Kyasira Home of Hope
Kyasira Home of Hope is a Ugandan orphanage located off the Entebbe Road between Kampala and Entebbe. It caters for destitute street children with about 45 living there at present. All welfare, and most health and education in Uganda is provided by religious and faith groups on a charitable basis. Kyasira Home of Hope is run by 4 Religious Sisters from the Order of the Good Samaritan, whose mission is to care for the most needy. They refer to the children as their ‘sons’ and ‘daughters’ and provide a loving environment for them.
There is no state funded welfare provision in Uganda, which is still struggling to recover from the ravages of the Amin era. In addition to the problems resulting from the civil war, the country, like others in Africa, has suffered terribly as a consequence of HIV and AIDs. Although the government has invested heavily in public health education, with considerable success, thousands of children have been orphaned as a result of this disaster: the average age in Uganda is around 15 years. The people are entrepreneurial and do their best to care for their own: there are many people who have willingly ‘inherited’ families of 6 or 8 children when siblings, cousins or even parents have died. This is a testament to the people of the country, most of who live at subsistence levels. Sadly, significant numbers of children have no-one, and many of these end up on the streets of Kampala, prey to hunger, abuse and exploitation.
The Sisters of the Good Samaritan seek out such children and take them in to the orphanage. Others are referred by local people and some present themselves at the door and ask to be taken in. All have tragic stories, some are HIV positive, none are turned away.
The cost of feeding, clothing and educating 45 children, not to mention attending to their medical needs, is significant. Kyasira receives no funding from the Government or the Church, although their local priest, Father Leonard Ssempija, provides some food for them. A small number of the children are sponsored by English families, mainly from Sheffield, as Father Leonard has a connection there. These children have access to private education which will give them far greater opportunities in the future (although state education is now available free at elementary level (6-12) this is of poor quality in comparison to private education).
The local community around the orphanage are poor fisherman and unable to help. The location of the orphanage on the banks of Lake Victoria is idyllic, but means that it is remote from the road and so ‘out of sight, out of mind’. This means that Kyasira gets very little in the way of funding although the sisters do their best to generate cash – they subsistence farm the land around the orphanage and sell excess produce (mainly pineapples!) to the local villagers. In their spare time they produce hand- made bricks, which they sell for the equivalent of 5p each.
For the children, what this means is that they have little clothing and their diet is deficient in fat and protein. They currently sleep at least two to a 6x5foot room with no windows, no lights and a mud floor. Only a few have mosquito nets. All 50 people at Kyasira share a single lavatory which does not flush but empties into a small cess pit. Water for washing is drawn from the lake and heated over an open fire in the same huge aluminium pots used to cook the children’s food. The children do not know or understand the meaning of either bath or shower. Laundry is done by hand, and laid on the grass to dry. None of the children has any books or toys.
The Adrian Buckley Charitable Foundation is working with Kwewayo Contractors and Renovators, a local company in Kampala to re-build Kyasira and provide a safer and more comfortable home for these children.
With just three African drums played by the older boys, the children at Kyasira make music like angels. They sing in English and Lugandan (their local language). Whilst the boys drum some of the girls dance with fantastic rhythm.
Josephine is 6. As a teenager, her mother was raped by a local man. Destitute and pregnant she sought refuge at Kyasira but sadly died shortly after giving birth to Josephine. The Sisters call Josephine ‘granddaughter’ since she was born there. She is bright and cheeky and loves singing and dancing.
Richard is 15. He speaks good English and appointed himself official guide on Adrian’s recent visit to Uganda. He dreams of being an airline pilot and would like a friend in England.
Now aged about 14, Juliet was found wandering the streets of Kampala when she was around 6 or 7 years old. Her history before then is unknown. Like all teenage girls she loves clothes.
Sister Immaculate is the administrator for the orphanage – she keeps records of the children, and maintains contact with friends of Kyasira
Sister Gemma is a qualified nurse. As well as caring for the health needs of all the children, she provides the same care for the whole local community. She does this from a small container next to the mud road closest to Kyasira. This is next to an open drain and she has a big problem with rats. She has a few medicines most of which are donations from the UK. Malaria is a huge problem because of the proximity of the lake. Sister Gemma has no proper anti-malarial drugs so she is always desperate for paracetamol which are very expensive in Uganda but the best she has for treating the fever that comes with malaria.
Sister John Mary
Sister John Mary speaks no English: she spends her time caring for the children. When we met her she had only two odd flip flops to wear on her feet. One huge man sized one and another smaller one in a different colour. We bought her a matching pair – she could not have been happier with Jimmy Choos!
Sister Richard is now elderly and has a lot of health problems. She tries to manage without medicines as she does not have the money to buy them. Despite this, and her age (she would be over retirement age in the UK!) she is still active in caring for the children.