Ugive2uganda†††††† †††††† †††† ††††††††††† ††††† †
Autumn Newsletter 2015
Welcome to our Autumn Newsletter for 2015.†
Most of our supporters are aware that we divide the activities of the charity broadly into three parts.† Approximately one third of our efforts focus on our music projects, another third concentrates on our child sponsorship scheme, while everything else comes under humanitarian-related needs.†† Occasionally two parts come together!† Earlier in the summer the band marched around Mbale town as part of the fundraising efforts for an English charity called Born on the Edge (www.bornontheedge.org) who work hard to prevent premature babies dying needlessly from inadequate care and treatment.† This small charity concentrates its work at the main hospital here in Mbale.† Obviously, the band donated its services for free, while the 2,000,000/= Ugandan shillings (about £500) came from supporters of our charity.
The best way of supporting young people in need in a developing country is not through gifts but through investment in the children themselves.† This means helping them with their education and skills so that they can obtain useful and decent jobs.†† Nothing can be achieved if the youth of the country are not equipped with the skills and training that they need for useful employment.† This is why we work so hard to try and find sponsors for children in our project.
You canít just wander around Uganda selecting children to sponsor at random.† So we channel the efforts to find sponsors for our children through our youth music program.† When we see young people come to our music rehearsals we get to know their abilities, characters and circumstances very well indeed.† We quickly weed out those individuals who donít want to make an effort themselves and just want handouts.† For those who only want money, or who have no respect for authority, or are not willing to work as part of a team, we wish them well in their future and send them on their way.† There are so many deserving children in Uganda, and we have such limited resources, that we try and help those young people who will work hard themselves and make a real contribution to the future of the country.
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.† However, the challenge is that college or vocational courses are usually more expensive than normal school fees.†
We have made a huge difference to so many children though this policy of youth development.† Many children are doing really well in their education while others are learning new and sustainable skills for the future.† We now have a number of children who are in the band and who are coming close to entering their third year at university. There will be some big celebrations when they graduate next year!
So we are still appealing for compassionate people to come forward and help with support for school children or students who want to go on to college or vocational training, or who want to become musicians.† 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 without money for school fees, books or lunches.
Please let me know if you are interested in sponsoring a needy child in the scheme.† If you canít afford it yourself 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 for a child at school or £20 a month for a child in further education.† They can download a leaflet from the website at www.ugive2uganda.org.
Itís not as easy as you may think to give humanitarian aid!† Some people need more food.† But, generally speaking, the majority of people here have enough to eat and donating food is not the long term answer to anything.† Medical help is always welcome but very difficult to distribute.† We make important interventions when we have funds although it is not always practical to take photos of children with either illnesses that you canít see like malaria, or medical conditions that do not make pleasant viewing.
So recently, we have begun to concentrate our efforts on solar lighting at the family level.† It doesnít sound important but it is.
Electricity is part of the infrastructure in all major towns in Uganda.† But one only has to travel a few miles outside of the towns to find villages with no power and very little prospects of getting access to it in the near future.† Even if a family has access to power many people cannot afford to pay for it.
For those without electricity, everything has to be done in the evenings by using paraffin lamps.† Itís obviously not a convenient and comfortable way of doing things.†† Apart from the environmental considerations, itís not good for your health to sit in a smoky room.† And accidents are frequent. But mothers need light to prepare supper, children need light to do their homework, and everyone needs light to wash.† Imagine trying to try and find an outside latrine in the pitch dark!
More importantly, if you have no money, then to try and find some small coins to buy paraffin can be the difference between eating that evening or going without food so that you can see!
One of the answers to this problem in a country like Uganda with plenty of sunshine, is solar lights.† These donít have to be huge panels like you would expect.† Even small hand-held devices can be a Godsend. †Imagine have a torch that never needs batteries or plugging into the mains.
So, thanks to a generous donation from one of our partners, Community Development Africa (CDA) , we have been working hard to source and deliver small household lighting appliances to as many families as we can.
The first batch of solar lights arrive at our house!
Phone charging in the village
So in this case humanitarian aid takes the form of reducing household expenses so that they can keep more money for themselves to spend on basic necessities like food, medical expenses and education.
Almost as useful as lighting is that the larger lights can be used to charge mobile phones. In the UK we take this for granted but in a village without power being able to charge your phone is not easy.† You have to spend money to travel to town to do it! (many people in Uganda have a mobile phone nowadays now that the price has dropped to just £7 for a new one).
