Friday, December 30, 2016

Flavia is Breaking the Glass Ceiling in Uganda

Flavia is a 16 year old girl at Nyaka Vocational Secondary School (NVSS).  She just completed her 2nd year of vocational training and is an inspiration for girls everywhere.  Instead of choosing a traditionally female vocation course, like tailoring, Flavia wants to become a building engineer when she graduates.  Thank you for giving her the opportunity to enter a field that has always been ran by men.

Life has been difficult for Flavia and her family, so she is determined to change her future for the better.  She was only a year old when her father passed away.  Her mother was left to raise her and her four siblings.  This single-mother family was very poor.  Sometimes Flavia’s mother would work on plantations to make a little money for the family.  However, this was hard on the mother and most of the time she couldn’t even meet basic needs for her children.

Flavia’s life changed when she became a nursery student at Kutamba Primary School.  She writes,

My relief came from Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project through the construction of Kutamba Primary School.  I was admitted to the school in 2007 upon its opening and was able to study from there up to 2014 when I completed Primary 7.  The next year I joined the wonderful Nyaka Vocational Secondary School.  I enrolled in the newly established vocational class opted for Building and Concrete Practice, a course most people consider to be for males. 

I am determined to become a great engineer and inspire other ladies into the same profession.  Being strong and hardworking, I took up this course to become a great and trustworthy engineer in a field that is male dominated.  I see my dreams coming true in the near future.

Flavia will be an amazing engineer when she is finished with school.  She will be a role for other young girls who are also interested in careers that aren’t usually pursued by women.  You have given her the confidence and courage she needs to pursue her dream and become a successful, professional woman.  Thank you for giving Flavia the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty that she was raised in.  

Friday, October 28, 2016

DESIRE FARM – supplying food and hands-on learning

Genesis and her calf Mary
Desire Farm was established in 2009, to help provide food for the School Meals Program. The Farm has evolved tremendously over the last eight years, and its 10 acres in the Kanungu District now serve as training grounds, paid labor opportunities, a home for livestock, and a place to cultivate crops.

The animals reared there include 71 chickens, four Holstein Friesians dairy cows, and two Boran bulls. Broody hens have increased the clutch, so egg production will be at its highest when the chickens start laying eggs this December. Earlier this month, a female calf named Mary was born to Genesis (Desire Farm's first cow who gave birth last year to another female calf named Princess). More milk and eggs will help supplement student meals and earn revenue for the Farm through sales at local markets.

The crops grown there include maize, beans, bananas, kale, tomatoes, and onions. Over 95% of the maize planted in the last month has germinated, being the Farm's most reliable crop. Beans are often difficult to harvest because the crop is compromised by harsh climactic conditions such as prolonged drought and heavy rains. Nyaka Primary School and NVSS receive 70% of the bounty from Desire Farm's crops. Most of the remaining produce is sold at market and generated $292 of income for the Farm over the last three months.

Dedicated Farm Manager Richard Munyakazi works full days and sometimes into the evenings for ideal planting conditions. He is supported by two staff - one who oversees cows and the other chickens. During the busy times, 30 extra working hours a week are handled by paid day laborers who help harvest, prepare seed beds, plant, and weed. Guardians of students (mostly grandmothers but sometimes other caretaking relatives) commit to voluntarily helping the Farm for six hours a month, while students who live near the Farm are expected to voluntarily help for two hours a week during their vacations.

Volunteers tending to the farm
Desire Farm is becoming a hot bed of innovation and agricultural learning. By working on the property, local farmers are taught about seeding, transplanting, grafting, fertilizing, weeding, hybrids, and animal husbandry. Richard visits nearby villages to inform casual workers about the activities at the Farm. Students, their guardians, and visitors are also encouraged to attend experiential trainings. NVSS students help at the Farm once a week during their gardening time, and those on the vocational track may decide to invest their time in agriculture and learn by doing. Nyaka and Kutamba Primary graduates who do not attend secondary school know that they can come to the Farm to earn wages and learn how produce income from such a model enterprise.
Ideally, Desire Farm will continue to expand by adding more land for cultivating crops and rearing livestock. Even a small plot would allow the Farm to double its egg production and start growing mushrooms. Although there are significant challenges from weather and its remote location, Desire Farm will keep growing, gathering, and giving – to the community's benefit.

