Wednesday, 30 May 2012

An Update on the Girls

Since the girls have just completed their first term in Secondary school, I think it's only appropriate that I give you an update!

...Here they are! (Oh, and of course they have given me permission for this disclosure).

Limpe Grace’s name means “without money.” But as naming goes in this culture, there are many worse things she could be called. Before the first term ended, Grace approached me with a letter she had written, describing the struggles in her life. I guess it’s important to note that my only knowledge of theses girls’ pasts comes from the case studies I had received before I met them. I didn’t want to ask them questions about the war, because I wanted the girls to tell me about their lives when they were good and ready. Some have not reached that point, but Grace has. In her letter, Grace told me how she was born in the bush, along with three of her other siblings, after her mother who had been kidnapped years before had met her father who had been kidnapped too. In 2000, her father was killed, and a year later, her mother escaped, leaving Grace and her brother with their step mother. After her mother left, Grace stayed in the bush for another two years before escaping with her step mother, and reuniting with her biological one. “In that year, as a result of killing, looting, and doing other bad things, her mind got confused and she became a mad person. She doesn’t want to see her children around her, and keeps saying that she is going to kill us.” So Grace, and her sister left to go stay with their aunt. “And in December of 2005, the sister of my mother took us back to our mother because she heard that her mind was okay, and she wanted to see us. Then we went to stay with her together without any problems because her mind was now okay.” It was then that the Belgium government came, and Grace and her brother qualified to go-free of charge to a school designed for war-affected children. “In 2007, my mother looked for another man to keep as her husband, and that man married her and immediately produced two girl children. The man began saying that he doesn’t want a woman who produces only girls, because girls waste a lot of money for nothing, and that girls don’t keep or defend the home-they just go away… In 2009, he actually chased my mother away from his home, and began to abuse my mother, saying that my mom is a person who came from the bush, and he doesn’t want a person who came from the bush to disturb him for nothing. He also said that I am big enough, and should look for someone who can keep me for the rest of my life a part from him.” A year later, Grace’s mother went back to this man, but was again chased away when Grace returned from Primary school. It seems then, that Grace and I found each other at the exact time we needed to. She gave me this letter, because she did not want to spend her one month holiday from school with her mother. Instead, we found her a hut to stay in together with Joyce, and another girl whom which the organization I am working with is sponsoring. During the school holiday, I went with Grace to her village home to meet her mother. She was a sad woman with too many children, and absolutely no money. In their hut, there was only a stove, and a straw mat that the whole family sleeps on. When the mother inevitably started asking me for help paying the other children’s school fees, I asked her what kind of business she would like to start, and she said she wanted to sell fish. So, the following day, we went on a big outing to town, where I paid for her first round of fish. We talked about how she needed to and split her earnings into three parts: one part would go towards buying food, and other basic living necessities, the second part would go towards buying more fish, and the third was to be saved for school fees. From what I last heard, Grace’s mother is very happy, and is doing well. I can’t wait to see if this project turns into something that will empower her as well.

Grace is a very sharp girl. I don’t know how she has her head on so straight, but she does. She is 16 years old, is strong and confident, and did very well on her first term exams. Out of 120 students, she was placed in the position of 17, meaning that only 16 other girls scored higher results than her.
"Auntie, my life was very hard. When I sat for primary exams in 2012, I thought that nobody would help me. Even at our home there. Nobody is possible to help me. They just see me, ‘ah ahh let that girl just waste her time.’ Then I sit down and I think, how am I going to study? How am I going to stay in this world? Who is going to help me? Even I lose the hope. Maybe I am going to be poor until I die. So, my best thing is just to thank you.” 

