TRIVANI FOUNDATION NEWSLETTER— UGANDA! MARCH 2008
Inside this issue: Trivani Employ- 1 ees Sponsor the Orphans at Asayo’s Wish Sarah Asayo—A 2 Woman of Purpose About Asayo’s Wish Orphanage
There is Work Yet to Be Done
A Special Thank 5 You to All Employee Sponsors Some Sponsored, Some Still Waiting...
Child of the Month / Charles Kobong
Child Sponsorship Program: Uganda
Helping the Community While Helping the Children
The Start of a New Project: The Widows Group
TRIVANI EMPLOYEES SPONSOR THE ORPHANS AT ASAYO’S WISH The relationship between Asayo’s Wish Foundation and the Trivani Foundation can best be described as a partnership. This partnership involves collaborative efforts by both foundations in organizing, implementing, and operating development projects with and for the people and children of Northern Uganda. Trivani Foundation funds development projects through donations to Asayo’s Wish Foundation, while using AWF’s local resources and local infrastructure, thereby creating a synergistic relationship for the optimum benefit of the Kaberamaido community. Currently, the primary focus of both foundations is the Asayo’s Wish Orphanage. Sarah Asayo has donated her time, resources, money, and land in Northern Uganda to provide a home for orphans of civil war and AIDS. Turning part of an old mosque into an orphanage, Sarah has moved these children out of make-shift huts and into a stable, family-like group home. Though it is an ongoing struggle, she is trying to provide the basic daily needs of these children—unfortunately, her diligent efforts almost always come up short. This is where Trivani comes in. Trivani’s Employee Child Sponsorship Program ensures that these children will not only have their basic needs met—food, shelter, and clothing—but that they will also have a chance for an education. As sponsors, Trivani employees will secure their health, their livelihood, and their hope for a promising future. A very special thank you to all Employee Sponsors!
SARAH ASAYO—A WOMAN OF PURPOSE Sarah Asayo’s experience with extreme poverty and political conflict is first hand. Sarah is a native of Northern Uganda; her early childhood was spent in a rural village called Kaberamaido. Sarah and her brother and sister were raised by her mother, and she never knew her father since he was exiled during Idi Amin’s rule and has never returned to Uganda. Their home was taken from them when Sarah’s mother could not produce ownership papers; they were lost during post-war looting and chaos. Left homeless, Sarah’s family relied on the kindness of others—moving from home to home, sleeping on floors, and often going for days without food. She recalls, “I remember the feeling of hopelessness, I remember it just like yesterday. I was once there, trapped, despondent, and afraid.” In addition to her responsibilities as a single mother, a professional, and a graduate student, Sarah has managed to start a foundation: Asayo’s Wish Foundation. The organization’s primary purpose is to provide a home, care, and schooling for orphaned children in the Kaberamaido region. She explains, “I have never forgotten the plight of the children of Uganda; the memories are burnt into my mind. Many people in the world do not know the level of poverty and misery these children experience. The government does not acknowledge their existence, hence the name shadow children. They are considered an embarrassment, a burden that should not be acknowledged; therefore they remain hidden—some die alone and unnoticed.” Sarah continues, “Northern Uganda is a place filled with human despair and desperation; people will do anything to survive—even if it means selling their children into servitude. Some people are reduced to eating deceased rats. I know that there are many, many needy children around the world who all need our assistance, but I have to start somewhere and being a Ugandan I identify with the Ugandan children because I was once in their shoes. I chose to start here. You see, my son could have been one of these children if my family had not left Uganda. I could have been one of these women; it could have been my sister, my mother. I would like to be a blessing; I feel that I was spared from despair and poverty for a reason. By no means am I wealthy, but with the little I have I can do something. I do not want to forget my humble beginnings. I want to leave a legacy of compassion and love. I am blessed and I should be a blessing and for this reason Asayo’s Wish Foundation exists. It is my honor to serve. I am enlisting in the noblest of all battles—the battle for mercy and justice—the battle to save children from poverty, homelessness, child labor, slavery, sexual exploitation, AIDS, and plagues. We can no longer ignore the images of suffering and dying children on our doorsteps. Each of us, regardless of age or position, can ‘take action’. Is it not Henry Ford who said, ‘There is no man living who isn’t capable of doing more than he thinks he can do.'?” “Asayo’s Wish Foundation was formed to grant a child’s wish—a wish to survive, to have hope, to be loved and valued, to have a place to call home—a wish to look forward to tomorrow.” Sarah sends out a special thank you to Trivani for our on-going support: Dear Trivani Foundation, Thank you so much for supporting Asayo’s Wish Foundation; there are no words that can articulate our heartfelt appreciation for what your Organization has done and continues to do for the children. Because of you, each child in the foundation can go to school, have a roof over their heads and eat two square meals a day. Because of you, we can afford to get medical care for each child and pay salaries of all the staff that care for the children etc. Know that the children will never forget what you have done and continue to do for them. We are forever grateful to the Trivani Foundation team. You have given Asayo’s Wish much needed support. Thank you for all you do for the world’s underprivileged and thank you for caring. Much, Much gratitude! Sarah Asayo
