CanAssist working to improve the Hope for Youth School.

CanAssist trustee, Nancy Grew, is visiting project sites in Uganda this week and today sent this photo of the new school classroom (first of four) that is under construction at the Hope for Youth School near Mukono. This wonderful school has been one that CanAssist has helped over the years in many ways but, as you can see from the photo on the lower right, the classrooms were becoming dilapidated and beyond use. The new permanent classrooms will be an amazing improvement for the school and provide a secure and sustainable school for the community.

H4Y 2018

The first of four permanent classrooms at Hope for Youth School that will replace the old wooden structure that has served the school for several years but is now beyond repair. Photos taken on February 28, 2018 by Nancy Grew, CanAssist trustee.

I have a particular fondness for this school, having visited them several time in the past ten years. I have watched many of their students grow from children into young adults. I was delighted in 2016 to take a group of CanAssist supporters, including my granddaughter, to the school and visited them in early 2017 as well.

Maddy Edward and Christopher

In early 2016 I was happy to introduce my granddaughter to Christopher, Edward and other students at the Hope for Youth School.

One of the unique things about CanAssist as a charitable organization is that we don’t just send money. We establish friendships and visit the project schools and communities. This not only helps to assure donors that their monies are being spent as intended but it shows that we are interested in their wellbeing with a personal connection. My life has certainly been enriched beyond anything I can express by the person to person links I have been privileged to make over the years as I have visited many communities in East Africa. I do feel like I am at home with friends when I go there. I am sure that Nancy will come back to Canada with the same intense satisfaction that the time and effort that we have put into CanAssist work is well worth it both for the communities we serve but also for our own personal growth.

Nancy and Edward 0218

Edward sends a greeting to me today through Nancy who is visiting the H4Y school – Feb 28, 2018

Below is a video of the students doing a traditional dance for my entertainment when I visited them in 2013. The main boy in the dance is Edward who, along it’s his brother, Christopher, I have watched grow from young lads into young men. I was touched today when Nancy sent a photo of Edward who made a point of coming to greet her to send a special hello and remembrance to me.

The school will be greatly benefitted by this 2018 initiative and CanAssist is grateful for the generous donation from David Kay to kick-start this project.  Additional classrooms will be added over the next many months. The cost of adding a classroom like the one in the photo above is about $10,000 to $12,000 dollars – a bargain when compared wo what it would cost to do the same in Canada.   In addition to providing the permanent structure for the school, the construction and materials acquired locally give employment opportunities to local craftsmen.

Donations to CanAssist through the Canada Helps link on the CanAssist web page or by clicking HERE can be allocated to this project to keep it moving ahead.

Smiles and tears – Remembering Dennis

I love visiting schools in Africa. The kids are so warm and friendly and joyous and welcoming.  No exception last month when 20 CanAssist supporters visited 10 schools in Kenya  and Uganda on our expedition to CanAssist associate communities.

Our last stop was at Hope for Youth School near Mukono, Uganda.   It was so much fun.  Even though the school was not open yet after a winter break, students (past and present) and teachers and community members came out to greet us and, once again, we were feted with song and dance and even a skit about how CanAssist is helping with latrines and sanitation in Africa.

We were all up dancing and clapping, lead by a young fellow who was a recent graduate of Hope for Youth and now in high school.  With drumming by the students and Dennis Sserugo rhythmically blowing on a whistle we hooted and clapped and danced together. It was joyous.

We were saddened to learn from the school that Dennis was been killed this week in a motor vehicle accident.

Hello John,

With deep sorrow I bring to you sadDennis1_edit news of the passing away o our dear student Dennis Sserugo, the boy who was blowing the whistle in the traditional dance during your recent visit. He was studying in Secondary school and was being sponsored by on family in Nanaimo.

He was hit by a speeding taxi that swayed off the road as he was walking to school with his friends in the morning hours. The taxi ran off and they could not trace it. He did not die instantly, so uncle David, our school administrator did everything possible to rescue Dennis by taking him to Mukono health center where they could not handle him. They referred them to Mulago main referral hospital in Kampala and they were recommended to use an ambulance. Immediately they reached Mulago hospital, Dennis was pronounced dead from internal breeding.

As you may have some knowledge about our systems, getting a car from our village to Mukono health center, then the process of getting an ambulance and the distance from Mukono to Kampala with the usual traffic jam on the roads, you could really see that probably, he would have survived. 

He has been among the children who stay with my mum and has been a hard working boy, who had the desire and motivation to become a Doctor. We will miss him but we thank the good Lord for his life until now.

If you can, please help and pass on the message to a few friends whom you visited with, some may remember him.  

Peter Nsubuga

This news has touched those of us who revelled with Dennis a few weeks back.  In Canada, with good roads, available emergency services and accessible trauma centres, he may have survived his internal bleeding.

My global family has suffered a loss and I mourn with them. But I also will remember an afternoon of great fun we all had together not that long ago. And Dennis, blowing that whistle.

CanAssist will soon be constructing a kitchen facility for the Hope for Youth School.  We will make this addition to the school in Dennis’ memory.

Enlight1

Safari 2016.  Part 11. Winding up.

