Get Flash

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Tom discovers there's more to life than football...

Synergy is not just about winning trophies and the silky-smooth skills of sporting excellence, as splendid as that may be. Synergy is about using sport to help young people fulfill their God-given potential, and more often than not that requires some serious one-on-one mentoring.

This month Brian has been doing just that with one of the Synergy stars, Tom*. Tom's a great footballer, and in Uganda schools want great footballers to help make a name for them. He won a Football Scholarship for Secondary School, but unfortunately didn’t have the grades from Primary School to get in. In what might seem a magmanimous act, the school agreed to fudge it and let him in anyway.

The problem is that as Tom struggled more and more with his academic work, the message the school gave him was that as far as he was concerned, only football mattered. He failed the first year, but they let him in to the second. He didn’t need to take his studies seriously. No one cared what happened there. The only thing that mattered was the football - exams, integrity, academic achievement all went out the window. Tom began to value himself as others did - only as a footballer, nothing more.

Brian has been working closely with him and his mum. He’s teaching them that Tom’s worth is far greater that what he can contribute on the football field. His education is important and what's even more important is his integrity - he's beginning to realise that fudging his way through school just to play football is not doing him any favours. He knows, thanks to Brian, that he can really achieve something, even academically, if he puts his mind to it.

So where does this leave Tom? Does he continue on a so-called Football Scholarship where he's not getting the academic input that he needs, or does he go back and sit the Primary Leaving Exam again and go through all the proper academic processes. It's a massive deal to give up the scholarship and repeat years - not least because it means he will be unable to play football for any school team again. But Tom knows it's the right thing to do. He's beginning to see his value as more than just a footballer. And that's what Synergy is all about.

Synergy training - teaching teamwork, leadership skills and more!

*(Tom's name has been changed in line with our privacy policy).

Friday, July 26, 2013

Breaking news! We welcome two new boys to the WEP

This afternoon we've welcomed two new boys to the White Eagle Project, brothers aged 4 and 9. Their short lives have been unspeakably tragic so far, having suffered the kind of betrayal and trauma no child should have to endure.

Join us in praying that this is the beginning of something new, that their lives might be transformed, and that they might "fly high", higher than they have ever imagined. If you want to become part of this miracle-waiting-to-happen by being a sponsor, then please get in touch as soon as you can!

This is a seminal moment for the White Eagle Project. For over a year we've been working hard on meeting all the requirements necessary to complete our registration as an official Children's Home. We've worked on numerous policies, we've recruited new staff and done a huge amount of training, and we've developed the home itself, always on a very tight budgets.

But the hard work has paid off! We were inspected two weeks ago and although there are still a list of advisories to work on, the list is nowhere near as long as it was and they're very impressed with out progress and our approach. So much so they want to use us as an example of best practise, which is tremendous news.

It means that we can now accept referrals from the Probations Office, the local Government office in charge of looked-after children and Children at Risk, and we can step up in cases like those of these brothers.

But we couldn't do it without your support, so thank you! Please spread the word, and let everyone know we need sponsors. Please get in touch by email if you can help - click here. We want to be helping more children to smile like these ones!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Help us Celebrate Children!

At the White Eagle Project, our vision is to see vulnerable children 'fly high'! To do that, each member of our team needs to be an expert navigator to help them chart a route through the skies...

Imagine being confronted by the challenging behaviour of a girl who has suffered the most horrendous abuse from her father. Or a boy who has spent three years on the streets and knows precious little about love. Or the toddler, an offspring of incest, abandoned and ostracised by his family. Those are the kinds of challenges our team encounter each day.

Celebrating Children is probably the best course for training people to work with children dealing with these impossibly difficult situations. It was developed by an amazing charity called Viva, who are all about inspiring lasting change in children's lives. They help to establish networks of people and organisations who are working with children at risk, and inspire and train them to raise their game.

We're absolutely thrilled that the Kampala network - CARNAC - have agreed to come to Masaka and lead the training, and at a massively discounted rate. The training will be held at River of Life Church, and involves an intensive week every month for the next four months. There's coursework and exams and everything - it's the real deal!

Emily, Sarah and Julius did the course in 2011. It transformed them, and has transformed the White Eagle Project. We now have this golden opportunity to train more people! We want at least 12 members of our team - those involved in any children's work within River of Life - to get the benefit of this training. Although it's massively discounted (by nearly 75%) we still need to raise £720 for them all to do it. That's just £60 per person!

If you think you can help by funding half a place, or a full place, or even more than that, please click here to make a donation. It really is going to make a world of difference for our children. We will also be having people from other organisations in Masaka attend - Masaka is going to become a real beacon of best practise for working with children at risk!

