Amazing response to our appeal helps WATSAN team remain in work as COVID restrictions continue

Amazing response to our appeal helps WATSAN team remain in work as COVID restrictions continue

At the end of last year we appealed to our donors to help us support the staff team through the challenges posed by COVID-19. We received a fabulous response enabling us to set up a hardship fund, and begin the project at Bwanga Hill. An increase in standing orders gives us greater stability.

In November last year we appealed for help as the staff team in Uganda struggled with the fallout of COVID-19. The economic impact of pandemic restrictions, known as “Standard Operating Procedures” or SOPs in Uganda, mean that many people are facing personal hardship. We heard during our last webinar from the project’s Field Director Rev Eric Baingana how the WATSAN team had been affected, and we suggested that the best ways to help would be to set up or increase a standing order, or give to our next target project at Bwanga Hill.

Bishop Benon demonstrating the reconstructed spring to beneficiaries in Kisharara

Firstly, we are delighted to report that we have since raised further funds towards our target project at Bwanga Hill, meaning that the first phase can start in Spring 2021. This brings crucial resources to a very deprived community, and also keeps WATSAN’s staff in employment. In the meantime, the team has carried out baseline surveys for two new water sources, which will inform future grant-funding applications by the team in the UK; reconstructed a low-yield spring in Kisharara, serving 540 people with a refreshed and clean water supply; and advocated widely for safety measures communities can take to protect against COVID-19. A full report from the final quarter of 2020 can be found here.

Secondly, we have already seen our generous community of donors initiate or boost their standing orders to WATSAN so that we have achieved 50% of the additional £500 per month we were looking for towards our core costs and hardship fund. This means that, for example, we were able to give staff their Christmas bonus in December (pictured above). Eric reports: “The shared items among others included maize flour, rice, chicken and soap which staff members took with them to their respective families. This made a great relief and enjoyment to our families as far as Christmas related ceremony at homes was concerned.”

If you are able to help us raise a further £250 monthly, or indeed contribute towards the remaining phases of Bwanga Hill, please visit our donation page.

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

Walk for Water goes virtual in 2021!

Walk for Water goes virtual in 2021!

Due to COVID-19 our two-yearly fundraising event will have to be done differently next year – but we are rising to the challenge with plans for a virtual Walk for Water.

The WATSAN Walk for Water is one of our key fundraising opportunities. Every two years a large group of supporters gather for a weekend and take part in a sponsored 20-mile walk to raise vital funds for the projects in Uganda.

Our cunning plan for 2021 is to have a multitude of dispersed/virtual Walks for Water. These will nevertheless be real, local one-day walks, with flexible arrangements to suit local restrictions, all happening on the same day and using technology to keep in touch before, during and on the evening after the event, with the aim of promoting the wonderful sense of camaraderie that usually happens face to face.

For this we need to identify local leaders who will rally the troops! In outline the local leader role will look something like this:

  1. Using “Map my Walk” or similar, plan a local walk with around 5-, and hopefully 10-, 15- and 20-mile stage points, to be undertaken as a group if possible.
  2. Identify and encourage local walkers to join in groups (size to be decided and subject to local COVID regulations). Local support may also be required to dispense refreshments and provide transport for those who drop out at staging points.
  3. Arrange for the walk to be led safely on the day.
  4. Form a WhatsApp group, and for example send pictures of the group on training walks, beginning the walk and points/incidents of interest. Report completion!

Centrally we will support leaders in route planning, supply sponsor sheets and a promotional materials, and invite everyone to a short ZOOM gathering at a set time in the early evening. All proceeds will be for our target project, Bwanga Hill. Each group can set individual and/or group fundraising targets.

We have embryonic offers already to form groups in the Peak District, the Quantocks, the Ridgeway, the Cleveland Way, the Cotswolds, the North Downs and the South Downs, the Leicestershire High Points (which are not very high!), and in or around Central London.

The date is to be confirmed amongst local leaders, but will be either late June or early July 2021.

Will you join this venture as a leader? Please contact Andrew Starr on 0116 2706523 or leicstarr@gmail.com. If you would like to join in, but not as a leader, please contact us so that we can put you in touch with your nearest local leader.

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.