December 2015 Newsletter



Updates From


  & Ruhanga Resource Centre   

PO Box 368 Ntungamo SW Uganda 

      December 2015

Hello to all our Sponsors, Past Volunteers, Friends and Supporters.
Looking back over the past year we have achieved many of our 2015 goals to provide help, assistance and education for the rural village families around Ruhanga and on a lesser scale at the fishing villages in Queen Elizabeth National Park,
At Ruhanga Development Nursery and Primary School we have had more than 450 children aged 3 – 18 attending each day.  About 75 of these were full-time boarders, mainly the older students in Primary 6 and 7 who are preparing for exams.  There are also some younger children boarding whose family circumstances made conditions at home very challenging.  We must rely on our generous sponsors to ask if you would allow a needy child to board for a year? if you or a friend would like to sponsor boarding, the cost is a one off payment of £125 for the year. (This is different from our ordinary sponsorship fee  of £42)Boarding helps the children become self-reliant at an early age; they all do their own washing, cleaning of the compounds along with the four dormitories and help the younger ones with their chores.  I am in Uganda in January so please contact me if you can sponsor and I would happily match a child for you. Boarding gives them a better chance of doing well in exams as they have time for extra lessons & prep instead of a long walk home each day followed by collecting water & firewood.
Thanks to those who did fundraising earlier in the year for the Masaka Marathon and other sponsored events – you made the children very happy – Denis was able to purchase a very large water tank and install showers for both boys and girls plus build a storeroom for sports equipment.  Many of the children had never seen showers before, bathing meant using a plastic bowl or a small bucket.

It’s amazing to see how far the school has come and how much has been achieved since the village women asked us to open a Nursery School back in 2007, which we opened with a baby class of 10 children in a redundant chicken shed.  To complete the final pieces of the jigsaw puzzle the school now needs to raise enough funding to build an additional classroom, a staff room and more accommodation for teachers.  Previous volunteers & donors  enabled Denis to reclaim several acres of bush-land as a sports field and this has helped to get the school officially registered with the Education Department.  This autumn volunteer Steve Goddard with support from others spent a month marking out and levelling two football pitches and as more money becomes available we hope to be able to complete these by purchasing more grass for better coverage.We recently received the results of the Primary 7 entry exams for next year and 34 children from P6 achieved Grade 1 or 2 making us third out of a total of nearly 50 schools in Itojo sub-county. Overall we were in the top 10% out of the 340 schools in Ntungamo District.  This is a brilliant testament to all the hard work of everyone in the school.  What an achievement when you consider most of the children at other private schools are from better-off, educated families and the majority of our children are from rural subsistence farming families who speak little or no English, often not able to read or write.We are now waiting for the results of the Government Primary 7 leaving exams and we expect a good number of our 25 children to pass. Unfortunately we fear many will still not be able to afford senior school and even those lucky enough to do so are unlikely to find a job several years later when they leave.Statistics tell us that less than 10% of University Graduates in Uganda find paid work, so our aim is to offer a variety of affordable vocational training courses to our students and other young people in the area which will enable them to start their own small business and work for themselves.  This will bring in extra income to supplement that earned from subsistence farming. It will help prevent early marriages for the girls and stop the boys from drifting into town looking for non-existent unskilled jobs.  For this reason we believe raising money to continue with opening more  units at our Vocational Centre is vitally important and must now be our top fundraising priority.It costs approx. £10,000 to build one permanent classroom-style workshop suitable to teach practical training courses to a high standard. This amount includes building, plumbing, electrical and decorating costs plus the purchase of necessary equipment, materials and tools and a teacher’s salary for the first year.  We currently provide computer, tailoring and shoe-making classes, but have requests for many more trades including carpentry, electrical work, welding, construction, roofing, hairdressing and mechanics.

