Uganda: Budaka

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Orphans and vulnerable children project, Budaka

Project established: 2009

indigo foundation partners with six small but highly effective community-based organisations (CBOs) in Mt. Elgon region in Uganda to strengthen the capacity of families and communities to care for over 2,000 at-risk children and young people, all poor, many orphaned and many HIV-positive.

The project over the next 12 months will support:

1.    Education: provision of educational supplies, including books, pens and uniforms to 2,100 vulnerable children.

While primary education is free in Uganda, many disadvantaged children are excluded because they lack basic school materials. indigo foundation works with the CBO’s, who work with schools, to track the children’s attendance at school and support their progress through psychosocial support.

This support also have a particular eye to girls and women, including creating safe after-schools spaces for girls and supplying reusable pads so girls do not have to stay home from school during their periods.

2.    Counseling: counseling training for CBO’s and school teachers on how to support vulnerable children and in particular those grieving or traumatised through HIV.

3.    Training and income generation: support training in vocational skills (such as sewing, knitting and baking) and ongoing funding for successful pilot initiatives established with indigo foundation support including:
•    a sewing training school for women widowed by HIV;
•    a livestock ‘bank’ with chickens, pigs and goats that increase food security; and
•    distribution of improved strains of cassava and peanuts resulting in increased agricultural production.

These activities combined will provide a pathway for children to access education, and become confident and contributing members of their community. The investment in schemes for production and income generation, and the vocational skills of older adolescents serves to foster well-being and community sustainability.

previous activities

Since the project was initiated in 2009, each of our partner organisations have chosen to spend much of the funds on school materials such as uniforms, pens and exercise books, to assist orphaned children to attend school.

In addition to providing school materials, our partner organisations have also previously used indigo foundation support to:

  • Buy chickens and piglets, which were raised and bred, giving struggling families young animals from the offspring.
  • KAGA purchased a sewing machine and trained women widowed by AIDS to sew uniforms for children supported by the group, as well other tailoring work to generate income.
  • Hold five days of joint training on HIV testing and counselling, including a day with a specific focus on children and youth. Thirty volunteers participated in five days of the training, and all evaluated the training very positively. Two of the groups have already developed comprehensive plans for extending HIV testing and counselling across their communities.

After the success of the HIV training, our partner organisations resolved to spend the remainder of funds on governance training. However, in consultation with the broader community it became clear that there was widespread concern over the possibility of food shortages over coming months. Eastern Uganda is influenced by the same weather system that has seen Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia face severe drought and famine, and the families in Budaka who rely solely on what they can grow themselves to survive have lost many of the seedlings planted for successive seasons.

For this reason our partners decided to allocate the funding for the purchase of new seedlings.

school partnerships

There is widespread recognition across Budaka that education is a key to providing orphans and vulnerable children with future opportunity.

Primary education has been free for Ugandan children for some years and universal secondary education was introduced in 2007. However, in Uganda, as in many other developing nations, the dramatic increase in the numbers of children attending school has not been met by a commensurate increase in funding to schools particularly in rural areas.

Schools in Budaka operate in overcrowded classrooms, with no text books or other learning resources, no electricity and teachers who are poorly supported and poorly compensated. indigo foundation has assisted four schools in Budaka establish partnerships with four schools in Melbourne.

Students in each country learn about the lives of children in another country, and exchange posters, drawings and stories. The Australian schools raise funds to support their Ugandan peers. In previous years, these funds purchased a range of text books, atlases and dictionaries; scholastic materials for students unable to purchase their own; posters and wall charts; coloured pencils and crayons; and soccer balls and net balls.

The Budaka schools involved in this partnership were selected by our partner organisations in recognition of the large number of orphans and vulnerable children each of these schools is supporting. The organisations and schools have pledged to work together to track the progress of the most vulnerable children and ensure that they are supported to remain at school.

about our partner organisations

In Budaka we work with six small grassroots organisation – all of which were initiated and run by the local community and all of which do an amazing job for vulnerable orphans and families with very few resources.

Galimaagi AIDS and Grieving Orphans
The original programs of Galimaagi AIDS and Grieving Orphans have grown well beyond the provision of scholastic materials to include school uniforms, food security projects (cassava, livestock and field cultivation with two oxen and the plough), music, dance and drama, and the most recent project, vocational training (tailoring and sewing). The members of Galimaagi work closely with the school headmasters to identify the special needs of HIV orphans and vulnerable children.  School leaving among youth is a particular concern of the leaders of Galimaagi.

