By Sharon Ishimwe, ChildFund Uganda
As we prepare to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, our posts for the remainder of the week are dedicated to the amazing girls and women we’ve encountered in ChildFund-supported communities. We honor their struggles and cheer their successes.
Without an education, Ugandan mother Justine could only dream of being employed. Her family of five depended entirely on her husband’s income from driving people on his motorcycle. And yet, his income was too low to cover all their needs: food, medical care, clothing, housing and the children’s education.
When Justine heard about ChildFund in 2007, she enrolled her daughter, who soon received a sponsor. For Justine’s family, this was the beginning of a new life.
An opportunity arose through ChildFund and a local partner organization for Justine to learn how to make clothes. “I knew it was my opportunity to acquire a skill that would get me out of my helplessness,” she says. After the training, Justine received sewing machines, which have helped her family’s income.
The mother of three now makes a living by sewing sweaters and school uniforms that she sells in her shop, as well as training other women to sew.
“In the beginning, I made the sweaters and sold them from my house, but I had very few buyers,” she recalls. “So I was determined to save and get a shop by the roadside, which has enabled me to sell more.”
The income from her shop has helped Justine’s family pay school fees and also have enough money left over for a plot of land and construction materials to build their own house. Justine has also helped her husband buy two more motorbikes, which he rents to other drivers and has increased the family’s income. She is the chairperson of the local home visitors committee, a program that sends volunteers to the homes of ChildFund-enrolled children to make sure they are healthy, studying and happy. As chairperson, Justine mobilizes and leads the team.
“ChildFund’s impact on my life is more than just my financial independence,” Justine says. “ChildFund has given me a confidence I would never have known. I can now comfortably speak before many people. I’m also able to relate to people better and with ease, which wasn’t the case before. Most of all, I now share ideas with my husband, which has enabled my family’s progress.”
By ChildFund Uganda staff
ChildFund and its local partners in Uganda made a concentrated effort to increase HIV and AIDS interventions in the past year, setting three primary objectives:
To effectively deliver quality HIV and AIDS programs to the target populations, ChildFund is taking an integrated approach to service delivery in Uganda. We are working within existing programs including maternal and child services, health care and immunization.
Last year, we made considerable progress toward those goals, including
Reporting by ChildFund staff in Kenya, Sierra Leone and Uganda
As we celebrate the Day of the Girl, ChildFund recognizes three young women who were empowered through programs that emphasized the importance of girls. In their youth, they were given opportunities to learn, grow and prosper. Today, we celebrate their accomplishments.
Wotay, 25, grew up in northern Sierra Leone. Despite the poor conditions of her community, she managed to finish both primary and secondary school. Wotay is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in accounting at Njala University.
In her youth, Wotay was always one of few girls to speak out on the problem of teenage pregnancy (often due to rape and incest) and other child abuse issues in her region.
Now, during her visits home, she continues to advocate and help children in her community, offering them advice and assisting them with writing letters to their sponsors. She also volunteers with ChildFund community partners and is an active public speaker. Although she has an interest in finance, Wotay is currently devoting much of her attention to youth development.
In Caroline’s family, school is viewed as being only for boys. As a result, it was difficult for her to access education as a young girl. It was also a common practice for girls to be circumcised. But a local school administrator was instrumental in preventing Caroline’s circumcision and also guided her to ChildFund’s Psychological Support and Care (PSS) trainings where Caroline gained key insights into the rights of women and children. That knowledge has given her drive and courage to pursue her academic goals.
Although now 20, Caroline is a thriving high school student in Kimalel Day Secondary School in Kenya’s Marigat District. She shares her experiences with other youth who are struggling to get an education. She has been instrumental in encouraging other girls to go to school and helping them understand their rights. Recently, her ideas around inclusion of girls were used to help ChildFund and its local partners map strategy for future community programs. Caroline’s efforts have also contributed to a noticeable reduction in regressive cultural practices in her community where education for girls is not highly valued.
When she finishes her education, she hopes to be a teacher and a community facilitator.
The Police Detective
Growing up in poverty, Christine, 24, was a shy and unhappy little girl who didn’t believe she was good enough to succeed. She often kept quiet and listened to other children speak – she thought they knew better and therefore had more right to be heard. That was before she was sponsored through ChildFund Uganda.
Fast forward a few years, and Christine is a confident, assertive, determined and independent police detective in the crime intelligence division. Christine describes ChildFund as the “miracle that changed her life.” She recalls the letters, greeting cards and gifts from her sponsor Hansen that helped motivate and encourage her to do her best.
