Note from John Wanda
Following on the heels of the celebratory mood at the start of the new school year last month, March began with tragic news. Just when we were ready to send out the REACH newsletter, we got word that a major disaster had hit Bududa district in Uganda where REACH is based.
On March 1, a huge landslide swept the villages of Nametsi and Kubewo, burying a trading center, a church, a clinic and a school. More than 400 people are estimated to have died, including 100 school children, and the government is urging 10,000 people to relocate because of threats of additional landslides. A temporary campsite for displaced persons has been established several miles from the landslide area.
Thankfully REACH students, teachers, staff and immediate family members are safe. I wish to express my deep gratitude to the REACH community, both in the United States and in Uganda, for helping support the landslide survivors in critical ways. Thus far, contributions totaling more than $15,000 have been received. Donated funds from REACH supporters are being used to build a kitchen for mass food preparation in the temporary camp, and the REACH Emergency Response Task Force is partnering with relief agencies on the ground to support temporary classrooms and a health center for survivors. In the long-term, REACH is exploring partnerships to address the problems of deforestation and prevent future landslides. Thank you to all who have contributed so generously to this critical effort. For more information about the landslide, REACH’s emergency response efforts and how to donate, please check the REACH blog.
On a positive note, we wish to again share the good news about the wonderful performance of REACH students in the 2009 Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE). We congratulate our students, our teachers, and our parents for this remarkable performance. As in the past, we shall work with the other schools in the region to help them get better.
As the new school year began in Uganda, we were privileged to have four new U.S. volunteers at the school. Retired teacher Catherine Reising-Jones and her husband Jeff Jones and brother-in-law Peter Sims arrived at REACH on February 5, and volunteered there for 6 weeks. REACH also welcomed a new Volunteer Coordinator, Carolyn Edlebeck, who will provide nearly a year of service supporting REACH in Uganda. We are grateful to these dedicated friends of REACH for their support, time, energy and commitment.
I am glad to announce that for the last four months, Joyce and I have been doing a weekly radio program every Sunday on Uganda Radio, the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC). The show is moderated by Richard Mike Bwayo, a radio broadcaster, and keen educationist. The entire two-hour, prime-time program is dedicated to REACH and its efforts to improve education in Uganda. The program reaches thousands of people in Uganda, and many have responded with commitments to do something to improve education in their own communities. This may yet be one of the lasting legacies of REACH – transforming education in eastern Uganda through outreach and education over the airwaves. We thank Richard and the management of UBC for dedicating such generous prime time to discuss education issues for our communities. I also want to thank our volunteers and donors in America who continue to support REACH and believe in its mission.
Our board has been especially supportive and active in identifying new opportunities for REACH. Our Executive Director, Jennifer Paul, has been great at coordinating our efforts and providing leadership, both here and for Uganda. And we have recently received many generous donations, which have enabled us to start a clean water project for the REACH school and the community of Bumwalukani, help build a medical lab at our clinic in Bupoto village, improve the operations of the school farm, and help send a new batch of 51 students to secondary school, bringing our total number to 165.
Finally, I want to thank a Maryland-based organization, Women’s MicroFinance Initiative (WMI), for planning a new micro-finance project for the women of Bumwlaukani village and surrounding communities in Bududa district. WMI’s Executive Director, Robyn Nietert, visited REACH in January and met the first group of 20 women who will benefit from the micro-finance program. REACH will be pleased to support WMI in their efforts to empower these rural women and give them financial independence.
We also thank the local government in Bududa for improving the road to the school and helping level the school playground. The road to the school is now passable both in the rainy and dry seasons. All these things are helping REACH move forward and give the people of Uganda a truly happy new year.
Thank you all for your continuing support and encouragement.
John Wanda, REACH Founder