Many hearty greetings from SOS Children’s Village Fort Portal! The festive season will soon be here but before we get carried away by the joyous mood, I would like to share with you the latest news at our location. Enjoy reading!
To date the Children’s Village is blossoming with 119 happy and loving children. 7 of them are toddlers and still stay at home with their mothers while the older children go to school. The kindergarten organized “Donate-a-book week” to mark the end of second term of school for the children attending kindergarten. This activity was aimed at developing children’s reading culture and intellectual mind. We got a very positive response from the parents who donated some reading books for the school library and others pledged to do the same at a later stage. With these, we are hopeful that our kindergarten library will be better stocked with a variety of reading books for the children. At the climax of the week, parents were invited to a concert where the children recited poems, rhymes and also acted out the stories they had read in the books. They staged an art exhibition and parents were happy to purchase their children’s artwork. It was indeed a wonderful week with a lot of learning! There are plans to lobby for more reading materials to further boost the children’s reading culture. A mini library will also be opened up at our Kindergarten and office block to enable children’s access to reading materials.
Early July this year, SOS staff and children jubilated as we commemorated three years since the opening of the Children’s Village. It was such a fun filled day and was well attended by district officials, local leaders, friends and other community members in the neighbourhood. The guest of honour was a high ranking police officer (District Police Commander for Kabarole district). Later in the day, he was seen dancing away with the children. This amused them so much as they have always known police officers to only carry out serious work!
Our Children’s Village lies within the Toro Kindgom. The Kingdom is an ancient monarchy that was abolished in 1967 by the Government of Uganda, but was reinstated in 1993. The current monarch is known as King Oyo who ascended to the throne in 1995 at the age of only three and a half years. He actually holds the record of being the world’s youngest ruling monarch. In September, a big celebration was held in Fort Portal to commemorate the 18th coronation anniversary of King Oyo. The celebration locally known as Empango was well attended by Kingdom officials, all African queens, High profile political and religious leaders, businessmen as well as the community of Toro. Amongst these, was a group of SOS children who took part in a march led by His Majesty and later on, they had the honour of presenting songs, poems and dancing before him. It was such an honour that they still talk about to date. Their brothers and sisters who didn‘t participate always listen to the stories in admiration!
We have continued to support the neighboring communities where we work through our Family Strengthening Programme and are delighted to share with you one of the several testimonies as a result of our work. After a long disagreement between Jack and his wife Dinah on who should support which child of the four (4) grand children (3 boys and 1 girl), they finally agreed to jointly support all their grand children. They arrived at this agreement after attending a gender awareness session for caregivers organized by the SOS Children’s Village. Dinah explains that initially her husband had decided to pay school tuition fees for only one grandchild and his choice was a male (a son of his deceased son). This left the remaining 3 children (2 boys and 1 girl) under the care of his wife. It was difficult for Dinah to meet all the scholastic needs of the 3 children since she dug fields to earn a living unlike her husband who made bricks for construction. The bricks generate way more income compared to digging fields. As a result, the children under Dinah‘s care were always sent away from school due to defaulting school tution fees while the boy under Jack’s care would always pay on time and had all the scholastic requirements.
As already mentioned, Jack had refused to support his 3 grandchildren because they were born of his deceased daughter thus they belonged to a different clan from his (our societies are patriarchal in nature). Furthermore, Jack had his fears of supporting a girl child through school because he viewed it as a waste of time. He was worried that the girl-child could easily get married and drop out of school. Thankfully, from the gender awareness sessions the couple attended, they understood the importance of supporting and treating all children equally since they have equal chances of excelling. It was at this point that the couple agreed to jointly support all their grandchildren. Dinah is now so grateful to SOS Children’s Village for organizing a training that brought peace and harmony in her home since she now seats with her husband to plan for the family. SOS Children’s Villages has plans to continue sensitizing our communities on issues to do with gender such as social matters, violence as well as child rights. More support will also be given to community groups most especially those involved in individual Income Generating Activities so as to enhance sustainability.
