A Christmas Weekend With Children Incarcerated Parents

Well, lets start with saying that this was my best weekend in Uganda so far. Our weekend began at the head office where me and Elise met up with Aidah, Sharon and Joycelyn at 3pm. This was the team that was going to spend the weekend with the children. We traveled to the high school first where we were going to have activities with them. We bought popcorn on the way to the school to have some snacks for the students to enjoy.

The students had prepared a program for us to do together and we had prepared a small quiz for them to do. The program they had planned included dance battles, riddles, dance performances and much more. So even though they night didn’t start as we thought it would, it ended great and I was so happy that night when we went to bed for the time I had got together with the high schools students before they leave for holidays and we leave for Sweden.

We slept at the Junior School and I woke up early and started my morning by following the children to fetch water at the borehole. It’s a 10 min walk from the school; this gave me energy and quality time with the children; and this gave me the opportunity to see what they have to do to get water if the there was no rain for quite a while. But for them it was like nothing, just something that needed to be done, no complaining at all. Just do what you got to do.

After that we had porridge for breakfast which I have been starting to like in some weird way. But the day’s main focus was the Christmas party, finally it was here. So, the rest of the day we helped prepare decorations, blow balloons with the kids, watch the presentations in the church, hand out Christmas gifts and just mingle with everyone we could talk to.

The Christmas party was successful in the way that we even had it. The day ended with the interns saying goodbye to the high school students, which was sad for me. It felt like we were getting closer to them now towards the end. But with plans of coming back I am not that worried. We will meet again. When the high school students left, we had a bonfire with the pupils at the Junior School. We gave them some snacks and just had some music, dancing and a good time before we went to bed.

The Sunday was dedicated from my part to playing with the kids. I was a part of the Sunday service but that was only for a short while. Most of the day I played games with the young kids and I tried to teach Benard, one of the students to play the game of chess. This was fun and I had bought a chessboard that I left at the junior school for them to practice so they can beat me when I visit next time.

All in all, as I said in the beginning, this was the best weekend here in Uganda. I am very happy for my school back home that gave me the opportunity to come to Uganda for my internship and I am also happy for and grateful to Wells of Hope, all staff members at head office, they have been so kind and helpful to us. The staff at the schools, always welcoming when we have come for counselling and all the other activities, and last but not least the children. During this time here I have received so much joy from them; they have been attentive in the counselling sessions and it really felt like they have enjoyed our time here. Soon we are going back to cold rainy Sweden and that will be so sad. I will miss everyone at Wells of Hope. But I will come back to visit, that’s for sure. Because this time here is something I will remember for the rest of my life.

Thank you.

Complied by Eric Jansson, intern at Wells of Hope.  

A Chilly But Warm Christmas Day

In the movies Christmas has always been known and seen to be cold and snowy and often times I say to myself “I need a snow experience” to know how it actually feels to have cold, snowy but at the same time warm Christmas.

On Saturday 30th November 2019 I got a close to that experience at Wells of Hope Junior School. Everything was as planned, the tents were up in the compound with the team and children blowing balloons; the church well decorated, the Christmas tree shinning beautifully in one corner, nice music playing and obviously the pans turning in the kitchen, the mood was that of excitement and great expectation and then the downpour started; our photo booth unfortunately could not stand the strong winds; the bouncing castle came down, some balloons burst and the school premises were very wet and it became very cold.

Despite this, the main hall was warm; this did not stop children from enjoying the day.

We had the Christmas production going on led by Pastor Mark which included a lot of things like Christmas carols, a skit by the children that talked about the real meaning of Christmas. We sang and worshiped as we remembered Christ’s birth.

Dances and presentations started thereafter; this made us even warmer and it was at this point that Father Christmas (Santa) walked in with sweets and snacks which he shared with the children; the children’s faces were beaming with smiles.

Our lovely meal was served along with the children’s favorites; sodas, pineapples and watermelons. The children’s aunties and uncles from Kanzu Code joyfully washed the serving and did the plates.

This time around, 9 children graduated from kindergarten to primary. The graduands were happily cheered as they made their way to where their friends were.

Soon it was time to cut cake. The children really love cake; I could see smiles and anticipation as they could not wait to pick a piece.

One of my main highlights was the wide smiles on the children’s faces every child received a gift; this warmed my heart. I saw Angel looking at her dress admirably and I knew that the purchasing and wrapping team (which I was a part of) performed a great task; it was not in vain.

