Ugandan registered NGO No. S.5914/8841
Spring Newsletter 2013
Welcome to our Spring Newsletter for 2013.
In June 2010 Sarah Wamono was in the depths of despair. Her father had just become one of 300 people buried in the mudslides in Bududa in Eastern Uganda. As well as coping with her grief, she had to face the reality that her father would not be there to support her in the future. She had just left school and had always hoped to follow a career in nursing. Training for nursing is very expensive in Uganda and can cost up to £2,000 in total. We couldn’t afford to fund all the cost of the training in our small charity and appealed for help.
In the UK Mr Chris Bird heard about Sarah’s plight and offered to pay for half of the training. We paid the other half from our own funds and in January we were all delighted when Sarah phoned us from her nursing school to say that she had passed her final exams after two and a half years of study and was now a fully qualified nurse. It was an emotional moment for me and all of us who had stood with Sarah during her lowest point.
Through our child sponsorship scheme we try our best to help children either complete their schooling or, increasingly, try and support them through further education. The challenge is that college or vocational courses are usually more expensive than normal school fees. But we try our best when compassionate people in the UK help with funding for their sponsored child.
So we are still appealing for sponsors for school children or students who want to go on to college or vocational training, and for our trainee music teachers while they develop their own music projects. We also have a number of children who just need help for one or two years.
It makes such a difference to so many children in Uganda. Almost half our sponsored children have lost at least one parent. Many of them are despairingly trying to complete their education while relying on the support of a mother who is equally desperately trying to raise enough money for school fees and books by digging in the fields or growing vegetables to sell. It’s a massive struggle and so many parents have made great sacrifices to give their child a chance. Some parents fail, of course, and their child drops out of education altogether.
Mr Chris Bird on his recent visit to Uganda, pictured with four of our sponsored children at Yoweri Museveni Primary School in Mbale. Left to right: Brenda, Sharif, Rajab, and Emmanuel.
Please let me know if you are interested sponsoring a needy child in the scheme. If you can’t afford it the best way that you can help is by telling your friends about the program and asking if they would consider sponsoring a child at £15 a month. They can download a leaflet from the website at www.ugive2uganda.org.
Healthcare and Community Projects
For those of you who had sight of our previous newsletter you perhaps remember the story of Bridget who died from Hodgkins Lymphoma although we tried our best to help her.
History repeated itself in January when Richard, our health worker, brought us a boy called Derick who he had found crying by the side of the road in the village next to his own. Even though I am hardened to the suffering of some children in Uganda because I have been here for a long time I was still shocked at his condition.
Obviously he was in a great deal of pain. Richard discovered where the boy lived and found his mother. The mother told him that she had taken the boy to the doctors and that she had some paperwork but couldn't read.
I checked the mother's papers and it seemed that the boy had been taken to the local clinic in May 2012 with a diagnosis of probable retinoblastoma (eye cancer).Not surprisingly, the local clinic couldn't deal with the problem and referred the boy to the main national hospital in Kampala. But the mother had no money for transport to get to Kampala and no way of paying for treatment if she got there. She had also never travelled outside her district and would have been completely lost in the big city. They don't even speak the same language in Kampala as they do here in Mbale. So the mother did nothing and the boy stayed at home while his condition deteriorated.
Just as in Bridget’s case, we used some money to send Derick and his mother, and Richard, to Kampala for treatment. Fortunately, the previous month we had received a kind donation towards our medical program from Jon Leighton and his colleagues at www.3vgeomatics.com in Canada.
Although we supported Derick through an operation to remove his diseased eye, and on post-operative treatment, it was too late and he died six weeks after his treatment began. Survival rates for this type of cancer are high (exceeding 90% in the UK) with early diagnosis and treatment but the simple fact was that his mother had waited too long to seek help because she had no money and no-one to turn to.
On a brighter note, we have had many successes with other children who needed minor operations. Because many of these operations are of a personal nature photos of children are not easily reproduced in a newsletter. We always have a waiting list of children who need help and the amount that we can do depends entirely on the funds that we have. Even paying a small salary for Richard, without who we could do very little, is difficult because it obviously costs money.
Our project work also continues and I’m now firmly convinced that ensuring that villages have an adequate and reliable source of water is the most important way of helping people lift themselves out of poverty.
We try our best with what little funds we have. Even a relatively small water tank can catch the run-off of rain from a roof and families’ lives can be transformed by this kind of help.
One of our supported families with the water tank that we installed for them recently
We manage our healthcare program for humanitarian reasons. But this has to be balanced with the need to help Ugandans develop themselves. Charities are not just about giving and giving. So we help children with their education and training through our sponsorship scheme, and we enable them to develop themselves as individuals through our music program. I make no apologies for repeating a few paragraphs below that appeared in our previous newsletter.
Ask yourself this question: “why do so many thousands of parents in the UK send their children for music and instrumental lessons through schools and local music services?” The answer can be found on the websites, and in the literature, of many Music Services. Put simply, parents know that giving a child a difficult challenge to overcome, and one that takes effort and perseverance, is worthwhile in itself. Learning to play a musical instrument to a reasonable standard requires determination and instils character in a child. Add to this the comradeship, confidence and fun that that comes with being part of a musical ensemble and you have a perfect environment to stimulate spiritual, academic and character development.
