Interview with Hope For Life’s Country Director, Francis Nkurunziza

Our Country Director, Francis Nkurunziza, talks about what makes HFL different from other charities, how we came to work in the slum of Katanga and what we do there and so much more.

 Francis Nkurunziza

Francis Nkurunziza

1. There are a number of charity organisations in Uganda. What is unique about your work?

We do a number of things differently.

First, we work with the family as a whole. Before sponsoring a child, we gather information about that child’s family to ensure that sponsoring this child won’t make them a black sheep in the family. We believe that child sponsorship should not pull the child away from the family. If a child has siblings with similar needs, we see how best to empower them all. At the same time, through our livelihood program, we work with the parents so they can be financially self-sustaining.

Secondly, our sponsors do not write letters to the children they sponsor. Instead, sponsors receive updates about a child and their family. We chose this approach because as a formerly sponsored child I know how much stigma those letters can create among the sponsored children as some receive letters while others do not. It’s heart-warming when a child receives a letter from their sponsor but we know that not all sponsors are able to write letters to their children.

Third, we have a gifts’ pool where all gifts sent to our children are placed and shared among the children equally when we have enough for all of them or at the end of the year. This, just like my pervious point, is to avoid creating different classes among the children.

Lastly, all the money donated to HLF is spent in Uganda. Volunteers in the UK help to keep administrative costs low. The small UK admin cost is covered by private donors.  

2. When did Hope for Life Katanga start?

We started work as an organisation in 2011.

3. Why did you choose to work in the slum of Katanga?

HFL started with a visit to Uganda by two of our founders—Mark and Megan Walters.

 Francis with some of the sponsored children who attended at the 2018 Easter Party

Francis with some of the sponsored children who attended at the 2018 Easter Party

When they arrived in Uganda, they expressed interest in volunteering with one of the charities in Kampala. At the time, I was in charge of driving Mark and Megan around town. So I told them that there was an opportunity to volunteer with two of my friends—Moses and Joshua—who were already working with the children in Katanga, providing them with free catch-up classes. Megan and Mark liked the idea and were recruited to teach basic English to the children who came to the tent where the catch-up classes were conducted.

When time for Megan and Mark to leave came, we, together, decided to buy a building that would be used as classrooms and pay for two teachers to continue where Megan and Mark had left off. The majority of this money came from friends, family and their local church, who had given money to support families living in poverty.

We haven’t left Katanga since then.

4. What exactly do you do in Katanga?

We have a number of interventions through which we are working to better the lives of the people in Katanga. These fall in three broad categories: Education, Livelihoods and Health.

Under education: With the help of our sponsors, we make a contribution to the school fees of the children under our care. Without this contribution, the parents of these children would not be able to send these children to school. We insist on only making a contribution because we do not want to “own” the children. We only support the parents to play their role in the lives of their children.

 Hairdressing is one of the technical skills taught to the girls in Katanga under the Girl Care Program

Hairdressing is one of the technical skills taught to the girls in Katanga under the Girl Care Program

Under Livelihoods: We equip the parents of the children we sponsor with livelihood skills that can enable them earn a decent living. These skills include: tailoring, hairdressing, catering, etc.

Girl Care is also a program under Livelihoods that targets girls who have dropped out of school after their senior four. In six months we equip the girls with skills in numeracy, literacy, home management and also a number of life skills to boost their esteem and help them have a positive view of life despite any challenges they face in life. This year, one of the girls under this program graduated with a certificate in hairdressing and cosmetics from one of the leading technical institutions in Uganda—YMCA. We have five more girls still on the program and we’ll be sponsoring them for vocational training in August.

Under Health: We provide first aid and deworming at the HFL Centre in Katanga. We also have a trained nurse who comes to the Centre once a week and provides professional medical services. Currently we extend this service only to the parents of our sponsored children and their children due to limited resources.

5. Any future plans as an organisation?

Our work as an organisation has been focussed on the slum of Katanga but we now working to extend our reach to communities outside of Katanga slum. We want to be able to continue impacting communities even when Katanga slum is no more. We have discussed and planned how we would continue to provide valuable support to those families that would be displaced in the event that their community is demolished.

As a result, the name of the organisation will also change from Hope for Life Katanga to Hope for Life.

6. How can one get involved with HFL?

We welcome individuals willing to volunteer with us—to teach the children, the girls or work with the parents.

We also welcome people who would like to study our model of intervention.

