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News from Kibaale

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April 2009

Bram Moolenaar, treasurer of ICCF Holland, visited the Kibaale Children's Centre in April 2009. This is his report.

Click on the images below for an enlargement. You can find many more pictures on Picasa.

 

Kibaale Organized

I have visited Kibaale so many times I stopped counting. And still, every time I arrive it looks better. First thing I notice now is a different color. Most of the buildings have been repaired and painted. It's no surprise that repairs are required after a dozen years of rain, sun, insects and wind. The walls are plastered, thus after fixing the holes and fitting new window frames it needs to be painted. Brown is the dominant color. This fits in well with the green of the grass and the trees. And it's practical, it doesn't get mud-dirty after a shower.

When the project started we had little money, thus saving a few dollars was more important than quality. Now that it's clear that the center is successful and will be there for a long time quality has become more important. A small investment can reduce maintenance costs. Experience helps to know where to save money by spending a bit more.

It's clear that things are well organized these days. Not that everything runs without a hitch, but there is always someone in place to take care of issues. Last night the generator didn't run properly and stalled. The solar system can generate power for a while, but since it's rainy season the batteries are not filled up during the day. Within a few minutes a worker comes over with his tools and a couple of hours later the problem has been solved.

        children in the nursery class

Children in the nursery class.

Rose takes care of the young children

Rose takes care of the young children.
       

Staff

Walking around I see many familiar faces. The Ugandan leadership team is unchanged. They have been around for up to 15 years now, these are people we trust. Peter is the head of the school. He makes sure we have the right teachers, are qualified to take exams and handles a lot of paperwork. Patrick does what they call maintenance. It's actually much more than that, he also oversees construction of new buildings, brings water to the kitchen, and everything that doesn't fit in another department. Cephas is head of the KCF office, they take care of the children. That includes special gifts, which varies from buying shoes for a child that has grown out of his old ones to building a house for a needy family.

Management is a big job now. In total there are 130 staff at the center. Many moved to Kibaale from far away, thus we also provide housing for them. And some bring their family, with the result that the staff quarters now looks like a small village. The newest block was finished a month ago. It's at a higher level and has a very nice view.

The Canadian volunteers who work at the center now are all new, I had not met them before. Jeff, Shannon, Rachel, Sean and Jamie enthusiastically help the Ugandans to do their work. Although Karl and Arleen are still around, they moved to Masaka to oversee the building of the new Timothy center. More about that below. Other times when I arrived I immediately got a list of things to fix. Doors not closing, computers running slow, water pumps to be connected. This time I was shown to a nice house (well, for Kibaale standards), freshly painted and ready for use. I did have to fix the Window though, there was a bit too much new paint there.

Clinic

In 2008 the new clinic building has been built and opened by Janet Museveni. I went to visit it the first day and was very impressed. There are more than twice as many rooms as we had before, and they are all being used. In two of them patients are on drip. This is used to give strength to those who are weakened by a disease, often malaria. In the lab blood is taken from a man to be tested for HIV. When he gets the results later, a counsellor is there to help him cope with the consequences when the test turns out positive. About a dozen others are in line for a lab test.

The staff has been increased to eleven. Mostly nurses, but also orderlies, a receptionist, a pharmacist and a lab technician. The lab has improved, they have more instruments to perform tests. Nevertheless, it still looks primitive. A separate building is used for health education every morning.

The disadvantage of having a well running clinic is that the costs to keep it running have tripled in the past two years. More patients and also more complicated cases. Being the best clinic in the area has its price! Therefore we will start looking for sponsors to cover part of these costs and keep the clinic running.

        patients in the clinic

Patients waiting in the clinic.

Daniel in front of their new house

A sponsor helped Daniels family building a new house. It also has a water tank. It's still made from branches and mud, they can't afford bricks and cement.
       

Children

An important part of my visit is to meet children at home and see how they are doing. When looking at all the nice buildings in the center it's easy to forget that most families live in a mud hut. And each family has their specific problems, that's why we help them.

The child I'm sponsoring myself, Geofry Kyomya, still lives in the same little house. They are with three boys there, the parents have died and a grandma who used to take care of them is now too weak to do this and moved elsewhere. The oldest boy runs the family, there is no other option. They now have a reasonable garden, which allows them to grow enough food to eat. And that's it. For anything that requires money, such as fixing the roof, they need outside help.

