WATSAN’s first ever webinar is a great success

WATSAN’s first ever webinar is a great success

We were delighted to see so many of our loyal donors and supporters online as we gave an update on how COVID-19 is affecting the team in Uganda. A recording is available below.

On Saturday, 28 donors and supporters joined our first ever webinar on Zoom – a chance to hear directly from WATSAN’s patron, trustees and staff about how we are affected by and responding to COVID-19.

The session opened with thoughts from our Patron Andrew Watson, Bishop of Guildford, who said: “I’ve always been touched by the way WATSAN brings together clear thinking with a warm heart. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he says ‘Let us not grow weary of doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time if we do not give up. So then whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all.’ Where our own issues and problems as a country can occupy our thinking rather a lot, or perhaps individual challenges, I’ve been very conscious of those in parts of Africa where they have very little resource.”

We shared our new video giving background to how exactly WATSAN works, in the words of our Field Director Eric Baingana and Kinkiizi Link Moses Kabarebe. Here they emphasise the importance of community involvement in both fundraising for and building water and sanitation projects, as well as the philosophy WATSAN follows of formally handing the project back to the community via a celebratory commissioning ceremony.

The webinar was also a chance for the trustees to introduce themselves to donors, and to hear about how the team have managed since the arrival of the pandemic in Uganda. Eric emphasised: “At the moment we have our field staff laid off, because there is no project work. They are without monthly salaries. And yet they have families to feed. So we are concerned, and we pray that we might be able to get something in particular to support them financially.” We are appealing for help towards a hardship fund that can be used for exactly this, as well as fundraising for a project to begin in Bwanga Hill so that staff can be redeployed.

During an open question and answer session, supporters were keen to plan together how we can boost both of these initiatives through adapted fundraising events (such as an online Christmas quiz), and through next year’s virtual Walk for Water.

The webinar closed with a blessing by Bishop Andrew. A recording of the full webinar can be seen below.

Buy Christmas gifts and cards from Fair2All and 10% goes to WATSAN

Buy Christmas gifts and cards from Fair2All and 10% goes to WATSAN

WATSAN supporter Mandy McIntosh runs a fair trade shop in Ashby de la Zouch. During COVID-19 she is selling online and donating 10% of her takings to WATSAN.

Mandy says: “Like so many other ‘non-essential’ retail shops, fair2all is closed for browsing and buying until lockdown ends. An increasing range of gift items can be purchased from www.fair2all.net.

“My biggest disappointment is that unlike previous years, fair2all will not achieve the sales, and the 10% of takings I had planned to give WATSAN will be a lot less. I have therefore decided to give 10% of my takings during lockdown to WATSAN.”

In 2017 Mandy was part of a team who went to South West Uganda and participated in a WATSAN project working with the local community to provide latrines in their school. Once the latrine block for older girls was completed, over 60 girls returned to education.

WATSAN’s trustees would like to thank Mandy very much for this generous contribution towards our fundraising for Bwanga Hill – and of course encourage other supporters to do their Christmas shopping on the Fair2All website!

Visit the Fair2All website

Appeal for help as WATSAN team grapples with COVID-19

Appeal for help as WATSAN team grapples with COVID-19

A very strict lockdown in Uganda has kept COVID numbers low, but the economic fallout and potential for ill health is huge. We want to be there to support our staff and vulnerable communities.

Uganda has been praised internationally for its response to COVID-19: learning lessons from the spread of Ebola, the government introduced an early and strict lockdown across the country, with a curfew and school closures still in place. Currently the number of total cases is around 8,000 nationally, with 75 deaths from the virus.

However, the economic fallout from these measures threatens to be disastrous. In a recent report, WATSAN’s Field Director Eric Baingana describes job losses and shortage of income in many households, brought about by the restrictions, with some local employees going without payment since March. He says “There is generally shortage of food at households. Generally children’s parents/guardians have no money to pay for school fees. Most households cannot afford to have equipment and hand wash materials.”

A report from Development Initiatives in August 2020 identifies a likely rise in poverty in a country where nearly 20% of citizens already live below the poverty line. Additionally, it states that the government’s COVID-19 relief programmes, such as food and other relief aid, have been directed primarily people living in urban areas around Kampala, rather than those in remote areas such as North Kigezi and Kinkiizi Dioceses, where WATSAN’s project operates. The government’s response measures, which include loans and tax benefits, are focused on people in formal and stable employment in more urban areas, as opposed to those in micro-enterprises or self-employment, which characterise more rural areas.

Just as in the UK, people and communities who were already the most vulnerable in society will have their situations worsened by the pandemic. However, Eric’s final point is a reminder of the particular situation in Uganda and why WATSAN’s work has never been more needed: without strict lockdown measures, the lack of hand hygiene and poor sanitary facilities faced by families mean local outbreaks could spread much more quickly. Eric says most memorably in his report: “People live under perpetual fear of contracting COVID-19.”

