Page 1

14501_Newsletter_Winter_2013_AW_Layout 1 14/12/2012 12:01 Page 1

Lifechanges Helping children shine For VSO supporters

Giving children in Ethiopia a better education

Clean water the easy way Keeping children healthy with simple steps to safe water

Recovery in Uganda

New hope for young people after the war

...find out how you’re changing lives, right now

Spring 2013

14501_Newsletter_Winter_2013_AW_Layout 1 14/12/2012 12:01 Page 2

Dear friends,

News and updates

Your support gives people we work with the greatest gift of all – the knowledge and skills to grow more, learn more, and ultimately to break free from the cycle of poverty. This issue of Lifechanges brings you some of their stories. I hope you will find them as moving – and inspiring – as I do. There’s ten-year-old Weynishet in Ethiopia who, with your help, has overcome massive odds to become a star pupil. There’s BK in Malawi, a young man who faced a life of dependency after an attack left him disabled. Thanks to you, he has regained his mobility and his self-respect. And in Uganda, Agnes can now feed her son because of a bakery enterprise made possible by your support.

For every individual success story you’re part of, there are thousands more – as your gifts take VSO volunteers to share their skills with teachers, parents, young people and nurses. Those skills go on being passed from person to person, building a fairer future in the communities we reach directly and beyond. Thank you so much for making this possible. ឣ

Best wishes, Emma Kendon Fundraising and supporter relations manager

How you’re helping Elena

Your generous support is giving friendship and practical help to orphans in Mozambique Eleven-year-old Elena (pictured) has had to grow up fast. Both her parents died when she was nine. With no adult relatives to help, Elena had to care for her younger brother and sister alone.

Now – thanks to you – Elena has someone to care for her too. Every week, two local volunteers visit her at home. They are her NHS and social services rolled into one, making sure Elena and her siblings have enough food and clothes, and offering friendship and emotional support.

Now – thanks to you – Elena has someone to care for her too

Elena is shy, but she has learned to be strong. And today, with your help, she doesn’t have to face the future alone. ឣ

VSO volunteer nurse Henrique Cesar Nhanala trained Elena’s home visitors at the local health association in Chogwene, Mozambique. Now there is a strong and growing team of these volunteers – throwing a lifeline to around 200 orphans like Elena.

The school run

In this issue News and updates


How you helped Weynishet find her voice


Simple steps to safe water

Growing a future free from hunger

Spreading India’s wealth to the poor Transforming patients’ lives in Malawi

“I am what I am because of you”








©VSO/Ben Langdon

A fresh start for Agnes

Find out why kids in Ethiopia are so keen to get to class. Page 5

14501_Newsletter_Winter_2013_AW_Layout 1 14/12/2012 12:01 Page 3

News and updates

Rwanda’s winning team Your support made dreams come true in 2012, when Rwanda became the first ever sub-Saharan African country to send a team to the Paralympics They might not have won a medal, but the Rwandan sitting volleyball team won the hearts of a global audience at the London 2012 Paralympics, where they became the symbol of a nation’s recovery.

Back in Rwanda, thanks to your support and a stronger NPC, Jean, Dominique and their teammates are continuing to change negative

perceptions about disability – and inspiring a generation of young people with disabilities to reach for the stars. ឣ

Many of the athletes’ lives were devastated in the 1994 genocide. Jean Rukundo and Dominique Bizimana lost their legs fighting on opposite sides. “We always joke that I think the man who shot me was Rukundo,” laughs Dominique. “Actually we are best friends.”

“We now play together to become role models for young people with disabilities,” says Jean.

©VSO/Ben Langdon

With your help, VSO volunteer Simon Corden worked with the Rwandan National Paralympic Committee (NPC) to raise vital funds – enabling it to host the all-important qualifying event which secured the volleyball team’s place at the Paralympics.