When she became of age, Christine assumed responsibility for helping other children like her. She assisted with letter writing and contributed to programs for children in her impoverished community. Those experiences helped shape the leadership skills she uses in her current job.
Christine attributes her communications skills and the ability to love and give to her time with ChildFund Uganda. ”I am able to stand all challenges at work because of the trainings I was involved in,” she says. “I stand for what I believe in. I am not afraid; I am assertive and I know my rights!”
Christine hopes to continue giving back to her community by empowering children and wants to sponsor a child in the future.
Reporting from ChildFund Uganda
An outbreak of the Ebola virus, which has claimed the lives of at least 16 people in Uganda since late July, now appears to be under control, according to the World Health Organization.
Although the epicenter of the outbreak is in the Kibaale district, more than 230 suspected cases have been identified and are being monitored by the Ministry of Health. Although the bulk of these cases are in Kibaale and surrounding districts, a few are reported in three districts where ChildFund has operations: Kiboga, Amuria and Kampala. To date, there are no Ebola cases involving children and families in ChildFund’s program areas.
ChildFund Uganda, which has been monitoring the situation since the onset, mounted a response plan in Kiboga, which is closest to the epicenter. All other ChildFund programs are on alert, with preparedness plans in place, should the situation change.
Ebola hemorrhagic fever is a deadly disease caused by the Ebola virus first identified in Africa in the mid-1970s. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the incubation period for Ebola ranges from 2 to 21 days. The onset of illness is abrupt and is characterized by fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, sore throat, and weakness, followed by diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. A rash, red eyes, hiccups and internal and external bleeding may be seen in some patients. Up to 90 percent of people who are infected with Ebola die from it, according to the National Institutes of Health.
ChildFund is collaborating with Uganda’s Ministry of Health in all of its preparedness and response activities that include
Since the first cases were reported, Uganda’s Ministry of Health has helped the Kiboga district set up a surveillance and response team to quickly identify and isolate cases of the disease. The Ministry of Health is also providing continuous medical education sessions on Ebola for the Kiboga hospital staff.
Although the outbreak appears to be now traced to its source and contained, ChildFund Uganda remains on alert.
by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager
It’s World Malaria Day. But instead of launching into a litany of statistics, I’ll just share one hard fact: a child is dying this very minute—every minute—from this disease. And that just shouldn’t be.
Malaria is preventable. Malaria is treatable.
“In the past 10 years, increased investment in malaria prevention and control has saved more than a million lives,” says Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization. “This is a tremendous achievement. But we are still far from achieving universal access to life-saving malaria interventions.”
So you may be asking, “What can I do as just one person?”
Buy an insecticide-treated mosquito net from ChildFund’s Gifts of Love & Hope for a child who doesn’t have one. And then ask your friends on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube to buy one, too. You may inspire a movement. At the very least, you’ll raise awareness.
A mosquito net costs $11. And you could be helping a child like 5-year-old Francis from Uganda.
Or, taking a worry off the shoulders of a mother like Margaret, who lives in Zambia.
Just for today, World Malaria Day, I invite you to take a swing at the statistics. Use your social media clout to knock back malaria one child at a time.
by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager
Not too worry, I’m not actually driving, but we are being driven from Soroti to Busia this afternoon. To say it’s a bumpy ride would be a gross understatement. Or, as our traveling companions from Uganda point out, you know it’s a bad road when you spend more time driving on the shoulder than on the pavement.
This is Day 3 of the Experience of a Lifetime trip with David Levis, who is visiting five sponsored children across this great nation, alive with warm and welcoming people. This morning, we also managed to squeeze in a visit with a sixth child when we stopped in Amuda to see Brenda, who is sponsored by David’s sister-in-law and family.
Our next stop was ChildFund’s Akani project, where David’s sponsored child, Margaret, attends school.
The community federation and students teased David a bit by challenging him to pick out Margaret from a classroom full of identically dressed girls. After a few hints (you’re warm, you’re cold) as David moved around the crowded classroom, he spotted the child that he and his wife, Stacie, have been sponsoring since 2003.
Now 14, Margaret joined her classmates in two beautiful songs to welcome David to her community. “I am so happy, I am bursting,” Margaret said, as she described the day. Her entire family turned out for the occasion – eight brothers and sisters, mom and dad, grandmother, uncles, aunts and cousins.
“Meeting Margaret is something we’ve dreamed about for a long time,” David said. “She is very special to Stacie and me. One of the reasons we chose to sponsor Margaret is because her short name is Margie, the same as Stacie’s late grandmother. We began sponsoring Margaret in her honor.” Inspired by the emotion of meeting Margaret, David pulled out his cell phone and dialed home. Although it was 2 a.m. California time, Stacie was thrilled to be briefly included in the conversation with Margaret.
