Feed, Educate, Empower Acholi Women and Girls

by The River Fund
Feed, Educate, Empower Acholi Women and Girls
Feed, Educate, Empower Acholi Women and Girls
Feed, Educate, Empower Acholi Women and Girls
Feed, Educate, Empower Acholi Women and Girls
Feed, Educate, Empower Acholi Women and Girls
Feed, Educate, Empower Acholi Women and Girls
Feed, Educate, Empower Acholi Women and Girls
Feed, Educate, Empower Acholi Women and Girls
Feed, Educate, Empower Acholi Women and Girls
Feed, Educate, Empower Acholi Women and Girls
Feed, Educate, Empower Acholi Women and Girls
Feed, Educate, Empower Acholi Women and Girls
Feed, Educate, Empower Acholi Women and Girls
Feed, Educate, Empower Acholi Women and Girls
Feed, Educate, Empower Acholi Women and Girls
Feed, Educate, Empower Acholi Women and Girls
Mentoring meeting
Mentoring meeting

Secondary Education Support for Vulnerable Girls (Funded by Global Giving)

www.riverfund.org 

Report compiled by Aloyo Innocent Jessie, Project Leader: River Fund HIV/AIDs Family Support Women Association, Kitgum. 

River Fund Volunteer and Senior Woman teacher holding a mentoring meeting with beneficiaries.

The River Fund HIV/AIDs Family Support Association is a Community Based Organization (CBO) founded in 2007 by committed and motivated women to contribute towards improving the quality of life of persons infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, through educating and empowering the women and girls on HIV/AIDs Long Term Survival Skills and sponsorship and mentorship of girls in schools, economic empowerment and livelihood food security enhancement for a sustainable development for self-reliance through seeds provision, training in kitchen gardening and support to malnourished children through provision of trainings in provision of nutritious meals, and provision of basic items like soap, sugar, cooking oil, salt.

The organisation envisions a just and caring society where people yearn to help one another and realize that every human being is connected to one another for a change in the world with values such as: sharing, Love, Non-Discrimination, Humility, Peace, Non Violence, Justice, Inclusiveness, Service, Dedication, Honesty, Transparency, and Compassion.

Activities carried out this quarter.

  1. Career guidance provision by academic masters to the students
  2. Mentorship of the students by mentors and the project leader
  3. Provision of sanitary towels to the beneficiaries.

Achievments. 

  • Identified 21 vulnerable girls who are all benefiting from the scholarship.
  • 21 girls supported in Career guidance by the academic masters in which subjects they must concentrate on to achieve their desired careers. 
  • 21 girls supported with Sanitary towels; 3 packets each for term II.
  • Conducted follow up meetings and mentorship with 21 beneficiaries to discuss about challenges that may hinder good performance in school. 

Challenges

  • Transport to and from the project sites is yet another of the challenges being faced. River Fund does not have a reliable means of transport and hence relies majorly on hiring motorcycles to facilitate field activities.
  • The government’s move to increase taxes on almost everything that affects life in a bid to increase its resource envelop has also created some challenges as prices of items including fuel for transport have gone up creating a challenge in the budget relocations
  • Overwhelming demand since there are many girls with similar vulnerabilities that need support. 

Lessons learnt

  • Close involvement of the teachers is key to project success as they help in the beneficiaries’ career guidance and mentoring.
  • Closely involve and work with the parents and or guardians of the girls.
  • Close monitoring and follow up at school by project leader is key in fostering mentorship of the girls

Conclusion.

Term II begun well with all the supported students returning to school within the first week of new school term. The term had a lot of extra –curricular activities like sports which the students were engaged fully in despite their normal class activities. Amidst all the different engagements, the students continued with their education. The project leader made monitoring and mentorship meetings with the students and mentors in their respective school. Those in senior four class went for a study tour/field trip organized by the geography department

We are so thankful to global Giving and the Riving Fund for this support. We could not have done this without all of your help!

CASE STUDY.