Now, isn't that worth a thumbs up?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Oh Annie... you won't be an orphan for long!

You might recognise those lyrics from the Musical, Annie. We want to make families, not orphans which means working hard for reconciliation, and ensuring resettlement successfully helps every child to 'fly high!'

But every now and then we have a case where we wonder how it can happen. Our Annie* came to us last year from a terribly abusive family situation. She had suffered the worst betrayal any child could suffer from the hands of her father. We know of one case where, due to the shame brought on the family by such actions, a child has been killed rather than allow the 'evidence' to live. Thankfully in this case the authorities acted quickly, the Police were involved, arrests made and Annie came to us in secret.

Annie had a mother, but we had no idea where she was, and no way of contacting her. Annie hadn't seen her for years. With the rest of the family off limits for making any enquiries, we were left with very few options. In the meantime, as you can imagine, our Annie was exhibiting some extraordinarily challenging behaviour. The White Eagle Team were certainly kept on their toes, and their resolve tested to the limit.

Annie's behaviour improved, as we knew it would, but we were no closer to tracing her mother. Then, last month, Annie started praying. As a treat for finishing First Term, the Girls watched the Musical, Annie. Our Annie desperately wanted her mum to find her, just as Annie does in the film, but all Aunty Sarah could advise her to do was to pray.

What do you do in that situation? Do you worry about things like false hope and the potential for a little girl's broken heart yearning for a mother who, for all we know, may not even still be alive?

No. You join that little girl on her knees and pray. And pray. And pray. One week passed, then two. Week three came and still we prayed. And then, on the Friday afternoon, having searched for we don't know how long, Annie's mother and grandmother appeared in reception...

Annie was overwhelmed! Successful resettlement, especially in cases as traumatic as this one, take a lot of time, so she’ll be visiting her family every holiday and staying with us during school term time, with visits from her mum. This will help her to continue with the good start she's made at a supportive school whilst with us, help us to continue giving the expert care needed in such a traumatic case, and help her Mum to adjust to live looking after her own daughter again.

And in the meantime, we all praise God that nothing is impossible for Him!
Emily and Annie's Mum on that wonderful Friday

*We’ve changed Annie’s name in line with our privacy policy

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A new Manager for the White Eagle Project

We're delighted to welcome Paul as the new White Eagle Team Manager, taking over this week from Sarah who has done an absolutely stirling job as Acting-Manager for MUCH longer than the 6 months she initially agreed to do.

Paul comes to us from a Swedish NGO where he has worked for 12 years, most recently as their Head of Administration. He has a wealth of experience in both the NGO sector and in Masaka's wider church life. He's a Pastor at a local church a few miles from us, helps to run a ministry for the elderly in his spare time and also chairs a Marriage and Family group drawn from Masaka churches.

He's a man after our own heart, and we're really looking forward to getting to know him!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Update on Prayer Mountain

The battle for Prayer Mountain continues, two years to the day that we secured the funds to purchase the majority of the land. You may remember that we are in dispute with some encroachers. There are many twists in the tale, but the latest is that we have now registered criminal trespass cases with the courts.

Unfortunately the courts are overwhelmed because Masaka does not have a Judge. The threat of legal action seems to be working though. The encroachers appear to be striking a more conciliatory tone, and we're hopefully that this long, and painful saga may be over soon.

There is some excellent news too - we’ve recently been bowled over by an awesome donation that will help us secure the next 2 acres and begin to renovate the exisiting huts and commence 24/7 prayer!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Banana Smoothie Anyone?

Last weekend, we made Fresh Banana Juice at the WEP.....It took FOREVER!!!

Here’s how you make it:

1. Peel 80 yellow bananas and put them in a pan
2. Find some long thick dry grass stems, cut into 4 inch pieces, then put them in the pan
3. Pound, squelch and squash the mixture in the pan for 1 hour
4. Take out the banana and grass mush (which now looks like vomit!), squeezing out each handful as hard as possible
5. Pound some ginger, then add it to the banana juice and cook on the charcoal stove for 60 minutes, bringing it to the boil
6. Leave to cool for 12 hours
7. FINALLY drink!

Monday, June 10, 2013

“Go and Explode!” - The ROL Leadership Academy

"Genda Obwatuke - Go and EXPLODE!" was the rallying call at last weekends Leadership Academy get-together. Our vision is for the 30 odd young people on the programme to take River of Life’s vision of spiritual revivial and community transformation out into the world.

