Stories from Uganda: The Women at the Well

Today I met three women from the village of Busingiro in rural Uganda, who told me the story of the natural spring well which their families depend upon for water.

Grace Kemydngyere has lived in Busingiro since she got married forty years ago. She has eight children and seven grandchildren. Grace tells me that she has used the the natural spring well, at the bottom of the hill beside Ryamugwizi Primary School, for the past 38 years. She explains that the well never dries up even during the dry season, although this can cause problems because people come from miles away to find water. This is what the well looks like today.

Grace’s family fills a Jerry Can from this spring five times a day for drinking water, food preparation and washing. When the well is dirty the food she prepares changes colour and her children get sick. She says currently every animal uses the well and there are many diseases in the water. Her son is ill with an abdominal infection and she thinks it might have been caused by drinking water from the well. She also has worries that when her grandchildren are fetching water they might fall into the unprotected well and drown.

Grace tells me that when the well gets dirty the local community come together to try to clean up around it. She says the well is very important because without it her family would have to migrate from their community. Grace smiles at the thought of the well being protected. She says then it can be safely used to fetch water to boil and drink. With a protected well and clean water she believes her grandchildren will grow up healthy, without chronic waterborne diseases and be able to go to school, to study and acquire skills to earn a living and improve their family situation. Grace hopes for a future when her grandchildren will get an education, change their environment, construct good houses, have more land and have a better way of life.

Dinavence Kyohairwe (25) lives in Busingiro village with her husband and three children. She explains how she uses water from the well to cook food, to bathe and to wash clothes and utensils. She visits the well three times a day to fill up Jerry Cans and she boils some of the water for drinking water. Dinavence worries that sometimes when the water is full of algae that her children might become ill after drinking the water. She’s delighted that the well is going to be protected. She tells me that she expects the water to be clean and that the children will have fewer sicknesses. As a young mother she is happy that her children will have a chance to be more healthy and to grow well. Dinavence has many hopes and dreams for her children. She wants them to be physically healthy and to continue their schooling. She dreams that one day they will be a lawyer, a doctor and an engineer and that they will support the family.

Dinavence Nabwine (49) also lives in the village of Busingiro with her husband James, ten children and nine grandchildren. She explains to me how important the well is for her family. They fetch six Jerry Cans of water every day to cook food, wash their clothes and bathe. But Dinavence is concerned that the water is dirty and unsafe because when it rains, water flows down the hill through faeces and brings contaminated water into the well. As result people can get diarrhoea, typhoid and other waterborne diseases. She explains that sometimes the young children forget to boil the water and end up getting sick.

Dinavence says when the well is protected and the water is clean she will no longer have the stress and worry of bad water causing disease in her family. Her eyes light up when I ask about her hopes for her grandchildren. She says that with safe water they will be healthy to go to school and get a good education and skills for the future. She dreams that one of her grandchildren will become a doctor. Dinavence says she is thankful to people from Northern Ireland who have donated money to secure the well. She believes that with clean water and a good school her family will have a community to be proud of.

The REAP Project has allocated £2500 from the money raised by the team to protect the natural spring well beside Ryamugwizi Primary School. As you can see from the photograph above the well is not protected and as a result contains dirty and contaminated water. This is the well that Grace and both Dinavences and their families fetch water from five times a day.

However, this is what the well will look like in a few weeks time, as a result of the fundraising efforts of a small group of men from Northern Ireland in association with Fields of Life, and a partnership approach to development with the local community at Ryamugwizi Primary School.

It’s an important step on the way to ensuring that the women I met at the well today will see their dreams for their children and grandchildren becoming a reality.

Stories from Uganda: A young leader with a dream for a better future

I’m visiting Uganda with the REAP Project, a team of brilliant volunteers from Northern Ireland who have returned to Ryamugwizi Primary School in Ibanda, to continue to support the growth and development of the school and the local community. I’m blogging live from Uganda every day, sharing the stories of some of the most interesting and inspiring people I meet.

Today I want to share the story of another inspiring young leader – Caleb Malwadde, who works for Fields of Life.

