DIVINE BABIES HOME
The Divine Mercy Babies home situated in Boma area Mbarara Muncipality , UIganda was started in 2011 by the Right Rev John Baptist Bashobora. The babies home is presently under the Father Bash Foundation mantle and takes care of over 150 babies from age 0 to 12 years.
This Babies home came into being as a result of an increase in abandoned children in the Mbarara area and surrounding districts. Babies and children were announced on a daily basis in churches and the communities as abandoned or lost children. The daily newspapers always had clips of abandoned children, you could tell through the photos that the babies and children were in grief, covered in waste, covered with wounds, others in need of dire medical attention and dehydrated from days without being fed.
At the time, the Foundation was catering for mostly children who had been orphaned due to the rampant AIDS/HIV situation in the area and children who had been displaced by wars in the war ravaged areas of Congo and Rwanda. It become common knowledge in the area that Father Bashobora was taking care of abandoned children irrespective of age so babies were continuously brought into his hold. Being an orphan himself at the age of two, these young angels touched his heart deeply, he had grown through hard times and understood what it meant to grow up as an orphan with all its challenges, so together with his team they founded the Divine Babies home in 2011 to handle and take care of these babies who were so much in need of love and basics for daily survival which included food, shelter, medical attention, spiritual nourishment and just a word of encouragement for those who were a little bit older.
Each child has a unique and touching story on arrival at the Divine Babies home. The ones who save them and deliver them to the babies home have very distressful stories to tell: some babies are picked from pit latrines where the mother has left them to perish, all covered in waste, others are retrieved from garbage areas all covered in dirt that is smelly and slimy, others are wrapped and strangled in polythene papers and left to suffocate but are saved in the niche of time, others are thrown in over grown bushes during the cover of darkness and survive the night mammals eating them up, some would be discovered with dog and insect bites all over their delicate skins, some under the cover of Darkness just leave the babies at the Divine Babies home gate a result of biting poverty, other babies are disabled and looked at as a curse and just thrown away by the parents after delivery in hospitals, these are usually reported to the police who deliver them to the babies home.
Some abandoned babies are a result of teenage girls who feel that looking after a babies will jeopardize the rest of their studies, immediately after delivery they walk out on the babies, since the hospitals in Mbarara do not have facilities to take care of babies they send them to the Divine Babies home.
The babies on arrival at the babies home are put in the hands of care takers who watch over their daily needs, dress them, feed them, look out for sanitation issues, and medical attention. They also arrange for their schedules of sleep and school for those who have reached school going age, a day care and nursery school is within the babies home therefore maximum attention is continuously given to these babies.
As time goes by , these babies develop into grown up children who the foundation engages in Education at the foundation education units from primary level , on to secondary level , tertiary institutions and the universities. At this point their future is guaranteed, are equipped with various skills and are taken up by different organizations as employees and are ready to face the realities of Life. These adult and now people of society who earn do return to support the babies’ home financially, spiritually and emotionally.
Rev Father Bashobora together with his team which includes sponsors both local and international are the support system of the Divine Babies Home.
GIRL CHILD EDUCATION AT THE ST MARYS GIRLS VOCATIONAL SCHOOL – MBARARA
Father Bash Foundation is one that advocates for the Girl Child Education. The only means of a woman being independent and in position to make rightful decisions, she must be educated. The many orphaned children taken care of by the foundation have 80% as girls. Most of these are already emotionally unstable given that t hey are orphans, they are further faced with various challenges including the teenager bug which comes with first time menses, this has caused a lot of stigma to the girl child some even running away from school due to lack of access to the required material to use during the menses period.
At St. Mary’s Girls Vocational school, girl child education is top on the list, these girls are taught according to the national syllabus and additional subjects in vocational studies are added like crafts, catering, tailoring and others .The School started as early as 2004 , quite a number of students have successfully completed with their ordinary level of education (UCE).
Of recent the school with the help of sponsors was able to construct a multi storied complex for additional classes and dormitories. With this the administration has also added the Uganda Advanced certificate of Education (UACE) which has its first candidates this year 2018. This alone proves that the school has improved in standard and facilities.
