St Peter’s group returns from inspiring project visit in Uganda

We are pleased to welcome back the 18-strong group from St Peter’s church in Bishop’s Waltham, who spent two weeks in Uganda visiting and working on the Rumbugu project, and engaging with the WATSAN staff team and beneficiaries.St Peters volunteers help local people carry materials to the project

The group set off on 17th August 2017 after more than a year of preparations and fundraising to support WATSAN’s Rumbugu project and their travel costs. They were led by Reverend James Hunt and included nine young people and nine “young at heart” from the church’s congregation. They were accompanied by WATSAN Chair Ian Bensted, and given an extremely warm welcome by the project Director Eric Baingana and his staff team, as well as Rukungiri’s Bishop Benon Magezi. They were hosted in Rukungiri at the farm of former WATSAN Director Eric Kamuteera and his wife Adrine.

The group’s primary work was to help the local WATSAN team finish construction of some new toilets at Rumbugu primary school, which serves 400 children, and also to help construct the protection for two springs that now provide clean water for a local village. In addition, they also worked on a spring at Katete (pictured), provided some consultancy advice to three hydro-electric plants, visited a mission hospital, supported some health and hygiene education sessions, helped lead church services with hundreds and even thousands of people, spent time with some orphaned and disabled children, and finally, put on various activity days for well over 1,000 children and young people.

In particular, the group were lucky enough to attend the commissioning ceremony for the project in Rumbugu, to which they contributed the majority of the funds, and helped physically complete. During the ceremony Bishop Benon formally blessed and opened the rainwater tanks, latrines and demonstration facilities (tippy taps, ‘modern’ dish drying racks and compost pits) in front of the entire school, their parents, WATSAN staff, community leadership and local government representatives. If you contributed towards the fundraising, you can be assured that your generosity is received with heartfelt gratitude and appreciation from the local community.

Writing on behalf of all the WATSAN trustees, Secretary Ellie Bensted comments: “We were really delighted to hear that your visit to the project has gone so well. Our most sincere thanks to you for your fundraising, without which it would not have been possible to complete the Rumbugu project in this timespan, and for joining in with everything on offer with such enthusiasm and dedication to the WATSAN cause. As you can hardly have failed to notice, the WATSAN team just loved having you all there, as did Eric and Adrine and family and the Bishops Dan and Benon, who work so hard for WATSAN!”

Reflecting on the trip, Reverend James Hunt comments: “We went to Uganda and were able to help a little, but we have all received back rather more in return. And so now we are back, my prayer for the team and for myself, is that we might in the future be a little more Ugandan than UK!”

Whilst they were in Uganda the group kept an excellent and comprehensive journal of their activities and reflections (plus great photos!), which can be found here. Please do have a read!

WATSAN’s 2016 annual report is published

The WATSAN trustees are delighted to introduce WATSAN’s most recent annual report – a slightly expanded edition that hopefully gives our donors a few more insights into the work of WATSAN, which of course would not be possible without their generous support.

Cover of annual report

The full annual report can be viewed online here, or downloaded as a PDF here.

As always, when looking back at what we have achieved, we in WATSAN’s UK Support Group are struck by the continuing need for better water and sanitation. In Uganda today, many thousands of people still collect their water from muddy holes, and often have to walk several kilometres to collect it. Lack of safe, dignified facilities inevitably leads to ill health, preventing children from attending school and enjoying the success that could lift them out of poverty.

WATSAN’s UK Support Group has very close connections with the small staff team that carry out the charity’s work on the ground in Uganda. After a recent trip to the area, one of our trustees, Graham Piper, remarked particularly on the dedication, skill and compassion he observed in our friends in the project area.

As you’ll see from the stories in this report, our partners in the Ugandan team don’t just have the skill of the craftsman or engineer. Crucially, they have the interpersonal abilities and community connections to work in partnership, resolve conflicts, and get local people to buy into and take ownership of the schemes we are building – ensuring they will remain useful well into the future.

The trustees receive detailed quarterly reports on all of this activity. Good governance locally is also ensured by the oversight of a management committee, and fully audited annual accounts. Furthermore, during 2016, the staff team participated in an internal evaluation exercise supervised by local district water engineers.

Through our work we are reminded of how bringing safe, clean water into an area brings wider benefits. In Burema School for example, not long after WATSAN completed a project in 2014, enrolments doubled, and the numbers of pupils obtaining top exam grades tripled. New expert staff are willing to take jobs in schools or health centres because they now have acceptable facilities.