Meeting Margaret’s entire extended family, plus some neighbors and friends, was an unexpected treat, David said. “It’s so wonderful to see such a strong family working together to make their lives better, and it’s gratifying to actually see the difference that sponsoring a child and sending a cow has made in the day-to-day life of this family. I am humbled.”
So, on to Busia! On Thursday, we visit Buyengo Primary School followed by some quality time with a young man named Dixon. Along the way, we’ll be crossing the headwaters of the Nile River.
Learn more about ChildFund’s work in Uganda and sponsoring a child.
by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager
We awakened to a lovely, tropical day here in Kampala, Uganda, after arriving late last night following 30-plus hours of traveling.
David Levis, the Experience of a Lifetime winner, started out in Sacramento, Calif., on Saturday, and I began the journey from Richmond, Va. We met for the first time in Amsterdam, but after months of emailing and chatting by phone, it was like connecting with an old friend. David marveled at seeing three sunrises and two sunsets in a 31-hour period. I marveled that I was still awake!
We wanted to share with you what’s on tap for our week in Uganda. Today, we’ll be visiting the ChildFund Uganda office and meeting with National Director Simba Machingaidze and Sponsorship and Communications Manager Josephine Bazira-Muhereza. They’ll be briefing us on ChildFund’s work and the projects we’ll be visiting this week. We’re looking forward to having Josephine travel with us this week.
Tuesday, we’ll set out on a four-hour drive to Lango, Tela and Lira, essentially heading north. We’ll stop to visit two of David’s sponsored children, Robinah and Sarah. It’s going to be so amazing to see the children’s reactions when they get to meet David.
After overnighting in Lira, we’ll travel to Akani on Wednesday to visit Margaret and tour her community. We’re also hoping for a quick visit to Amunda, where David’s sister-in-law’s family sponsor a child, Brenda. We’ll end the day in Busia.
Wednesday morning, our first stop is the Buyengo Primary School. David’s middle school class in Sacramento has been corresponding with the seventh graders at Buyengo. Then, it’s on to Jinga for visit with 9-year-old Dixon. We’re so looking forward to seeing Dixon, who’s been ill recently, so we want to check on him.
We’ll arrive back in Kampala Thursday night and catch a bit of rest that evening. On our final day, Friday, we’ll travel outside the city a short distance to meet Shafik, age 6, and his family.
It’s going to be a whirlwind week. We’re psyched and we’ll keep you posted as we go along. Thanks for following the Experience of a Lifetime!
Guest post by David Levis, ChildFund Sponsor
In 2011, David Levis was the grand prize winner of ChildFund’s Facebook promotion, the Experience of a Lifetime – a trip to visit his sponsored child. David chose to travel to Uganda, where he and his wife, Stacie, sponsor several children. A public school teacher from Citrus Heights, Calif., David opted to take the trip during spring break 2012. We’ll be following his travels next week as he visits five sponsored children and ChildFund programs.
Soccer balls and pumps, check. Baby dolls, Hot Wheels cars and Frisbees, check. Pencils and solar lights, check—the list goes on. This is a very different kind of packing list. My wife prepared me a few months ago, when she turned to me and said, “You only need one pair of pants and a shirt, right? She laughed and I laughed, and then she said, “No, really.”
We have been looking forward to this time since winning the “Experience of a Lifetime” last August. After months of preparation, both physically and mentally, the day of departure is almost here!
Over the last few weeks, so many things have come together. We have packed and repacked everything multiple times, and in multiple ways, trying to get as many small gifts for the children to fit in my luggage as possible without exceeding the 50-pound limit per bag.
As of tonight, we have to repack it all over again. A stuffed animal, medications and odds and ends from our latest Kmart trip has put us back at square one. Stacie is once again attempting to weed out my clothing!
In addition to meeting the children that we are blessed to sponsor, I will also be visiting a local school that ChildFund supports. Using Google Docs, my students and I have been making connections with the teachers and students in grade 7 of Buyengo School in Busia, exchanging questions and group photos. I look forward to visiting the school and meeting the students and teachers.
Meanwhile, I finished off all of my vaccinations, and started my malaria-prevention medication. I’ve packed multiple mosquito repellants, and a travel guide to Uganda so that I can brush up on the culture and the landscape. Using the itinerary that ChildFund has provided, I’ve also been using Google Earth to map out our trip. It’s going to be an amazing experience.
I’ve also had incredible support from my family and friends, who are all preparing to follow our trip through social media, blogs and Skype. Our family has been featured in the local newspaper, and even our children have been involved in preparing gifts for the families we will meet.