We have stabilised our brass band program at around 500 players across eight bands.† Further expansion is becoming too difficult to manage.† For our flagship band we prefer to post our brass band videos on Facebook rather than youtube.† You can see the results here:
But we still post selected videos on youtube and you can see them by searching for ĎMbale Schools Bandí.
Some of our older players have now gone to join the Ugandan army band and we are so pleased that they now have permanent and well-paid careers gained through membership of our music program.
Eight years ago I stood in the middle of a field near Mbale surrounded by a group of children after had I told some of them that I was going to create a brass band. There was some interest but we had no chairs, stands, very few instruments, and no practice facilities. More importantly, the children had no concept that music could be written down on paper. We had to abandon our first practice that day as the smell of a dead dog in the field was overwhelming, and I also realised that I didn't have the right equipment to teach the kids about music theory.
If you had told me then that this small group of children would go on to become the most widely seen brass band in the world on the internet I would have laughed at you. But that is what has happened. Earlier this year we recorded a march called Castell Coch and posted it on Facebook. The video has been seen by more than 1.2 million people and has been 'liked' more than 11,000 times. No other band in any country has come close to this amount of interest in what is, after all, a minority social and musical activity.
Perhaps our greatest achievement is that we have transformed so many people's perception of one aspect of African society. When I return to the UK and ask people about what they think life is like in Africa, they often express a view that reflects what they have seen on TV and other media: hunger, thirst, disease, war, refugees, primitive behaviour and so on. In reality, although life can be tough or even dangerous in many countries on the continent, for the vast majority of the people here life goes on as it does elsewhere - children go to school, adults work and business takes place.
When people see our children in Mbale Schools Band reading and playing classical music on Facebook they are surprised. We don't fit into the negative news stories. The children are obviously musicians. Youth music is developing. Itís this change of attitude and perception outside Uganda which is what I believe to be our biggest success.
I couldn't have done it without the support of so many people in the UK and elsewhere. I would love to mention the names of all those who have helped in so many ways but it would be a long list!
So now to our next challenge. Our band is famous on the internet. But the children have had almost no chance of playing for a live audience as persuading local people here to come to a concert is not easy! So we are in danger of become a 'recording only' band. Or even a virtual brass band that no one will ever see 'live'.
Our objective therefore must be to play outside Africa (the band has already been on a concert tour in Kenya and Uganda). The aim of such a tour is not about the 30 players who would take part but the influence it would have on African youth as a whole.
Many millions of kids in Africa see their heroes playing football for Manchester Utd, Liverpool, or the other top teams in the Premier League. These same children are inspired by the success of their fellow-Africans and dream that one day, they may also be a great footballer. In the meantime sport unites them and teaches them all the positive values of teamwork and discipline. Music can be the same. Think how many children in Uganda would want to learn to play a musical instrument if they see on the national news that some of their peers had travelled to the UK to take part in a band contest - performing in their own right against musicians from other countries.
So I am launching an appeal to get the band to a European or an American country for a contest or concert tour to achieve our dream of becoming the first African band to do so.
It's obviously expensive because of air fares.
The main problem to overcome is that people will say that money raised towards such a tour should be spent in other humanitarian areas. But if you follow that logic, no African athletes would compete at the Olympics or at the World Cup. There are other huge charities that work in specific areas of disaster relief, medicine, and food security. We can't do that. But what we can do perhaps is change attitudes and perceptions and, through this change, make a significant difference to the cultural, artistic, and spiritual development of the children of Africa.
We will need perhaps £15,000 to make our dream come true. It's a real challenge. We have a pledge of £1,000 to start the campaign.† We won't raise the funds through small contributions but only through corporate sponsorship or a substantial donation from a patron of the arts. What we wonít do is spend money that is earmarked for other charity work.
If you can help in any way, or have any suggestions, I would be so grateful.† You can donate in pounds through our partners, charity checkout, using this link †https://www.charitycheckout.co.uk/1115196
The Donate button on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/mbaleschoolsband/?fref=ts uses the same link.
Or you can donate in dollars through our fundraising page at https://www.gofundme.com/vu35dc4
Please take the time to see our featured video on youtube:
....to see how far we have come on our journey.† Please help us continue that journey.
Thank you so much for your support.
Founder - ugive2uganda
201 Uxbridge Rd†††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† P.O. Box 47
W12 9DH††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Uganda
0780 193 0404 (in