Wilt u dit liever in het Nederlands lezen? Klik dan hier.
During the summer of 2016, invited by a friend, I made my first trip to Uganda, together with my husband and our youngest daughter. Soon, we fell in love with not only the beautiful nature of the country, which is most rightfully called the ‘Pearl of Africa’, but also with its very friendly and hospitable population!
Yet, there was so much more to it. Our trip was a tough confrontation with the poverty that prevails in the country. To hear about the enormous poverty from the distance is something so completely different than to witness it with your own eyes! For years I had felt attracted to Africa and there was an unconscious realization in me that I wanted to make myself useful there. Although I had never been to Uganda before, I felt that I had found my destination and that I was going to return many times. And so it happened: this year (2023) I will make the 7th trip with my husband to the country that we have now both come to consider as our second home and where we have started to help with a lot of love. In the coming years we will spend more and longer periods there.
HWMCO-Nederland & NiCA Foundation
I founded HWMCO-Nederland in the Netherlands in 2016. In 2017, I started NiCA Foundation, initially as a project under HWMCO-Nederland, for it to be registered as a Community Based Organization (CBO) and daughter of HWMCO-Nederland in Kabale, Uganda, in 2018. Through our efforts, with our motto being ‘We Fight Poverty by Bringing Development’, we provide disadvantaged children a worthy future. Our help is basically focused on Kabale District which is located all in the southwest of Uganda.
Our core team consists of four persons: Noah Mubangizi (Uganda), Aaron Twinomujuni (Uganda) my husband, Marc Verhagen (Netherlands), and myself (Netherlands). We make all decisions together and we think it’s great that our qualities complement each other in a fantastic way. We all do our work for the foundation from our hearts and completely voluntary. As a team we strive to make education in our area more accessible and to raise children’s awareness in various areas.
Officially called the Republic of Uganda, the landlocked country is located in Eastern Africa. It is bordered to the north by South Sudan, to the east by Kenya, to the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to southwest by Rwanda, and to the south by Tanzania.
Uganda’s soils are very fertile and nature is overwhelmingly beautiful; the climate is comfortable with an abundance of sunshine and from time to time some refreshing rainfall. The country has high volcanic mountains to the eastern and western borders. NiCA Foundation is located all in the southwest of Uganda, at beautiful Lake Bunyonyi; with a depth that varies between 44 and 900 meters, Lake Bunyonyi is the deepest lake in Uganda, the second deepest in Africa and the third deepest in the world! The lake is said to be formed 10,000 years ago as a result of lava flow that emerged from one of the volcanos in the area. The lava blocked a river and formed a natural dam in it, which then caused a whole valley to be filled with water.
Sadly, to this day, Uganda belongs to the less developed countries in the world. The country has a slow industrialization and the per capita income is low. The birth rate as well as infant mortality rate are high, while life expectancy is low. Poverty and unemployment are high. The country is currently home to between 48 and 49 million people (2023). The Ugandan population is known to be the youngest in the world, with 45,5% aged between 0-14 years and 78% younger than 30 years. It will therefore not need much explanation that there is a huge number of children in Uganda that would enormously benefit from a better future prospective for them.
The periods we have spent in the country over the years have made it possible for us to understand the problems that the people, especially those who live in rural areas, are facing. As described below, problems are multiple and cause people to be caught in vicious circles that are impossible for them to break through on their own.
Water is globally known to be the source of all life, yet it’s heart breaking that far the majority of the Ugandan rural population has no access to a safe water source. For water, the people depend on small lakes that often contain ditch-water. Often, they have to walk several hours to reach a place where they can fill their jerry cans with contaminated water. Most often, it is the children who are being sent for this task. Not only is it extremely heavy for the children to carry a water filled jerry can back home, also it unfortunately means that they are structurally missing many precious hours at school. The countless amounts of bacteria that contaminate the water hugely affect the overall health of the rural population and causes that they cannot function well in their daily lives.
But the lack of safe drinking water is not the only problem the children in Uganda are facing. Their poor living circumstances are the result of a combination of many development blocking factors. As can be read in this article about Ugandan’s school system, many children cannot attend school. In 1997, primary school education was promised to be free to attend for all children, but in reality it is nothing like that.
English is the official language of the country, but with far the majority of the children not receiving proper education, they simply don’t master the language, which leads to them (as well their parents or caretakers, who also never received good education) missing out on a lot of public information that is spread in English. Also, because of the general lack of education, important knowledge about how to cultivate crops successfully is absent, with all its consequences. Malnutrition is very often seen. Also HIV/AIDS is still often seen in the population; large families, arranged marriages, teenage pregnancies and alcoholism are just a few of the many other widespread problems in the country. They are mainly the result of a lack of education and awareness.
As the team of HWMCO-Nederland & NiCA Foundation we work to improve the conditions described above, whereby the main focus is on children. We make education more accessible for the children, whereby it is our strategy to invest in tools and facilities in ways that large groups of children can benefit from them. With some of our initiatives we especially focus on eldery. The summary below provides a good picture of our initiatives:
Rainwater collection systems and toilet buildings at schools
Many of the schools that are remotely located on the Lake Bunyonyi surrounding hills lack access to safe drinking water and good sanitary. We invest in large rainwater collection systems and toilet buildings to change that.
All transportation on Lake Bunyonyi is traditionally by dugout canoes, which is not without risks. Depending on the weather circumstances the lake can change very quickly from friendly and calm to rough and dangerous. Regularly canoes capsize and people drown. We have therefore invested in three motorboats to ensure safe transportation for school going children that have to cross the lake to get to school.
Swimming Instruction Center
Statistics about the overall traffic on Lake Bunyonyi show that every month people drown in the lake, often because the canoe they are using capsizes when the lake gets rough. More than 70% of the population who cross the lake every day, mainly by the use of dugout canoes, cannot swim! We have constructed a swimming instruction center from where we provide swimming lessons, whereby the first focus is on the children.
Even though attending primary school itself is since 1997 intended to be basically free for children, the sad reality is that it is far from that. Parents are supposed to buy notebooks, pens, pencils etc. for their children. Due to sheer poverty they often don’t succeed in that which leads to children being unable to make notes during the lessons, ending up with poor end results and not proceeding to the next class. Our regularly providing school materials has proven to lead to much better results!
Re-usable sanitary pads
In Uganda the school participation of girls is known to be low; no less than 80% do not finish primary school! The structural lack of access to sanitary pads as a result of poverty (period poverty) plays a significant role in this. Since 2021, we provide (school-going) teenage girls in our working area with re-usable sanitary pads, whereby we make sure that both the girls and the teachers also receive the for them necessary information.
For the initiatives below, we primarily consider elderly in our working area:
Rainwater collection systems in villages
With a capacity of 5,000 liters the systems are smaller than the systems we construct at schools. They are constructed in remote and by truck difficult to reach villages, whereby we look for elderly and/or otherwise vulnerable people for whom walking the long, tiring way in hilly area to get water is a very heavy task. In all cases, also other villagers benefit from the system.
It has become a familiar custom to hand out reading glasses brought from the Netherlands. Every time again it touches us to see the delight in people’s faces when they realize that they can again read the newspaper or their pocket bible with the help of the right reading glasses for them.
To do our charity work, we completely depend on gifts and donations. Any contribution, no matter how big or small, is always greatly appreciated. Since we are a small private initiative with very short lines of communication, we can structurally guarantee that 100% of your contribution directly benefits the people in our working area (Kabale District) who need it.
On behalf of our entire team, I hope you will enjoy reading the various pages of our website!