Journey of peace to help children

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Fountain of Peace Children's Foundation CEO Uganda William and his wife Stella Ruharuza, New Zealand executive director Jane Laurie and trustee Debra Maheno. Photo: Janette Gellatly

THE Ruharuzas, of Uganda, travelled more than 13,500km to meet some of the supporters and share about the projects of the foundation they work for.

Fountain of Peace (FOP) Children’s Foundation Uganda chief executive William Ruharuza and his wife Stella were guest speakers at Rotary Clubs, schools and meetings throughout Southland and Otago last month to update people about the work.

“It has been a great opportunity to meet some of our supporters and to encourage and promote our work in Uganda,” Mr Ruharuza said.

The duo’s main focus as part of the foundation was to advocate for the “most critically vulnerable children”, Mr Ruharuza who has been involved with the foundation for the past 10 years, said.

“If we can rescue a child… it is a no brainer.”

While in New Zealand, the speaking tour was also an opportunity to “thank FOP NZ, and its supporters, without whom FOP in Uganda would struggle today. Their support is critical to give vulnerable children a second chance”, he said.

The main focus of FOP was to create family-based homes for orphaned and abandoned children in the Kyenjojo district of rural Western Uganda.

Rescued babies initially spend time at Bethel Babies Home and when they were old enough, were transferred to a family home.

Each family home was a forever home for up to eight children along with their new “mum”, Mr Ruharuza said. The foundation has 49 children in its care.

FOP NZ executive director Jane Laurie, who founded FOP NZ in 2012, said New Zealanders had been a tremendous support to the work in Uganda.

Not only providing funds to help care for the children, but for capital projects such as two of the family homes – Kiwi House and Arohanui House – four of the first seven classrooms of the FOP school, the provision of a dairy unit, some farmland and more.

In that time about 12 groups of mostly Southlanders had travelled to Uganda and helped with various projects.

“The tours are an opportunity for people to not only see what their money has gone towards first-hand – it is another way for us to be accountable.

“Past teams have been involved in numerous activities such as building projects, painting, hosting a teachers’ workshop, basic first aid courses, to name a few, and of course spending time with our beautiful babies and toddlers.”

In May a team from New Zealand travelled to the village to help rebuild a spring well.

Invercargill surgeon Murray Pfeifer with a local Ugandan doctor. Photo: Supplied

Seven of the nine were from Southland, with Mrs Laurie the team leader, FOP NZ trustee Debra Maheno and general surgeon Murray Pfeifer, both of Invercargill, also on the team.

While there, the team also took part in a two-day hockey camp.

Pupils from 12 schools took part in the camp, including two high schools.

Hockey coach David Tilyard, of Waipukura, had introduced the game to the children on his two previous tours.

Before the final game, the FOP NZ team played a curtain-raiser against a team of coaches, which the Kiwis won.

The Kiwis were “thankful” they had shoes and shin pads on, Mrs Laurie said.

“Many of the children playing in the tournament were in bare feet without a hint of fear of being hit by a ball or hockey stick on their feet.”

The camp culminated in a hockey tournament with the winning team and runner-up team, of the primary school section, each receiving a goat for feasting purposes. Each school also took back a set of hockey sticks and balls.

Clean, safe drinking water

The team helped repair a village spring well, which was the main source of water for more than 300 people.

Mr Ruharuza said the spring well had become dilapidated and the water had become dirty and contaminated.

As the water was sourced from a spring which had been dug down 1.2m, all materials had to be brought to the top of the hill above the well, before being transported 200m down the hill in buckets.

Mrs Laurie said it was definitely a community project, with the engineer coming from the village, the bricks made in the village and many of the villagers joining with the “Kiwis” to help carry rocks, bricks, aggregate and sand to the repair site.

FOP NZ provided the funds for all the building material and extra labour.

“It was seven days of real, serious, hard work,” Mrs Laurie said.

To finish the project, the soil dug out from the well had to be levelled, as well as filling in a temporary ditch diversion with soil and stacking the unused bricks, while the engineer and helpers rendered the brick steps which led to the water supply, and the lining of the well.

Thanks to a team of volunteers, clean, safe drinking water can now be accessed at the village. Photo: Supplied

Mr Ruharuza said before the well was rebuilt, people would spend more than seven hours lining up for water… “to carry water”.

“Now there is clean and safe water running 24/7,” Mr Ruharuza said.

“The community appreciated [the repair of the well] so much.”

As there was no piped water to the FOP school, the rebuilt well also benefitted the children at the school, he said.

Mrs Laurie said she felt blessed to be a part of the rebuild, and the flow-on effect for the village.

As well as assisting with the construction of the well, Mr Pfeifer also worked alongside and encouraged doctors at the public hospital, which was about 12km from the children’s village.

He also took donated much-needed surgical instruments and a diathermy machine, to be used to cauterise blood vessels to prevent excessive bleeding during surgery, to the hospital, Mrs Laurie said.

People interested in visiting Uganda with the foundation, or who would like to know more about the charity can phone Jane Laurie on 021 265 7856 or go to www.fountainofpeace.org.nz

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