In early 2009, Amazima's founder, Katie Davis, was introduced to the community of Masese. This slum outside of Jinja, Uganda is largely made up of displaced people from the Karamojong tribe, many of them struggling with malnutrition and starvation. Many children from the community did not go to school, instead fetching water, looking for food or begging in the streets.
Amazima Ministries decided to begin the Feeding Program at Masese Co-Educational Primary School, which was founded in 1927. Masese Co-Educational Primary School is a government school, where families pay minimal school fees, making it fairly affordable to many of the children in the community to go to school. However, food for lunch was not being provided for the students or staff. Many children, seeing food as more important than school, were picking from the trash or begging on the streets to find food, instead of attending school. Seeing that they had an onsite kitchen that was not being utilized, Amazima Ministries made an agreement to use their current kitchen for a Feeding Program with the goals of drawing more children off of the streets and back into school while simultaneously relieving some of the hunger and malnutrition that was widespread in the community. Students from the school now get fed beans and posho (a type of flour made from maize) everyday out of this very kitchen. Along with feeding the students and staff at the school, the kitchen also feeds any children of the Masese community who are not enrolled at school.
Amazima Ministries now feeds lunch to over 1,200 children of the Masese community Monday through Friday. Amazima provides lunch for the entire school body, Preschool through Primary Seven, as well as the children within the community of Masese. The Feeding Program is predominantly funded by the sale of necklaces that are made by mothers from this community. Through their hard work, these women are not only able to earn a fair wage, but also to raise extra funds to continue the feeding of their community. In the time since we started this Feeding Program, we have heard numerous times how this program provides the only meal of the day for many people in Masese.
The one-room kitchen where the Feeding Program takes place was built by CRO (Children Restoration Outreach) in 2009 as a donation to the school. However Amazima Ministries re-designed the kitchen in December 2011 to improve the cooking capacity and to improve the ventilation. In February of 2012 construction of the kitchen was completed. It now has energy efficient, wood burning stoves that allow for four large pots to be cooked simultaneously. These pots can hold 220 lbs of either beans or posho, allowing Amazima Ministries to cook the enormous amount of food necessary for our Masese Feeding Program. The newly renovated kitchen funnels smoke directly outside, which dramatically minimizes long-term health risks for our cooks. In addition to the kitchen, Amazima Ministries purchased a water tank, with the help of Solidarity Overseas Service. This tank will solve the problem of using an unreliable water source at Masese Co-Education School. This water tank holds enough water for three days of cooking.
Masese Nursery Program
Recognizing the minimal emphasis toward education within the community of Masese, Amazima Ministries created a Nursery/Preschool Program in February 2010. The Nursery School Program is a separate endeavor from our Child Sponsorship Program.
The Nursery School Program encourages the young children of Masese to stop begging on the streets, and helps get them into the education system at a young age. Amazima started by providing the funds for the salaries of two nursery teachers, along with covering any of the nursery expenses, such as uniforms, school supplies, and all scholastic materials. In return for these donations, Masese Co. Primary School allowed us to use one of their classrooms to start a baby class. Last year we added another classroom to offer the next nursery level for those students who have graduated from Baby class, this next level is called Middle class.
In 2011, we had 145 children enrolled in our Nursery School Program. In 2012, we saw that number increase to 160 children. We also added two more nursery teachers, while promoting one of our nursery teachers to our Head Teacher position. We now offer the final nursery class, Top Class, to go along with our Baby and Middle nursery classes.
Our Nursery School Program is free to any children in Masese, providing access to education at an early age as well as the healthy breakfast and lunch offered to them while they are at the school. It has been incredible to watch some of the youngest community members of Masese transform from sick and dirty children lining the streets to well-groomed, healthy students!
Daily Medical Care
Throughout the week, Amazima also provides the opportunity for members of the Masese community to receive medical assistance. Monday through Friday, a social worker in the Masese community assesses and monitors medical needs that arise. Some patients simply need to be counseled and encouraged to continue with treatment that they are already receiving locally. Patients who require further medical assistance are transported to a local clinic or nearby hospital to receive care. All patients pay a small fee of 1,000 shillings (equivalent to about $0.37 USD) for medical treatment, while Amazima Ministries covers the remaining medical costs, which would usually be unaffordable.
Amazima coordinates and ensures the needs of its patients are met. This includes the needs of patients that are admitted for an extended stay in a health care facility. In Uganda, patients are expected to supply their own dishes, food, and bedding during their stay at a hospital or clinic, we assist in meeting these requirements wherever the family of the patient cannot. This past year we have provided low cost medical treatment for over 2000 patients.
Amazima Ministries also provides counseling and follow-up care for patients who test positive for HIV. Many Ugandans are reluctant to test for this virus and go for treatment because of the social rejection and stigma associated with being HIV/AIDS positive. Our social worker keeps record of the people that are HIV positive in the community, takes them for regular check-ups, and teaches them how to best care for themselves and their children. We have seen a large improvement in the lives of these people after receiving anti-retroviral treatments, provided for free in Uganda.
This year, Amazima Ministries in partnership with the local government, was able to vaccinate, de-worm and provide HIV testing for nearly all of this children in Masese. Each child was given a health card from the local government so that we can continue to follow up and make sure that as many people possible receive the health care that need.