Jean Paul Ngilimana, part of the dream team that’s inspiring Rwanda’s youth

Saving lives in Ethiopia

When Dr Tom Bashford began volunteering in Addis Ababa he was dismayed to find hospital equipment going to waste because nurses didn’t know how to use it. Thanks to your gifts, Tom has given nurses the skills to save lives “University College Hospital in London has an anaesthetic department of around 50 consultants. I’m working in a country of 90 million people, with 17,” says VSO volunteer, anaesthetist Tom Bashford. Not surprisingly, the nurses he met in Ethiopia were struggling to keep patients alive. With your support, Tom has helped them learn simple skills and help their patients recover. “As nurses we’ve learnt on the job, but we’ve not had practical training before,” explains Sister Zelalem at Yekatit 12 Hospital in Addis Ababa. “Now, Dr Tom has given us that training.” Tom showed nurses how to use life-saving hospital kit, such as ‘pulse oximeters’ to monitor patients’ oxygen levels, meaning they could spot problems early. This is already making a huge difference,

both to patient safety and staff morale. “Things have really improved,” beams Sister Zelalem. “Now we’ve learnt how to use the equipment, I’m 100% sure we’ll see fewer people dying.”

Working day to day with staff over 12 months, Tom was able to ensure that these life-saving practices became routine – preventing unnecessary deaths today and for years to come. This investment of time is the unique ingredient

“Now we’ve learnt how to use the equipment, I’m 100% sure we’ll see fewer people dying”

To see your gifts in action, watch this two-minute film at

that your gifts make possible. From Tom, and from Sister Zelalem and the staff at Yekatit 12 Hospital, a huge thank you. ឣ 2

14501_Newsletter_Winter_2013_AW_Layout 1 14/12/2012 12:01 Page 4

A fresh start for Agnes Uganda’s horrific civil war took away their loved ones, stole their childhoods and deprived them of the skills to make a living. Now your generosity is giving the country’s young people the helping hand they need to build a better future Agnes Adong’s bright smile belies the hardships the 16-year-old has faced. Uganda’s violent conflict and the loss of her mother to AIDS left Agnes alone in charge of four younger siblings. When she was 14, an older man promised to take care of the family, but abandoned them when Agnes became pregnant.

Forced to grow up

Agnes is full of hope for the future after a childhood which knew only war 3

The horrors experienced by Uganda’s young people are, for most of us, unimaginable. Thousands were raised in camps, while many were orphaned. Children were routinely abducted and forced to fight as child soldiers, and rape was common.

VSO volunteers have been working with the local government to support the most vulnerable young people in northern Uganda, including child mothers like Agnes. The project

©VSO/Jenny Matthews

©VSO/Jenny Matthews

“It’s hard for me to earn a living,” Agnes explains. “I stopped my education so young and I have all these responsibilities a 16-year-old

should not have. Sometimes I wish I was being looked after, but I have to look after others.”

is helping young people learn skills and become independent, through enterprises such as bee-keeping, baking and tailoring.

Girls are a particularly vulnerable group in post-conflict Uganda, especially when – still children themselves – they become mothers

Jan teaching the women’s bakery group

14501_Newsletter_Winter_2013_AW_Layout 1 14/12/2012 12:01 Page 5

The Facts

• Following decades of civil conflict, times are tough for young people in the north of Uganda.

• 83% of people in northern Uganda are under 35. • The Ugandan government, elected in 2011, is committed to helping the country’s youth recover and grow. ©VSO/Jenny Matthews

• However, the skills and people needed to help young people in the north are not readily available within the country.

Your gifts have enabled Jan to bring comfort, skills and fresh hope

VSO is helping Uganda’s government to reach young people like Agnes, through your support of volunteers like Jan. So far, with your help, we have trained 240 young people in Gulu where Agnes lives.

©VSO/Jenny Matthews

©VSO/Jenny Matthews

Now Agnes hopes her son will have the education she missed

A fresh start

Thanks to your support, Agnes can smile her bright smile again. VSO volunteer Jan Sharp has been training Agnes and other young women in baking and business skills. The women have set up their own bakery, which is giving them a steady, dependable income for the first time. And the young women have formed strong friendships, helping each other overcome the

trauma of their younger years. Agnes has a new strength now: “Because of this project, I hope one day my baby will have the chance to go to school.” Her own childhood was cut cruelly short, but with your help she’s able today to give her baby the love and care he needs. ឣ

Thanks to your support, Agnes can smile again


14501_Newsletter_Winter_2013_AW_Layout 1 14/12/2012 12:01 Page 6

How you helped Weyn Everyone thought Weynishet was mute, but she wasn’t – she just needed your help. Thanks to you, the once silent little girl has become a confident, happy pupil – and is a shining example of how good teaching is the key to unlocking children’s potential ‘Clever’ says the flash card that Weynishet is holding up at Frenn Primary School in Amhara, Ethiopia’s poorest region. We could add a few more words to describe this little girl – ‘brave’, determined’ and ‘lucky’ are among them. Brave because ten-year-old Weynishet has beaten crippling shyness to become a star pupil; determined because she has overcome massive odds to attend school at all; and lucky because she has the support of a brilliant teacher – and you.

