Welcome to another update from Uganda Lodge for all our friends, past volunteers, donors and supporters.
It has been a difficult 12 months for everyone but especially for many millions in Africa who, even in normal times, struggle each week to provide enough food for their families. Due to strict rules especially in the crowded cities, Covid-19 infections are very low in Uganda - in a year they have had less cases and deaths than UK had last week. In UK many children are returning to school again and so far Uganda has allowed both P7 and now P6 children to return, with the lower classes scheduled to start again in the coming weeks.
That brings a new challenge in that a school can only have either all boarders or all day students and cannot be mixed.£5 keeps one child in boarding school for a weekDay schooling is mainly the government schools which have a very poor learning history with few children passing their Primary Leaving exams (PLE). The majority of rural village homes have no electricity, so millions of children have really missed a full year of education, and a year is a long time in a child's life. No zoom lessons for them, or the use of laptops, tablets and phones. Few can afford even the pens and paper for newspaper lessons. Instead they have been digging in their gardens and collecting water and firewood or helping with cooking and looking after younger siblings.
Thanks to our regular donors and a number of most welcome one-off donations, we have been able to keep on essential staff at Uganda Lodge, our School & Medical Centre and our eco-lodges in QE Park. Overall this has kept security and maintenance up-to-date, and more than 30 families happy to have some income. We are ready to accept visitors again right now. Unfortunately we had to let many staff go and this included most of our 17 teachers, but recently we have welcomed 5 back to teach P6 and P7. Then, thanks to Utopia Foundation and Michael, the school staff had an excellent training day last month and we invited back the teachers from the lower classes as well. Right now our biggest difficulty is that as all these children returning to school have to board because of COVID-19, and many are finding it almost impossible to pay even the low fees that we ask. Thanks to our sponsorship scheme of £5 per month we are able to charge less than 50% of any other school for fees from parents and yet each year we still get a 100% pass rate with good grades for PLE. This is despite many of our children coming from uneducated rural farming families, so they get no support from home. Some days they dont even get a hot meal like they receive at our school kitchen. Please, if you dont already regularly help to support our school, can YOU and maybe some friends manage to donate just £5 per month starting today? It is so easy now through VirginGiving and every £5 gives a good meal to 20 children or keeps one child in boarding for a week.
Naturally we have had very few visitors staying with us since January 2020 so we have also lost all the fundraising they usually do before volunteering. Please, please if you are not already doing so, will you help me get these kids back into education as above? Maybe you can organise a virtual fundraising event for us? You can easily make a donation or set up your own page on VirginGiving. Are you willing to add a donate button for 'Uganda Lodge Community Projects' on your own Facebook page? (Click on the +Create Button at top right of page ) Maybe make a Birthday Fundraiser?
Many thanks to the Daviott and Old Meldrum Explorer Scouts who have already donated all £15,000 they raised towards building new Dormitories for our Vocation students, despite having to put their group visit back by 2 years. We still have a lot of interior work to complete so are hoping others will come forward soon to help complete the necessary interior work.
Bolton Halwa Centre have added a further £1,000 from collections at their takeaway Delicatessen and work is continuing on the ceilings of our Vocation Training Restaurant. Not only are we moving slowly forward towards completion but we are able to give some work to several builders and labourers and purchase supplies from local hardware shops.
Are you really tired of this lockdown and considering a month or so away as soon as possible? Travel to Uganda is allowed right now, even from UK, providing you arrive with a negative COVID test, Volunteering is classed as 'essential work' and our UK Charity can issue a confirmation if you are coming to volunteer with us. A visit of 3 weeks or longer is ideal, as you will be expected to stay around Uganda Lodge and keep Covid-Distance away from the children and other villagers for a few days when you first arrive. There are plenty of walks in the surrounding hills, you can join a safari, or you can simply relax and plan where you want to go or what activities you would like to take part in. You will also have to organise another Covid-19 Test for your return flight home but that is easy. The few visitors we have received have all chosen to travel directly from Entebbe Airport down to Uganda Lodge by private car and thus avoid crowded bus parks in Kampala. You can read an updated info booklet and application form here or let me know if you would like them emailed to you.
The National Parks and Gorilla Trekking etc are all open and our Eco-Lodges within Queen Elizabeth Park are completed and waiting for visitors. Denis will find lions however well hidden! Fantastic for Bird and Animal watching from the comfort of your own room. If you are a bird-watcher you may like to see David Yekutiel's fantastic Uganda Birding Photos
If you have any medical knowledge or know a student needing to do their Medical Elective, take a look at our new websitewith lots of mini videos and remember we only charge £140 per week full board at Uganda Lodge with just £100 booking fee. Thats it... nothing else...
Thanks to Emmanuel, our Ugandan partner NGO called STAND ON YOUR OWN finally has its own website and it hosts a number of great mini-videos taken by our past volunteers. If you are one of the lucky people who have already visited Uganda Lodge you may see yourself in a video on one of these new websites. Emmanuel is now working on one for our eco-Lodges at Kasenyi and Kisenyi where you will stay on safari.
We have started planning some new developments with Brendan Dziama, a young man from USA who is currently living in Hamburg working with the local He has worked on International Relations in many Sub-Saharan African countries for the past 4 years and has experience working with NGO‘s and Non-Profits. He liked what we are doing and to further check out Uganda Lodge and the work we are doing to help the local communities there, he flew to Entebbe early Feb for a 2-week trip. As well as volunteering in Ruhanga he joined a safari to QE Park with our Director Aheirwe Denis and another young volunteer CoCo. (See Coco's Instagram Pics) Brendan enjoyed his trip and is planning to run two escorted adventure trips in July/August himself, plus help with fundraising and admin. If you are interested in an adventure trip like this rather than straight volunteering, please contact Brendan direct. We would also like to hear from any past volunteers/donors who would like to help with our work helping Denis and his NGO projects. We may offer a trustee position for someone who gets more involved. After realising I am 80 next year I guess I should be slowing down a bit and maybe one day gracefully retiring, but not yet!!
Meanwhile its urgent that we get more regular donations each month if we are not to turn children away who want to return to education but whose parents really cannot afford to pay for them. Simple things can help, like buying your £1 weekly lottery ticket from us each week instead of the local supermarket. Join Here You might win £25,000 - its very good odds and if you join this week you could also win a £500 voucher for a bicycle.
Another way we receive money each month that doesn't cost you a penny is from the people who are shopping online and using EasyFundaising Our Charity is registered with them and you can even book your holiday or insure your house and we could get a small commission. This has added up to over £1,424 Thankyou to all.
Thankyou to all who have read this far down. Please pass it on to anyone who may be interested in volunteering or simply having a 'Holiday with a Difference' this year and remember it is possible to travel out to Uganda even now.
I would also like to hear from anyone who might be interested in joining our admin team and possibly becoming a trustee to our UK charity.