One of the long range goals of KFU is to create a media center equipped with computers, audio and visual equipment, a library of books, games, puzzles and art media to enhance the growth and creativity of the underserved children in the slums of Kampala. A computer lab will create revenue for the nonprofit as well as teach our women and children computer skills. The computer themed t-shirt quilts were handmade by a group of women to raise funds to advance this project. All proceeds from this raffle will go directly to the program.
In the recent climate of COVID hopelessness, when our students are unable to attend classes and their parents are helpless to earn money for food, it was more than a minor miracle when the board of directors and members of KFU Africa learned that there is always hope even in the direst times. Jeannie Driscoll made a dream come true when she felt a calling to support the Black Lives Matter movement by donating $100,000 to advance the mission of Kids First by purchasing property near the slums where we work. This purchase makes it possible to move the organization toward a position of sustainability and provide a safe house for women suffering from domestic violence, a dry place to seek shelter during the flood season, a home office, storage facility, a training center, craft store, a garden and a media center.
Prim is 33 years old. She is married with four children and has minimal education. She happily describes her culinary training achievement as “regaining her self-dignity and worth as a woman.” Prim lost both parents at an early age and she had to leave school. She faced sexual, physical and psychological abuse, resulting in an early marriage. She hoped to find happiness and self-worth as a person, but the reality of her marriage was domestic violence and being called “useless” by her husband.
Prim has longed for a skill which would make her useful to her family and community, so being selected for culinary training was a “dream come true and the best thing that has ever happened in her life.” After completing her training, she received a micro-finance loan to start her own business. She bought an oven, rented a room, and began making bread. Prim is now able to contribute to running her home and, because of COVID-19, she has gained respect from her husband because he has been out of work and turned to her for support. There is now peace in her home, no further domestic violence. Her kids do not go to bed hungry. After experiencing this life transformation, Prim wishes all Kids First mothers to be able to gain a skill. She is anxious to begin helping as many mothers as possible with culinary training.
Kids First Uganda has trained five women in culinary, ten women in tailoring, two women in cosmetology, and two men are currently training in auto mechanics.
Livingstone happily says this has been the best year of his life no matter what is currently happening in the world. He never dreamed he would have an opportunity to get a secondary education let alone being boarded at a good school. He says this opportunity has given him hope that everything is possible in life and he is not going to let COVID-19 ruin his dreams. He was enrolled in school at the beginning of this year and before schools were shut down, he passed his school football team trials and was accepted into the team. He is not allowed to play soccer in the school field yet, but he seeks out empty spaces to play with his friends. Livingstone is happy that, together with his family, they have been able to receive food from the government and he continues his school lessons from different television stations. He misses his new school, new friends, and expresses sincere gratitude to his sponsor, Tom, from Suttons Bay for supporting him.
Adyeri is in her mid-90s. She was married to a Muganda man when she was eleven years old and taken away from her village and family. Her firstborn child arrived when she was twelve years old. Her husband, Mukasa, was considered a wealthy man. They lived in Bbunga in an area just above the lower slums in the capital of Uganda. She describes her married life as difficult from the beginning because she missed her family and felt exiled in her own country. There was much for her to learn in her new culture: a new language, a hotter climate than that of her home village, and most difficult, how to be a wife and mother at such a young age. She gave birth to nine children and five died of AIDS, which left many grandchildren in her care. This list included her granddaughter Gloria, one of our sponsored children. (See photo).
The generous and selfless hearts of Adyeri and her husband continue to serve struggling women around Bbunga. Her husband built several rentals on their property, yet most families stayed for free because they could not afford rent. Moses, one of our sponsored boys who studies at the University, testifies that without Adyeri’s kind heart, he and his four siblings would have been homeless.
The average age for a woman in Uganda is sixty-two years old. Adyeri says it has been a blessing to live such a long life and able to help her many grandchildren and neighboring families. Gloria was selected for sponsorship of her education by a wonderful family who has pledged to support her through her remaining years of school.
“Gift” lives with her jjajja (grandmother) Joyce along with two of jjajja’s grandsons (3 and 4 year olds) as well as a young woman whose name is Vivian and her three month old baby Beline. Gift passed her primary exams with high grades which means she can graduate into secondary education and be a candidate for one of the best schools. Gift wishes to become a doctor and she excels in science and math. Like all our children, she enjoyed her zoo experience and her smile was huge talking about swimming in a pool, seeing zebras, giraffes and monkeys. Gift has a beautiful future for herself, but so does her jjajja and Vivian. Joyce is our first vocational training graduate in culinary. She currently earns money by sewing traditional tunics for men and she has someone who is making her a brick oven so she can start cooking bread to sell in different shops. She says she “missed out on life as a youth”, and now she is asking God for health and a longer life so she can use her new skills and continue to help her family. One of our graduates in tailoring is currently training Vivian to sew so she will have an opportunity to feed and raise her child, Beline. It will be exciting to return in two years to see the progress of jjajja Joyce, Gift and Vivian.
In January, 2020, our Michigan team (Mary, Judy and TIna) visited business locations of our first five vocational training graduates in tailoring. They were provided micro-finance loans after graduating, which they are now paying back into the program. These five women are currently training the next carefully selected five, and most are also training their children to sew. It was a highlight of our visit to see exciting changes in these women who are now respected in their communities, able to provide food for their children, better housing, as well as tuition fees for their kids.
THE FAVOR OF OUR GOD - January 13, 2020
On January 13, the Michigan mission team arrived in Uganda to join our women and children whom we serve. We were greeted with a celebration of praise songs, dancing and a prepared music program. Two years we prayed for God's strength and willingness to send us back to Uganda to serve. Ivan, a graduate of our sponsorship program, is music director of KFU. Seven years ago a Leland, Michigan student, Zoe, raised money for KFU and when asked, she expressed the wish to build a music/theatre/dance program. The Power of One....she who planted a seed that has grown over six years resulting in an amazing program which reaches hundreds of kids who live deep in the slums of Kampala and enriches their lives and gives them hope.
Joyce is one of five women enrolled in a culinary institute to learn specialized cookery and baking skills. Joyce is the grandmother to our sponsored child "Gift". She is greatly loved by KFU women and staff because of her big heart she has for children. Apart from struggling to raise her own children after getting divorced, Joyce has been taking in many more kids in her small home to provide a roof over their heads and sometimes spending what little she gets from selling vegetables to provide food for them. Her determination of wanting to see all young girls in her community to live a better life has been a huge inspiration to the management of Kids First. When she is empowered with more skills in catering, the sky will be the limit on how far she will share what she has learned.
We can't begin to describe how grateful and humbled we are by Ggaba Model School (where many of our kids attend, and whom have helped us rent rooms to provide mentoring and education sessions for local kids).
After seeing the impact Kids First has had in the lives of sponsored kids, as well as how we are reaching out to bless, encourage and empower as many as we can in the community, they presented an award to Kids First at a recent school function.
This is a tremendous encouragement to all those working for Kids First, to have their hard work acknowledged so publicly.
Thank you to all those working so hard in Uganda. Thank you to our teams working in New Zealand and America. And thank you to all who have come on board to support us in anyway, big or small. Everything makes a difference!
Here at Kids First we all have something to say, so this blog will be updated by members of our team as our work progresses to keep all of you in the loop!