Of course, we welcome sponsorship or donations—in case or in kind—from individuals or organisations. With just £20 a month, we are able to send and keep one child in school. And under the Girls Care Program, £350 a year is enough to have us send one girl for professional studies in a vocation of their choice.

We are grateful for the support and generous donations we have received over the years. We continue to pledge our faithfulness in using whatever we receive only to better the lives of those we work with.

Rhona is tailoring her way to financial freedom

Rhona* is one of the parents we work with in the slum of Katanga. She shared how Hope For Life is supporting her on her journey to financial freedom.

1. How did you start this tailoring business?
I started after receiving training in tailoring from Hope For Life last year.

2. How did you come to know about Hope For Life (HFL) and the opportunity to train as a tailor?
HFL sponsors one of my brother’s child whom I stay with. When HFL staff came to register that child for sponsorship, they told me it wasn’t enough for them to help only the child without helping me, her caretaker, to be more financially self-reliant.

So, last year a number of us (parents) were given an opportunity to train in tailoring as a livelihood skill and about 5 of us managed to complete the training.

3. Had you ever done any tailoring before that training?
No.

 A jolly Rhona at work

A jolly Rhona at work

4. What kind of clothes do you sew?
I mostly sew women’s clothes. We were advised during the training to master one type of clothing before moving on to another. That way, my customers can make referrals to me confident I will do a great job. I also repair torn clothes.

 Rhona says she's able to sew most of these designs on a poster that hangs on one of the walls at her workplace.

Rhona says she's able to sew most of these designs on a poster that hangs on one of the walls at her workplace.

5. Was the training the only thing HFL offered you?
No. After the training, HFL gave me a sewing machine which I use today.

Also, when I have a confirmed order, especially during the Christmas season, but do not have enough money to buy the needed material for the job, HFL lends me money which I pay back immediately after I am paid by my customer.

And besides tailoring, HFL also gave me a loan to expand my first business of selling vegetables. The loan enabled me to buy the vegetables from the market in bulk which gives me a bigger profit margin from the sales.

 Rhona's vegetables stall

Rhona's vegetables stall

6. How have you benefited from this tailoring business?
The tailoring business has helped me expand my income. Before, I only looked at selling vegetables for income. But now, while I am waiting for my next customer for the vegetables, I can attend to my tailoring customers.

The materials I use for the small sewing jobs like the thread cost very little which means I take home, as profit, almost all the money I am paid.

*Parent’s name has been changed to protect her identity.

Interview conducted on 12/07/2018

Abandoned by his father, Lule has found hope

Ahebwa Ronnie (2).JPG

Lule is 7 years old and he lives with his mother who has lived in the slum of Katanga for 10 years. The family lives in a two roomed house that Lule’s father built for them when he was still working as a policeman. Life took a turn for the worst when the father was fired from his job, abandoning them for another wife. From the mother’s little income—from selling matooke (bananas) —and help from relatives and friends, the family could only manage to have one meal a day.

It was in the midst of all that that Peninah’s friends advised her to seek help from Hope For Life (HFL) which she did. We saw her plight and decided to sponsor Lule’s primary education.

Lule joined HFL in the first term of 2014. He is a bright boy, always coming top of his class. He is social, ever happy, likes helping others in class, likes reading chats, counting numbers; he is humble and always listens to the teacher. He likes playing football and loves singing. His favourite dishes are rice, beef, chicken, and chips.

You too can participate in bringing hope to a child in the slum of Katanga by sponsoring a child. 100% of all donations received are spent in Uganda. To sponsor, visit: www.hopeforlifekatanga.com/donate

*Child’s name in the story has been changed to protect his identity.

 Lule smartly dressed in his school uniform.

Lule smartly dressed in his school uniform.

Her step mother became her stepping stone

 Namuddu (in pink dress) with some of her family members.

Namuddu (in pink dress) with some of her family members.

Namuddu, now 6 years of age, was abandoned by her mother at the age of one. Her father married another wife, Justine, who has since taken care of Namuddu as if she was her own daughter.

Justine sells shoes in Owino Market, the biggest market in down town Kampala, while Namuddu’s father is a street vendor. With street vending banned within Kampala City, business for Namuddu’s father hasn’t been good. He hardly earns enough money for a day’s meal for the family.

But because of Justine’s desire to see that Namuddu attains a good education like other children, Justine sought help from Hope For Life. This year, Namuddu was enrolled into our catch –up class.

We enjoy having Namuddu at the Catch-up Centre. She is a brilliant and well behaved girl.

