When we started our Uganda project a year ago in Soweto slum, Jinja, there seemed little hope for the children living there. Surrounded by the smog and sludge of the alcohol brewing industry, malnourished, orphaned or neglected by their parents and vulnerable to abduction, there was no safe place for children to learn, play and be cared for.
Our project has now been running for a year. The Child Friendly Space provides nutrition, education and play in a safe environment for children, as well as parenting support, child protection training and agricultural inputs for the wider community.
“It’s been a year of progress”, says Director Rachel Bentley, “The Early Childhood Development training is having a strong impact, the community is really embracing some new concepts regarding children’s rights and their protection, the children look healthier and happier and the vegetables are burgeoning! In a relatively short time we’re genuinely starting to see significant change”.
In mid June we took out a team of volunteers from The Body Shop at Home™ to run the Centre’s first play scheme. Throughout the week the children were delighted by games, puppets, parachute play, mask and crown making, juggling and painting. All of the activities were not just about fun, but were linked in with the learning outcomes that the Centre teachers have been trained in recently.
One of the volunteer team, Meg Zanker said "Helping Harriet, the cook, prepare lunch for the children was something that I will always remember – in fact I don’t think I could ever forget the recipe for the daily meal of “posho” and beans and cooking it over open fires for 100+ children. Then one of the best feelings shortly follows as you serve lunch to the children who clearly rely on this daily meal provided by the Child Friendly Space, watching them return their empty plates without a morsel left. It’s important not to forget the smaller everyday things though - children and teachers looking pleased to see you every day, a child’s pride at having created something themself, watching children playing and having the opportunity to be children, being part of an amazing team of people and simply making a difference."
When the children started at the Centre many didn’t even know their own names. These children come from grandparent headed households of up to 10 children, crammed into small huts. Unfortunately, overwhelmed carers can neglect to use children’s names in the everyday clamor.
In response to this, of the first things we did was to find out and teach the children their names. During the play scheme we focussed a lot on identity and self esteem by making crowns and masks. We worked on their sense of ownership by painting a giant colourful mural on the Centre wall, where each child could put a handprint, with their name written in the middle.
The mural is facing the children as they arrive from Soweto slum. It’s the first thing they see each morning, and with each of their handprints there, they can say: “I did that. This is a place for me”.
Volunteer Jemma Kirkland said "On return from the Uganda project all I can share with people is how truly amazing and humbling the whole experience was from start to finish. The work that Children on the Edge do is incredible and is really helping to change the lives of children... For me there was nothing more rewarding than serving children with their daily meal, and receiving a smile from such happy children is an image I shall never forget. I will always keep this in my heart and will do so much more to help Children on the Edge raise the much needed cash to keep up such inspiring projects. Such an amazing experience with a cracking team of people... We can do more to help!"
We’re very grateful for the fantastic help of volunteers from The Body Shop at Home™. Please feel free to find out more about our project in Uganda, and consider donating to help us progress the work here even further.