Caleb was born the youngest of sixteen children in Central Uganda after the end of the Liberation War in 1986, when the current government came to power. His family had suffered hardship during the war in the Luwero Triangle and had lost their home, garden and cattle. As a result the family were very poor and felt like they were refugees in their own country. Caleb’s parents could not afford to send him to school. But then one day at the age of eight, Caleb was wandering around his village when Trevor Stevenson, the founder of Fields of Life, happened to be visiting with a colleague. Trevor noticed Caleb walking around and asked the boy why he was not at school. He asked if he could speak with Caleb’s parents. Then Trevor went to meet Caleb’s mother and promised her that he would find a sponsor for Caleb to go to school. In 1997 Caleb became a pupil at the First Fields of Life School in Uganda. He recalls starting school in P3 and getting shoes, a mattress, blankets and free meals. He speaks warmly about the transformation in his life due to the values and spiritual growth he experienced as he went through his education in the Fields of Life Academy, then Grace High School and ultimately to university, the first child from his family to do so.

When he graduated from university Caleb went to work for Fields of Life as the charity’s Logistics and Procurement Officer in Uganda.

He says, ‘I’m happy I’m working for the organisation that nurtured me and I am part of a team that is changing people’s lives.’

Like myself, Caleb has been inspired by the life and writings of Martin Luther King, so I asked him if he has a dream for Uganda.

He says, ‘My dream for Uganda is for respect for human rights and everyone enjoying the basic facilities of human life.’

Caleb believes this requires a change in mindsets and a type of politics where the government puts the people first. A type of democracy where political leaders want to give back to the community. The result of this would be a political commitment to massive improvements including clean water, food, free education and healthcare for all.

With young leaders like Caleb emerging in Uganda I believe his dream can begin to become a reality.

Stories from Uganda: Inspiring young people with a passion for social change

Meet Trinity Heavenz and Shamir Wiseman! Yesterday when I visited the Kosovo slum in Kampala I met these two remarkable young men who are passionate about creating positive change in their community. Their stories will fill you with hope.

Trinity (25) grew up in the Kosovo slum seeing poverty, crime, disease and a lack of hope all around him. As a boy he had the opportunity to go to the Treasured Kids School (which I wrote about in yesterday’s blog). As he learned and grew up in this positive school environment he developed a great sense of responsibility to help his community. Trinity told me of his firm belief that his community can change and it starts with a change in mindsets. With his talent and love for computers, design and the arts he started his own business called Era92 which trains and mentors young people in technology, design and the arts. But Trinity is more than a successful young entrepreneur, he also wants to have an impact on other young people. He started 92hands with his lifelong friend Levixone. It’s a youth movement to empower Ugandan young adults to transform their communities, through intensive community service. This vibrant organisation is active in many social change activities such as feeding families, empowering women, job creation and improving adult literacy. I was inspired and moved by Trinity’s story. He said ‘The only way Africa can change is to mobilise our young people to change our communities.’

Trinity introduced me to Shamir (23), one of the young people he mentors. In 2003 Shamir came to Uganda as a refugee from Burundi where he had lost siblings and friends in the violence. He met Pastor Deo in 2005 and was given the opportunity to go to Treasured Kids Primary School in the Kosovo slum (which is supported by Fields of Life). Shamir told me that when he went to the school he experienced values, love, support and opportunities that he could not have previously imagined. He said, ‘I never knew I could get a good place like this’. He went on to study at High School and now he is at university studying Graphic Design. He shares Trinity’s love for design and says his mentor has inspired him to become a success in business and to be an agent for positive social change. He said, ‘I dream of empowering and helping young people in my community. I want to impact young people to be the change.’

When I visited the Kosovo slum I was expecting to leave with heartache for the poverty and suffering I would see there. It was certainly the poorest community I have ever seen. But after meeting these two inspiring young people, I left with a sense of hope and optimism for the future of their community and the future of Uganda.

Tomorrow I will share the story of another inspiring young leader who works for Fields of Life in Uganda.

Stories from Uganda: Discovering treasures in the slums of Kampala

Today I visited the Kosovo slum in Kampala. It’s the poorest community I have ever seen and on the surface it seems like a hopeless place. However this afternoon I listened to the stories of some of the most inspiring people I have ever met and I discovered treasures in the slums of Kampala.

