Uganda

Local journalist returns from Africa with life changing experiences

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

An Amherstburg resident is back from Africa with stories, photos and a lot of experiences.

Jonathan Martin, who has done freelance reporting for the River Town Times, returned from Africa in October after spending nearly two months on the continent. He left in late August for Kenya and after spending a brief period of time there, headed into South Sudan where he reported there.

“It was life changing,” said Martin. “I was surprised how easily I adapted. I was expecting more of a culture shock. I think because it was totally different, I didn’t feel any threads of home I had to sever.”

After spending some time initially in Kenya, Martin went to South Sudan where he reported on the country’s civil war that has been raging.

“I went over to cover the peace process and see how it going,” he said.

While there were government reports that the fighting was subsiding, Martin said he didn’t believe it was the case.

Amherstburg resident Jonathan Martin recently returned from the South Sudan where he was reporting on the civil war in that country.

“Based on my experiences, I’d still say there is a lot of armed conflict going on,” he said. “This is violence between individual communities, not the ethnopolitically-charged violence of the civil war.  They are two very different beasts.”

Not only is there the civil war, but there are also internal conflicts between factions. Martin spent much of his time with the Didinga tribe in Chukudum. He explored peace conferences and state and federal governments in South Sudan but said he wanted to experience the front lines more.

“While I was (in Chukudum), I was frustrated by how much I was being held back from the front lines,” said Martin. “I had to convince people to let me go to the places I wanted to go.”

There were some stressful moments. Examples include a misunderstanding with a county commissioner where Martin started firing off questions to him when the commissioner believed Martin was simply there to pay his respects. Soon after, Martin noticed an increased military presence. He said he was eventually able to smooth things over when they met up again at another peace conference.

“Our relationship seemed less volatile,” said Martin. “We all want the end of the war.”

A Didinga woman celebrates following a peace conference held on the border between South Sudan and Uganda. The South Sudanese Didinga and the Ugandan Dodoth spent decades fighting.
(Photo by Jonathan Martin)

Martin’s travels also took him into Uganda as he was pursuing information on smuggling in the area. After the person he was travelling with fell ill, he hitched a ride back to the South Sudan border with a 17-year-old on a dirtbike where they were held up trying to cross.

“I was held up by some government forces. That was the scariest thing,” he said.

While in South Sudan, he also connected with a cause that people in Windsor are supporting and ensured that everything was going as scheduled, which it was. He plans on donating some of his content to the Windsor charity as a thank you for supporting him.

Two Didinga boys await treatment at Chukudum Hospital in Budi County, South Sudan on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. According to its staff, the hospital is chronically undersupplied and underfunded. The majority of its patients are being treated for injuries related to armed conflict.
(Photo by Jonathan Martin)

Martin had to come home after becoming ill. As his symptoms coincided with an Ebola outbreak, he came home to be sure everything was OK. He had neither Ebola or malaria and is perfectly fine and looking to return. However, he did lose 25 pounds while in Africa while eating vegetables and drinking a beverage called, when translated into English, “white stuff.”

By coming home when he did, Martin said he didn’t get to complete the investigative work he wanted to get finished, so he hopes to return in a few months. While he can write, and hopefully sell, some of his photos and stories, the stories he has now are more experience-based.

Martin also hopes to collaborate on a book with an anthropologist he met while travelling.

“I want to complete the work I was doing,” he said. “There are still a lot of stories that need to be told.”

 

(NOTE – This story has been updated since it was originally posted.)

Retired teacher returns from humanitarian trip to Uganda

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A local resident spent three weeks in Uganda late in 2017 and her fundraising efforts for her cause is continuing in early 2018.

Ingrid Heugh, a retired Amherstburg Public School teacher, was in the Ugandan village of Buwando in late November and early December on behalf of Save African Child Uganda (SACU). Her humanitarian mission was her second to the African nation, having also gone two years ago.

Amherstburg resident Ingrid Heugh made a visit to Uganda late last year. She is a member of Save African Child Uganda (SACU). (Submitted photo)

“I had to go back and see the children,” said Heugh. “Once you meet the people, that becomes all you think about.”

SACU began under another retired teacher Geri Sutts in 2010 when Sutts developed the program with Ugandan resident Ivan Nsera. Early work included clothing and feeding the children and while that continues, matters have improved somewhat to where there is a shelter, school and food garden on their three-acre site.

“They were starving for food and an education,” said Heugh.

Heugh became involved with SACU about five-and-a-half years ago and helped fundraise for the $5,000 needed at that time to secure the title on the land they occupy.

While Heugh connected with Sutts in Uganda two years ago, she travelled alone this most recent trip.

“This trip was quite exciting,” said Heugh.

Students line up outside a schoolhouse in Buwando, Uganda. (Special to the RTT)

Working with Nsera and one of the head teachers, simply known as “Teacher Anne,” Heugh was able to see the completion of the first phase of a new classroom she helped have built. Heugh said the classroom was originally planned as a surprise to the rest of the SACU committee.

A fundraiser this Saturday night at Shooter’s Roadhouse in conjunction with Leo’s Komedy Korner will help fundraise for the completion of the Ugandan classroom.

Heugh complimented the teachers at SACU’s school, stating they work long hours and do an exemplary job. Any sort of abuse and disrespect of students isn’t tolerated at the school, though there is no law against it in Uganda, but Heugh said that isn’t an issue.

“At the time I was there, the school was just finishing and they were preparing their year-end concert,” she said.

The school resumes Feb. 1 and will include 15 new children and some will move on to high school.

