It’s that time of the year once again! The festive mood is steadily growing not only around us but within us. We hope you are feeling the same way too! So much has happened this year and as usual, we are happy to share it all with you.
The village inauguration ceremony
In May this year, the new SOS Children’s Village was officially opened by the Minister of Lands, Water and Environment; Honorable Gabriel Opio. Together with the President of SOS-Children's Villages International, Mr. Helmut Kutin, they presided over the opening ceremony. A number of staff, community leaders, invited guests from other organizations and the community attended the function. The children entertained the guests with traditional songs and the famous ‘Bwola dance,’ an Acholi cultural dance normally presented before important persons or at events. This was indeed a thrilling moment for children and their mothers who had been anxiously waiting to start new life in the new, spacious and attractive home. Additionally, four mothers from SOS Children’s Village Entebbe and Kakiri were awarded with Gold Rings for their long service and commitment to the work of caring for children.
Day of the African Child
In preparation for the celebrations of the Day of the African Child in June, SOS Children’s Village Gulu hosted the Northern Region pre-day of African Childs’ Conference under the theme ‘Accelerated Child Survival and Development’. Five children from each of the districts in Northern Uganda were invited to participate. During the conference, the children discussed their rights as well as the problems they face. They later came up with viewpoints to communicate to the Government of Uganda, caretakers, and well-wishers and thereafter elected their colleagues to present their memorandum at the national celebrations. A total of six SOS children were privileged to attend these celebrations which took place in the capital city; Kampala.
In order to improve their skills in child care, a group of 10 mothers and aunts travelled to the Regional Training and Resource Centre in Nairobi to attend a three-month basic skills training. We are proud to inform you that one of our very own mothers from Kakiri has been identified to train for the role of a Mother Mentor. Mama Goretti is therefore attending the training in preparation for her future role. To begin with, she will also facilitate a few discussions during this training. Hopefully the mothers will greatly benefit and thereafter apply the new skills within their families on their return.
During this year, routine voluntary counselling and testing (VCT), and home visits for people living with HIV/AIDS, were the focus of the medical staff in their outreach programmes. They assessed the beneficiaries’ living conditions and hygiene. In cases of poor health, referrals are made to bigger hospitals to seek more specialized help. Currently, a new plan of extending VCT services to elementary schools and nurseries is underway. The specific objectives of this is to increase awareness of HIV/AIDS infection to the children, introducing HIV/AIDS testing to schools and reducing stigmatization towards children infected with HIV/AIDS. Despite the several challenges faced while continuing this kind of programme, the staff have endeavored to carry on because of the desire to greatly impact on the surrounding community.
Family Strengthening Programme
SOS Children’s Village Gulu supports several children living in the surrounding community through a community outreach programme known as the Family Strengthening Programme (FSP). This programme is aimed at assisting the most desperate children within their own family settings by providing them with basic services such as education, health support and food security, where it is of an absolute need. One lady called Sarah (not real name), was married to a soldier who passed away and left her with their 7 children. She later found out she was HIV positive. Her life became hard as her health deteriorated day by day even when she had some little money from her husband’s terminal benefits package. Sarah was registered by the FSP which started counseling her, providing her family with basic needs and training her to start a small business to earn some money to support her family. With time, Sarah’s health improved to enable her to trade in fish. She saved enough money to purchase two motorcycles which she now hires out at a fee. This has greatly boosted Sarah’s income and she is currently building a permanent house. Sarah is so grateful to SOS Children’s Village Gulu for giving her hope and will willingly withdraw from the programme this December, feeling happy, strong and empowered.
As a way of enhancing the children’s lives, our long time friends and partners, Stanbic Bank Uganda donated a cooker to each family house. We were privileged to have the Managing Director of Stanbic Uganda Mr. Philip Odera and other high ranking bank officials at the handover ceremony. The cookers were very much appreciated by the staff especially the mothers who do most of the cooking for their families. Further more the children being supported by the Family Strengthening Programme received readers and scholastic materials from the Human Rights Focus and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). These will go a long way in facilitating their education needs as some of the schools they attend are only able to provide these in small quantities.
During the school break, children normally engage in lots of co-curricular activities which they greatly enjoy. Last August, the boys formed a football team and invited their colleagues from the community for two friendly football matches. In support of the children’s talent development in sports, an organization known as Gulu Kids League donated sportswear when it realized that the SOS football team was growing into a strong team. The outfits were distributed to the team and to other children involved in different sporting activities like netball and basket ball.
The children will break off for the long Christmas holidays in December and we look forward to that. It is always the best part of the year because the children love getting gifts from Santa Claus. Let me take this opportunity to thank you, on behalf of the entire SOS Children’s Village Gulu family for supporting us, even through the difficult global financial crisis. We know it is not easy, but you have stuck with us and for that we are grateful. We would not be able to reach out to the children without your support.
We wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a happy 2010.