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Unsung Heroes

Brownie Ebal: This Beautiful Ugandan Soul and her Kitabu-Buk Project

1492281_293714634149137_8912800859694130244_oThis beautiful soul will amaze you. She has rolled up her sleeves to distribute books to the Kids in most need.  While her age-mates spend a lot of time on Instagram taking photos of themselves and their food, this 23-year-old is preoccupied with where she can get the next set of books to take to the children of her country. Here is her story.

How to do you describe yourself?

I am a hard working and passionate individual who believes in the love of humanity. In Primary school, I studied at Greenhill Academy then Mt. St. Mary’s Namagunga for O’ level and finally Nabisunsa Girl’s school for A’level. I come from a family of 5, I am the second born in the family. My father is Christopher Ebal , and my mother is Joyce Ebal.

You are the World at School Global Youth Ambassador, how did that happen?

I applied for the UN Advocacy Group and failed to get it, they then recommended me to apply for the Global Youth Ambassadors programme, so I did and got it.

What inspired you to start the Kitabu-Buk Project?

When I attended the youth assembly at the United Nations conference, in New York, I was amazed by what other youth were doing. Many of them were from developed countries helping people in developing countries. This made me think of a way in which, us as fellow Ugandans could help our own. We, as Africans know our countries better so, it was only proper that we could help our own. I love reading and realized that most children though in school do not have access to textbooks. When i returned, i went home collected all the books in our house and told my friends about it and we organised our first donation event.

So what activities do you engage in while fundraising?

In fundraising, we sell various items like Kitenge clothes, bracelets and shoes. We believe that we should not only just ask people for money but give them value for their money. We plan to hold a car wash fundraiser. We also plan to hold a book drive whereby as a team we read stories to the young children, teach them simple Maths, English and art and in return, the entrance fee is a book for them to come for the event. We also are partnering with UNITED an NGO that helps campus students to be able to take part in charity works. We also got a donation from MK publishers of books worth one million Uganda shillings. We want to work with the local companies to create an impact in our society.

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At your age, most youth are more concerned about personal happiness and caring less. What makes you different?

I love challenges and going an extra mile.My first international voluntary experience in Ethiopia, opened my eyes to what makes us happy. The children i taught were HIV orphans and they were the happiest people i had ever met. this inspires me to create happiness in the lives of others.

You are a Law student at University of Dar El Salaam and your project is in Uganda, how do you balance the two?

I have a team that helps a lot. I acknowledge the great work of Ameso Angela, who is the co-founder and is running the organisation as i am not around. I thank my family, my mother Joyce Ebal, who is our patron and is helping give advice. I also acknowledge the work of Chris Agira, Kironde Hilda,Nakanjako Margaret, Brenda Ajok ,Opio David and Brian Ebal, who believed in my idea when most did not.

Is your family supportive of what you do outside law school?

Yes, my family is very supportive,they believe that education entails the whole package. it involves doing well in and outside school.

Your project deals with children which the society often neglects, tell us one particular story that touched you?

The story that touched me was in Aliwang Primary school, where we asked the children what they want to become and many of them wanted to be presidents of Uganda so that they can change the country. This made me realize that we have all the potential in the world to make Uganda a better country.

Considering the fact that your project is still relatively young, what have you achieved so far?

We started in August 2014. We have donated books to five schools across the country, three in central and two in Northern Uganda. We are officially a fully registered NGO and have so far donated over five hundred (500) textbooks, two hundred (200) newspapers and over a thousand (1000) stationery items like for example one thousand (1000) mathematical sets, twelve (12) dozens of chalk, two hundred (200) pencils and two hundred (200) pens together with rubbers.

Wow that is awesome! What has been your best experience so far ever since you started the project?

The donation in Aliwang primary school was the best experience ever because I saw students who literally had no shoes, walk about two miles to school barefooted, study in over crowded classrooms and still manage to be so happy and have big aspirations of being presidents of Uganda.

Any worst moments?

The application process to become a registered NGO, when we were told we had to repeat the process because we had missed a crucial signature. me and Angela were so tired that we wanted to give up, but Ronald Ssekandi, who runs Writers for Development gave us hope to not give up. I am forever grateful.

What challenges do you face while doing activities related to your project?

Getting media coverage is so hard and yet it is crucial to be able to showcase impact and raise awareness.

We know challenges are trying moments. When such challenges come up, do you feel like you want to quit and regret having started your project?

Haha, yes, that has happened a lot, but now am getting used to the challenges, if you have a vision, these are just stepping stones and the makings of a great story.

Do you plan to continue with Kitabu-Buk Project when you are done with school?

Yes, i want to continue with it.The first step of making Kitabu a registered as NGO has already been covered. Now, we trying to get it to donate to all regions in Uganda so it is known nationwide.I also hope to expand it to cover the East African region.

