I'm sure you all remember our vivacious sweet child, Linda, who was burnt in a house fire this year. She was unsafe at home because her mother was on the street, prostituting, to support her drug habit. Despite intensive support from Kids First, including renting a new home for Linda and Billington's mother and support to come off drugs and find other avenues of income, Linda's mum has gone AWOL and taken Linda with her. Linda had been discharged from hospital but was still needing ongoing follow up. Her son, Billington, has been left in the care of a teacher at his school.
At this stage we have had no contact from Linda's mum, and we have notified the local authorities to look out for her and Linda. Billington, whilst safe, is understandably upset that his mum and sister are missing.
Prayers for Linda's safety and return to Kids First are much appreciated. Also for Linda's mum's safety and engagement in rehab.
To all those lovely people out there who are still donating pads and undies - thank you! These are an ongoing need for our girls and women, and whilst we hope to make this a sustainable project in the long term, right now we still need donations!
Just as a reminder of where your kind donations are going...
Interested in donating? Please contact us. We have groups of women internationally who are collecting items from friends, churches, and other groups to post directly to Uganda, or send via our collection here in New Zealand.
Our soccer programme has had a revamp!
We have partnered with a new coach, Fred, to restructure the programme, so that it is not just a time for kids to meet and play soccer but also a time where talent and character can be developed. Fred is more mature and experienced than our previous coaches.
With Fred we also decided to target more vulnerable communities, such as Gaba, a suburb of Kampala. Gaba is a fishing landing site community with lots of slum areas. It is quite multicultural with many Somalis and Sudanese, as well as Ugandans. Most people in this community live in absolute poverty and many kids drop out of school to earn a living for their families on the fish landing site. There is a lot of drug abuse and prostitution in the area, which has lead to high levels of HIV/AIDS.
We believe our soccer program can help many youths in this community who are both in and out of school by providing them an alternative to help them avoid drugs and prostitution, and become empowered in a supportive environment.
We have requested Gaba Model Primary School (where many of the Kids First kids attend) to provide storage for our equipment and a room we can provide lessons on the Bible as well as personal skills like hygiene, educating about HIV, etc. The school administration has kindly accepted, after hearing what we wanted to achieve in the same community in which they work.
We are excited to see how this new improved programme develops over the year, as more disenfranchised youth can be empowered and encouraged through this outreach.
We are sad to announce a tragic event that happened this school holidays, involving a sponsored child, Linda, and her brother, Billington.
You may recall reading about Linda, who was sponsored toward the end of last year. Her brother had already been sponsored into boarding school, and to keep Linda safe we found an awesome sponsor in NZ who has sponsored her into boarding school as well. Linda and her brother's home environment was far from safe, with their mother leaving them alone, even at night, to engage in prostitution for a desperately low fee. With her kids in boarding school, Linda's mum was invited to join the women's group in Kids First and was given the resources required to make earrings, which could be sold in Uganda or in our overseas craft markets, for an income. Unfortunately she was not able to engage with this and 'disappeared' during Term 1 this year.
At the start of these school holidays she reappeared requesting to take her kids home for the holidays. Joshua ensured she had a stable place to live at this time, but even though the holidays were shorter than usual (a flow on effect from the recent elections), Billington and Linda were again being left alone at night. In their neighbourhood certain drugs or "witchcraft" is smoked, and neighbours smoking this left the fire going one night. Unfortunately the surrounding houses (read: single room shacks) caught fire. Fortunately Billington woke with the smoke and heat and ran outside to get help. A neighbour was able to get back in their house to save Linda, though she was already burnt. She was luckier than her little neighbour, however: living in a red light district another little girl had been left home alone by her mother, and was killed in the fire.
Linda was rushed to the nearest hospital. Joshua was called out in the middle of the night as the hospital refused to treat unless someone came who could guarantee payment. We are so grateful for the USA branch of Kids First who have sent money urgently to cover the initial costs of Linda's treatment. She has burns to her head and arms and has required surgery for this. Being a spirited young girl, she is coping surprisingly well, but as you can imagine this is a terrifying event for a child to experience.
Billington, meanwhile, is being cared for by an amazing woman - the headmistress of their primary school. She is already caring for another of our kids (Harriet) in the holidays for similar reasons, that her mother is unable to care for her. Linda's mum now has no home to live in. Kids First have rented her a temporary room for one month. In that time we have requested that she seriously consider taking up our offer of counselling and support so that she is better equipped to care for her kids. Time will tell if she is keen to engage in this offer. Meanwhile, we will keep you posted. Prayers for her, and her kids, and Linda's speedy recovery without infection of her burns would be greatly appreciated.
