Category Archives: Projects

Improved sanitation, improved health & wellbeing

Good hygiene, keeping our children safe, through improved sanitation at JMLC.

A young boy wearing a green T-shirt with a Jolly Mercy Learning Centre label on his front emerges from a corridor. He goes on to a water dispenser to wash his hands with soap before running back to class. The corridor he emerged from leads to and from the school’s restrooms. These are divided into two sections; one for boys and the other for girls. Each section has toilets, urinals and bathrooms.

Entry

These latrines have been serving pupils of JMLC ever since it was officially opened in 2009. Serving a growing population that now is over 200 members. “We had never done any renovation on these structures. Most of the wooden doors were broken or not locking and weather beaten. The paint had peeled off due to some leakages from the roof. And the drains were partially blocked,” explains Dr. James Kimera Ssekiwanuka, the Team Leader at CALM Africa. CALM Africa is the parent company of JMLC.

This poor state of sanitation was bound to cause some illness to the young community at JMLC. Yet health and wellbeing of children is a core concern of CALM Africa and hygiene is critical to this.

“Thanks to the very generous assistance from a couple of long-term supporters; we have been able to give our toilet blocks a new facelift,” says James with a happy face. “We have fitted in new doors, a new roof, cleaned and opened up the drainage channels, painted all the walls and cemented the floor surrounding the toilet and bathroom blocks,” he further explains.

Toilets of JMLC

One of this couple providing such valued help visited CALM Africa and volunteered at JMLC about seven years ago and has remained in contact ever since. She also sponsors one of the children at JMLC.

“The children are now very happy, especially the girls. This is because the new surface floor is easy to clean and the draining water runs off fast, keeping the place dry,” adds the team leader.

The 60 feet pit was examined by the contractor and found to be in very good condition to serve over 10 more years. To maintain high hygiene standards, the toilets are fumigated every term during the holiday periods.

JMLC uses the pit latrines due to lack of piped running water. “We are not connected to the National Water and Sewerage System because the network doesn’t extend to our location,” explains James. “We do have a borehole, and our future expansion plan is to pipe water from the borehole to the school and then be able to use flushable toilets”. But for now, sincere gratitude goes to those who have helped CALM Africa provide a level of sanitation and hygiene to keep the children safe.

Household care takers – bringing home life to disadvantaged children

Giving parental care to children is a step in nurturing tomorrow’s leaders.

One elderly lady is on a mission to give disadvantaged children a second chance. On the sidelines of CALM Africa’s “Child Headed Household Care Takers” training at the organisation’s headquarters in Nangabo, Wakiso district, Jajja Nassali Noelene revealed her story:

I am a resident of Masoli, in Kasangati, Wakiso district. While attending a church conference in neighboring Nansana, I was approached by my daughter, who runs the church and told me of a mother who was abandoned in the house with six children. I requested to be given 2 of the children. They were very malnourished, with skin diseases and many signs of poor feeding.

When we reached home, the first thing I did was to give them deworming tablets, preparing herbal medicine to cleanse their bodies and shaving their untidy hair. Within 2 weeks the neighbors were already appreciating my efforts. This work gave me a lot of satisfaction and happiness. My act was a signature of love.

When members of the church saw the improved children, they really appreciated my work. Then one church member, a young girl, told me of how his brother of about 14 years was being mistreated by their step mother and requested me to look after him. Because of my soft spot for children, I agreed and brought him as well. He had even developed bad manners. I told him bad manners are not tolerated under my roof. With time he has improved and is a now a good behaving boy.

After about a month, a tenant moved in a house near my residence. The landlord had given them the room temporarily after failing to pay rent for their former rented room. The husband disappeared a few days later. The abandoned woman would only cook porridge for the children, of which they took one meal a day. The last born of these are twins. One day, one of the children stole a cake from the nearby shop. The mother was so angry and decided to take the child to the village to stay with her relatives. I realized this was not the solution because even in the village, this 11 years old child might even develop more bad habits.

I first prayed to the Holy Spirit for help and then requested the mother to give me the boy. Within a week, she brought me the second child. This one was 4 years old. She could not manage to ease herself or even attempt to speak.  She could not just take herself to the toilet. I had to teach her. Now she even helps in cooking, washing utensils, and is very lively.