Weynishet has the support of a brilliant teacher – and you

Like most of her classmates, Weynishet usually arrives at school tired and hungry after a long walk and no breakfast. Teachers are also tired from long

days teaching large classes, and the fact that there isn’t enough equipment to go round doesn’t help. That’s where you come in.

A shy girl

Your gifts have helped send volunteer teacher Pat Gilhooley to Amhara, where she’s been training teachers in Weynishet’s and other schools, and at the teacher-training college there. They’ve been learning and practising interactive teaching methods, which both excite and motivate the children and reduce the strain on the teachers at the same time. Now, instead of just listening, pupils are more involved. The results have been amazing – and not just in terms of grades. When Weynishet started school, she was so silent and withdrawn that everyone believed she was mute. Her dedicated teacher, Ishu

“There used to be a high dropout rate in this school, but now it has gone from 15% to 3%”

Mekonen, who has been teaching for more than 32 years, was the one who encouraged Weynishet to come to school. “Her parents are very, very poor,” explains Ishu. “The children sleep on the floor. I know how little they have.” But to Ishu’s dismay, Weynishet continued to struggle at school and it looked like she wasn’t getting anywhere. Unable to speak or express herself at all, she was becoming more and more withdrawn.

Weynishet finds her voice

Then Ishu met Pat, who taught her how, by using group activities and making lessons fun, she could really engage children in the classroom – all of them. Ishu embraced the new methods with enthusiasm. At last, thanks to the fresh approach she’d learnt, and plenty of gentle encouragement, Ishu managed to persuade Weynishet to speak for the first time. Her friends and teachers were amazed. She had been able to speak all along – all she needed was the right kind of support. Thanks to you, this once silent and withdrawn child is now a happy, confident little girl with a bright future. “Weynishet was a very slow learner,” says school director Eyasu Mesfin, who has marvelled at her transformation. “She could not read out loud or write or express herself. Now she is a high-performing student.”

Spreading success from school to school

©VSO/Ben Langdon

Smiles all round as volunteer Pat Gilhooley demonstrates how learning can be fun


Pat also worked in Amhara region’s new teacher-training college during her placement, where she led the Diploma course that was introduced by VSO in Ethiopia ten years ago. Her aim was to forge close links between the college and 13 local primary schools – so that the college will be able to supply the kind of staff that schools so desperately need, and school directors like Eyasu will understand better how to support their teachers. “I’ve seen an enormous change,” Pat enthuses. “Teachers see that if their pupils actually take

14501_Newsletter_Winter_2013_AW_Layout 1 14/12/2012 12:01 Page 7

ynishet find her voice ©VSO/Ben Langdon

©VSO/Ben Langdon

Teaching resources are simple to make

Now, children join in instead of listening in silence

The Facts

• Globally, more than 100 million children are currently missing out on even primary school education.

• In Ethiopia, the rate of adult literacy for men is 42% and just 18% for women.

As well as promoting more interactive teaching, Pat has helped teachers to overcome the challenges posed by the lack of books and other equipment. “I was in a class where we were working on maths,” she says. “We had one ruler between maybe six, eight children. So that’s a real challenge.”

Learning by doing

Pat took teachers to visit ‘model schools’ which are already working wonders in classrooms, using the new methods. Weynishet’s teacher, Ishu, saw for herself what she could achieve using a creative approach – for example, by making teaching resources out of readilyavailable materials such as bottle tops and scraps of cloth. Back in class, she and the other

teachers got pupils involved making their own resources together.

