Do the children have families?
Everyone in the project falls into the category of “orphaned and vulnerable children,” which means that either they have no parents or no parents who can care for them. Most of the youth/children are connected to extended family in some ways. During the long school break over the Christmas holidays, most of the project members (like almost everyone in Uganda) return to their home villages to stay with relatives. During that time, the children/youth remain connected to their original cultures and learn basic life skills that are difficult to offer in a more collective environment.
Are you adding more children to the program?
No, Nikibasika is a based more on a family model, and is a closed program. We decided about five years ago that the unique value of Nikibasika is to invest most heavily into education, development and leadership support for the members as they reach young adulthood. There are a lot of programs that support little kids, but not many that put most of their energy into youth and young adults. We provide more than just basic education — we provide a variety of special workshops and programs that support the kids to develop global awareness, life and work skills, and community involvement. Because post-secondary education and leadership programs are the most expensive parts of the project, our costs are going to become a lot higher soon as the 38 kids in secondary school get older in the next few years! Our commitment to this full support is an important part of giving the children and young people in Nikibasika space and guidance to make the most of their potential — part of that is their confidence that they are part of an extended, reliable group that gives them a permanent home and sense of belonging.
Where does your funding come from?
Our primary source of funding comes from a yearly sporting event called the Triadventure, going directly to the Nikibasika program; the Triadventure event is funded through registration fees and sponsorships.
Where does the money you raise go?
Approximately 95% of funds go directly to the program on the ground in Uganda; the only money spent in Canada relates to minimal costs associated with maintaining legal status and financial accountability as a charity. We have no paid staff in Canada, and all travel expenses for field visits come from our own pockets.
What’s the average day like for the kids in the project?
Until the last year of primary school, the children live at the Nikibasika home, and go to school in the local community. Starting in the last year of primary school, the children become boarders at school, because that is considered the best way in Uganda to provide the discipline and structure for studying and learning. The secondary school students board at two different schools in western Uganda and return to the project during the term vacations. At this point, there are only three children left in the project full time — all the others are in secondary school or senior primary.
During school time, being in classes and studying takes up the vast majority of time, with breaks for exercise. For the boys exercise is usually football (soccer), which they are mostly very passionate about. The girls generally play netball.
During the term breaks, the children participate in development programs, including leading and participating in their community involvement teams, arts and crafts, dance and drama, and career guidance. They also learn basic household skills like cooking, taking care of the home, budgeting and participate in looking after the household. Each older child mentors a young child to help the young ones feel a special connection.
What kinds of lives have the children had?
Cate asked one of the older boys, who lived through the Rwandan genocide, to tell his story to her recently. This is his what he said:
Thank you so much Aunt, for this question. It is very complicated because it is a long history and is not easy to understand or to explain. So in brief my Dad and my older sister passed away when my four brothers and sister were still young, so I had to struggle with Mum to raise them up because by that time getting what to eat was difficult. I continued struggling until you started supporting us which is the reason why I thank God for.
Aunt,it is very difficult to explain my life.
Every child has a story that echoes this one – poverty, relatives trying to scrape a living out of a tiny plot of land with no income at all. With no income, there is no opportunity for an education, and even a high school education is insufficient to make a living in Rwanda or Uganda.
The children in Nikibasika made their way there through various paths, but they will all have the opportunity to make something of their lives. In looking at their bios, it is clear that they recognize this opportunity, and all have the hope of helping the people in their home villages or “the needy” once they achieve their own incomes.