“Rescued from dropping out of school”

Orphaned Victoria aged 18 years was rescued from dropping out of school after her father was killed by the rebels and mother arrested over land conflict. Her love for education and hard work earned her sponsorship under Global Giving grant from the River Fund. She emerged as one of the best students in term I exams from her school in 2015 due to mentorship and counseling support provided by the staff of the River Fund and her mentors in averting her emotional trauma and feeling of hopelessness. She has dreams of becoming a teacher after her senior four.

Attached is her full story.

Note from Jaya Canterbury-Counts:
Land conflicts are common in the Acholi Region of N Uganda. After nearly 20 years in IDP Camps, refugees returning home encountered many and ongoing land ownership conflicts. As is often the case, children suffer most.

GIRL CHILD EDUCATION

The power of a Scholarship.  

My story, my life.

I am a student of Msgr. Antoni Vignato School in Kitgum district in Uganda. I was born in 1997, on 24th Dec. My name is Victoria a student of S. 3. I did not go to a nursery school because the school was far away from our home. When I was four (4) years, I was taken to Kampala to look after the baby of my Auntie’s daughter. My mother accepted to let me go because she thought that they (my Auntie) would provide for my education. So I stayed two years without any sign of going to school let alone any discussion about my education. After two years, they got a sponsor from Europe for me. I started my P.1 to P.5 from a school in Kampala called Omega Primary School. But when my sponsor went back to their home country, she left the authority of my fees in the hands of her husband. Before leaving, she told me that the fees will be sent to my husband every school term but this was not the case. Her husband converted the use of the money for his personal gain and I had no voice since I did not have any contact as it was removed from me.

When I reached P.6, another person was paying my fees from Canada and this money was passed through my Auntie’s daughter. So the money for my school fees was shared among three more children who were studying in better schools in Kampala. When I reached P.7, my Auntie decided to bring me back to the village claiming there is no body sending money for my fees. She tried to pay my fees even after bringing me back home but stopped since she had used the money for my fees for paying her children’s fees. I was left to suffer without education. My mother being poor, old and a widow had no money to pay for my education. She grows crops and keeps animals in order to enable me stay in school. My dad died when I was still a baby and my mother is a single parent. My brothers and sisters did not go to school because of lack of money to pay for their education so they are peasants.

As the New Year was approaching, the Primary Leaving Examinations result was released and I was in division 1 with 11 Aggregate. I was filled with joy and excitement of joining secondary education although at the back of my mine I knew there was no one to support my education. My mother sold all the harvests from crops grown in order for me to join Secondary School. I wanted that at least in my family, I join secondary education since it is isolated with illiteracy and had no future and because my people –relatives thought that I would never make it.

When I joined S.1, in Second term, I was under a scholarship until S.2 term III. As I was joining S.3 this year, there were some people who were conflicting with my mother over land. But when my mother refused to give away the land belonging to my grandfather, she and my brothers were arrested and taken to prison. I had to stay at home alone since my elder sisters are all married and in their homes. I had to cope up with the situation although I would cry all the time as those who arrested my mother would constantly tell me that my mother would never be released from prison. When the term I 2015 begun, I had no hope of continuing with my education. I had made a decision to stay at home since my mother who used to struggle and pay my fees was now in prison but one of my cousin sisters advised me to go to school as I wait for my mother to be released. I did not even have any requirements to take to school and was hopeless. I neglected myself as being useless. My mother sent words from prison saying I should stay at home this year and wait to join next year 2016 may be when she is finally released from prison. This made me feel very bad and wished that I had never been born to suffer in this world. I wondered why I have never been happy even for once in my life.

I had to comfort myself with help from my relatives and friends and I decided to go back to school as a day scholar commuting from one of my Cousin’s home in town although with no much hope. When it was approaching mid -term examination, the school needed money for fees paid which money I did not have. Before this, I was picked among the best ten (10) students by the Exams master on ground that our fees would be paid. I had mixed feelings thinking that such a thing could not happen to me. The next day I was sent home together with some students who had not also paid fees. I went straight to the village although I knew there was no one at home. I continued cultivating our gardens in the absence of my mother.