Iki Iki AIDS Community Initiative (IACI)
Located in the region with the highest number and rate of HIV cases, Iki Iki  AIDS Community Initiative  (IACI) serves a large and growing population of orphans and vulnerable children.  Thirty five members of IACI are trained in HIV counselling and treatment and the organization is recognized in the region as leader in HIV awareness and support.  In addition to the provision of scholastic materials, IACI promotes food security among beneficiary households, works closely with families and teachers, and involves children and youth in music and dramatic performance to communicate healthy living and the reduction of the stigma of HIV AIDS in the community.

Kakule  HIV/AIDS and Grieved AIDS Families Association (KAGA)
Over the past four years, in partnership with if KAGA has promoted scholastic achievement orphans and vulnerable children as well as skill development among youth.  Training in sewing and tailoring is provided to youth as a safety skill in the circumstance that students might leave school. KAGA members have received training to counsel HIV+ children, and continue to move from household to household to encourage HCT and positive living.  Home visits and working with teachers are also consider critical elements of promoting education among OVC in the community. KAGA also supports the schools through the provision of textbooks.

Manuka-Kaama Community Development Initiatives
Manuka-Kaama Community Development Initiatives was formed in 2004 and has recently become a partner of indigo foundation.  The organization works to support the scholastic success of orphans and vulnerable children whose families are challenged by the long distances to government schools in the community.  Manuka-Kaama has responded by taking the initiative to build a nursery and primary school more promixate to households of OVC and youth and will also provide vocational training for mothers and caretakers.  Manuka-Kaama has also established a “HIV prevention forest” to allow women and girls to collect firewood closer to their homes.

NACOMAS Community Action for Social Development
NACOMAS Community Action for Social Development was the first organization in Budaka with which indigo foundation partnered.  The mission of NACOMAS is to empower members and to promote sustainable social, economic change in the community.  Education of children and youth is a key strategy.  The organization also recognizes a need to provide a counter balance to the urban health problems originating in Mbale and exposure of youth to HIV in particular. NACOMAS promotes environmental awareness and has encouraged the community to plant trees for firewood, engage in sustainable farming practices, and to enrich the environment. There is an emphasis on gender equity and has sought to support the adoption of sanitary napkins among girls and to create time and space for girls to discuss these changes in themselves.

Trinity Childcare Ministry
Formed in 2000 by former teachers, Trinity Childcare Ministry understands that the welfare of vulnerable children is enhanced through supplemental support for their educational performance as well as access to health care and counselling.  The leaders of Trinity Childcare Ministry Trinity Childcare Ministry are also committed to providing places of play, listening and refreshment for child living in difficult circumstances, and creating pathways towards building self esteem through academic success and skill development.  Enrichment activities for children and youth every Sunday afternoon and given the demand will expand to Saturdays. The vision of Trinity includes expanding opportunities for vocational training of youth throughout the Budaka region.

recent news

Update from May 2016

Visit here to read ‘Under a clear blue Ugandan sky‘.

Update from January 2015

By Project Coordinator Dr Ellen Kraly

Eighth January 2015 was an excellent day. On this Thursday, the representatives of the six community organisations of the Budaka (Uganda) Project for Orphans and Vulnerable Children convened for a day long meeting to consider and compare their individual programs, each directed to meeting the needs of HIV orphans and vulnerable youth in the region, and to reveal their commonalities. In this gathering most effectively facilitated by Project Liaison Katooko Joyce, over 60 leaders discussed their problems and successes, and described approaches to problem solving. The long but creative day concluded with imagining shared activities and affirming common commitment to promoting the welfare of vulnerable children in their communities.

indigo foundation has worked with the Budaka Project for Orphans and Vulnerable Children since 2011, providing funds to support the educational engagement of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), encourage health education concerning HIV/AIDS in schools and communities of orphans and vulnerable children, and promote the leadership and administrative capacity of the community based organisations partnering with foundation. The original partnership was forged with four community based organisations (CBO): Galimaagi AIDS and Grieving Orphans; Iki lki AIDS Community Group; Kakule AIDS and Grieving Families Association and NACOMAS, and recently has been expanded to include two additional organisations, Munaku-Kaama Community Development Initiatives and Trinity Childcare Ministries. These organisations serve well over 2,000 vulnerable youth in the region, a number which is expanding as a result of both HIV-AIDS orphanhood as well as limitations of government special services for the support of disabled children.

As indigo foundation Project Coordinator of the Budaka Project, I had the privilege of witnessing this exchange of information and generation of new ideas among the six community based organizations on this day in early in the new year. This was my second trip to Budaka, having visited in March 2014 as a visitor on behalf of indigo foundation.

