July 20, 2018
I cannot recall a time when I was more surprised! Last evening Margo Dolgos, a recent Carlow graduate presented a check to VCAYA to support our work in Uganda. She and Devan Stanko had secretly gathered donations to commemorate my birthday. This donation was just what we needed to complete our fundraising for the second well. As students at Carlow, Margo and Devan participated in our study abroad programs to Ireland and Nicaragua. They volunteered in agencies who provide services for individuals with disabilities in Sligo and taught children in primary schools and helped release giant sea turtles in Nicaragua. I am so proud of these millennials (who often get a bad rap) who took the time to find a way to help people on the other side of the world who they don't know. It wasn't a requirement for a class and it wouldn't even be something for their resume to help them get a job - because both of these May 2018 graduates already have landed good jobs. This was an act borne of compassion. Has anyone seen my box of kleenex?
July 13, 2018
Great news! The siting for the 2 wells in Matata were successfully completed! The people living in the Matata area were excited to know that they will have clean water access in a couple of weeks. There are thousands of people who are currently using the Matata Swamp as their water source. These wells will serve the people living in the Koitangor and Kosanyuk villages of Matata. Here are some photos where community members were celebrating of what they
called "beginning of new life" seeing hope to have access to clean water.
Susan & James
June 28, 2018
James and Rachel, two of the community leaders and founders of Advocates for Vulnerable Children's Rights (AVCR), met recently with the Matata Community to verify the location of the 2 wells that are being drilled this year. Matata has recently started a school for their children and since the children are most vulnerable to water borne diseases, they decided to drill the first well near the school. Stefro Engineering is scheduled to site the well on July 6th and 7th. This is always a challenging process but based on government hydrologists' reports, we are confident that they will locate a proper place to drill the well. The second water table, the one that offers the most sustainable, cleanest water, is usually reached after drilling 50 - 70 feet. We'll post photos here as soon as this is completed!
Three years ago, Kaleigh O'Rourke and Patrick Spencer (long story - they met on this trip and have been a couple ever since), led a group of community leaders including the head teacher of a school, teachers and elected officials in Bukedea, to discuss the challenges around increasing awareness and combating cultural norms around domestic and gender based violence (GBV). We concluded with a realization that any shift in the culture would need to take place over time and could begin with building awareness in the primary schools. Emily Atheson, as part of her Masters Thesis requirement at Carlow University, developed an arts based curriculum for children in Levels 1 - 7 that included activities around dance, sculpture, poetry and murals designed promote healthy relationships and conflict resolution. This curriculum was shared with teachers in Bukedea during our next visit. Kevin has continued to develop the curriculum and we have a new team member Hanifa Nakiryowa who will join us in developing this curriculum further. This August, James and Rachel are organizing community meetings to discuss these issues further. Mary Burke and Dick Smith also met with community members in March to continue Mary's work around GBV and efforts to provide information on human trafficking protection. We are all working together to address these important issues. If you would like to help or would like to put us in contact with others who might be able to assist us along these lines, please reach out to us!
We suggested that they consider collaborating with local schools who are providing education to children with disabilities using a Professional Development School model. Part of our PD sessions included field trips to Prospect School with the Director, The Honorable Florence who recently completed a term in the Ugandan Parliament.
Improving the lives of vulnerable children
July 31, 2018
Stefro Engineering is making their way to Matata today with the drilling equipment. We're excited to begin the drilling tomorrow!
July 28, 2018
The Interact Club at Chartiers Valley High School collected used eye glasses for distribution during our visit. Our friend, Harriet Nannungi arranged for adults living in Kawuku to meet with us to see if any of the glasses would improve their vision. Not surprisingly, most of the adults benefited from a pair of readers. Luckily we had many of these and were able to distribute over 30 pairs of glasses. We had to turn others away but promised to return next year with more glasses. Several people needed to see an eye doctor. If you know of any eye doctors who might be willing to join us next year, we would be happy to include them on our team.
Susan & Kevin
June 11, 2018
We are finalizing our plans for our work in Uganda which includes teacher training,drilling 2 wells, distribution of used prescription lens, visits to several villages and following up with evaluations of our previous work. We're very close to meeting our fundraising goals in order to drill two wells and we have some new supporters who are contributing to our efforts. This year the Interact Club at Chartiers Valley High School in Pittsburgh held a drive to collect used eye glasses that we can distribute. Students at Carlow University raised awareness and funds to support the hiring of a special education teacher at Noah's Ark School for Children with Disabilities and towards the drilling of one well in Matata. We continue to be amazed by the generosity of our friends who continue to support our work.
Environmental conditions effecting farming continue to be troubling and we have heard from several friends that lack of employment is problematic. This of course affects the ability of families to enroll their children in school and sometimes their very survival. We are, however, encouraged by the continued efforts to create a special education teacher preparation program at Kisubi University, for the work that it being done at Noah's Ark and with micro-loans for women to begin businesses.
In addition we visited the Entebbe Welfare School - a school for children with significant disabilities that could really use some help and more consistent training of staff. We think that pre-service teachers enrolled at the University will benefit from this experiential learning opportunity and the children will benefit from the extra attention in meeting their needs. Sr. Elizabeth and Bro John are fabulous to work with and we will continue to collaborate with them in the future.
Susan & Kevin
The next part of this story is kind of funny, Wendy Duchene was out walking her dog one day a few years ago and ran into a neighbor who volunteers in Africa through the ministry of Heaven's Family. She connected the two of us (as Wendy is awesome at networking) and for the past several years, Terri and Dan have been providing micro-financing loans and small business training to members of the acid attack support group. Some of the women (and men), created home-based businesses in sewing. Last year Sean Kelly gathered donations from friends, family and faculty and staff at St. Angela's College in Sligo, Ireland (he was part of the 2017 team) to purchase sewing machines for the group.
July 16, 2018
Just one more week until we start our 30+ hour travel to Uganda! Today I'm packing and shipping the most beautiful gowns and dresses to Kevin for packing in his second suitcase. Shipping costs to Uganda are ridiculous so we always bring an extra suitcase filled with donated items. This year we received 22 dresses from Exquisite Bride in Pittsburgh thanks to the efforts of Jeanie (Cost) Brody who came up with the idea! Gender Based Violence (GBV) is a major challenge for women and girls in Uganda and often escalates to extreme consequences for women. Years ago we had the pleasure of meeting Hanifa Nakiryowa - a beautiful woman who is a survivor of an acid attack arranged by her husband. (Hanifa's story). As a survivor, Hanifa chose to bring attention to the challenges of living in a culture in which GBV is all too prevalent. With the help of Victoria Nalongo Namusisi, she founded a support group for acid attack victims.
Now, back to these beautiful dresses. Jeanie came up with the idea to see if Exquisite Bride might donate some of their sample dresses to the group! In the spring, Jeanie and I met up with Hanifa in Pittsburgh (she recently graduated from Pitt) to understand the needs and market for the dresses. Jeanie got to work in selecting the perfect group of dresses to donate. We are really excited to facilitate this generous donation and we are astounded by the creativity that is present when someone finds a unique way to help others who can really benefit from assistance. We'll be sure to post updates here when we deliver these!
July 26 - 27, 2018
We completed 2 successful days of professional development for faculty at Kisubi University in Entebbe. Their recently approved program to prepare teachers for the Inclusion of Children with Special Needs will be launched this year. We were extremely impressed with the commitment of the 35 participants who will be teaching in the program.