As I leave California this weekend, I will not be traveling alone. I take my family, friends and fellow ChildFund sponsors with me in thought and in spirit. It is my hope that I will be able to share this experience in its entirety with everyone I can when I return.
I invite you to follow along as I travel across the world for a true “Experience of a Lifetime!”
Story told by Tony Ocira to Semu Okumu, ChildFund Uganda
I come from Laroo community in Gulu District, which is located in the Acholi area of Uganda. I’m 27 and I work as a veterinary doctor. But when I was a child, I was sponsored through ChildFund, starting in1993. Laroo community was one of those places affected by a 20-year civil war involving the LRA rebels.
By the time I joined ChildFund, my parents could not afford to pay my school fees or buy the things we needed. Our district was a battleground for the civil war. If we slept at home in our villages, we could be kidnapped by the LRA. We children often had to commute to the city in the evening to sleep on the streets and return to our school to study during the day.
My parents could not till the village land because the rebels often uprooted our crops. In any case, they were too scared to till the land with bullets flying all over.
When ChildFund came to introduce their programs to Gulu, Laroo community, I was one of the children who benefitted. Even at nine years, I knew that my life was going to change. ChildFund built a primary school for the little children and provided them with learning materials.
When I joined ChildFund, the Lowe family became my sponsors and they helped make me what I am today. Although they were not physically present, they showed me support during my childhood. Their letters showed concern, friendship and love.
With the support of my sponsors, my family bought livestock for rearing. The money got from selling the offspring of the livestock helped to provide clothes, household items for my family and pay for my school fees from primary school up to college. My sponsors were so good and I am eternally grateful.
Once, on my birthday, they sent me some money and my mother bought for me a short-sleeve blue shirt and brown khaki shorts. I felt so smart and walked around the village greeting all the elders and waving at the other children who were wearing tattered clothes.
Because of ChildFund, I had scholastic materials and lunch provided for me at school, and whenever I fell sick I received treatment. When I was young I had a dream of becoming a doctor, and now I am a veterinary doctor based in Amuru District in Northern Uganda.
I am glad that ChildFund came to Acholi area at a time when other organizations were fleeing.
I would like to thank all sponsors who give children better opportunities in life and tell you that through your sponsorship you are making children’s dreams a reality.
by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager
Uganda is once again in the news, and the focus is on children. Overall, that’s a good thing. There can never be enough attention heaped on this nation’s children, who endured 20 years of civil war from the 1980s to the mid-2000s. Yet, it’s important to distinguish between the Uganda of the early years of this century and the Uganda of today.
It is estimated that as many as 26,000 children in northern and eastern Uganda were abducted, raped and forced into servitude and military combat during the war. During the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) crisis, ChildFund responded with programs in some of the worst affected districts of Pader, Gulu, Lira and Soroti in Northern Uganda. We provided child protection and psychosocial support to thousands of children in the large camps of internally displaced people (IDPs).
Joseph Kony, who led the LRA, fled the country. Widely believed to now be in hiding in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kony remains a wanted man for the terrible atrocities committed on Uganda’s people and its children. And he continues to exploit children who come into his reach in central Africa.
“In the early years following the crisis, ChildFund Uganda focused on reintegrating formerly abducted children with their families and communities, as well as promoting the protection and psychosocial well-being of many other children who were not abducted but still were affected by the crisis,” says Martin Hayes, child protection specialist. “By 2006, the northern Ugandan city of Gulu no longer had ‘night commuters’— children on the run from the LRA abductors and who were afraid to sleep in their own rural homes,” Hayes notes. “Today, Gulu is a bustling town.”
The last 10 years have also seen the return of tens of thousands of the IDPs from camps back to their homes and a gradual return to normalcy. “ChildFund’s work has shifted to helping the Ugandan people get on with their lives,” Hayes says. ‘We’re working with our community partners to promote children and youth’s protection and healthy development – tangible support that is making their lives better.”
Since 1980, ChildFund has worked with community-based partners across Uganda to support the needs of children. ChildFund’s programs currently benefit approximately 784,000 children and family members through establishment of Early Childhood Development (ECD) centers and parental outreach programs, school construction and teacher training, youth leadership and job training. “We also have been working with communities and families to support the needs of children affected by HIV/AIDS, which is a tremendous problem in Uganda,” Hayes notes.
“Child protection is at the forefront of all of our programs,” says Hayes. “ChildFund is working closely in partnership with the Ugandan government, the national university, international and national organizations and community residents to collectively improve the protective environments for children. Together, our goal is to strengthen Uganda’s national child protection system.”