This week Sussex Newspapers’ Sheena Campbell is in Uganda finding out how your donations are making a difference.
Hope, life, colour, fun - that is the tagline for Children on the Edge and that is what I am seeing in action during my time here.
Before the charity’s child-friendly space opened in 2012 there were high rates of child abuse and abduction and malnutrition and unemployment were rife.
While there is still work to be done, I have already seen the difference the charity’s work, and your support, is making.
On the first day we visited the Soweto slum where the space is based, on the outskirts of Jinja.
As we travel further into the slum the previously flat dirt path becomes rutted and the houses become smaller, more basic.
We see the pit of sludge created by one of the illegal breweries and hear loud music booming from one of the movie houses.
These movie houses, screened from view by cloth and fences were hot spots for drinking and child abuse.
However, my feeling during our time there wasn’t one of depression but one of hope.
Pity is of no use to anyone, asset-driven work which provides people with the tools they need to improve their own situations does.
Yes we visited an illegal brewery but now there are five of these in the slum whereas before there were 13.
Why? Because other viable forms of employment have been created.
Yes, there are still the movie halls but the child protection team has been working with the community to educate them on the dangers of child abuse and abduction and it is making an impact.
Yes, there is rubbish on the ground but nothing compared to what it once was because residents have been educated on how piles of rubbish can lead to disease.
Before there was no water supply in Soweto.
Now, water pumps have been put in and cans can be filled for much less than it would cost residents to go into the town.
This also provides an income for those in charge of manning the pumps.
Most of the households are run by women, often with many children and grandmothers taking on the burden of care when younger parents die of HIV.
As we walk around we meet several of the women who have taken up the small business loans now available to the community.
One had started her own food stall and was preparing piles of small nutritous fish and drying vegetables when we visisted.
Another had started bulk buying coal and selling buckets to her neighbours.
It is too soon to say how sustainable these projects can be long term but giving these women the chance to improve lives for their own families can only be a good thing.
We also have the chance to meet Children on the Edge’s local partner Adolescent Development Support Network (ADSN).
It was started to support street children, it has now expanded to combat the causes behind the problem.
As well as the child friendly space and child protection team, it provides vocational training for teenagers and young people.
It offers training in areas including metalwork, tailoring, hairdressing and catering.
I meet Agnes, 18, who has been attending the tailoring course for six months.
“I want to buy my own machine so I can make clothes to sell,” she tells me.
Nyende, 27, is in charge of monitoring the progress of those on the courses.
“I started here in 2012 when we were first partnered with Children on the Edge,” he tells me.
“I enjoy working with communities and improving communities but working with children especially.”
Another successful, and relatively new branch, of the work here we have seen today is the farm.
Edwin from ADSN shows us the project, started in support of the child friendly space.
Every six months, it takes on 35 people to train them in agriculture.
Sixty per cent of the produce goes to the centre in a bid to help provide children with nutritious meals.
Twenty per cent is given to the women working there to help them feed their families.
The last 20 per cent is sold in a bid to keep the project sustainable long-term.
The farm has already been such a success that it has been given more land by the local Catholic church.
“We have been given more land because of the good work we have been doing,” said Edwin.
Neither ADSN nor Children on the Edge were experts on farming so when the project started they teamed up with the local prison which had won agricultural awards for two years.
ADSN members also met with doctors who advised them on the illnesses currently prevalent in the community and what to plant to best help overcome them.
Currently, the children have milk once a week but it is becoming too expensive so the project is now growing soya beans in a bid to replace it.
While most of the crops are grown at the farm itself, residents are also being taught how to create their own sack gardens, meaning produce can be grown in a confined space.
“The sack garden came in because in the communities we are working in you are always limited in terms of land,” said Edwin.
“They want to have a balanced diet but have nowhere to plant.
“So we came up with the idea of the sack garden so families can supplement their diet.
“We have tried our level best to improve the nutrition of the community.”
In just two days I have already seen so much good work being done here and I am so grateful that our ever generous readers are helping to support it.
Next time: Our work at the child-friendly space.
Sheena has funded the costs of the trip herself so all donations go directly to support Children on the Edge’s work in Uganda.
Visit my JustGiving page at: www.justgiving.com/Sheena-Campbell2.
Alternatively, you can donate £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10 by texting COTE85 followed by the amount to 70070.
Even the smallest donation can make a huge difference to this charity.
About Children on the Edge
Children on the Edge works with vulnerable children around the globe – those often forgotten about by society.
In the Soweto slum the charity has launched a multi-stage project to keep youngsters safe.
Its Child Friendly Space provides pre-primary education for children under five years old and educational and play activities for children aged six to 14.
The centre allows 200 children to access child-centred activities each day. The child protection committee raises awareness of abduction and allows the community to act quickly if perpetrators are spotted.
More information is available at www.childrenontheedge.org.
As part of Sussex Newspapers’ support for the charity we are fundraising for specific items.
Any extra money will go straight to the charity to continue its excellent work in Soweto.
Items on our wish list include:
T-shirts for the child protection team – just £3 will buy a T-shirt for members of the child protection team;
A bouncy castle – £100 will hire a bouncy castle for the last day of the playscheme;
Potters wheels – £100 will buy a potters wheel to help more widows and grandmothers earn a living and send their children to school.
Sheena will be updating the websites live from Uganda next week.
To find out more about her trip click on the links below.
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