Sarah Asayo stands with Charles Kobong (Trivani Country Manager), and Megan
ABOUT ASAYO’S WISH ORPHANAGE Political violence and conflict in Uganda have displaced nearly two million Ugandans—50,000 people were uprooted from their homes last year alone. For over 19 years, the war in Northern Uganda has had a stunning impact on the lives of the region’s children. Little girls were kidnapped, raped, and forced into sexual slavery to rebel soldiers. Boys as young as five years old were kidnapped to fight as child soldiers, with the inhumane mandate to attack and kill members of their own families or be killed themselves. Since 1986, over 20,000 children have been kidnapped by the rebel “Lord’s Resistance Army,” and more than 1.5 million Ugandans have found themselves homeless, forced to live in displacement camps where disease is rampant. Many children are now HIV positive or have AIDS, others have been so badly beaten or raped they have been mentally scarred for life. Some young girls, though still children themselves, have been left with babies they cannot provide for. A number of children have been fortunate enough to find family members or orphanages with whom or where they can live. Many more have become street children because they have been turned away from orphanages due to lack of space. Currently, there are over 10,000 street children in Uganda—85% are homeless; it is these children that are in the most desperate need of help. Most live alone and have no parental guidance, assistance, or love. They are grossly undernourished, and have no access to education and health care. Many have been orphaned because their parents have died in the war or from AIDS. They survive by their wits, often through theft, violence, or prostitution. They join gangs for safety and to approach a family structure. These children face a short and uncertain future. It is against this backdrop that Asayo’s Wish Foundation—a registered U.S. charity—supports a small group of 150 orphaned children. The foundation is concentrating on providing shelter, food, clean water, clothing, educational opportunities (schools, textbooks, teachers, libraries, and materials), advocacy, surrogate family structure, and physical and emotional security for these children. The Foundation feeds an additional 150 orphans but does not have the space or resources to house them.
Interior courtyard of Asayo’s Wish orphanage. Children on the right are sponsored orphans; children on the left are orphans hoping for sponsorship into the orphanage.
THERE IS WORK YET TO BE DONE QUIET DESPERATION—A “SILENT SCREAM” There are still many children in Kaberamaido who are homeless. No one takes notice of them—during the day they roam the town, but at night they disappear into the bushes, making their homelessness less apparent. Rural settings, such as Kaberamaido, offer invisible hiding places that foster the children’s isolation, hunger, and poverty. Their nonexistent status has been likened to a “silent scream.” Trivani hopes to help remedy this tragedy through the support and expansion of Asayo’s Wish Orphanage, allowing for the accommodation of more orphans.
INSIDE ASAYO’S ORPHANAGE Sarah rents half of an old mosque in the central part of downtown Kaberamaido. The children sleep 2 to 3 per mattress on the floor. Given the lack of space and resources, diseases and sickness are easily passed from child to child. The current sleeping arrangement also prohibits the proper use of mosquito nets. Thanks to our employee sponsors and their generous donations, the children will soon be moving their sleeping pads off the floor and into tripledecker bunk beds. Bunk beds will not only stop the spreading of disease and aid in the prevention of malaria, but will also free up space for more orphans to be admitted into the orphanage.
A SPECIAL THANK YOU TO ALL EMPLOYEE SPONSORS
William, Shaneâ€™s sponsored child, smiles with a new gift
Excited to make new friends
Enjoying letters and photos from sponsors
Employee sponsors donated coloring books
SOME SPONSORED, SOME STILL WAITING…
CHILD OF THE MONTH—MEET SIMON AND WILLIAM ATENGO! This month’s "Child" of the Month is a darling identical duo—Simon and William Atengo. Simon and William capture the story of Asayo’s Wish orphans well. At the young age of three, the boys have lost both mother and father to AIDS. Following their parent’s death, they lived for a brief time with their grandmother. Though she loves her grandsons very much and would gladly serve as their guardian, she is quite old, extremely frail, and also suffers from AIDS. With no other relatives to rely on, the twin boys were brought to Asayo’s Wish Orphanage. As nearly all children do at the orphanage, the boys have flourished. They are healthy, happy, well-cared for, and they have a multitude of willing playmates. Thankfully, a circumstance that began as tragedy has been turned to success.