If you would like to make a donation to Desire Farm, to help purchase seeds, animals, and land, please visit this page. In the last section, designate your donation's special purpose as "Desire Farm and Nutrition Program." Thank you for feeding the children and their caretakers!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Meet Nyaka's New Social Worker!

Please meet John, Nyaka’s new Social Worker.  John is working with students, grandmothers, and the community to increase awareness about sexual assault and make sure there will be justice if an assault occurs.  Here is an introduction from John himself:

I was born in Uganda and come from a humble family.  I was raised in a hardworking environment where I involved myself with educated people who contributed to who I am today.  In 2012 I received a Bachelor’s degree in Guidance and Counseling at Kyambogo University in Uganda.  In addition, I undertook a Diploma in the Virtual Leadership Development Program for family planning and reproductive health services.  I previously worked as an HIV/AIDS Counselor with Action Africa Help-International (Uganda Program)-UNHCR Implementing partner at Kyangwali Refugees Settlement, Volunteered at Reproductive Health Uganda-Head Office, and worked as a Peer Educator at Alliance of Mayors and Municipal Leaders on HIV/AIDS in Africa.

At Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project, as a Social Worker, I have been offering guidance to students; providing psychosocial support to children, grandmothers and community members; following up on sexual assault cases at the Police, Court, Resident State Attorney’s Office, and Probation Office; and ensuring that victims are medically examined.  By working closely with others, I plan to engage the community structures to be part of the cause to end sexual abuse in the community.

I have community dialogues and discussions about sexual reproductive health issues and form community groups to disseminate information on sexual assault.  The problems I’m trying to address is the low response of some community members to report sexual assault cases to the Police and also delayed response by medical officers to examine victims.  I’m designing standard operating procedures to manage sexual abuse cases and creating more collaboration networks with other NGO’s and the law enforcing agencies.

I believe that each person has equal opportunities to succeed in life. 

The process of changing attitudes and beliefs about sexual assault is slow and requires support from the community. John will ensure that students have someone safe to talk to and will teach all students age appropriate information about the best ways to stay safe and what to do if they are attacked.  He is a valuable team member and we welcome him to the Nyaka Family.  

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Meet Nyaka's Newest Junior Board Member!

Please meet Nyaka’s newest Junior Board Member, Cheryn Shin!  Cheryn is a student at Seoul International School in South Korea.  She learned about Nyaka during one of Jackson’s visits and was inspired to help the students there. 

Cheryn is part of an NGO in the city of Seoul called Art & Love, which collects and shares art work from student volunteers like her.  Every year they have an exhibition, and this year, Cheryn featured Nyaka at a booth in the Art & Love bazaar.  Here is her amazing story... 

I got involved with Nyaka through SIS GIN (school club) since 2013 (Freshman year). I personally reached out to Nyaka for the first time in 2016.

I always wanted to support NGOs that accepted donations to make the world a better place. Ever since I was 8, I supported organizations such as UNICEF, Green Peace, and World Vision. However, since I do not have any palpable connections, it was difficult to express my passions. When I was 10, I met Mr. Jackson Kaguri during his first visit to Seoul International School. This was when I discovered Nyaka and gained awareness of the situations in Uganda. Furthermore, Mr. Jackson encouraged and convinced me that even a student in Korea can make a change through Nyaka. I have been supporting Nyaka ever since.