WATSAN’s own staff are restricted in terms of the work they are able to carry out, with some construction possible (“hardware”), but limited health and hygiene education (“software”), which requires face-to-face contact. With a reduction in fundraising income over the past months, WATSAN can only afford to pay staff for work they are doing, leaving our network of masons also prone to the same economic pressures. We would very much like to provide a hardship fund for WATSAN’s workers, but need further help from our supporters if we are to do so.

In addition, the best way for us to support our workers is to give them work, so starting our next big project is also a priority. Our current target project is Bwanga Hill, a rural community and school in Rukungiri district where two toilets are shared between 150 pupils and water is collected from a low-yield spring a long walk away, or from a polluted stream shared with animals and cars. You can read more about this project here.

We are incredibly grateful to some of our regular supporters who have already increased their standing orders – thank you so much!

What you can do:

To achieve our objectives above, we need to raise a one-off total of £34,000 for the Bwanga Hill project, plus an additional £500 per month for our core costs and hardship fund. The latter could translate to just 25 more supporters giving £20 per month, for example – just over 60p per day, so less than half we might have spent on a cup of coffee when we were able to leave the house!

Here are some ideas for how you can help:

  • Increase an existing standing order as others have done
  • Make occasional donations a bit more regular by setting up new standing order
  • Persuade a friend or relative to become a one-off or regular donor
  • Do a sponsored challenge towards Bwanga – walk/run/climb/cycle or do something in your house or garden in the style of Captain Tom!
  • Hold an online fundraiser such as a quiz or an auction of promises
  • Join our virtual Walk for Water in 2021
  • Give as you shop online – thousands of online stores (including supermarkets) will donate a percentage of whatever you spend to WATSAN at no cost to you; just sign up to Give As You Live, and if you shop with Amazon, you can use similar service Amazon Smile.

Join our webinar on Saturday 21st November

Join our webinar on Saturday 21st November

Donors and supporters are invited to join trustees at a short webinar to hear more about the successes and challenges of our team in Uganda, in particular in the face of COVID-19.

 

WATSAN’s trustees would be delighted to welcome you to our first online donor event from 3-4pm on Saturday 21st November, where we will talk about how the charity is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in Uganda. 

Our Chair Ian Bensted writes: “A global pandemic affects our partners in Uganda as well as all of us here. It continues to play havoc with the whole cycle of WATSAN’s activities from fund-raising in UK, through to teaching and training activities in Uganda.

“We have only been saved from disaster by our regular donors here, and special dispensation for vehicle movement and construction work since Uganda was locked down in April. COVID has devastated an already weak economy, and it is the poorest and most vulnerable who suffer first and most.”

The webinar will include an update from WATSAN’s Field Director in Uganda, Eric Baingana, and an open floor for attendees to ask the trustees questions about the project.

Everyone is welcome, so please pass the invitation on to anyone in your networks who might be interested. To attend, you need to have the Zoom app installed on your computer or device, and register in advance using the link below.

If you can’t join, don’t worry – we will make a recording available afterwards!

Register here

WATSAN appoints Alison Fergusson as new trustee and Treasurer

WATSAN appoints Alison Fergusson as new trustee and Treasurer

Our Board of Trustees is delighted to welcome Ali, who brings a wealth of experience as an engineer in the water sector in the UK, and will take the reins as Treasurer.

Following the tragic death of our longstanding Treasurer Stephen Bullett, Ali came forward to offer her time and expertise to WATSAN. After socially distanced meetings with the team, she attended her first trustee meeting via Zoom on 17th October and was voted in unanimously.

With a background in Chemical Engineering, Ali has worked for Thames Water and Severn Trent Water, and is now using her engineering expertise with UK water sector regulator Ofwat. She and her husband Tim, a Baptist Minister, have been donors ever since a trip to Uganda several years ago.

Ali and Tim wanted to do something a bit different to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary, so took part in a ‘Tearfund Go’ trip to visit water and sanitation projects in Uganda. As Tearfund is a longstanding partner of WATSAN, their trip centred on visits to the WATSAN team and their projects. Ali said, “It was inspirational to see the transformation of daily life that WATSAN brings as the staff work with local communities to deliver truly sustainable improvements. We came home with a massive respect for WATSAN and now give to WATSAN regularly.”

Just before he died Stephen completed our annual charity accounts and had them signed off by an independent examiner, so we were in a position to submit them to the Charity Commission on time. Ali will pick up where Stephen left off, managing WATSAN’s donations, bank account and transmissions to the field on a quarterly basis, alongside our Chair Ian Bensted and with the support of the rest of the Board.

We are so grateful to Ali for taking on this new challenge and giving WATSAN a much-needed boost, and we are very pleased that she has already visited the project and met the staff team in Uganda. We look forward to building on this relationship together for the benefit of the communities we serve.

Meet the trustee team