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1.Small business & micro loans Project
In Uganda, there are two areas which we focus on. Danida, in the province of Jinja, is one of the poorest regions in the country, and the Acholi Quarter in Kampala, where many people live on only $1 a day. To help with this crisis, our partners at Entrepreneurs Hand Uganda (EHU) conducted various interviews and training sessions with the people of our 22STARS group in both Jinja and Kampala.
We could see different challenges that were impeding the growth of their business, such as illiteracy, poor time management and a negative outlook regarding business growth. Many of the attendees were also concerned with sharing their difficulties in running a business, even though the group could help to find solutions.
In 2017, 22STARS partnered with EHU, to give Community Entrepreneurship training to the families of our 22STARS children in the Danida Area of Jinja and the Acholi Quarter in Kampala. The families first received an intensive four week training from EHU. Together with EHU we created in-depth personal profiles for each participant to see how we could help them the most. We then gave the participants small loans, set up a saving system, and monitored their progress.The most common small businesses our beneficiaries started were: food stalls, hospitality, clothing (tailoring and thrift stores), and local transport (mototaxi).
Alongside the small business program, we also empower 42 women through our 22STARS jewellery project. However, as jewellery production is dependent on the demand from the Western market, our women do this only on an order basis and we encourage them to run their own locally based businesses. If you would like to know more about how your jewellery purchase helps the women and children, check out our artisan page.
Lasting growth depends on the empowerment of communities through education, skill-building, control of natural resources, and effective interaction with society and their governments . The best way to move forward is to ensure that the families of the children we work with can become self-sustainable. Availability of small, but repeated loans is, in the long-term, expected to positively impact their poverty.
We provided interest-free loans to 64 people of our 22STARS group to enable them to initiate and grow their business ideas and micro enterprises. The first round was successful and the beneficiaries could pay back the loan and saw their businesses grow.
Among the communities we work with, there are many issues which heavily impact the quality of everyday life. One of the most devastating challenges that our communities face is climate change and its effects on farming and food security. Over the last 10 years, there has been an increase in the frequency of droughts which has led to a rise in food prices, making it even more difficult for families to feed themselves.
Hence many of the children we work with face serious malnutrition. Many children of the 22STARS foundation eat only posho - a type of cornmeal porridge - and beans. If they are lucky they might have a meal with meat once a year. Families often struggle to have enough food on the table, especially during the dry season when crops may fail and food prices rise. It is also challenging for the foundation to visit all the children and evaluate their wellbeing as they are spread out throughout the whole community.
Since October 2016, we have been providing the sponsored children from the 22STARS foundation with a hot meal every weekend. Starting with 60 children, we now provide meals to more than 375 children. We also provide basic ‘emergency’ meals for families who are in urgent need.
We would like to acknowledge the vital contribution of Alexander Schledewits to this project. Alexander first visited us in Uganda in 2017, and has since started the group Teller Für Teller where 50 of his friends gather together in order to make monthly donations to our foundation for the nutrition project. To date, we have supplied more than 45,000 meals. Every contribution can make a significant difference as on average a meal costs just under one Euro.
Alongside providing the children with hot, nutritious food, the weekly meals also are a great social occasional for the children, giving them an opportunity to play and connect, and by buying our supplies locally we make sure that the donations are being reinvested into supporting the community as a whole.
3.Eye- and Health Care Project
In 2011, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that there are over 285 million people suffering from visual impairment, and every 5 seconds a person goes blind. Critically, 80% of these visual impairments are avoidable and 90% of those who are visually impaired live in developing countries. Poverty, a lack of medical facilities, and a lack of education about healthcare mean that people living in developing countries are less likely to get, or have access to, treatment. People with visual impairment face severe challenges regarding their personal safety as well as chronic poverty.
