Encouraging resilience and sustainability in Ugandan communities
IEUA-QNT member Linda Brady of St Benedict’s Catholic Primary School north of Brisbane has been travelling to Uganda for more than a decade helping to provide resources and improve conditions in disadvantaged communities.
Linda believes the country can overcome its war torn past to build a brighter future for the next generation.
Linda and her husband John have been travelling to Uganda since 2005 to help run an annual leadership conference, empowering men and women in the community to be self sustainable.
The Leadership Leaven Conference is organised through NET ministries Uganda and aims to create leaders at individual, church and organisational levels based on Christian leadership principles.
“We help Ugandans who are prepared to put their own money and efforts into a project, people who are already doing wonderful things, then we work with them or find them a partner so they can turbocharge their initiatives,” Linda said.
She said over the years these projects have ranged from feeding programs in schools, where many children come to school without meals, counselling support for child soldiers, through to micro financing local initiatives such as pineapple plantations.
“The conference is not about giving charity, though we freely give our time and pay our own expenses as our investment is about raising community leaders,” she said.
Linda said that the event gets bigger every year, with people now attending from neighbouring countries like Kenya and Tanzania.
“We have met people from all walks of life including community leaders, business people, politicians, educators, medical professionals and university students,” she said.
“There are many success stories including one woman from northern Uganda who had experienced all that the atrocities of war can dish out to innocent people.
“After hearing about the conference, she walked and hitchhiked for days and thought if it could give her one new strategy or idea that she could use it would be worth the journey.
“When we first met her, she wanted to devote her life to looking after what was left of her family and community.
“Later she became a counsellor, working with troubled people including returned child soldiers.
“She is a strong and determined woman and we were privileged enough to get to know her.”
Fundraising for resources
In addition to the conference, Linda and her husband also have a partnership with their local parish, Our Lady of the Way, Petrie and St Bruno’s Parish in Ssaza, a poor parish of Masaka.
“Our parish has been very generous, helping fund programs to support the HIV/AIDS widows and orphans,” she said.
She said Uganda has one of the world’s fastest growing and youngest populations, with more people being under the age of 18 than adults.
“Many of the country’s young people have grown up without a father figure and the elderly are often raising grandchildren because of the impact of war and the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” she said.
Due to the large population of young Ugandans, one of the biggest challenges in schools is the size of classes.
“There can be as many as 200 students in just one classroom, which was the case in one of the refugee camps we saw,” Linda said.
“In the villages, the numbers can fluctuate on a daily basis. One of the reasons for this is the long distances children have to walk to school.”
Principal and unionist, Ayosius Mukasa, of St Joseph’s Primary School Masaka, said the cluttered education system is a huge problem.
“There are too many kids in classrooms, in my school’s Year 1 class there are 167 kids,” he said.
“This makes it very difficult for teachers to teach and mark the books in the lesson – so time management becomes a problem.”
Mr Mukasa said the Ugandan government must provide more school buildings and resources to help address the problem.
“We need to adopt new systems and learn from other countries,” he said.
“Teachers’ salaries are not good enough and this needs to be improved as they are doing a really big job.”
Linda said they work closely with St Joseph’s, helping provide them with vital learning resources.
“Each year I go to Uganda, St Benedict’s is very supportive and through their generosity we raised over $1000 last year for much needed stationery at St Joseph’s,” she said.
Linda said it is much easier to take money with them as they already bring goods such as garments and books to donate.
“Using the money raised, we are able to buy the necessary supplies from Masaka to help boost the local economy,” she said.
“When we first came to Uganda over 10 years ago, it was going to be a oneoff trip. But after the first visit the people got into our heart so we made a five year commitment there and then.”
That commitment ended six years ago and the couple still find themselves returning every year.
“We love the children and the challenge of helping people take control of their lives to make a difference to their future, their family, their community and hopefully the country,” she said.
“We may not be able to make a big difference, but we can start by giving people the skills, resources and support they need to get started.”
For more information or to donate to the cause, contact Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was extracted from the June 2016 edition of Independent Education.