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Gulu Town

Uganda1It feels good to be back in my home away from home, in Gulu town.  Each year I return to receive a warmer welcome and from more than the year before.  Each time I see someone for the first time I am swept off my feet with the greatest loving sincere hug after a year’s hiatus from my family away from family. Both the U-TOUCH and AMREF staff shared their joy and love with my return to the Gulu U-TOUCH Digital Center.

Each year I return to find that U-TOUCH has progressed beautifully and grown in so many dimensions. The staff has become even more dedicated to U-TOUCH and their expertise strengthened. The Center is in full swing; there are 14 desktops and 10 laptops in action here in Gulu with 15 connected to the Internet.  The Center looks great and we will be having a painting party soon to brighten it up!

 Gulu CenterUpon arrival, I walked into a training session at Gulu Digital Center where Charles was deeply involved in training a group of Health Workers from Awach Health Center, about 36 km from the Gulu.  The health workers are delighted to be here and do not want to leave as they are excited about the benefits they will derive from having technology in this remote village. You could hear a pin drop as the trainees intently listened to their trainer’s very important word. By the first day the trainees were drawing as well as typing on the computer. As the class came to a close, the trainees shared that they did not want to leave the Digital Center.  They would need to end their first day of training on a Saturday eagerly waiting to return the very next day.

That is the News from the Field today! I hope it gave you a glimpse into life in Gulu. I will be writing again soon to keep you updated on all the latest from U-TOUCH. Please feel free to comment below or write to me on Facebook if you would like to hear about anything in particular!

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Back to Uganda in 2013

Travel from San Diego to Uganda was a bit challenging with pushing, pulling and storing of heavy baggage, delayed flights leading to a missed flight and delayed baggage and exhaustion.  Reading and sleeping was the pattern over the 24 hours but finally arriving in beautiful Uganda dissolved any and all travel woes. Stepping out from the airport to the cloudless blue sky and warm air enveloping my soul all stress was relieved by the kind and warm welcome back to Uganda.  

View of Lake Victoria from the Guest HouseThe driver and helper from Hellen’s Lake View Guesthouse waited patiently for my delayed arrival and drove me up to an oasis in the hills.  Hellen greeted me upon arrival, a beautiful woman with a warm smile and soon to discover a warm heart as well.  After a brief tour of the guesthouse I showered and crawled into a long awaited comfortable bed while the sun shone, a most unusual experience for me.  Closing my eyes to the music of the melodious Ugandan birds I instantly fell into a slumber where I stayed for five hours.  Much to my surprise awakening at 5:20pm I extricated myself from the cozy environs to enjoy the last of the sunshine before the daylight began to turn its back toward Uganda.

I came upstairs to the deck of the guest house where Lake Victoria can easily be seen hugging the shoreline.  You can see for miles from the roof of hills between Entebbe and Kamplala, known as Kijansi.  The lake, beautiful homes, tropical fauna, including fruit trees, sounds of birds, goats, and prayer horns, were a palate of color and symphony welcoming my arrival to Uganda. The calm beauty of Uganda wrapped my body and soul warmly melting away all my stress from the Western world. 

Uganda Flowers

As I sat on the veranda Hellen offered me a most inviting delicious freshly picked papaya from her many fruit bearing trees in her beautiful garden.  Beside was a bunch of powerfully packed flavorful miniature bananas. After airplane Asian vegetarian food these fruits were welcome to my healing body. The freshness of Ugandan fruits and vegetables is unparalleled for building both my body and soul for two months to come. 

Shortly, I will take another slumber to arise at 3.am to pick up my friend from the airport to begin his first time welcome to Uganda.       

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Gracious and Denis, ICT Trainer - Pader

Good Hope

Gracious and Denis, ICT Trainer - Pader
Gracious and Denis, ICT Trainer – Pader

My name is Gracious. I hail from Patongo Town Council in Agago District, About 40 Km from Pader. I first learnt of the free ICT training at AMREF /U-TOUCH Center at Pader in January 2012. I then applied and joined it in February and completed in April 2012, I then graduated in May. I had, prior to joining U-TOUCH, unsuccessfully looked for a job but now when I got back home after the training, I asked my father to help me with some capital to start a business of my own. Convinced by my newly attained computer skill backed by a beautifully designed certificate of completion, he gave me funds to start a secretarial and stationery business.

