The age old adage of war stories and veterans is slowly fading as a description for Luwero, a spring of buildings punctuated by small-size farms and forests are bulgingly gracing the formerly war center.
Therapeutic measures however come at a slow pace for most formerly war-torn areas, social construction trickles in with the troubles of abandoned children, family break-ups and psychological stress. These, I would presume are some of the troubles faced by communities from which wars have been fought.
In this gap, Joyce Namigadde in 2006 set off on a journey to offer an education to the children of Luwero with a little more than one building.
Happy Times children initiative now, started as a small private day school offering education to 13 children in only four classes, the struggles of a school locally born soon caught up with it. Most of the parents who couldn’t afford the education services but wanted an education for their children approached Namigadde for help and given her background as a social worker, the school would soon turn into an orphanage offering services to disabled children, orphaned children and the disadvantaged.
With the growing trend of the orphanage came numbers which the school administration and finances could not handle. Today, Happy times is a 216 student capacity school with only 15 members of staff. The school has lived off donations owing to the stature of the pupils it accommodates. Parents who can pay school fees pay in the range of 25,000- 60,000 Uganda shillings and food supplements are also accepted as a form of payment. However, over 142 children are disadvantaged and under-privileged and are thus exempted from this payment. The number drains the school’s finances which has pushed the founder Namigadde to outsource for donations and charity to sustain the home.
The school boasts of 3 buildings with an extra-dormitory under construction. A well-wisher has accommodated the school’s kitchen in her home and offered to be the school mistress as well.
Driven by the urge to help, the 40 days 40 smiles charity foundation, took a trip down to Luwero to have lunch with the kids. Initially, the ‘plot’ as is said by us the youth was to meet at Open House, on Buganda Road and set off for the school by 9am, however the slight morning drizzle coupled with the dreaded poor time keeping caught up with many. By 9am the bus had only two out of the over thirty people that magically popped up in the next one hour.
I have never had a lively travel as I had this Saturday; the acoustic karaoke albeit off key singing filled the coaster for the two hour trip. The girls and boys who were to soon graduate into uncles and aunties sang tracks from as way back as 1940’s as the filled coaster braved the under-construction road to Luwero.
At the school, the welcome was chilly, the kids took their time getting accustomed to us and in an hour the fusion had struck thanks to the great cheering on of a one, Harris. We toured the three buildings and settled at one incomplete structure that was later in the day named 40 Days 40 Smiles.
The incomplete structure shall be the dormitory of the school but that will only be possible if the funds for its completion are secured.
After a hastened tour, we settled for poetry performed by the kids and later broke up into smaller families of ten children to five uncles and aunties (this was my favorite part) and had lunch. Super awesome lunch I mean.
The sight of over the head plates of rice and chapatti drove as much hunger down my tummy but I settled for photo-taking till everybody had been served. The meal was great. Save for one problem, one of our family members started crying. From her explanation, it was juice the matter but from my understanding, emotional support was indeed the matter. Despite having a lot of people to play around with the home does not yet have an emotion-handling session or the expertise to conduct it. The children may easily recover from the parental loss but they need emotional support to actually move through the process for mental stability. Any well-wisher in this field is also welcome to help.
The lunch was preceded with a volley-ball match where, as the obvious states, we won the kids. They however put up a challenge before falling to our netball team that was promptly disturbed with consistent whistle-blows. The under-lying fact was we had fun and the kids grew momentarily from it.
Our journey back to the city was one of ‘I wish we would do this every Saturday’ gig.
Unluckily for Happy Times, they don’t make up the 72% statistic with access to clean water. The school’s biggest problems are water, accommodation and finances any volunteers for that are also welcome to help.
The 40 days 40 smiles is only but one organization with not as much to give to the school but if you joined them perhaps you could be the next person to bring smile to the children’s faces. Look up the 40 days 40 smiles on their twitter handle @40 days_40 smiles find them by blog on http://40daysover40smiles.blogspot.com and be the change you want to see in these children.