Moris Kabunzugwire, Act4Africa Team Manager in Kasese, Western Uganda, brings us his latest report on the HEAL programme currently running for adolescent mothers in the district, thanks to the Global Giving Community Fund.
This month I bring you the story of Abius, aged 18: a young, single mother of one who has joined the Act4Africa adolescent mothers’ program in Kasese.
Abius tells us, “I dropped out of school aged 13 years. I was a victim of domestic violence that led to my parents’ divorce. I was brought up by my stepmother in a very harsh way and forced to leave school. I lacked essential basic needs, such as sanitary towels, and had no way out, other than being sexually active with boys who would promise me a better life – though this added more problems into my life.”
Abius got pregnant and gave birth at the age of 16years. The father denied responsibility and her parents sent her out of their home. Life was miserable for Abius, who moved to stay with her peasant grandmother and brought her child into a harsh financial situation.
Abius today says, “I am not the same girl of that time because of the training by Act4Africa. I am now empowered and have gained hope and self-esteem. My early suffering was due to lack of knowledge and poverty. I am now an active member of Kirembe adolescent mothers’ saving group, where I save the little money I get from laboring in people’s gardens. I am hoping to get a loan from the savings group in March and start up my own business in the market.” Abius says “The financial knowledge I have gained has been a great turning point in my life because it has empowered me economically and given me a position in my community.”
Abius adds, “The sexual/reproductive health education answered many unanswered questions for me regarding my social life. I will never get unwanted pregnancy again because I feel able to negotiate condom use.”
My last report on the Adolescent Mothers project, brought you the story of Lorene, who, last October took a loan from her savings group and started a food vending business. She has already managed to pay off the loan with a small interest. At Christmas she managed to buy herself and her child clothes from her savings and she is now able to get a few necessities at home, something that was impossible before joining the group. Lorene plans to continue saving in the group and to get another loan in February to expand the business during the cotton harvesting season.
Since my last report, follow up visits have been made across all sub-counties of operations. We have found that members are organised well in their groups, with an aim to save and get small loans for business start-up, share health knowledge and practice kitchen gardening to improve livelihoods and the nutrition of their families.
Thanks to the support of GlobalGiving and donations received there are now 8 active saving groups of young mothers and female community members, across 3 sub-counties of Kasese district. For Abius, Lorene and many other young women, “Life has really changed.”
I am a third year nursing student from the University of Edinburgh and last summer I went to Dar es Salaam for my nursing elective. It was an amazing experience and I would encourage any nursing students to take this incredible opportunity. Act4Africa was great, with a training session before departure and regular contact before and during my trip.
The Amana hospital was certainly very different from anything I have experienced here in the UK. It was exhausting but so rewarding to work there and I learned so much and got to practice so many skills (and got to cuddle lots of very cute babies!!). The staff were all very kind and were all very interested to hear about healthcare and hospitals in the UK and how it is free! The hospital has limited resources so it’s definitely very useful to take your own basic supplies with you and you’ll find that everyone is borrowing them constantly.
When I wasn’t at the hospital I managed to go on safari for a weekend, visit some of the beautiful beaches and islands and go to the local museums and markets. I also stayed in Zanzibar for two weeks following the hospital placement which was incredible! Tumaini, who works for Act4Africa in Dar es Salaam, was very helpful and I knew if I had needed anything she would have been able to assist. The hotel I stayed in was very nice, with air conditioning and comfortable rooms. The staff were very friendly and the restaurant was very nice. I learned Swahili as I went along and was able to hold a conversation. It was quite difficult trying to communicate sometimes but the nurses and doctors can all speak at least some English and medicine is taught in English so that was easy to understand.
This trip was such an amazing opportunity that would not have been possible without Act4Africa. I definitely want to return to Dar es Salaam in the future and especially to the Amana hospital. Thank you so much!!
Finally doing what frozen things do in summer! Olaf is one of hundreds of toys recently donated to our new pre-school, due to open at Kathy’s Centre in September. Olaf was donated, along with Princess Elsa, by Ellie Welsby, age 7, of St Margaret Ward Catholic Primary School in Sale, Manchester.
Children at the school have donated hundreds of toys and education resources for our first ever pre-school. The children presented the toys to Martin, our chief exec, at an assembly at the school. Thanks to various volunteers travelling to Uganda to help paint and decorate the pre-school, many of these toys have now arrived at Kathy’s Centre.
“We have been overwhelmed by the Sale children’s generosity, and thank them enormously. The children in Mayuge, Uganda have nothing and these donations will really help us get Kathy’s Centre pre-school off the ground.” says Martin.
The pre-school forms part of our new multi-functional community health and education centre. Kathy’s Centre was the dream of Act4Africa co-founder Kathy Smedley, who, for 14 tireless years worked to bring education and health support to the poor and vulnerable, not only in Uganda but Tanzania and Malawi also. Sadly, Kathy passed away in 2014, but with this Act4Africa became even more determined to see her wish fulfilled.
As well as helping to run Act4Africa, Kathy was also a teacher at St Margaret Ward School in Sale and set up the nursery class there. As an early years teacher, Kathy was passionate about improving standards of education in Uganda, especially in the vital pre-school years.
Jason Hughes, Head Teacher at St Margaret Ward said, “We are proud to be supporting Act4Africa in their new venture. Children and staff at the school remember Mrs Smedley and her dedication to the nursery at St Margaret Ward. We are delighted to help fulfil her dream of a flagship early years school in Uganda.”
We still have a way to go to reach our target to complete the centre with internal fixtures and fittings and external ground works. Donations towards the £35k target for this can be made here.