Bram Moolenaar, treasurer of ICCF Holland, visited the Kibaale Children's
Centre in April 2014. This is his report.
You can find many more pictures on
A short video can be found on
There is also a
print version of the report
I land in Entebbe on Saturday evening. The formalities are quickly dealt with
and my baggage arrives quickly. Now I need some Uganda shillings. I'm
positively surprised when the first ATM I try actually works. Previous trips
this was a problem, only one out of three ATMs worked. A sign that
infrastructure in Uganda is getting better.
The next task is getting a SIM card, so that I can use the internet devices
that I brought. Unfortunately, the Airtel shop at the airport is closed, and
that is the only provider that works in Kibaale. The driver of the hotel is
there to pick me up. He proposes to try in town. We drive to a small
street side shop. It is full with cheap electronics and phones. The seller
has an Airtel SIM and can also sell me a scratch card to use internet. Very
good, and he can activate a data bundle on my phone. But it doesn't appear to
work, and the man doesn't know how to configure it. Fortunately I had seen the
APN name on the Airtel website, and entering that in the phone made it work. A
good start! I stay in a simple hotel in Entebbe for the night.
Primary school boys eating lunch
Maize flour for families that do not have sufficient food
A driver comes to pick me up on Sunday morning. He is a bit late, there was a
lot of rain and the road he used was slippery. First we go to Nakumatt, a new
supermarket in Entebbe. It is inside a new shopping mall, it is still under
construction. Also a sign that Uganda is doing better. De security is strict,
our vehicle is inspected. The supermarket has a large choice, I have to search
for the things I need for the days I will be in Kibaale.
The trip first goes to Masaka. Along the road we see a lot of traffic police.
The driver explains that it is almost Easter and the police tries to make a bit
of extra money. Hopefully it also improves the road safety. The road is
partly under construction. It has been worked on for a couple of years.
Closer to Masaka we drive on the nice new road.
Jeff is waiting for me in Masaka, we immediately go on to Kibale. The last
stretch goes over dirt road, but it isn't too bad. I start feeling at home, I
recognize parts of the road. The potholes have moved though.
Kibaale looks like before. It is rainy season, everything is very green. I
will be staying in a room next to the guesthouse, I have been there before.
It is a good room, there even is running water. But the water heater doesn't
work, so no hot shower. I use the first evening to try out internet. It
works, but it is very slow. Just enough to read my email.
The day starts with a lot of rain. Good for the farmers, but otherwise
inconvenient. The generator doesn't start until after nine, when the clinic
and the offices need power. Until then it is quite dark in the house.
I meet Christopher, he is my contact for the older sponsored children. They
are studying in a school or university away from Kibaale. Every child is
different, it is a lot of work to keep track of them. We go through the list
of children. Fortunately it is mostly correct. I make notes of details for
every child, so that I know their status. When I ask Christopher for each
child how it is doing, he says "doing well" or "OK". No problems, that is good.
Three children have finished the secondary school and have just received the
exam results. Now they have to choose their professional education. All three
have good results and will be able to study at a high level. I will have to
ask their sponsors if they will pay for that. It is quite an amount, about 100
euro per month. If they cannot manage that we will try to find another way. I
would not want to have the children drop out of school.
Dominique comes by to look at the water heater. He manages to fix it quickly:
the batteries were almost empty. I am glad I will be able to enjoy a hot
shower in Kibaale. That is not so obvious! Dominique also checks a leak of a
drain, but he does not manage to fix it, the floor remains wet.
Dominique also shows me the generator, it has been there for a year now. The
solar system is unfortunately not working. The batteries are too old and need
to be replaced. The inverter is broken and must be fixed or replaced. This is
expensive, we wonder if it is worth investing in. There are power lines in
Kibaale, but they are not connected yet. The question is when this will
happen, nobody knows. Possibly only after two years, when there are elections.
The politicians then like to hand out presents to get more votes.
I visit the clinic. Fortunately it is not so busy. It looks very organized.
Two children are on drip, they have malaria and this way they will regain
strength. The lab technician shows me his work place. It needs to be
improved, he would like to do more tests. Currently we need to direct patients
to Rakai or Masaka, that is a difficult trip for someone who is ill.
In the afternoon I meet Mugabi, he is my contact for the younger children. Just
like with Christopher I go through the list of sponsored children. A small
number had to repeat a class. Funny is that Mugabi looks the children up in
the computer while Rose does it by memory. Usually Rose is faster, although
she is off by a class now and then. That is no surprise, we have 600 children
in the school. She does know the family and background situation of most
children and also which children are siblings.
A child in the clinic on drip
Denis is writing exams this year
The day starts with rain again. Christopher brings me two USB sticks and asks
me if I can unlock them. One turns out to be quite easy, just had to find the
unlock code. The other is a challenge. Installing new firmware does not work.
After searching on the internet I find instructions for a solution. This does
require downloading a 7 Mbyte file. And that fails halfway several time. Only
at the end of the day it finishes downloading and the unlock works. Now I have
four USB sticks to try out. I use an Asus 3G base station, placed by the
window. This turns out to work quite well. But it does need power, it only
works when the generator is running.