Forgetting the hunger

It’s not just the pupils who are benefiting from this fresh approach in the classroom. Lessons are more fun and less exhausting for everyone and teachers are motivated by their pupils’ progress. “I have seen a major change in the teachers who are now using active learning techniques,” says Eyasu. “There used to be a high pupil dropout rate in this school, but now it is minimal. It has gone from 15% to 3%.” These days, Weynishet and her classmates find it much easier to learn. Now that they’re involved in lessons as soon as they arrive, they soon forget their hunger. And because of you, Weynishet’s chances of fulfilling her potential in life have dramatically improved. Everyone remembers a good teacher – and it’s highly unlikely that Weynishet will ever forget Ishu, or that Ishu will forget Pat. ឣ

• Over 80% of the new schools have been built in rural areas.

• However, the number and quality of teachers hasn’t kept pace, and 54% of children don’t complete primary school.

• Pat worked with more than 300 teachers who are implementing the new learning methods with 12,000 students. • Over the next three years, VSO will send more than 500 volunteers like Pat to reach 3.5 million children.

©VSO/Ben Langdon

part in what they’re learning, if they’re active, then not only do they learn more but they remember what they learn – whereas if somebody is lecturing you it’s very easy to sit there and not take it in.”

©VSO/Ben Langdon

©VSO/Ben Langdon

There’s a new energy in the classroom

Weynishet is on the road to a brighter future

• Ethiopia is increasing its number of schools: in 2004 there were 16,000 primary schools and now there are more than 25,000.

Weynishet couldn’t read or write or express herself. Now, thanks to you, she’s a high-performing student


14501_Newsletter_Winter_2013_AW_Layout 1 14/12/2012 12:01 Page 8

Simple steps to s It kills more children every year than malaria and tuberculosis, yet diarrhoea is easily prevented. In northern Uganda, VSO volunteer nurse Pamela Llewellyn has been sharing simple methods to ensure a safe, clean water supply – and it’s all thanks to you

Contaminated water accounts for the deaths of 1.5 million children each year. The tragedy is that almost every one of these deaths could be prevented

©VSO/ Jenny Matthews

Sick, weak and badly dehydrated from diarrhoea, 13-year-old Mercy had to walk four kilometres to her nearest health centre, where she was given rehydration salts. The trip probably saved her life.

Easy and free – after six hours of uninterrupted sunshine, the water in a clear plastic bottle is clean and safe to drink. But no one had told Mercy’s school and family about this simple technique Mercy was lucky – she lived close enough to a clinic to get treatment. But in the rural north of Uganda, health services are few and far between. This means it’s absolutely essential that families understand how illness is spread – and how to prevent it. Thanks to your support, help is at hand.


VSO volunteer Pam Llewellyn has been teaching families simple but potentially life-saving ways to keep their water clean. Now Mercy’s family are experts on the SODIS (Solar Disinfection) technique, in which water is placed in clear bottles outside for six hours and sterilised by sunlight. It’s incredibly simple, it’s free, and it can save lives. But until Pam came, nobody had told the family about it.

Spreading the word

Now, thanks to Pam’s advice, Mercy’s family also understands how diarrhoea is spread – and hand-washing with clean water is part of their routine. “We are grateful for what Pam has taught us, and will tell everyone in our community about it too,” says George-Steven,

Thanks to you, Pam, George-Steven and hundreds of other local volunteers, we are slowly but surely preventing the spread of a killer. ឣ

©VSO/ Jenny Matthews

Mercy is a now a picture of health – and thanks to your support, has a better chance of staying that way

©VSO/ Jenny Matthews

Clean water for free

Mercy’s dad. Determined that other parents are spared the agony of watching their children suffer, he is one of several volunteers now sharing Pam’s teaching with other families.

Pam and Mercy’s dad, George-Steven, on their way to setting up ‘tippy taps’ that enable families to make the most of their precious water

14501_Newsletter_Winter_2013_AW_Layout 1 14/12/2012 12:01 Page 9

o safe water

The Facts

• Contaminated water can lead to life-threatening diarrhoeal diseases including typhoid, dysentery and cholera. • Diarrhoeal diseases kill 1.5 million children every year.

