Lots of Exciting News from Uganda

As Kulanu’s Coordinator for Uganda, I would like to thank the American Jewish World Service for an airfare grant in support of my recent work in Uganda. This AJWS assistance helps us continue our 10-year Kulanu-Abayudaya partnership, working hand-in-hand with leaders of the Jewish Community of Uganda on over 25 different projects. As you know, Kulanu (www.kulanu.org) is a small, international grassroots organization of direct-action volunteers and we think of AJWS as our “big sister.” Other organizations pay lip service to organizational collaboration for a common good but AJWS has always been true to this ideal. I am proud to be associated with AJWS and appreciate their help.

Abayudaya leaders and I worked on many exciting Kulanu-funded projects over a 5-week period this winter. Together, we were able to make some plans for the future, monitor and evaluate existing programs, and do some substantive networking and training. Kol Hakavod to Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, Israel Siriri, Aaron Kintu Moses, Naume Sabano, JJ Keki, Seth Jonadav, Samson Wamani, Rebecca Nantabo,and Jacobo Mwosuko.

I invite you all to come visit these projects on our “2008 Jewish Life in Uganda Mitzvah Tour & Safari” and congratulate Abayudaya leaders personally on their accomplishments. Here is a sample of the projects Abayudaya leaders and I worked on this winter.

With your generous help, Abayudaya and Kulanu:

  • Joyously commissioned the first well/running water system in the Abayudaya community, designed and built under the direction of Abayudaya Chairman Israel Siriri, construction engineer, at the primary school.
  • Planned construction at the primary school of 6 new latrines and the first working shower Abayudaya children have ever enjoyed (already completed!) thanks to a donation from the Otto & Marianne Wolman Foundation.
  • Began construction on two brand new classrooms for the primary school.
  • Planned “Train the Trainer” public health education in the schools and villages with Abayudaya medical officer Samson Wamani, thanks to Barbara Lubran and the Estelle Friedman Gervis Family Foundation. In this innovative Kulanu program, designed by Dr. Aron Primack, high school students are trained and supervised by a doctor to teach disease prevention and proper sanitation in rural villages through music and drama.
  • Assessed the desperate need for a sanitary kitchen at each school for our child hunger breakfast project, currently feeding 400 African students each day with a grant from the Estelle Friedman Gervis Family Foundation.
  • Planned for the new Semei Kakungulu High School Lunch Program, under the direction of hunger project supervisor and Abayudaya Women’s Association Chairperson Naume Sabano. Thanks to Marcy Delbick and Rabbi Gershom for spearheading this project in memory of Dora Bloch. Kids who are hungry cannot learn. Funds are needed to feed SK High School children more than one meal a day.
  • Developed and facilitated new Adult Literacy Projects in 4 villages with primary school headmaster Aaron Kintu Moses and volunteer Hedy Cohen, thanks to a grant from Woodlands Temple, Roberta Roos, and Jeanne Bodin.
  • Celebrated the Howard & Judith Mayer Micro-finance Small Business Loan Program pilot project farmer successes in remote Abayudaya villages of Namatumba and Nasenyi. For the first time, farmers formerly growing on a subsistence level can create a “farm business” through these long-term, low-interest loans, acquiring the ability to store their produce for a few months until they can get a much higher price for them.Loan return rate: 98%!
  • Led a lively Leadership Training Workshop with Abayudaya members on sustainable development.
  • Met with Abayudaya Women’s Association “Mama in the Schools” para-professional counselor Rebecca Nantabo. Headmaster Seth Jonadav proudly reports a marked improvement in rural girls’ school attendance and a lowered incidence of teenage pregnancy thanks to this counseling program initiated by Abayudaya women, funded by the Estelle Friedman Gervis Family Foundation. Facilitated additional training for Mrs. Nantabo to build on her excellent work with the students.
  • Created a new cooperative, the Abayudaya Farmer’s Association, bringing together Abayudaya farmers from 4 villages to share resources and fight rural poverty.
  • Established contacts and secured training for a new export business in solar dried fruit on an exciting three-day farmers’ field trip to international fruit export businesses in Kampala. Toured a high-production poultry farm. We attended a farm technology training session on cost-appropriate rural technologies. We were able to arrange an on-site drip irrigation training for the community with an Israeli-trained, Ugandan engineer, through a Kulanu grant from Fran and Bernie Alpert. In addition, working with sister NGOs The Full Belly Project and Nourish International, Kulanu introduced Abayudaya farmers, Ugandan engineers and agricultural officials to a new hand-pumped peanut sheller that can dehusk at a rate of 125 lbs per hour (compare with the current finger-shelled rate of 2 lbs per hour). Peanuts are a vital high protein crop in Africa and the husks can be sold as biofuel.
  • Explored US international aid resources and met with US officials.
  • Met with officials at the Ugandan Ministry of Tourism.
  • Planned Abayudaya Women’s Association trainings and conferences for the coming year.
  • Reviewed budgets and expenditures, assessed needs and consulted with headmasters Aaron Kintu Moses and Seth Jonadav on the upcoming year at the Kulanu-supported Abayudaya primary school and SK high school, serving Jewish, Christian and Muslim students studying together in peace.
  • Successfully led the “Jewish Life in Uganda Mitzvah Tour & Safari,” going into our 5th year, teaching Americans about the beauty of Africa and Abayudaya Jewish culture, and providing training and employment for community members. When are you coming with us?
  • Held business meetings on the interfaith “Delicious Peace” Mirembe Kawomera coffee project, which I created and developed with Abayudaya farmer JJ Keki. Thanks to Kulanu supporters and Thanksgiving Coffee Company, over 500 African farmers are guaranteed the highest fair trade price for their certified organic coffee, and earn a one-dollar premium per bag for coffee co-op development. We are proud that this Kulanu interfaith peace project, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian coffee farmers, has been covered by CNN, BBC and other international news outlets and that the project is soon to be the subject of a documentary film and music CD. Our goal is to have this coffee served on an on-going basis in every synagogue, mosque and church in the US. Please help. Pass the word to your friends, reorder and help keep the peace delicious. Order by calling (800) 648 6491 or order on line www.thanksgivingcoffee.com.

