Ruth Western, business manager at Manor Primary School in Uckfield visited Uganda last month with life-changing news for one family.
She travelled to Kabubbu, where Manor children sponsor 13-year-old Akamada, to tell him, and his mother, that the Uckfield children had raised more than £5,000 to buy land for a new home for the family.
When Ruth was first introduced to Akamada’s mother, Farida, the Ugandan woman had no idea of the link between Ruth and Manor Primary School but Farida had talked about Akamada’s sponsor in England who supported them and how grateful they were.
Ruth who spoke about her visit in an assembly at Manor Primary School on Friday told children: “Can you imagine me sitting there, knowing that she was talking about all of you.”
So then, Ruth said, she told Farida the Manor story and how they had raised the money to buy a house for the family. She showed pictures of the house illustration on the school wall in Uckfield where progress of fund-raising was recorded and how each brick placed on it says ‘… for Akamada’s house.”
Ruth said: “This was all through an interpreter and when Farida finally realised what I was telling her – that all the children in my school in the United Kingdom wanted to build her a house and a place of safety for her family – she reached out to hold my hand, and we laughed and we clapped and we held hands and we cried.
“My only regret was that I didn’t have all 405 of you and all the grown-ups with me.”
Ruth went on to tell Farida how last year’s Year 4 children learned to knit with their grannies. “And I told her how you knitted, and knitted and knitted and came back to school with all the squares which Mrs Woolgar turned into beautiful blankets.
“Then Farida unwrapped the parcels and there they were. Your fabulous blankets – started in Uckfield and ended in Kabubbu. I know that Farida’s family will be thinking of you every night when they go to sleep under your blankets.”
Ruth told Manor children how she met Akamada talked about the life he leads in Kabubbu, living in one room and sharing a bed with his siblings.
She said water had to be collected, maybe three times a day, and it was a 40 minute walk each way to get it.
Children start school at 7am and the first thing they do on arrival is sweep their classrooms – Ruth brought home one of the brooms they use – and get water from the borehole.
Then they have assembly and lessons until 10.30am when they have porridge to eat. There are more lessons, lunch, more lessons and then sport.
“No-one wants to go home at 5pm. The children have to be shoo’d out of the gates,” said Ruth.
She told how Farida worked in a quarry all day for 4000 shillings a week – the equivalent of 95p – but her rent is 5000 shillings a week so she does some digging for other people to earn extra money.
Ruth said: “Farida keeps her home really well – clean and tidy – doing her very best, with nothing.”
The new house will have two rooms, be properly built and belong to the family. There will be land with it too.
The house will have its own toilet and, with some of the extra money raised over the target figure by Manor children, guttering is to be put in to catch water when it rains to store in a water tank.
Ruth told Manor children that Akamada, who she met later, was a lovely boy, shy but with good friends. She knew he was an Arsenal supporter and he was very pleased when she gave him an Arsenal beanie and a 2015 annual.
Later in the day his friends brought him to her to show Akamada wearing his hat.
Ruth read out a thank you letter from Akamada’s family and ended the assembly by saying: “Be proud. You have all done a great thing. You have changed not just one person’s life, but a whole family.
“Without having to pay rent, maybe Farida can send more of her children to school. Maybe Farida can start a small business growing and selling crops, or keeping chickens.
“Akamada’s family now have choices, options, a better future – and you have made that happen. Remember this feeling – and make it happen again.”
Local companies also helped with fund-raising for the new house. They included: TR Fastenings, Bentons, Friday Ad, PM Garden Services. Building contractors who have worked with the school in the past include P H Beck, John Farrington, Trojan Rose, BLB Architects. Other companys that have helped through links with staff and governors are LBB Architects, 3D Architecture and Orion Access.
Read more about fund-raising for Akamada’s house here: Fund-raising success for Manor schoolchildren, Uckfield and here: Uckfield schoolchildren aim to build a house in Uganda