You and your team go to schools in Lira, Kampala suburbs and mostly upcountry. Do you follow up these activities after a successful campaign?

Yes, we do,we get in touch with the head teachers of the school and yearly, we want to go and conduct interviews on the impact of the books donated or the materials given towards the children’s lives.

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Any reward or accolades ever since you begun?

Inspiring confidence in young children’s lives. That is the best reward i can get as a person who is seeking to instill confidence in someone who almost gives up school and society seems not to be paying attention.

If someone wants to contribute to your project, where and how do they contribute?

Oh yes. They can drop old and new textbooks or materials at our offices located at Apple Kid’s Nursery school P.O.Box 6215, Bukoto, Plot 261 on the Bukoto Northern By-pass road next to Kampala International School of Uganda. By telephone, they can reach out to us through the numbers 0783109264/ 0773842222/ 070464757. Our  Mobile money account is 0783109264, Facebook The Kitabu-Buk Project and on our Website- www.thekitabubukproject2014.wordpress.com

Which people do you admire? And Why?

I admire my mother and father because through education they have come from humble backgrounds to become successful. I also admire Koffi Annan, because i believe he has made a great impact on the lives of others during his time as United Nations Secretary General. I also admire Malala fellow Global Youth Ambassador and Chernor Bah,for their efforts to get very child in school.

If you were given an opportunity to change Uganda, what would be that one thing you would change in Uganda?

I would make a proper survey of how people want to be taught in class and change the education system,to suit our societies’ needs because i believe so many people have talents that are not being exploited by our current system. I also am looking for a away to inspire confidence among the youth because that is something that is affecting youth.

How do you want to be remembered?

I want to be remembered as someone who inspired confidence among the youth to be better than themselves.

What advice could you give to youth of Uganda today?

We are a blessed group of people who should spend our knowledge finding solutions to our everyday problems.

Any last words?

Thanks a lot for giving me this opportunity, to share my experience. Am deeply honoured and may God guide you in everything that you do.

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Suubi Susan

    April 30, 2015 at 4:12 am

    Ebal Brownie & Ameso Angella
    may the Almighty Lord bless the work you do.
    Its awesome

  2. emmanuel obong

    April 30, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    i appreciate all the effort you are putting to make this world a better place for those young girls and boys may the Lord reward you aboundantly.

  3. Anonymous

    May 1, 2015 at 6:30 am

    I am proud of you Brownie, the extra step put of the ordinary you took is amazing. Keep up the good work

  4. Akol Adrian Neville

    May 1, 2015 at 6:33 am

    I am proud of you Brownie, the extra step out of the ordinary is amazing. Children will always remain the future that needs to be modeled now. Keep up the good work my dear.

  5. Seremba Claire

    May 2, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    Totally a step in right direction and truly inspiring!!

  6. mwesigye siryebo

    May 3, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    Thank you for the great work you do, am also looking forward to do something that may help the children.

  7. Anonymous

    May 5, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    Keep it up Brownie….i love the courage in u. U inspires me alot.

  8. Anonymous

    May 7, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    MAY GOD SEE YOU THROUGH ALL
    ALONG

  9. Anonymous

    July 21, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    I can work with you. Thanks for being passionate about helping kids

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Unsung Heroes

Being HIV Positive, Diagnosed with Cancer & Tuberculosis Has not stopped this Superwoman From Looking After 150 Kids in Slums

“A strong woman doesn’t give up even though her heart may feel heavy. She courageously takes one more step, then another and then another.” –Anonymous

Stella Airoldi first met Susan laker in 2009 when she first came to Uganda while doing research about post war victims and witnesses.

“I visited her house, where she was living with her 3 teenage kids. Back then I was 24 years old and Susan 26 years, so just two years older than me.  But her kids were already 9,10 and 13 years old.” Stella says.

Because Susan got pregnant for the first time when she was only 13, her kids didn’t go to school and neither did she. A soldier was responsible for her first pregnancy while she was living in a military barracks which by then, was the only safe place for her to go to escape the insurgency caused by the Lords Resistance Army in Northern Uganda.

“Getting pregnant when I was 13 years old was so traumatizing. I lost my childhood life. I wasn’t able to go to school which made me lost my hope for living a good future. I hated my parents for forcing me in to early marriage, my growth was totally destroyed and I segregated myself from people because I felt inferior.”- Susan notes.

Susan with some of the beneficiaries of 22STARS. (Photo credit: Stella Airoldi)

When Susan was 15 years old, she conceived again but got a miscarriage when she received a message notifying her that her uncles, nieces, a brother and sister had been mutilated and killed by the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels.