When I went back to the church, one of the members of the congregation had been evicted from her room for failing to pay rent. She was sleeping on the church’s verandah with her three children. It was very stressful. Then the pastor decided to take one of the children as I took the other two. One of them, a boy, is 11 years old but has just joined middle class.I wonder why people are more interested in giving birth before assessing whether they can manage looking after the children.

The mother of twins would bring them at my home whenever we had overnight fellowships. But you could only see the heads. At two and half years, these twins were stunted. They were always crying and any pleas of having her to take them to the hospital were ignored. One day, we decided to take her to Kasangati police station for help because community members got very concerned.

Even though my own son was involved in an accident and bed ridden, I first joined community members at the police station before going to attend to my son. At the police station, the mother of twins was forwarded to Mulago Hospital for medical attention. Theyare now admitted at the hospital in the Mwana Mugimu Nutrition Unit; a ward that medically handles nutrition complications in children. At least now we know they are in safe hands. Mulago Hospital is the national referral hospital.

I feel bad when I see people suffering and have always prayed to God to make me rich so that I could help more people; start an orphanage for abandoned children so that I personally take care of them and not in hospitals or with maids.

I have five children of my own. The two eldest girls are married. The last born is in senior six. My husband passed away four years ago. One of my in-laws temporarily gave us the house we are staying in at the moment so that I raise the children. Alongside the house are 4 acres of land. We dig and cultivate our food. I also rear broilers (chicken) in the compound, have 2 goats and sell home baked snacks to raise some money.

My love for children is big, I would love to cater for more children but my resources are limited. We share two rooms and a garage; the girls and I share one room, the boys sleep in the garage plus one multipurpose room.My children would ask me; “mum we hardly have what to eat, why are you bringing other children to be with us?” Over time, they are used and even support me in looking after these children.

I believe that if I make a child happy, God is happy with me and this gives me the morale to get up and cater for these children. I am so happy that CALM Africa does recognise my efforts and is now training me to be a good foster parent and understand good parenting. I am ready to support children live a better life and reach their full potential.

Training more foster carers enables children to remain with siblings and within a home environment, rather than going to orphanages. Having more foster carers will reduce demand on those, like Nassali Noelene, taking care of so many children which this on-going programme is working towards.

Improving food security for families

Family sufficiency kits are a key part of the Community Outreach programme. These kits include seeds and other farming materials. In our latest blog post, Hillary gives an account of the impact of this in life in Uganda.

It’s break time at Jolly Mercy Learning Centre and a group of pupils has converged on the wire fence, all throwing grass and leaves at a rabbit in the fence. The small animal chews on some compound grass while keeping an eye on the playful kids. Soon the bell to end the break rings and as the kids run back to class, the rabbit too makes a hop and jump into its wooden cabin.

Rabbit in JMLC compound

“We strongly believe that a good environment is a right for every child,” asserts Dr. James Kimera Ssekiwanuka, Director of CALM Africa. CALM Africa adopted the strategy of using food crops as a means of protecting the environment. This policy was generated out of the need to supply food to disadvantaged families and vulnerable members of community, while protecting the environment.

“We do give emergency food to these families. But in the long run, emergency food is not sustainable and therefore we needed to develop a food security mechanism,” explains James. Most of the families that CALM Africa cares for are poverty stricken families, which need constant assistance. “We decided to distribute planting materials for food crops like cassava, yams, sweet potatoes, maize, beans and banana stems. We also encourage backyard farming, where soil is put in sacks or buckets to grow fast maturing foods like vegetables,” explains James.

In order to get value from the gardens, CALM Africa works together with government agencies like National Agriculture Advisory Services (NAADS) to provide improved seed varieties that mature faster, resistant to prolonged drought and produce more harvests. With most farming seasons reliant on nature, the farmers need update information on weather patterns to be able to plan on the farming phases.

“Field officers are in constant touch with the people, informing them of weather updates as announced by the government’s metrological centre,” James adds. In addition they are encouraged to farming programmes on the different radio stations so as to keep aware of better farming techniques.

With all these strategies, community members are still skeptical of using agriculture as a means to fight poverty and create a food security mechanism. “This is because returns from farming, and agriculture in general are realized in long term and not short term gains that most of our people are interested in,” James explains. “We therefore had to modify our policy and introduce fruit trees that mature fast”.

Papaws

Fruit trees include mangoes, jack fruit, papaws and oranges. Hybrid varieties of these fruit trees mature fast, meaning in less than 2 years members are selling these fruits, while the crops provide food for the families. The modification phase also introduced mixed farming.

