They sleep on a concrete floor and the only food they can expect is a bowl of maize flour mixed with water.
For children living in an orphanage in Uganda, that’s the reality of life.
They do get to go to school. Yet with no text books and empty stomachs, it’s hard for them to focus.
But the Portsmouth-based Hands of Love charity is working to improve their conditions and their chances in life.
Money raised in the UK goes towards sponsoring children at the orphanage in Namadhi, 100 miles from the capital, Kampala.
Out of the 645 orphans, 117 are now sponsored. For £15 a month they get a bed with a blanket and mosquito net, plus beans and rice every day.
Most Ugandan children don’t make it to secondary school and the country suffers from 72 per cent unemployment. Hands of Love helps them to sit their Primary 7 exam, the entrance exam for senior school.
Sally Walker, who lives in Waterlooville, is the administrator for Hands of Love.
The 56-year-old has worked for the charity since its move to Portsmouth in 2010.
She says: ‘The kids seem slow to learn because they haven’t been fed or had water – it is hard for them to concentrate.
‘They haven’t got any textbooks, just a blackboard, and the teachers don’t normally get paid. They sleep on the floor as well.’
Sally adds: ‘Two weeks before their exams, we try to feed the children as much as we can so that they can do well.’
Having sponsored a child at the orphanage since 2007, Sally was in Africa and decided to visit.
She was so impressed with what the charity was doing that she decided to put her accounting experience to good use and become involved.
Sally explains: ‘I deal with sponsorship inquiries and take general donations. There’s a good flow of communication between the sponsors and the children who are getting the benefit of the money.’
Originally founded in 2005 by Pastor Elijah Sebuchu and his wife Ruth, the orphanage is in a deeply deprived and rural area of Uganda.
The couple were both brought up in abject poverty during the turbulent reign of Idi Amin. Elijah didn’t have a blanket until he was 13 or shoes until he was 15.
Because of the difficulties they had experienced in their childhood, they felt compelled to help the AIDS orphans who were roaming the villages.
With no toilets or running water, the orphanage started with nothing. Through the internet Elijah made contact with a couple from South Shields in the north east of England, Linda and John Grey, who founded the charity in 2007. The running of it moved to Portsmouth in 2010.
Barrie and Eileen Jones, who live in Widley, are trustees and Eileen says: ‘Elijah came over to visit Linda and John and they drummed up a lot of support for the charity.
‘They knew us and Elijah came down and spent some time with us.
‘Eventually we were asked to take over the running of the charity down here. So we built up a small committee and Sally became involved.’
Just like Sally, they only decided to become heavily involved with Hands of Love when they visited Uganda.
Barrie says: ‘We went to the orphanage and we could see the demands. They have to walk nearly four miles for water.
‘Through our friendship with Elijah and Ruth, and our personal experience going out there, we wanted to help.’
Eileen adds: ‘We saw the great change that Elijah was making, with no funding from the government, and how he was using the charity’s money to improve conditions for the children.’
With so much unemployment in Uganda, Elijah’s teaching at the orphanage is aimed at turning the children into jobmakers, not seekers.
Eileen explains: ‘He says to them that they are not poor, but rich, because their situation is so much better than many others in the huts and villages around them.
‘The big goal for 2012 is to build accommodation for the teachers so they aren’t sleeping on the floor next to the children, and getting every one of the children sponsored.
‘It really does change their lives.’
Sally is going back to Uganda next month to help and says: ‘We help them in any way we can. I’ll be showing them about office administration because they don’t have much experience.
‘I’ll show them how to keep up the accounts. I’ll see what has been sent and ensure it has been spent correctly.
‘Elijah is very open and supportive, and shows us everything with complete transparency.’
After raising just under £2,000 a month towards individual sponsoring of the children, Hands of Love also receives general donations and money from fund-raising events.
Sally says: ‘We get a lot of bits of pieces and a school in the north of England is very supportive. It would be lovely to have one like that in the south too.
‘I’d like to see every child sponsored and making the most of themselves.
I also want to see buildings at the orphanage completed and a well created so they don’t have to walk so far each day just to collect water.’
She adds: ‘This time last year we built a fence around the site, and it would be really good to build a goat farm and a chicken farm.
· To sponsor a child, contact Sally Walker on (023) 9225 3213 or e-mail email@example.com.
For information on the charity, go to handsoflove.org.uk.
Children in the orphanage in Uganda wouldn’t have any prospects of getting a job when they’re older without the Hands of Love charity. The aim is to help them get a decent education so they eventually find work.
Last November 19 children at the orphanage sat their Primary 7 exam, the entrance exam for senior school, and 17 passed, most with high grades.
One of them was Timothy Bagalane, 14, who not only came top in the Mayuge district, but was also 21st in the whole country. He became something of a hero because of his achievement and appeared in national newspapers.
Timothy, who is sponsored by a family from the UK, wants to go to university and become a doctor.
Sally Walker from Hands of Love says: ‘He’s done so well and I think he is going places.’
HAPPY TO HELP
Local families who help the Hands Of Love charity include the Lanes. Sara, 45, lives in Purbrook with her husband Simon 48, and their three daughters – Abigail, 16, Naomi, 15 and Rebekah, 13.
They have sponsored a child called Janet and a teacher called James since 2008 and pay £30 a month.
Sara says: ‘There’s so much need out there and lots of the teachers work without pay.
‘Janet is one of six children. Four have died of Aids and she was looked after by her older brother, but he drowned.
‘There were no parents around, so she went to the orphanage. The improvement in her health and her demeanour is incredible, she’s just looking completely different.
‘If we help these children, then hopefully they will be able to get out of the situation they are in.’