The other families I visit are in a similar situation. They are poor and struggle with what they have. The only way out is to have one of the children get a good education and find a job or start a business. The last day I met Namate Rose. After being sponsored for many years she now works as a teacher. She pays for the education of her sister and helped her mother renovate the house. She shows that in the long run these people can indeed take care of themselves. But unfortunately Rose is still an exception.

School

I noticed some small changes, but otherwise the school is doing well, as before. The nursery has changed from two to three groups with the same total number of children, so that each child gets more attention. The special needs class has been split into a younger and older group. These deaf and otherwise disabled children need a lot of attention and specific education. This is not available anywhere else in the district. The secondary and vocational school have improved a little, but no big changes here.

It's a great thing that this year most of the children have a sponsor. Not only does this help the financial situation, it also means that the children have a contact in the western world. They look forward to writing their sponsor. Unfortunately they often do not hear anything back. I'll ask the sponsors to write more often. Even a simple letter is a great thing for a child to receive. A picture is treasured!

        the new computer classroom

The new computer classroom is almost finished.

Ray en Jeff look at the plans for the Timothy Center

Ray and Jeff modify the plans for the Timothy Center.
       

Timothy center

One of the problems that we are struggling with is education for older children. Once they finish secondary school at the project we need to find a good further education for them. That has often been difficult. And the cost is very high. Therefore a plan has been made to improve this and start our own school.

I visited the location together with Ray Sutton, one of the founders and visionaries for the Kibaale center. He showed me drawings, but then immediately started to move things around while we walked through the grounds. One of the issues was to put the buildings in such a way that we don't have to cut down the wonderful trees. There is one old jack fruit tree with many huge fruits, we definitely want to keep it.

This school is going to be a boarding school, which means that there need to be dorms, a kitchen, dining area, and much more. And these are not little children but adolescents who deserve more space. The plan is to build this year and start with the first class in 2010. I'm looking forward to see this take shape.

Farm

Part of the money for the project is coming from income generating projects. Not much though. We have tried several things over the years. Recently this was reduced to the three projects that are most successful: chickens, cows and trees. I looked at about 1100 chicken (no, I didn't count them!). Half of them full grown and producing eggs, the other half is growing up and should be ready for producing eggs in a few months. The eggs are being sold locally and the costs are predictable. This works well.

Buying and selling cows has also turned out well. We buy them young. For a while they produce milk and some produce a calve. Later they are sold again and it turns out we make a nice profit. We use Frisian cows, not the local breed. That's an experiment and should learn the farm keepers what works best.

Tree growing is a long term project. We have planted pine trees on a part of land that wasn't being used. It will take 12 to 15 years for them to grow. Then we hope to sell them for about $250 each. That is a thousand times the investment. Some will die though, we will discover only much later how it works out. Big advantage, of course, is that it's a small investment and doesn't take much effort.

            Cows

Cows in the farm for generating income.

 

New water pump in Kibaale

The new water pump in Kibaale produces good water.
       

Community services

We not only help specific families, but also attempt to improve the situation for all people in the area. Water was a big problem three years ago, when there was a drought. Even the river dried up then, which is the main water source for people in Kibaale. To prevent this from happening again we have drilled a borehole. It is located between Kibaale town and the river and it's producing a lot of good water. That is not so obvious, many pumps in this area produce water with too much iron, which means it's unusable. We are very happy that this investment turned out well. Drilling is very expensive, but once the pump is working it will require little maintenance to provide safe water for many years.

The small loans program has been further expanded. Because of the financial instability banks charge a very high interest rate. We charge a minimal interest rate and accept loans at a higher risk. This is a great help for womens groups and students who finished school and want to start a business.

When walking through town I notice that overall the situation has improved. There are more shops and they are more specialized. In the past they would just sell the essentials, such as rice, paraffin and salt. I now noticed a shop that sells supplies for growing vegetables. That includes fertilizer, spray equipment and insecticides. This is a good indication that crop production is improving, which is very important in this rural area.

Conclusion

After my last visit I mentioned that there is steady progress. It is good to see that this has continued. And everything looks more organized, which is a sign that this will likely continue the coming years. But we should not forget that there are still many orphans and families that cannot do without our help. And the busy clinic indicates that we still need to do more health education and help improve hygiene.

Bram Moolenaar

many more pictures on Picasa       top
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