Uganda

A Ugandan success story

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Ryda school in Uganda provides vocational training and accommodation for orphans and street children. With help from WFP, it has become an economically thriving success story. Lydia Wamala spent a day among the school's students, staff - and livestock!

Kampala, Uganda - Eleven o'clock in the morning and Geoffrey Kyeyune's car makes its way up a mud road, cutting through bush and banana plants. A few minutes later it makes a final turn and stops next to Kasubi recreational hall, home to the Rubaga Youth Development Association, or Ryda.

Kyeyune steps out hastily, catches his breath and apologises for his lateness. Then he launches into the story of WFP's partnership with Ryda, of which he is executive director.

AGRICULTURE

"Have you been up to see the pigs?" he asks, pointing ahead at a damp wooden sty.

"All pigs look the same," I mutter to myself.

"Oh, you must see the pigs - they're a WFP success story," he insists, leading the way.

We peep into the soggy mess before heading on to tour the rest of the seven-acre expanse.

As we struggle through the muddy banana plantation, Kyeyune tells me more about WFP's contribution to the Ryda dream.

"WFP has been providing us with food for school meals for five years now," he says. "In the process, we have managed to save money to expand and invest in agriculture.

"We have acquired these pigs, cows and two acres of land on which we grow cassava and sweet potatoes."

EXPANSION

Ryda started out as a community-based organisation in 1992. Back then it offered outreach programmes to bring counselling, recreation and other types of services to orphans and children living on the streets of Kampala.

It then moved to a crowded house in Mengo, where orphans and street children were taught metal fabrication, making cooking pots, tin boxes and weighing scales.

When Ryda was registered as an NGO with permanent premises in 1996, it had just one building.

"Edward Kallon, WFP's Deputy Country Director, saw us grow from zero," Kyeyune recalls.

"WFP provided a grant with which we set up a dormitory for girls.

"Before this, WFP was only assisting people through food items," he asserts. "This was the first time they offered non-food items."

INCOME

As he speaks we sip sodas in the school canteen in the Kasubi recreational hall. WFP provided the funds to build a roof and plaster the structure, which now helps generate income for the school.

"Yesterday a wedding party hired our canteen," Kyeyune says. "And recently the president himself and a dozen cabinet ministers held a month-long training course here and paid us good money."

PRACTICAL SKILLS

Not far away from the canteen, Alex Nsubuga works a machine in front of the metal fabrication classroom.

"See those two chairs?" he points. "I made them."

There are about seven other rooms on the main training block which offeres courses in tailoring, weaving, electronics, carpentry, fine art, catering and brick-laying.

There is more evidence of WFP support. The Agency donated two of the sewing machines and a weaving loom.

ORPHANS

There are about 120 students enrolled in the school, most of them teenagers. Many are orphans, but some simply didn't have the money to finish their studies.

Lillian Sekamatte, Nichola Kabaganja and Ivan Sebanyiga are orphans taking courses in secretarial studies, catering and carpentry respectively.

They all know they would be nowhere without Ryda's support. The school gives them almost everything - from food to clothes to shoes - and they study free of charge.

After Sekamatte and Sabanyiga lost their fathers in accidents, their mothers could not afford to pay their school expenses. Then, they heard about Ryda on the radio.

Kabaganja's story is different though. She comes from Fort Portal in western Uganda, where rebel activity dominated until a few years ago.

"The rebels came in one night and took my mother and father away," she recalls with pain in her voice. "We never heard from them again."

EMPLOYMENT

Some 368 children have graduated from the Ryda vocational centre to date, and over 260 of them are gainfully employed.

"Four of my former students are caterers at Hotel Africana and Shanghai Restaurant in Kampala. Without WFP food, these children would be nowhere," Kyeyune insists.

WFP COMMITMENT

WFP is just one of the organisations to assist Ryda. There is a half-built structure financed by the European Union and Save the Children in Uganda supports several projects.

But Kyeyune makes a distinction. Unlike some donors, he says, WFP monitors its assistance and gives constructive criticism.

"The Deputy Country Director has been here to visit us several times. The other day we had an exhibition - he stayed with us until 4pm, which meant a great deal to us."

But why has the WFP given so much to Ryda? Deputy Country Director Kallon is unhesitating in his answer.

"Because they are serious," he says. "Many community-based organisations have not delivered on their promises, so we could not give so much."

As I leave Ryda, I pass the grunting pigs again. They might smell like any other pigs, but the story of these particular animals and this school is truly remarkable.