CHARLES KOBONG—TRIVANI’S COUNTRY MANAGER IN UGANDA Charles Kobong is an extraordinary man—we thought you’d enjoy knowing a bit more about him. Charles is native to Uganda. His father was a prominent politician; when local political unrest resulted in civil war, his family became a prime target of violence, necessitating their relocation to London. Charles finished high school there and went on to earn a PhD in Environmental Law at Lester and World Universities. Charles returned to Africa when he accepted a position to manage Tanzania’s social services system. In this capacity, his primary responsibility was to oversee the provision of basic needs for the refugees in Rwanda. During his time spent in London and Tanzania, Charles escaped the famine and civil war that had taken place in Uganda. However, realizing he had expertise and experience that could be utilized to help rebuild his war-torn homeland, Charles returned to Uganda. Upon his arrival, he was immediately appointed chief executive of the Tesso District, where he spent seven years restructuring all social services in the area. Charles then moved into the private sector, honing his business skills as top district distributor for a network marketing company. He has now made the decision to join the Trivani team, where he will initiate, headline, and complete Trivani projects in Uganda. Charles has already spearheaded our Guardian program in four primary schools and has organized 14 others for upcoming sponsorship. He has a close relationship with Asayo’s Wish Foundation, often volunteering his legislative abilities to push policies that can benefit the orphanage. More recently, he has become involved with the newlyorganized widows group, serving as their liaison to larger commercial markets. On a more personal note, Charles is a long-time husband and father of nine. We are so pleased to have him on board!
CHILD SPONSORSHIP PROGRAM: UGANDA Charles Kobong is Trivani’s Country Manager in Uganda. He recently journeyed to Kaberamaido to ascertain the progress being made with local primary schools. Here is a concise version of his good news: Hi Megan, I finally left for Kaberamaido on December 27th 2007, and returned five days later on December, 31st 2007. I traveled the longer route via Ngora, since the shorter route via Awoja was still cut off by the floods. During my stay in Kaberamaido I met with the School Management Committees, Parents Teachers’ Associations, Head Teachers, and local leaders in four primary schools in Kaberamaido district. The schools are: Achilo corner primary school Aturigalin primary school Acongwen primary school Omarai primary school. The object was to find the most needy schools that also met our objectives. These four schools are the nearest schools to Asayos’ Wish Foundation Orphanage. It is hoped that upgrading the schools, would enable them to help meet the needs of the 300 or so children from the orphanage. They are within three to four kilometers of each other. During the meetings, I introduced Trivani Foundation, and brain stormed on potential projects in the schools. The school feeding and uniform projects were very well received by the communities. We then agreed on the program to start in Achilo corner, Omarai, and Achongwen schools. Best regards. Charles Since January, Charles has been diligently working to equip first and second grades of each school with uniforms (pictured below). During Megan’s recent trip to Uganda, the Trivani Foundation also equipped each school with school supplies.
HELPING THE COMMUNITY WHILE HELPING THE CHILDREN LOCAL WOMEN SEW SCHOOL UNIFORMS FOR SCHOOL CHILDREN A portion of Trivani child sponsorship funds are used to provide school uniforms for Asayo’s Wish children. Uniforms not only provide adequate and appropriate clothing for school, but they are also a great morale booster for the orphans—wearing them gives the children a sense of unity and belonging. The use of uniforms also benefits the local women who sew them, allowing them to generate additional income in their work as tailors. Anyone interested in aiding these women in their microbusiness may purchase a sewing machine for them on the Trivani Foundation website—the cost is a well-spent $100.