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In the coming days I’ll be sharing the stories of local people who are committed to creating positive change in their communities. Today I want to start with Pastor Deo M. Mwanje of Word of Life Community Church who runs the Treasured Kids School, kindergarten, community development and social enterprise projects in the middle of the Kosovo Slum.

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Meeting with Pastor Deo at Treasured Kids Primary School in the Kosovo slum in Kampala

Pastor Deo grew up as a street kid himself. His mother came to Uganda as a refugee during the first genocide in Rwanda and met Deo’s father at a bar where she worked. His parents were divorced when he was 9 years old and from the age of 10 Deo went to four different schools. He moved to a different school, between five and ten miles from his home, every year because he was unable to pay the debt incurred after one year of education. At the age of 14 he got a job with accommodation but after two years he remained unpaid and finally he was thrown out on the street. Deo discovered that he had to be tough to survive on the streets and ultimately ended up in prison. When he was released from prison he hit a low point in his life and became suicidal. The transformation of his life began when he met a missionary who took him under his wing. Pastor Deo talks movingly about how he found new faith and hope for the future. He trained as an evangelist, studied theology and ended up in the Kosovo slum, which was nicknamed after Kosovo in the Balkans because of the similar levels of violence experienced there in the 1990s. Pastor Deo started the church with just three people and it has grown ever since under his leadership.

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Pastor Deo with his daughter Amanda

In those days the site of the school was a garbage dump where street kids foraged through the rubbish looking for something to eat. He recalled his own experience on the streets and remembered, ‘When I was on the streets I was a troublemaker to everyone but I was a treasure to God’ He looked at the children in the dump and saw them as treasured human beings and had the vision to start a school for them. With support from Fields of Life, the Treasured Kids Primary School was established and since then it has grown and developed into a range of education and community projects. The school has educated many children from the slum to give them a better future including one of Uganda’s most successful singers Levixone Lala.

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I was particularly impressed with the SACCO project which is a community bank that seeks to eradicate poverty through developing a saving and investment culture.  It reminded me of a Credit Union in Northern Ireland. Members of the SACCO can secure low interest loans for small businesses and job creation. Pastor Deo explained that this was a model of empowerment and development for people living in the slums, and was more effective in changing the community than simply giving people charity aid.

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Pastor Deo’s next dream is to build a Technical School in the slum so that young people can  gain vocational skills and then start their own business with a loan from the SACCO.

I was inspired by Pastor Deo’s story.  He sees himself as a pastor to the slum rather than a pastor to the church. He prioritises the huge social needs in the local community. ‘We love God by loving people’ he says. ‘We serve God by serving people’. I was moved by his vision and commitment and his view of the poorest people in the poorest communities in one of the poorest countries in the world, as treasures.

Tomorrow I’ll share the stories of two remarkable young men I met in the Kosovo slum.

 

 

Belfast author to blog Stories from Uganda

This Easter bestselling Belfast author, Tony Macaulay will join a team of volunteers from Northern Ireland who are returning to Ryamugwizi Primary School, in Ibanda, Uganda, to continue to support the growth and development of the school and the local community.

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Tony will be blogging live from Uganda, sharing the stories of the people he meets every day. The daily blogs can be found here.

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The REAP Project – Realise East African Potential

The REAP Project is committed to bringing about positive change through the provision of quality education, clean waterhealth promotion and other community based projects, by collaborating with Ryamugwizi Primary School and the surrounding community in Ibanda, Uganda.

REAP is working in association with the charity Fields of Life, who have been involved in projects with local communities and churches in a number of countries in East Africa such as Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

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Tony Macaulay Guest Author at Maryland Irish Festival

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Tony Macaulay, author, at the launch of his latest book ‘Little House on the Peace Line’

This weekend Tony Macaulay will be a guest author and speaker at Maryland Irish Festival in Baltimore, USA.

Tony will be speaking in the Hedge School Tent on Saturday and Sunday and will be signing copies of his books throughout the duration of the festival.

This is Tony’s first appearance at Maryland Irish Festival and it follows the USA launch of his latest book, ‘Little House on the Peace Line’ at Milwaukee Irish Fest in August.