However the school needs to improve in terms of feeding a balanced meal to the students and this requires land where to grow food stuff like vegetables, fruits, carbohydrate foods and others. The school also lacks a standard library with variety of books, a science laboratory for practical subjects like biology and physics, a computer laboratory to train the students in computer applications which are now used world over, there is also lack of a proper sports field to carry out sports
The school is located in the trading town of Rwebikona which is adjacent to the central business District of Mbarara, this would seem placed in a worrying trading town that would pose a threat to the girls especially with men and boys looming all over and promising the girls gifts and all kinds of lies to take them out of school but the school is well secured with a high brick wall, with security monitoring the people coming in through the gates and top of all the girls are focused and want to harness good education for the future.
THE DIVINE MERCY HOSPITAL
The general lack of health facilities in Uganda as a whole saw the birth of the divine Mercy hospital in Mbarara. This health facility was founded to handle the ever increasing health issues in the Mbarara region and further on to isingiro, Bushenyi, Kasese, Kabale, ntugamo and Lyatonde areas. The high population in the Mbarara referral hospital saw many patients going without treatment. The country has very few doctors, with a doctor to patient ratio standing at an estimate 1: 24,725 and nurse to patient ratio of 1:11,000, this in the year 2013. The world health organization(WHO) recommends 1 : 1000 patients, which in Uganda has a long way to witness.
The Divine Mercy Hospital has been in operation since 2008 with the vision to be the preferred health service provider, improving health and well being of the people and the communities. With a mission to provide the best care to every customer through integrated health care practices and this has been realized in the last ten years, this is what Divine mercy has provided with professionalism, integrity, passion, customer care and above all Gods guidance.
At the hospital is general medical consultations, maternal & new born babies health care, laboratory needs, radiology issues, surgical needs , patient in house services, HIV/AIDS programs, and is able to harness different specialists when required.
Mbarara with an estimate population of 195,013 people as per the national census carried out by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics in the year 2014, the Government of Uganda still has a lot of mileage to cover in terms of health care provision. With the Divine Mercy hospital entering as a private entity, has done a lot to bridge the gap in these ten years taking care of both in and out patients.
The Divine hospital however still has to up grade its health structures, in line with the population seeking medical attention, it has of recent introduced ultra sound system that is found no where else in Mbarara taking care of maternal health care. A spacious pharmacy that is well stocked with all required supplies, a fully packaged pediatric ward, a dental section and others.
BASIC EDUCATION AT MBARARA PARENTS SCHOOL
Mbarara in the early 2000s was a refugee area for persons displaced from war torn countries of Congo and Rwanda. Women and children were a common sight all over the streets of Mbarara , some on their way to the Nakivale refugee camp, others searching for a livelihood in the town area looking for employment as house maids , gardeners or cattle handlers. The children did not have an opportunity to study because their mothers could not afford school fees given the circumstances in which they were in. The Aids Scourge had also left many children orphaned, homeless without any one to care for them, the numbers were increasing by the day, these children were neither safe especially the girls who were prey to being raped and assaulted.
Mbarara Parents Primary school was started on this background, for children who could not even handle to place a piece of cloth on their shoulders. Reverend Father John Baptist Bashobora laid a foundation for these children, with his team they bought a what used to be a homestead with not so pleasant buildings in the leafy Kakyeka area of Mbarara, This school became an answer to the many children loitering the streets, offering them Education, Shelter, food, dressing in form of uniform, care takers and minimal medical attention. The school caters for basic primary education which follows the national syllabus, additionally they are taught how to groom themselves and taught about minimal survival skills of handiwork, engage in sports and counseling.
Despite the end of wars in the neighboring countries of Rwanda and Congo, many HIV/AIDS programs that have come on scene to reduce the scourge and positively live with HIV, the prevalent high poverty levels has left this school as an alternative to low income earners. Children walk for very long distances to the school, some coming in from as far as 10 kms from the school to harness education. These children are staying with grand parents who are very old, are their only surviving relatives and do not have any source of income. These children walk barefoot, lack scholastic materials and study in congested classes.
The school is in dire need of more class rooms and dormitories in the near future. Some of the buildings available are in dire state, with no good drainage systems and furniture for all the students. The sanitation units are very few as compared to the population and even then, they are not constructed to standard, posing as a threat for disease transmission. Some of the classroom floors are bare with no cement. Access to fresh drinking water is almost extinct .The facility needs an over haul.