Eric Jansson and Elise handing over gifts to children

This year’s party was cold and yet a warm Christmas!

Jacqueline (C) sharing a picture with Sharon (L) and Mary (R), a student

We thank God for providing for the party through our friends and partners; God bless you abundantly.

Written By:

Jacqueline Nakinda

Finance/ Admin Assistant

A Loving Family For Every Child

When a parent is incarcerated, the family suffers a lot especially the children. They become vulnerable to issues like child labor, early marriages, among others. In some cases, these children end up on streets; homeless with nothing to eat or where to sleep.

From November 25th, Wells of Hope officially launched Family Based Care, a foster care program that’s going to help children to grow up in families. As a way of preparing the WOH Team, a workshop about Family Based Care was held from November 25th to 28th at Namirembe Guest House. The workshop was facilitated by Catherine Lafler, Adey Dereje and Sebilu Bodja, all who are friends from Bethany Christian Services. Among the participants included: pastors and social workers. Among the topics shared included: Child Rights, Child Development, Ethics in Social Work, Assessment Skills and Communication Skills.

During the Child Rights session, the participants shared children’s rights and what stood out most were love and care; “Much as a child’s needs are important, the social needs are important as well,” Catherine said. She defined Attachment as the emotional connection of a child with their caregiver. The needs of a child should be addressed according to Maslow’s Hierarchy that is; Self-actualization, Self esteem, Belonging, Safety and Physiological (like food, shelter, water and warmth).

Sebilu shared with the pastors/religious leaders the spiritual foundations of family based care and how to care for orphans as a church. He said that churches have a role in placing children in families; “Raising a child starts with the choices we make. The church needs to equip families; and families will be in a better position to raise children,” Sebilu said. He added by urging the participants to develop structures to raise children.

During the workshop, Catherine and Adey shared about how trauma affects child development; and how it can be solved through connecting, empowering and correction.

The social workers were also equipped with more skills of how to relate better with their clients.

CAREER AND DANCE DAY INAUGURATED

On Saturday 16th November amidst chills of excitement from the children and staff at Wells of Hope Junior School, we welcomed 17 Global Health Corps Alumni Chapter Uganda fellows led by none other than our own son, Bryan Tumusiime, President of the 2019 Alumni fellows, who were joined by two dancers from the IDU Dancers partnering with David Kawaida who initiated and coordinated the inaugurating of the Career and Dance Day at Wells of Hope!!!

Children welcoming their guests played and danced their kiganda dance, “Ekisakyo Omulokozi” led by Angella a P.7 leaver 2019. With clapping and ululations, the team was led to the Headmaster’s office, where the Deputy Headmaster Wells of Hope High School welcomed the guests and handed over to me as the Team leader to lead the next session that included introduction of Wells of Hope staff members and a brief speech.

This was awesome and a fulfilled dream after more than 20 Global Health Fellows still led by Bryan reached out to the children at Wells of Hope in 2014; they had quality time with the children that time, interacted with them, encouraged them about their situation and how with the support of Wells of Hope they were going to make it in life, shared their life experiences with them and during that time I came to realize this year that it was like “a needs assessment” because after 5 years the same group has come back and this time provided exactly what these children needed, celebrating dance and talent, boosting their self-esteem and confidence and helping them focus on the right subjects for their dream career and opening up their minds to what they should expect in the current job market and also encouraged and shared with them how it is important to not only depend on the professional job but love and have passion for nature, farming and creative arts! This was very fulfilling!

Bryan Tumusiime and David Kawaida facilitating about Agribusiness and Creative Arts

The children at Wells of Hope Junior and High School danced along with David Kawaida and the IDU dancers, they later showcased what they had learnt in dancing and here we saw the confidence exhibited not excluding the younger ones!

David Kawaida leading a dance session

This was so exciting to look at as these children felt special and loved. They later echoed at the feedback time, “I have learnt that my problems should not stop me from achieving my goal, I have learnt new dancing strokes”, “I have learnt that I should have a side business as I work”, “I have learnt the subjects I need to concentrate on to become a nurse!”, “a lawyer!” exclaimed one, “a business woman!” said another, “I have learnt the importance of being focused”, “I have learnt that I should not be quiet about my problems but I should speak out and get solutions.”