On another note, our Medical Centre continues to grow. The number of patients treated grew and we are also glad that patients visiting the medical centre leave appreciation messages for the services being provided to them. Communities neighbouring the centre are happy to have such medical services in their reach unlike back in the day when they had to move several kilometrers to public hospitals in town. We are also grateful for skilled assistance from our health care professionals this year. They have continued to provide on-going medical check ups and consultation. They have also had several outreach activities in the communities where people have been fully sensitized about HIV/ AIDS. We look forward to strengthening our partnerships with institutions that have been used as referrals for some of the children SOS couldn’t support fully like mentally ill cases and counseling. We also hope to reach out to children or caretakers who need support in the area of nutrition. This is because Toro is known to have the highest level of malnutrition cases in the region against the background that we have the potential to produce optimal food to feed our population.
All of this would not have been possible without your generous support. Your belief in creating a loving home for every child has brought us this far and we are very thankful. Happy festive season!
The Children's Village continues to provide a loving home for the children. A few months ago, a set of twins and their older sister finally found a place to call home. The mother to the three children, passed away shortly after giving birth to the twins. They were then left to their elderly grandparents to nurse them since there was no one else to take over. However, life was very difficult for their old grandmother who had to go digging in the neighbouring gardens in order to get money to buy milk for the twins. When they were almost four months old, the local leaders sought help from SOS Children's Village Fort Portal. On a good note, the response was positive and the twins plus their sister were taken on for long term care.
On arrival, the children were dressed in rugged pieces of cloth however this did not stop them from smiling at everyone who reached out to carry and cuddle them. It was such an emotional moment; some staff were moved to tears as they wondered why life was so unfair to them at such a tender age. To the children in that family house, it was exciting to receive yet another little sister and brother. They could be seen taking turns to hold the twins. Currently, the twins are now fully grown and look even prettier. Their sister Tracy started attending kindergarten and is progressing well. A strong bond has been formed with their mother; she hardly wants to leave their side. She is so proud of her lovely twins since 'they give her lots of hope for the future' she confesses.
In our Family Strengthening Programme, income generating activities such as art and craft, mushroom growing, soap making and agribusiness are going on seemingly well. For instance, caregivers have been able make some savings and have also borrowed money from a local savings scheme to cater for their family needs like school fees for the children, and purchase of crop inputs for their gardens. Large amounts of liquid soap, bar soap and mushrooms by the FSP Care givers are being sold to the families in the Children's village. While the caregivers have found assured market for their products, mothers in the family houses are also enjoying the services at cheaper and affordable prices. They also have opened up fully-fledged market centres where they sell theirproducts.
One of the beneficiaries known as Margaret has a family of six children and stays together with her husband. During assessment of Rubingo village, the SOS team found out that her family was very miserable and were living way below normal standards. Margaret and her husband were mere peasants who lived off meagre wages (earned by digging) for survival. Eight of them lived in a small hut with almost collapsing walls. In such a pathetic situtation, SOS chose to support the family in the hope that they will provide a better future for their children. Margaret and her husband were sensitized on several income generating activities that could contribute to getting them additional income for survival. They decided to settle with the art and craft groups within their village. While she learnt the skill of weaving the mat and baskets, her husband supported her in searching for local materials to use for the art pieces she intended to make. Fortunately, the family's innovations went on well and several attractive mats, hand bags and baskets were made. Many are the days the couple is seen transporting their craft work to the market. These items have fetched the couple a good amount of money which they are using to educate their six children. One of their older children will be sitting for the national primary (elementary) leaving examiniations this year. The couple cannot wait for such a moment to come since it will fully signify their success and hard work.
Many thanks for making it happen with your generous support.
At the moment, schools have closed for the first term holidays (school break) so the children have extra free time to enjoy. Some activities have been planned for them during this time. They will be involved in story telling, athletics, football, netball, baking, art and craft and finally will be treated to a day out that will mark the end of their four week school break. On a serious note however, two hour remedial classes have also been scheduled thrice a week to beef up the children’s academics. These have always helped them improve their grades.
