Pandemic lockdown continues

Because Abwanget is so close to the border with Kenya, which has a larger number of COVID cases than Uganda, the lockdown and curfew continues. Schools are still closed, and many teachers haven’t been paid since February. The government is conducting school lessons over the radio, but that can be a problem in the rural villages, where homes seldom have electricity. Once the batteries die, so does the radio!

People are still struggling to meet basic needs during the lockdown. Many children have been forced to help their families by selling items on the streets while their parents tend the family gardens and fields. The area has had much rain, at times too much, destroying many roads, houses, and gardens. Denis has been keeping young men busy by making bricks with the mud left from the rainstorms.

Making bricks after a rainstorm

The pandemic has made life more difficult for the people of Uganda. Please continue to donate so that we can help put people back to work, allowing them to earn an income and feed their families.

Photo by Denis Okiru

Life during the pandemic

Life has been different for the past six weeks. Work at the library in Uganda has stopped as people shelter in place. Uganda has some of the strictest restrictions on movement in the world. No public or private transportation is allowed, so even trips to the grocery store are made on foot. With markets and most businesses closed for weeks now, it has been next to impossible for people to earn income. People are running out of food and money. The number of COVID cases in Uganda is relatively small, but easing restrictions could lead to more COVID cases in a country whose healthcare system could easily become overwhelmed.

Denis’ community is doing its part to slow down the spread of the disease. Most homes do not have running water, so the community has set up a handwashing station with soap for villagers to use. They are also staying home as much as possible and like everywhere else around the world, trying to keep their children entertained. The government has been delivering school lessons via television and radio, but this is a challenge in Denis’ village since most homes have no electricity or TV. Radios use dry cells, so once the batteries run out, the radios die. Our future plans for the community center and library include setting up solar panels so that the villagers can have access to information through computers.

Uganda has had a lot of rain this spring, so without the roofing panels installed, the foundation of the building got wet. Now that the rains have subsided, the building is drying out. Our goal is to have the roofing panels installed as soon as the lockdown ends so that the rains will not permanently damage the building. Please donate if you can. Times are difficult for many people right now, but others of us are fortunate to still have our jobs and to be able to work remotely. Many of us have been able to continue feeding our families and have stayed safe and healthy. Donating funds now will allow Denis to finish purchasing the iron sheets for the roof and will help put villagers to work once the lockdown ends, allowing them to earn income to feed their families once again. – DC

COVID-19 pandemic

How things have changed over the past couple of weeks! Uganda is in a very precarious place right now. President Museveni has implemented tight restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Uganda’s healthcare system is not equipped for this pandemic. There are only 55 ICU beds in the entire country. That means 55 ventilators for a population of over 44 million!

Most people do not have access to clean water in their homes. There’s not enough hand sanitizer to go around. Denis has said that people are scared. They know that fighting off the contagious and aggressive virus will be difficult if a large outbreak occurs. To add misery to the fear, torrential rains have ruined many crops. And just today, people began looting in Kampala, the capital. Many people live day-to-day, and some families are already worried about food shortages as businesses and retail stores shut down to prevent the spread of the virus. Public transportation has also been shut down; most people do not own vehicles but rely on bodas (motorcycle taxis) to get around. Because so much business has been shut down, people are already struggling to earn an income. If the tight restrictions continue, people will run out of food and money very quickly. Denis has requested your prayers for the people of his country. He also foresees food shortages for many families whose crops have been ruined.

Some positive stories from the past several weeks: Women in the village get together every Thursday to consolidate their money and make loans to each other . The women’s cooperative is named “Aimoro Ichani,” which means “Sharing poverty.” They are currently saving money to purchase piglets for everyone in the group.

The women of Tororo celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8th. Female students marched in their school uniforms and the women of the district wore their best dresses for the celebration.

In the book “The Moment of Lift,” Melinda Gates discusses the transformations that can happen in society when we empower women. Our hope is that the community center and library will hold programs to empower women and serve as a gathering place to lift up women and children, which in turn will improve the future of everyone in the community. – DC

Guatemala partnership

We’ve entered into a partnership with Creating Opportunities for Guatemalans and are seeking hardcover books in Spanish to expand a homework help center in San Antonio Aguas Calientes. The town has a large indigenous Maya population, but many of the people speak Spanish. Most of the books that have been donated to the center are written in English, which many of the students are learning, but the goal is to turn the center into a community library for all people in the town. Books should be in hardcover for all ages, but books for children and teens are especially welcome. Visit our Amazon wishlist for Guatemala for ideas and donate a book today!

Sponsoring a teen’s education

Over the past week, we have worked on finding educational sponsors for Samuel, a student who wanted to attend secondary school but whose grandmother could not afford tuition. Two librarian friends quickly offered to sponsor his education for the year!

Samuel started school today, accompanied by his grandmother. Together we’re making a difference in the lives of children. There are more children who need sponsors for their education, so if you’re interested, please contact us.