After two weeks, the clan members contributed money in order to pay for my mother to be released from prison and come back home. I also sold some harvests (food stuff) that was in the granaries to add on the money. All I was wishing for was my mother coming back home and not education any more. She was bailed out (a prisoner from out) and was to continue reporting to police. This made me happy although I knew she would be taken back to prison anytime. This same week, the school was announcing on radio searching for me to go back to school. I heard my name but wondered what the school wanted with me. The head teacher and senior woman teacher were searching for me and any contact to reach me. After two days, I came back to school with my uncle who was called on phone by the head teacher to bring me back to school. On arrival, everyone was happy on seeing me and my teachers were even happier. While in office, I was told that my school fees had been paid for the whole year (term I –III).I could not believe this. I thought it was a lie but the head teacher and senior woman teacher were just laughing. It was a shock to me and the thought that I would study this year never crossed my mind till then. I was so excited to be back at school and felt I had a comforter, provider and guardian just near as I sat there in the office although I had missed the exams I consoled myself saying next time better.

With this I now have hope that my future will be bright and I trust and believe God will bless my plan of becoming a teacher. Thank you so much River Fund and all who are supporting you to reach out to people like myself! I shall forever remain indebted to this generosity.

Girls receiving sanitary towels
Girls receiving sanitary towels
Students listening attentively
Students listening attentively

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Girl Child Education Project
Girl Child Education Project

RIVER FUND HIV/AIDS FAMILY SUPPORT WOMEN ASSOCIATION is a Community Based organization established in 2006. Its office is situated at Christ the King parish, Kitgum Town Council, Kitgum district, Uganda. It has a total membership of 30 women who have volunteered to help sensitize and restore hope to the traumatized community (orphans, child headed families, people affected with HIV/Aids) as well as improve the nutrition of malnourished children. 

Key focused areas of intervention include; Training People Living With AIDS (PLWA) on long term Survival skills, Care of malnourished children through providing food stuff, Counseling of married couples on coping with the AIDS pandemic situation in their families, Home visits of PLWA, Educating mothers on providing proper and balanced nutrition using locally available resources and Initiating livelihood and economic strengthening schemes for PLWA that do not demand too much energy and Educating the rural women and girls-providing sponsorship to secondary School going girls.

This year 2015, with support from The River Fund, the Association has managed to support 20 Secondary School going girls in their education. Activities carried out include:

1. Assessment and Identification of Girls for support.

The identification of these girls took place in February 2015 when the new school term 1 begun. The selection process involved the heads of schools. Their involvement was very important. In that the administration already had the necessary information of the neediest girls. The approach was to pick girls already enrolled in school to avoid picking girls not in school since the support is only available for one year which will mean after the one year they again drop out of school. The criteria used were based on the premise of the level of need and performance in class. Twenty students were selected from St. Bakhita Girls Secondary school and Msgr. Antonio Vingato Secondary School. All the identified students are in the boarding section for close contact and mentorship.

2. Support to the beneficiaries.

This school term, a total of twenty (20) girls were supported with fees and sanitary towels. All the students that were selected are also being mentored by teachers identified by the school administration with guidance from the River Fund office. Those in senior four further had their examination and field trip fees paid to enable them receive full package and concentrate in their last year of ordinary level studies.

Mentorship

To enable the mentorship to be successful, with the help of the school administration, two teachers per school were identified to have close interaction with the students being supported by the project. The teachers organize monthly group meeting with all the girls to enable them discuss together what possible challenges they face that may interfere with their performance and education. Some of the issues discussed include: What makes young girls think of involving themselves in teenage sexual relationship. To this, the girls had these to say.