Joyce has a heart of gold. She is perhaps the sweetest, most loving and kind person I have ever met. When planning to send girls to school, thinking I would only have enough money for one, it was Joyce’s story that stood out to both my mom and me, as much of her life seems unfathomable. Whereas the other girls seem to have at least one distant relative, Joyce has no one. Both her parents were killed during the war when she was very young, and her sole family was that of her brother whom she loved and adored so much. She stayed with her brother, his wife, and their child until late 2011 when he unexpectedly died. Joyce is still in a deep state of trauma, and dreams about him every night. The wife to her brother immediately disowned her, and remarried. It seems as though Joyce and I found each other at the perfect time too. Her full name is Alimo Olympia Joyce, and I think she likes the name Olympia the best, so I will call her that from now on. Before the first term ended, Olympia also approached me wanting to talk. She is a very shy person, and I was surprised that Grace who is very confident wrote me a letter, whereas Olympia decided to talk to me face to face. She couldn’t hold back tears as she talked to me about her brother, and about the child whom he had left behind. With all that she has lost in her life, it seems as though Olympia is not as much concerned with herself as she is concerned with the well-being of her niece. She told me that she had nowhere to go during her school holiday, and thus, stayed with Grace and another girl in the hut I mentioned above. She is a very responsible 17 year old, wise beyond her years, and I know that she will make a great mother some day. Olympia has been struggling in school, which is a surprise to her peers since they all seem to comment on her cleverness. Obviously this has to do with the emotional trauma she is experiencing. Still, she loves History and Geography and scored extremely high results in these areas on her first term exams. The subject she despises, however, is math. Since she has been in school, I have seen her self confidence grow, and I look forward to witness where the future will take her.

"I want to give thanks (to those who donated) for what you have done for us. When I sat for my Primary Leaving Exam 2010, I don't know whether I am going to stay hungry or nor. But I know God is Great. And I want to give thanks because you have brought us here, to a good secondary school in Uganda, and I thank God for that."
Melissa is the actress of the bunch. When I take photos, she is not shy, and she is quite the social butterfly. She is the one girl who is going to a different school, and is two grades above the rest. She is now 17 years old, and has dreams of becoming both a nurse and a singer. She so badly wants to go to America and even asked me if we can go during the next school holiday. I couldn’t help but laugh and tell her that I can’t even afford to go to America myself. Melissa doesn’t seem to understand the value of money, and it has become a personal project of mine to guide her, so that she is able to make smart choices in life. Melissa is a very determined girl, and when given the choice to repeat Senior 2 because she had been out of school for so long, declined, and decided to push herself in Senior 3. I have not received her results yet, but I am not worried. She is clever, confident, and a big dreamer. I think she knows she has to do well in order to get to where she wants to go. She tells me that going to school is “so important for my great future.” Being educated, she continues, will allow her to make her own money, which will help her to become independent, and give her the means to help people. She loves Biology, Geography and English, and hates Math, Physics, and Chemistry. She thanks God for those who have made it possible for her to go to school, adding “may God bless them.”

(Melissa's photo coming soon)

Brenda is a natural leader. Whenever I get a phone call on behalf of the girls, it comes from Brenda. She is not afraid, and she is not shy, even though she carries herself with a strong quietness. She is a little bit of a “tom boy,” buying unusual shoes for her school uniform, and loving any and all sports. She is also a fantastic singer, and like Melissa, has dreams of aspiring to be one, though I see her as more of a business woman or politician. After finishing school, she would like to "go outside Africa" -possibly to America to study art. Even though her results weren't that bad, when I told her what she scored in her exams, she was so so disappointed in herself. When I said that she should be proud of herself since she hasn’t been in school for some time, and that Senior 1 is designed to be extremely difficult, she refused to accept that, and promised both me and herself that she would work harder to achieve better result next term. I believe her.

“My life was hard. But now, I am looking forward to have a great future.”

Scovia is the most outgoing of them all. Whereas Brenda naturally falls into leadership roles, Scovia likes to be there. When I give them money for shopping for school requirements, or something of the sort, it is always Scovia who volunteers to manage the money. Her favorite subject is Chemistry (which the others despise) and she has hopes of becoming a nurse because she wants to "heal people." She is friendly and talkative, and has thrived being in this new environment.

