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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Romain's unforgettable experience at Nyaka

My brother, Quentin, and I spent three weeks this summer at the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project in Uganda. The trip was an incredible experience. I went to work on monitoring and impact measurement for the organization. Quentin joined me to speak to young students about Engineering and help them with guidance choices.

The mission:
After a long flight from France, I took a boda boda (local taxi motorcycle) to the Nyaka office in Kampala. When I reached the office, I was warmly welcomed by the team: Sempa (Finance Manager), Jennifer (Country Director) and Shabnam (responsible for our project). I remember Jennifer saying to me, "What I hope you can do is help us answer the  question, What does success look like?” Nice challenge! :) We spent the first week in Kampala with the management team to better understand Nyaka’s operations.

Nyaka's goal is to provide access to education and healthcare to AIDS orphans through a holistic and community-based approach. When parents die due to AIDS, it is often the grandmothers who take over. Nyaka gives them the means to support their grandchildren through training on entrepreneurship, microfinance, and awareness-raising.




Data collection in the field:
To measure the impact of Nyaka within the communities of Kanungu & Rukungiri (southwestern of the country) and answer the question, "what does success look like?", we moved to the second step of the project, which was to go and collect the data on the ground. This week was a series of meetings with Nyaka primary and secondary school headteachers, teachers, religious leaders, clan and village leaders, government officials, and local community members. There were sometimes more than fifty people from several communities who joined to help us carry out our study. The most striking element was the perfect involvement of the different communities within the governance of Nyaka. In the event of a severe blow to Nyaka, thousands of people from all hierarchical, ethnic and religious levels would contribute together to face them. While I was collecting data, Quentin used his engineering skills to fix some water pressure problems in their water circuit. He also organized science courses around four experiments.

  

Unforgettable moments:
Community of Grandmothers
After a one hour exchange with a community of grandmothers for our data collection, they thanked us with a dance accompanied by local songs. A moment that will remain engraved in our memories. Click HERE to see them dance.

Live pitching smartphone app
We were pitched by a team of six students who were passionate about new technologies. They introduced us to their innovations and in particular a smartphone application that prevents patients from forgetting their medicines while receiving advice from doctors. Value proposition, business model, demo… everything was there! This app has earned them the first place of a national challenge involving all the private schools of the capital!



Volleyball match
Being both volleyball fans, we were invited for a fierce match with the Nyaka students. The ground was rocky, the net distended and the ball worn, but the skill levels were really good. Notably a schoolgirl, of seven years max, playing in dress and bare feet. She positioned all her receptions with surgical precision!



The meeting of the week:
While reading Jackson's book, the Founder of Nyaka, he explains the fundamentals of his initiative following the deaths of his brother and sister because of the "slim" (AIDS) and introduces the woman who breathed the values of Nyaka. After constructing the first two classes, Jackson went to see Freda, a hearty grandmother and a freshly retired teacher, to become Nyaka's first headteacher. We had the opportunity to meet her, a rare and truly inspiring personality!
  

Return to Kampala to start the 3rd phase of the project:
This week in Kampala was particularly studious in order to complete our respective reports. Regarding the impact assessment mission, I dedicated the first two days to consolidate the 4,100+ data points retrieved on the ground from the three Nyaka schools and the communities of Kanaungu & Rukungiri. Then, I worked on the construction of various dashboards to follow up the identified KPIs (key performance indicators) before writing a summary report that we debriefed with the team.

Here are some interesting performance KPIs:

·  786 different students who benefited or are benefiting from the Nyaka education program since 2003 (program spread over 14 years + university)
·  156k+ hours of classes taught since 2003 (including 21k hours last year) by a full-time faculty team that reached 43 people this year
·  1.7M+ meals distributed within their schools since 2003
·  40 students currently in university
·  54% of girls all levels combined (13 times over the last 15 years, there were more school schoolgirls than schoolboys)
·  436K people reached via radio broadcasts/visits in 2016 animated by the anti AIDS club from Nyaka primary school

Quentin focused on highlighting the main risks associated with the construction of the three schools with recommendations of implementation. His three main orientations were about: the foundations of certain buildings, the protection of water tanks, and the safety in kitchens.

Unforgettable Safari in Queen Elizabeth Park:
Even when we had been busy during the week with our missions, we were still real tourists during the weekends. Following Shabnam's recommendations, we found the right tour operator. Bosco, our guide, grew up in the park and guided us on the weekends in his SUV with an opened roof. In addition to being really nice, he had an incredible network of friends so we got all the best spots. He found us a leopard that had just killed his prey, a band of seven lions, elephants, buffalos, crocodiles, warthogs, antelopes, and monkeys.  As soon as his phone rang, he pressed the accelerator and we went through the opened roof ready to spot the next animal! 

  
This experience was really unforgettable! Thank you to the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project and the EPIC Foundation for making this lifetime experience possible!

Romain Sion

If you have any questions about my trip please contact me at Romain Sion contact


Friday, August 4, 2017

Nyaka Young Tech Innovators


The Nyaka Young Tech Innovators Club is an up and coming club at Nyaka Vocational Secondary School (NVSS). It’s a team of 5 girls, ages 13 to 15, who started the club in July 2016 because they had an interest in technology. Ruth, Primah, Uditah, Immaculate, and Shamim, founded the Nyaka Young Innovators Club on the belief that, “To improve African Education, focus on Technology and Innovation”. They want to accumulate knowledge and skills to have the opportunity to develop their own solutions to local problems. At the time they formed the club, they didn’t have any knowledge about robotics and computer programming but said what they did have was ideas. 