Some parents and community members use vulgar languages, for example, you have all it takes for you to get married, are you not normal? Some parents force them get out of home especially parents who are in need of money force their girls into marriage for the sake of getting money from dowry, Some parents express being tired of providing fees, feedings, buying clothes for their girls and neglect from their parents, some do not provide basic private needs e.g. Pads, Bathing soap, Panties 

To gauge their understanding and opinions about the practice of involving in teenage sexual behavior, we asked the girls of the ways of avoiding this problem? These are their responses. Constant career guidance and mentorship to the girls by the teachers, organizing joint sessions with the parents, Periodic Visit by River Fund Volunteer to encourage the students and girls getting involved in School club activities

Lessons Learned

Mentorship is very important for the improvement in the performance of students at school because it provide an avenue for opening up by the students about the challenges they are facing that if not handled may interfere with their studies. During mentorship meetings, the teachers explore the students challenging situations and talk about it with them to find out the best way of handling the difficult situations. The problems may stem from home were the girls come and in such scenario, arrangements will be made to meet with the parents of the girls to discuss about it with aim of making the situation better.

There are students who have no one to provide their fees even when they have parents at home.A case in point is one student from Msgr. Antonio Vingato school whom the school had to call her parents to send her back to school because she had already been sent home for failure to pay fees. Some of these girls reported late to school as they have to first do some petty jobs to earn money for fees like brewing alcohol.

Challenges

The support being just for one year means the students in senior three and even those in senior four may not continue to the next level of their education.

Some girls go without the most needed basic needs like soap, toothpaste because their parents cannot provide for them. This has made them to always depend on friends at school.

Recommendations

Organize meetings with the parents of the girls to advise them to save money this year for their children’s studies in case no more funding is received to support the girls.

Discussing with parents about their responsibilities towards the studies and wellbeing of their children - especially girl children.

 

 

Teacher and girls during group mentorship
Teacher and girls during group mentorship
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River Fund handing over a package to a child
River Fund handing over a package to a child

November 2014 - January 2015

ALOYO INNOCENT JESSIE                

Mobile: +256(0)774-002070

Email: jescaopoka@yahoo.co.uk

RIVER FUND HIV/AIDS FAMILY SUPPORT WOMEN ASSOCIATION is a Community Based organization established in 2006. Its office is situated at Christ the King parish, Kitgum Town Council, Kitgum district, Uganda. It has a total membership of 30 women who have volunteered to help sensitize and restore hope to the traumatized community (orphans, child headed families, people affected with HIV/Aids) as well as improve the nutrition of malnourished children.

Key focus areas of intervention include; Training People Living With Aids (PLWAs) on long term Survival skills, Care of malnourished children through providing food stuff, Counseling of married couples on coping with the Aids pandemic situation in their families, Home visits of PLWA, Educating mothers on providing proper and balanced nutrition using locally available resources and Initiating livelihood and economic strengthening schemes for PLWA that do not demand too much energy.

Activities this quarter:

1. Provision of food and non-food items.

Provision of Christmas packages to clients and those in need to enable them have a decent meal. With the belief that everyone is connected to one another in a way, the Association provided food items and non-food items to those in need in the eve of Christmas for them to take to their families and together have at least a better meal as they celebrate the birth of Christ. A total of 150 people received these packages (Rice, Sugar, Salt, and Soap) with most clients being middle aged women and men, elders who are taking care of their grandchildren whose parents have died mostly of the HIV pandemic. With as little as a kilogram of rice, we put a smile on the faces of these disadvantaged and needy community members.

With this event, we saw in the eyes of the people the need to reach out to many who are suffering alone and without hope of having a meal the next day.

2. Women’s workshop on Gender education.

The group engaged women in dialogue meetings in two different interfaces at Aloto Chapel in Latanya Sub-county, Pader district and Oryang Demkulukwac in Kitgum Matidi Sub-county Kitgum district all within Christ the King Parish Kitgum to discuss gender and its relation to women’s health, participation in public affairs as well as decision making.

Questions revolved around who controls tradition, culture and gender roles? How does tradition affect the health of women and girls in this time of AIDS? How can we as women help other women? What are our hopes for our daughters? These questions were asked with the intension of hearing from the women what would be the solutions or better ways of improving on the social relations within the families especially now in harvesting and marketing times when Gender Based Violence (GBV) cases are increasing due to conflict over what to sell and how the proceeds be shared between husbands and wives.

We acknowledge that to combat HIV/Aids, the social relations within the community is very important for the intervention to succeed and community dialogue is one avenue for the women to open up and talk about the issues surrounding their relations within their very families, community and how these relations impact either positively or negatively to their own development and empowerment. The exercise had an average attendance of 50 people per session, an equivalent of 100 people were reached.