We wish to thank all the synagogues, colleges and individuals in 18 US cities who sponsored an event with primary school Headmaster Aaron Kintu Moses on his Kulanu-Abayudaya Fundraising Tour in the Fall of 2006. It was Aaron’s first visit to the US and he had a fantastic time meeting and studying with you. If you would like to be part of next year’s Abayudaya-Kulanu fundraising tour, scheduled for October 8-November 7, 2007, please contact Susan Schorr speakers@kulanu.com as soon as possible.

Many good things are happening, but there is so much more to do!Supporting two schools, feeding 400 hungry students, helping Jewish farmers and their neighbors learn to read, preventing disease, granting micro-finance loans that fight poverty, all need your sustaining support. At the two Abayudaya interfaith schools, we still don’t have enough classrooms, or a school kitchen, or a rain shelter to feed the kids, or decent dorms to house them, or even enough latrines yet to preserve their health. Home living conditions in four rural Abayudaya villages are so poor that we lose lives every year due to lack of clean water, malnutrition, dehydration, and poor sanitation.

We live in a difficult world. When you celebrate your family joys, we hope you will consider sharing them with others. Please think about celebrating your Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, weddings, anniversaries and any occasion by making a donation and asking your guests to donate to Kulanu. If you can, make a multi-year pledge, make a bequest to Kulanu in your will, or help connect us with family foundation support.

We need your help to do this work. Your gift creates immediate results. We stretch every dollar. We have ten years of experience working in Africa and we have a record of success. Experience the thrill of being part of Kulanu’s tikkun olam work. Thanks!