OMUTIMA PROJECT, UGANDA
“Life is not about being rich, being popular, being highly educated or being perfect.
It is about being real, humble, and kind ”
Omutima is a Runyankole – Rukiga word meaning the Heart.
Rossane Ciccanne and I founded this project in 2015 while on a safari to Lake Mburo National Park. We named our project Omutima Project Uganda. It has as its symbol a Heart symbolizing Love and Life.
Rossane, a teacher in an International School in Rwanda, was moved by kids walking bare footed to school on the rocky road. She could not take it. she asked me if it was ok or appropriate to give shoes to the kids, because back home in the USA in Virginia her friend had repeatedly told her she had 14 pairs of shoes to give to children in need and had asked if she could figure out who needed them. Madam Rossane, or Aunt Rossane as she is known in Rumbugu Primary School, remembered that her friend had offered books as well; she asked me if we could find a way to give books as well.
Her concern was “they are only 14 pairs of shoes, and almost all children went bare foot to school, how could 14 pairs help a huge community of school kids?” As she wondered, I remembered when we were growing up; shoes were only for Sunday, Christmas, Easter, going to visit relatives and on very important/big events. So a pair of shoes, in many homes would be shared in the village. I shared this story to affirm that whoever would get a pair of shoes would treasure it as a memorable occasion, because for some kids, it could be their first pair of shoes ever. With 14 pairs of shoes in her mind Rossane, visited Rumbugu school, and was overwhelmed by the kids’ lives and love. Four months later, 147 kids were able to get a pair of shoes, books, uniforms and pants!
Since 2015, Omutima Project, Uganda has constructed toilets and water tanks; roofed a school building, established a resource room and mobilized parents to provide break tea, some children have received fees support, 2820 fruit tree seedling have been given to children to plant under the “Green Competition Project”, parents have been trained in some craft skills, and Rumbugu Primary School community has been revived. The children’s performance is steadily improving and the number of children attending school is stable.
How have we been able to achieve the above?
Individual support from friends all over the world who give what they can, a crowd funding was launched on Facebook by Rossane and Tani Sockol who did individual fundraising for exercise books. Crowd funding was done in China for the water tank. Jerry Kitt and Cathy Newhook from Alberta supported the fruit tree planting program. The local community is responsible for sustaining programs like break tea for kids and fundraising for construction. Kigezi Biota Tours Ltd has adopted the whole programme as our social responsibility.
One may ask, why do I commit time and resources to Omutima Project Uganda?
There are so many reasons, but the biggest reason is that on 18th February 2015, our home got burnt and we lost completely everything we had ever owned as a family. And, we had no insurance whatsoever!
As a first born in an African setting, it was totally up to me to figure out how to go about solving this crisis. With over 7 children to look after, a sick brother, aging parents, drunkard brothers and the social demands of the community, it was a point of no return.
I must say, our home got burnt at a time when I had made up my mind to move house and office home. Everything we owned on this planet was burnt to ashes in the inferno. I got the news while on a safari, it was unbelievable! I could not imagine or believe it until I got home. While I was obviously shocked by the scene of the burnt house, I was amazed, comforted and even surprised by how much support we received from our community! People responded immediately with food, clothes, household utensils, visits and so much more; they turned the situation from threatening to bearable.
That moment was a turning point in my life.
I realized that the more we are ok, the safer we are in each other’s company. Those who supported us were less privileged than I. I had never considered that one day they would be our support. That day, they came to our rescue. I made a vow that I would do my best, within my means, with whatever I could, to contribute towards the welfare of my community. How? I did not know. I made a commitment when I literary had nothing! When? I did not know but I was determined. I kept thinking, how best I could pay them or at least contribute to their well being without waiting for a crisis.
When Rossane mentioned shoes, I instantly remembered my commitment. It is the reason I asked her if we could give those few pairs of shoes to children in my community’s school; Rumbugu Primary School, 2 hrs and 30 minutes drive from where we were.
I know education is the most important thing one can give to change lives. With a fast growing population in a developing country in Africa, education is seldom affordable and yet it has the biggest multiplier effect in cutting the chains and cycle of poverty.
“Education is the most powerful Weapon you can use to change the world”
I chose to work with Rumbugu Primary School because it’s a school I attended 30 years ago, it is located in our community and I love to work with established institutions; they have structures in place and there are no overhead costs whenever you have something to offer or do; big or small, it goes directly to the intended cause.
We have been able to accomplish so much in comparison to the support we give because parents and the community provide cash, labour and time. They have supervised all activities in the school. Working with an established structure has helped us to partner with bigger groups like Water Aid from UK whom we contacted for support towards building one water tank; they raised funds for 2 tanks and toilets!
Out of our loss, something good was born.
As a family we were able to recover and we now have another good house, I got motivated to support my community and became part of many groups and clubs that make a difference from individual contributions. Most of all, I learnt to appreciate life above everything. Most things we can regain, but once life is lost, it is lost forever. I learnt the truth behind the slogan “live everyday as if it is your last”.
I am not good, but I am sensible enough to apologize when I make mistakes.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat,
known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out
of the depths.
These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life
that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.
Beautiful people do not just happen.”
Elizabeth Kubler – Ross