To acquire these skills elsewhere would be unaffordable for many, but because all of Denis’ projects are not-for-profit and run through his NGO we are able to keep the fees very low.  If you know of any business, groups or organisation that may be interested in funding the building of such a project and perhaps having the classroom named after them (such as the McNeil Medical Centre), please talk to them and introduce them to Denis or myself.   Could you, family or friends set up a dedicated fundraising page on BTDonate here ? Years ago, before I went to Ruhanga I managed to raise nearly £10,000 myself for another Ugandan Charity, so I know it’s not an impossible goal; its hard work but it’s extremely rewarding.  (Email me for ideas)

Late last year we dug out and concreted the foundations for a large coffee shop/cafe/restaurant which will be a practical hands-on training facility for young people to learn catering skills.  It will also generate an income to help us make further contributions to the Vocation Centre and help support the modern medical centre.  I am pleased to report that in 2015, thanks to substantial fundraising by Lisa and Paul Durkin and others, the walls and ring beams are now completed.

We have recently received a large donation raised by one of our volunteers, Suresh Amin, which will enable us to complete the roof and begin interior work on the floors and ceilings.  Suresh was born in Uganda and had to leave as a young man back in the 70’s when Idi Amin chased him and thousands of other Ugandan Asians out of the country.  He now lives in the USA, but wanted to return while he was still able to put something back into his birthplace.  He spent several enjoyable weeks with us making school desks, bookshelves and picture frames for our school. This has left a lasting impression on him and he hopes to raise further funds for us in the New Year.

Thanks go to all of you who continue to sponsor one or more of our children, for just £42 a year. Your support is invaluable and enables us to provide a high standard of education plus a free breakfast for hundreds of these village children for which we ask a nominal contribution of approx. £4 a term including medical care.  We also  have many ‘special cases’ where they don’t even contribute this much! However, as we grow, we unfortunately still have more than 30 children without a sponsor and we expect this number to rise if we take in new little ones after  Christmas.  Each extra child sponsored really does ‘make a difference’ to what we can provide for them. Please help.  You can download an application form here on our www.sponsorachild, website and see some of the children who are still hoping to find a sponsor.

Did you volunteer with us? Have you sponsored a child yet? Sponsoring for a year makes an unusual Christmas present that not only lasts the child for a whole year but what they learn with that £3.50p a month will last them a lifetime. If you sponsor as a gift for a child or other friend we can put their name on the personalised certificate you will be sent.

We recently received a £50 donation from 6 year old Kaya who lives in London and who wrote to Santa asking him to give a gift to an African Child that that was not as lucky as he was.  How lovely was that – and especially the fact that his Dad facilitated it.

They were really happy when I used it to sponsor one of our children and shortly Kaya
will get a certificate to show his friends and hang on his wall.  Another little girl aged 7  took a photo of her sponsored child to school and said it was her Ugandan brother!As you know we never use your sponsorship money to send out letters or glossy pictures of the children as we believe that all of the monthly £3.50 should and does go directly to funding their education.  We aim to send you news of the children and progress of the school through our regular newsletters like this one and the posts on our facebook pages.
If by any chance you already sponsor and have not received your sponsorship certificate or any other expected feedback please let me know as we have found that some emails ended in junk mail without our knowledge especially when they have attachments.   If you expect to change your contact email address in the near future, such as if you leave Uni or change your place of work, please be sure to let me know so we can keep in touch.  I would be happy for you to forward our newsletters to friends, family or colleagues.Some of our sponsors have very kindly offered to send presents and letters to individual children, but we don’t advocate this as it upsets those not receiving anything and causes jealousy among siblings and classmates.  A small donation towards extra text books for the whole school is much more acceptable. We are working on a system where sponsors and schools can exchange occasional emails with a class of children in Ruhanga, but it’s not easy because many teachers cannot use the internet competently and the connections are expensive and very slow.Excitingly we have a new headmaster starting next term and we are hoping he will be keen to get these type of initiatives off the ground.  If you are a teacher or would simply like to be in contact with one of our classes please email  ruhangaschool@ugandalodge.comOur volunteer numbers have been substantially lower in 2015 than recent years, mainly due to changes in policy at Original Volunteers, the company that has sent us many volunteers in the past 4 years.  They now seem to be promoting volunteer opportunities they run themselves in other countries and this has caused our projects to be put on hold.  It has significantly reduced the amount of money that Denis has been able to put towards subsidising the school expenses and new infrastructure at the Vocation centre this year.

