Gilly Dickons, Business Development Director of Aesthetic Response, also co-runs a charity called Seeds of Hope which aims to improve the lives of children and teenagers living in Uganda through sponsors and training.
Back in 2011, on Seeds of Hope's first trip to Kumi in Uganda they were introduced to COHAD orphanage (Children of Hope and Dignity) through Mission Direct and took part in the building of house number 10. Four of the houses were vibrant with children, and it all felt warm and loving, with a sense of peace throughout. The children and the house mummies captured their hearts and they were smitten. This led to Seeds of Hope spending time there whenever they headed back to Kumi, Uganda.
Their return visit this time, with Gilly as well, showed a real sense of things being stagnant with no forward movement, as they walked around the orphanage, which was both disappointing and demoralising. The older orphan children were at boarding school, so the houses had only four children in each, and there was an overall sense of despondency about the place.
This trip was the charity's first experience of seeing any street orphan children in Kumi and the three they met were wonderful characters, William, John, and Victor. Their stories were tough, and caused more than a few tears, their personalities cheeky, yet strong, (which they need to be to survive on the streets). Within a day they were hanging around the hotel morning noon and night waiting for the Muzungu's (the local word for white people) to arrive. Like all boys, they loved football, and were keen for everyone to join in!
Things started to come together, realising that there were three homeless boys, and an orphanage half full - you can probably see where this plan was going!
One those quirky things in Uganda is you just never know who you may end up talking to. Gilly and the other Seeds of Hope visitors had gone to the local eating establishment (don't imagine one of our restaurants) for dinner of local chicken and rice, and after an hour the Pastor Seeds of Hope work with turned up with the local Bishop of the PAG church, John Michael, to join us. Chatting about COHAD, and introducing the idea of the boys being allowed to move there, the three boys then arrived to sit with them for a cup of tea. First hand with no effort on their behalf, a relationship had been created.
The result? That same evening it was agreed that subject to their stories checking out, they could be move into COHAD that very week, along with two other boys from the community. It was exactly what Seeds of Hope wanted to happen.
The Seeds of Hope promise determined that they would fund the five boys, plus three more with immediate effect. In truth, this was no small commitment, and they knew it was still a drop in the ocean. With five more empty houses, (which Seeds of Hope thought should be full to bursting) COHAD orphanage was about to become our long term project, as they offered to partner with them, with the probability of becoming a member on their board.
So, now a mere 4,000 miles away from this little place of safety called COHAD, great dreams of seeing it with a school, 100 children living there, a feeding programme for the vulnerable children in the local community, and what feels like a mountain to climb.
Gilly's commitment to Seeds of Hope has meant she has visited Kumi twice and before they visited again in April they succeeded in raising the money for more than 1,000 mosquito nets to take with them. To see more about what Seeds of Hope do and to help their cause, visit the website at http://www.seedsofhopeuganda.com/