Apart from crops, animal and bird rearing was also introduced. “In animal keeping, we introduced rabbit rearing because rabbits are easy to look after and give birth quickly,” he explains. These rabbits produce between 4 to 8 kittens every month. “Each rabbit costs an average of thirty thousand Uganda shillings, so if you sell a hundred rabbits a year, you can easily raise three million; that’s fighting poverty,” beams James. “We have so far given out over 200 rabbits to the community and others to our pupils to rear at home,” he discloses.

In order to set an example, CALM Africa had to get involved in farming as well. “We have about 6 acres of land on which we do agriculture. We plant all these fruit trees, crops and rear the rabbits in the JMLC compound.” Even teachers are involved in farming. Most teachers are privileged to be allocated plots of land on which to do their individual farming. They sale the extra harvest to the school and to fellow teachers, earning an extra income. And pupils of JMLC, as part of the co-curricular activities do participate in the farming as well.

Most of the farming as of now is done using manual labor, but James is optimistic that “if we could get a small tractor to help in cultivating and have a permanent farmer manager to look after the farm especially during the holidays, our farm would be a model farming in providing food security to CALM Africa, emergence food to the vulnerable families and planting materials to the community”.

Ride to prosperity

CALM Africa’s initiative to ride youth out of poverty.

The mid morning tropical sun is out, but he is not bothered as he takes cover under the mango tree shade, seated on his motorcycle. As two people emerge from a corner carrying a travel bag, he gets off the motorcycle quickly and stands up. Picking up his helmet, he beeps the horn, signaling whether the pedestrians need mobile transport services. All this happens before his colleagues turn off their eyes from a football fixture paper they are crowded around. When one of the approaching pedestrians gives him a thumbs up reply, he quickly kick starts his motorcycle and gears towards them.

He will transport the passenger deep from Nangabo village to the main road at Kasangati trading centre. And for this he will earn one thousand five hundred shillings, roughly, just over half a dollar.

Life was never as enterprising as this for Alex. Living in a community where poverty levels are high, and majority of the residents survive on less than one dollar a day, he was earning no regular income. And with no formal education, hopes of getting a steady job were slim. He used to loiter around the villages, searching for casual jobs as a laborer at construction sites, garden clearing and other domestic tasks.

Then in 2009, CALM Africa conceived a community engaging initiative called ‘Ride to Prosperity’. Under the Ride to Prosperity campaign, CALM Africa envisioned empowering youth using the most common mode of transport in the area, bicycle.

“We conceived an idea, Ride to Prosperity, using ‘bodaboda’ bicycles as a flexible and quick maneuverable means of transporting people and their goods, get to school, exercise, but most importantly be able to earn a living”, James Ssekiwanuka, Director CALM Africa, explains the inception of Ride to Prosperity Initiative. “We chose bicycles because they provide a flexible means of transport, convenient, easy and cheap to maintain, and are eco-friendly.”

Through community engagement, CALM Africa identified a group of young people to benefit from this initiative.

“To Ride to Prosperity, we had to introduce the youth of Nangabo community to a quick and yet familiar means of income generating activity, the culture of saving, and the importance of keeping health and free from HIV/AIDS,” James further adds.

The identified youth were given this orientation training at CALM Africa’s offices. They were also introduced to safety riding, traffic signs, bicycle maintenance and repair. With the youth prepared, CALM Africa contacted and requested for assistance from its donors.

“Our foreign volunteers mobilized funds for CALM Africa to procure bicycles. The said funds enabled us to procure a batch of 25 bicycles which we distributed to the youth. First priority was given to youth engaged in community civic education, especially in child protection issues,” James explains.

CALM Africa signed an agreement with the recipients of these bicycles. “The recipients take the bicycles but pay back 50 percent of the cost in installments, over an agreed period of time,” reads the agreement. “That way, when a donor gives us 50 bicycles, he is already directly impacting on more than 75 youths,” illustrates an excited James.

Each bicycle costs about Uganda Shillings 270,000, and it costs Shillings 20,000 to deliver it to CALM Africa’s workshop. Making a total cost of Shillings 290,000, this converts into about British Pounds 68.

CALM Africa has so far given out over 89 bicycles. Of these, 40 bicycles have been distributed in Lwanda and Kasasi sub counties in Rakai district and the rest in Nangabo and Kiira sub counties in Wakiso district.

