Thursday, January 31, 2008

The New Year brings hardships to Gulu

2008 started with people in Gulu exchanging “Happy New Year” messages with their friends and relatives and expressing their happiness at having completed 2007. Indeed they were right to celebrate because for someone to complete a year in northern Uganda is worth celebrating, having spent over 20 years under absolute fear of losing their life, caused by the LRA insurgency.

However little did they know that the political violence in neighbouring Kenya, brought by irregularities in the recent presidential elections, could lead them to yet another hard life. Consequently fuel scarcity hit the whole of Uganda. Inability to do business and to move led to the suffering of many people, especially in upcountry towns. As fuel became scarcer, its price abnormally shot up, and even then it could only be found on the black market. For instance a litre of petrol rose by over 300%, bus fares from Kampala to Gulu increased by 50%, a bunch of bananas went up by 80% and cement by 45%. This current situation has greatly affected our budgets in SOS Children’s Village Gulu and the construction of the new village as the cost of materials has gone up. Although fuel is now available, its price is still high.

Concerning the weather, we are now in the dry season. The green cover is disappearing slowly by slowly and many trees have completely lost their leaves. The mornings are characterised by cold and dry winds blowing up a lot of dust into the houses. Afternoons are really hot, above 36oC, leading to little output from many workers in northern Uganda because of the unbearable heat. And this is just the beginning; the worst of it is yet to be experienced in February and March when the ground will be left bare and water scarce as the dry season continues.

In SOS Children’s Village Gulu, the children are still on their long holidays, yet to return to school on 4th February. They have been involved in various holiday activities since the beginning of December 2007. We tried to limit their movement in the community for fear of the deadly contagious Ebola disease, which hit the districts of western Uganda. Yellow fever was also prevalent in the neighbouring district of Kitgum.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Christmas Party Time in Gulu

By Pamela Atim, Sponsorship Assistant

Thursday 20th December 2007 will remain a memorable day to SOS children in Gulu, when they had a Christmas party organized for them to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It was really an exciting day for the children as well as their mothers.

Prior to the long awaited occasion, children actively spent many days practicing a drama entitled “The Birth of Jesus Christ”, and Christmas songs and dances. They also made very beautiful Christmas cards designed from manila and nicely decorated stickers. The cards, with Christmas messages, were addressed to their beloved mothers, other SOS staff and fellow children.

The party started at 4.30 pm with the gathering of all children, mothers, co-workers and 10 other children invited from Karim Child Care Development Centre. While nice Christmas music played in the background, children presented the play of “The Birth of Jesus Christ”, which they acted to their best ability. This was followed by other performances like singing Christmas carols to which they danced in their style and brought smiles to everybody. Meanwhile drinks and eats were given out.

The climax was Father Christmas with the distribution of sweets, biscuits and popcorn to the excited children. He also gave out Christmas cards sent by children in the Netherlands to all the children. The children in turn gave their well decorated cards to the mothers and other staff. Music continued to play, children danced and everybody was happy. The party finally ended at 9.00pm.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Life at the SOS Day Care Centre

The SOS Day Care Centre in Gulu hosts a total of 48 children who range between the ages of 3 and 7 years old. The children are sifted out from those families in the SOS Family Strengthening Programme (FSP), whereby caregivers are engaged in an income generating activity, yet they are unable to pay for their children either in day care centres or pre-schools within the community. These beneficiaries usually receive a very small wage which makes it impossible for them to afford the high charges that service providers charge to the community at large.This means that the most vulnerable or the most poverty stricken of FSP beneficiaries are unable to afford such services.

The day care centre helps to bridge the gap in that children have a place to stay during the day; instead of remaining redundant at home where they may be vulnerable to all forms of abuse, as there is no one to watch over them during the course of the day.

At the centre children get to interact with one another in a safe and secure environment. They also receive a well balanced diet, gain from the pre-school curriculum that is in place and not forgetting the free medical treatment that they are entitled to from the SOS clinic.

If one visits the centre it is obvious that the children enjoy attending it and that they have a fondness for their teachers. It is also obvious that the children are fed and well cared for, they appear strong, energetic, healthy, and well mannered and are able to grasp a few words in English.

The children spend the whole day in the care of their teachers Noreen, Rose and Mestica, who are passionate about the children in their care. They are a committed and dedicated team and have a real fondness for the children.

Once the whole day’s activities are exhausted, the children take an afternoon nap after which they are woken up in the evening to prepare for departure, when they are collected by their parents who by then would have finalized their day at work.

by Noreen Omony, Day Care Leader