COMMUNITY SPONSORSHIP This is Betty. She is one of the many tailors Trivani is employing through our Trivani Guardian program. Busy with the new influx of work, she says she has already sewn over one thousand uniforms for our sponsored children. “Thank you for the work,” she said during our visit. We spoke at length about how the new income has blessed her life. She is able to support her children, send them to school, and provide uniforms for them—independent of any aid. Betty has made me realize, once again, that in sponsoring students, Trivani is not only sponsoring children, but sponsoring communities. Our sponsorship activities provide jobs for students’ parents and stimulate economic activity through the local purchasing and manufacturing of goods in sponsored communities. In light of this, our Guardian program becomes sustainable in many ways. We are not only helping students to become local leaders and community activists but also, through projects like uniform, classroom, and bunk bed construction, we are injecting money into the community, into parent’s hands, and thus into the lives of our students inside and outside the classroom. In time, parents will be able to support their children on their own—we’re just giving them a helping start. After shaking Betty’s hand and wishing her luck, I looked around the quiet main street of Kaberamaido. Local vendors, farmers, and carpenters were busy working through their day, and I wondered how many of them were being affected by Trivani Projects. Then I remembered what a local official had told me the day before: “Even just your presence here is a sign of hope.” —Megan
THE START OF A NEW PROJECT: THE WIDOWS GROUP Due to civil war and AIDS, many women in Northern Uganda have been left to struggle alone as widows and single mothers. In Ugandan culture, widows are left without any legal rights and may be “required” to bear the children of their deceased husband’s brothers without the promise of financial support. Trivani has decided to lend aid to a group of hardworking, entrepreneurial widows in Kaberamaido. These determined women will use micro-credit loans provided by Trivani to purchase bicycles and small fishing boats. The boats will be rented to local fishermen—the bicycles transport the women and the fish they catch from the river to the market. The bicycles may be be rented out when not in use; the fish will also be used to feed their own families. Generating income is especially important for these widows, as many cannot support their children and are forced to give them to Asayo’s Orphanage in hopes of their child’s survival. By generating income, widows can keep their children and also become foster parents to children in the orphanage, lessening the burden of Asayo’s Orphanage rather than adding to it. Cecilia Arayo is the elected leader of one of the widows groups Trivani is working with. She has ten children of her own and is the guardian of an additional five. When she became widowed five years ago, she opted not to become subject to her husband’s brother, but chose instead to assume a life of celibacy, which is consistent with her Christian beliefs. She is a local leader and a tremendous strength to her fellow sisters; sadly, she is HIV positive. When asked if and when there is room in Asayo’s Wish Orphanage, would she like to enroll some of her children to lessen her burden, she adamantly said no. Cecilia prefers her children at home—all of them; even the ones she has taken guardianship of. With the profits of a micro-credit loan, she will be able to support her children without any assistance. “We are ready,” she said “and hard working. All we want to do is provide for and take care of our children.”
Cecilia Arayo—A Source of Strength
The colonial boundaries created by Britain to delimit Uganda grouped together a wide range of ethnic groups with different political systems and cultures. These differences prevented the establishment of a working political community after independence was achieved in 1962. The dictatorial regime of Idi Amin (1971-79) was responsible for the deaths of some 300,000 opponents and the expulsion of 50,000 Indians, the country’s largest non-indigenous ethnic group. The departure of the Indians, who had been engaged in trade, industry, and various professions, decimated the economy. Guerilla war and human rights abuses under Milton Obote (1980-85) claimed at least another 100,000 lives. The rule of Yoweri Museveni since 1986 has brought relative stability and economic growth to Uganda, efforts to rebuild infrastructure destroyed by war and neglect, and the return of the exiled IndianUgandan entrepreneurs. However, continued human rights violations, mass poverty, and the pace of progress toward the establishment of genuine political pluralism continue to be sources of concern.
Uganda, about the size of Oregon, is located in East Africa. The country, which lies across the equator, is divided into three main areas—swampy lowlands, a fertile plateau with wooded hills, and a desert region. Although landlocked, Uganda has access to several large water bodies, including Lake Victoria, Lake Albert, Lake Kyoga and Lake Edward. The country is located on the East African plateau, averaging about 2,950 ft. above sea level. Although generally tropical in nature, the climate differs between parts of the country. Uganda includes several offshore islands in Lake Victoria. Most important cities are located in the south, near Lake Victoria, including the capital, Kampala, and the nearby city of Entebbe. Uganda also has several rivers, the most important of which is the White Nile, one of the world's longest rivers, whose source is Lake Victoria and whose waters pour into the Mediterranean Sea.
Uganda is one of the poorest countries in the world. In 2006, per capita income was about US $300. Poverty declined rapidly from 1991 (56%) to 2006 (31%), as a result of high and broad-based economic growth; however, poverty remains undisputably high in rural areas and Northern and Eastern Uganda. Life expectancy at birth is around 49 years and population growth at 3.3 percent remains one of the highest in the world. HIV/AIDS adult prevalence declined significantly over the last decade from about 18 percent in the early 1990s to 6.4 percent in 2005. Bwindi, also know as the Impenetrable Forest, is one of Uganda's most recently created national parks. It encompasses one of the last remaining habitats of the mountain gorilla, and is where almost half an estimated 330 individuals—of the surviving mountain gorillas in the world live. A major conservation effort has been going on here for a number of years to protect the gorillas' habitat. Gorillas are not the only animals to have benefited from this project. The park contains about 20 forest elephants, at least 10 species of primate (including chimpanzees, colobus monkeys and baboons), duikers, bushbucks and the rare giant forest hog, as well as a host of bird and insect species. It is one of the richest areas in Africa for flora and fauna.