Laura Cini, an ex Edirisa Volunteer, has been making a documentary about Punishment Island on Lake Bunyonyi. Here is her account of her experience:-
“Since I volunteered for Edirisa in 2009 to film a short documentary about crafts makers, my life has been haunted by an idea: documenting the story of Akampene. Akampene is a tiny island on Lake Bunyonyi in South-West Uganda where un-married, pregnant young women were abandoned by their fathers/brothers and left to die in an attempt to shun the shame they brought to their family. What struck me immediately was that nobody had tried to research the story before. The only further information I gleaned from the older members of the local Bunyonyi community was that on occasion poor men, unable to afford to ‘buy’ a wife, would pick up one that had been left on Akampene island. So, I decided to document the whole story.
Two years ago I convinced a camera operator to invest his time, and his equipment, in the crazy mission of finding survivors. Next, I wrote the script, which I developed in Nairobi thanks to a program run by European Media, and I spent a year looking for funds. The market is tough and no broadcaster or documentary foundation will come on board if they don’t see a rough cut. So last year we started another crazy adventure, crowd funding on the web (http://www.ulule.com/punishmentisland). In the end we managed to raise over €10.000 for the filming thanks to the generosity of our supporters.
In February this year we finally went to Lake Bunyonyi with an International crew plus two wonderful local translators. It was tough, from many points of view. Our first and greatest challenge was finding the women who had been left to die on Akampene Island. But find them we did. Then came the next challenge, convincing them to share the story. As it happened this was easier than I had anticipated! As the women listened to each other it was clear they found it easier to share their own experiences.
And so the next step is to edit a rough cut and present it to all broadcasters and foundations that expressed interest.
Now we face our next challenge. We need to raise money for the last part of production and post-production. “Punishment Island” won’t be a traditional documentary; the crazy difficulties experienced during research will be part of the narrative and the story will be reconstructed from a point of view inspired by the local animist traditions. Apart from concentrating on finishing the film, I am also thinking about an outreach campaign run by local teachers with screenings at local schools to spark off dialogue about equal rights. I wish the film to become a local educational tool focusing on gender issues and a way to raise public awareness about vulnerable women in remote parts of the world. If that would happen, this massive and crazy mission will have been worth it.”
We wish Laura every success and look forward to seeing the documentary.
“Punishment Island” is not Laura’s first documentary. As she mentioned in her account above, she worked with Edirisa on a Craft Documentary. In September 2012 a viewing was held in one of Edirisa UK’s nursery classrooms and the craft women involved travelled from all around Lake Bunyonyi to view Laura’s finished work. This was the first time most of them had ever seen themselves on film!
Young Rita and her family are very grateful to our ex Operations Manager, Rebecca Swan, who fundraised and organised Rita’s life saving heart operation in Egypt! Rita is now on her way home to Uganda but last week Rebecca visited her at the Aswan Heart Centre.
“I visited Rita in Aswan to see how she was getting on after her operation. It was one of the most joyful and inspiring trips of my life. It has been a crazy few months and there were some awful moments when we worried it might not happen at all.
On February 17th Rita left Uganda with her aunt, Linate headed for Aswan Health Centre in Egypt. A week later Sir Magdi Yacoub performed the surgery and he was able to repair, rather than replace the damaged valves, meaning that Rita will not need life-long anti-coagulation medication as expected. As Chain of Hope had covered the cost of the flights some of the funds we raised were spent on a monitoring machine for Kabale Hospital.
I visited Rita a week later. It was completely awe-inspiring. The hospital is purpose-built and Chain of Hope brings children from all over Africa to receive surgery there.
All the swelling of Rita’s face had gone down and her confidence was already improving; she was actually asking me to take photos of her. It was so wonderful to behold and I was completely overcome with gratitude for all the people who made it happen. I’m not usually overly emotional, and can be quite a cynic at times, but seeing Rita walking around her room, smiling and posing for the camera made my heart swell.
She will soon be home and after a couple of months getting her strength up, she should be able to walk to school with her sisters. She’s still planning to be a nurse in Bwama Health Centre. Thanks to Chain of Hope and all the people who donated and helped her she finally has a chance to make it happen. Absolutely amazing!”