I have attended all of Mr. Jackson’s visits at our school, and was part of SIS GIN’s donations to Nyaka. Initially, I was too shy to reach out to Nyaka myself. However, at the end of my Junior year after Mr. Jackson’s 6th visit, I began to feel that I was running out of time. I gathered up my courage to speak to Mr. Jackson after the meeting, and soon we were in regular contact through email. I then asked for a collaboration between a Korean NGO I was a member (now president) of called Art&Love. In this way, I was able to purchase over a $1000 worth of Nyaka products with my own allowance, sending donations to Nyaka as well as raising awareness of Uganda in Korea. I plan to continue this project and collaboration even after I graduate high school. In order to make sure this plan works, I am currently creating both an official Art&Love website and Facebook page to keep track of our progress. In addition, I would like to write articles about Nyaka and my experiences and publish them on a student run website called Teen10, in which I am an editor.

Nyaka has given me courage to try new things because it’s never too early or too late to make change in the world, as long as you have a purpose to carry on. Nyaka has also made me realize the importance of the phrase “actions speak louder than words.” I enjoy planning and organizing, but I was always afraid to act upon my words. Now, through my recent collaborations with Nyaka, I have come to realize how much progress I was able to make simply by contacting authorities and “walking the talk.”

My dream has always been a writer. Because Nyaka has given me so much experience and inspiration, I would like to express my works through my writings. I plan to keep in contact with Nyaka even in my college and adult years, raise awareness at my future college. I also dream of travelling to Uganda myself and visit the Nyaka children.

Thank you Cheryn!   YOU are an inspiration!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Giving Power to Nyaka's Secondary School

Abbie Weeks is one of the Solar Team members from Denver, CO who installed 6 (330-watt) PV panels on the roof of NVSS' Biology and Computer Lab building last month. Thanks to Cherry Creek High School's EcologicalAction organization, students now have access to direct generated and stored electricity in the lab. We are so thankful for these five volunteers who traveled so far, with so much equipment, to install a working solar array and educate everyone around them. They truly shined with sunlight everywhere they went. Please read Abbie's latest blog which reflected on her trip, this project, and what it signifies globally. There are 14 additional blog entries on the EcologicalAction website about Nyaka - all inspiring reads!

In Abbie's words...

I have been back in the United States for two weeks now and have had time to reflect upon our whirlwind journey in Uganda.

First, I feel deep gratitude for the hundreds of people who have somehow been involved in this near year long process, from EcologicalAction’s first meeting of the 2015-2016 school year to the moment our plane’s wheels touched back on U.S. soil.

I never would have imagined that the club I started Sophomore year would find its way to Nyakagezi, Uganda. Believe me, I understand that if the universe were a tapestry, our project to install solar panels on two buildings of the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project would be just a single, tiny thread. Yet that thread is interwoven with the lives and experiences and guidance of so many organizations and individuals: Nyaka staff both in Kampala and in the field, every student and teacher at Nyaka Secondary Vocational School, Cherry Creek High School Administration, attendees and musicians at our benefit concert, 7th Grade teachers and students at West Middle School who participated in the Nyaka Walk,  my supportive teacher and mentor Mr. Dufford, our families, 9News, EcoTech Institute, The Villager, and airport personnel as mentioned in a previous blog post. We are just a fragment of life’s greater tapestry, but we span continents.

Albert, a former Nyaka student and budding solar electrician! Amy Weeks, teacher Ngabirano Junancea and Amy Boyce Lauren McMillen and NVSS students. Amy Weeks and Bwengye Benon give Albert a hand. Samuel Mugisha astonished at the changes! Lauren and Albert Abbie, Albert the Student!, and Lauren figuring it all out! Local electrician Albert and Jeff Boyce saying good-bye.

Environmental Activism has slowly grown to engulf and inform my life. This experience, however, challenged my preconceived notions. My awe and wonder has always lain with the natural world and I deeply feel a desire, no responsibility, as a citizen of Earth, to halt and reverse our species’ degradation of our ecosystems and biodiversity.

