Growth and Opportunities in the Iganga District

By Basit Ibanda, Iganga Field Coordinator and Caellagh Morrissey, Project and M&E Manager

Iganga community members at the fully-operational S.O.U.L. Iganga Community Center

Iganga community members at the fully-operational S.O.U.L. Iganga Community Center

S.O.U.L. Foundation’s Iganga Community Center is now celebrating one month of official full-time operation. Two permanent Iganga-based S.O.U.L. staff members Basit Ibanda and Caellagh Morrissey have now opened the center to be accessible to the community on a regular basis, and to continue the implementation of S.O.U.L. projects in this new location. Members of the community are excited to be able to visit the office at any time, and S.O.U.L. receives daily applications for the student sponsorship program from people in all of the surrounding villages.

S.O.U.L. students enjoying a visit to the Iganga Community Center during their holidays

S.O.U.L. students enjoying a visit to the Iganga Community Center during their holidays

The Iganga-based team has just finished their first round of student evaluations after the completion of Term 2 for sponsored students in the area. Students no longer need to travel the 40 kilometers to S.O.U.L.’s main office, but can now easily access the new office and approach the staff to ask questions. During their holidays, excited students came to the new office to draw, play games, and meet the new staff. 

The Iganga staff have recently visited each S.O.U.L. partner school in Iganga to check on the welfare of the students, and to introduce the new staff members to head teachers and school faculty. The staff members have also had the opportunity to go and visit the homes of each student sponsored by S.O.U.L. in the area to motivate and connect further with the families of those students. They have also recently held a successful Parents’ Committee Meeting, during which parents expressed their gratitude to the Foundation and their excitement for the continuing growth of new projects. As of last week, students have just begun their third and final term of the current school year and have returned to their studies.

Installation of the new eucalyptus garden in Iganga

Installation of the new eucalyptus garden in Iganga

This week also marks the planting of 3,800 trees in S.O.U.L. Foundation’s new eucalyptus tree garden in Iganga District. These trees will be carefully monitored over the next several years, and eventually harvested to raise funds for other S.O.U.L. programs. With the help of the S.O.U.L. staff members in Jinja and many volunteers from the surrounding area, this project took a full three days to complete!

The S.O.U.L. Iganga chicken groups have recently completed their training and are now making the final touches on their brooders and preparing for the first cycle of chicken raising. The women are busy creating budgets, reviewing the rearing process, and preparing their brooder for the arrival of 100 birds. During this first cycle, staff members will be there to guide the women through each step, with the eventual goal that they will be able to run their chicken business completely autonomously.

We are also recently celebrating the installation of a solar lighting system in the Iganga Community Center. These solar panels will bring power to the remote location of S.O.U.L.’s Iganga office and will pave the way for further development of solar power that will eventually run the Iganga computer lab. Community members are extremely excited about this project, and hope that with access to computer trainings they will be better prepared to find sustainable livelihoods after completing their education.

The S.O.U.L. team is looking forward to the continued growth of the Iganga programs, and is so grateful for the ongoing support of our partners. To continue supporting our Iganga projects, please consider making a contribution here or here.

Successful September Events at S.O.U.L.

S.O.U.L. Foundation is excited to conclude an incredible week of events across the United States!

First, we hosted our 3rd Annual Swing for S.O.U.L. Golf Outing in New City, New York. What began as a rainy day turned into a truly special opportunity to connect with the New York-based S.O.U.L. network over golf, a silent auction, and dinner. Thank you so much to our generous supporters, volunteers, and the staff at Paramount Country Club for making this successful event possible.

Next, we were excited to take part in the 5th Annual Dine Out for Uganda at Linger in Denver, Colorado. Since 2012, S.O.U.L. and Linger have partnered in support of S.O.U.L.'s work, including supporting primary students in our sponsorship program, breaking ground at and building our Community Center in Jinja, and expanding our mentorship program.

This year, S.O.U.L. and Linger teamed up to raise funds in support of the pre-primary education program at our newest Community Center in Iganga. S.O.U.L. is so excited to dedicate the evening's proceeds to the establishment of this education initiative in the Iganga community. We are so grateful to the Linger staff for their endless support!