On the last two days of our safari we visited yet another two schools in Uganda,  the Kyabazaala Elementary School near Kayunga and Hope for Youth, near Mukono.  We experienced a torrential rain at the Kyabazaala School which slightly cut short our outdoor festivities but had us huddle with a gaggle of students, teachers and parents in a classroom under the tin roof.  A memorable downpour of fellowship and much appreciated water to fill the water tanks.  At Hope for Youth, we received the usual warm welcome and lots of hugs.  What a delight to see some of the kids I have known for about 7 years.  Some of the fellows who danced for me at age 8 are now 16 and in secondary school.  We remembered each other and relished the short time we had to visit once again.  And I promised that I will return.  

We cut the ribbon on a wonderful teachers’ accommodation building which will also have a health/first aid room.  Thanks to the Green           , the Sasamat foundation and to the benefactors who attended a fundraising dinner in Nanaimo last February for making this possible.

It was fitting that the last musical entertainment we had from students (we had a lot over the two weeks) was a blessing from them to us.  We all left East Africa feeling truly blessed by the opportunity to visit that we had with ten very different associate communities and are safely home – jet-lagged, adjusting to winter temperatures but hearts warm from our safari to spend time with our global family.

  

 
  
   
 

Meet Edward and Christopher

Edward 500

This is Edward. He is the oldest of three kids living with a father who is intermittently ill and absent from the family. For much of the past three years he and his siblings have had to manage on their own.

Christopher and his older brother, Edward at the Hope for Youth School in Uganda.

Christopher and his older brother, Edward at the Hope for Youth School in Uganda.

Edward and his brother, Christopher, are just finishing up their studies at the Hope for Youth School in Uganda – a school that has been supported in several ways by the CanAssist African Relief Trust. Fortunately the staff and administration at the Hope for Youth school have been there to offer an element of stability to the lives of these kids and a bowl of porridge mid-day when food was scarce.

I have visited the school three or four times and have watched Edward and Christopher grow up. They both are involved with the traditional dancing and drumming entertainment that the school.

Christopher serves up some posho for lunch to visitor, Dave Kay, at Hope for Youth School

Christopher serves up some posho for lunch to visitor, Dave Kay, at Hope for Youth School

When I visited the school in September I asked the boys if they planned to go on to Secondary School. Their response was downturned eyes and shrugged shoulders. Their family has no money for them to attend secondary school (it would take about $550 for each boy to provide tuition and books for a year).

Their final exams are happening in December. The teachers at the school imagine that both boys will qualify for secondary school entrance.  (This little school is leading the pack in terms of grades for their district.)

Prossy

Prossy

I also met a girl named Prossy who has received top marks at the school but who has no money to continue her education. The teachers report that her academic performance has also been good but she lacks the resources to go on to secondary school.

What will become of these kids, I wonder.

This is a familiar story. African kids may get through elementary school but to go on requires some tuition, books and uniforms and this is often out of reach for a family living in poverty. Even fewer go on to post-secondary education. Most rely on outside support to continue their education. But there are so many pupils in this circumstance all desperate for some assistance.

Enjoy Christopher, Edward and some of their classmates as they do some Ugandan Traditional Dancing at the Hope for Youth School in Uganda. And realize how lucky we are that most of our students are able to complete secondary school with public funding regardless of their background or family situation.

Getting the jump on jiggers

A couple of years ago, while I was traveling in Uganda, I thought that I had a blister or a plantar wart on the end of my little toe. I even bought new running shoes to try to remedy the situation.

Little did I know.

When I was sitting on a patio in sandals, one of my African friends looked at my foot. “You have a jigger.” he said. I pooh-poohed this suggestion but he insisted. ” I know jiggers. When I was a kid I had so many of them. Sometimes when I was going to fetch water, I would sit down and cry because my feet hurt so much.”

I was surprised when my friend “delivered” this cyst full of jigger eggs out of the tip of my right pinkie toe.

“I can cut it out for you.” he offered.

He could have started that sentence with “I’m no doctor, but …”

So as he whittled away at my toe, extracting a lump that was the size of a small kernel of corn from the tip, I learned about jiggers.

Jiggers (quite different from chiggers) are little fleas that live in the soil. They are a common plight in East Africa. The female finds some flesh into which she can burrow and produce hundreds of eggs which are encased in a cyst-like structure that gradually grows within the flesh of the host. Eventually the cyst bursts and the eggs scattered back into the dirt where the cycle starts again.

These fleas live in tropical environments where people are often barefoot or wearing minimal footwear. In addition, traditional homes and even schools and churches often have dirt floors, the perfect environment for the jiggers to flourish. Children’s feet in crowded, dirt-floored classrooms are particularly vulnerable to infestation.

The CanAssist African Relief Trust learned of this plight for children in the Hope for Youth School near Mukono Kenya. The teachers insisted that cementing the floors of the classrooms would help eliminate this scourge. So, with money raised by the children at Sweet’s Corners School near Lyndhurst, Ontario, CanAssist set about cementing the floors of the Hope for Youth School.

The children of Sweet’s Corners Elementary School helped their African counterparts by funding the cementing of school floors to prevent jiggers.

The children at Hope for Youth school were happy to show me their healthy feet after the classroom floors had been cemented to prevent jiggers.

With development projects it is often difficult to evaluate outcomes. But for this one it seemed relatively simple.

I had the school check the feet of all 107 children in the classrooms before the flooring was installed. 74% of the kids had jiggers and more than half of these had more than three in their feet. A few months after the floors were cemented, I was in the school and personally checked the feet of all the same children. The prevalence of jiggers went from 74% to 7%. The children were delighted.

The cost of this project was in the range of $1500  It brought relief to over 100 children and also demonstrated that cement floors that can be washed and swept can stop a jigger infestation.