Kids First celebrated it's 8th anniversary in 2014. But it really started earlier than that.
Kids First is the end result of a decision by three Ugandan women, living in the Bbunga slum area in Kampala, to support each other and provide for their families. They would meet together to make crafts they could sell, and with this they could help support their kids. Two of these women are pictured above.
This mutual support spread through their community as more women realised the benefits of meeting together and helping each other. Single mothers found support and encouragement, and kids found a safe environment in which to meet and play.
Soon the focus became two-fold: reach out to and support women, and to protect and develop children.
A group for kids would run in the dirty courtyard of one mother's home. Other women would go through the community to bring in kids who weren't at school, and who were home alone - vulnerable to neighbours and thieves. They would meet to sing songs, learn dances, and have some watery porridge, paid for by the income from selling crafts.
This was Kids First when Sarah and Sunny visited Uganda in 2008. They stumbled upon this group of women and children by chance, and they were amazed at the enthusiasm and organisation of the local, unfunded, unsupported group. They were impressed at the passion from the leading women involved and were deeply moved by their time with the women and children.
This was the beginning of a new phase for Kids First, as Sarah and Sunny felt called to commit to an involvement with these women and kids, to uplift and support the work they were already doing. Sunday Soccer started during their time in Uganda, and sponsorship for school started shortly after.
Kids First has been blessed by the involvement of Joshua, who has had a significant and central role in managing Kids First operations in Uganda since 2010. He had met Sarah and Sunny back in 2008, and after completing his university degree, he became involved with Kids First nearly full time.
Andrew also became more involved in Kids First in 2010, when he ran art programmes for Kids First kids with Sarah and Sunny. Since then he has continued to work alongside Joshua to co-ordinate arts programmes with Kids First kids, and within the schools they attend.
Also in 2010 we first met Lameck, a young man who had dropped out of uni due to lack of funds, and was struggling with a focus for life. He loves soccer, and he loves kids, so this was the beginning of the successful development of a footballprogramme that has now expanded under our current coach, Fred, is reaching out to many - street kids, as well as kids involved in Kids First. This has also been a vehicle for mentorship of youth and allowed kids to engage in discussions about everything from personal safety and general hygiene.
In 2011, Aggie, one of the mothers leading our craft making group, developed a connection with Mary, who was visiting from the USA. Mary came specifically to visit Kids First in 2013, and has since played a huge role in selling Kids First crafts in America, as well as garnering support for Kids First, especially in the development of a musicprogramme, and more recently a vocational training programme for women in Kids First.
The great thing about Kids First, is that it has never been driven by outside help. Theinitial idea and development was done by local women on a local level. Sure there is currently international sponsorship for children, and support with initiatives such as the sports and music programmes, but these are all in place to allow kids and women a chance to grow and develop their own talents. We hope that by giving an opportunity rather than a hand out, the work of Kids First will continue to spread through this community, and will eventually become self sufficient. (Though of course we will always be buying more amazing crafts from our talented women!)