The church Highpoint Fellowship in Cedar Park has agreed to help us by funding some of the cost of construction of the center, helping with the acquisition and processing of books, and helping with other aspects of the work. This project is not religious in nature, but it does bring us some relief to know that we will have help in completing the work.

Thank you for your generous support! – DC

Photo by Denis Okiru

Update from Denis

A note from Denis:

Year 2020 brings us to a year of hard work and sacrifice. We are thankful and we give grace to God who has made us alive and strong. Our struggles continue in a positive perspective although amidst a few manageable challenges.

The process of construction of the children centre and library project is ongoing. We are thankful for the donations and hopeful that we continue to touch the hearts of all those who sacrifice to support the project here.

With your support we have managed to reach the roofing phase. So far we have paid for the timber, bought nails and now we are challenged with the purchase of 60 iron sheets for covering the roof and paying for the labour needed. This work is supposed to be undertaken as soon we get the funds. After roofing we will move to the next phase of fixing doors and windows.

Besides construction, we can touch lives of children here in my community by supporting their educational needs and above all provide them with psycho social care and support as a team in that, we will reach our targets.

As children are getting back to school, we have been involved in collecting scholastic supplies and also finding sponsors for our needy community children so that they can get affordable education geared towards improving the live standards of children and their families.

In conclusion, let’s join hands to contribute and support the Children centre and library project. The holistic care, support, growth, and development of children is our priority. “A hand which gives receives a handful of blessings” Hope to hear from you.

Denis

Director- CCL Project Africa Uganda

Photo by Denis Okiru

Happy New Year!

The new year has brought some new work on the community center and library. Denis and his crew have poured the foundation for the building! They mixed cement with gravel stones, sand, and water. They then stamped the cement down and smoothed it out. Eventually Denis would like to finish it with tile or other smooth flooring material.

Children celebrated Christmas by going to church. Children who sing in the choir dress up in pretty dresses and fine clothes. It rained a lot on Christmas which halted some of the Christmas activities.

A note from Denis: “I take this opportunity to extend my and our sincere gratitude first of all to you for your great struggles ensuring that we secure funds for the continued construction of the children centre and library building, secondly, we also extend our appreciation to all the well-wishers, benefactors who generously make donations and we continuously request them to show the same in the next phases of constructions. Happy New year 2020”

Next up: Denis has already paid for much of the timber for the roof and will be installing iron sheets as soon as we secure more funds. – DC

Photo by Denis Okiru

Torrential rains bring flooding

The Tororo region of Uganda has experienced torrential rainfall in the past few weeks. Before the rain began pouring down, work on the wall plate was completed. Now we’re waiting for more funding so that Denis and his crew can finish the roofing, including installing iron sheeting. Tragedy struck Denis’ village last week when heavy rain flooded a nearby river that borders Kenya. One of Denis’ neighbors was swept away in the flooded river with her son. Denis and his neighbors searched for days until they finally found the bodies. The woman’s 16-year-old daughter is now an orphan. The father died about 10 years ago. Keep this teen in your thoughts, and pray for her if you’re a praying person. When I last asked Denis about her, the community was still in shock over the deaths, so I’m not sure where the girl is going to live or with whom.

On a more positive note, over the past several weeks, we’ve received many donated books from the Amazon wish list – thank you! A colleague of ours – Judy – volunteered at a school in Guatemala a couple of years ago and purchased many beautiful titles to add to the library’s collection. We’ve recently added adult titles by African writers to the wish list, since the library will also serve adults. The wish list can be found at https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/3OM8ZI6JWB947?ref_=wl_share

By the way, if you subscribe to Disney’s streaming video service, check out the inspirational film “Queen of Katwe.” It’s based on a true story and is set in Kampala, Uganda. – DC

Thank you from Denis & Amazon wishlist

A note from Denis: “Big applause to the good-hearted donors and regards to the well wishers and to all who contribute to the construction process… A Big THANKS to all those who have donated and for those who will still donate in the next phases of our project.” The next phase involves continuing with the roofing – building roof beams and installing iron sheets.

We’ve started a wishlist on Amazon. While any book of high quality is welcome, the bulk of the collection in this library needs to reflect the community of eastern Africa. For that reason, many of the books on the wishlist are set in Africa. The list is not exhaustive, and we will continue to add to it. Children, teen and adult books are needed, and we need both fiction and nonfiction. If you or a group would like to donate books for this project, please contact us, and refer them to this wishlist. https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/3OM8ZI6JWB947?ref_=wl_share – DC

Photo by Denis Okiru

Roofwork has begun

The roofing work has started! Denis and his crew have been working on the beams to prepare for the iron sheeting which will go on the roof. This work would not have been possible without your donations. In fact, work on this center had stopped over the summer because of a lack of funds.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve run across a few biographies at used book stores that will work well in this community library. As a librarian, I get excited when I see books that I know they can use in Uganda, so I’ve already started saving books for this project. If you’d like to donate books, please email me at debbie.chavez@librariesfortheworld.org. – DC