It’s midnight in Kampala, Uganda and Mick, Walter and I have just been dropped off at our accommodation after ten hours of travel. But something is wrong, fifteen minutes of knocking, ringing and calling out hasn’t got us anywhere. Mick decides it time to take things into his own hands and disappears briefly before suddenly reappearing halfway up the wall (it’s higher than Walter is tall and that’s saying something!). He scales it and disappears over the other side.
Walter and I continue pacing the perimeter and talking loudly hoping to attract the attention of the staff inside. That’s when we hear Mick’s voice:
“Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!”
“It’s me, Mick from Leeds in the UK. Dan booked rooms for us. From the UK – 5 nights. We’ve been here before!”
Soon the gate opened to reveal Mick grimacing half happy, half annoyed and accompanied by a small Ugandan man carrying a bow and arrow. Thankfully the arrow was now pointing towards the ground and not directly at us as it had been at Mick a few moments earlier.
“We’re in! Finally!!!”
Since 2007 SFAC has been visiting Uganda and a variety of charities working with children. In 2010 SFAC began working with CALM AFRICA, a very small Ugandan charity. It was through this connection that Mick and I met (Remind me to tell you more about that another time – especially about how a flood, a hail storm and a truck nearly derailed our training with CALM one year!). The training started as CALM wanted to start a foster care programme.
“Foster care. That wont work here in Uganda!”
So said Joseph Luganda, a great friend of SFAC and staff member at CALM AFRICA.
“Yes it can and it is” said Mick.
It was a light bulb moment for James Ssiewankua, CALM’s founder. ‘I am a foster carer! I have fostered 17 children!’ James had not realised that by looking after non-biologically related children in his care he had become a foster carer.
‘Ok’ said Joseph ‘Lets do this!’.
The journey began and SFAC has since visited Uganda to support CALM and others such as Reunite and Alternative Care Initiatives (ACI) many times.
To make this happen SFAC has paid for our flights and accommodation. Why?
Well, the simple truth is these organisations' budgets are very small. Paying our flights and accommodation costs would take to big a chunk of money out of their budget to do the very things we are training them to do.
SFAC is proud of its decision to offer our services to any organisation that asks for our help, whatever their size and financial status. We see these organisations as critical to developing real change and supporting the growth of family-based care. They work within their own communities and have direct connections to the people who most need to hear about the best way to care for children at risk. While we recognise that paying standard UK rates for training and consultation is far beyond the capabilities of the vast majority of our partners, SFAC always asks for some form of contribution. We do this because we know that people tend to value things more highly when it has cost them something. These contributions are proportionate to each partner’s budget.
On a typical visit to Uganda SFAC might cover accommodation and flight costs and waive all training and consultation fees. The contribution from CALM and other organisations varies from visit to visit but may include travel within country, room hire for training venues, some meals and sometimes even basic accommodation
The result of our work in Uganda: Reunite and CALM AFRICA work strongly together delivering foster care in Uganada. Joseph now spends his time running a foster care programme for CALM and trains others in Uganda about how they can do similar. ACI is working with the government and other organisations to support this work. Foster care is happening in Uganda and is spreading. The word is out and change is happening.
Without SFAC’s willingness to bear the bulk of the costs involved in a visit this would not have happened. The money given to SFAC by our generous donors has helped to change the lives of many children in Uganda and enabled workers to access training and support that would not have been possible otherwise. With more money we can offer this to many other organisations, but your donations have made a huge difference already. You can be proud of your contribution.
Hopefully next time the beginning of our visit will be a little less dramatic. Although Uganda does have a habit of throwing some drama our way - ask Mick about falling down a path, Walter about his boda-boda ride or Dan about getting lost!
The really dramatic event is hearing what Joseph has to say now,
“Foster Care is Uganda’s future!’