At the start of December 2013, our Fundraising Manager, Ed Fletcher, set off to Uganda to review our projects and partners, spend some invaluable time with the Hope for Children team in Kampala, and develop his knowledge of the work on the ground with street and working children. One of the primary motivations for this trip was that this year, HOPE has made the decision to designate funds raised by students to our East African programs. Here is part 1 of his trip report…

After a deceptively long journey the day before from NW London to Heathrow, Heathrow to Entebbe and finally Entebbe to Muyenga district in Kampala, I, along with Rose Button and Milly Meldau from Leeds University, set off on our first full day with the HOPE Uganda team.

Rose and Milly are organising an awesome event, along with Leeds RAG, to break the World Record for the most number of people to run a marathon tied together.

Immaculate Kiiza, our country director, gave us an overview of HOPE Uganda, followed by a long chat with Joyce, the community coordinator, about our Walk 2 School Program.

 
Rose & Milly HOPE UgandaRose and Milly at HOPE Uganda
|"Rose and Milly at the HOPE Uganda Office"

 

For a number of years now, HOPE has sponsored children living in extreme poverty to go to the local school, St Barnabas. It is called Walk 2 School because when it was first established, HOPE staff literally used to walk children from a slum called Namuwongo to the school gates.

Violet, one of the HOPE social workers (Rose was mildly obsessed with her!), took us down to show us what the W2S program really means. Unfortunately, St Barnabas had broken up for the Christmas holidays on Friday (so obvious from the blistering  30C heat!) but this actually gave us a great chance to look around the school and find out about how the children from Namuwongo are getting on.

St Barnabas Primary SchoolRebecca HOPE Kids first teacher
Meeting Rebecca, the ‘HOPE KIDS' first teacher

We bumped into Rebecca, a teacher who has been at the school since 2008. She was the class teacher for the first group of “HOPE kids”, as they are referred to, and is extremely proud of her inaugural class. They had just taken their end-of-primary school exams and although nerves were frayed, she had very high hopes for them!

We ended up spending over an hour there shooting questions to Rebecca. Evidently, the children HOPE sponsor are not only waiting at the school gates when it opens at 7am, but are the last to leave as well. In fact, several have been made School Prefects! It seems clear that the children on the W2S programme are relishing every opportunity HOPE has, and continues, to give them.

Violet then moved us on to meet some of the children in the slum where they live, Namuwongo, and meet some of the women on the Mentor Mothers program, which was eye opening to say the least. Although our main priority is supporting children, HOPE also realises that by helping mothers with micro-employment opportunities, we can simultaneously affect many children’s lives for the better.

 
Guided tour of Namuwongo
Out and about in Namuwongo, Kampala, Uganda

It was shocking to see the conditions children are living in day-to-day, and a shock to all the senses – particularly the smell! Yet at the same time, the community’s welcoming attitude was amazingly humbling and we felt incredibly uplifted to know that HOPE, along with the support of our student fundraisers, are giving these children a real chance at a life beyond the streets.

After around 3 hours of meandering through the labyrinth of paths, bridges and shacks, the heat got the better of us so we called it a day. Totally exhausted and absolutely overwhelmed with the hospitality we had received, we made our way back for a debrief at the HOPE office, and bed!

Viewing a map of Namuwongo with Mike
                         “Viewing a map of Namuwongo with Mike”

We were back at the HOPE office in the morning, where we spent some time talking to the Events for Namuwongo (EFN) team – Titus, Ruth, Mike and Peter. The team have been working very closely with the community in Namuwongo (the slum where the ‘HOPE children’ on the W2Sprogramme live) for a couple of years now. Mike, the team assistant, showed us some pictures of what the area looked like prior to HOPE’s involvement which helped them contextualise the rest of the day. Piles of rubbish 10 feet high used to be a typical blight on the landscape. The transformation that HOPE has facilitated is astonishing.

Learning about Events for Namuwongo
                             “Learning about Events for Namuwongo”

Our second venture into Namuwongo started at the other end of the slum to yesterday. First off we met up with the team of community workers who are helping to sensitise the community to water sanitation, as well as countless other elements to hygiene safety.

One of them, a woman called Lorna, we had met the previous day. She is on the Mentor Mothers scheme and is recovering from HIV AIDs, or living positively as it has been coined. Rose spent the entire day talking with Lorna about her story and how HOPE has made an incredible impact on her quality of life. Women like her are so important to dispel local myths that HIV medication causes death, when in fact it is incredibly effective at prolonging life.

