Dear our supporters and mentors,
We hope this finds you, your families and friends all well. We are having a lot of rain here in Uganda; our supported community is one of those which has received heavy downpours since October. Some houses/homes have been flooded with water, and many have leaking roofs. Twelve villages in Tororo (including Amor village) were hit by hailstorms which destroyed many crops. This has led to concerns about food shortages in the coming months. Despite all this, the countryside is green and beautiful at this time of year.
A great deal has happened since our last update in July.
In August, we received a car (transport) grant from MIVA/OneMen (http://english.onemen.org/home), a Netherlands organization that supports pioneers working in grassroots organizations in Africa, Asia and Latin America with transport and means of communication, such as cars, motorbikes, bicycles, boats, lorries, radio masts, internet connections and computers. We purchased the car (super custom van) which is currently helping a great deal in transporting students to school, bringing the parents to visit with the mentees in Kampala, taking those with serious illnesses within the communities to the distant hospital, and facilitating the coordination of all the various projects under the PCE Foundation within the different communities.
Our memorandum of understanding (partnership) with the Prime Minister’s office has been approved, meaning we can now receive large shipments (in the form of shipping containers or very large shipments/equipment) and the government pays all the tax on our behalf.
The Library and the Hall
The library construction has progressed so fast! Early this year, the building was barely at the foundation level, but due to the fundraising efforts of Joana Dias, and other contributions by Lorraine Salmon, Amy Edwards, Janeane Anderson and Sharon Gardner, the Community Library and Hall construction has moved close to the beam level. This project is now at a stand still again until additional funding becomes available. Joana hopes to launch the next fundraising campaign to reach the roofing level this December. Please continue supporting us in any way you can once the campaign is up. Our goal is to finish this project by June of next year, at the latest.
Our 6 block classroom Portland Nursery and Primary school construction is almost complete. Currently the children study under the trees (difficult in the rainy season) and in two small huts. This school was initiated by the community members themselves in 2012 after the Rural Girl Child Mentorship (RGCM Uganda) program of the Pearl Community Empowerment (PCE) Foundation (www.pce-foundation.org) gave 40 village girls the opportunity to attend quality secondary schools in Kampala. When the girls returned home for holidays healthy, happy and more ambitious to pursue education, their parents became more motivated about the education of their other children. They decided that there should be a school in Amor village for the young ones who cannot walk miles away to attend the nearest school to acquire education. They shared this vision with me, as the founder of the PCE Foundation. My family and I discussed this idea and my mother decided to allow the school to be built on some of her land. It has already begun operating, even though the building is not yet complete. The goal of the school is to encourage the growth of lively enquiring minds and develop increased self-confidence, traits which will help each child to reach his/her full potential. The staff work hard to create a stimulating atmosphere that motivates learning. Behavior management is positive and consistent, with an emphasis on children taking responsibility for their actions through developing a set of values based on respect for themselves and others. Portland Nursery and Primary School, located in Amor village, is the first and only school in this rural remote village in Tororo district in Eastern Uganda.
The community’s vision and actions towards acquiring a Nursery and Primary school has led us in a new strategic direction – to build a complete school complex consisting of Nursery, Primary, Secondary and Vocational schools, and of course incorporating the community Library. Although constructing and staffing this complex will create a significant financial burden initially, we feel that ultimately it will allow us to provide an excellent education for the children without having to take them to the schools in Kampala. In addition, we will be able to educate a far greater number of both girls and boys while keeping them involved in their community and home life. It is hoped that in time, the school’s graduates will apply their knowledge, talent and skills to help strengthen the community and improve the quality of life for those who live there.
We will begin working toward this long-term goal in the coming year, and hope to have the complete school complex finished within 5-8 years. Your support, suggestions, and ideas will be much appreciated as we work together on this initiative.