Term 1 2016
This term our kids just have a short holiday as they have a lot of school work to catch up on, as they had to start Term 1 late due to the political unrest. Because of this we have not put in place a specific holiday programme, other than writing letters to sponsors and pen pals. Many of our kids in secondary school did not come back for the holidays as they are in candidate class, so they chose to stay back to study for exams.
As a heads up to our amazing sponsors, we have been getting requests from schools to increase the fees we pay. At this stage we are negotiating with them as it would be good to keep things at the rate they are, and to keep our kids in the same school all year, especially those in their last year of school. We will keep you all posted. Kids will be back at school on June 6th!
Christmas Holidays 2015/2016
This was a tricky time for us at Kids First, as there was some disturbance with the lead up to the Ugandan elections. Since then, internet access has been tricky, so it has taken a while for us to get some pictures of what our kids were able to get up to over the Christmas holidays.
Most parents sent their kids to the villages to get them of the city and keep them safe. However, despite reduced numbers we did manage to have some meetings with our kids and were able to talk to our girls about safety, give out pads and underwear, and thanks to another generous donation, able to give out more Bibles!
Allow me update you all on Harriet's progress with her treatment. In the December holiday of 2015 after getting our registration certificate, we embarked on the journey of taking Harriet through an aggressive therapy programme. We had tried out local therapy doctors but they were not meeting the treatment standards we expected. Thank God Harriet was admitted for a one month treatment at Katalemwa Cheshire Home. During the one month treatment we realized a tremendous change in Harriet's legs: she could scoot properly, something that she could not do before. She also stopped urinating on herself because she could now separate her thighs.
After a month Harriet was released from the hospital but we were advised that she needed surgery to be able to walk properly. This was a bit scary for our little girl. We were comforted by doctors that it was not a life threatening procedure. We linked the therapy doctors and the HIV clinic doctors who gave a go forward for the procedure to be done. On 23/2/2016 Harriet was readmitted and had an 'Adductor Release then Broomstick Cast'. '
Three days later Harriet was released and she is now back at school. Ggaba Model School has been a huge blessing during this time, allocating a staff member, Patricia, to help look after Harriet and they have given Harriet a special bed where she is able to do her school work.
Harriet will have the cast on for two months and then will be reassessed.
I am happy to let you know that Harriet is happy and has hope that she will get better. Lets continue praying for her. Special thanks to Harriet's sponsor who is paying for the treatment and to Mary who is co-ordinating sending the funds.
Mukama abawe omukisa,
A few weeks ago I meet a friend of mine who asked about Kids First. We ended our conversation with him asking if Kids First was growing. I replied, 'Yes we are growing,' Then he asked a question actually I expected him to ask: 'Why are you saying you are growing and yet you even do not have an office were one can locate you?'
This was my reply: so many community based-organisations miss out on the point of growth. They determine their growth by how beautiful their offices are or how many people come to their facilities to ask for help or how many huge cars they have that help them travel so comfortably in poor communities. You should get me right on this - I am not implying that having a good office is bad or nice cars are bad, but I think everyone would determine growth by how a project has been able to transform lives: can the people they serve visit their office asking on how they can make their businesses even better or they are visiting to ask money to put food on their tables?
I am happy to note that as a project we are growing: this year we are going to have two of our sponsored children sit their final exams in secondary school and next year they will be joining university. God knows if they will become teachers or lawyers or even bankers. Christine and Pauline were just kids when they got onto the program, so if we have been able to mentor them to this point this is growth. Not only mentoring them but helping their parents have a relatively stable income through craft-making and microfinance - something that enables them to take care of their essential needs, helping these girls not to turn to men to get what they want.
These two young girls have grown into responsible citizens. Pauline has been the head girl in their school last year. Both her and Christine are so instrumental in teaching other young girls things like how to use sanitary products, but also how to write letters to their sponsors.
Ladies and gentlemen, I congratulate you all for being part of a growing body that with little resources it is doing whatever it can to transform life.
Yes, we are growing.
First up we have some really exciting news! Earlier this month we received a certificate of registration in Uganda, making us a registered NGO in Uganda! We are so excited as this has been a long road with so many people involved working toward this goal. Thanks to you all, and many many prayers, we have made it! This is great not only to make Kids First 'official' in Uganda, but to provide protection for the children and adults involved in Kids First. It makes meeting together in large groups safe, and allows us to provide more care for the vulnerable kids involved, as shown below in Joshua's letter...
