Friends of St. Michael’s was registered with the Charity Commission in 2009. Fiona, a Trustee, had a wonderful time at St. Michael’s in her Gap Year in 2002. She returned to the school every year and started the building of the library. Other visits followed by members of her family and friends - all being moved by the love and friendship they received, and the drive and desire to do something to help.
It was decided that the best way to give a clear focus to the efforts to support the school, both in practical ways on the ground and to help with fundraising, was to form a charity. Bishop Willigers Secondary School is next door to St. Michael’s. To encourage transition from primary to secondary and help support the parents it was felt necessary to encompass Bishop Willigers SS and the immediate community into our charitable aims.
The charity is education and welfare-focused - to advance the education and welfare of the 600+ children at St. Michael's, the building and development of Bishop Willigers Secondary (300 pupils) and to help the immediate community - the village of Namunyumya. As a small charity with no overheads, such as salaries or rent, we are able to ensure that all donations go to where they are needed.
At least 2 of the trustees travel out separately on an annual basis to oversee the various projects, sleeping at St. Michael's and getting involved with the life of the school and community.
We are a small “kitchen table” UK registered charity. By this we mean we have no premises, only our own homes, and no equipment except that which we use in our everyday lives. Our trustees all volunteer their time and experience.
At least 2 of the trustees travel to Namunyumya to oversee the projects every year and all donations are used in support of our Charitable Objectives. We feel strongly that all money given to the charity goes to help the schools and and the village of Namunyumya.
We work closely with St Michael’s and the other village schools, staff, parents and school managements and the village of Namunyumya to ensure that all money and gifts are being spent wisely and on projects that are sustainable.
Communication with the schools and community takes place frequently. In this way our support can be focused, relevant and up to date.
Here in the UK the charity is managed by the 6 trustees who meet regularly.
Vicki does the co-ordination in the UK and gives Talks to encourage donations. Her first visit to St Michael’s was in 2007 and she travels to St Michael’s every year - She works closely with the school and the community to discuss progress and the challenges ahead. She is in charge of appraisals/feedback of all the projects we fund.
Fiona first went to St Michael's in 2002 to volunteer at the school for four months - since then she has returned each year. She has a special relationship with all the staff and girls and a very good understanding of how we can support and encourage the school/community. In the UK she has been working in education for over 10 years and is currently working at a school in Wiltshire. She is very passionate about the education of girls. She has responsibility for all social media.
Matthew is our Treasurer and the Chair of our Board of Trustees. He very much enjoyed his first visit to St. Michael’s in 2013 and looks forward to the opportunity of seeing the many good changes made since then. Matthew retired from a career covering international banking, management consultancy and charity management. As well as all the work he does for FSMU he also supports a national network of charities helping those coming out of prison to settle into new lives in their communities.
Julian is a retired senior partner of a large law firm in the West Country. He brings his legal knowledge and managerial expertise to the charity.
Mary is a Teacher specialising in Educational Support. She has visited St Michael’s several times running several successful teachers’ training workshops.
Sue Lyn is a lawyer working in Sussex. Her first visit to St. Michael's was in 2015. During this visit she assisted the orphans with their reading, organised a class debate, helped the Sisters with administrative tasks. She has since return for a second and third visit. The experiences she had at the school were truly life changing and she is determined to use her professional skills for the benefit of the charity.
Kay first travelled to St. Michael’s with Lizzie Beach-Macgeagh in 2009. They spent a blissful month doing sport and crafts with the girls during the girls’ long school holiday. She has continued her relationship with the school ever since, and has made several more visits. She is delighted to be an ambassador and to continue volunteering at St. Michael’s.
St Michael’s is a girls’ primary school in a desperately poor area of rural Uganda 88 miles to the east of Kampala. It plays a vital role in the community and achieves excellent examination results but needs help to thrive and develop.
The school was founded in 1962 by the Mill Hill Fathers under the leadership of Sister Mary John of the Order of the Little Sisters of St. Francis. The Headmistress and her predecessors have all belonged to community of the LSOSF - a Franciscan Order.
The school became Government-aided in 1967. The day girls receive a free education until secondary school. However the grant for resources and text books from the government is very limited – about £1 per child per annum resulting in a lack of even the most basic essentials and low staffing levels.
Primary schooling finishes after 7 years with National Exams determining whether a child can progress to secondary school. Schooling after this level is not free for the overwhelming majority of pupils, so this is where education finishes for many Ugandan children.
St. Michael’s admits girls irrespective of religion or tribe. There are about 600 girls, some are orphans who have been given food and shelter by the school. There are about 250 boarders.
Uganda’s population - if left unchecked- is set to rise from 42 million to 102 million by 2050! Educated girls in Uganda have on average 2.9 children as opposed to 6.5 children born to uneducated girls. So supporting and encouraging the education of girls is VITAL.
The commitment of Friend’s of St. Michael’s is to continue to support this remarkable school where happiness, joy and love do co-exist with extreme poverty and deprivation. Education is the key for these girls to unlock their potential.
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