• SODIS was first discovered in the 1980s for purifying water. It is effective in poor communities with good sunlight, as long as training is given to make sure it’s used properly and safely. • In Uganda there is one doctor for every 17,250 people (there is one for every 280 of us in the UK). Community health education is therefore essential. ©VSO/ Jenny Matthews

This simple ‘tippy tap’ releases a little water at a time for hand-washing, and keeps it germ-free

“We are grateful for what Pam has taught us and will tell everyone in our community about it too”

Growing a future free from hunger Meanwhile, in Nigeria, women farmers have been able to end their families’ hunger and spread their new knowledge far and wide Yuwana Kyemut knows all about hard work. The mum of seven has sole responsibility for putting food on her family’s table – and when maize yields are low, as they have been in recent years, it’s a major struggle. Sometimes she and her children went hungry for months at a time.

Stronger together

Now all that is changing – thanks to your support. VSO volunteer Joel Onyango, an agricultural expert from Kenya, has been teaching Yuwana and others techniques and skills that have doubled their yields and transformed their lives. Joel was placed with the Cocin Community Development Programme (CCDP) in Nigeria’s Panyam district. This supports 270 maize farmers, most of them women. With Joel’s guidance, they’ve set up the ‘Helping Each Other’ farmer group to share learning in a methodical way, reaching every farmer.

A-maize-ing transformation

In a region where few farmers have ever had formal training, small changes in practice can make a huge difference. For example, it’s a commonly-held myth that space is needed between each crop row. Joel has shown farmers that, in fact, the closer the crops are planted the more they can yield from a small plot. The women have also learnt business skills to help them manage profits and pool resources to avoid the ‘hunger period’ before the harvest.

The beauty of the transformations in Panyam’s maize fields is that they don’t depend on expensive agricultural inputs or machinery. They rely on knowledge and expertise, which once shared can be passed from farmer to farmer – and from generation to generation. Now life isn’t such a struggle for Yuwana, who has been chosen as the group’s leader. “We

have gained much and we have seen changes in the community,” she smiles. Now, thanks to you, women farmers are growing a future free from hunger. ឣ

Women farmers in Nigeria are learning new skills 8

14501_Newsletter_Winter_2013_AW_Layout 1 14/12/2012 12:02 Page 10

Spreading India’s wealth to the poor When Naresh and Bindiya started volunteering in their local primary school they were shocked to find children going hungry and classrooms close to collapse. VSO training helped them take a stand – and now children are getting the education deserve Why does VSO work in India?

• The country is still home to one third of the world’s poorest people. • Almost half a billion people live on less than 79 pence a day. • A quarter of the population goes to bed hungry. • Every year, one million women die in childbirth. • More than 60 million people live in slums. • India’s economy is growing fast, but not everyone has benefited.

“Right to information is an effective tool for every Indian citizen” In 2012, teachers Naresh and Bindiya met VSO volunteer Evelyn Lin and learnt valuable skills to save their school from the devastating effects of corruption. But five years earlier, when they first uncovered the problem, things were quite different.

When Naresh and Bindiya started volunteering at their local primary school in India’s Jharkhand state in 2007, buildings were close to collapse and children weren’t getting the school dinners they’d been promised. The teachers felt sure that funds guaranteed for the school were going elsewhere. They filed a ‘right to information’ request with the Village Education Committee so they could find out where the money was actually going. But instead of providing the information, the committee took them to court. Naresh and Bindiya were accused of a crime they hadn’t committed, and suffered persecution until the case was dropped.

Persistence pays

The situation seemed hopeless – but with your support, Naresh and Bindiya were able to turn it 9

©VSO/ Jon Spaull

VSO’s approach

around. They joined a group of local organisations which formed a Right to Information movement, and VSO volunteer Evelyn Lin provided training and guidance. Naresh and Bindiya used this training to speak publicly about their case. This time they got the response they wanted: the authorities suspended the chairman, vice-chair and secretary of the Village Education Committee – and Naresh and Bindiya were chosen by the community to replace them. Naresh is determined that others learn from their experience: “Right to information is not only a powerful weapon to fight against corruption, but also an effective tool for every Indian citizen – so that there is no secret under the sun in the public domain.”

• We’re working in the poorest areas and most fragile states, where skills are in desperately short supply. Jharkhand, for example, is India’s second poorest state. • We still send some international volunteers to India (25 in 2012) to meet vital, pressing needs. We send Indian volunteers to other countries too. • We have an established and growing in-country volunteer programme, with more than 1,200 local volunteers trained in 2011-12. • Enabling people to stand up for rights is a growing focus of our work, to ensure that the benefits of India’s economic development reach the poorest people.

