Newsletter August 10
Having just returned from a visit to Ray of Hope in July, Liz and I have so much to report to you that one newsletter will not suffice. I had feared that all would be gloom and doom due to the crisis concerning the school building, but far from it! Concerning that subject we have positive things to report that will encourage. In addition, the feeding programme, which we had thought was ‘on hold’ due to the building crisis, was in fact in full operation. Seeing the children eating heartily each school day was the highlight of our stay!
We witnessed the expanding craft work amongst the women of the community and now have a much fuller idea of what it means to them to be able to earn an income with dignity, and through their own efforts. Discussions with Emily concerning the way she uses money from Friends’ General Fund, left us with a much better understanding of where, when and how Friends’ money is used. This was re-enforced by visiting the homes of some of the children whose families were in particular need of support.
We again were able to give out clothing and toys to families and realised that there were gaps in our provision. Lastly, but by no means the least, we renewed our relationship with the teachers and staff of Ray of Hope and were humbled by their commitment to this community.
So, I need to update you on all of these issues. Where to start?
The School Building
This is the obvious place to start – the building crisis! And ‘crisis’ it was! We can only begin to imagine what a blow it was to Emily and her staff to lose the building that they had worked so hard to build and maintain over nearly ten years! Had it not been for the availability of funds from Friends, Emily would not have had the option of renting premises as she has done, and that could have been the end of the school. In the event, Emily approached a local businessman and persuaded him to let them have a residential bungalow to use as a school for one month rent free. The rent thereafter is £200 a month and this is being met by Friends.
The bungalow which is currently Ray of Hope School is not ideal. Although it allows for four small classrooms, child numbers have had to be reduced by not replacing children who have left or graduated. School numbers have therefore dropped from 130 to below 100. This building is available for rent until the end of the school year in December and finance has been made available to Emily to cover this. So, the challenge for Friends is to provide sufficient funds to purchase an appropriate building for the start of the new school year in February 2011.
As Christians, we believe that God has turned this ‘crisis’ into an opportunity. A year ago it was not conceivable that Friends could even consider raising such money. However, our prayers have been answered by the exceptional generosity of a handful of people over a very short time. Although we have raised over £20,000, we still need to raise another £30,000 before we can consider buying a property. We do not take this provision for granted – words cannot adequately express our appreciation to our donors! Thank you so much!
What can we expect to buy with our money? Well, the property below will be on the market next year. It is currently residential and has five bedrooms on the first floor that would make ideal classrooms. A similar number of ground floor rooms would provide Ray of Hope with ample space for its other activities, such as the women’s craft work. There is an out-building that could be converted into a kitchen, and a large walled yard in which the children could play. Whether this particular building will remain available, who can say, but it does give us something to aim for.
Buying property anywhere abroad requires care, and Uganda perhaps more so. We are very conscious of the great responsibility placed upon us by our donors to make sure that the purchase, and future security of any property, is safeguarded. Accordingly, on this visit we took advice from a solicitor concerning issues such as foreign ownership of property in Uganda, potential title-deed difficulties and local planning regulations relating to change of use. The answers we received were encouraging.
In principle there is nothing to stop Friends owning property in Uganda although it would be on a leasehold, rather than a freehold, basis.
Because of the large amount of money involved we feel that Friends should retain ownership of the new building, both to give future security to our donors’ investment in Ray of Hope, and also to relieve Emily of the responsibility for a building. Also, as stated in the last newsletter, we will set up a board of trustees to ensure continuity.
The children of Ray of Hope School know that it will only be by education that they will break away from the cycle of poverty that traps their families. A new school outside of the slum would engender pride in their community and would be of lasting benefit to future generations. If you would like to contribute to our Capital Fund, your gift will have lasting value in the hearts and lives of the families of the Namuwonga district of Kampala.
The children at Ray of Hope School like to sing for visitors, and one of their songs is a song of ‘thanks’; ‘Thank you, thank you, I am very happy. Thank you, thank you, I am very grateful.’ – and they truly are, even for a new pencil, or cast-off clothes from the UK! How much more will they appreciate the provision of a new, and secure, school building?!
Your fellow ‘Friends’, Steve and Liz.