Well done Rebecca and HUGE thanks to Chain of Hope and all at the Aswan Heart Centre. We wish Rita continuing good health and all at Edirisa look forward to welcoming her back to Bufuka.
Our nursery schools have just benefited from a delivery of picture books that were donated by kids from the Blackheath Bluecoat Church of England School in London – the school Rio Ferdinand attended!
Edirisa UK has partnered with Pelican Post – a charity that allows people to make a direct contribution to stimulating a culture of reading in an African school by sending books. Books educate and inspire young minds, but throughout schools in Africa, books are in critical short supply. In particular, picture books and early learning story books are unheard of in many schools. The books are all in English but are culturally appropriate for African children.
The nursery children have received beautifully illustrated story books like - ”We’re going on a Lion Hunt”, “Mama Panye’s Pancakes”, “Handa’s Surprise”.
We would like to say a big THANK YOU to the children and staff at Blackheath Bluecoat School and Pelican Post for enriching our children’s lives!
For more information on Pelican Post, please visit http://www.pelican-post.org
Tom’s Homestay is a community overnight visit hosted by the family of Tom Karemire on Habukomi Island (Lake Bunyonyi) and organised by Edirisa Uganda. It has to be booked in advance, as it includes much more than sleeping on a remote island – it is a full-blown cultural tour into the traditional life of the Bakiga.
Tom was born on the lake, as was his father, he has been the Night Watchman at the Heart of Edirisa in Bufuka for almost 10 years. A former prison guard he has many interesting stories to tell. He is 68 and has 6 children, all boys, one unfortunately died on the lake returning from an election polling station late at night. Very few of the locals swim and the lake does claim many lives during the course of a year. This drives home the importance of swimming lessons for the children, which we try to provide every day at the Heart.
Edirisa has been bringing trekkers to Tom’s since 2005 and during these years he has developed a brilliant campsite. In 2013 it is finally being made accessible to those guests who might not opt for hiking but still crave for a unique island experience. For those more active you have a choice of combining it with a 5-hour Lake Bunyonyi trek, a 1-day Kabale-Bunyonyi trek or a 1-day Canoe Trekking.
The full-board homestay experience includes a professional guide, a dugout ride to the island and back, a tour of the island by Tom, camping near his house in spacious tents, a great local dinner enriched by crayfish, a performance of an enanga (traditional string instrument) player and the island dance troupe, stories near the campfire, breakfast with local honey, bananas and chapatis.
In case camping isn’t your cup of tea a night boat ride back to your lodge an be arranged – but then you will miss the beautiful, relaxed Habukomi morning.
For bookings call the Edirisa Home in Kabale on +256 75 2558 222 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org .
We’re looking forward to celebrating Tom’s 10th Anniversary with him next year!
We all take fresh water for granted, but what would you do if the tap didn’t work?
With the help of the Kigezi Diocese Water and Sanitation Department we have just installed another 8 four thousand litre water tanks in the Buranga District of the Kabale region. This brings our total to 80 tanks installed over the last 3 years.
These household tanks change the lives of the recipients who no longer have to walk miles to fetch their water. The tanks are installed at the homes of the elderly, disabled and HIV families.
Quote: ‘This is a God given tank; there are many other weak, old people like us who have been given tanks like us. We are very happy and grateful to those who provided the funds. We shall take care of the tank so that the water remains close by, as we know everything requires maintenance.
This is an extract from a letter of thanks:
Life has greatly changed since we got the water tanks as follows:
• We, the elderly, have water near our houses; we have enough to drink after boiling it.
• We are able to do work in time because the water is near by.
• Our children no longer suffer the burden of fetching water
• The level of sanitation and hygiene has greatly improved because we have enough water to clean our cloth, bath, and clean household utensils.
Even people who have not befitted from the tanks are also happy that their neighbors have received the tanks benefited because they sometimes share the water.
Water provision can be a challenge to those living with HIV and their care-givers. Culturally it’s a child’s job to fetch water for the family, with children in rural areas travelling long distances with no guarantee that the water source is clean and safe. Being given a rainwater-harvesting tank means a clean source of water, which highly reduces their risk of secondary infection.
