"Oh, to be at NOTDEC once the New Year’s there …"
Sadly, because of COVID-19, UK Trustees won’t be going out to NOTDEC Uganda in January 2021 – the first year we ’ve missed since 2013. (Before that we went at various times.) As a result, we won ’t be delivering sponsors’ Christmas gifts to the children, and have had to make other arrangements.
We phone every week – as you ’d expect – and have some VERY long conversations! But it ’s not the same. So we ’d like to share with you our thoughts about NOTDEC over the last year and in 2021.
A View from the UK
Even seen from here, 2020 has been tough.
- Need We Could Not Ignore Uganda ’s lockdown severely affected those NOTDEC children living with family out in the community. Closure of all schools meant NO school meals; and blanket travel bans stopped subsistence farmers going to their fields to tend or harvest crops or sell any surplus – and the markets were closed too! Result: hunger. NOTDEC Accountant Annah alerted us to the need.
- The Lord Provides We launched a Lockdown Food Aid Appeal – and were staggered to receive very generous donations from supporters and sponsors – both direct to NOTDEC UK and through our friends at CLO Coffee.
- Difficult Times But that doesn ’t mean we ’re all sorted. COVID-19 is now hitting UK donors. Ad hoc donations are lower; and we ’ve lost a few previously dependable regular gifts, and some valued sponsors. But we are very thankful to God and to all our hard-pressed supporters that most donors are managing to continue giving. It is not easy, but we hope and pray that you will all be able to “hang on in there” – and to continue to support the NOTDEC children now times are tough. Please stay with us – and pray for us.
Of course NOTDEC UK ’s real concern focusses, not on the UK, but on supporting needy children in Uganda, so we would like to tell you how we see that – both now, and going forward.
Uganda 2020: All ’s Well that Ends Well
At NOTDEC Uganda right now, it ’s a case of “I ’ve Started … So I ’ll Finish”. Currently, work is resuming or continuing – with whatever measures we need to keep the kids and staff safe. Highlights are as follows:
Food Parcel Finale
Following lockdown, food parcels were delivered to all families caring for NOTDEC kids. Then, a second parcel was delivered to 32 of them.
(L) Delivery to baby Justine's family
(C) Delivery up that hill!
(R) Delivery to Adah's family
Very soon a third parcel will go to the 14 most pressed families (Annah 's just completed a review of this).
Beyond Food Aid
Food parcels are just a stop gap, not a long term solution. For that, we have visited the 54 neediest NOTDEC families, and discussed how best to spend the remaining money from the lockdown appeal to help them develop an income stream. Each has now settled on a project – ranging from breeding and selling goats, to trading in clothing, food items etc. and costing c£125 per family. Several families have now received the stock or goods they need and their enterprises are underway. Rolling out the whole program will take a year or so.
(L) Regan’s family is delighted with 2 pregnant goats
(R) Hassan’s carer with a bale of second-hand clothes
Back to Business - Bedding!
With social workers again visiting the families, they inevitably spot needs – like children with inadequate bedding. So they ’ve been delivering new mattresses, new sheets, new waterproof covers, even new mosquito nets if that’s what is needed.
(L) Bedsheets for Raphael
(C) Bed, sheets & waterproof for Joan
(R) Bedsheets for Edmond
Back to School
President Museveni has at last relaxed the school lockdown slightly, allowing pupils in Primary 7, Secondary 4 and the final year of vocational study to complete their courses. Eleven NOTDEC youngsters have just returned to education and will take their external exams in March. It may not be much; but it ’s progress.
Carry On Building
All this time – with appropriate distancing etc. – NOTDEC ’s construction team has been beavering away, slowly building the future. On site, that means a new grain store. And off-site, it ’s vital home improvements for NOTDEC kids. They've just finished off a whole house construction for Eldad’s family including a kitchen & store and a toilet & wash area.
Eldad and the house for his family (L) Under construction; (R) Nearing completion
Having been given strength for 2020, despite its difficulties, we can now pray in faith about the bright hopes for 2021.
Uganda 2021: New Beginnings
We are delighted to say that Canon Jehoshaphat has been appointed as Director of NOTDEC Uganda. From 1st January 2021, he will work 3 days/week. (Initially, he is completing past commitments and works 2 days/week.)
Already, he is making important changes – appointing Accountant Annah, General Manager in his absence, and introducing more pro-active management. At the weekly staff meeting, Canon J asks each individual what they ’ve done in the past week and sets their objectives for the week to come.
It ’s early days, and there are challenges ahead, but the signs are good.
Canon Jehoshaphat NOTDEC Uganda's new Director
You glimpse Canon J ’s imagination and forward-thinking in unlikely places. His new list of NOTDEC Uganda ’s Trustees includes a female barrister, Veronica Nabasinga.
Veronica is the former NOTDEC girl we all knew (and loved) as “Vero”. She is by far the youngest Ugandan Trustee – younger too than all NOTDEC UK Trustees! Who better to advise old fogeys like us and Canon J than someone who ’s been there, and still sometimes wears the tee-shirt?
Good decisions need the right mix of people making them. Veronica ’s appointment to the Ugandan Board of Trustees is a big step toward a new and different future.
Veronica Nabasinga – our "Vero" – now a Member of NOTDEC Uganda's Board of Trustees
Before COVID, work to resettle more NOTDEC children with their wider families out in the community had stalled, bogged down in bureaucracy and staff shortages. At last real progress is being made, with plans to resettle 10 young children who currently live on-site. Over Christmas, all 10 will go to the home of a family member – with a view to it becoming their home too, if the trial visit goes well. We want each child brought up in a family not an institution, so this is a vital step forward for them.
And where the family ’s housing falls short of the standards we want for the children, NOTDEC ’s construction team will continue building better on through 2021. Grace Maureen ’s family ’s home, for example, got “stuck” half built. Finishing it off for them is high on the team 's schedule.
Grace Maureen - and her family's half-built home.
Even in Uganda, life is not all sunshine and smiles. One of the social workers has left; the two who remain are overloaded, and a replacement is urgently needed. Worse still, a few older boys have been and are giving great cause for concern. Despite ongoing support, they have not focussed on making the most of their courses/apprenticeships or finding work thereafter. They have simply taken up countless hours of the staff who do their best to advise and help them. Chaplain, Captain Ezra, has been invaluable in counselling and motivating them: he is part of the solution. But this is a big problem, worth all the effort it takes; and we don't know how to solve it. Please pray that the Lord will show us the way forward.
New Life: New Joys & Responsibilities
Ex-NOTDEC girl, Yoneki, has also seen difficult times. After working at NOTDEC as a nursery teacher, she left in 2020 to have a baby. Though Yoneki was somewhat uneasy about the birth, she could not afford hospital fees and decided to give birth in her village with just a birth attendant. But NOTDEC offered to meet much of the cost (with money from Rose ’s memorial fund), and Yoneki went to Kagando Hospital. That was very fortunate indeed as she needed a C-section!
Finally, the news we ’d all been waiting for: Yoneki’s baby girl, Upendo, had been delivered safely! Now, with God ’s help, Yoneki has the joys and responsibilities of looking after that new little life.
Baby Upendo (L) Newly born; (R) More recently with her mum Yoneki
As NOTDEC trustees, that is how we see our role.
In NOTDEC, we have the joys and responsibilities of caring for almost 160 lives – some now not so small! 2021 may be challenging; but we believe that we have God’s help, and your support. For the children ’s sake, we very much need them both.
Thank you all for your support, encouragement and prayers.
Janet Johnston & the Trustees of NOTDEC UK