Kerry : Why I'm apart of Awamu
"One of our fundraising events invovled screening a bank heist movie in the vaults of the old Bank of England!"
Why I'm apart of Awamu
Kerry, July 2013
I’m a part of awamu because of the women I met in Kampala in 2009 and again in 2011. These women’s determination to better their situation and their children’s enthusiasm for school inspired me to work with Emma to give more children the opportunities that stem from an education. I hope to bring their work ethic into my Magic Lantern fundraising.
From about the age of ten I’ve had a desire to make a positive impact on people lives less fortunate than myself. I have so much opportunity and love in my life that I’m wracked with guilt that I can’t share it back to everyone in the world. Africa has fascinated me from an early age, when I learned all the countries and capitals of this place that seemed so foreign and intriguing.
In 2009 I made a phone call to Emma who was working for Action Aid and asked her 'what can I do? I have an urge to do something but I've got a full time job and would anything I do actually help? She was going to Uganda in less than a month and invited me to come and visit some women she had started working with outside of action aid in Kampala.
I was both excited and scared when I finally booked my flight. In my head was an avalanche of words; Africa, aids, slums,children, heat, water, animals, noise... I knew the people Emma worked with lived in slums which flooded often, I knew of one lady looking after 12 children in one small dwelling. I know I am a sensitive, empathetic person and my main worry was wether I would be able to 'handle it' emotionally and subsequently physically. I had thoughts like 'what do I say to someone who has HIV and lives In a slum? What use is it me going there? Should I have just given Emma the £500 flight cost to help 'them'?
I met around forty children and five adult organisers at the two organisations in my first week. The two slums where they are based are mostly red bare earth tracks with mud and concrete huts with no windows. Some have wooden doors, other a curtain to cover the opening. There are no trees or foliage. The children I first met at makarere slum immediately burst into a synchronised song and dance when I arrived. They had massive smiles and were a bit shy when we made eye contact at first. Their clothes were dusty and worn but very colourful. Their ages ranged from 2yrs to 13 years. Their English is near perfect. Peter, Vincent and Nulu are the organisers at makarere.
Peter was my guide around their area and showed me a close by restaurant where the children are treated to lunch sometimes (photo left). He also explained to me the problems of flooding as it was raining! Nulu is like the big mother who all the children adore and even though I later found out she looks after 7 children in her own home she always has time for hugs for anyone. She invited Emma and myself to walk with her as she returned one of the small children home. The uneven red clay road turned to a mixture of hard mud, rubble and plastic bags as we walked further into the slum.
Unfortunately the child's only remaining parent, her father was very ill with HIV related illness but he built up the energy to come out of his hut to thank Nulu for the time she'd spent with his child today. Nulu showed us two of the income generation projects the woman are involved in. One was mushroom growing and the other making clothes.
Back on the boda-boda taxi bike with my arms around Emma I asked her how many of the twenty plus children I had just met we're HIV+, she said "all of them".
I spent 10 days with the two women's groups awamu supports the first time I went to Kampala. I met Florence who runs the other project in a slum area called Bwaise. Here I also met Regina who lives in a hut four meters square and cares for twelve children. She grows and sells mushrooms in the day and sells roasted chicken on the road side at nights. Every day she makes sure the children have at least one meal. She is 63 years old. Four of the children are her grand children and she is the foster parent of eight children due to them being abandoned or their parents dying.
The women i met were working together tirelessly to make a better life for their children. Education is not free and thus for many slum dwellers their children do not go to school as food is their first priority. It was this determination of the women to better their situation and the extreme desire of the children like Tom to go to school that made me want to work with Emma and the woman to continue what they were already doing and maximise the number of children we could get into school. I took 100 children's books the second time I visited and the Kampala. My heart melted at them engrossed at the enormous crocodile and the hungry caterpillar. I wish they could all have books in their homes like i grew up surrounded by.
I saw first hand how little opportunities many of the children have, heard how many had been abandoned due to the still rife stigma about HIV and saw the pure determination and desire the children have tosucceed were they just given the opportunity to go to school. It wasn't a hard situation for me to understand and it wasn't hard for me to realise how easy it would be to completely change some people's lives.I didn't need a degree in international development to know that raising enough money to pay for a child to go to school for seven years was a good and sustainable way of improving one child's and families lives.
I learned through emma that health and nutritional problems that the children face due to hiv and poor diet are obviously high on the agenda as is the education. A child needs to be healthy enough first to be able to go to school and learn. nutrition is something that action aid Uganda are working on with the children we work with also nutrition is something that they are taught at school. We hope to pilot some micro gardens in the new year also to try and improve the amount of nutrients in a meal for example adding spinach or kale that they have grown.
I dont know a huge amount about Ugandan politics and policies or development strategies but i do know that helping pay for a child's schooling for seven years to start with is a great way to change achild and hopefully their communities lives for the better.
And that's why I got involved with Awamu and that's what I'm doing at the moment. I put on fundraising events on to raise blocks of £913 to get another child in school.
I'm learning with every event what works in terms of profit, time put in and fun. Ive put on fundraising film nights, pub quizzes, bike rides, sewing workshops and club nights. Our most successful events to date have been the Magic Lantern film nights which have sold out for the last six. I can always do with an extra pair of hands if you'd like to help out or youve got a good idea for an event.
We can really change children's lives, It's easy.