Finally, we were thrilled to be present at the Pure Barre Park Ridge Grand Opening Party. Thanks to Pure Barre Park Ridge's incredible support, over $600 in raffle proceeds will support our work! Thank you to the Pure Barre Park Ridge staff for their kind generosity.

All funds raised in this week's events will directly provide opportunities for our Ugandan partner communities. We could not be more thankful for everyone who hosted us and came out to champion our work at these three events in New York, Colorado, and New Jersey!

Welcome Back to School!

Students and sponsors use the technology at the Posner Center to connect across borders!

Students and sponsors use the technology at the Posner Center to connect across borders!

This August, S.O.U.L. Foundation held a successful Student Sponsorship Breakfast in Denver, Colorado! This event gave Denver-based student sponsors the opportunity to video chat with their students and learn more about S.O.U.L.'s education initiatives. It's an amazing thing when sponsors are able to connect with their students and share their stories!

Thank you so much to the sponsors, students, volunteers, the Posner Center for International Development, and all of the other S.O.U.L. champions who came out to support our work!

Additionally, S.O.U.L. was proud to launch a successful Back to School Uganda campaign that facilitated awareness about our student sponsorship program and helped S.O.U.L. ambassadors around the world better understand how to support our work. Within this campaign, we held a backpack drive that has helped prepare over 30 young students to be back in school this fall.

Because of the wonderful responses, we are extending our backpack drive through the end of September. Send a backpack to a deserving S.O.U.L. student today, and we'll send you an awesome patch to thank you! We are so happy to welcome our students back to school with the support of our network around the world.

You can learn more about the campaign here. If you're interested in continuing to support the campaign's work, check out our campaign booklet, sponsor a student, or contact us to learn more!

498 Community Partners in Maternal Health

180 community partners engaging in S.O.U.L.'s fourth maternal health course

180 community partners engaging in S.O.U.L.'s fourth maternal health course

This week, S.O.U.L. Foundation is graduating the fourth class of participants in our Antenatal Education Center (AEC) maternal health course. This course session had 180 participants, including 19 men and 161 women. Across four classes of S.O.U.L.'s comprehensive AEC maternal health course, a total of 498 male and female community members and partners have graduated as educated maternal health care advocates!

Class session four's Meet the Midwives Day, allowing students and community stakeholders to build relationships with local midwives and have open conversations regarding pregnancy, pre-pregnancy, family planning, and postnatal care.

Class session four's Meet the Midwives Day, allowing students and community stakeholders to build relationships with local midwives and have open conversations regarding pregnancy, pre-pregnancy, family planning, and postnatal care.

S.O.U.L. Expands Iganga Community Programs

Thanks to the hard work of the Iganga community, S.O.U.L. Foundation staff, and our generous supporters, S.O.U.L.'s programs have successfully begun at our new four-room Community Center in Iganga! We have grown our Iganga student sponsorship program, kick-started our sustainable agriculture programs, and will soon move permanent staff members into our new space. We are so glad to be realizing this vision of the Iganga community members that is over two years in the making.

Namusubo Rehema, S.O.U.L. Student in Iganga

Namusubo Rehema, S.O.U.L. Student in Iganga

In the past few months, S.O.U.L. has successfully expanded the student sponsorship program in Iganga, allowing more students to access education. We have partnered with six local schools, strengthening the existing education system and bringing students to schools closer to home. To date, S.O.U.L. has received over 300 additional applications for our student sponsorship program, a testament to our continued partnership and the need for this program.

To support and direct our student sponsorship program, S.O.U.L. has formed a robust Iganga Parents' Committee. The Committee meets throughout the year to outline guidelines for the acceptance of new students, discuss the development of the student sponsorship program, and propose new schools for S.O.U.L. to partner with the community. Through this direct participation, parents become active and engaged stakeholders in their child's education and the long-term success of the community. Together with S.O.U.L., parents are advocates for the holistic development of the community's students.