The ten girls who were in Senior Four recently completed their National Examinations, while the Senior Six girls are currently taking their final National Examinations. Next year these mentees (S.4 and S.6) will begin taking courses like teaching, nursing, mechanics, hairdressing, tailoring, management etc. Those currently in Senior One, Two Three and Five are promoted to the next classes starting in late January and early February of next year. See the Ugandan curriculum here for further clarifications. All mentees begin their holidays on December 4. The new academic year starts later in January for most of the mentees (will be second semester for the University mentees).
We currently have 27 mentees pursuing post-secondary education. Ten are taking teacher training certificate courses (primary school level), 7 are currently working on their bachelor degrees in teacher training courses (secondary school level), 1 is finishing her degree in Adult and Community Education, 1 is studying Accounting and Finance, 1 is pursuing a degree in Economics, 2 in Motor Mechanics, 1 is working on a diploma in Clinical Medicine, 1 is studying for a degree in Wildlife Management and Care, 1 is doing Developmental Studies, 1 is finishing her diploma in Human Resource Management, and 1 recently joined a nursing school and is pursuing a certificate in Nursing and Midwifery. We also still have 81 mentees in secondary schools. These are the same girls who – without this opportunity for education – would have almost certainly already been married off by now with little hope for a bright future.
On the same note, at this time the Portland Nursery and Primary School – Amor has 79 children aged 3 to 11 in the ECD level (baby class and middle class), and Primary One to Primary Three classes. There are 36 girls and 43 boys. Most of them are orphans and vulnerable children. The majority have lost one or both parents to HIV, others have parents who are living with HIV, and all are living in poverty. With the addition of the new classrooms, we anticipate having over 200 pupils next year and plan an increase of three more classes , which makes a total of nine (baby class, middle class, top class, Primary One to Primary Six). We are truly appreciative of all those who contributed towards the construction of these classrooms. Thanks to all of you who contributed towards the construction of the current 6 classroom block! We anticipate a huge turn up of learners this means it will require additional classrooms and different streams in the future. There’s still need for a dining hall, toilets, clean water source and teachers’ housing. This is a huge goal (including the secondary and the vocational school) but we will do our best step by step, with support from well-wishers.
We have a number of confirmed visitors from abroad arriving later this year and early next year. The Mighty Fingers project (http://www.mightyfingersfacingchange.com) team is coming on December 3 through 12 to teach the mentees painting, writing and filmmaking skills. The Mighty Fingers project was founded by Kelly Sullivan who has been creating collaborative art with girls around the world for over 20 years now.
The BOCEP team from Australia will be coming to our community on January 3 through January 7. This is a group of teachers and retired teachers who will be sharing knowledge and ideas with our current instructors. They will also help in interviewing applicants for the four available teaching positions. Julie K. Thompson, a mentor since 2012 who also serves on our Advisory Board, is coming in June 2016. We welcome visitors all year round, and people with extra skills that could positively impact our community/country are especially appreciated.
If you are considering buying a Christmas gift for your mentee’s family, one idea is solar panels for the families. Rural Ugandan families use kerosene candles for lighting in the night. These candles have served for generations but are not a healthy choice. They produce lots of smoke and soot in the houses, which leads to respiratory illnesses and other health issues, and are a safety risk as well. Kerosene is also expensive to buy daily. Solar power is a clean source of energy well suited for this environment. A local source, Solar Sisters, is a female owned and operated entrepreneur business which sells solar panels at a range of prices (one-bulb systems cost USD $12 – small and very basic, $15 – bigger and brighter, $20 – comes with a small separate panel, and $53 – can also charge a phone while a system that can support 4 bulbs goes for $143.) We can handle the acquisition of the panels if you decide you are interested. Other gift options which would make a significant difference to these families are a piglet, a goat, a cow, or a bicycle, which we would also be happy to acquire and deliver for you.
We will send you another update after the holidays, updating you about your mentee’s performance and providing information regarding their return to school in the new year and the amount of the fees required. This year, the funds transfer and administration costs from the United States and Australian donors has been very high. This might force us to increase the cost of the sponsorship next year so as to cover the extra administrative costs.
We are very grateful for your tireless kind support, without which we could not have moved this far. The lights of hope you have sparked are already shining through our community and our lives!