This year, I arrived as ‘project coordinator,’ also a volunteer activity but with the benefit of training by my colleagues at the foundation and guidance by a mentor with several years of experience in serving as a project coordinator with other indigo foundation projects. The support of the foundation is a source of confidence and appreciation for its high standards for preparation and administration.

The four days prior to the group meeting were filled morning to night with individual meetings with each of the six CBOs, scheduled with precision, efficiency and grace by Katooko Joyce, who has served as Project Manager for the past four years. Joy is an impressive women with a keen administrative sense of what is feasible, what is effective, and what is respectful. She moves among community leaders and within the community with the capacity to take the pulse of the people and monitor their needs.

Throughout my visits, I was impressed with the organsational and administrative savvy of my new colleagues in each of the CBOs, and was inspired by their dedication to their constituencies and the beneficiaries. Their future-sight is truly breathtaking: as they work to address the needs of orphaned and vulnerable children, they anticipate the challenges of supporting the needs and futures of adolescents, young mothers and caregivers. The leadership of the Budaka CBOs understand that they are participating in a process of social change and social and economic development within their communities. They are committed to making sure that change is moving in a positive direction for children and youth in Budaka. Education and health are their accelerators.

The individual meetings with the CBOs often began with engaging performances by youth of the organization. Business began with introductions of persons present, usually members of the CBO leadership teams and in two circumstances, members of the CBO, followed by a report by the leader, usually the chair, or the treasurer or secretary. I expressed greetings and good wishes from the leadership of indigo foundation and described my goals to build productive relationships – to become colleagues and to become friends, to learn from each organization concerning their experience before and after support from the foundation and to listen carefully to the aspirations of the leadership for the future of each organization – in the shorter run and in the longer run. Each of the individual meetings was followed by visits to projects (vocational training workshops and kitchens, goats, pigs and oxen, impressive community gardens) and homes of beneficiaries.

The children of Trinity Childcare Ministry made our morning meeting with songs (“We are happy to receive you…”) which had been customized for Australia. A second song repeated the phrase, “struggling to lead a better life,” in relationship to education. Individual children, girls, came forward during the song to relate what they wanted to be (a principal, policeman, teacher, nurse).Introductions of the members present of the nine member executive committee were followed by a clear and cogent report by Lydia, volunteer project coordinator (studying social work and psychology) on the history and perspective of Trinity.

Through their work on Sunday afternoons with children and youth (since 2000), they have come to understand that orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) need more than spiritual support but face to face issues holistic counselling that covers the socia and psychological aspects of their lives. In response they have changed their programs with children and youth by providing a place of personal contact, talk and listening, and a place for children to relax and refresh. Trinity has learned that counselling instills hope in these children, and good performance in school results; counselling helps reduce bad behavior and acting out; counselling, like scholastic materials, increases self esteem. Chairperson Naomi says, “children have problems’ – not just adults – children have problems; they come to Trinity to relax for a while, for a few minutes, to escape the abuse and poverty, often they don’t have a voice at home.”

Chairperson Michael of Kakule HIV/AIDS and Grieved AIDS Families Association (KAGA) provided his report on the history of KAGA and expressed, with pride, that KAGA was one of the original CBOs in the indigo partnership. The perspective and projects of KAGA have developed from the foundation of the provision of scholastic materials to OVC, which are essential for staying in school and for students to concentrate in their studies. With our support, members of KAGA have received training to counsel HIV+ children, and provide HCT; these volunteers continue to move from household to household to encourage HCT and positive living. In gaining experience, the organization has come to recognize the need for basic care materials such as sanitary pads to prevent girls from dropping out of school due to stigma of not having supplies. KAGA also encourages planting staple foods and have established a mother garden of cassava. Cassava are harvested by KAGA members for distribution to OVC families, and more importantly, cassava stems are also given to OVC households for planting.

We were met at the Iki Iki AIDS Community Initiative (IACI) by nearly three dozen committee members as well as a very well disciplined youth committee. The youth presented a program of original songs and poems concerning the scourge of HIV/AIDS, and response, and also the importance of education. A young women, Rosemary, a former participant in the youth programs of IACI led the program; she is now training to be a teacher. The Chairperson, Yusef, provided detailed information on the origins and current programs of IACI which serves the region within Budaka with the highest number and rate of HIV cases. Many IACI members have been trained in HCT to promote awareness and provide support for OVC and youth and continue to participate in refresher courses. Members of IACI recognize a direct relationship among HIV/AIDS in the household, child vulnerability and poor school performance. The members also described the good effects of access to scholastic materials (SM) on school attendance and engagement. Other health issues – TB, epilepsy, also exist. Poor nutrition at home, and lack of food during the school day are considered critical issues. The contact of IACI members with parents and guardians is also considered essential to supporting OVC and youth.