The club meets every day to work on projects and pitch ideas. A recent project they finished is a wirelessly controlled robot. The robot can move around in different directions and be controlled with a smartphone, computer, or tablet. The club is looking forward to adding other features like a camera, temperature sensor, ultrasonic sensors and making it more powerful to increase the speed.The girls are also working on an app called the Patient Care App (PCA), which will help remind people when it is time to take their medications or make a doctor’s appointment.


These young innovators are working towards improving the well-being of people through the use of technology to solve their most pressing challenges. Thank you for building them a school that can give them access to this type of technology. Without YOU, these girls wouldn’t have the chance to build their ideas and dreams!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Maritina and Shallon are Going to Malawi!



Two Nyaka students are among the 100 girls selected to participate in the Girls’ STEAM Camp in Malawi this summer!  Maritina is from Nyaka Vocational Secondary School and Shallon is from Grace High School.  They were selected from a highly competitive application process.  This is the third annual Women in Science (WiSci) Girls STEAM Camp (STEAM= Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Design, and Mathematics).  WiSci Malawi will bring together 100 high school girls from Liberia, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and the United States, to work together to enhance their STEAM skills, empower them to develop their leadership potential, and build camaraderie and networks that will propel them to new opportunities in STEAM fields.

The theme of WiSci 2017 is using technology to create a safer, more secure world, with a focus on preventing gender-based violence.  Maritina and Shallon are among the six students from Uganda who will represent Nyaka, and the nation at large, on this platform scheduled to take place on  July 29th - August 15th in Malawi at The Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST).  Instructors and trainers from private sector partners including Google, Intel, NASA, and ASM will lead classes introducing students to topics in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM).

Thank YOU for supporting Maritina, Shallon, and all of the girls at Nyaka.  YOU provide them with opportunities that they never dreamed possible!


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mwebale Munonga from Your Grandmothers



Your grandmothers are thankful for all of the love and support you have shown them.
In 2016 a total of 18 grandmother homes were built along with 25 kitchens and 25 latrines!  
It was also a very successful year for loan disbursement and recovery.  The total loan amount in circulation right now is UGX 305,822,700 ($92,673 USD) and is distributed between 79 granny groups.  In 2016, microloans worth UGX 265,000,000 ($80,303 USD) were disbursed to 62 granny groups and loans worth UGX 234,301,300 ($71,000 USD) were recovered by the end of 2016!  The grandmothers who receive microfinance loans are able to sustain their homes and even repay their loans quickly.
This year, the Grandmother Project will be supporting 7,301 grandmothers in 98 granny groups across Uganda:
  • In Kanungu the Grandmother Project covers 17 sub counties in the district with 4,031 grannies in 56 groups
  • In Rukungiri the Grandmother Project covers 4 sub counties in the district with 2,970 grannies in 36 groups. 
Your grandmothers and the children they are raising say “Mwebale Munonga” (thank you very much).  We can’t wait to see what you make possible next!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The 2017 School Year in Uganda is Underway

Kutamba nursery students on their first day of school
The 2017 school year is underway in Uganda and your students have settled in nicely. The first day of school officially kicked off on February 6th. This year, 768 students from nursery school through university are enrolled, thanks to your support.

• 234 students are attending Nyaka Primary School

• 229 students are attending Kutamba Primary School

• 160 students are attending Nyaka Vocational Secondary School

• 145 students are on scholarships attending different secondary schools, vocational schools, or universities

NVSS students receiving their dorm supplies
The nursery students were really excited to receive their brand new school uniforms and shoes. This was a special day for them because it marked the beginning of their academic journey. It was also a big day for students starting their first year of secondary school. They received supplies for their dormitories which included items like toiletries, jerry cans, sheets, pillows and mattresses. These supplies seem like everyday necessities, but for many of the students the night of February 6th was the first time they ever slept on a mattress.

Your students are looking forward to a great year thank you for making it possible for them!
Young men at NVSS on their first day of school
Nyaka nursery students on their first day of school

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

What a trip…

Pastor Andrew Pomerville is the senior pastor at The Peoples Church of East Lansing, MI. In December 2016 he visited Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project in Uganda for the 2nd time!  Please enjoy one of this blog posts from his visit and follow him to read more about the experience HERE


My head is spinning. So much to process and so little time to sit and put it all together. This has been an outstanding past two weeks. Without hesitation or qualification, I can happily say our trip to Uganda to partner with the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project was an overwhelming success. For 11 days, I traveled with my wife, Rachell, Kurt and Pete, Jamie Morris, and executive director and founder of Nyaka, Twesigye Jackson Kaguri. This was my second trip in the past two years to work with Nyaka in Uganda. The Peoples Church has supported this outstanding organization for nearly a decade, with the support beginning before I arrived in East Lansing as their pastor.

Over the next few days I will post a rundown of each day on the trip. Until then, here is a brief list of highlights: 



  • Visited 3 schools and interacted with over 500 students and dozens of faculty and staff.
  • Toured the Mummy Drayton Clinic
  • Explored the two libraries and support facilities established by Nyaka.
  • Assisted in the construction of a grandmother house that was paid for by generous members of The Peoples Church in honor of Dr. Curt Liechty, a friend and congregant who visited Nyaka in 2015 shortly before his unexpected passing.
  • Attended the world premier of the independent film, “Cornerstone,” a groundbreaking documentary exploring the history, founding, and continuing excellence of Nyaka.
  • Preached and spoke to each school for their devotional period
  • Keynoted the local Rotary club meeting in Kihihiimg
  • Took a day to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park, where we saw all manner of wildlife.
  • Crossed the equator four times – twice by car and twice by boat
  • Ate incredible Ugandan food with even better people in all parts of the country. 


There is so much more to this past trip but this gives a good start. I’ll take a look at each day and include photos and video for each day of the trip. Until then, thank you for your prayers while we were away and please know how much the children of Nyaka appreciate your continuing support. Peace be with you and thanks for reading.

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