“I was shocked and lost the pregnancy. After a few months, I conceived again and gave birth to a second child at the age of 16 and when the baby was 6 months, the father died and since I had nowhere to get financial help from, I was forced to  remarry another soldier from the barracks to get protection and when I was 19 I gave birth to the third child.” Susan says

In 2007, her husband was deployed to Somalia on a peacekeeping and never returned, a thing that left Susan very frustrated. It was shortly after that, that she found out that she was HIV positive, had cancer and Tuberculosis (TB). It was not until an organization called Reach Out Mbuya came to her rescue that she was able to start cancer chemotherapy and TB drugs for six months and now am on ARVs treatment for life.

She then fled with all her children to Kampala which were (and still remain) her main reason and motivation to keep going in life. Her kids were tested negative and she wanted them to go to school. She started making jewellery, which initially her kids would sell in the streets.

Susan and some of her children (Photo credit: Stella Airoldi)

“It was then my pastor introduced me to Stella. I was making paper beads jewellery and Stella decided to buy me jewellery on a yearly basis. At the end of 2012 when she came back to Uganda to see how I was doing, she was surprised to learn that I was going back to school by myself and I had improved.” Susan notes.

Susan has been able to buy land and built a bigger house for her family. She completed high school and did a couple of short courses to improve her skills and knowledge for example a  certificate in Clearing, Forwarding and Shipping management, Certificate in Electronics, Certificate in Counseling People Living with HIV/AIDS.

“At first, all my friends and family thought I was completely crazy starting with women who cannot read and write and I cannot even communicate with. So true, things didn’t go that smooth the first 2 years. So end of 2014 I came back to Kampala and since 2015 I am here myself 2 to 3 times a year and things improved a lot.”- Stella says.

Stella (left) and Susan during one of the jewellery making sessions (Photo credit: Stella Airoldi)

Susan is now managing the whole team of at 22STARS jewellery that comprises of over 20 women and supporting 150 children in slums. Thanks to recurring monthly donations, she (Susan) has been cooking in Acholi Quarter every Sunday since October 2016 ( so more than 14 months!) with the help of other 22STARS group members. The group started back then to cook for 50 kids and that is now 150. They get a hot meal with either fish or meat.

22STARS is a team of artisans made up by strong women living in the slums of Kampala and Jinja in Uganda making jewellery for a living. The platform is giving women in slum areas like Susan to sell their jewellery on the international market and earn a living, and in addition war running small social programs on the ground.

“Our choice for environmentally friendly products is a very conscious one. By using 100% recycled paper, the jewellery you wear does not only look good, but it also feels good. Our beads are hand made from paper and varnished with natural products.  This makes each peace uniquely different, lightweight and waterproof.” Stella says.

Some of the 22STARS women that make jewellery (Photo credit: Stella Airoldi)

22STARS also uses education and entrepreneurship to empower children and their families to rise above poverty by creating long-term sponsorships for children in Uganda, and also run several community development initiatives including a nutrition program, basic needs program, small business training and micro loans program and our holistic educational program with extra-curricular activities.

“Without the help of Susan this all would not have been possible. As she knows how it feels like to sit in the stone quarry with your kids, crashing stones all day, not being able to send them to school, she is pushing very hard to help all the families over there to send their kids to school. She is so amazing how she is managing everything. Susan is a true superstar and really the strongest woman I ever met.” Stella concludes.

Stella and Susan at the 22STARS office. (Photo credit: Stella Airoldi)

Like this story or have something to share? Write to us: info@thisisuganda.org, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Uganda Innovates

Athieno Mary Lucinda is changing girls’ lives one sanitary pad at a time

She stood up in class, her classmates laughed at her. The boys said that she had slaughtered a chicken. They made fun of her for a long time. She couldn’t afford sanitary towels, the anxiety of the monthly period coupled with the embarrassment she had faced which would have destroyed her self-esteem as a young girl instead stirred her resolve.

Meet Athieno Mary Lucinda a YALI fellow, the founder of Eco-Pads a social enterprise dedicated to the production and distribution of reusable pads and environmentally friendly to girls in Uganda.

“That experience kept me wondering what I would ever do to save a girl the embarrassment I had gone through. While at university, I went to volunteer with Kadama Widows Association where I am the Executive Director now and as I interacted with the girls, they had similar challenges. I then started saving part of my stipend to make the pads and that was my aha moment.” Lucinda says.

The sanitary pads are distributed to young women in rural Uganda. These Eco-pads are Menstrual Kits that are made from very high performance fabric and provide comfort and supper protection for a period up to 12 months.

“The Eco-pads project started in 2008 as a local thing trying to just help girls in the community. In 2014 we realized we can improve on quality and start selling for sustainability and we have been growing daily from just the local community to many parts of the country with over 20 full time  and 35 part time employees.”

