In Uganda, Kiwanians are working together to make their service go further in hopes of reaching more families in need.
When COVID-19 struck Uganda in 2020, it created difficulties that people around the world would recognize. And for Kiwanians in particular, the basic problem would have seemed familiar: More families needed help than Ugandan Kiwanis members could reach.
But in southeastern Uganda, an area of the country already stricken with extreme poverty, the level of devastation was unusual. So the Kiwanians in Uganda took an unusual step — by quickly organizing another Kiwanis club to address it.
Then again, it’s not so unusual for Kiwanians to band together in Uganda. Officially, there are nine Kiwanis clubs in the country, with a total of about 170 members (as of July 1, 2021). But by combining efforts on service projects, this small but mighty group makes an outsized impact.
When the pandemic began, the Kiwanis Club of Wakiso was distributing food and supplies as quickly as possible in the villages near Wakiso. But they knew they had to do more. And they knew the problem wasn’t limited to their own part of the country. Businesses were closing. Public transportation had shut down. Nobody was allowed in or out of the country. Public gatherings were forbidden. Parents were losing jobs — and many, of course, were being hospitalized.
“The Kiwanis Club of Wakiso felt there was a need to help many kids in the country, but they alone could not handle it,” says Albertcook Isingoma, president of the Kiwanis Club of Nakawa in Kampala.
“I was asked, as president-elect of the Wakiso club, to spearhead the formation of the Kiwanis Club of Nakawa in order to spread the gospel of Kiwanis to different parts of the country.”
The Kiwanis Club of Nakawa Uganda was organized in February 2020. With help from a Kiwanis Children’s Fund grant, the club was serving families by May. And they have no plans to slow down now. Not even for a pandemic.
Here’s just a glimpse into a few of the many projects being done by the Wakiso and Nakawa Kiwanis clubs.
Wakiso Kiwanis Club:
In October 2018, the club decided to support the St. Lillian Home of Children with Disabilities Gayaza. When the club started this partnership, there were 27 kids in the home. There are now more than 35. “Some are disowned by their parents who still see it as a shame in society to have physically disadvantaged kids,” says Past President Catherine Namusisi. “Others are found thrown at the gate, and others are brought by police as they are found dumped on rubbish pits. These are the very kids in despair for health treatment who need medical support.” (The Nakawa Club also supports the St. Lillian Home.)
Through the club’s Elderly Support Project theme, the club decided to permanently support Nkoko Kaddu (right), a 94-year-old former Catholic priest who has no family. “We managed to bring a smile to Mr. Nkoko Kaddu,” says Namusisi. “The club always stocks household items including foodstuffs, fruits and vegetables, clothing, bedding and charcoal for cooking.” The club also ensures Mr. Kaddu receives proper healthcare.
Club members also supported single mothers who are the only income earners in their families. More than 55 women were given household items, food and counseling from the club.
Nakawa Kiwanis Club:
To celebrate Kiwanis One Day 2020, the club inducted five new members and set out into the community. Members visited the maternity ward of Naguru Hospital, an orphanage for girls and a home for kids and seniors — donating necessities, food and much more to each location while visiting with residents.
“Kiwanis One Day is dedicated to service,” says Isingoma. “And though COVID-19 affected how we do it, it couldn’t affect what we do, and this makes a lifetime of difference. Nakawa Uganda volunteers with a giving heart, a cheerful spirit and an open mind — coupled with empathy, tenacity, dedication and love — carried out these three successful projects in one day, bringing hope to the less, last and lost in life.”
In August 2020, club members visited children in the biggest slum in Kampala. Members donated necessities, educated kids on maintaining a safe environment and also met orphans and widows hit by the pandemic. “It was a huge success attended by the local politicians and religious leaders and other civil societies,” Isingoma says.
In December 2020, club members held a We Care, We Serve Christmas Project at the Budondo Health Centre in Jinja, Uganda. During this event, the community and Kiwanis volunteers were encouraged to donate blood to Budondo Blood Bank and to help the Budondo Maternity and Children’s Hospital. The community was also educated on the importance of good hygiene and healthcare practices — with reminders to be vigilant during the pandemic.
As the African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” For Kiwanians, sometimes those villages are in other parts of the world. Consider the ways members have come together to help children in Uganda:
- Children’s Fund grant: A grant from the Kiwanis Children’s Fund helped the Kiwanis Club of Wakiso distribute maize, beans and soap to 600 vulnerable households in three villages to sustain children and families. Maize, or corn flour, is a major staple food in Uganda, providing more than 40% of the average daily calorie consumption. Club members also collected rice, sugar, salt, tea, clothing, shoes and bedding for the villagers. “Kiwanis was very much appreciated for showing love and care to such a huge number of homesteads that are living below the poverty line and were severely affected by the lockdown effects of COVID-19,” Past President Catherine Namusisi says.
- Austria steps in: Helmut Beran, a member of Kiwanis Club of Mödling in Austria, met Catherine Namusisi from Uganda via Facebook and told her about Kiwanis. She was immediately interested: “We need Kiwanis in Uganda!” Together they looked for other interested people, and both the Mödling and the Wien Belvedere clubs began co-sponsoring the Wakiso club. Helmut offered a start-up donation for the charity fund at the charter celebration on October 28, 2018, in Uganda. The organization Pharmacists without Borders also donated a large amount of medicine to families.
- Island helpers: Kiwanis Club Ralia Koumac from New Caledonia helped the Wakiso club members purchase tents for the Uganda national referral hospital at the Cancer Institute for Children in February 2019.
- Italian patron: Domenico La Mantia from Italy agreed to be the patron of the Nakawa Kiwanis Club.