“I’m happy to say ten of our students will start high school in this new year,” said Heugh. “We’re still waiting to see who passes the government exam. That will determine what programs in high school they will go in.”

A documentary was filmed, on the suggestion of Nsera, and that included following some of the children home. Those that don’t live in the shelter live in the village and many are still struggling, including siblings of SACU students.

“They literally have nothing,” said Heugh.

While SACU students are fed breakfast and lunch and are issued a uniform, some of their siblings and other village children don’t have that and often have to suck on a sugar cane for sustenance.

“My goal is to try and get more sponsors,” said Heugh. “We have about 100 sponsors right now but we need more sponsors for children. It just takes money. Our teachers are willing to take more students in their classroom.”

Yearly sponsorships are $350, Heugh noted.

“It’s less than a dollar a day that makes a difference for a child,” said Heugh.

Heugh brought six suitcases of donations and gifts with her to Uganda. While there, she was also able to successfully fundraise through Facebook for repairs and upgrades to a borehole that suffered damage and thefts to pipes that helped provide water to the school. She recalled being asked not to go when students were travelling to another water source but was saddened when she actually saw it as they were taking water that was brown and filthy.

Thanks to donations, the clean mineral water was re-established.

“It’s hard living,” Heugh said of life in the village. “It’s survival. The children help out a lot.”

Other goals are to provide more to eat each day such as bananas, fish, peanut butter and crackers. She added that a new kitchen was built recently for the school in memory of Madeline.

Tickets for Saturday’s fundraiser are nearly sold out but people can contact Heugh at 519-736-3512 for information. It begins at 8 p.m. Churches and schools can also call that number if they want Heugh to give a talk on her experiences with SACU.

In addition to Sutts and Heugh, SACU members include Betty Westfall, Cheryl Rudgers, Kathy Vriesen, Margie Anson and Elaine Johnson.

“Everyone brings a unique gift to the committee,” Heugh said. “Everyone has their specialty.”

Everything SACU is able to do is due to sponsorships and donations, Heugh said, and that all money raised goes directly to the village and the children based on the donor’s wishes. Visits to Uganda, such as the one Heugh just had, are paid for out of the committee member’s pockets.

“We pay our own way,” said Heugh.

Heugh also was part of a General Amherst 40th class reunion last fall at the Fort Fun Centre. The organizing committee of the reunion split the money they raised between the ALS Society in memory of Dave Scott and SACU and Heugh will put that money towards completion of the classroom in Uganda.

In addition, her son James also presented a Christmas event in Windsor in which he raised about $400 for SACU and goods for the Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission. James Heugh is an “acro” athlete and is part of the Acro-Army team in Los Angeles.

Their website – www.saveafricanchildugan.wix.com/sacu – is “only at the beginning stages,” she said, SACU is looking for someone to help them with it. The public can also access information about SACU on YouTube & Facebook (Save African Child Uganda). Donations & Sponsorship cheques may be mailed to 6625 Matchette Rd., LaSalle, ON, N9F 2J9.

Retired teacher returns from Uganda, plans fundraiser

 

 

Retired teachers Ingrid Heugh (pictured) and Geri Sutts are planning a Jan. 24 luncheon fundraiser at the Verdi Club. Proceeds benefit Save African Child Uganda (SACU).

Retired teachers Ingrid Heugh (pictured) and Geri Sutts are planning a Jan. 24 luncheon fundraiser at the Verdi Club. Proceeds benefit Save African Child Uganda (SACU).

Special to the RTT

 

A retired Amherstburg Public School teacher has returned from Uganda and is now planning a fundraiser for the children being helped there.

Ingrid Heugh, a member of Save African Child Uganda (SACU), is helping to plan a luncheon with SACU founder Geri Sutts with that event to be held at the Verdi Club Jan. 24.

“Last month I returned home after three weeks in Uganda. One of my goals after retirement was to go and see for myself the remote village of Buwundo that we have helped for many years,” explained Heugh. “I wanted to meet the people of the village and those who are involved with caring for the children of SACU.”

Heugh noted that Save African Child Uganda was established in 2010 by Sutts, also a retired teacher, with a local Ugandan man Ivan Nsera.

“It all began with Ivan’s vision knowing that he had to do something about the children in the village. He has rescued abused children from terrible situations and has provided for many abandoned young children,” said Heugh. “Ivan has since moved away into the city of Kampala but has never forgotten where he grew up. SACU has saved many children from hunger and has provided an education and medical treatments for over 100 children. It was a pleasure to meet the dedicated staff and noticed how the teachers go beyond their call of duty.”

Uganda fundraiser2

Heugh added: “I wanted to show my appreciation by providing gifts and extra pay in their salary for all the individuals who truly care and look after the children of SACU. Through donations from many of my friends and family, I was able to provide extra for the children too. My mission was to give each child a pencil case filled with writing tools, treats and toys. I also bought bananas from the local market, juice and snacks to provide a nutritional treat during their recesses.”

There was also a donation of ten suitcases full of items such as clothes and soccer balls, with the items being donated by the community, said Heugh.

SACU continues helping these children through fundraising and sponsorships, Heugh added.

The Jan. 24 fundraiser starts at 1 p.m. with Heugh and Sutts sharing their stories about their journey in Africa. Tickets are now on sale until Jan. 17 at a cost of $25. The meal will consist of chicken parmesan, pasta, salad, dessert and coffee.

Please call Ingrid Silvaggio Heugh to purchase your ticket at 519-736-3512. Thank you for your consideration.