It is with great sadness that we received news from Bishop Dan Zoreka late on June 15th of the death that evening in Kampala of Bishop Benon Magezi of North Kigezi Diocese, at the age of 60. Bishop Benon’s battle with Covid-19 had begun two weeks earlier when he was admitted to hospital in Mbarara.
Each of the WATSAN projects, small and large, completed in his Diocese since then, has been graced with his presence at their inauguration ceremonies. In 2018 he led the first Ugandan Walk for Water, which raised over £4,000 for our Bwambara community project. In 2019 he visited the UK with his wife Gladys and confirmed his ongoing support and enthusiasm for WATSAN.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Gladys and their five children, our friends and colleagues in the WATSAN team, and across the Diocese at large, devastated by this sudden tragic loss of their leader. The UK Trustees give thanks to God for Bishop Benon’s faithful leadership in Rukungiri, where the WATSAN team is based, and for his friendship and support over many years, culminating in his four years as Bishop of North Kigezi.
For our 2021 sponsored event, because of the uncertainties associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, we are offering a series of dispersed local walks of between 12 and 20 miles, at 12 venues across the country. Local teams will fundraise towards our water and sanitation project at Bwanga Hill.
Bwanga Hill consists of a community of 876 people, mainly pupils and staff of the secondary school, and a small kindergarten. In common with many schools in Uganda, the present water supply is inadequate and inaccessible, and sanitation facilities are likewise poorly constructed and overloaded. The new scheme will provide new large tanks, repair of the borehole and the spring plus new latrines and health and hygiene education, and sanitation improvements for pupils and the wider community.
We need £25,000 to complete this project, which has already commenced with repair of the local community spring. To achieve this, WATSAN volunteers are coordinating a series of dispersed Walks for Water – sponsored events that will see up to 30 people per event walk between 12 and 20 miles. The full list of walks is as follows:
South Downs, West Pilgrim ways via Beacon Hill, Old Winchester Hill and Cheese Foot Head
We hope that many of our supporters will join one or other of these walks, and help to raise money through sponsorship (details below) for Bwanga Hill. Anyone wishing to join a walk local to them can contact the walk leader directly and request details of the meeting point and route.
Walk leaders are responsible for planning the route (including regular breaks), risk assessing the event, providing a first aider and communicating with walkers. You take part in the event at your own risk.
We will have a celebratory event on Zoom for all walkers on Saturday 19th June at 8pm. Your walk leader can send you the details once you sign up for your walk!
You can collect funds via our sponsorsheet sheet, or by creating an online fundraising page using our online donation platform Stewardship. Our Treasurer Ali Fergusson has set out step-by-step instructions for the latter to help you!
Sadly we have been notified by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) that they have had to make the difficult decision to not progress with the latest round of the Small Charities Challenge Fund. For WATSAN this means that our ongoing application for a grant will not be progressed. After a long time, and not a little effort by our Trustees, WATSAN had reached the short list for this round of grants, with an application for a grant for a community project to serve some of the poorest people in a remote part of Kanungu District (Kinkiizi Diocese), not far from the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
This is at a time when we have all had drummed into us that clean water and sanitation are the first line of defence against Covid-19, and the UK Government continues to promote hand-washing as one of the most important ways of protecting ourselves from viral infection. Without convenient access to clean water, this cannot happen in poorer communities across the world. Neither will it happen where communities lack basic health and hygiene knowledge. Clean water and health education, as well as sanitation improvements, are key components of all our projects. Now we are told that, along with many others in the water sector, they will not be funded. For the almost 30% cut in the UK aid budget has resulted in a cut of some 80% in the support for these categories of aid projects compared to 2019.
There is widespread concern in the charity sector and amongst MPs of all parties at this swingeing cut to this aspect of the aid programme at time when Covid 19 remains a serious threat or potential threat in many parts of the world, including Uganda. 200 charities have said in a joint statement that cuts to humanitarian aid by the UK were a “tragic blow for many of the world’s most marginalised people”. Andrew Mitchell, the former international development secretary has said: “Access to water and sanitation is consistently the UK public’s top priority when polled about what aid should be spent on… “We are balancing the books on the backs of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world and it is a matter of national shame for our country to be slashing spending in this way.”
It has been pointed out that the figure of 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) directed to foreign aid is enshrined in law, but its reduction to 0.5% is being implemented across the aid programme without any reference to Parliament to date. That would appear to make its implementation unlawful. We strongly support representations which are being made to secure a vote in Parliament before cuts are irretrievably rolled out within this and other sectors of the UK aid programme.
We were delighted to see so many people at our most recent webinar, which focused on the potential of a new project at Bwanga Hill, and was the chance for supporters to share their plans for a series of virtual Walks for Water over the summer.
At the webinar testimonials from the community in Bwanga Hill were shared. This is WATSAN’s next target project and will rejuvenate crumbling water facilities at a High School of 650 students and the surrounding church and community. This was compared to a completed project at Kihihi Hill – a similar location where school students now have a water supply within the school and don’t have to miss lessons walking back and forth to distant, polluted sources. The full video outlining the potential of this project has now been published.
Plans were outlined for 12 different sponsored walks to take place in the UK during June, with walk leaders in rural and urban locations in Somerset, Kent, London, Leicester, Birmingham and Oxfordshire mobilising local friends and contacts to raise money for WATSAN. Full details of all the available walks, which will be risk assessed in a consistent way for both Covid and general safety, will be shared shortly.
We were lucky to be joined live from Uganda by Field Director Rev Eric Baingana, and Kinkiizi Link Moses Kabarebe.
Thanks to the WATSAN staff team we have been able to collect testimonials from the schools and communities in desperate need of our next project.
Staff members Marius Katunguka and Moses Kabarebe have collected new video that brings to life both the dire need for our planned project in Bwanga Hill, and some inspiration from a similar, completed project in Kihihi Hill. The new video can be seen below.
We hope that those taking part in our dispersed Walk for Waterin June will be able to use this video to encourage their friends, relatives and colleagues to sponsor them to walk and raise money for the Bwanga project.