See how Gilly's charity is transforming young lives in Uganda.
One of the many things that sets Aesthetic Response apart from other businesses is the strong links we have with our partner charity, Seeds Of Hope Uganda. In the article below you will find the story of how Gilly, Aesthetic Response's Co-Founder and MD, embarked on a trip to Uganda which ended up changing her life. Out of this trip, Seeds Of Hope Uganda was born, a charity which supports the most vulnerable and undervalued children, and through sponsorship is able to provide education, skills, training and much more to help create a brighter future.
A trip to eastern Uganda in 2011 to work on building an orphanage turned into a much longer term commitment than I could've ever imagined!
It all started when my sister and I decided to take our children on a mission trip – we thought our teenagers would benefit from seeing what life can be like for others who do not have access to the everyday things we take for granted here in the UK – education, healthcare, sanitation, running water, electricity, wifi.... I'm sure you get the picture!
The trip was fantastic and we all benefited in so many ways – it certainly left it's mark on each of us. What I hadn't anticipated was that I would fall in love with Kumi and it's people. When we got back to the Uk and had time to reflect on this challenging 2 weeks – and believe me it was challenging – my sister and I both shared the same vision and we knew we had to go back!
Having spent time with orphans, people dying with AIDS and literally cleaning the stinking latrine pits at the local health centre we knew life wouldn't be the same for either of us. We met a little girl on our journey who stole our hearts – Caro lived in the most awful of circumstances and had no prospects of education, healthcare or indeed any sort of reasonable childhood. She wandered the area, open to abuse, looking for food and comfort at the orphanage. I could go on – there is so much I could tell you but what you need to know is where this short trip way back in 2011 has led us to. Within 12 months we'd started a child sponsorship program in Kumi called Seeds of Hope, and that is what we try to do – plant little seeds of hope into families, then nurture them, and watch them grow! Caro was our first child – she is now a lovely, bright, committed young woman who is making the most of every opportunity the project can provide.
We have an amazing manager who works tirelessly for the project – Robinah identifies the most vulnerable children, makes plans, monitors progress, offers interventions when needed... She liaises with all of the local government departments, ensures whatever we do is in-line with regulations and is always thinking out of the box – we're really blessed to have Robinah – her passion makes all of this possible.
Over the last eight years we've supported over 100 children on our little project - from nursery age through to seniors aged 20. We keep children in education and provide skills training when they're old enough – these children live in a rural area and mainly need practical skills. Where a child is doing well in education they do the equivalent to A Levels and we then look for bursaries for university. All of our older children who've qualified from courses such as building, joinery, hairdressing, motor mechanics and shoe making are now employed and are financially independent – 100% success rate to date!
In the last couple of years we've turned our focus onto the growing number of street children, mainly boys- due to HIV, parents dying, land disputes and food scarcity many children are gravitating to the streets and crime. We work with the local police and the child welfare office to try to support the youths in a bid to prevent the spiral into crime, alcohol abuse and prostitution.
So what's happening now? Uganda is facing a hugely challenging time due to Covid19 – our children are out of school and families are starving. As if this isn't hard enough a locust plague at the start of lockdown has caused a whole crop cycle to fail. There is very little work and no state aid so we're currently diverting all of our resources to buying food as well as seeds and cuttings for replanting to ensure self sufficiency. We are paying for healthcare for children on the program and their wider families as the malaria season is particularly bad on top of Covid. Robinah's also identifying the elderly and the disabled who are last to receive the food in the villages – all together we're currently feeding over 700 people! We make masks to distribute to the local community as it is now a mandatory requirement that they're worn in public places.
So when I look back and reflect on the last 9 years- from a family trip we've a charity that's registered here in the UK as Our Father's Heart, and we're now in the process of applying for NGO status in Uganda at national level. We have a small team of trustees and the children's sponsors that is making all of this possible. 100% of every penny we raise goes directly into the project.
Linda and I head out at least once a year to spend time with our friends and Kumi family – we take a group out with us to share the experience – always a self funded trip for all involved and is very hands on. We're delighted to see that our children have a love for this place and it's people – our hope is that they will eventually take on the baton as one thing I know is that now we've embarked on this journey and can see the difference we can make to one life at a time we can't go back – we have to press on and run this race! There've been many tears and sorrows over the years, challenges and mountains to climb, but such reward and joy too.
You can find out more or donate to the work we're doing at www.seedsofhopeuganda.com
Caro our first child now aged 16