We appreciate that not everyone is able to volunteer or continually fundraise, but we believe that some of you may be able to give us a bit of your time and by utilising skills that you already have could help to increase our presence on-line.  We do have an internet  presence but we know that if we are to continue expand the support we can give to the farming families around  Ruhanga  we desperately need additional support to raise our profile by promoting, marketing and automating fundraising activities.  We need your help to increase our volunteer numbers again in 2016.

So, are you computer literate and have a few hours to spare each week to help me promote volunteering online and via social media, and perhaps give advice on how best to generate interest?  There are many website where we could advertise for free but I don’t get time to enter our information & keep it updated.  Janet, who helps me regularly, says the pay is not very good (ZERO!) but the job satisfaction is better than most places!

I would also be happy to hear from any creative people amongst you that would be interested in designing some posters or flyers that they could send out to sixth forms, colleges, universities and large companies to promote our Volunteering and Medical Electives opportunities.

Uganda Lodge and volunteering is not just for Gap Year students, we can accommodate families with children of all ages. It’s ideal for single travellers or those taking a career break and retirees who would love to experience a beautiful and peaceful part of the world away from the usual locations offered in travel brochures.  We can organise a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the mountain gorillas at an affordable price, as well as a safari that gives close-up encounters with lions, elephants and hippos etc.

Do you know any keen bird-watchers?  Uganda hosts over 1,000 different species of birds and Denis’s  lakeside Bandas at Kasenyi are in a fantastic Birding area with 600 species in the QE park alone.

Return flights to Entebbe are available from London for as little as £330 in the low season. Be aware that the cheapest flights always sell out quickly especially for the summer months; they rarely come down in price at the last minute, so now is the time to book.  We only charge £105 per week  for full board to stay at the Lodge, with no extra volunteering fees to pay, so for under £1,000 you can organise a short ‘Holiday with a Difference’ and also ‘Make a Difference’ by combining a volunteer experience with a short safari.  Ideally though most people wish they were staying for a month or longer.  Do not be afraid to go out to Uganda on your own – give me a ring and I will support and advise you on how easy it is, and how we look after you until you make your own friends (and you will soon make many).

You may have heard that BA no longer flies to Entebbe so we have lost our concessions enabling us to take out extra charity baggage.  My front room is gradually filling up again with donations of uniforms, shoes etc.  Do you have contacts with a courier company who may be able to get this out to Uganda for us free of charge? This is the only way we can continue to provide free uniform for all our students, plus send out all the other books, toys, shoes and clothing we are offered for free.

In May 2015 some of  our volunteers ran in the International Marathon in Masaka. They had a wonderful week experiencing many organised activities, made new friends, and raised lots of money IMGP3502for our school.  It is being repeated in 2016 on Sunday 5th June and we would welcome runners again to support our charity.  It is a very informal event and its possible to take part and run a half-marathon or even just 10K. You can see their website here but if you are interested in participating please contact me directly as I may be able to negotiate a discounted rate to take part again in 2016.

Denis’ work at the fishing villages within Queen Elizabeth  National Park is gradually moving forward.  Thanks to a loan from a former volunteer he has been able to build four Bandas alongside Lake George at Kasenyi but additional funding through substantial donations to his NGO, or a lease or partnership agreement would be welcomed to enable him to build high-end accommodation in this idyllic area..By attracting more visitors to stay at this beautiful location, a new source of income is being generated for the local people living in these remote fishing villages.  Already some of the more affluent visitors to Queen Elizabeth Park have paid school fees for village orphans, and a solar system has been installed at the local medical centre.  Future profits from our tourism projects will eventually come back to further support Denis’s work in Ruhanga.

Please email me with any offers of help with UK admin, fundraising or sponsorship that you can offer or to answer questions you may have and I will be very happy to hear from you. In fact please just email to say Hello and to tell me that you have read my update.

It’s surprising how much support a very small group of people in the UK are managing to give to so many people in Uganda. Again help through using Social Media for promotion, fundraising, sponsorship and marketing. would be appreciated (Facebook, Twitter, GoogleAds, Ebay & so on) PLEASE COME & JOIN US!

Denis and I wish you all a Happy Christmas and New Year and we look forward to either welcoming you as a volunteer in Uganda in 2016, or just hearing from you again. .


Ann McCarthy & Denis Aheirwe