Patongo had been lacking a quality and reliable computer services. Some people have the resources but lack the skill to operate computers. As a result many businesses had in the past opened and closed barely after 4 months of operations. I felt that, I could fill that gap. I then travelled to Kampala and purchased a used photocopier, a computer, a binder and an assortment of stationery and opened the business called Good Hope Stationery in May 2012, a few weeks after my graduation. The choice of name is self explanatory. U-TOUCH is a dawn of Hope in my life. Services offered include Typesetting, printing, photocopying, binding, scanning, sale of stationery and computer training on Office 2007 applications. My clientele range from Schools, NGO’s, Churches, all the neighboring sub counties to individuals.

Achievements

I have operated this business for 8 months now. I feel these are some of my achievements;

• My skill has not only been retained but also enhanced.
• I am self employed, the work keeps me busy and I am not even interested in looking for other jobs.
• I now have enough resources to cater for my basic needs like cloths, housing, education, and Health.
• I have trained 3 people in basic computer applications.

Challenges

• High cost of maintenance for computer. Patongo lacks skilled people to repair and maintain computers. The ICT Trainer Pader has promised to provide support in terms of maintenance of equipment.
• The weather is very harsh and not conducive for the computers. There is a lot of heat and dust in Patongo and this also affects the sensitive parts of these machines.
• Some customers bring jobs but they don’t come back to pay and pick them. This leads to wastage of time and resources.
• I still don’t have a standby generator incase of load shedding.

Future Plans

• I intend to add more computers, provide internet and training services to many people in Patongo.
• I intend to upgrade my studies starting August this year. I want to study accounts from Nsamizi School of Social Works and Social Administration, so that I run my business professionally.

Conclusion

I want to thank AMREF and U-TOUCH for the free training rendered to us in ICT and enrichment programs like entrepreneurship, life skills and job skills. I had not realized their value then, but now I have realized that the best life decision I have ever made in my life was to join U-TOUCH. My life has been totally transformed, I am self-reliant now. I strongly encourage other people, especially girls, to join the training at AMREF/U-TOUCH Center, Pader.

Good Hope Stationery in Potongo
Good Hope Stationery

“Opportunity only knocks once, embrace it.
Thank you U-TOUCH,  for TOUCHing my Life”
~ Gracious

Donate Today and Make a Difference!

 

Featured Volunteer: Alana

U-TOUCH is changing lives by building connections across the globe.  This is how one high school student used those connections to make a lasting difference in the lives of kids just like her.

Alana
Alana

Alana Olson is a sophomore at Scripps Ranch High School in San Diego.  She loves her AP European History class and English, running cross-country, and playing piano which she’s been studying for six years.  She is also in the Creative Minds Club – no surprise—and she’s a passionate cook.

The fact is Alana has been passionate about cooking most of her life.

She has always loved watching her mom cook all kinds of wonderful international foods and she watches Food Network “religiously.”

“I first began to be interested in nutrition because I was interested in how much the two seemingly very different fields of cooking and health care…are so intimately connected and how they dramatically affect our day-to-day lives.”

Alana became a full vegetarian about three years ago and says she has not missed meat one bit since.

“Though I have no intentions of trying to “convert” people into vegetarians–I think it is a very personal decision–I like people to know the reasoning behind my decision. I became a vegetarian because I feel (that) since I am so fortunate to have access to such an abundance of food, there is no need to kill an animal for it. There are so many sources of vegetarian protein out there that are much better for the environment, more economical, better for your overall health, and most importantly, do not require the killing of an animal.”

She even has a blog, where she shares vegetarian adaptations of signature international dishes, a la Alana. It includes fun tips and tricks, a guide for the rookie vegetarian, even a featured ingredient of the week!

Alana also is deeply committed to sharing her blessings, feeling a responsibility to give back to those in need. 

