Every morning, Pamela followed the same routine. She would wake up early in the morning to prepare breakfast, lunch, and dinner for her two children. But, like many other women in her community, the Kamwenge refugee settlement in Uganda, she didn’t have the basic skills to prepare healthy meals.
COVID-19 has not slowed the need to improve educational outcomes in East Africa. If anything, the global emergency has thrown a spotlight on learning disparities in developing nations. The educational professionals and researchers at Luigi Giussani Institute for Higher Education in Uganda (LGIHE) – an AVSI-USA long-term partner – have been working for over a decade to promote teaching methods that unlock the full potential of each learner. “School leaders and teachers are the linchpin to the radical change needed to ignite self-awareness and critical thinking in learners,” said Mauro Giacomazzi, Institutional Development Advisor for LGIHE.
Twenty-five farmers, including nineteen women, came together to cultivate crops in their “Bitojjo-Tukorenamani” which means “Let’s Work Hard” Farmer Field Business School. Before joining the school, their harvests barely had any financial impact on their livelihood; they were mostly for home consumption. When they began receiving training in modern farming practices, their motivation grew. The USAID Graduating to Resilience Activity offers service bundles that include seeds, training and linkages to markets.
When they were one and a half years old, Moreen and Doreen were so small, frail, sick, and tired that they could barely sit up on their own. The twins’ chance of survival was alarmingly low.
Scovia Arinaitwe, their mother had experienced firsthand how quickly a child’s health can turn, but she did not realize what the cause might be. Florence Kabacwa, USAID Graduating to Resilience Activity nutrition coach took one look at the twins and knew what the problem was: malnutrition. As part of the USAID-funded Activity, thousands of families are visited by AVSI Foundation coaches in South Western Uganda every day.
2020 may not have been the year we dreamed of, nor did we see it coming. But it will most certainly be one we will never forget. Everyone around the world had to re-adjust to a new way of life. Millions lost their livelihoods and shelter, struggling to make ends meet; millions lost their loved ones. We at AVSI have also lost one of our dear colleagues and friends.
Alice Umutoni was 19 years old when violence spiked in her home country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She was home with her family when the neighbors began to scream. Within minutes, they heard more gunshots than they could count. Scared, they started to run in different directions. There was no time to pack and rescue belongings. One of the neighbors had to carry Alice to safety after finding her unconscious. Her family was nowhere to be found. Away from her loved one for the first time, she was surrounded by strangers who had already chosen their next destination: Kenya.
AVSI Uganda staff members Arinda John Bosco and Ruth Ninsiima, were selected as SCALE Facilitators of the Year (2020), while Graduating to Resilience Activity received the SCALE’s Creative Adaptation Award for Strongest COVID-19 Innovations.
Alice’s favorite time of the day is sunset. She and her husband wait for their six children to come back from school. They sit together around a cup of tea and talk about their day. But Alice’s routine was not always so pleasant. Before joining AVSI’s Better Outcomes project, returning home at sunset was a nightmare. Everything she earned would be spent on alcohol by Robinson, her husband, leaving nothing to buy food for their children. When she tried to talk with Robinson, he would inevitably raise his hand at her.
“It was draining,” remembers Alice. “I couldn’t bear seeing my children starving.”
Charlotte Bahati, 36 years old, is scaling up her business. Thanks to the training received from AVSI Foundation, in a few months, she has gone from selling only silverfish to harvesting a more considerable amount of crops, and a new poultry farm. Charlotte can now raise a healthy family and is letting go of her past marred by huge losses after she fled her home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo.
AVSI is monitoring the continued development of the coronavirus pandemic in countries where we operate. We are aware of risks that local populations will face, especially having limited access to precarious health systems and already struggling with poverty, hunger, and conflict. AVSI staff continues to accompany our beneficiaries, following safety regulations implemented in each country. We are doing everything we can to ensure minimal interruption of our initiatives, which many people need even more right now. Below are some testimonials we have received from colleagues, who like all of us, have to adapt, be creative, and remain hopeful during these difficult times.