On the day, Sali, a founding member of River of Life Church and now a qualified Crime Scenes Investigator specialising in cyber-forensics AND a Pastor in Manchester, UK, really inspired us all with his testimony. As a small boy he had mingled the mud to make the bricks which built the church! A couple of the Academy Members deserve a special mention - Robert, having stormed his A-Levels has won a Government Scholarship to do Medicine and Surgery whilst Sharon, who was disappointed with her A Level results, has completely repaid the trust we placed in her by getting the best first year University results we've ever seen! She's studying for a BA in Adult and Community Education and is getting some good experience through our Community Outreach work during the summer break.

It costs approximately £100 per month to send one of our Academy members to University - but it's worth every penny. We're looking for funding for 3 University Students right now! If you think you could get a group of people together to cover the costs, please get in touch.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Synergy FC are Champions!

A new force has exploded onto the scene of African football. It's a force that plays with poise and steely determination, that respects the referee, and scores beautiful goals. It's Synergy!

The Synergy Senior Team have stolen the show this season, remaining unbeaten in the league, winning the regional tournament and therefore promotion, despite some seriously dodgy refereeing decisions (which were respected!).

But Synergy is not just about playing the beautiful game. Manager Tim, Head Coach Brian and their team invest a huge amount in the programme. Mentoring, Discipleship, Life Skills, Physical Training - it's all about trying to get Masaka's down-trodden to step-up and realise their God-given potential. 16 Synergy Members are currently on full bursaries for secondary education - nine at O-Level and seven at A-level - whilst three have completed A levels. We even have one member who has won a half bursary to University!

And then there's 'Synergy Away', a weekly programme focused on a local primary school delivering health-checks, sports training and life skills to a class at a time. A Ugandan School class might have upwards of 50 children, so it's pretty full on!
Synergy is proving Nelson Mandela's assertion that "Sport has the power to change the world... the power to inspire... to unite in a way that little else does". And do you know what, we’re certain that one day we'll be seeing Synergy players on the world stage... How amazing will that be!?

But of course, none of it could happen without the generous and sacrificial support of the wider River of Life family. Earlier this year Tim and Rob were musing on a fundraiser that could get together some much needed funds for Synergy. "I know," says Tim, "Let's do a Football Marathon..."

Over 60 players, 16 hours, 246 goals, 4 twisted ankles, some horrendous looking blisters, and days and days of planning later, and the Synergy Football Marathon Team has raised an awesome £2,437.57!

The teams kicked off at 9.15am, and staggered over the finish line in the wee hours of the following morning. Jon, who has done some of the more extreme fundraising events for River of Life, including cycling from Manchester to Milton Keynes, said it was by far the most grueling and knackering challenge he had ever done.

So, we want to say a massive THANK YOU to the Synergy Marathon Team. Your sterling efforts have not been in vain - the money you've raised will help Synergy Sports impact hundreds of children's lives. If you would like to sponsor them, go to their Justgiving page

Friday, April 26, 2013

Team Tentastic make Fundraising Fantastic

With 24 hours to go, just six tickets had been sold. Six! And with a venue that could comfortably sit 90, it was looking like the Fourth (or is it Fifth?) Annual Flixton ROL Quiz Night was going to be a bit of a quiet affair. At least everyone would have been guaranteed a raffle prize.

But as the doors of Flixton Cricket Club opened, it was clear it was going to be anything but quiet. As more seats had to be brought in and the guests topped 100, the organisers gave a sigh of relief and set about making it a night to remember.

And what a night it was! The room was gripped by the double-act of quiz masters Juan and Dan, but after a General Knowledge round, Music round, Acronyms, Records (of the Guinness Book of variety) and Picture round, the winning team - "Where's Wally" - emerged! Miriam was particularly pleased, having not answered a single question, to find herself clutching a bottle of bubbly.

With photos and videos showing the impact of the work being done by River of Life, a raffle of prizes donated by local businesses, and local celeb The Sumo Guy who caused quite the stir for some excited guests, the night just got better and better!

Thank you to all those that donated prizes - Helen Parsley, Haworth's the Butchers, Krispy Kreme Donuts, David Lloyd Fitness, Proctor and Gamble and others. And thank you to Team Tentastic, Flixton's 2012 Mission Team, who made the night happen!

So, what DOES VHS stand for? No googling folks!!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Rekindling the fires of revival on Prayer Mountain

They say that ambition is the path to success, and perseverence the vehicle you arrive in... Well, that is certainly the Prayer Mountain story over the last 12 months! Here’s a quick reminder of the vision: we’re going to build a Prayer Centre on a hill outside Masaka, with an International School, Church and Medical facilities. We had wrongly assumed that raising the necessary funds would be the hardest part..!