One of the big aspects of HOPE Uganda that was so apparent was the emotional involvement and support from HOPE that goes far beyond the practical benefits of our work. It would be easy to overlook this contribution, but it is arguably HOPE’s greatest contribution to children and the wider community.

A guided tour of Namuwongo
                               “A guided tour of Namuwongo”

We started at the West end of Namuwongo and made our way down, talking to adults and children as we went. Drainage construction work was frequent along the side of the slum, as well as several toilet cubicles HOPE has funded. These charge a small fee to cover running costs although children go free, which should ensure that they will be self-sustaining without HOPE’s support. Without these drains and toilets, Namuwongo (situated at the lowest part of Kampala) would regularly flood and leave stagnant, diseased water everywhere. Peter, the technical director, also showed us one of the water pump stations and the pioneering scheme that is bringing clean drinking water to Namuwongo.

At the end of the day we all confirmed that we had thought yesterday couldn’t be topped…until today! This would prove to be a recurring theme.

New drainage built by HOPE to stop flooding
                     “New drainage built by HOPE to stop flooding”
 

Having singed to a beetroot in true British style during our second day in Namuwongo, we set off bright and early for Kawempe Home Care (KHC) on Day 3.

Dr Sam, previously a private doctor, founded KHC having identified the region as one whose population had virtually no access to free medical care. He asked us to arrive by 8:15 so naturally, having set off at 7 to avoid traffic…there was none, and we arrived at 7:40am!

Kawempe Homecare

                    Visiting the Kawempe Homecare Centre

The children who the centre care for have either been afflicted with HIV AIDs or have a family member who is. They were actually having their Xmas day out to the Entebbe Botanical Gardens so Sam had to escort the cohort of excited youngsters to assist in controlling their excitement.

Before he left we sat down with him, Gervera and Sarah – the other 2 founders of KHC – who gave us a tour of the centre. We were shown the beads and mushroom programs, and told about the pigery and soap making programs. These livelihood programmes are a secondary objective of KHC, but equally crucial to the nurturing of the local economy.

We then set off for the Outreach clinic in Kasangati, an area roughly 40 minutes away that was even more remote than Kawempe. Gervers and Sarah gave us a tour of the facility and introduced us to all the staff. I had a long chat with the head pharmacist, Joseph, and a local volunteer who started a month ago called Rahim. Both were about 23 (the same age as me!).

Unexpectedly, Sarah asked if I would like to accompany her on several home visits in the afternoon. These were immensely sobering experiences and made me extremely proud that HOPE is supporting such vital work. Although the primary objective of these visits was to dispense drugs to those who were too ill to travel, the overwhelming level of emotional support was uncharted.

In a way, I felt very out of place and almost inappropriate for being present. However, the patients and their families were enormously welcoming, and repeatedly said they were honoured for my visit. I couldn’t help but feel honoured to be witnessing such fantastic care.

Receiving treatment at the Kawempe Homecare Centre

    Receiving treatment at the Kawempe Homecare Centre

Slightly reluctantly, we tucked in to more carbs than I have ever had at one sitting! I ended up having half of Rose’s lunch because we didn’t want to be rude and leave anything! We had a great chat with Joyce over lunch and found her truly inspirational. Talking about her children, how well they have done in education, and the fact that she said this simply wouldn’t have been possible without the help of KHC was truly humbling.

We headed back and joined up with Rose and Milly at the clinic where they could have been recruited to help with the dispensation of medication. At this point, we started to feel a bit in the way as we were very aware that everyone from KHC had work to do. We tried to leave a little early to get out their way only to be confronted by Joyce, one of the community volunteers who we had met at the beginning of the clinic. It was clear that she was the matriarch of the community and was absolutely insistent we had to eat before we left.

Providing Outreach Support

                                 Providing Outreach Support

Throughout the day, we were constantly thanked for HOPE’s funding which is enabling the clinic to continue its sensational work. It was an emotional day for all 3 of us, and something that no doubt will stay with us for the rest of our lives!

Godfrey, the KHC driver, gave us a lift back to HQ where we met up with Gervers again and had a long chat with him about the history of KHC and where he sees the program going in the next few year. The commitment, dedication, and seemingly endless determination of all the staff, but particularly the founders was inspiring to the highest order.

Today was probably the most emotionally draining day of my life, and highlighted an often forgotten aspect of the work HOPE supports: the genuine care and emotional support that is essential to helping vulnerable children.

Posted on February 18th, 2014