The area is very hilly and is home to approx. 26,200 residents. Typical houses are constructed of dirt floors, clay walls and corrugated tin roofs.
A household water tanks costs around £400 – this includes training in maintenance and sanitation. Our programme is ongoing and donations are gratefully accepted
The team in Uganda are very excited to have heard that Rebecca Swan (our Project Manager) has been successful in her attempts to find an organisation to accept a young child from Bufuka for life-saving heart surgery.
Katushabe Rita is twelve years old and was once a student at the Edirisa Nursery school in Bufuka. She enjoyed school but was unable to participate in games time because she became tired quickly and had an abnormally fast heartbeat. When she finished top class she dropped out of education because she was too weak to walk anywhere. The volunteer doctors from Slovenia realised that she had a heart problem and referred her to Mulago hospital in Kampala (Uganda’s capital).
The Uganda Heart Institute confirmed that Rita was suffering from Rheumatic Heart Disease and would need to be referred for surgery in the near future. Unfortunately the family were unable to afford treatment and regular visits to Kampala so Rita remained home for four years without medication.
Through a series of fortunate circumstances Rebecca met Rita earlier this year and learned of her story since leaving our nursery school. At that time she was suffering from severe stomach and chest pains and had grown very shy having spent so much time isolated from all but her family. The disease had obviously worsened; her breathing was very shallow, she had a distended stomach and oedema of the legs. Her face was aged beyond her years and she looked like a pregnant skeleton, weighing only 22kg. Her mother told us that sometimes she “hated herself” and would sink into depression.
Within a few days of meeting Rebecca managed to get her to Mulago hospital where she remained for three weeks awaiting various tests. During that time Rebecca researched the possible avenues of funding for surgery abroad. We had learnt that one of the valves in Rita’s heart was damaged and would need replacing. The Uganda Heart Institute don’t have the facilities to perform valve replacement surgery yet so patients must pay for private, international surgery. For families such as Rita’s, who have trouble funding a journey to Kampala alone, this is an impossible feat. Luckily there are various international organisations who sponsor surgery for children such as Rita and so Rebecca set about contacting them.
The applications all required various tests and referrals and thanks to the generosity of friends and family Rebecca managed to pay for all of the medical/transport costs. Rita started a new course of medicine that helped to stabilise her condition and she became much more positive about her future. She told us that if she got better she would study to become a nurse and would like to work in Edirisa’s new clinic on Bwama Island (which Rebecca has project managed).
Rebecca sent of the applications and after waiting impatiently for two months has finally got the positive news: The Chain of Hope Charity will sponsor Rita’s surgery at the Aswan Heart Centre in Egypt! Her surgery will take place in January and will be performed by world-renowned heart surgeon Sir Magdi Yacoub.
In a recent meeting with Rita’s cardiologist when asked if Rita understood the surgery as she seems so calm about it all, her mother said that she understands the dangers but that she is in so much pain that she wants it to happen as soon as possible. She keeps asking: “Why can’t we go tomorrow?”
However, Chain of Hope cannot sponsor the flights or passports and visas – once in Egypt everything else will be covered. We need to raise £1,500 for everything needed to get Rita and her mum to Egypt so we are asking all of our supporters if they can help by making a small donation to the Virgin Money Giving page that Rebecca and the Edirisa team in Uganda have set up - http://tiny.cc/3an4nw. Every little helps, if we can get everyone to donate a small amount we will get there.
A big thank you to Darrell and Diane Swan who have contributed most of the medical fees so far. It’s wonderful to think that in London offices, Egyptian hospitals and homes all around the world there are people who all want to help a child thousands of miles away in a tiny village.
Well done Rebecca – this is a great achievement!
Edirisa UK have recently donated a sewing machine and knitting machine to a vocational school in Ngoma in Kabale District. The school was started by Richard Mugayehwenki who founded the Special Needs Education Centre in Kitanga that Edirisa UK supports.
Pupils at the school are taught various vocational skills including brickmaking, agriculture and car mechanics.
With the new sewing and knitting machine they can now add tailoring to the curriculum and hopefully as the pupils skills improve we will be able to include the products they make in our craft shop.
Keep up the good work Richard!