Annual Report for 2014

by | Jan 26, 2015

In 2014 Friends was again able to maintain the existing support given to the project in previous years and also to improve the facilities at the school.  The welfare of the children and improved working conditions for our staff were the motivation for making the improvements. We were blessed to have the capital in hand to commit to these building works, and for that we once again acknowledge the debt we owe to our fellow friends. Our numbers have increased by only one or two during the year, but the committed support we have received has not diminished. The Trustees would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to all who have sponsored children or supported other aspects of the work in 2014. You have made a real difference in the lives of some of the poorest people in Uganda.

Improved facilities at Ray of Hope School

In last year’s report we identified several areas where significant improvements to the facilities and fabric of the School needed to be made.  Even if we were to be considering such work here in the UK it would have been the cause of some anxiety, so you may appreciate how much more so was the case when the work was to be done in Uganda.   Not least of our concerns was finding a reputable builder and someone to Project manage on our behalf. We were able to meet both concerns with the help of another charity called Fields of Life, an Ireland based charity that works in Uganda building schools.  Through them we identified a builder and an Architect who agreed to be Project Manager for us.  On the first meeting with them we were impressed with their professionalism.  Contracts were agreed and signed in April and work on Phase One began in the summer school holidays, with Phase Two scheduled for the Christmas break in January 2015.

Phase One – The priorities to be addressed in this first phase of the work were, the building of a new kitchen block within the school yard and a new toilet block for the children.

Kitchen – Our Cook, Mama Santa, has catered for around 150 every day, cooking over open fires in the school yard, with only a galvanized tin roof for shelter.  Smoke from the fires was always billowing around her and the children – it was a health and safety nightmare! Now Mama Santa has a purpose built brick structure which has three large cooking vessels over charcoal burning stoves.  The smoke is chimneyed away safely and the kitchen environment is now much healthier and safer.

Toilet – The existing pit type toilet block in one corner of the school yard was unsanitary and a disgrace. Although the children had been using it, the high water table in that area meant that it was usually full to brimming over.  We who have visited the school were only able to peer in from several feet away such was the awful smell.  Although the new structure is also of the pit type it has two tanks and an overflow modification.  This means solids are kept in the first tank along with some of the liquid waste, but the excess liquid flows off to the second tank which allows waste water to soak away.  The system is aided by a flush water tank which is something the children need to be taught to use wisely – water is metered and costs money in Kampala!   The disgrace and embarrassment of the old is now replaced by the new and efficient, and so now the toilets will definitely be part of the tour for visitors in future.

The work for Phase One was completed on time and within the agreed budget.

Improving staff wages.

You may recall that improving our staff’s wages was a priority in 2013 and to achieve that aim we have given our staff inflation busting pay rises to increase their standard of living.  In 2013 we increased wages for all our employees by 20% and this last year we increased them by a further 10%.   Our teachers are now on the equivalent of £25 a week, so not exactly in the lap of luxury!  Nonetheless, this has made a big difference to them and they are very grateful.  I understand that our teachers are now on a par with the state sector, but that is still fairly low pay even by Ugandan standards – state teachers have been on strike in recent times and some have gone months without wages at all!

Crisis in the community

In August we had a frantic email telling us that the railway authorities had moved into the slum community with bulldozers without having given any warning.  The community is built illegally on land adjacent to a railway line that runs from Lake Victoria into the centre of Kampala.  Before anything could be done to stop it, hundreds of people were made homeless, some of them the families of our school children.  The community leaders were able to get together and challenge the decision in the courts and until the legal status is clarified further demolition is on hold.  This presented Emily (Project Director) and her staff with a crisis of huge proportions.  Following an appeal to our friends we were able to raise an immediate £3,000 for Emily to use to relieve those most affected.  This has been spent on food and clothing, shelter and resettlement.  The crisis continues and funds in excess of what we would normally be sending out this January will have to be sent to allow Emily to continue to work with other agencies and charities in helping the homeless and dispossessed.

We have no date for when this matter might be resolved in the courts, but it will not be soon.

Plans for 2015

Building work at Ray of Hope School – Phase Two.

Phase Two of the building work taking place as this report is being prepared in January 2015. The work being done will ensure that we get best use of the present school building by removing some walls and thereby enlarging two of the classrooms.  It will also be dealing with damp issues in the flooring and walls, as well as redecoration throughout.  In addition, a separate building that is currently used as a storeroom will be modified to allow it to be used as a work shop by the women for their craft work.  At present the women and their craft have to work alongside the school admin staff, which is inconvenient and means a lot of setting up and clearing away after each session.

This work is estimated to cost £8,500 and will be completed by the time the children return to school in early February.

Staff wages.  We will be keeping the matter under review and will consider making a further pay increase in April to at least cover any increase in the rate of inflation over the past year.

Recruit more friends

If the project is to grow, and its facilities to improve, then we need to attract more friends to support the work.  We look to our existing friends to advertise the worthwhile nature of their own involvement with Ray of Hope amongst their friends and family.  Perhaps you could do this?  We would gladly come and talk to a house party if you could arrange one, and perhaps bring and sell some of our craft goods.  Or perhaps you could think of some sponsored event that you could do as a way of involving your family and friends.  Whatever you can do would be very much appreciated.  One thing is for sure, and that is, that it will not cost less to finance Ray of Hope School in 2015!

Accounts for 2014

Total income for the year was £25,559.  Total payments were £41.356.

As always, nearly half of the money we raised this year came by way of regular monthly giving, and most of that is tied to either funding the feeding programme or to sponsorship. The total amount sent out to Ray of Hope in 2014 was £25,753 (2013 – £24,311.45 2012 – £22,144.76) This sum covered all aspects of the work, from staff wages to the cost of feeding the children and paying sponsorship fees to the State schools.

The total cost of Phase One of our building plan was £15,603.

Together in 2014 we have continued to make a real difference for the better in the lives of the children and families at Ray of Hope School. We hope that you will be able to continue to support us in this new year of 2015.

‘Thank you’ in anticipation.

On behalf of the Trustees,

Steve Jennings