Thanks to the efforts of two brave individuals, the school has now been rebuilt

Inspiring others to take a stand

Thanks to the efforts of these brave individuals, the school in Jharkhand has now been rebuilt, and the children have ample, nutritious lunches every day. With your help, we’re enabling even more local people to fight corruption and ensure funding reaches the public services that are essential to overcoming poverty. ឣ

Naresh (in yellow) and Bindiya (writing) have saved their local school

14501_Newsletter_Winter_2013_AW_Layout 1 14/12/2012 12:02 Page 11

Giving BK back his dignity Born with an abnormality, and victim of a vicious assault that left him disabled, BK thought his life was over at the age of 18. Thanks to you, a VSO volunteer has enabled BK to regain mobility, self-confidence – and control over his own future “Orthopaedics is more about saving livelihoods than saving lives,” says VSO volunteer Ashtin Doorgakant, who recently returned from Blantyre in Malawi where he shared his skills as an orthopaedic surgeon. Speaking at a Volunteer Linking event to some of you, the supporters who made his placement possible, Ashtin highlighted the case of BK – a patient who became an inspiration.

Ashtin has shared skills and experience that will continue to transform patients’ lives for years to come

“BK was a victim in so many ways,” explains Ashtin. “He was born with a slight abnormality, which affected his appearance, and so he became the target of mockery and abuse.” When BK was 18, he was seriously injured in a knife attack which destroyed tendons and nerves, leaving the teenager both disabled and mentally scarred. “By the time I met BK, his legs had become almost completely dysfunctional,” says Ashtin. “Thankfully his hands were spared. With all his life ahead of him, consigning him to a fate of lifelong dependence and immobility seemed incredibly unfair.”

“Seeing BK’s confidence grow is the greatest reward I could have dreamed of” At the two hospitals he worked in, Ashtin taught his colleagues how to help patients make the best recovery possible. For example, they learnt to help patients build strength in their limbs during the crucial healing stage so they can be mobile again as soon as possible. With extra support from Ashtin and fundraising by family and friends, BK was able to buy a wheelchair-tricycle. As a result, BK has regained his mobility – and with it, his independence and self-respect. Now he feels that life is worth living again. Thanks to your support, Ashtin has shared skills and experience that will continue to transform patients’ lives for years to come. And BK especially is delighted. “BK now has the chance to live a dignified life,” Ashtin smiles. “Seeing his confidence grow is the greatest reward I could have dreamed of.”

Dr Ashtin Doorgakant, saving livelihoods in Malawi – thanks to you 10

14501_Newsletter_Winter_2013_AW_Layout 1 14/12/2012 12:02 Page 12

“I am what I am because of you” Lifechanges Editor Emma Kendon reflects on why a personal message caught her eye One Sunday evening, just before Christmas, I was catching up on latest news from some of our volunteers past and present, when my eye was drawn to this comment: “I am what I am because of you.” The message had just been sent from nurse Christine (right) in Bwindi, Uganda, to volunteer Dr Paul Williams – two years after he finished his VSO placement there in 2010. When Paul met Christine, she wasn’t on any particular training programme. But Paul was able to help her develop. Now, thanks to his support – and yours – she has just qualified.

Thanks to you

My heart leapt at seeing this – it was such a warm and moving example of how your gifts keep on giving.

It’s not easy for someone in as remote an area as Bwindi to send a message to the UK. ©VSO/ Paul Williams

“I am what I am because of you” is a message to you too – Paul’s placement and many others simply wouldn’t have been possible without you. Christine hasn’t met you, but if she had, she’d be thanking you too.

See for yourself You can see more of your life-changing support in action. Take a look at the short films at and find out how VSO volunteer Sally Thomson is bringing new hope to young people as they help each other recover from Uganda’s civil war. With your help, these young people are learning new skills – and opening doors to a brighter future.

VSO is a registered charity in England and in Wales (313757) and in Scotland (SCO39117).

Cover image: ©VSO/Ben Langdon

Nurse Christine Atuheire, Bwindi, Uganda

Warm mail lifechanges magazine spring 2013  
Warm mail lifechanges magazine spring 2013