My second visit this year took up most of October. We had ordered refurbished tools from Tools with a Mission and I was happy to see many smiling faces when I arrived at Siriba with them. The tutors gave some of their time to provide new shelving after some minor repairs and decorating. All tools are now secure and easy to book in and out.We now have a new Board of Governors Chairman, Simon Oscar Okuma and a new principal, Josie Abong and we decided to publicise locally that we were in business to train youngsters in vocational skills. A good number of leaflets and posters were produced for distribution in all schools, churches and other public places. It is working and students are being signed up for the new term commencing in January 2015. There are many youngsters who are really underprivileged and simply can not afford the fees. One of these is eighteen year old Agaba (below), who wants to study motor vehicle technology with a view to becoming a driver after a year’s course. He told me of his sad family circumstances which were verified by Bweyale priest, Rev. Jackson Labbejaloia. I have decided to fund this young man personally via HANDS AROUND THE WORLD (HATW). The total cost will be in the order of £250. Hopefully Agaba will then have a better future instead of working for fourteen hours a day, seven days a week in a dairy… payment £10 per month. He actually gets only about £2-50 after paying rent for a tiny room. Sadly there are many more youngsters like this who need help.I wrote an appeal letter of my own and have been fortunate to be able to raise over £3000 (plus Giftaid). You can read more and watch a short video here As a retired Building Surveyor, I have offered to give a number of people free professional assistance for small projects in return for which they give HATW an appropriate donation. Come on fellow professionals, this is a very good way of helping the underprivileged!!!
In my last report I was looking back at my February visit; now I’m keenly looking towards my next visit which is only a few weeks away!The main thing to change since February is that we now have a new principal, Josie Abong. I have known Josie since I first went to Siriba in 2008. Since then she has studied hard at Gulu University and has obtained a Diploma in Secretarial Studies and Information Management. We all wish her well .Bishop George Kasangaki and I have been in touch constantly since I left and he has given much help and encouragement, not only to the VTC, Govenors and staff but also to me! His keen eye and attention to detail is good news for all of us.We now know that our refurbished tools have arrived in the 'Tools with a Mission' warehouse in Kampala. It has taken four months to reach here from Norfolk in England. Due some clever logistics by Robert the warehouse manager, and Geoffrey of Uganda Development Services, they are going to fit all of them into Geoffrey’s minibus. I am travelling with the tools and have been told that my seat might yet have to be on the roof… and we are still in the rainy season! Maybe they are joking.The final amount raised by St Leonard’s Church, Woolaton, in their Lent appeal was £2122. We are truly grateful to the congregation for this fine effort. This will go a long way in helping the most underprivileged of youngsters.I have now launched a personal appeal of my own under David’s guidance and I am hoping for a good response from family, friends and business colleagues. You can read it too, here: http://hatw.org.uk/2014/09/17/hugo-masons-special-appeal-for-siriba-vtc-uganda/
I left Siriba at the end of February and when I returned, David Steiner asked me to become project co-ordinator. This was an exciting step for me since having been to Siriba on three occasions, many of the local people had become good friends. Their world is so different to mine and with many things buzzing around in my mind I was keen to to do my best to help the Vocational Training Centre as much as possible in the months and hopefully years ahead.What I didn’t realise then was that as project co-ordinator, there was never going to be a dull moment! My priority is to keep in touch with the VTC at all times and so we have engaged Rita Epodoi from Uganda Development Services to monitor on a monthly basis in order to improve communication.When I was at Siriba I noted that many of the tools needed upgrading and so we have ordered refurbished ones from 'Tools with a Mission' costing in the order of £900 including shipping from the UK and transport in Uganda. Delivery is expected soon.Since I have been back home one of my highlights has been a visit from Hands around the World trustee, Wendy Sutton-Pryce. She has made an imaginative video of my stay in February which can be seen here. She took it to her church and raised over £2000 which we plan to use training the really underprivileged.April saw the biennial change in the Board of Govenors. We now have a very able Oskar Okumu as Chair, with the whole process supported and encouraged by Bishop George Kasangaki.A new mains water system has been provided in the surrounding district and once we have clearance we are hoping to connect to it and also provide water harvesting as a back up. I am planning to return in September, the main priority being to work through a plan of sustainability which we hope will climax in about three years’ time.
Siriba Vocational Training Centre is now at a crucial crossroads in its development, with a number of key areas to be addressed fully in the coming months.
After 2 years in post, Mike Williams our project co-ordinator has decided to retire from the role – his personality, energy and enthusiasm will be missed. He has tirelessly sought to bring the project on, encouraging the strengthening of the local management, to provide a more secure and sustainable financial future.
One of the effects of this has been to introduce non-formal training of a section of students, leading to an increase in numbers (up to 50) and cost savings. Another effect has been to propose the establishment of a commercial workshop to act as an income-generator for the centre.
A management training programme has now been agreed (principally for the Board of Governors) which will start in the new year and aim to establish a strategic plan for 2014 onwards; a much-respected local secondary head teacher has offered experienced advice and encouragement in a couple of assessment visits.
This week the closing ceremony for the academic year takes place, with students recognised for their attendance record and achievements.
One of our volunteers will be revisiting for the month of February, to help clarify priorities and help with sorting out the ongoing water supply issues, as well as assessing building maintenance needs.
We were delighted recently to receive an award of funds from a Foundation in California to enable the installation of a rain water harvesting system – having almost 1500 people on site each day attending school and VTC, with a minimal water provision due to inadequate boreholes, has been a major problem and a restriction to development. This system has to be carefully planned and built, and we are very concerned to ensure that the funds available are wisely used.
Hopefully there will be lots of positive outcomes to report next time! There are many needy children and huge potential benefit if the progress can be maintained and the work developed. Your support is much needed and appreciated! Thank you.
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