Education
 Uganda
Project #13262

Educate 120 East African Refugees in Uganda

by Hope of Children and Women Victims of Violence
Vetted
Step 1-getting dry cotton wet
Step 1-getting dry cotton wet

I just got back from a quick trip to Uganda, much too quick! But, it was wonderful to be there, see everyone, and check in on our new programs.  One of the things that really struck me this time was the strong community HOCW has created in the refugee community we serve. For a refugee, who fled their home becuase of conflict or violence, many without the friends and family they relied on, rebuilding those community connections is a challenge. And it is one of our most important functions. During the last staff meeting I was there for, I asked everyone (three quarters of our staff are refugees themselves and most received services from HOCW before becoming staff) what they thought the most important thing we do is. These are two of the responses:

"Women come to us when their hearts are broken. HOCW helps them resume life. They feel they are somebody when they felt like nobody before."

"When I came here, I found people who love each other and live in unity, and make friendships. We are a big family where everyone feels at home regardless of nationality.  Now, I never feel alone. I found different cultures and nationalities and took the opportunity to learn about other cultures and social lives."

One of our primary focus areas is our Women’s Collectives, groups of women who come together to learn skills and run a business, enabling them to support their families. One of our newest, and now biggest, is the mushroom growing collective. I got to see, and “help” the women plant new gardens while I was there. This project came entirely from the women themselves, they conceived of the idea, wrote the initial business plan, saved the start up funds, and got a small grant. It has grown much bigger, through a generous grant from Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Zavod KROG, an NGO in Slovenia. I thought I'd share the details of this project with you through photos we took in May. One of the reasons I wanted to share this particular project with you is that I was really skeptical in the beginning. It just didn’t make sense to me because I’d never seen anything like it. But, the success, on so many levels, is a powerful reminder to me that the programs that benefit the community the most are the ones that come from within.

(note: mushrooms are grown in a substrate of cotton, barley and lye.  The gardens each produce several kilos of mushrooms to be sold to grocery stores, restaurants and to individuals.  They must be watered 3 times a day. Each woman in the collective is responsible for 7 watering shifts a month.)

step 2- cotton is packed in bags to sit for 2 days
step 2- cotton is packed in bags to sit for 2 days
step 3- mix lye and barley into damp cotton
step 3- mix lye and barley into damp cotton
back into the bags and ready to heat for 10 hours
back into the bags and ready to heat for 10 hours
They have fun while waiting
They have fun while waiting
weigh cotton, add seeds, and pack into gardens
weigh cotton, add seeds, and pack into gardens
Baby Clia and I are equally as helpful packing
Baby Clia and I are equally as helpful packing
Over 500 gardens in our mushroom building!!
Over 500 gardens in our mushroom building!!

Links:

In celebration of International Women's Day we wanted to put the spotlight on all of the wonderful achivements women at HOCW have made. Women are the backbone of the family and the community. Through our programs at HOCW we strive to provide women with the tools they need to become successful. Thank you for your support in making this possible. Here are some of the achievements our women have made: 

Women’s Savings Group

HOCW founded and hosts a Women’s Savings Group, a microfinancing group which meets every Friday morning to pool money, provide small business loans, and discuss future and current projects. The group functions as a small bank from which members can borrow. The greatest success story from this group has been the Mushroom Growing Project, an income generating project initially funded by the Women’s Savings Group. This month marks the end of a very successful one year saving cycle. The women’s group began a new cycle of savings on March 4th, 2016 with over 50 women registered in our saving program.

Community Collective Mushroom Growing Project

After meetings with consultants to learn the best practices for mushroom growing, the collective’s mushroom crops are growing well and the 35 women involved have started receiving orders from clients. The collective runs on a system where all mushrooms sold are recorded with designated supervisors and money is divided based on the length of shifts worked cultivating the mushrooms and the amount sold. All of the women involved are very happy working within the collective and having access steady source of income. We are very proud of how this project has developed and the financial empowerment it will bring to the women in our collective.

Our New Child Care Program

Opening a child care center is something that HOCW has been working towards for years. With women as the primary clients seeking our services, there are naturally many children bouncing around the compound while mothers work and study. Providing child care services will mean that our clients can focus on their work without worrying about their little ones. By the end of the month, HOCW will officially have a child care program. We welcome two new staff members, Hindu and Grace, who will run the child care program with a focus on early childhood education. So far we have 25 children registered in the program.

Teacher Jacqueline working with children
Teacher Jacqueline working with children
Tatu standing with products made by the collective
Tatu standing with products made by the collective
A visit from the International School Uganda
A visit from the International School Uganda

We have been very busy over the past few months preparing for our 5 year anniversary celebration. We have 75 candidates who are going to graduate from one of our programs on November 13, 2015, our 5 year anniversary! We will have students graduating from Tailoring, English, Business classes. Each of the graduates would like to wear a gown. So far, HOCW has 45 gowns and we are hoping to get more in the few days leading up to the graduation event. 

 

Moving forward we are hoping to form a partnership with the International School Uganda (ISU). In October HOCW hosted 28 staff from ISU. They were given a tour of the HOCW grounds and introduced to our staff. Later we had 30 students from the ISU come to HOCW to meet with our teenage student. They had a good time dancing to different types of international music and exchanging stories and conversation. Some of these students expressed an interest in volunteering with our children’s program. We are looking forward to this potential partnership. 

 

Through a grant we were able to secure from the KROG and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Slovenia we were able to purchase land for the Women’s Collective Mushroom Growing Project. The inspection of the site was successfully completed and the plan for the building was approved. We now have completed the construction of the mushroom shelter and are eagerly waiting for the second phase to begin so that we can buy the seeds needed to get started growing the new crop of mushrooms. We are very proud of how this project has developed and the financial empowerment it will bring to our women’s collective. 