"I want to give thanks to you (donors). For me, when I sat for my primary leaving examination, I even lost hope that I’m not going to continue with my studies because nobody is there to help me. Then I want to give you a very great thanks. May God bless you."

I wish to get closer to Sarah. She is timid, but there is a light inside of her that is just waiting to explode. Sarah has struggled with school in the past, so much so that it was difficult to get her accepted into this school. However, her confidence has grown, and though her results weren’t high overall, she has exceeded in a few areas, and could not WAIT to tell me that she got 86% on her history exam! In a previous post I spoke about how Sarah’s neighbor tried to poison her, because she was jealous that she was getting sponsored for school. But she has not been wavered by the experience. Sarah is a brave and determined young woman, and I can’t wait to see the ways in which she will grow.

“Auntie, when I sat my exams in 2010, I think that no one even can help me to go to school, because in our family, we are seven. When I was in our former school, I think that no one can help me like you. I thank God so that he give you more and more life in this world.”
These girls keep me going an inspired every day. I joke that I have adopted six teenagers, but in reality, they feel like my sisters. I can’t tell you how much being in school is impacting their lives, their self-confidence, and their futures. To all of you who made this possible, I, and all the girls thank you deeply.

If you would like to be a part of this journey, and are willing and able to donate, please send what you can via PayPal to
Love and Light,

Friday, 25 May 2012

New Water Project

"Investing in improved sanitation and drinking water could save 2.2 million children per year." (
When Naimat came to visit me in January, he was shocked by the lack of access to clean water, and specifically, by the high cost of drilling a borehole (a water well). In Pakistan, where he is originally from, every household in the villages has a water borehole of their own, whereas here in Uganda, women and children often have to walk miles to what is often a very dirty and unsafe water source. Furthermore, he was appalled that it costs roughly $10,000 to drill a new borehole in Uganda, because in Pakistan, it only costs $500.

In a country with so little, clean water is the most basic of human rights.
So, after returning to America, his mind was still in Uganda, and it didn’t take long for him to return. This time however, we invited his childhood friend and technician from Pakistan to come as well, bringing along with him enough materials to build two demonstration boreholes; our hope being that some NGOs or private investors will see the benefits of this technology and help us implement them on a large scale.

In addition to being more affordable, this new borehole technology is easier to maintain and produces cleaner water than the existing boreholes. The existing boreholes use metal piping which rusts and needs to be repaired once every six months. Metal piping is very expensive, and with so many boreholes needing to be repaired, communities often go months without access to water. With this new technology, we use PVC piping instead of metal piping, which obviously does not rust, and will last for 100 years. Additionally, we put a filter at the bottom of the piping, making the water more clean and safe. To repair these new boreholes, you only need to replace a small, circular device in the pump that costs about 25 cents, and is easy enough for a child to do.
Needless to say, this new technology is beneficial on many levels, and will provide more clean water to more people.

Waterborne diseases are one of the top killers in rural Africa, especially amongst children. Can you imagine that people in this world die because they don’t have clean water? Like I said, it’s the most basic of human rights, and something needs to be done... And we’re trying.
We have completed one borehole that will now provide clean water to 800 people in the village of Loyoboo. We are in the process of completing our second one.  And we hope to the Universe that there will be many many more...

This is what many of the water sources look like here in Uganda. Can you imagine? Hundreds of people get their water for drinking, cooking, bathing and washing from this very source:

Drilling is manual labor and hard work! We definitely take machines for granted in the Western world. It took us two and a half days to drill 36 feet:

It was a dirty job:

But we did it:

Being in the psychosocial field, it is rare that I see a project completed. When clean water came from that tap, it set my soul on fire. And the people were so happy, they could hardly contain their liberation...

For more photos, check out the album "Water Project Photos" on my facebook page.