“…I have had the good fortune to be born into a family that loves to travel, I have been able to experience cultures from all over the world and realize how intimately connected we all are as people of this earth… Learning about all of the horrendous atrocities that have occurred in northern Uganda in the last few decades made me realize that these people have lost everything–their homes, their families, and their pride–yet somehow continue to show resilience and joy. This is beyond admirable to me and makes me want to improve their lives in any way I can.”

Last year, Alana figured out how she could combine her passion for food and nutrition with helping others. Her project, Cents for Seeds, has raised money in her local San Diego community, to help students at Kitgum High School in Kitgum, Uganda, plant a garden to product good, nutritious food to eat. Alana specifically wanted to work with Ugandan high school students because she “thought it would be cool to interact with kids our age living in a completely different world.”

 

Planting Seeds at Kitgum High School - Cents for Seeds

But growing healthy food was not the only goal.  Alana prepared educational PowerPoints to teach students about nutrition. She hoped they would then introduce their new ideas about nutrition to their families and friends. In fact, Alana has plans to introduce the program at other schools, including elementary schools. Fundraising for that is already underway!

The Kitgum High School garden in is ‘producing’ results, not only in the diets of young Ugandans, but in the lives of students here who are learning about some of the most pressing issues of our planet in a first hand way.  It is just one of the ways that U-TOUCH is changing lives. 

 And Alana is just beginning.

“In the next few years, I would love to visit (our) garden in Uganda. I want to see the progress, meet all of the wonderful people who have helped me along the way and the kids whom the garden will benefit.”

She also wants to continue to work through U-TOUCH, and maybe get involved with new causes too.

“I would love to do a project benefiting the environment and animals, or maybe something to empower women in 3rd world countries and help them get the education and fair treatment they deserve. At this point, all I know is this project is only the beginning and I can’t wait to see its progress and do further work with U-TOUCH.”

 

Donate to help Alana expand the Cents for Seeds projects to more schools in Uganda

 

Beatrice

Beatrice

Aciro Beatrice is my name and surely am happy with the positive impact that U-TOUCH has made in my life. Surely due to life and health education I have got I can manage my life well to live a positive life style and avoid some risks that might come due to poor life style that a person can live.

I was working when I came to U-TOUCH center as a sales agent in our organization call Bay Port, a financial loan organization. But due to the training I got from U-TOUCH I have been promoted to Customer Care officer  which makes me more happy than I was before.  The VSLA training I got has made my work very easy because people who come for loan I know how to work with them. Microsoft  Excel has made my report writing and calculation very easy. I don’t struggle with my work at all. 

The best thing a person can do is to seek the opportunity of helping some body in this world. I’m happy for what U-TOUCH is doing in our community because it’s causing huge changes among the female gender.  

I did not expect to have this global connection as I do now –it’s amazing, I love it.

 

You can make a difference in the lives of women just like Beatrice
 

 

 

 

3 Ways You Can Make a Difference

Kabale School of Comprehensive Nursing in Kabale, UgandaU-TOUCH is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, all volunteer organization which is funded by donations, grants and fundraising events. We need your support to provide much needed services to the beneficiaries in Uganda.

1. Donate Your Time
U-TOUCH relies on volunteers for clerical assistance, community outreach, social media and a variety of other functions. Whatever your interest or talent, there’s a place for you on the U-TOUCH team! 

I want to volunteer!

2. Donate Technology
U-TOUCH appreciates donations of laptops, mice, external hard drives, digital cameras and video cameras!  In general items 4 years old or newer are preferred but please contact us if you have any questions.

I want to donate equipment!

3. Donate funds
Your generous donations make it possible for U-TOUCH to provide computer technology, computer training,health education and business/entrepreneurial coaching and support to disadvantaged communities in Africa.

I want to donate!

Madeleine’s Generosity

Madeleine, an eleven year old from San Diego, California, forsakes her birthday gifts and collects over $800 to provide opportunity to the people of Uganda.

U-TOUCH celebrates her generosity and compassion. She is a role model for children, indeed all people, around the world!