On a joyous note, the Children’s Village community welcomed two new children to the big family. A few mothers and children gathered at the gate to warmly receive them. They all later on had a small gathering where the children performed several songs and dances for their new friends. Mothers also jubilated on receipt of these new members of the family and couldn’t wait to treat them to a simple snack they had prepared for them. At this moment, everyone was all smiles and there’s no doubt the two new children felt at home. Currently, they have both settled in and are slowly getting acquainted with the new environment.
Otherwise, our community development programme continues to reach out to the many other vulnerable children who are at risk of losing their families. The programme recently expanded to take on 30 new families (i.e. 170 children). At the moment the focus has been towards promoting education of the girl-child given the high dropout rate which was majorly related to social issues e.g. lack of proper lavatory facilities at the schools among others. On the other hand, the medical centre has continued to impact the health standards in the surrounding community through curative and preventive treatment as well as outreaches and sensitization talks.
To close off, many thanks for your untiring support always; the children have been able to enjoy a loving home!
Shortly before the end of 2012, SOS Children’s Village Fort Portal celebrated yet another milestone. The Medical Centre officially begun operating and the services are also open to the surrounding community. With this development, the health standards in the community will be greatly boosted. In the meantime, besides enjoying the comfort of a loving home, the children continue to develop physically, emotionally and socially. During the recently concluded long school break, they were involved in doing a lot of handiwork. Their mothers taught them how to bake cookies and cakes, cook a variety of local dishes and making simple art and craft pieces. These skills are considered important for children especially for the future when they will start living an independent life.
As regards education, last December, the kindergarten held a send-off ceremony for those who had completedthe highest level and were ready to move on to primary (elementary) school. The children were filled with excitement. Their performance last year was quite encouraging as many ended up being promoted to the next class. The number of children in elementary school has gone up to slightly above 40. On the other hand, the kindergarten admitted 25 more children for the kindergarten one class and classes have already kicked off. Their transition from home to school is so far promising.
On another note, during the send-off ceremony at the kindergarten, a mini cultural gala was held. The children showcased outfits representing different African countries in existence. It was a very colorful occasion and the parents were impressed by the children’s confidence and vigor while they did the walk. This activity not only contributed to the children’s development but also sharpened their creativity and imagination.
Generally, the children continue to do well while they enjoy their usual games and company of their loving mothers. Now that the family houses were given television sets, in the evenings, children are often seen glued to the elevision sets while they watch their favorite cartoons.
SOS Children’s Village Program at Fort Portal begun in 2008 with a community development program (known as Family Strengthening Program) that currently supports just above 800 children who are at risk of losing parental care. In 2010 started the construction of a Children’s Village that gives home to 12 families each consisting of 10 children. While under construction the children lived in a transitional home where they awaited the final move into the Children’s Village. It is such a delight to see how well the families have settled hence giving the children a sense of love, respect and security.
Most of the children living at the Children’s Village still attend kindergarten with a handful in elementary school. The kindergarten has not only become a place where they have fun, but they have also learned to read, write as well as speak English (on admission, all of them could only speak their native languages). Better command of the English language has significantly boosted the children’s self-esteem. “With the firm foundation that we have given these children; I am confident enough they will favorably compete with other children once they join elementary schools in the community!” commented the Headteacher.
We are happy to let you know that the kindergarten held it’s first ever sports day. Children showed talent in different sports activities including bottle filling, sack racing, parade, hoop race, painting race, short and long relay among others. One of the little boys displayed great leadership skills. He commanded the parade so well and even confidently guided the guest of honor during the parade inspection. The parents actively participated in cheering their children which made the day more enjoyable. Such sports activities contribute greatly to the children’s development and parents are very happy about it.
On a lighter note, when children are not at school, they engage in various activities which help them keep them occupied. Besides playing a variety of local games, they also help around their family houses (especially the older children) and have recently showed a lot of interest in agriculture following the rainy season. Each family house has a garden from which they harvest a variety of vegetables and other fresh supplies. Not only has this enabled them to reduce their fresh food budget but it has also greatly boosted the children’s nutrition.
Generally, the children are doing well and are currently looking forward to the festivities as we draw close to the end of the year. It always is an exciting time for them!
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