is a critical part of human rights?
Yes, because we are all the same people in front of God. So if I have HIV, it does not mean that because you do not that there is a difference in terms of human rights.
What are your goals for the future? What are your dreams?
To have good family and to be able to bring up all my children and educate them all.
Any details you would like to share with others about HIV/AIDS and the people like you who have it?
I just want to tell them that HIV is real and to always test themselves because that’s the beginning of life. For my friends who have it, they need to care about themselves and this can only be done when you meet all the necessary people, like organizations, and make friends through telling them your status.
ChildFund International programs provide care and support to thousands of parents and children affected by HIV/AIDS. Our commemoration of World AIDS Day continues with an interview with Sseruwaji Nuru, a home-based care volunteer who is HIV-positive and working with others living with HIV/AIDS in the Kampala area. Sheila Birungi, a ChildFund Uganda project affiliate, conducted the interview.
How long have you been working with HIV/AIDS patients?
Since 2002 when ChildFund trained us as volunteers in home-based care (HBC).
How did you come to be in this field work?
We were selected by team of staff as the people to train in HBC, and I accepted.
What are your principal job responsibilities?
The major one is to keep confidentiality for our clients and also to [treat] all the clients as an individual. They are not the same and they should be treated in different ways. Recordkeeping is also another thing to keep in control because we are handling a lot of information, especially on adherence to ARVs (anti-retroviral drugs). And we, therefore, have to stress the times when the drugs are taken and the progress.
Where do you work?
I see the patients at the home and make sure that they get the drugs they have to receive.
What is your case load?
I have up to 28 clients; however, in every month the numbers have to change because of the different migrations out of most of the members. On the days I work, I see about four patients every day, especially if I do not have a lot of my own work. On a weekly basis, I can have 8 to 10 of them.
What is your key area in working with someone with HIV/AIDS?
Disclosure first. Stigma reduction. Nutrition and adherence to ARVs.
What are the day-to-day lives like for the patients with HIV/AIDS?
They have time for joy and they can be sorrowful at times. The work they do depends on how well they are, and they can sometimes be rude to the family member. The time without good meals is very bad, especially because of the drugs they take. Sometimes the day can be bad if they have demands for money, for example, house rent and other domestic needs for their families and also school fees.
What progress have you seen with HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment since you’ve been working in this area?
People are no longer stigmatized, and they are positively living with it. Many people are now able to live longer and with healthy families. Also, the installation of hope in whatever they are doing.
Are people better educated in prevention than before?
Yes, and very much better lives realized.