“I am most proud of last year when we reached 50,000 girls with Eco-Pads, the feedback from the girls attending school daily is heart-filling. The involvement of parents and the whole community in the cause is great. We have reached over 75,000 community members on Menstruation being an issue and how they support. Mentored over 10,000 girls” Lucinda says.

There are challenges that are still to be overcome. Being a local product, Lucinda’s biggest challenge has been in marketing and getting the product to be known, convincing the clients that it is a good product since it is new. The very first money that they used was grant money that they used to buy equipment and set up and buy some few materials.

Despite the challenges, she has mentors that encourage her when things are going down hill. my “Atuki Turner the ED of Mifumi, Tracey the founder of glad rags U.S, Mary Mosinghi the ED of KwaAfrica. They remaind me that I need to remain a learner and humble in whatever I do.”

At the heart of this project is the desire by Eco pads that every girl child remains in school. Eco-pads give affordable sanitary pads for girls, because many miss out of school during their menstruation. They are competing against appalling statistics 80% of Girls in Uganda are absent from school during their periods. 70% of female students reported difficulty of attending class attentively due to menstrual related problems. 90% of the poor women and girls do not use (off-the-shelf) sanitary pads, but instead improvise with unsanitary materials. Prior to their first period only 51% of girls had knowledge of menstruation and its management

“We educate girls on MHM, conduct mentorship sessions and educate the parents and teachers on the need to support girl child. We shall continue to do something regardless of the tide. One sanitary pad at a time.” Lucinda says

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Collective Good

He Grew Up in Bwaise Slum. Today, Kisirisa has Educated and Empowered Young People like Him

Muhammed most commonly known as Slum Ambassador, was born and raised in Bwaise, the most deprived and perhaps largest slum area in Kampala. At the tender age of 11, he found his first job as a tap water operator. He would also carry water and pick garbage from people’s homes. On some occasions he would sell metal scrap all in an attempt to get an education, put clothes on his back and get something to eat.

“I picked interest in Computers when I was 25 years and began to teach myself at various internet cafes. I focused on creating profiles for HIV orphans and trying to see if I could link them up with potential sponsors for fees and assistance.” Mohammed says

Later, in 2009, together with 3 other young people, he formed Action for Fundamental Change and Development (AFFCAD) a community based organization set out to transform Kampala’s poorest areas by empowering the young people, children and women through health, education and economic empowerment programs like vocational and entrepreneurship training.

A vocational training for youth underway at AFFCAD. (Photo by AFFCAD)

Since its establishment, AFFCAD’s primary focus was supporting orphans and vulnerable children and making awareness on health issues including HIV/AIDS awareness and adolescent sexual reproductive health. In June 2011 they established a community nursery and primary school called Excel Education Center that supports 200 children from Bwaise slums.

Todate, it has graduated 1,047 youth. This equates to a completion rate of 90%. Of those who have graduated 697 are female and 350 are male.

“AFFCAD’s Youth economic empowerment program provides the hands on skills that enable the disadvantaged youth in Kampala’s slums to transit from lives of crime and poverty to lives of productive occupation. “ He explains.

Through AFFCAD’s Bwaise Business and Vocational Institute, the targeted youth between 16-25 years participate in a 6 month vocational training program in applicable skills like Computer Graphics Design, Photography and Videography, Cookery and Bakery, Tailoring and Fashion design, Electronic installation, Hairdressing and Cosmetology, Decoration and Ushering among others.

Women during a graduation after completing the Women Business and Financial Access course (Photo by AFFCAD)

“As part of the program, the Youth are also equipped with entrepreneurial skills, financial literacy, soft and hard skills for career and professional development (How to Make it in the Contemporary Business World) and they Youth take on one month internships at the end of the training to expose them to working environments.” Muhammed explains.

In addition, the project also provides IT Training to the youth on how to strategically use ICT (including internet, social media, Web 2.0 and mobile technology) to market and sustain their business ventures.

Each year AFFCAD runs The Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge and Award, to support the business ideas developed by the youth in the program, a mentoring session and a scholarship to attend a 5-day entrepreneurship foundation course at the innovation entrepreneurship boot camp. Every Friday, AFFCAD invites successful youth and other leaders to motivate and inspire our youth.

Muhammad standing next to one of the entrances at AFFCAD. (Internet photo)

AFFCAD runs the Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge and Award, 15 winners have received micro start up grants between $1500 to $2500 to develop their business ideas, a mentoring session, and a scholarship to attend a 5-day entrepreneurship foundation course at the innovation entrepreneurship Boot Camp.

In August 2017, Muhammad received the 2017 Young Achievers Award for Social Entrepreneurship in recognition for his work with AFFCAD.

Like this story or have something to share? Write to us: info@thisisuganda.org, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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