Changing Children's Worlds
Clean Water & Sanitation
Clean water and sanitation facilities are essential to living a healthy life. Currently less than 57% of the total population of Uganda have access to “at least basic sanitation” and almost 90 per cent of child deaths from diarrhoeal diseases are directly linked to contaminated water, lack of sanitation facilities, or inadequate hygiene.
IGF’s clean water project goes beyond only providing access to safe water within our four primary schools, but reaches out to the wider community. We currently have 36 water bores which we monitor and maintain. These are scattered throughout the community within a 100km radius of Kitgum. In the past, IGF partnered with Water Harvest International in the drilling of boreholes.
Our focus has now turned to maintaining and rehabilitating those existing boreholes and ensuring they are functional. Overuse and damage can result in a borehole becoming broken and unusable. In some cases the pipes deep in the ground become rusted or blocked, and sometimes it could be the pump handle has been broken by animals. We also go a step further, and work with the local communities to build their capacity through establishing ‘Water User Committees’ (community members), which are responsible for managing and maintaining the borehole in their community. IGF seeks to gain community ownership of the boreholes so that they are better cared for and minor maintenance is undertaken when needed.
‘Imagine walking 8km just to access safe water every single day. That’s how far some people from Orom, about 100km from Kitgum had to walk. They previously had access to safe water closer to the village, but overuse and damage resulted in the borehole becoming broken and unusable. 700 people in the community and pupils from a nearby primary school relied on this one borehole for water. When it broke and was no longer usable, people had to walk even further to neighbouring villages, and the wait could be hours before they can fill up their jerry can and walk back home. Many women and children spent most of their day just getting water. Trying to avoid the long distances, others collected water from a nearby well, but the water was dirty and unsafe to drink.’
With your support, IGF can continue to provide access to safe water throughout the community and improved sanitation facilities within our primary schools. To enable long-term success, your support also helps us to promote better hygiene and empower communities with the knowledge to maintain these facilities and infrastructure.
At the Irene Gleeson Foundation, we believe that every child has the right to reach their full potential. Good nutrition is essential for health and development, yet malnutrition continues to be a serious health problem for infants and children throughout northern Uganda. Our goal is to ensure that infants and children are well nourished and have the best chance at reaching their full potential.
Providing breakfast and lunch to all nursery and primary pupils each school day has remained a core aspect of IGF’s projects since Mama Irene first began. Providing nutrition in our schools has multiple outcomes; from increased attendance, concentration and participation in the classrooms, higher rates of girl children completing primary school rather than dropping out early, to better overall health of the children.
Many families rely on IGF’s school nutrition program and credit it as a major reason for choosing IGF schools for their children. On average, Ugandan women give birth to 5 children, putting a huge strain on family resources. Poverty, limited land ownership, lack of education, gender inequalities, draught and reliance on agriculture as a main source of income, continues to create food insecurity for many families in northern Uganda. Ensuring that children are receiving basic nutrition at school remains a key intervention in improving school attendance and performance for the most vulnerable children in the community.
Despite a greater awareness of the impacts of malnutrition on infants, the need to provide interventions to orphaned and malnourished infants is ongoing. When presented to IGF, each infant and their situation is assessed so that the most appropriate nutritional support can be provided.
‘We received baby Deborah in July 2020, already 8 months old. She was underweight and at risk of malnutrition. Baby Deborah unexpectedly lost her mother when she was only 2 weeks old, and her aunty stepped in to look after her. Without any breast milk or the ability to purchase infant formula, Baby Deborah has been fed on watery porridge since her mother passed away. But after 8 months she hadn’t been gaining the weight that would be expected of a healthy baby. Her aunt was worried and took her to the local health facility. She was referred to IGF as the primary organisation in Kitgum providing nutritional support to at-risk and malnourished infants. As Baby Deborah has a loving and capable aunt to care for her, we are providing nutritional supplements while she continues to live at home with her aunt.’
‘Baby David was tiny when he first arrived with his mother. At 3 weeks old he was only 2kg. His mother had no breast milk and had been struggling to feed him for two weeks on cow milk and water mixed with sugar. After 11 months at IGF on the infant nutrition program, Baby David has returned home to the village with his mother.
An important part of supporting Baby David nutritionally, was to counsel his mother and improve her health also. Once the mother’s health had improved, she was eating better and getting physically stronger, then her breast milk also gradually came back.
We aim to provide the most appropriate intervention for each situation, advocating for the health and development of the infant.’
Better health for infants, children and their families
Changing Children’s Worlds involves improving the health of infants, children and their families. For many children in northern Uganda, access to basic health care and medical treatment remains out of reach. Common diseases and viruses such as malaria, diarrhoea, ulcers and respiratory infects can become serious and potentially life-threatening when left untreated.
Each IGF primary school has a school clinic with facilities for testing and treating a range of minor conditions. The clinics were upgraded in 2018 and 2019 with the assistance from the Australian High Commission to Kenya, through their DAP grants. All pupils and students of IGF schools and institutions, as well as employees of IGF, receive free basic medical treatment at our school clinics and out-patients department. The out-patients department (OPD) at IGF’s main site is also open to the community at a minimal fee.
Malaria remains the leading cause of death in Uganda, with almost 200 people dying each day from the parasite. The most affected by the parasite are young children and pregnant women, with half of those deaths from malaria being in children aged 5 years and under.