Uganda has a scarcity of trained eye care professionals available to provide accessible care and this directly contributes to disadvantaged lives, and in turn affecting a loss of potential to the overall economy. This is particularly evident in optometry services which impact on an adult’s capacity to earn and a child’s capacity to learn. Optometry has the capacity to change the eye care landscape of Uganda. This profession is very young in Uganda, emerging over the last three years since the opening of the optometry program at Makerere University in 2013, funded by DFAT and Optometry Giving Sight. There are currently optometry students enrolled in year one and two of the optometry program at Makerere University. The first graduates graduated in 2018. Unfortunately, for many children in Uganda it is not as simple as heading to the optometrist and getting a prescription for glasses. A simple screening and treatment can cost more than 100 US dollars, which is unaffordable for many in one of the poorest nations in the world.
Within our eye care and health program we have several activities that relate to the health of the families and the community that we work with. We pay the medical bills for children whose situation is life threatening, and whose parents are not able to pay for it. Most of the time illnesses relate to malaria.
Under this program, we also set up the Eye Health Program. Several times a year, we take children and their families to the local hospitals and opticians to get their eyesight checked and get medication, or glasses where needed. Our main sponsor for our Eye Program comes from Walzer Opticians in Isny, Germany, and his non-profit organization 'Wir Helfen Sehen' (We Help to See). Early eye examinations are crucial to make sure children have normal, healthy vision so they can participate better at school and in play. Early identification of a child’s vision problem is crucial, because children are often more responsive to treatment when problems are diagnosed early. Many people here are short or long sighted and it is absolutely essential for the education of our children that at school they are able to see the board and their notebook clearly! Together with our 22STARS team and local opticians, Walzer tested the eyesight of all the kids in Daystar and St. Matia, two schools where many our children are pupils. Afterwards, 70 people were sent to a Ugandan eye doctor where they received further treatment, 50 reading glasses were handed out to the elderly, and 20 pairs of safety glasses were given to the people working in the quarry.
This shows the importance of the 22STARS’ “Eye Program”. In a country where the average monthly income is $40, a pair of glasses of more than $100 is simply unaffordable. Not only are they expensive, but many parts of Uganda still face a lack of education regarding eye healthcare, and the professional manpower to treat all those who need it, which in turn affects educational and economic opportunities. Our long-term plan is to look for collaborations with Ugandan organisations who could provide accessible eye care and affordable glasses. Our plan is to raise additional funds to check the eyes of more children and families living in the community where 22STARS operates and to give people an opportunity to get treatment where necessary and to get glasses. We want to perform eye exams with a professional optometrist and provide prescription glasses for patients who do not have access to proper medical services and eye surgery. We also want to promote blindness prevention and eye health education programs in the local communities.
4. Holistic Education project
The parents of the 22STARS children fled from northern Uganda to Kampala, the capital, where they sought refuge from the war of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). They settled in "Acholi Quarter" - an Internally Displaced Camp - and ended up living in an area centred around several stone quarries. Even children as young as 3 years old, have to work, crushing stones, to earn money for food. Although there is now peace in Uganda, the battle against poverty in Acholi Quarters continues. Many more refugees from Sudan and Congo have also settled there. In addition many people went to Danida, one of the poorest areas in Jinja, where our second 22STARS project is located.
We send children to school through our long-term sponsorship program.
On top of paying their school fees and uniforms, we make sure that the kids come together at least once a week, we hold regular parent conferences to also educate the parents of their plights and we give the kids extra classes on weekends and holidays, so that they can keep up with school.
We also hold extra- curricular activities, such as sports, painting, dancing, health, education, and we are holding parent conferences to include them in the education of their children.
In addition we provide our kids with mosquito nets, beds, mattresses, clothes, water filters and medical treatment.
We want a better future for these children and their communities, and in order to reach this goal proper education is the key.
Once they will get their dream job they will become change-makers and will be able to give back to their community. Educating children will also pull their families out of the poverty cycle. Helping our children complete their schooling will increase the likelihood that they will send their own children to school!
By keeping girls in school, the rates of child marriage and teen pregnancy has proven to significantly decrease.