Having secured funds for the land in July 2011, the paperwork was drawn up by September, and the transaction completed by March 2012. That’s pretty good for something that big in a place this disorganised! But that's when the fun really started. Two individuals contested our right to the land. We were prepared to negotiate and compensate for any legitimate claim, but it soon became apparent that these guys were far from legit! After months of negotiations descended into one particularly fierce altercation involving death-threats and machetes, we turned to the Police.

Slowly but surely, and with a lot of prayer, the truth has prevailed and the police have helped turn the screw to the extent that the two land-grabbers have all of a sudden changed their tune and have, in the last month, become all sweetness and light. It's looking promising that we can get started on the building plans very soon!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Girl Power!

Holding her A-Level pass slip in her hands, Veronica (rt.) could hardly believe it... It was better than she'd hoped, far better. Better than her mocks, better than anything she had managed before. Veronica isn't someone who you'd say "oh, she's just naturally intelligent" about - she has worked her socks off, steadily improving her grades each year. She's a White Eagle graduate, resettled with her family back in 2010. Her story is one of poverty and challenge - she was even a “Missing Person” for a few years before coming to us.

But today she's looking at an A-Level Pass Slip that confirms she's one of the top performing girls in all of Masaka, getting A, B, B, C in four A-levels! And what’s more is in with a chance of a Government Scholarship for uni! Isn't that awesome?! Meanwhile Persist (left) is our highest achieving O Level candidate, missing out on a First Grade by just one mark!

It's for people like Veronica and Persist, and others who work just as hard (even if they don't achieve quite as highly academically!) that we've established the River of Life Leadership Academy. To help a generation of leaders EXPLODE out of Masaka to take on the challenges not just of Uganda but of the world!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Where are they now? Mr Kiko Nico...

Who remembers Nico? How could we ever forget him I hear you cry! Well, he’s back, and boy does he have some tales...

Nico graduated from the White Eagles 12 months ago. He had concentrated on computer and IT training of various kinds whilst with us. Showing fabulous initiative and perseverence, he first managed to get a job in an Internet Café in Nairobi, before winning a place to do computer training with invalided-out soldiers in South Sudan! He's now importing goods into South Sudan, looking like a boss with his bluetooth headset and snappy thin tie. We were delighted to welcome him back over Christmas and catch up with all his news!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Saving Babies Lives at the New Baby Unit

It wasn't the best start in life. In fact, "life" and "start" probably shouldn't be used to describe it, as the little (barely over a kilo) lifeless baby turned steadily greyer as her helpless mum looked on. The simple truth is that this is Uganda and she was well on her way to becoming one of the 39,000 babies that will die this year before they reach 28 days old.

Well that might have been the story if this was 2012. Or even a week ago. But for this little 'un, "life" itself was about to explode onto the scene with a bang! Seeing the life leaking out of her, the attendant nurse rushed to the newly opened Baby Unit, just down the corridor. After greeting everyone meticulously, as we do here, she very politely wondered whether any of the present doctors and nurses being expertly trained by our very own Dr Sarah in resuscitation would mind coming down the hall to check on the very small baby of our story. Cue a rapid exit of the "Baby Rescue Team"!

However, it wasn't looking good. Dr Sarah recalls: "Honestly, we felt like it was getting futile, but with all our new nurses observing, it seemed a good thing to continue until we had emphasised all the important parts of baby resuscitation." Suddenly, things changed: "However, Praise God (x100!), after removing all the milk from her stomach, she suddenly decided to start breathing again! What a blessing that we had all been there training! A serious case of God’s good timing!"

Dr Sarah, along with others at Kitovu Hospital including Nurse Brigitte, have moved heaven and earth to get this baby unit up and running, managing all the challenges of setting up a new programme in a busy, under-resourced, over-stretched hospital. You too can be part of it - we're looking for regular gifts that can help pay the running costs. And our Miracle Baby, as we call her? She's still doing fine :)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Riot Police and Tear Gas? It must be the Synergy Cup!

January saw the climax of the Synergy Cup - our Community Tournament that we've run every year under various guises since 2004. There was a bit of trouble with fans and managers not accepting referees decisions - they make Sir Alex Ferguson look positively mild mannered - but we only had to rush a tear-gas and shot-gun toting anti-riot police squad to the pitch the once!

Synergy is a light of integrity and discipline in the otherwise murky amoral world of Masaka Football. We showcase local talent, we show how footballing can be done and we preach that Jesus can transform lives! Thankfully our Synergy teams dispatched the worst behaved opposition and our two senior teams and one of our junior teams reached their respective finals. The Juniors lost 2-1, but we saw our reserve team beat the first team on penalties after a 1-1 draw. Three days later we managed to win another tournament! It means that as we commemorate Synergy's first official birthday, we have 3 trophies acquired in the last 2 months to crown our celebrations!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Premature Baby Unit Opens at Kitovu Hospital

Dr Sarah has some INCREDIBLY exciting news to share...