Malaria surges during the wet season throughout Northern Uganda, but is prevalent throughout the entire year. At its peak, there are up to 20 children that have tested positive with the malaria parasite each day at the IGF school clinics, putting a lot of pressure on the health department. For as little as $20, you can help buy medicine to treat two infected children and clear their bodies of the malaria parasite which causes high fever, severe headaches, body weakness, mental disturbance, and can sometimes lead to death in young children.
The majority of malaria cases result from children not sleeping under a mosquito net. As many of the children studying through IGF reside in mud huts in the villages, they are more susceptible as they are less likely to have a mosquito net at home. We don’t want to only treat the parasite, but also prevent further cases through education and other preventative measures.
Providing access to basic medical care is a key element of improving the health of our school children and wider community.
Pre-primary and Primary education
Education is at the heart of IGF. Almost 30 years ago, Mama Irene started teaching young children under the shade of a mango tree. She taught them songs and wrote the alphabet in the dirt. She saw the need to provide education to the most vulnerable children in the community.
Pre-primary and primary education remains a central focus within IGF today. We strive to see that children in Northern Uganda have more opportunities than their parents had, and to assist them to achieve their full potential.
IGF operates 4 nursery and 4 primary schools with over 4,500 pupils, providing education from Kindergarten 1 to Primary 7. IGF’s focus on pre-primary and primary education aligns with the Ugandan Government’s aim of increasing literacy levels across the country. Research has shown that every additional year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 – 20 per cent, and girls with access to education not only vastly improve their own lives but also bring change to their families, economies, and societies.
IGF strives to provide quality education which is accessible to all children, especially to the most vulnerable in the community. We believe that every child has the right to education, regardless of their circumstances.
The schools also provide medical support through on-site health clinics, scholastic materials, safe drinking water, breakfast and lunch to all students and above all, Christian teaching and counselling
Vocational Education and Training
Empowering youth with skills that can lead to employment or job creation, is one the most important things we can do to support the young adults in our community. Issues of youth unemployment, teenage pregnancy, and the impacts of alcohol continue to afflict the youth throughout northern Uganda. Through training, skills development and mentoring, we are seeing youth develop into productive members of their community.
IGF’s Technical Institute provides nationally accredited Craft and Certificate level courses in carpentry, building and bricklaying, and tailoring. The students gain practical experience, and have many times been involved in the construction of IGF classrooms and buildings, and making school uniforms for the primary pupils. Graduates from the Technical Institute have very high rates of employment, with many gaining jobs across Uganda and into South Sudan, and many others starting their own small businesses.
IGF established a nationally accredited business institute in 2015, offering Certificate and Diploma courses in accounting, business management, IT, and secretarial studies. It is the only accredited business institute within a 100km radius, and has seen high demand from students wishing to pursue professional careers and from business people seeking to upgrade their qualifications.
One of the best ways you can help a person, is not by giving them everything they need, but by supporting them to gain skills which will allow them to support themselves and their family long into the future!
Sharon is studying Tailoring and Garment Cutting at IGF’s Technical Institute. She studied at IGF’s Amida primary school, but without the option of continuing into high school, she enrolled into further skills training. Sharon was orphaned at 6 years old, and has relied on her great-aunt since that time. “Life is very hard, and my great aunt is getting old and can no longer support me… I wanted to learn some skills that I would be able to use to earn an income” said Sharon. When she finishes her course, Sharon said she would love to become a tailoring teacher.
Students studying at IGF’s Technical Institute can gain training in tailoring and garment cutting, carpentry and joinery, and bricklaying and construction. After graduation, over 70% of students gain or create employment, which earns them an income to provide not only for themselves but also their entire family.
Community Education and Engagement
IGF’s Mighty Fire FM radio station remains the leading Christian radio station in Northern Uganda, bringing information, education and hope to almost 1 million listeners. As most people in the wider community do not have access to tv, internet or newspapers, radio remains the primary source for people to receive news and community education. Mighty Fire FM broadcasts various programs which focus on topics such as child protection, health and wellbeing, agriculture and small business initiatives, and many more. Daily preaching of the Word of God brings hope and connection throughout the wider community, rebuilding and strengthening families, and providing encouragement despite the challenges and hardships experienced in life.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Mighty Fire FM has been pivotal in educating the community about protecting themselves from the virus, and providing on-air classes to thousands of pupils while all schools across Uganda were closed.
Child Protection and Advocacy
Every children has the right to a childhood, where they are safe from violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect. We work in partnership with the Ugandan Government and local NGOs in advocating for and ensuring the rights of children in the community are upheld.
Child protection is integrated into all of our programs, but we also have many programs especially dedicated to child protection. From desensitizing the community to the rights of children over Mighty Fire FM radio, to working with parents of primary pupils in appropriately managing behavioural issues, to providing care to at-risk children, we advocate and intervene to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the most vulnerable children in the community.
Hope Children’s Home provides a refuge and home for up to 50 at-risk infants and children, aged from a few days to 15 years old. Each child receiving care at IGF has a different story, and is overcoming their own trauma. For some children they were abandoned as infants or toddlers, for some they were abused by their parents or guardians and were removed from their family by the police and probation office, for others they are children of parents suffering mental illness and lacking other extended family to take them in, while others were orphaned as infants and their family struggled to care for them in their vulnerable situation.
The ultimate aim is to reconnect children with their families or extended families whenever possible. For some children, IGF provides emergency care or respite for a few days or months, while others remain for extended periods. Hope Children’s Home provides these children with a home, with a family, with a place to heal, to grow and to thrive.
We are all responsible for ensuring that children are kept safe from violence, abuse and neglect. From advocating for those that don’t have a voice, speaking up if we see something wrong, to working alongside partners who are implementing child protection initiatives.