 

With so much going on it is hard to believe that HOCW is only 5 years old. We have seen so many developments and so much progress over the last year, most of which has been made possible through our Global Giving supporters. Thank you for everything!

Our new shelter for growing mushrooms
Our new shelter for growing mushrooms
We are so proud of our women
We are so proud of our women's collective
Beautiful children- the reason we do work!
Beautiful children- the reason we do work!

We've all heard the saying "it takes a village to raise a child".  Well, in our case it takes a world to support a refugee.  That doesn't quite roll off the tongue in the same way, but you get the point! 

Ndejje, our village on the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda, is a resource poor community that is home to many refugees as well as poor Ugandans.  Our thirteen staff members work hard to educate and care for about 200 adults and 150 children. (as a side not, that is one of the things we are most proud of: we have 13 paid staff members!  Three years ago we had five volunteer staff, none of whom were paid.  Now, thirteen refugees and local villagers earn a living wage, most of which is spent in Ndejje, where they live.) But, there is always more that can be done and resources are sparse.  So, we rely on volunteers, other local NGO partnerships, and international NGOs. We have really learned how to stretch our resources.

We thought our generous supporters would be interested to see how we stretch every schilling and leverage partnerships.

Women are the backbone of our community.  Women head many of the households in our community.  But, opportunities for employment are scarce especially for refugees who have myriad challenges in their new country: language barriers, interrupted education, past trauma such as war and physical or sexual violence, little or no extended family in the area, and the stress of knowing resettlement could come at any time.  A large part of our mission is to help women gain skills and empower them to use them to support themselves and their families.  One of the first programs we started was a women's collective. But, the women knew they needed more.

They knew what they needed and we were able to find a partner who could provide it.  The Finnish Refugee Council (FRC) has funded a business class at the HOCW compound for several years.  At the end of each course, the students are encouraged to create a mock business plan and present it to the FRC staff.  One recent group of graduates proposed a mushroom growing business.  FRC was so impressed with the idea and the effort put into it that they told the women if they saved half of the money needed to start the business, they'd grant them the other half.

Saving money is a challenge for women who struggle with finances the way our refugee community does.  Luckily, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) had helped us set up a Village Savings and Loan (similar to the Grameen Bank model) a few months earlier. It took almost a year, but the women were able to save the hundreds of dollars needed. 

The women started their business but it was slow going and we soon realized to really get it going they'd need more resources. Neither HOCW nor the women had the necessary resources.  But, two volunteers from Slovenia had an idea how to get those resources.  They saw an opportunity to apply for a large (for us!) grant from the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (International Development Cooperation) government and found a Slovenian NGO, KROG, who was willing to partner with HOCW to sponsor the application. The application was a truly a group effort! We were able to make our case using data from a survey done by volunteers, including medical and pharmacy students from our partner Rosalind Franklin University of Medical Sciences in Chicago. And we got it! 

It's hard to imagine how empowered and encouraged this group of women feel as they've watched their dream come to fruition.  They feel like the whole world is supporting them, encouraging them to succeed!  We could not be prouder of these amazing women.  We are so grateful to everyone who has been a part of this process, especially our Global Giving supporters.  We credit our partnership with Global Giving and all of your generous support with all of our growth over the last several years.  Thank you again! 

teacher Brenda & Ellen with "Most Helpful" student
teacher Brenda & Ellen with "Most Helpful" student
volunteer med students at HOCW
volunteer med students at HOCW's HIV testing day
SO many kids at our latest children
SO many kids at our latest children's program
The reception and community space before
The reception and community space before

For about a year, the services that HOCW has been able to provide have been limited by space. Our schedule has been getting more and more complicated, we’ve been utilizing our limited outside space (much more difficult in rainy season!) and our executive directors house. We knew we could serve more people if we had the space to do it.

On April 1st, we took over an additional compound about 100 meters from our original location. The new space allows the collective to have their own space, has private offices for the staff that provide confidential services, and a large community room for meetings and our library. There is a large kitchen and big yard. Our students and staff are so happy!

 Everyone has settled in nicely and continue to accomplish big things:

  • The soap making collectives sold 120 liters of soap in one week-a record! (the women recently had their soap tested for antimicrobial properties and certified so that schools and clinics can purchase with confidence.)
  • We had our first Family Fun Day at African Bible University. Based on feedback that the refugees we serve need more community building activities, we decided to rent out the athletic facilities twice a month for a day of netball, football, volleyball and lots of games. After a long afternoon, everyone went home tired and happy.
  • Our home water filter project is entering its sixth month. We are still evaluating how this project has impacted incidence of water borne illnesses as well as the time and effort required to prepare water. But, we are encouraged that during a recent cholera outbreak, none of the families who received a filter showed any symptoms of cholera!
  • Our staff made presentations to the Office of the Prime Minister and the Wakiso District Health Department and HOCW has been invited to officially partner with both.

As always, thank you for your continued support of the work we are doing on behalf of refugees in Nedejje. 

The reception and community space after
The reception and community space after
Our director finally has his own office space!
Our director finally has his own office space!
Students having fun at Family Fun Day
Students having fun at Family Fun Day
Playing volleyball on Family Fun Day
Playing volleyball on Family Fun Day
 

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Organization Information

Hope of Children and Women Victims of Violence

Location: Kampala - Uganda
Website: http:/​/​www.hocwug.net/​
Project Leader:
Kelly Rigney
Ndejje, Uganda

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