All these positive qualities and values that derive from music in the UK also apply to developing countries – but perhaps even more so. In Uganda, with virtually no extra-curricular activities, and very few opportunities for learning anything outside school, music becomes very powerful indeed as one of the few ways that young people can share something in common while they learn together. When I travel to a new town and go and see the local authorities to propose making a new music group they are consistently enthusiastic and supportive. They understand that if there is no youth development in their community then young people will often take the wrong path in life – sometimes through sheer boredom and lack of opportunity.
When the children in the band are playing I make them think by explain the meaning of the music or why a composer might have written a particular piece. But they have to keep quiet while others try and master a difficult passage as well as learn to look after their instruments and music. Each band has a committee made up of teenagers who then find that they have their first experience of collective discussion and decision-making. In school they learn by copying from the teacher and the school defines their progress by their exam results instead of preparing them for adult life. Their progress in education and their chance of a successful career is wholly defined by how good their memory is and not by any of their other abilities.
I don’t teach beginner instrumentalists any more. My senior Ugandan players do. How many other children get this kind of supervisory experience that may lead one day to a job as a school teacher?
In a country with very high levels of unemployment I have nurtured 10 band instructors to the point where they can make their own bands in other towns and seven have already done so. You can see the progress of our main band by viewing our latest appeal at www.youtube.com/watch?v=hud-XiPoz40 or search for “Mbale Schools Band Jan 2013 update” on the same website.
I hope the video gives you a little understanding of why music is so important, especially in developing countries. And this is why I am making an appeal for our first Music Centre. This is a project we have been working on for two years now and will be a centre of activity for our music-making, teaching, and performing arts. If we can build the centre, for the first time we will be able to give lessons to the public, expand our music into woodwind, keyboard and guitar, and allow our children to continue with their music even after they have left school. This year we need to raise £5,000 for a bandroom and a room for our senior boys to sleep (for security of our instruments) so that at least we will have somewhere to play and be safe.
I realise that the vast majority of our supporters are not in a position to make a financial contribution to the project. But perhaps you know of other individuals, or businesses, which may be in a position to help. There are many musicians among our supporters and it’s possible the some of you may have contacts within the industry. We would be so grateful for any donations. We’re changing attitudes through the program, and equipping children with the positive mental fortitude to help them become responsible adults. This is real aid to Africa – not just handouts alone.
On a separate note, as another consequence of our efforts, more and more young musicians from the UK are coming to visit our project. What a fantastic experience for them to come and play with our Ugandan bands and learn about African culture. We recently hosted Peter Bray, a young music student, for a month and he was warmly welcomed by our Ugandan players. Here’s a comment from Peter on his return from the UK:
In January 2013 I embarked to work with the Mbale schools band, and it was the most incredible trip I have so far yet done. It has proven to have been quite a life-changing trip; my political views have certainly changed and also perhaps my outlook on life as whole. During my three and a half weeks out there, I saw the very, very best of Uganda and at the same time very, very worst.
Uganda has an extremely diverse range of music, with influences from many parts of the world. One of these influences is the British model of brass bands, indeed there are a number of British style brass bands in Uganda, however they are not all the same and there are a number of cultural differences and adaptations. One the biggest differences, is perhaps one’s perception of music, and what music is or is not. In addition to playing traditional tunes, the band does a lot of reading music. This is extremely important as it increases versatility of the band, which in turn opens up opportunities band when it comes to getting engagements, which means that can earn some small money. Also, to the players themselves, it creates opportunities should they wish to pursue music and it also improves their learning ability in school. I had the honour of testing the band on their reading ability. When I made the announcement at band practice, around 25 players were due to take their reading music exam. Somehow I tested the reading ability of around 50. In preparation for the tests, I spent time going through the music with those who were due to take the test. I must thank the senior players for making my life easier by being able to translate for me.
I had the privilege of playing with the band on an engagement on my last day in Mbale; it involved marching round Mbale for 2 hours in 40 degree heat, playing trumpet in a kind of jazz style. It was unlike any other engagement I had ever done before, epic.
I would like to sincerely thank Philip Monk and his wife Beatrice for their wonderful hospitality during my stay in Mbale. Also I would like to thank the clergy and congregation St. Mary’s Church, Magor for their support; namely Paul and Lisa Williams for their help in getting donations of instruments.
Peter’s father, John Bray, is now trying to helping us with our fundraising and has created Facebook and Twitter pages for us (search Facebook for “East Uganda Youth Music Foundation”) or see here
On Twitter we are www.twitter.com/Brass_for_Mbale.
Steve Walker, the organizer of the Annual Butlins Mineworkers Brass Band Championships, and his colleagues have also created a project called Brass for Mbale to try and raise awareness of what we are trying to achieve in Uganda. They allowed us to exhibit at January’s contest and plan further events for us this year.
Finally, can I offer my wholehearted gratitude to so many for all the support that we continue to receive. We couldn’t do anything without the help of our donors and child sponsors. A huge thank you to all of you and the difference that your compassion makes to so many in Africa.
Founder - ugive2uganda
11c Goodwin Rd P.O. Box 47
W12 9JN Uganda
0780 193 0404 (in
Bank Details: Barclays Huntingdon, A/c name ugive2uganda, Sort Code 20-43-63, A/c number 50030708
Please note that we are no longer at our Woodlands, Huntingdon address.