KUISHI: CAMP DAVID UGANDA

Before joining Wells of Hope, children with incarcerated parents are reserved and do not easily get along with others. They face many issues most of them being psychological. The annual camp is one of the main ways through which the children are able to cope with parental imprisonment.

Wells of Hope Ministries (WOHM) is extremely grateful to Camp David of the Ozarks (based in USA) for their continued support in restoring hope to the children with parents in prison.  Since 2017, in partnership with WOHM, Camp David of the Ozarks (CDO) has conducted very interactive and educative camps (Camp David Uganda) with the children; helping them to cope with their issues, explore their skills and abilities. Camp David Uganda is one of the major activities the children always look forward to. This year, the camp was help from 26th to 29th August 2019 with the theme KUISHI, a Swahili word meaning Dying To Live. The theme was focusing on putting to death all our comfort zones and focus on pleasing God in everything we do.

This time around, 123 children participated in the camp; 100 were campers and 23 served as staff. The campers were grouped in 8 teams which included: Pearls (girls), Jades (girls), Rubies (girls), Crystals (girls), Diamonds (girls), Lions (boys), Tigers (boys) and Panthers (boys). On Sunday 25th, the Camp David International (CDI) team headed to the campsite (Wells of Hope Junior School) and were joined by WOHM staff and volunteers. The CDI team comprised: Ben Smith (who the children preferred to call Papa Big Heart), Grace Smith (who the children preferred to call Mama Rose), Cheynne Tope, Wyatt Tope and Kacie Starr Long. Ben and Grace were accompanied by their children Lexi, Katy, Daniel and Jabari.

Upon arrival at the campsite, the children were extremely excited to see the visitors; they wore dazzling smiles as they welcomed the visitors and mingled with them. The camp was commenced with setting up stations for the different classes/activities scheduled for the following 4 days, meeting the different groups and handing out backpacks. The classes comprised What About It (WAI) class, crafts class, creation class, dance class, team building, field games, slingshots, life skills class and sewing class.

During the camp, the children were encouraged to always know that it’s not their fault that their parents are in prison; they were encouraged to be passionate about what they choose to do and to embrace teamwork, among other lessons. The children were engaged in sewing classes; where they sewed craft bags. They were engaged in Life Skills classes as well; and some of the topics shared included: goal setting and self-esteem.

Papa Big Heart conducting the What About It class; a session about helping children cope with parental imprisonment
Crafts class:Lexie and Rose sharing a picture with some of the Diamonds
Daniel conducting session with the older boys about setting goals
Kacie showing Faizo how to sew stitches

Some of the highlights of the camp included: the children’s birthday party, the shaving cream battle, African adventure, making SMORE’S at the campfire. The children celebrated their birthdays; they were extremely happy; they expressed immense joy as they received their birthday gifts some of which included; dolls, skirts, shirts, flip-flops, among others. At the campfire, the children could not hide their glee after receiving their photo albums and as they made SMORE’S.  The winners were also awarded medals.

Among other highlights were the life sessions conducted by Ben and Daniel; the connection time with the older girls which was conducted by Grace; children being able to sew craft bags; and children joyfully mingling with the visitors.

On Thursday, 11 children who had gone through sessions about baptism with Pastor Mark were baptized.

Wells of Hope Ministries thanks Camp David of the Ozarks for their continued support for the children with incarcerated parents at Wells of Hope.

Good Health Practices, A Strategy Towards Livelihoods/Parenting

40 caregivers of children under Wells of Hope care were engaged in a 2 day workshop (15th – 16th August) at the secretariat with the themeGood Health Practices, A Strategy Towards Livelihoods/Parenting. It was the second meeting following the one held early this year in January.

The meeting was kicked off with devotions where some of the formerly incarcerated people shared about grateful they are to God and Wells of Hope; “All things are possible with God; I never thought that I would be standing before you today. I thank God that I was acquitted despite spending 15 years in prison,” James (not real name) testified.

The caregivers were engaged in sessions like HCT (HIV Counseling and Testing), farming and parenting. The head teachers encouraged the caregivers to be good role models to their children and be exemplary; “Charity begins at home. As parents, it’s our role to instill good morals among our children,”Charles Ssenoga, Wells of Hope High School head teacher shared.

Charles Ssenoga Wells of Hope High School headteacher updating caregivers about their children’s academics and welfare

During the HCT session, the caregivers were encouraged to test for HIV as wells as general medical check-ups,be faithful to their spouses& use condoms.Those living positively were encouraged to take ARVs &adhere to treatment.