Additionally, as a species we have an obligation to each other: to ensure the human rights of all are fulfilled. “Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world” (UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

Sustainability and Human Rights are not disconnected entities. Continue to read entry "What the Future Holds" and more entries HERE.  Also check out their website at

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

HP Employee Volunteers at Nyaka

Chris Moore used her Time Off Community Support Grant to teach staff at an AIDS orphans school.

Chris Moore left Fort Collins, Colorado, to help orphans in southwestern Uganda. Once she got there, her eyes opened to how sharing even basic PC skills could help a charity do more.
When Chris, who works for HP as cost strategy lead for the Workstation and Thin Client business, learned about HP Time Off Community Support Grants, she chose to join the Nyaka AIDS Orphan Project in Uganda. The organization provides educational and economic opportunities to children orphaned by HIV/AIDS and their caretakers in Kanungu and Rukungiri districts.
Her grant was awarded, and during the last week of March she was on her way to the Kanungu district of southwestern Uganda.
“Human interest writing is probably not my strong point; I am an accountant by training,” Chris said. So The Daily Inc. talked with Chris to share her story with you.
What does Nyaka do?
Founded in 2003, Nyaka has two primary schools, a secondary school, two combined community libraries and computer labs, and a community clinic. It also supports graduates who go on to vocational schools or universities.
Nyaka has a microfinance program for over 7,000 elderly women, who make baskets, bowls, and jewelry (take a moment to visit the Nyaka Grandmother shop on Etsy).
What led you to Uganda?
Learning about other cultures is my passion, and I felt making personal connections with people would provide a wonderful opportunity to bring cultural understanding back to my community. Cultural sharing is essential to mitigating stereotypes on both sides.
Rural Uganda is a little-recognized or understood part of the world. Sharing my experience in Uganda would hopefully broaden my co-workers’ awareness of Uganda’s people, culture, and environment. Getting personal exposure to how PCs are used in this environment would help contextualize how HP’s PCs are being used around the world. I wanted to bring back an understanding of what kind of literacy is needed to be effective, and how impactful PCs are in a remote environment that is just now becoming plugged in to the world of technology.
Tell us about your week in the Kanungu district.
Technological literacy, personal computing skills, and their obvious benefits are assumed in our culture, but that’s not the case in so many other parts of the world. My one-on-ones and small-group tutorials reinforced how impactful PC skills can be. The Nyaka staff uses Word for their monthly reports, including Word for data tables. Almost no one had any effective knowledge of Excel, and there was apprehension at first. I started by teaching formulas, simple modeling using sums, and copy/paste.
Once we got past the apprehension this was a really fun group—interested, engaged, asking questions. After a couple of days, everyone from the head teacher at the primary school to the operations manager asked for a tutorial or joined a group. I felt really successful and hopefully made everyone's work life a little more efficient.

What’s important for HP to take away?
The most important functions on a PC are reliability and power. There is no computer repair or IT support in rural Uganda. And although the solar power is augmented by a generator, the power supply is still not reliable. The PC donated by HP was probably one of the best gifts. Funding for administration functions is difficult to obtain; yet without it, any organization is less effective.
A rural environment and solar power require different work strategies than here at home. Some Nyaka staff members do a lot (if not most) of their work on their cell phones, including full-length emails. Cell phone data plans are significantly cheaper than in the US, and since the electricity required to power internet access is not reliable, almost everyone relies on cell data plans to access the internet.

What was daily life like?
Nyaka maintains a guest house with running water and solar electricity. Showers were best in the late afternoon when the water had been warmed by the sun and after walking the hot, dusty mile home from work. Solar panels on the roof of the school provided enough power to run some electric lights after sunset and to charge my cell phone, but plugging in a computer would usually blow the power and leave me in the dark for the rest of the evening.
Planning meals without a refrigerator is a new skill. The staple of the Ugandan diet is matoke, which is made from cooked green plantains and tastes similar to thick mashed potatoes. Matoke is served with beans prepared with tomatoes and onions, and stewed greens complete the meal. For breakfast I had a porridge made from corn that was a lot like Cream of Wheat.