This day will be celebrated every year henceforth. The children will celebrate dance, showcase their moves and feel good and confident about themselves, despite their challenges. Career and Dance day will enable the children learn from successful Ugandans who went through similar hardships as them. They will be encouraged to stay at school and develop a reading culture so that they can understand how the world works, cultures and societies which are different from their own. The day will continue to act as an alternative, yet powerful, mental health treatment alternative to the children. It will be a piecemeal effort to develop young talent, demonstrate alternative career paths, and develop future citizens who reason with facts, are confident and express themselves clearly. Every year this will be a platform for future fundraising campaigns that attracts local and international friends to sponsor a child or two each year they come to dance with them. The day will also create publicity for the great/unique work that Wells of Hope Ministries is doing for the children with incarcerated parents in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.

We would like to thank the staff of Wells of Hope and especially the teachers, counselors and support staff who are impacting these children’s lives on a daily basis, and helping them cope with their situation. We would like to appreciate David Kawaida, a Cyber Security Analyst and a dance enthusiast who after interacting with the children in 2014 felt connected with these children’s stories, having been brought up by non-biological parents but has made it in life. He kept thinking about these children and together with Bryan Tumusiime a Public Health Specialist and Story Teller, he was able to bring down different professionals who spared their time on a Saturday! Not to mention baby Kamau who came with her mum! My appreciation also goes to Dennis Ssesanga who donated 3 of his published poetry book “Ivory footprints”, to the children, he said some of the students mentioned how they love poetry; these have been added to the books in the students library, Anna’s library at the High School to improve their poetry; thank you so much Dennis!

Once every year the children will celebrate dance and dance moves as they build their confidence and their minds will be helped to focus on the right paths as they grow and progress in life despite their predicament!

MAY THE LORD BLESS YOU ALL!

Ellen Eva K. Ssuubi – Team Leader – Wells of Hope Ministries

Helping Formerly Incarcerated Women Resettle Back In Their Communities

The women safe home has been a hub of activities lately; ranging from admitting new residents, starting up activities for the women at the home, skills development, having counselling sessions and linking them to their families for reintegration among others.

Residents at the home

Two of the residents that joined the safe home in September were able to go back to their families:

Deborah, who spent a year and a half found her 14-year old daughters had been married off by their father and she ably got them out of the marriages, resumed her work and has since settled successfully. She has promised to come back and pay the home a courtesy visit soon and also intends to join the Formerly Incarcerated Women Association.

Eseza, however met with a number of challenges in her reintegration process. She found out a case had been opened against her by the family that had remained with her children accusing her of child neglect in 2017, as they thought she had left prison already and was just hiding away from the children. With the help of the district probation officer who we contacted through the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, she was able to see her children who were already put in foster care and being schooled with one Non-Governmental Organisation back in the district.

Eseza has since then been moving from family to family but has not received proper acceptance and says she failed to fit in with her once friends that she was living with since childhood. She lost contact with her family when she was a young child so she has spent all her life living with one friend after the other except for when she was married. Eseza has since returned to the safe home and says she wishes to find a job in Kampala that will earn her a living to save up some money to go start up an economic activity in her village

One other resident, Carol who joined the home solely for shelter as she saves up money to be able to get a house of her own is in plans of moving. She was fortunate to have gotten a job after release and has been saving up money for the primary cause. She is so happy that she was taken in by the safe home as she wouldn’t know what or where she would have gone other than roaming on the streets. She has offered to impart the skills she was able to learn in and out of prison to the fellow formerly incarcerated women to be able to earn themselves a living. She is also very interested in joining the Formerly Incarcerated Women Association.

During the month, we also had two women that we helped to resettle. These were reunited with their families immediately upon release as they were encouraged to forgive and consult their families whom they had sworn not to go back to.

Formerly Incarcerated Women Association.

The association so far constitutes 12 members; they’re committed and loving the work it’s doing for them. Together with Monica, a volunteer, we were visited one of the women that who has benefitted from the association; she was able to start up a fruit stall which she is currently managing with her daughter who is also part of the association.

Through the trade, they are able to get enough money to sustain the children under their care including one four-year-old who was born in prison and brought to them when the mother was finally released as she could not take care of the child herself.

During their monthly meet up, the women learnt how to make liquid soap and many showed interest in taking it on as a source of income.

Plans are underway to sell the soap as the product of the formerly incarcerated women association and the proceeds will go to the association treasury.

In the month of November, we expect three (3) women that will be joining the home from Luzira and Jinja Prisons.