You too can participate in bringing hope to a child in Katanga by sponsoring one in our catch-up class. To sponsor, visit: www.hopeforlifekatanga.com/donate

*Child’s name in the story has been changed to protect her identity.

A displaced child empowered

The war that ravaged Northern Uganda for so many years forced Michelle and her family of 7 to move to Central Uganda in search for refuge. The indiscriminate killings of civilians by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels led by the infamous Joseph Kony left Michelle and her family no choice but to leave their home. And that is how they ended up living in the slum of Katanga, a place they now call home.

 Michelle, her mother, and some of her siblings

Michelle, her mother, and some of her siblings

The family lives in a single room partitioned into two by a curtain.

Michelle’s father is a tailor who mainly repairs torn clothes for a living. Her mother has, only recently, started a tomato selling business to supplement her husband’s income.

Because the little money the father earns is not enough to send Michelle and all her siblings (aged 12, 9, 4 and 1) to school, her mother introduced her to Hope For Life where she was enrolled into the catch-up class.

Thanks to Hope For Life’s catch-up class, Michelle is now empowered with skills in numeracy, literacy and other life skills.

You too can sponsor a child in our catch up class by visiting: www.hopeforlifekatanga.com/donate

*Child’s name in the story has been changed to protect her identity.

In Conversation - Grace

In Conversation - Grace

In October 2016, Chris (UK Director) and Mark (Co-Founder) went to visit Francis (Uganda Director) & Joshua (Co-Founder) in Uganda and had many conversations, looking at ways to improve and refine the HFLKatanga programs. The conversations they were having together, and with friends, were so interesting, they started to record them.

Instead of posting the entire transcript, or dodgy audio recording, we have broken the conversation up. Below is Grace's contribution to one of those conversations. This conversation began as the team wanted to learn from the experience that others had of being a sponsored child.  

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The Government's Role in Private Education in Uganda

The Government's Role in Private Education in Uganda

It’s time for the government to regulate private schools and institutions of learning

A lot has been said on this subject over the years by many parents and guardians but the efforts to address the frustration and the challenges encountered have not been forthcoming from the concerned party, which in this case is the government. In the past the government of Uganda had restricted private players into management, ownership and startup of primary and secondary schools. However, in the 1980s due to overwhelming demand for inclusive education that can be accessed by children in rural and urban areas, the government adopted new polices of privatisation, liberalisation and regulation to enhance improvements and expansion of the education sector.

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We today had a meeting with all the parents and staff in the newly renovated Livelihoods room that we will use as our Salon. This is something we do regularly throughout the year as we are a Community Based Organisation (CBO), which means our beneficiaries are members of the charity in Uganda. Coincidentally, the Council representative in charge of re-registering our CBO licence (who we had been expecting for the past three months) turned up during the meeting. 

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We are excited to be installing our latest purchases for the Salon in the Livelihoods centre. We are excited for being able to better equip more women towards living a self sufficient life. Massive thanks to all those who donated towards seeing the salon and equipment, including all those who contributed through coming to our 5th Birthday in 2016. 

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Tailoring Graduates Meeting

Today Francis (Uganda Director), Maureen (Livelihoods Officer) and Daisy (Education Officer) have been meeting with the graduating tailoring class to continue working through the transition from vocational training to entrepreneurs. Hope for Life Katanga is a CBO (Community Based Organisation) in Uganda, which means our beneficiaries are also members of the organisation. Their input both positive and negative is valued greatly in how we construct our programs going forward.     

The Complexity of Livelihoods

The Complexity of Livelihoods

At the start of this school year in Kampala, Hope for Life was able to provide formal schooling for 42 children and young adults from Katanga. This was the most we have ever sent and this is amazing! It is also, currently, almost completely useless. That’s right, I said, and meant, useless. I chose that word carefully though because I certainly do not mean to say pointless.

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Today's Catch-up Class Pictures

The junior class today matching up written numbers with the appropriate figures. More pictures here... 

Today's Tailoring Pictures

Today's trainee tailors working hard in the Hope for Life vocational training centre.  

Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence - Part 2

Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence - Part 2

I could carry on from Part 1 of this post, by sharing more stories of child sacrifice, FGM (Female Genital Mutilation), murder, corruption inc. police brutality, abduction, sex exploitation, slavery; all of which are forms of violence that are particularly detrimental for those who lack wealth, education and stature within their community - but I won’t. Instead we need to get informed and understand the root causes of violence, so that we can be proactive and effective in supporting the most vulnerable people around the world.

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Violence Against Women & Girls

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