Do you have any words for others planning to apply for Time Off Community Support Grants?
This was a wonderful and special opportunity to experience a new and different culture, while also sharing technology and tools that most of us take for granted. Be open minded and flexible, and don't expect to measure efficiency by US standards. Ask what contribution would be most effective and don't be surprised if it’s not what you would expect.

This story originally appeared on HP’s internal communications platform, The Daily Inc. © 2016 HP Development Company, L.P. For inquiries please contact

Monday, May 2, 2016

Profile: Nurse Winnifred Natuhwera at Mummy Drayton School Clinic

By: Madeline Moore, Global Health Corps Fellow 2015/16 

Winnifred Natuhwera
 When you visit Nyaka’s website or read articles about us, you see the smiling faces of students in school and the hardworking grandmothers who take care of them. Our students and grannies are a huge part of what we do, and they are the reason that we continue the fight against poverty in southwest Uganda. You are employing some amazing staff members in Uganda who are always looking for ways to make Nyaka better. A great example of one of your amazing staff members is Winnifred Natuhwera. Winnifred is a nurse at your Mummy Drayton School Clinic right across the road from Nyaka Primary School. As Nyaka’s Health Program Associate, I work closely with the clinic and its hardworking staff. They are near and dear to my heart.

As I’m sitting here in the clinic thinking of how to begin writing about my friend and colleague, Winnifred runs into the room: “Maddy, look!” Beaming, she holds out a sheet of paper where she has been tallying the past month’s clinical visits in order to write January’s monthly report. “We had 41 women come for family planning services this month! The most we’ve ever had!” In September 2015, Nyaka began partnering with Marie Stopes International, an NGO dedicated to reproductive rights, to provide family planning services to women in the community. Winnifred has been visiting community meetings and church services to announce this new clinic service, and she is delighted that her hard work is making a difference.

Winnifred helping a patient
This is a watershed moment for her. Last week, our clinic’s other practicing nurse, Sterina, began her 10-week maternity leave. While we are all excited to welcome a new baby boy into the Nyaka family, Sterina’s absence means that 24-year-old Winnifred will be the only trained clinician at our clinic until April. She is both nervous and excited. Clocking just one year on the job, Winnifred is our junior nurse and has never had this much responsibility before. On the other hand, she now has the opportunity to take charge and make decisions on her own. I have been impressed with the initiative she has taken and the long hours she is putting in. She works from 8am to 5pm six days a week to ensure that your Mummy Drayton School Clinic can continue to provide the services the community needs. She also volunteered to attend a training offered by Marie Stopes that will certify her to perform all family planning procedures in Sterina’s absence. 

Winnifred at a home visit
 Winnifred is singlehandedly running the clinic with her 2-year-old daughter, Pacemaker, at home. (When I asked about the origin of her daughter’s name, Winnifred explained that “she makes my heart beat, just like a pacemaker.”) Pace, as we usually call her, is a shy little girl who occasionally joins us for lunch at the clinic when the babysitter isn’t around. But mostly, she is with us in spirit. Every day I’m at the clinic I hear a new story about Pace: a new word she learned, her favorite joke, her most recent temper tantrum. When it’s time to take a break, Winnifred shares her obushera with me, a local beverage made out of millet, and we compare various aspects of American and Ugandan culture. It is these moments of humanity, interspersed between the feverish babies and bloody noses and hacking coughs, that make Mummy Drayton Clinic one of my favorite places to be here at Nyaka. 

When I tell Winnifred I am writing about her, she laughs shyly. “What do people want to know about me?” she asks. I explain to her that I want Nyaka’s supporters to get to know her just a little bit. She nods. “Tell them this,” she says. “Being a nurse is a call from God, not like a regular profession. It is what I have been called to do, and I am proud to be doing it for an organization that supports me. Nyaka has a good reputation around here. When I tell people I work for Nyaka, they know I am doing good work.”

Thank you for helping Winnifred do great work! only your support makes it possible! 

Want to learn more about the clinic? Click here!