The girl child here has her own issues, most cannot afford sanitary wear, this reduces retention in school due to stigma from other students especially the boys. Alternative sources need to be sought so that the girls can have an equal opportunity to study and compete in exams.
The food available at school is the standard Maize flour/Posho with beans, though this is welcomed with open hands , this may be the only meal to be received in the day and even then its not a balanced diet, this is what is served every day. If land was availed, they would be enjoying a balanced diet of vegetables, potatoes, bananas and fruit.
ST JOHN PAUL II NTUGAMO HIGH SCHOOL
Situated in the breath taking rolling hills of lush vegetation in the Ntugamo District, St John Paul Ntugamo high school famously known as “Ntugamo High School” is privileged to have this as its home. Started in early 2000, about 200 meters from the Ntugamo District headquarters office, about 500 meters from the main Mbarara –ntugamo- kabala highway is such a blessing to this school. Eighteen (18) years in existence, who could tell this school would stand the tide. Despite being strategically located its original state was in such a miserable state, one couldn’t tell it was a school.
The Father Bash Foundation under the guidance of its founder the Right Reverend Baptist Bashobora during the days of placing students in schools where they could further their education was presented the opportunity to purchase the school. Education being one of the core values of the foundation captured the opportunity with not even 10% of the total amount to pay for the purchase. However he entered into negotiation with the owners to pay in installments which was agreed upon and eventually settled to become a full Father Bash Foundation school. The catch to buy this school is that the surrounding area presented room for expansion. In the last eighteen years the school has indeed expanded purchasing adjacent land and turning into school facilities which include the buildings, school sports ground, farm land for both grazing and tilling which has boosted and provided a balanced diet for the students.
At present this school which started without even black boards in some of the classes, without furniture, without trained teachers, without a proper kitchen is now the best school in the region. The school is a mixed boarding school with both O level and A level sections. The progress has not been easy but a lot of improvements have taken place especially with construction of new class room blocks fitted with wide black boards and well made furniture, new dormitories that have enough space with double decker beds that are well spaced , provision of clean water by harvesting rain water into tanks.
Presently is the construction of a multi storied building which will cater for a main hall which will alternate as a dining hall, a well designed chapel, and more class rooms to take in the increasing student population that has been a result of good performance. This school now caters for both the underprivileged children who are under the care of the father Bash foundation and also takes on children of the privileged who can afford to pay for their own school fees, this nature of admissions has boosted the school performance by enhancing completion between those who can afford and those who are less privileged.
The school still has a long way to develop to standard:
The school lacks proper sanitation areas in terms of standard lavatories and bathrooms, the ones presently at the facility are small, crowded and drainage is very poor, attention is highly need in this area cause its very susceptible to spread of disease.
The kitchen is sub standard and not built to plan, it actually needs to be relocated to a gazette area, its present location is a threat to the school, its situated in the middle of main buildings , this is a threat in terms of calamities related to fire and pollution, presently its proximity to class rooms and dorms pollutes the air , know that the kitchen uses firewood as the main source of energy and smoke is all over the skyline.
For student transport the school has to hire from outside, a school bus is required for transportation especially for field trips and teachers access to workshops.
The school needs proper wall fencing complete with spikes to avoid thieves who carry away school property especially during holidays, it also ensures students stay within the school compound especially the boys who escape into town for entertainment.
HOUSE OF MARY, HOUSE OF HOPE VOCATIONAL INSTITUE
This vocational has its roots at the present day Mbarara parents vocational girls school on the Kakyeka road . Originally the vocational institute was engaged with tailoring , a practice that was to equip vulnerable women and girls with skills to improve their conditions of living. Most women were widowed, others single , others living with HIV and could not afford a livelihood most especially paying school fees for their children, neither could they afford medical care, most teenage girls were of school going age but did not have school fees, this vocational school was to therefore equip them with tailoring skills which would sustain their daily needs.
The Rev Father John Baptist Bashobora sought a partnership with the then Kolping house and opened its doors about 2002 to the first beneficiaries . In the later years this house was purchased and become a full foundation unit which not only took on tailoring but introduced adult education, for these vulnerable women and girls needed to be equipped with methods of saving and keeping records and this could only be through acquiring education, adult education was then introduced to teach them how to read and write, these women came along with their children who were also of school going age but were not going to school, this unit could provide the basic learning schools and they tapped unto it. The numbers continuously kept increasing day by day, the space at the only building could not take them all up. Its through this matrix that the St,Marys Girls school was founded to better education of the girl child.