Findings from the discussions:

Gender is always related to women’s affairs in that the women themselves have always misused the word to their own disadvantage. The men on the other side have taken this as a way of relieving all their domestic duties of being bread winners or home providers to the women and children. This is changing the gender roles.

3. Participation in International Celebrations.

This year, Kitgum District joined the rest of the world to celebrate World Aids day on 1st December 2014 at Kitgum Public School playground. As a women’s group whose focus is on combating HIV/AIDs with nutritional education, the group exhibited the different foods while explaining their importance in one’s diet. This demonstrated to the community that everyone is rich with different local foods to boost their immunity and for promoting long life.

Recommendations:

  1. More dialogue with the community with the involvement of both men and women is required to explain that with equal power relations within the families, it does not change the fact that men are the heads of households and as such both have to contribute equally for the welfare of their households.
  2. Sensitization on the different approaches of conflict resolutions without necessarily resorting to physical fights or verbal abuse which are common practices now within the communities.
  3. Networking with other stakeholders who can provide referral services to victims of GBV as well as psychosocial support to facilitate access to different services and justice.
  4. Form family support groups within the community who shall play a role in helping families solve conflicts; mobilize youth to help most needy households farm small plots for the family foods.
  5. Continue conducting women’s workshops on Long-term Survival skills with focus on nutrition and positive living.

Conclusion:

We would like to thank all of our donors for without their continuous support we wouldn’t have reached out to the people in need and known the plight of the community. Our plan is to have as many women and men formed as family support groups to help in mediating family conflicts and helping those most needy families without anybody to grow crops for them to help put a meal on their table even if it’s once a day.

Elderly mother teaching gender relations
Elderly mother teaching gender relations
Celebrating World AIDS Day 2014
Celebrating World AIDS Day 2014
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Demonstrating types of food
Demonstrating types of food

1. Long Term Survival Skills Training.

Recognizing that food insecurity and low nutritional status can be a causal factor as well as a consequence, deliberate programme for capacity building and empowerment of PLHA (People Living with HIV/AIDS) in terms of skills building for better feeding and positive living are urgent for self reliance and advocacy for their food and nutrition as well as treatment rights. In line with this, the River Fund Kitgum conducted training on long term survival skills and better feeding approaches for PLHA.The training participants were both men and women living positively as well as care givers and parents of HIV positive children who are being supported in education by the Association. The training looked at the table of health, and explained the food groups for wellbeing of a person. A total of 47 (Male 05: Female 42) Participants attended the training.

The Objectives of the training were

  1. To empower the PLHA on positive living for better health and long life.
  2. Demonstrate and explain the importance of better feeding for healthy living.

The training explained how one can provide a complete meal with the use of the local available foods that are grown in their backyard without spending any or much money to acquire them.

It further explained why as a PLHA it is important to live a fruitful and productive positive life. The illustration of table of health was used to enable the participants to understand the important aspect of health. The table of health explains the relationship and interdependence of health on the nutrition (top) to the four legs of the table (one representing the mental health, another the physical well being, spiritual life and the fourth the social relations and support a person has and gets).All the five aspects must be accorded equal consideration for one to have a longer life.

Findings:

Despite the many community education and sensitization carried out by government and other civil society organization implementing HIV/AIDs projects, many PLHAs still express wrong notions that one can get cured of HIV citing situations that some people have been tested to be negative after taking ARVs for many years. This thinking is reported to be encouraging behaviors that increase the spread of the HIV virus and behaviors that discourage positive living like excessive alcohol consumption, engaging in extra marital affairs/having multiple sexual partners, and failure to adhere to drug intake.