It has been a while since I last gave an update about Harriet. I will share some information about her now.
It is a huge blessing being part of Harriet's life and seeing where God has brought her and the wonderful life He is giving her. Taking care of Harriet has not been easy, especially when we have not been registered as it has been illegal for us to make some decisions about her health or even provide some care while we are not registered. To make matters worse it is very hard to get her mother's approval for some decisions that needs a parents consent (as she is not easy to find or contact). Our registration and recognition by the Ugandan government has come like a Christmas gift to Harriet as we can now make some decisions about her care because we are protected by law.
Some time back in our first year of helping Harriet, I had taken Harriet to one of the best rehabilitation and nursing homes in Uganda for therapy and treatment. However, they denied us services because we were not registered and I was not Harriet's parent. I was so disappointed but hoped I would get Kids First registered so that Harriet could get medical services at this centre.
I thank God this has come to pass. Once I got the registration certificate, the next morning I went to this rehabilitation home to work on the process of seeing Harriet get therapy. I am so happy to let you know that Harriet has been admitted to this rehabilitation centre and she will be undergoing intensive therapy for one month.
Harriet is a very loved girl in Kids First. I was overwhelmed with the support everyone gave to see her get into this rehabilitation centre. On her day of admission, apart from myself, Stella was there to represent the mothers, Merabu the director of Gaba Model School (Harriet's school), and Harriet's teacher, Patricia, was there to support Harriet as she goes through her journey of specialised therapy treatment.
In addition, I am happy to note that Harriet's health has improved a lot since she started taking her HIV treatment. She has been so cooperative in taking her medication and the doctors are happy that her health has improved. At her last visit to the hospital they reduced the medication she was getting because of the improvement.
Merabu, the Director of Gaba Model School, has been a huge blessing to Kids First but also to Harriet as she accepted to keep her in her lovely home for part of this school break, and while I was worried about how I was going to help Harriet in the hospital, she connected me to Harriet's best teacher. This teacher, Patricia, will visit her in the hospital and at the same time help her with her school work while at the hospital.
With the kid of love and care Harriet is receiving her life is changing for the better and we thank God for that.
Mukama abawe omukisa,
Happy New Year!! What a great start to the year we had. Although new years day in NZ was rainy, I received a wonderful update from Joshua about more women on the microfinance programme, who have seen such a huge benefit to their lives in the last few months of 2015. Nothing is better than seeing people empowered to support themselves and their families. This is our aim at Kids First: to value others as Christ does, thus empowering them to make the most of the opportunities we can offer to help benefit themselves, their family, and their community.
So without further ado, let me introduce you to another amazing woman, mother, and grandmother, who is starting 2016 with a brand new outlook and a positive attitude. Let's hope we can all be so enthusiastic this January, and carry it through to the end of the year. And remember, if you haven't yet decided to support or sponsor through us or any other organisation, I strongly encourage you to do so this year. A small amount may change a life, and even a family (our microfinance loans are about NZD45/USD30, and yet families are reaping huge rewards from the boost they give).
Microfinance Success Story 5:
NAME: Elizabeth Nanyunja
Age: 56 years
Elizabeth is a widow with seven children and eight grandchildren.
Elizabeth is one of the leaders in Kids First. She has been with us since the start of the organisation.
Below is what she had to say about the microfinance project.
“Becoming a widow at a very young age with a young family, I was so desperate to find help from a number of organisations so that I could keep my children in school and get them food to eat.
Unfortunately most of the help I was getting was handouts so ended up going back and forth for help. I was so pleased when I joined Kids First because from the start it was helping us to lead self-sustainable lives.
Through craft we can make money that can help us meet our needs and when the micro-finance came in it just empowered us all the more. I lost one of my daughters to HIV/AIDS, leaving behind four orphans that I had to take care of. Three of these children are on medication which is free but it requires proper feeding [people with HIV are prone to nutritional problems and need greater attention on a balanced diet] which is so costly especially if you have a big family to take of.
I am happy that with the microfinance I have enlarged my income base and feeding my sick grandchildren is no longer a challenge. I cannot stop smiling because I am now so sure that with proper feeding I will be able to see them live for a longer time. Thanks a lot Kids First for not giving us fish but for helping us fish for ourselves.”
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!