Happy childhood experiences are often treasured throughout our lives. Life can be tough for many Ugandan children and young people, but the annual residential conference organised by UWCM and funded by UCUK gives approximately 70 disadvantaged children/teenagers from rural communities a chance to really enjoy themselves over five days during their January school holiday. It is held at a local secondary school and offers an opportunity to raise the children’s self-esteem and emphasise how much God loves and values them. The days are filled with singing, dancing, bible teaching, games, craft activities and teaching sessions relevant to their needs. Some children, especially orphans, can feel isolated but as they make new friends and realise that others have endured similar experiences, their isolation is reduced. They go home better equipped to cope with life and its ongoing challenges.
We have funded these conferences for 15 years now and it’s encouraging to meet up with young adults who attended years ago and readily testify to the benefits and positive impact it had on their lives.
I want to thank Uganda Women Concern Ministry together with Uganda Concern UK for this conference which has transformed and inspired me. I have got knowledge and skills and I look forward to achieve my goals. Namutosi Peace Juliana age 19 and a resident of Shaba village Majanga – Maluku in Mbale district who attended the 2020 conference.
The conference costs £2500 each year to fund which includes the running costs, school rental, food, catering team wages and a gift (usually a sheet or blanket) for each child to take home.
NEW STYLE ‘MINI-CONFERENCES’ FOR YOUNG PEOPLE AND PARENTS/GUARDIANS
As a result of pandemic restrictions, it was not possible to hold a residential conference in December 2020 and therefore UWCM suggested holding smaller, non-residential conferences in 4 different communities which would adhere to Covid restrictions but with the additional benefit of more people being involved. These ‘mini conferences’ proved to be a huge success and are now the model for all future conferences.
Each mini conference is for 3 days with 50 young people attending each day. This is followed by a 1 day training in each community for 25 parents/guardians when UWCM staff share skills on how to handle teenagers at home, in church and in society. This means that a total of 200 young people and 100 adults benefit from this training.
Topics covered during the teaching:
- Children’s rights and responsibilities
- Good relationships and hygiene
- Dreams and goals
- Life skills and decision making criteria
- Stress management
- Self esteem
UWCM staff are the lead facilitators but each community is involved with the planning and running of these events by contributing a venue; firewood, preparation of meals and ensuring the safety and security of the young people.
On the last day the young people receive a gift such as 2kg of sugar, 1kg of bar soap, a packet of salt each to take home as a Christmas gift to their families. They were very excited as they received the package. “I was not expecting this. God is good. Our parents will be very happy upon receiving these items,” they said.
Comments from some of the participants at the 2021 conference:
A young girl from Nabumali community: During the children’s conference, I had a very swollen leg and about a year ago I had a snake bite on this very leg, and since my parents didn’t have money, I stayed back home without any help. When I got invitation for the conference, I wondered how I would enjoy it because inside me I knew my leg was going to be amputated anytime and I was disturbed! Thank God for UWCM who not only taught me to trust God and prepare for the future, but they also took me for treatment and there has been a difference in my life. God really brought this conference for me. My life is transformed both physically and spiritually. God bless UWCM and all the supporters”.
A young man from Bufumbo: “I have been involved in wrong things and joined bad company, but after this teaching, I am touched and I am going to change my ways. Thank you very much our facilitators”. He even sent his mother to thank all the facilitators for the good work done in his life for the two days he attended the conference.
- I wish this could take place every year in our community so that others can enjoy like we did
- We are going to teach others what we have learnt from this conference
- We are going to implement the topics, especially on how to relate well to the opposite sex and parents
- We are going to make realistic dreams and visions that will come to pass with hard work
Topics covered during the parent/guardian training:
- Children’s rights and responsibilities
- Understanding different types of parenting
- How to handle teenagers
Feedback from parents/guardians: Parents thanked UWCM for the knowledge they had shared, particularly with regards to sexuality issues, and the women appreciated the fact that men were present as they always leave the parenting role to the mothers and end up blaming them when things go wrong! All the local leaders in each of the communities approved UWCM activities as being unique and that they transform people’s lives for the future.