Wilt u dit artikel liever in het Nederlands lezen? Klik dan hier.
Like every year since 2016 (with the exception of the year 2021 due to Corona) we, Marc and Yvonne Verhagen, spent another period this summer at Nicky’s Care for Africa Foundation (NiCA Foundation) at Lake Bunyonyi in Uganda. For those for whom this is their first introduction to us: NiCA Foundation is the daughter of HWMCO-Nederland and was created as a tribute to our deceased son, Nicky. Together with our Ugandan team, we are committed to offering especially children in our working area a worthy future. With some of our projects we focus on the elderly. Our motto: ‘We Fight Poverty by Bringing Development’. We are convinced that our strength is in the enormous dedication of our team; we all do this work completely voluntarily and with great love for our target group. Our communication lines are very short and we do everything we can to keep overhead costs as low as possible. As a result, we can guarantee at all times that literally 100% of gifts and donations always reach the target group.
Uganda now has few surprises in store for us. We are aware of almost all the ins and outs in the country. When we first visited in 2016, we fell in love with the beautiful nature (Uganda is rightly called the ‘Pearl of Africa’!), not to mention the friendly and extremely hospitable population. However, the enormous poverty, especially present among the rural population, grips us time and again and forms an enormous motivation for us to continue to dedicate ourselves with heart and soul to a worthy future perspective for the children in our working area.
The poverty quickly becomes apparent when you look beyond nature and the beautiful resorts, when you dare to venture into the villages and confront the conditions under which families there struggle to survive, often literally from day to day. Circumstances that you must have seen with your own eyes to experience the seriousness of them, and to actually understand both the various causes and the connection between them. People are trapped in vicious circles which are impossible for them to break through on their own.
Every time when we spend a period in our working area, we make sure to visit the projects that have been realized in the past year; this often concerns rainwater collection systems, both at schools and in remote villages, and toilet blocks at schools. At the beginning of this year we also provided financial support for the completion of a school building. For that case, the community had succeeded through joint efforts (in Uganda it is very common that people bake the necessary bricks for a house/building themselves) to realize all the walls for the building, but they did not the money to pay for the roof and also finance windows and doors. We also installed lightning protection on all three buildings at this school as well as at another school. Given the locations of these schools, on top of the mountains surrounding Lake Bunyonyi, lightning protection is highly desirable, as the recent past has unfortunately shown.
During this recent visit, we also provided school materials to more than 1500 pupils, more than 250 girls received a set of washable sanitary pads and a bar of soap (to actually wash the pads), we distributed 200 water filters (very suitable for use at a family level ), and we have also been able to delight many dozens of elderly people with reading glasses.
The most valuable gift for us during this recent trip was the enormously positive feedback we received. The results of our long term team efforts are becoming more and more visible:
The positive side effect of the presence of a water supply at a school is that the number of pupils attending education there increases. Cause: schools that lack a water supply are forced to ask all pupils to bring a bottle or a small jerry can filled with some water to school every day for personal use (drinking and washing hands); this is often structurally impossible, especially for young children (the long and steep descent to Lake Bunyonyi and back is too strenuous for them), following which they are forced to stay at home, which means they do not receive any education. At schools where we have installed a rainwater collection system, the number of pupils attending education often increases, sometimes even by 100 or more.
The construction of the smaller rainwater collection systems (5000 liters) in remote villages also ensures that more children can follow education, because several families from a village use the facility. We prefer to place these systems, which we call ‘enyungus’ out of nostalgia, with elderly people for whom the long, steep path to the lake below and then back up with a heavy jerry can filled with polluted water has become too difficult. Often, it’s the (somewhat older) children in a village are expected to fetch water for the elderly, with the result that those children miss valuable hours at school. The construction of an enyungu in their village means that they no longer have to miss those hours.
School materials such as exercise books, pens and pencils are not provided by the government in Uganda. Sad fact is that many parents cannot afford to buy these materials for all their children. Many children are therefore unable to take notes during lessons and have to absorb the subject matter as presented during the lessons in their brain at once. It will need no explanation that this demands an awful lot from the children and that it is almost impossible for them to achieve good learning results in this way.
Since the start of the school year 2022 (in Uganda, the school year is equal to the calendar year), we strive to provide all pupils of the currently five schools we support with notebooks, pens/pencils; P3 pupils also receive a math set.
The effect of it is very positive! The education teams have let us know that the learning results of the pupils have improved significantly. Taking notes during lessons enables them to read everything carefully at home and thereby better understand and reproduce. Of course, tests and exams can also be prepared much better and the pupils score better. Please also read this previously posted article about Uganda’s school system.
Period poverty is a serious problem that fortunately has received more attention worldwide recently. Unfortunately, Uganda scores very unfavorably in this area. Whereas in a country like the Netherlands about 9% of school-going girls do not always have access to sanitary pads, in Uganda this is at least 60% (figure based on research in an urban area, in rural areas the percentage is significantly higher).
Since the beginning of 2021, we have been distributing washable sanitary pads for girls who are menstruating in the schools we support. The effect of our help on the girls’ school attendance only became measurable from 2022 (when schools in Uganda finally reopened after no less than two years of closure due to Corona!); and it’s fantastic… The education teams have informed us that there is hardly any absenteeism of girls during the days when they menstruate!
Other positive developments
The water filters that we distribute to families ensure that they have access to clean drinking water, resulting in an increase in the overall health of children and their parents. After all, the bacteria that pollute the water, on which they often depend, cause many problems. As a result, people often cannot function properly in their daily lives; dehydration as a result of stomach flu is a common problem, from which young children regularly die.
The filters we distribute have been developed by Ibota Foundation in the Netherlands with the aim of providing safe drinking water in situations where access to it is lacking. A filter absorbs substances dissolved in water and captures 99.99999% of the micro-organisms present, such as bacteria.
Since 2018, we have mainly delighted the elderly with reading glasses brought from the Netherlands. Where we initially depended mainly on donated (yet eventually often unusable for various reasons) second-hand reading glasses, this year, thanks to donations received, we were able to take a large amount of brand new reading glasses with us for the first time.
Time and again it moves us to see the joy on the face of an older man or woman when he or she experiences that with the help of reading glasses of the right strength, he or she can suddenly read the newspaper or their pocket Bible again!
Finally, there is the wonderful result of the swimming lessons that we provide from our own Swimming Instruction Center. We started this initiative in 2019 to help reduce the number of drownings in Lake Bunyonyi. The aim is to ensure that children can save themselves in the lake in case they end up in an emergency. This is now the case for a growing group!
Many additional photos can be viewed in slider below this article. Please also don’t forget to take a look at our video section, where videos of our trip are posted.
Of course the results described above are reason for us to continue with our tireless team efforts!
Would you like to help with a donation or otherwise? Detailed information on this can be found on our page ‘How you can help’. On the page ‘Current and Achieved Goals’ you can read what we have achieved in the past and what we are currently raising funds for.
Every contribution, small or large, is greatly appreciated by us!
Founder & Chairperson HWMCO-Nederland & NiCA Foundation