2. Community sensitization outreach programme.

With the need to reach more people, the group conducted sensitization and education to 8 chapels within Christ the King parish in Kitgum.A total of 624 people(Male 297: Female 327) were reached. This was purposely done to provide information and education the Christians on HIV/AIDs, Positive Living and proper feeding to revitalize their health. Being a group formed by women from within the church well aware that many people are getting infected and affected by the virus due to the lack of information on prevention and other educative messages in place in the parishes and chapels, the Association believes that with extensive engagement in community education and sensitization and with the use of referral mechanisms, many people will be able to receive better health services and attain improved health. The initiative must therefore be conducted at different levels to ensure that as many people as possible are reached.

Findings:

  1. Alcohol abuse is on the rise and this is limiting the community from carrying out productive work that can support their livelihood and wellbeing of those affected by HIV/Aids.
  2. Married couples are facing difficult situations especially with the lack of home based care services and counseling to encourage men to open up and take HCT
  3. The youth and children living positively lack the societal support to promote positive living. This is leading to increased risky social behaviors and lack of guidance on how they as youth can live for long with the virus.

 Challenges:

Transport to the chapels was a challenge due to distance and lack of transport means. The group members depended on hired transport means which was expensive.

Conclusion:

The findings from both the training and the outreach illustrates the need for further community engagement and education to encourage more people to come up and test for HIV and if one is positive to encourage adherence to treatment and doctor’s advice to promote positive living and long life.

We would like to thank our donor for the continued partnership in providing service to the needy community of Northern Uganda. Without this support, the activities mentioned would not have been carried out.It is our wish that the partnership continues to strengthen the approaches to contribute to the mitigation of the impact of HIV & AIDS on the people we work with and for.

Facilitator explaining the uses of the foods
Facilitator explaining the uses of the foods
The community listening to the facilitator
The community listening to the facilitator
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In the bean garden!
In the bean garden!

RIVER FUND HIV/AIDS FAMILY SUPPORT WOMEN ASSOCIATION is a Community Based organization established in 2006. Its office is situated at Christ the King parish, Kitgum Town Council, Kitgum district, Uganda. It has a total membership of 30 women who have volunteered to help sensitize and restore hope to the traumatized community (orphans, child headed families, people affected with HIV/Aids) as well as improve the nutrition of malnourished children.

Key focus areas of intervention include; Training People Living With Aids (PLWAs) on long term Survival skills, Care of malnourished children through providing food stuff, Counseling of married couples on coping with the Aids pandemic situation in their families, Home visits of PLWA, Educating mothers on providing proper and balanced nutrition using locally available resources and Initiating livelihood and economic strengthening schemes for PLWA that do not demand too much energy.

Activities this quarter

1. Gender community education.

We acknowledge that to combat HIV/Aids, the social relations within the community is very important for the intervention to succeed. Being an organization with the value of justice and equal enjoyment of rights, we embarked on gender sensitization and education of the community through drama and discussion. The group moved to chapels which is an organized Catholic Church structure in the community. The group moved out to 4 chapels of Dure, Oryang Ojuma, Okidi and Akworo all in Amida Sub-county, Kitgum District and conducted 4 community ensitization/education. The exercise had an average attendance of 100 people per session, an equivalent of 400 people were reached.

2. Food Security Intervention.

At River Fund Kitgum, we integrate food security activities into our HIV/Aids work.HIV accounts for the low life expectancy in Uganda and reduced labour supply to the agricultural sector as reported by FAO in its state of food security in the world report. Northern Uganda faces a bigger problem of acute food insecurity being a post conflict region. In our intervention, 6 beneficiaries’ groups with an average number of 15 members per group which is an equivalent of 90people as direct beneficiaries and a trickle down benefit to 8 people per household reaching to720 indirect beneficiaries received beans seeds which are an effort to contribute to a reduction of the food insecurity at the household level.

All these were made possible with the continuous support from the Global Giving and the River Fund. It is our sincere appreciation for your endless love and service to the poor and those in need.

Our plan is to reach out to as many people in the community as possible but all is dependent on funding possibilities and as such he River Fund Kitgum is sending out proposals to other prospective funding agencies.

A drama session in the rural community
A drama session in the rural community
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The River Fund

Location: Sebastian, Florida - USA
Website:
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Project Leader:
Jaya Canterbury-Counts
Executive Director
Sebastian, Florida Uganda
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