The Community Center is also now home to expanded mentorship and sustainable food security programs. We began agricultural classes with our women's chicken cooperatives in Iganga District this summer. These courses teach participants about chicken rearing practices and propel food security, nutrition, women's empowerment, and economic security.

Agricultural class with an Iganga chicken cooperative

Agricultural class with an Iganga chicken cooperative

Chickens of an Iganga cooperative member

Chickens of an Iganga cooperative member

Joy, a member of one our chicken cooperatives in Iganga, gave the following testimony on her experience in S.O.U.L.'s food security programs:

Iganga cooperative learning about chicken feeds

Iganga cooperative learning about chicken feeds

"My life is going to change and I am learning a lot. I am going to learn how to rear chickens which is going to improve on my way of living. After learning to rear chickens, I will become self motivated and with time to come I will start my own business of the same kind. And this will enable me to take my children to school, and also be able to save some money as a woman at home. I am so happy that this opportunity is in my village, and many women are going to enjoy these outcomes. This is the first group in the village, and everyone is now wanting to join the S.O.U.L. chicken groups because they have so many benefits from these groups. Thank you S.O.U.L. so so much! Webale Eno Eno (Thank you very very much)!”

Finally, S.O.U.L. will soon be moving permanent staff members into the new Iganga Community Center to increase our presence in Iganga, demonstrate our dedication to our projects, and learn as we continue our development partnership with the people of the Iganga community. Basit Ibanda, S.O.U.L.'s Field Coordinator, is originally from the Iganga area and had to leave for Jinja to go to school. When Basit was younger, his mother would take out loans to help Basit and his brother attend school. Now, he is excited to return to Iganga to work alongside the community. With our continued partnership, we hope to help more people like Basit learn the skills they need to give back to their communities.

We want to sincerely thank our supporters for your participation in making continued access to education for rural Ugandan youth possible! You are profoundly impacting the lives of the students, their families, other beneficiaries, and the Iganga community as a whole. Please head here if you're interested in continuing to contribute to our Iganga Community Center!

An Enriching Experience for Student Volunteers

Students and chaperones settle in on one of their first evenings in Uganda

Students and chaperones settle in on one of their first evenings in Uganda

S.O.U.L. Foundation recently welcomed a group of 17 American middle school students and chaperones to Uganda! The group spent a packed 9 days in Bujagali Falls. They saw S.O.U.L.'s education program, fish farming projects, and Agriculture Learning Center in action. They also had the opportunity to learn about our maternal health initiatives in the community and meet a local midwife. Students were incredibly engaged and excited to see the community development work that they had been learning about.

 

The group also spent time getting to know their host families and village life, and had the opportunity to conduct interviews with host family members. Additionally, they visited S.O.U.L. partner schools, shadowed S.O.U.L. students their age at Trinity College (a local secondary school), and conducted one-on-one interviews with Trinity students. The volunteers also enjoyed playing soccer with students at Kyabirwa primary school!

Students and S.O.U.L. staff wearing Gomesi, traditional women's wear, prior to celebrating their last night in Bujagali Falls. It was a night full of speeches, dancing, tears, and laughter!

Students and S.O.U.L. staff wearing Gomesi, traditional women's wear, prior to celebrating their last night in Bujagali Falls. It was a night full of speeches, dancing, tears, and laughter!

In reflecting upon their experience at S.O.U.L. Foundation and in Uganda, each student and chaperone said that "the people of Bujagali Falls" were their favorite part. They said that they have never felt more at home because their host families were so welcoming, and the students who have historically tended to get homesick never experienced it while in Bujagali village. As these students became deeply immersed in the culture and created lifelong bonds with their host parents, brothers, and sisters, they were sad to part ways. However, they are confident that they will be back to Uganda someday!

The group of students, chaperones, S.O.U.L. staff, and community members prior to departure

The group of students, chaperones, S.O.U.L. staff, and community members prior to departure

U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Visits S.O.U.L.

S.O.U.L. Foundation was honored to welcome the newest United States Ambassador to Uganda, Deborah Malac, to our center in Bujagali Falls in late June. Our team had the opportunity to introduce Ambassador Malac to our education, women's empowerment, maternal health, and food security programs. In particular, Malac had the chance to witness the success of our maternal health education initiatives, due in large part to the generous support of the U.S. Embassy over the past year. The visit was an incredible success and S.O.U.L. Foundation looks forward to future partnership opportunities with the U.S. Embassy.

