01 Sep Kathy’s Centre Opens
By Sarah Istephan, Marketing Manager
Officially opened September 2017, Kathy’s Centre is the beating heart of Act4Africa’s Ugandan operations and is the legacy of our late co-founder and early years teacher Kathy Smedley.
Click on photo to see video of opening ceremony
What is Kathy’s Centre?
Built on a 3-acre plot, close to Mayuge Town, South Eastern Uganda, Kathy’s Centre provides the community, including vulnerable women and children of the district, with vital health and support services, pre-school education, a youth club and agricultural, enterprise and financial literacy training.
The Centre draws together all the issues that mattered most to Kathy under one roof. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate her life.
Kathy’s Kindergarten, opened in February 2018, provides a unique early education for up to 50 of Mayuge’s children aged 3-6. Without Kathy’s Kindergarten, these children would, quite simply, not be educated during these formative years.
Act4Africa is taking the lead in introducing the highly effective play-based approach to Early Years Education that is developmentally appropriate for children of this age. This style of teaching and the environment that it requires is not currently common in the Ugandan approach to education. Kathy’s Kindergarten combines direct teaching with opportunities for children to explore, learn and consolidate their discoveries through play, thus supporting different aspects of children’s learning. There is a strong focus on communication, language and social interaction.
The youth of Mayuge are engaged and receive life skills and health education at the Youth Club, gaining social and communication skills to help them obtain meaningful employment or access an independent income.
HIV Testing and Counselling
The rural district of Mayuge has one of the highest rates of HIV prevalence in Uganda (10%). Act4Africa has almost 20 years experience in developing HIV awareness and reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS. Kathy’s Centre provides a permanent base for Act4Africa’s HIV & STI testing and counselling services at the heart of a community in need; increasing knowledge of HIV and STIs, improving health and literally saving lives.
Micro-finance and Enterprise Training
Women attending the Centre receive information and training on gender equality, women’s rights, sexual health, basic business skills. Adolescent mothers and young women develop skills to gain economic independence and a voice in communities where women are often silenced.
The surrounding land has been developed as a model goat farm. The goat farm enables us to train the local community in the best practice for animal husbandry, agricultural and basic veterinary skills. It also provides sustainability to our HEAL project. HEAL group members are given goats to breed themselves, providing women and girls with access to their own income, enabling them to support themselves and their families.
Eco-friendly brick-making production also helps provide an income for Kathy’s Centre itself, ensuring it continues to have a positive impact on local lives for years to come. The Interlocking Stabilised Soil Block (ISSB) press was donated to Act4Africa by EfOD, following the construction of the Centre. Local labourers were trained to use the press to make the high-quality bricks to build the centre. Two of them are now employed by Act4Africa to make bricks for sale to the communities of Jinja and Mayuge.
A Flagship Building
We partnered with Engineers for Overseas Development (EfOD), a charity run by young professionals from the construction industry, to ensure Kathy’s Centre was built sustainably and to a high standard. Together we developed an eco-friendly design for the building, complete with solar panels and modern EcoSan toilets with disabled access. Training of the local workforce and construction commenced on 4th August 2016 and, thanks to the fantastic work of EfOD volunteers, the shell of the Centre was completed in January 2017. The internal fit-out of the Centre was carried out during 2017 and was completed by the official opening in September 2017.
Click on photo to see video of construction
Why does Mayuge need Kathy’s Centre?
Gender inequality in rural Uganda is entrenched.
- Poverty, gender bias, and teenage marriage and/or pregnancy are factors that all contribute to just 40% of girls attending primary school, and only 15% completing their secondary education. Girls who fall pregnant are often excluded from school and prevented from returning to continue their education after the baby is born.
- High rates of teenage pregnancy lead to unsafe abortions and death in childbirth for girls who are simply too young to bear children.
- Women are too often denied the confidence, knowledge, or power to demand safe-sex practice from their partners.
- Poverty and lack of opportunities forces many girls into the sex-work industry, or lures them into harmful relationships with older men promising money or gifts.
- These inequalities mean women constitute 2/3 of those living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.
Extreme poverty leads to lack of education and opportunity.
In rural Uganda, 20% of people live on less than £1 a day. Education plays such an important role in lifting the population from poverty, yet children in Uganda have, on average, less than 6 years total schooling. As an early years teacher herself, Kathy knew the importance of early childhood development and of giving children the best start in life. 90% of our brain develops before the age of 5. The future of Africa lies with the well-being of its children. Today’s investment in children is tomorrow’s peace, stability, security, democracy and sustainable development.
Kathy’s Centre, with its combined health and education facilities, aims to break the mother-to-child cycles of poverty, ill-health, inequality, and lack of opportunity that condemns local families.
How can you help?
We currently need donations towards educational resources and equipment for the kindergarten and support groups for adolescent mothers as well as furniture and resources for the HIV / STI testing and counselling rooms.
If you can donate on a regular basis:
£10 a month will pay for a nutritional daily breakfast for 20 children
£25 a month will pay for a child’s fees, uniform, breakfast and hand-soap
£50 a month will pay for a Act4Africa facilitator to give adolescent mothers, meeting regularly at Kathy’s Centre, the skills and confidence to live independently
£250 a month will train and pay the salary of one teacher
Please head to our official Kathy’s Centre fundraising page and help us to make Kathy’s Centre the beating heart of Act4Africa as well as a support, education and health hub for the people of Mayuge District, Uganda.