Belfast author Tony Macaulay launches fourth book at Milwaukee Irish Fest

The USA launch of Tony Macaulay’s latest book, ‘Little House on the Peace Line’ will be at the Hedge School in the Cultural Village at Milwaukee Irish Fest on Saturday 19th August at 2pm. Milwaukee Irish Fest is the world’s largest celebration of Irish and Celtic music, culture and sport at Milwaukee lakefront from August 17 – 20.

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Tony MACAULAY. Book launch of Little House on a Peace Line (Tony MACAULAY), Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Tony arrived in Milwaukee earlier this week and recorded this interview with WUWM local public radio.

‘In 1985, I went to live on the other side of the peace line. Everyone said my head was cut.’

Driven by the conviction that things can change and that he can change them, Tony Macaulay takes up a job running a youth club in the staunchly nationalist New Lodge, in an area known as Murder Mile, with youth unemployment at 90 per cent.
Challenge enough you might think, but it’s also a requirement of the job that Tony, a Protestant from the Shankill Road, and his wife Lesley live in the local community.

As the realities of life in a working-class republican community start to hit home, Tony’s idealism and faith are pushed to the limit. Inspiring, heart-breaking and often laugh-out-loud funny, this is the story of how one couple kept the faith in a little house on the peace line.

Tony Macaulay has spent more than 30 years working for peace and reconciliation both here and abroad. He is also a writer and broadcaster, and his first three books, Paperboy, Breadboy and All Growed Up, were critically acclaimed bestsellers.

 

New Tony Macaulay memoir published today!

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‘In 1985, I went to live on the other side of the peace line. Everyone said my head was cut.’

Driven by the conviction that things can change and that he can change them, Tony Macaulay takes up a job running a youth club in the staunchly nationalist New Lodge, in an area known as Murder Mile, with youth unemployment at 90 per cent.

Challenge enough you might think, but it’s also a requirement of the job that Tony, a Protestant from the Shankill Road, and his wife Lesley live in the local community.

As the realities of life in a working-class republican community start to hit home, Tony’s idealism and faith are pushed to the limit. Inspiring, heart-breaking and often laugh-out-loud funny, this is the story of how one couple kept the faith in a little house on the peace line.

Tony Macaulay has spent more than 30 years working for peace and reconciliation both here and abroad. He is also a writer and broadcaster, and his first three books, Paperboy, Breadboy and All Growed Up, were critically acclaimed bestsellers.

For further information, to request an interview with Tony and/or to request a review copy of Little House on the Peace Line please contact:

Jacky Hawkes, Blackstaff Press
Email: jacky@colourpoint.co.uk
Little House on the Peace Line
Paperback £9.99 €12.99
978-0-85640-992-9
Publication date 8th June 2017
www.blackstaffpress.com

It’s the Paperboy Audiobook, so it is!

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This week in Los Angeles, Belfast author Tony Macaulay launched the audiobook version of his bestselling memoir ‘Paperboy’.

The audiobook is narrated by the author and brings to life the stories and characters of 1970s Belfast. It also includes an hilarious ‘Glossary of Terms’ as a special extra feature to help listeners who are not familiar with the Northern Ireland vernacular to understand everything from ‘hallions’ to ‘guiders’.

The audiobook is published by Black Dog Media and is available for download on Audible, Amazon and iTunes.

Tony says, ‘I’m excited to launch the audiobook while in the USA as I have had so many requests for an audio version during my book tours here over the past six years.’

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Tony reading from ‘Paperboy’ in Malibu this week.

Belfast Author’s Los Angeles Book Tour

This week Belfast author, Tony Macaulay will be in Los Angeles for a series of book readings, signings and talks. Tony will be reading from his coming of age memoirs about growing up in Belfast, Northern Ireland during the Troubles. He will also be speaking at various universities about his work in community based peacebuilding .

The main events are:

  • 11th February 2017: Afternoon Tea at Rancho Chiquita, Malibu, California (sold out)

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  • 12th February 2017: Mediators Beyond Borders, Los Angeles, California

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  • 13th February 2017: Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, Pepperdine University School of Law,  Malibu, California
  • 14th February 2017: Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California
  • 15th February 2017: University of California, Irvine, California
  • 16th February 2017: California State University, Dominguez Hills, California

As part of the book tour Tony will be launching the new audiobook edition of his first book ‘Paperboy’.

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