One IACI member, a pastor, appreciated my presence and my hope to build friendship with members of the organizations and communities. He expressed the importance of my understanding of the homes of people with whom I seek to be friends: ‘Friends should know what is taking place in home of their friends, and where they sleep; life here is not easy; visit our homes – see what is on the ground.’

The Galimaagi AIDS and Grieving Orphans (Galimaagi) is characterized by strong community participation and ownership in the mission and activities of the organization. With a member of the police as well as the chairperson of the village present at the meeting, the Chairperson assured me that the meeting was secure. It was a lovely joke on my behalf. The original project supported by the foundation has grown beyond the provision of scholastic materials to include school uniforms, food security projects (cassava, livestock and field cultivation with two oxen and the plough) and music, dance and drama for child and beneficiaries. The members of Galimaagi work closely with the school headmasters concerning the SM who report the importance of the books and pens for the progress of OVC and youth. Changes observed in the community do include a decrease in the number of dropouts from school. Galimaagi leaders work directly with schools to monitor these trends.

The Wednesday morning meeting with Manuka-Kaama Community Development Initiatives (Manuka-Kaama) began with visiting beneficiaries in the nearby neighborhoods and witnessing the progress of their building of the nursery and primary school which they hope to open this coming summer. The nursery and primary school will provide more proximate educational opportunities to the many OVC and youth in the community served by Manuka-Kaama. We walked through the “HIV prevention forest” on the way to visiting families and households with OVC and youth and discussed the problems with the distribution and survival of poultry for food security and also some income generation. One of the members of Manuka-Kaama, Rosemary, had invented a cooking stove which was much more efficient in the consumption and burning of wood. The arrangement was very impressive and is a striking illustration of innovation poised to make positive and sustainable change in the community.

Leaders articulated the relationship among health status, vulnerability and school progress. Rosemary identified the need for access to medical treatment for OVC and youth. Malnutrition, malaria, cerebral malaria, typhoid fever and epilepsy are cited as key illnesses. The government health center is 2-3 km from the community and is often deficient in supplies and personnel. Beneficiaries lack transportation to health care centers. Bedding for OVCs also emerged as a health issue. The Treasurer, Eunice, described a relatively recent initiative of a finance program for members of Manuka-Kaama and presented to record books showing deposits, withdrawals and savings among members. She noted that most persons (approximately 35) enrolled in the finance program are committed to growing their savings.

During our visit TASO (The AIDS Support Organization) arrived to distribute medication to beneficiaries present for the meeting. The Treasurer was an advocate of positive living and the erosion of stigma associated with positive HIV status: ‘We are living with energy, we are full of energy and can go to garden to dig and to meet our needs.’ She sees clear benefit of empowering individuals and families to live positively.

The meeting with NACOMAS Community Action for Social Development took place at the government school on Wednesday afternoon. Eight members of the NACOMAS executive committee were present for the meeting which was led by Chairperson, Juma, and the Secretary, Jacob. The mission of NACOMAS is to empower members and to promote sustainable social, economic change in the community. The program of scholastic materials now serves over 400 children. NACOMAS has responded to the influence of proximity to Mbale and exposure of youth to urban health problems of Mbale, and HIV in particular by extending its program of counselling. NACOMAS also seeks to promote environmental awareness and has encouraged the community to plant trees for firewood, and to enrich the environment. NACOMAS promotes gender equity and has sought to support the adoption of sanitary napkins among girls; they have also tried to create time and space for girls to discuss these changes in themselves. The organization has also organized an effective drama program for HIV education; in participating in the program, youth imagine consequences and also develop skills and thereby increase confidence. The leaders see big impact of their programs on women in the community and would like to also support more vulnerable in the region. Their aspirations are to ‘see their children smart!’

Throughout these individual meetings, and as we came together on Thursday for the day long planning and visioning session, our hope, of Joy and me, was to create environments of discussion with community leaders which was open and honest, critical and constructive. During the convening of the full partnership questions and comments were indeed forthcoming: Questions about money, variability in exchange rates; interest in ongoing support; frustrations with challenges about increasing needs in the community.

More importantly, the CBO leadership posed questions and offered comments to each other: they were curious about successes and the problem solving strategies of each other; they reflected on their common goals and dreams for projects; they lingered with each other discussing the details of administering their programs, listening and learning from one another, expressing respect for one another.

Thursday was a day of creative and constructive conversation among the community leaders.

It was a privilege to be present.