The African Children’s Stories Uganda collections have relied on partnerships with two Foundations: the Irene Gleeson Foundation and the Cotton On Foundation. The Irene Gleeson Foundation began in 1991 when Irene Gleeson left her Sydney home and towed a caravan to Northern Uganda, rescuing children who had escaped from Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army during the 20-year war in Northern Uganda.
Ducere and Cotton On have a great deal in common, with both Founders committed to improving the lives of children in Africa through their respective philanthrocapitalist philosophies where millions of dollars are invested each year into the foundation programs.
We worked very closely with Sarah Langborne from Cotton On across St Nicholas, St Joseph, St Charles Lwanga, St Jude and St Timothy primary schools, as well as St Bernard’s, St John the Baptist and St Francis secondary schools from the Manya, Busibo and Namabade Central Villages, and the Nabbunga and Kyalulangira Outreach Villages.
Adventure reigned. We stayed in the catholic parish, sharing a bunkroom with limited power and a daily ration of one bucket of water for all our needs. Morning prayer began before dawn. As the sun rose and the light streamed through the aisle windows of the catholic church (which felt like a cathedral) the faces of the children looked as if they were illuminated from within.
Reaching each of these schools was not easy. We travelled through jungle and during the wet season. The 4WD vehicles seemed to defy gravity and with the incredible skill of the drivers we managed to reach the schools and the children.
Cotton On and Ducere, while sharing similarities, are also unique. Cotton On committed to the children in Uganda by building new schools. With their innovative facilities, they were some of the best schools we have ever worked in. As the schools were being built there were days when we worked outside under the trees. it was beautiful, with blackboards made of tin and desks that reminded us of schools in the 1950s.
Each day the classes were different, with students particularly enjoying the master classes where their teachers, as well as teachers from other classes, would sit with them and they would all become learners together. This dynamic led to laughter and the enjoyment of learning though the different lens of age and experience. Gaining confidence over time, their teachers would share personal stories that enriched all of us. One of our favourite exercises began with, ’Let me tell you about …’.
The power of these teachers was reflected in Kabazalwe Rosette’s story when she wrote:
Margaret decided she would be a teacher when she grew up because teachers are very important, especially when their advice and teaching saves lives.