Newsletter September 2010
In the last newsletter I reported the current situation regarding the school building, an obvious priority! However, the issue of most importance to the children and their families, and the one that most moved Liz and I, was the Feeding Programme.
The Feeding Programme
It was in February of this year that Friends began funding the provision of a mid-day meal for all the children of Ray of Hope School. We were only able to do this because of a generous gift received that provided funding for the programme’s first year and beyond. Without such a gift we could not have contemplated beginning the programme – one can’t offer to feed children one month and withdraw the offer the next. With the closure of Ray of Hope School we had thought that the programme was ‘on hold’ until permanent premises were found. To our delight we found that Emily was still using the old building as a dining hall and the yard of that building as a kitchen.
It was clearly evident that the provision of food had made a huge impact on the happiness, health and welfare of the children, and lunchtime was clearly the highlight of their day!
Emily says; ‘The feeding programme means a lot, a lot, to the children and their families. It has really put a smile on our children’s faces. Most of them look forward to that meal because there is nothing when they go home, no supper. They must wait for the meal the next day. School holidays are still very difficult for them’
As well as the obvious health and welfare benefits of providing the children with a nutritious meal, there have been other ‘knock-on’ benefits. Firstly, it has brought employment for two people. A lovely lady called Mama Santa was struggling to raise five children after her husband abandoned them. She has been employed as a cook by Ray of Hope. This is a job she can do whilst looking after her children, and in addition she can feed them as well. Mama is assisted by a young man called Juku. We learnt that Juku had been a street boy abandoned by his family when Emily had taken him into the project as a boy and schooled and cared for him. Now he too has employment in the kitchen and is able to feed his family, a wife and two children, as well as his siblings who look to him for support. From the surplus food each day, several needy families are also provided for and meals set aside for them to eat as supper. We visited an example of such a family in their home.
Charles is 14yrs old and is sponsored to attend state secondary school. Despite his age, Charles is the head of his household and looks after two younger sisters after they were abandoned by their parents. These three children would be on the street scavenging, without a roof over their heads, food to eat or an education, if it were not for Ray of Hope and the funds that make it possible provided by Friends. Lastly, I hadn’t considered what a help it was to the teachers to be fed at school – their wages are low even by Ugandan standards, and so to be fed, is a supplement to their income and a small reward for their dedication.
We here in the UK are so blessed, our children take choice and ample provision for granted. Little ones like the children in the pictures eat all that is placed before them with enthusiasm – they leave nothing!
What the meals may lack in variety, they make up for in nutritional quality and quantity. Each meal consists of a staple of either rice, posho (a maize flour pudding) or matoke (a savoury banana) together with beans for protein and occasionally some meat.
Each meal costs little more than 10 pence to provide! That means that if I skip lunch on just one day here in the Uk, that £5 would feed the children above for the whole week!
It’s great to know that Friends’ money has enabled Ray of Hope to continue in all aspects of its work, but it is the Feeding Programme that promises to be our greatest gift to these children. The initial donation on which we are drawing will not last for ever and we must begin to cover the cost of the programme as soon as we can. Do you think you could miss lunch once a month?