The vocational unit by the year 2005 was moved to another area Kakooba Mbarara which is the present location of the House of Mary, House of Hope Vocational institute, this space was used as a rehabilitation centre for to revive the destitute who were roaming all over the Mbarara town, feeding from garbage bins , not bathed for ages, with no purpose in life. When brought to this facility, the care takers would bath these destitute clean, feed them, counsel them , shelter them and equip them with skills in different craft including basket making, crocheting, mat making and others.
Most of these individuals just needed to be loved , guided and eventually revived. Todate these individuals are living happily in society, are able to have a livelihood through the skills they were bestowed with while at the rehabilitation centre and have been able to carry on with a normal life.
The tailoring department was moved to this location because its purpose was to impart skills to the vulnerable. So the foundation thought it best to have a diversified number of skills which now included tailoring, handcrafts, carpentry, salon works, building and construction , catering to mention among others. However for the school to advance a cost sharing mode was introduced, many needed the skills including community members who could afford. The school fees is cost friendly and catering for both.
To date the House of Mary, House of Hope is a full fledged vocational institute that has risen from a dilapidated old colonial house to include improved structures the school that are in line with standard planning composed of a well spaced classrooms for tailoring, salon and handcraft classes, well set girls dormitory, appropriate technology for the carpentry department, an administration team to run the operations of the institute, a fashion and tailoring department well equipped with high tech machines, trained tutors to equip students with the best.
With increase in population and high levels of poverty in the area, the need for vocational studies is increasingly on demand, however the vocational school is in dire need of improved structures: the kitchen is presently in a sorry state, a modernized kitchen well equipped with catering machinery is required to serve proper meals to the students and present a good training ground for catering students. A building and construction workshop is lacking, well planned lavatories for both staff and students, a proper show room to show case the products made from this institute, a security post or guard house to monitor persons entering and leaving the facility, water collection points including high liter capacity tanks and apparatus for water collection, a dormitory for the boys section, computers for the administration for classes, a dinning and hall for occasions which will include graduations.
VERONICA HOSTEL AT KAKYEKA
As mentioned in the previous notes, the foundation takes care of vulnerable children, including those that have been picked off the streets and taken care of at the Divine Babies home, these children do grow into teenage children , these ones can no longer be housed at the babies home which has specifications for babies and young children. When they grow into teenagers they join secondary and on into higher institution, in the holidays they need a place called home : St. Veronica hostel was acquired to cater for this transition period as early as 2000 – a vulnerable child has a place to call home in this residential area in kakyeka mbarara surrounded by different families in the neighborhood.
During holidays students flock into this shelter, you can feel the activity from a distance with voices coming from different corners of the hostel : the foundation has provided beddings, its connected to both water and electricity grids, of recent a wall fencing with a security gate has been installed to cater for security issues for the children, there is a care taker to handle , monitor and distribute their every day needs. Food is prepared and served as a family, a counselor visits on a regular basis to keep interacting with the children , please note this age of adolescence is when children need their parents or guardians most, this is when they are transitioning from child hood to adult hood, they need to be guided and spoken to about these changes, this is when a child’s future is shaped : at the foundation a counselor fills this gap and the results are outstanding, the children remain focused , have their full education and become respectable people in society.
The facility is equipped with basics but it needs more attention in areas of entertainment, indoor and out door game equipment to reduce redundancy during holidays, they also require tutors to visit them and equip them with skills in computer, tailoring, crafts, carpentry to make their own seating room seats and tables for food and others, a mini library to improve on reading skills, a television set to up date them with news around the world. Also is lack of a proper kitchen the one presently on ground is totally out of order with no doors, not cemented and lacks proper cooking stoves and other utensils. The other area of concern is the lavatories and bathrooms which are very tiny and dark, these need to be up graded to standard to allow a boys section separate from girls section, the drainage of the whole facility needs up lifting, alternative water sources need to be installed , proper storage for the community utensils and products.
There is space for expansion a storied building, well planned with all the amenities is recommended for the space, with well spaced dormitories raised to cater for the children’s needs. These children are the future of the nation to host them in accommodative shelter is to equip them with confidence to stand out as any other child in the country