The charity was formally set up in 2009 after informally supporting St. Michael’s for several years. Fiona, one of the Trustees, had a successful and formative time at St. Michael’s in her gap year in 2002. This led her to returning to the school in the following years and amongst other things starting the building of the library. Other visits followed by members of her family and volunteers too, all being overwhelmed by the love and friendship they experienced, and the need and desire to do something to help and sustain the bonds and relationships that had built up.
It was decided that the best way give a clear focus and direction to the efforts to support the school both in practical ways on the ground and with fund raising was to form a charity specifically for that purpose, which happened in 2009. However St. Michael’s is a primary school situated next door to its sister school Bishop Willigers Secondary school. To encourage transition from primary to secondary it was felt necessary to encompass Bishop Willigers in the objects of the charity, as it too is desperately poor with even fewer facilities than St. Michael’s.
The charity is education and welfare-focused formed to advance the education and welfare not only of the approximately 600 children at the school but also its close neighbour and sister school Bishop Willigers Secondary School which its objects confirm. 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, living at the school and getting involved with school life. Thanks to technology there is usually communication on a weekly basis with both the Headmistress and the School Management Committee, all working in partnership striving towards a better education for the marginalised “girl child” of Uganda.
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 the school to oversee the projects on an annual basis and all donations and money received is used in support of the charity objects, no salaries are paid. We feel strongly that all money given to the charity goes to help the school to support the various projects and initiatives. In this way all donations and money go directly to where they are needed.
We work closely with St Michael’s school, staff, parents and school management to ensure that all money and gifts are being spent wisely and on projects that are sustainable. Communication with the school and management takes place frequently. In this way our support can be focussed, relevant and up to date.
Here in the UK the trust is managed by the 5 trustees who meet at least 4 times a year and who otherwise communicate with each other by telephone and the internet. Good communication is essential, and happens.
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 our 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 the Little Sisters of St. Francis which is a Franciscan Order. The local Catholic Diocese is that of Jinja.
The school became Government-aided in 1967 which means that the day girls receive a free education until secondary school. However the funding from the Government is very limited indeed – about £1 per child per annum! This level of provision results in quite often a lack of even basic essentials and staffing issues.
Primary schooling finishes at the age of 15 with exams determining whether a child can progress to secondary level but because schooling after this level is not free to the overwhelming majority of pupils (and so has to be financed by the parents) this is where education ends for most of the children in Uganda.
St. Michael’s admits girls from throughout the country irrespective of religion, tribe, colour or political affiliation. There are about 600 girls and 12 boys, some of whom are orphans who have been given food and shelter by the school. Most are day girls but there are about 250 boarders housed in dormitories at the school.
A statistic coming out of a recent G8 summit is that Uganda’s population (if left unchecked) is set to rise from 30 million to 93 million by 2050! Educated girls in Uganda have on average 2.9 children as opposed to 6.5 children born to uneducated girls.
The commitment of the Charity 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 the door of their potential and for them to escape the poverty cycle.
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