Friday, June 22, 2007

FAMILY BENEFITS FROM HOUSING PROJECT

Shelter is an indispensable basic need in the upbringing of children. It’s upon this realisation that the CVAP-student volunteers from Canada came up with a plan to support the families participating in the SOS Family Strengthening Programme (FSP) by building them low-cost houses.

Margaret (not her real name), 70 yrs, a widow and heading a family of five grandchildren, is among the first four lucky families to benefit from this housing project. Three weeks ago, she signed a contract in the presence of SOS co-workers, CVAP representatives and the local leaders, in which the student volunteers offered to construct a permanent two roomed house with a pit latrine on her land, located in Laroo, Gulu municipality. The construction of the house, estimated at US 5,000 dollars, is already in progress and will be completed in a few weeks from now.

Margaret is currently living in a hut with three total orphans left by her son who died of HIV/AIDS and two other children of her second son who is mentally disabled. All five children benefit from the SOS Family Strengthening Programme. They receive educational support, monthly food distributions, materials (e. g. blankets, mosquito nets etc…), medical care and counselling.

Despite her age and seemingly little energy, Margaret is a committed responsible person. She accompanies, everyday, one the youngest children under her care, to the SOS Day Care Centre and picks her up in the evening. She undoubtedly deserves the kind of support SOS Children's Villages and CVAP are giving to enable her to bring up this big family.







Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Creating awareness of HIV/AIDS in Gulu

Living in confinement in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps due to the threat of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has changed the social behaviour of the majority of the people in northern Uganda, contributing greatly to the spread of HIV/AIDS.

SOS Children’s Village Gulu is among several organisations intervening to stop the spread of the HIV/AIDS scourge through the services provided at the SOS Medical Centre and the Family Strengthening Programme (FSP), a community-based outreach programme. Hundreds of people from the community have voluntarily turned up for HIV/AIDS testing since the inception of the testing and counselling services in 2005, the majority women. Eighty six families in the community under the FSP programme receive regular HIV/AIDS sensitisation given by the SOS social workers. Additionally, twelve FSP families with HIV positive children receive additional nutritional support, medical care and counselling.

The Concordia Volunteer Abroad Programme (CVAP - student volunteers from Canada) in partnership with SOS Children’s Village Gulu and Health Alert, a local community-based organisation, organised a joint HIV/AIDS awareness week, during which radio announcements and talk shows took place. The activity-packed week had its climax with a three-day soccer gala in nearby Pece Stadium, intended to create HIV awareness among youth, as well as to encourage them to have an HIV test.

The soccer gala attracted thousands of youths and adults. (SOS staff played a morale-boosting match with the CVAP student volunteers in which CVAP emerged winners, three-nil.) While football matches were going on during the three days, SOS medical staff and Health Alert staff, assisted by the CVAP student volunteers were busy testing and counselling youths in two tents beside the football pitch. The number of youths that turned up for the HIV testing was overwhelming thanks to the CVAP student volunteers’ initiative to spearhead the awareness campaign and to contribute both financially and in kind. The CVAP students had designed an incentive program, in which t-shirts were given as a reward for taking an HIV/AIDS test. All the 268 testing kits that the SOS Medical Centre had in stock, and 200 more donated by CVAP, were used, leaving many other youth untested and eagerly in need of the service. A handful of the tested youth received their results while the majority of whom were asked to obtain their results from the medical centre after having a one-to-one counselling session. CVAP volunteers are planning to throw a party in the village for all the youth who were tested and received their results.

The campaign to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in northern Uganda is just beginning. With the current prevalence rate of 8%, youth are most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, yet the future lies in the hands of this young generation. There is therefore a need for a concerted effort to fight against this deadly disease among the youth, and SOS Children's Villages Gulu will play its part.

Monday, June 04, 2007

GOOD NEWS! A FUNDRAISING TEAM FROM THE NETHERLANDS VISITS SOS CHILDREN’S VILLAGE GULU



Our plan for the construction of the new SOS Children’s Village Gulu was enhanced by the news of the coming of a fundraising team from the Netherlands a week before their visit. On 21 May 2007, the four-man team from SOS Netherlands arrived in Gulu on a seven-day working visit with the aim of shooting a film and taking photos for a promotional campaign to raise funds for SOS Children’s Village Gulu. The materials will be used for publicity in magazines and on the internet and also to run TV commercials in Netherlands.

The team spent seven days casting and filming children in the village and on the streets of Gulu town. It sounds simple but in reality it was a demanding exercise that had to be carefully done. On several occasions they had to redo the filming to produce the quality of work needed, which ended up attracting passers-by, even a local leader who intervened on seeing a crowd of onlookers in the town. Fortunately the mayor of Gulu town had earlier given the team a go-ahead. Besides, the visitors were so lively and lovely that they amused whoever dared to question them. They came with children’s clothes which they donated to the SOS children. They also gave presents to two key staff in appreciation of their contribution towards humanity.

The team left for Netherlands on 27 May 2007 promising to return in 2008 on the occasion of the opening of the new village. Until then the destiny of SOS Children’s Village Gulu was made
clearer with their pledge and commitment to raise the much needed funds.