Looking ahead, the trustees are enthusiastic about funds being raised through our 2017 Walk for Water, which will enable much-needed work to be completed on Rumbugu Primary School, as well as a visit to the project by a team from
St Peter’s Church in Bishop’s Waltham. We do hope these and other fundraising success stories in this report are inspiration for how we can continue to extend our support, love and hope to communities in South-Western Uganda.

View the full annual report online

Walk for Water raises £21,704 for WATSAN

Dedicated WATSAN volunteers and supporters walked 22 miles through the Oxfordshire countryside to raise a record sum of money for our much-needed project at Rumbugu Primary School.All walkers about to set off

Forty-three people (and one dog!) tackled the figure-of-eight walk, which included some vertiginous ascents and descents over the Ridgeway, stunning views of White Horse Hill, and refreshment stops in charming spring-line villages. Setting out at 8.15am from the Court Hill Centre on Saturday 24th June 2017, the last of the group returned at around 8pm the same day. The trail was challenging for some, who suffered rather phenomenal blisters, and less so for others – embarrassingly for the sufferers, the walkers in their 70s and 80s seemed to stroll comfortably to the end as if taking in a 22-mile hike was part of a normal day’s work! We are grateful for the support of Medical Officer Matt Dunckley, who patched up the damage along the route.

The walkers included several WATSAN trustees, our Patron Andrew Watson, Bishop of Guildford, and a large number of the congregation from St Peters Church in Bishop’s Waltham, who were preparing to embark on a visit to WATSAN’s projects in Uganda, as well as longstanding donors and supporters of all ages. We were ably supported by an indispensable team of volunteers proving an array of refreshments and homemade cakes at our break points at Kingston Lisle, and the lunch stop was generously provided at the home of friends of WATSAN Graham and Isobel Weller at Ashbury. On returning to Court Hill participants were treated to a slap-up celebration dinner lovingly prepared by two Cordon Bleu cooks, Becca Symes and her mother Camilla.

The weekend was also the chance for supporters to reconnect with the work of WATSAN, with a presentation on the Friday evening by our Chair Ian Bensted, who shared information about the current staff team in Uganda, and an update on the Rumbugu project. Thanks to the generosity of the walkers and their sponsors, this project has since been completed, and we have funds available for a much-needed replacement vehicle for the team to navigate the rather bumpy Ugandan roads. Without the latter, much of WATSAN’s work in the area would be impossible.

On Sunday morning a service was led by WATSAN trustees, including Ian Bensted and Andrew Maclean, and certificates were presented to the weary walkers. Thank you so much to everyone who took part – walkers, sponsors and support team. We are absolutely delighted with the record amount raised.

To see a collection of photos from the walk, please visit our Google Drive (where you can also add your own photos of the day, if you have a Google login).

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Max’s Fabulous Feast demonstrates great fundraising model

Seedcorn fundraising turns £225 into £1,060 – increasing the funds for WATSAN by nearly five times!

All Saints Church in Faringdon hosted a slap-up meal in aid of WATSAN in November 2016. In addition to the money raised from ticket sales, chef Max Young had the brilliant idea of a ‘seedcorn’ fundraiser – or “YEAST”.

Each of the 45 people at the feast was given £5 in an envelope and encouraged to use it to generate more funds in whatever way they could think of – for example to buy ingredients for a cake sale. The funds were brought back to the church on Easter Sunday, and a total of £1,060 was raised from the original £225.

Max says: “When it was suggested that I come up with an idea for a small present for each attendee, I thought through a number of ideas – but time, space and skill constraints meant a rapid rethink. My prayers were answered when I remembered hearing of this being done about 20 years ago in another parish. Combining this with the thought of the action of yeast gave me a name for the project to raise funds for WATSAN!”

Thanks Max for your innovative idea, and to the fundraisers for their hard work.

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Chinese Walk for Water raises $3,500 for WATSAN!

For the second year running, students at the American International School of Guangzhou, China have completed their own Walk for Water.

The students, in Grade 2 at the school, are taught by Rebecca Twitchin. She and the students, aged 7, are working on a study all about water – how we use it, how our use effects other people around the world, and how we can help people who don’t have enough water. Inspired by their studies, the students have twice completed fundraising walks in aid of WATSAN projects.

In March 2016 Rebecca and her students raised 10,000 Chinese Renminbi, or $1,500. In May 2017 they completed a second walk and raised around $2,000!

Rebecca says: “Our Grade 2 students learn about how water is vital to life on earth and it is limited to many, and we decided to take action again to do what we can for people in need.”

WATSAN is extremely grateful to Rebecca and her students for their initiative and generosity.

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