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Hope shines through charity’s projects for young Ugandans

PUBLISHED: 09:07 04 February 2015 | UPDATED: 09:07 04 February 2015

Gazette reporter Sarah Howells meeting her sponsored child, Lewin.

Gazette reporter Sarah Howells meeting her sponsored child, Lewin.

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Reporter Sarah Howells spent 10 days in Uganda with Barnstaple-based charity Amigos to find out how it is supporting the next generation in a country rife with poverty and unemployment...

Despite the hardship and poverty, Uganda is full of smiles. Despite the hardship and poverty, Uganda is full of smiles.

Josephine cares for her four grandchildren, but is weak and struggles to carry water from the borehole several miles away from her tin-roofed hut.

Before Amigos built a rainwater jar next to her house, she would sometimes go for four or five days without drinking anything.

With one of her grandchildren also sponsored through the charity to go to school, Josephine is reassured that there might be some expectation for the future.

It is just one of the many glimmers of hope that never fail to shine through in these rural Ugandan communities helped by Amigos, where poverty is rife.

Josephine was too weak to fetch water - so Amigos built her a jar to collect rainwater. Josephine was too weak to fetch water - so Amigos built her a jar to collect rainwater.

Living in squalor

One family we met in the northern district of Masindi is made up of seven boys; their mother died recently and their father spends all day digging in the fields.

Amigos' child sponsorship coordinator Joseph Sabiiti, with sponsored child Brenda. Amigos' child sponsorship coordinator Joseph Sabiiti, with sponsored child Brenda.

Without any motherly care, they live in squalor. They cannot afford shoes and their feet are riddled with parasitic jigger worms, also known as sand flies.

“This will eventually leave them crippled if not treated,” Joseph Sabiiti, Amigos’ child sponsorship co-ordinator, told me.

In a small mud hut down the road, living with his grandmother, we met Simon, an orphan who is eight years old and HIV positive.

Last week he fell very ill, and walked nine miles all by himself to the nearest hospital to get medication. He was very thin, and his life is extremely tough.

Simon, who is HIV positive, walked nine miles to hospital. Simon, who is HIV positive, walked nine miles to hospital.

Delivering hope

But all around there is hope. Amigos is working tirelessly to fundraise to send these children to school; to build them houses and water jars to make life that bit easier.

Through paying a £16 a month sponsorship, children are given an education, as well as a guaranteed hot meal a day – something they might never have had.

Meeting my sponsored child

Meeting the child I sponsor, Lewin, was a particular highlight of my trip.

I first met his father Christopher Ezuma when he was a student at Kira Farm in 2012, and after hearing of their struggles I felt compelled to help.

Three times a year I receive a letter from Lewin, and being able to see the change in him since my last visit, and hear how he is enjoying school, was magical.

Kira Farm

As well as child sponsorship, Amigos runs a number of other initiatives.

Near Kampala is its flagship Kira Farm, which takes in 40 young Ugandans every year and teaches them essential vocational and holistic skills.

My job while in Uganda was to interview the new students and compile profiles on them, in a bid to tell their stories and help to attract some sponsorship.

Their tales were haunting – young girls forced into slavery, former child soldiers abducted from their homes and forced to fight with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

One young man even showed me his bullet wounds, and another told me how, after he escaped the LRA’s clutches, his parents were then poisoned over a land dispute.

A fresh start

Kira Farm is an opportunity for a fresh start. These youngsters will never forget the haunting memories, but they can learn the skills to help them change their futures.

And that is the magic of Amigos. Because in among the hardship, the exceptional poverty and the pain, there is always hope, and there are always smiles.

How you can help

Amigos runs school or business groups to visit its projects in Uganda, which include a safari and staying in the charity’s new guest house at Kira Farm.

For more information on Amigos including trips, how to raise funds or sponsoring a child, visit www.amigos.org.uk; call 01271 377664 or visit them at 3 Boutport Street, (Mermaid Walk), Barnstaple.

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