“Within the next 3 years, we plan to have over 1000 bicycles delivered to young people to ride out of poverty in the districts of Wakiso and Rakai,” the Director CALM Africa projects.

Some of the earlier recipients have already graduated from bicycles to motorcycles. “Five of our first recipients have now bought for themselves motorcycles,” James reveals the potential impact

Alex is one of them. With his motorcycle, he can now earn up to 8 dollars a day. In a country where around 20 percent of the population survives on less than a dollar per day, Alex’s life has been improved. During workshops to inculcate the culture of savings and goals of Ride to Prosperity, Alex and his team are called upon to provide peer education of progressive riders.

“For the bicycle riders, they too easily transport passengers, their goods and run errands at a fee, there by earning a living, that’s Riding to Prosperity while others are able to go to school easily to acquire education and on the way they can earn a living”, James concurs with Alex.

CALM Africa has now introduced annual riding competitions, with small trophies. This is to give the youth a chance to network. During such events, the youth and riders are challenged to form savings and credit cooperative organizations and support groups.

There are so many people in need of bicycles to improve their lives and those of their families and children, enhance child protection and monitoring mechanisms, and get a quicker means of transport.

By Muheebwa Hillary

Director of CALM, James Ssekiwanuka, further commented on how this programme has continued and evolved over the years.

“This Ride to Prosperity started way back in 2009; we started this in Rakai District and in 2011 we gave more bicycles to young people. In 2013, the program was revitalised after receiving support from Toy Trust. The Toy Trust support was building on something existing. This time around we gave bicycles to our main Community Supporters, who are young people, to enable them to improve Child Protection work and boost their enterprises/income generating activities and have easy transport.
The impact is quite visible; children in difficult circumstances are regularly visited and helped, the young people are now able to easily transport produce to market and earn a living. CALM Africa presence is more visible in communities; children from vulnerable families are now able to attend to school more regularly supported by our local volunteers who got the bicycles and community-based foster care is being promoted by CALM partly because of the bicycles.”

Integrating Teachers into a School Environment

The night’s darkness persists on at dawn. A dense cloud hovers over Wakiso district and the surroundings. Soon, the tropical skies let loose their waters. The rains pond the green grasses of Jolly-Mercy Learning Center’s compound and newly formed streams run off. A rain water harvesting tank is collecting its share from the roof. Students walk around the verandahs heading to their respective classrooms.
But only a handful of the teachers have made it in time to the start of the day’s lessons.

Most of the teachers stay a distance away from the school. The rains started before most of them had arrived and now the roads are impassable. Students seem to enjoy the teachers’ absence, as children do, as they play and crack jokes in their classes. Some noises are overheard over the rains pattering the roof. This is one of the challenges that JMLC is facing – trying to get teachers and students to spend effective time together and complete the syllabus in time. But a solution has been found.

CALM Africa was started with the pressing aim of promotion, observance and protection of the rights of vulnerable children. One of the channels used to achieve this mandate is to provide quality and accessible education to these children. “Already, CALM Africa is sponsoring over 80 orphans and disadvantaged children at our Jolly-Mercy Learning Center”, explains James Ssekiwanuka, the Director of CALM Africa.

One of the challenges that JMLC has faced is to attract and retain professional and experienced teachers, against competition from long established primary schools. A means of securing quality education for the children, CALM Africa provides living accommodation for the JMLC teachers, in a rented property some distance from the school.

As a result of that morning downpour, teaching sessions have been missed. With four weeks remaining to sit end of academic year examinations, this will affect the quality of education; teachers fail to finish the syllabus and students miss out.

To address the welfare of teachers and boost their teaching morale, CALM Africa secured a 6-acre piece of land just a few meters from the school compound. On a part of this piece of land, CALM Africa has already established a foundation and built walls up to the mid-window level, for a total of 16 rooms to accommodate the teachers.

Loughborough University volunteers and locals work to build the foundations
Loughborough University volunteers and locals work to build the foundations

“With the help of volunteers, we cleared the site and started construction in mid-march this year. Our plan was to finish the construction as fast as structurally possible. But with limited funds, the building is still under construction and we have failed to complete it,” explains James.

“If we secured funds, according to our engineer’s projections, we can finish the remaining construction phases in one month, and the earlier we finish it the better” he explains.