I visit Sylivia at home, she is being sponsored by my parents. Their house is
good, although it turns out to be unfinished at the rear. This is a big family,
nine children live here, seven girls and two boys. The father is at home, I had
not met him before. He is sick. He has had a kidney operation and will soon
need to have another one. I wish him good health. Sylivia is in P6, the sixth
class of the primary school. Her teacher is Annet. Sylivia would like to
become a nurse.
Denis is the next child I visit at home. He has been sponsored for many years
by my former neighbors. And I have visited him many times, it is interesting to
see how he matures. It turns out he now lives with his uncle, his sister and
brothers are still living in the other house next to it. Unfortunately he
cannot find the key, thus we talk outside. Denis is now in S4, the final class
of our secondary school. He will write exams this year. The coming weeks is a
holiday, but Denis will go to school anyway to study more. It is an important
year for him. He is good at chemistry, later he would like to become a
teacher. Denis is a football lover, thus I brought a ball for him. His uncle
has a good job and they even have TV, so that they can watch football matches.
Later this day I visit Rose. She has finished the S6 exams and has just
received the results. She wants to do social studies but she has not
registered yet. Until the study starts she works at home. The father has
given each child a small piece of land, so that they can learn to grow crops.
Rose mainly grows beans, they grow well with the current rains. Both parents
are there, but it is a big family with ten children. They manage to give all
of them food, but there is no money to put them in school. I give Rose
badminton rackets. She does not know badminton, but after an explanation she
can play with her younger sister. They are having fun.
Finally enjoying a warm shower, it stops halfway. The water is finished. Now
I need to wait for the generator to run, so that the water can be pumped from
the lower tank to the upper tank. A plumber comes by to fix the drain. He
does a proper job. After making a lot of noise and dirt he fixes the leak. No
longer water all over the bathroom floor. Maintenance is one of the things
that keep the project running.
I meet with Patrick, one of the staff who has been working for us a very long
time. We talk about various things, he knows what's going in on Kibaale and
the rest of the country. We also talk about Moureen, a child I wanted to visit
but she is not around. Her family situation is not good. The father does not
take care and now the mother has also moved away. The children have to take
care of themselves, a grandmother sometimes helps out. Moureen is in a
boarding school, apparently she is doing OK there. I'm glad to hear that, she
had problems with other schools before.
I visit Nankya at home. The road to their house is too slippery, thus we park
in a small trading center and walk the rest. We pick up the mother in the
trading center, she runs a tiny restaurant there. Nankya is in the last class
of primary school, she will write exams later this year. She is good at social
studies. She would like to become a doctor. Well, then she will have to study
very hard! The house is made from bricks, but it is unfinished. The walls are
not plastered and the floor is sand. That is hard to keep clean. I propose to
use a gift from the sponsor to improve the house.
Nankya in front of her house
Children climbing a tree to find fruits.
Already my last day in Kibaale, since Friday is a Christian holiday. I search
for the spot near the offices with the best internet signal. There isn't
really a spot where it works better. I mount a base station on the window of
the office. This way they can use one USB stick to share with the whole
office. But it is still quite slow.
I meet with Peter, the director of the center. He talks about the continuous
growth. Currently there are about 143 employees, that is a big organisation.
There is a management committee that makes the most important decisions. De
school has grown again since my last visit, the secondary school and the
nursery have one more class. In a couple of years there will be two classes at
The school is doing a special program today. A bus with former student
arrives. They tell their story, about where they studied and what job they
managed to get. This way the students get an idea of the different studies
that exist and are motivated to work hard in school. It is a quite an event,
they are singing and laughing.
Jeff shows me a new water filtration system. We had tried other systems
before, such as SODIS, but it was not a big success. This one is simpler, it's
just a filter. Put dirty water in a container, let it flow through the filter
and safe drinking water comes out. Jeff considers offering this as a gift, for
when the sponsor wants to give something extra for Christmas.
Then my time in Kibaale is already over. I pack my bags and give away some
things. I say goodbye to Kibaale and Jeff drives me to Masaka.
The Friday I spend in Masaka, at the Timothy center. This is an A-levels
secondary school for girls. The school is closed today, it is peaceful and
quiet. I use this day to write notes and read email.
The Timothy center is located just outside of Masaka, at the edge of a swamp.
The landscaping is beautiful and there are many birds. Most noticeable is a
group of Ibises, they enjoy a meal of termites that have decided to fly out
all at once today.
There is a problem with internet here as well, even though there is a good 3G
signal. It turns out that the repeaters are not properly configured. I
reconfigure the base station and place a few repeaters in a good spot. This
results in a good signal at all of the houses. I leave the rest of the
internet devices with Jeff, he can use that to improve the internet at the
It is nice to finish my trip with the singing of birds in the background.
Uganda is a beautiful country!
The Timothy center high school in Masaka
many more pictures on Google+.
A short video on Youtube