S.O.U.L. Graduates Third Class of Antenatal Education Center Course Participants!

Course participants with their diplomas outside of the S.O.U.L. Foundation Community Center in Bujagali Falls, Jinja District, Uganda

Course participants with their diplomas outside of the S.O.U.L. Foundation Community Center in Bujagali Falls, Jinja District, Uganda

S.O.U.L. Foundation recently concluded the third session of our Antenatal Education Center (AEC) course on maternal health, with over 140 participants in three separate classes. These incredible women and men are now equipped with a range of maternal health skills and knowledge that positions them to be health advocates for themselves and their peers.

Meet the Midwives Day

Meet the Midwives Day

Over 92 percent of the students in this course attended Meet the Midwives Day, a special day within the curriculum that allows participants to meet three local midwives. After the midwives present important information regarding community health and best practices for local mother, newborn, and child health, attendees have the opportunity to ask the midwives questions. Ranging from family planning to nutrition and illness to what to expect at a delivery facility, these questions allow course participants to articulate and strengthen the knowledge they have gained in S.O.U.L.'s maternal health education program. This Meet the Midwives Day was a success, helping participants to develop relationships with midwives at local health centers.

Namukose Halima, community member

Namukose Halima, community member

Namukose Halima, 26, is a S.O.U.L. community member who wrote a song about S.O.U.L. and performed it at the AEC course graduation. The song expresses her gratitude at finding a safe haven here, learning about maternal health and how to care for her baby, and how she wants to study nursing as part of S.O.U.L.'s student sponsorship program. Halima sang about how S.O.U.L. helps children, youth, the elderly, and both men and women. She appreciates everything the organization has done for her community and expressed it in a beautiful song.

S.O.U.L. is now conducting the fourth session of the maternal health education class, with 150 participants in total!

Annual Parents' Committee Meeting

Community members and parents of S.O.U.L. students at the annual Parents' Committee meeting

Community members and parents of S.O.U.L. students at the annual Parents' Committee meeting

S.O.U.L. Foundation hosted our annual Parents' Committee meeting this May! With over 450 students in our education programs, we have many hard working, committed parents that help support and motivate the students. The democratic feedback process within the Parents' Committee allows parents to be active, engaged stakeholders in their children's education. It was a full house at the S.O.U.L. offices this day, for a productive meeting with lots of exciting, education-focused ideas discussed!

Iganga Community Center Grand Opening

S.O.U.L. staff in front of the new Iganga community center

S.O.U.L. staff in front of the new Iganga community center

We are excited to announce the grand opening of our new Community Center in the rural Iganga district! Consisting of a regional office, classrooms for tailoring and teaching, and a computer classroom, this center represents two years of learning and listening to the community members and the replication of the S.O.U.L. model in other remote areas of Uganda facing critical needs. It will be the hub for new women's projects, educational sponsorships, and work in partnership with the community to launch additional programs beginning this summer.

Iganga community members and S.O.U.L. staff celebrate the new initiative

Iganga community members and S.O.U.L. staff celebrate the new initiative

In April 2016, we welcomed the Iganga community members to the Community Center grand opening ceremony. It was a day of celebration with the community members, whose excitement about this new initiative attests to the strength of the community partnership that S.O.U.L. has established over the past two years in Iganga. The Head Teacher at Buyanga Primary School in Iganga welcomed S.O.U.L. with the following message:

It gives me the pleasure on behalf of the school administration, management, and the entire Buyanga primary school community to warmly welcome you all to this place. In a special way, I am delighted to welcome the S.O.U.L. Foundation. Thank you for coming. I wish to convey my sincere gratitude for your love and support to the vulnerable people of this area, without which no successful development would be realized…. I honestly extend my sincere thanks and gratitude to the S.O.U.L. Foundation and everybody present for this day and wish you good deliberations.

We can’t wait to continue our partnership with this community as we continue to expand in the area!