Teacher's house in progress
Teacher’s house in progress

“We are in need of financial support of £6000 to finally complete our teachers’ house. With this money, we will finish the next two main phases: final construction of the walls and roofing. With that finished, all that will be remaining will be to add in shutters and do final construction touches,” as James gives the expenditure plan.

Once completed, the 16-rooms will house 8 teachers, with each teacher having 2 comfortable living rooms. By establishing teachers’ quarters within the school surrounding, this will have a significant, sustainable impact. The teachers will have more time to focus on and interact with the students; the school will save money in the longer-term.

Teacher's house - rooms

“At the moment we spend over 10 million Uganda shillings per year on teachers’ rent payments. With the saved money, we will right away start on constructing another block of teachers’ quarters because our plan is to have all the teachers within the school environment. Land is already there, we are seeking assistance to help us begin setting up the houses,” James adds, leaking the plan ahead.

During holidays, some teachers stay within the community to identify vulnerable children in need of support, mentor students and engage the community and leaders in child protection and child rights advocacy. If the teachers can live within the vicinity, this will boost their morale and make them more result-oriented.

Contributors to this project will be directly supporting CALM Africa in its mandate of promoting the observance and protection of the rights of vulnerable children. And will indirectly be empowering vulnerable children to have access life enhancing skills, rights awareness and quality education.

You can support this campaign to enhance education for CALM Africa’s children by donating online at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/BuildingLearning

Please feel free to email fundraising@childrenfirstuganda.co.uk should you have any more questions or ideas about this campaign. Thank you.

Moore Water in Nangabo

Safe water saves lives.

Between 2012 and 2013 we turned this:

Water pool dirty

into this, for around 100 families in the community and the children of Jolly Mercy Learning Centre.

Dr James Ssekiwanuka of CALM Africa pumps the first water.
Dr James Ssekiwanuka of CALM Africa pumps the first water.

On Saturday 22nd March it was UN Water’s World Water Day.

UN #WWD2014 infographic
UN #WWD2014 infographic
Causes, organisations and individuals spent the day hosting events and activities to raise awareness about worldwide water issues: lack of access to clean and safe water, usage of water and energy and sustainability. We took part in the day through our Facebook page, showcasing some projects we’ve helped implement, the brilliant work CALM Africa volunteers have done themselves and highlighting the water-related issues experienced in Uganda.  https://www.facebook.com/ChildrenFirstUganda

I am Natalie Moore, Director of Children First Uganda and volunteer of CALM Africa and this is my brief story of the Moore Water campaign.

In October 2011 I visited Uganda for the second time to work with CALM Africa, this time with 3 friends – Susan Wiseman, Lisa Vicary and Sarah Melville. Within a couple of days of being there, we had seen the pool that was the water source for the local community and our school, Jolly Mercy, particularly in the dry season. The pool is a natural spring to provide hundreds of people with water but, with the surrounding environment and agriculture, it was unprotected, dirty and contaminated. People would often not boil the water, drinking it straight from the pool along with everything else in it. From that one visit and conversation, the project began.

Volunteers, CALM Africa, Kenneth the engineer and local community leaders come together to plan.
Volunteers, CALM Africa, Kenneth the engineer and local community leaders come together to plan.

Over the following months, through various activities and the generosity of many people, we raised approximately £3,500 to build the well and install a hand pump. Of course, many individuals’ donations contributed to the fund and a huge thank you to every one. Our sincere thanks also goes to several key people and organisations who helped make it happen:

– After I spent one very, very warm summer day baking(!), Loughborough Design School at Loughborough University made a fantastic contribution by braving my brownies and making lots of extra donations

– At the CFU Spring Ball 2012, I was presented with a cheque for a whopping £500 from Matt Travis at Enzygo Ltd (http://www.enzygo.com)

– A giant sleepover, bake sales and various activities of the pupils at Haberdasher’s Monmouth School for Girls made a big difference

– Musically-talented friends played a charity gig at the Marr’s Bar in Worcester, raising over £300 (thanks guys!)

…just to name a few things!

This well now provides protected, clean water to the community and pupils of CALM Africa’s primary school and we are so grateful for the huge amount of support this project received. Moore Water is being kept open as an on-going campaign to raise money for future water work and maintenance of the well. To keep in touch with any water-related work we do, you can follow our new Moore Water Facebook page,