Ronald of Aids Information Centre (AIC) facilitating about HIV Prevention and Care
A couple undergoing counseling

“If you want to change your life, the 2Ws (What, Where) and How depend on you,” William Lubanga from Luna Mixed farm cautioned the caregivers. He shared about poultry, piggery and gardening (growing vegetables). He encouraged them to utilize the available resources they have to make a change in their lives.

William Lubanga demonstrating how to plant vegetables

The caregivers had a very interactive session about parenting; “As parents, we’re the first role models to our children; they learn from what we say and do,” Susan Mutebi Matte from Signature Pieces shared.

Susan Mutebi Matte from Signature Pieces facilitating about Parenting

Phiona Ssenoga from Signature Pieces cautioned about the caregivers about the way they carry themselves or live and what kind of example they are to their children; “Every parent needs to help their children to correct mistakes.And after this, you can reward them. Bad manners have bad rewards while good manners have good rewards,” she said.

Phiona Ssenoga from Signature Pieces facilitating about Parents being god role models to their children

After the workshop, the caregivers happily shared some of their lessons; “I’ve learnt to grow greens even from a small area; how to treat hens using herbs and Ash. I now believe that I can make pesticides and fertilizers locally; then sell them and get money some of which I can save in our Hope SACCO,”Annet one of the caregivers shared.

We thank all our sponsors for their continued support towards families with loved ones in prison.

Children With Incarcerated Parents Go Global

Last month, Francis Ssuubi, Wells of Hope Ministries (WOHM) founder was appointed Global ambassador for The International Coalition for Children of Incarcerated Parents (INCCIP) in recognition of his role in founding this global organization! This was at a conference in Huddersfield UK.

Francis Ssuubi, sharing a photo with Ben Raikes, a Professor at Huddersfield University

“I am so thrilled and proud with the concerted efforts of friends for having been at the centre of founding this evolving movement that is bringing together people from different regions of the world to change lives of children with imprisoned parents. Thank you for your support and prayers!”

Francis Ssuubi Wells of Hope Ministries Founder

Wells of Hope Ministries thanks everyone for the support rendered to Francis prior to the conference and during his stay in UK.

A Quick Trip to the North

On August 6th, I followed Babra Namutosi, Assistant Programs Coordinator, onto a packed night bus. We’d be traveling to Agago in search of Blessing Marion’s family.

This is one of the programs Wells of Hope Ministries offers: Family Tracing. WOHM believes in the importance of developing familial bonds to help a child grow and find a sense of belonging. To accomplish this goal, WOHM visits the children’s families, assesses the living conditions and situation, and facilitates a connection between the two parties.

In the case of Blessing Marion, she was born in prison, attended a daycare in Luzira, and arrived at Wells of Hope when she turned four years old. We had a contact for her, so, we packed our backpacks, hopped on the bus, drove up to the northern part of Uganda. Bags were pushed into my face, feet crept slowly into my space, and the seat got more and more uncomfortable. The bus ride was not my favorite part, but it was all worth meeting Blessing Marion’s family.

Upon arriving to Agago, Blessing’s grandfather, Uncle Francis, offered us a ride to one of his houses. Blessing’s grandmother welcomed us into her home. The house was comprised of three barren rooms – one for cooking and two for sleeping.

Slowly, we began uncovering the pieces of Blessing’s family. She has three grandfathers, one grandmother, three uncles, two siblings, and nine cousins waiting for her. They were very excited to see pictures of Blessing, as none of them have met Blessing before. They want to teach her the local language, introduce her to her family, and ensure that she is provided for. Her grandfather shared their economic struggles with Babra and me, confiding in us that they cannot provide for the eleven kids living in the household. The grandmother does most of the work, relying on farming for sustenance. Regardless of their circumstance, they look forward to meeting Blessing, asking that they get to spend time with her.

After finishing our visit in Agago, we left for Gulu. It took us about four hours and multiple modes of transportation, but, we somehow managed to make it work. In Gulu, we met another Wells of Hope student and attempted to reconcile him with his aunt and mother. Our second visit was not as successful as the first, but I enjoyed meeting the family, even though they could not understand my English.

Overall, I experienced so many firsts during my trip Family Tracing. I got to laugh and smile a lot and help Blessing be reunited with her family. I’m beyond thankful for this opportunity.

Written by Anooshka Gupta, intern from University of Michigan, USA