It’s been a loooooooong time coming, but we are finally ready to open our Baby Unit! We want to care for sick and premature babies, at Kitovu Hospital, simply because too many die, and it's heart-breaking.

The room, and some really quite high-tech equipment (mainly donated by some folks in Ireland), has been there for a long time, but the barrier was a lack of nurses to staff the Unit. River of Life has teamed up with Kitovu to resolve this, recruiting donors to finance the salaries of the nurses that are so desperately needed.

I cannot tell you how grateful we all are, both to the individual sponsors helping us to fund this, and to God for getting all the strings pulled together at the right time.... not to mention for teaching us patience (oh, it’s a learning curve!!) as progress can be incredibly slow.

Opening of this Baby Unit will really impact on newborn death rates, not to mention improving general health of babies, at Kitovu Hospital. Our nurses have been brilliant during the training and will be involved in resuscitating sick newborns, caring for them, educating mothers, identifying sick babies, and also picking up on problems in new babies that might otherwise be missed (as they will be doing “baby checks” on each newborn).

We’ll keep you posted on progress - it’s a busy but joyful time right now! Please do pray for further funding, though. We have enough for now, but we are only about half way towards recruiting the necessary number of regular donors to ensure the Unit can continue. If anyone has a real heart for sick or tiny babies, then please do get in touchdownload a sponsor form here, or head straight over to our donation page (MyDonate by BT).

Monday, January 7, 2013

Join the New Year +ONE Campaign!

Do you believe everyone can do something for someone?

We do! And we know we're not alone, because thanks to you and everyone else who has given to River of Life, we're able to do a tonne of stuff for some of the neediest people in the world.

Like open a new Neonatal Unit in our local hospital because too many children were dying. Or help nearly 50 orphans and former street children 'fly high' through the White Eagle Project. And that's not to mention the hundreds of children and young people that are getting a chance to realise their potential through Synergy, our community sports programme, or the 10 (so far!) young people we're putting through University as part of our Leadership Academy.

If you haven't been able to join us in the +ONE Campaign, we'd love to invite you to in 2013. There's a whole host of things you could do, from donating directly to fundraising through crazy events. The whole point is to recognise that everyone can do something for someone - whatever you choose to do, please know that every penny makes a difference!

Have a look at some of the ideas below, and if it takes your fancy, click to download the form for more info. Of course, if you have any questions, please contact us.

  • Sponsor a place at the Synergy Sports Academy and help youngsters realise their God-given potential
  • Sponsor an Orphan or Vulnerable Child to 'Fly High' with the White Eagle Project
  • Improve Food Security by "Giving the gift that can't stop giving" and developing the River of Life Farm
  • Become a regular donor and keep the new Baby Unit open, saving dozens of poorly babies' lives.
  • Raise a new generation of leaders and by sponsoring one of our Leadership Academy members

If you want to join in, and would prefer to set everything up online, just head straight over to our donation page (MyDonate by BT). All of these ideas have recommended gifts, but please feel free to give as much or as little as you can, and together we can make 2013 AWESOME for someone. So, who's your +ONE going to be?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Farming's the future!

It's been a productive season on the River of Life Farm...

Under the management of Uncle Kayima, the team have helped to reduce the food costs for the White Eagle project by supplying good amounts of beans and matooke. Our cash crops are also doing well - a new sugar-cane plantation is looking good, and the Plantain and Coffee we planted in February 2012 is developing well.

Our new piglets are all healthy, and Farmer Kay is adding to our stock by buying in some young pigs of some different (more valuable!) breeds. Our cow is due to give birth next February, so we will then be able to add milk to the White Eagle diet.

For 2013, Farmer Kayima is REALLY keen to establish a small chicken project. Well, 600 chickens to be exact, because, as he explains Chickens are great - they offer eggs AND meat. Tasty. He also wants to build a store so that we can get good prices for our produce, and consolidate the other areas or planting. The Farm is not self-sufficient just-yet, but it will be once all the development is done, as well as offering food security and reducing our costs at River of Life Church

Thank you to everyone who has "given the gift that can't stop giving" and helped develop the farm. If you would like to help, get in touch! £500 is enough to establish an acre, contribute to 20% of the start-up costs for the chickens or 10% of the store. You could do a sponsored event, or split the cost on a monthly basis - click here to download a sponsor form, or head straight over to our donation page (MyDonate by BT).