Our MD Gilly Dickons has a whole other life going on outside of Aesthetic Response she registered a charity here in the UK called Our Father’s Heart.
Our MD Gilly Dickons has a whole other life going on outside of Aesthetic Response – along with her sister Linda Barrie (Choc-Affair) she registered a charity here in the UK called Our Father’s Heart. The charity has two distinct projects: a sponsorship scheme in Kumi, Uganda, for those children and young people identified as most vulnerable, and project York, UK, offering mentoring through employment to people in recovery from addiction or who are ex-offenders.
The project in Uganda has been operating since 2012 and is now a small NGO, whilst here in the UK Choc-Affair has been offering employment opportunities to vulnerable young people since 2009. The UK side has been expanding- 2022 saw the launch of a project called Chocolate & Co and will have its’ own café up and running in spring 2023 – you can take a look here if you want to find out more!
Respecting people and communities is at the heart of everything Gilly & Linda do –they’re both passionate about seeing people’s lives transformed through the power of education, training and employment. The most recent trip to Uganda was in May this year – this is what Gilly has to say about it:“We’ve had the privilege of visiting Kumi, Uganda since 2011 and have made some wonderful friends over the last 11 years. After a two-year gap due to covid, we had an amazing trip in May – it was wonderful to be back amongst our Kumi family – it genuinely feels like our second home! There’s so much I could tell you about our visit, the people we met, the things we were privileged to be able to do and share in. Here’s just a brief snapshot of our May visit:The young people on our sponsorship program have grown so much, both in stature and in maturity, they’ve had an incredibly tough 2 years, and somehow, they’ve all come through.
Sadly, one of the worst impacts of covid in Uganda has been the step rise in teenage pregnancies, which has also impacted some of our youngsters. Caroline’s 16 and had a baby boy just two weeks before we arrived in May. Caro was our first sponsored child, she’s the reason why we started our sponsorship program in 2012. What a treat it was for us to be able to meet Ephraim and to hold him, whilst catching up with Caro. Since two weeks after giving birth Caro has walked 3 miles to school and her sister then brings the baby at lunchtime for her to feed, then waits until his next feed before taking him home- there’s no bottle feeding to make this easier!
Caro’s a very bright young woman and she’s determined to complete her education. She cried when she saw us, as she was so worried we’d be disappointed that she’d become pregnant.
Whilst we feel sad to see Caro with so much responsibility at such a young age we’re far from disappointed -we’re so incredibly proud of her! In the midst of overwhelming circumstances, and responsibility, by returning to school to complete her education Caro has been brave enough to challenge the norms in both the local and wider community. She’s pioneering and making a way for other teenage mums. With the support of her family, our project manager, and her school we’re sure that Caro will make a success of her education and will be a great example to others around her.
Because of covid, some of our children are having to repeat whole school years, due to missing so much of their education during the lockdowns. The covid pandemic has been very challenging for the community, lockdowns were harsh, the police would beat anyone found out on the streets when they shouldn’t have been, this meant moving around for food was incredibly hard. For us as a charity, it’s meant we’ve had go back and repeat the purchasing of school materials, uniforms, shoes as well as paying further rounds of school fees, so it’s vital that we keep doing what we can to raise funds, to make sure we continue to offer the support we do in the local community.
We’ve been involved with some street boys over the last 5 years and were very concerned to find that many of them had been sent to the local prison as a result of the police rounding up everyone living on the streets during lockdowns. We were able to visit some of them in the prison and hear their stories and their situation within the legal system. It’s a tough system, where prisoners work all day 6 days a week in the fields, in blistering heat, only to come back to the prison to sleep on the floor, with around 30 others, in a space no bigger than an average sized living room here. These teenagers are on indefinite remand with no court date in sight – and this is still the case as we come to the end of 2022! It was good to be able to visit them and our project manager continues to encourage them through visits, taking in things like washing soap, tea and sugar.
We had several children with medical emergencies over the last couple of years, and it was a real joy to visit them in their homes and to see that all of them have fully recovered after receiving urgent care and medical intervention through OFH– we really are blessed that we can make a difference one life at a time!
Uganda is a very beautiful country, the scenery, the climate and the people – they have tenacity, faith, and even in the midst of extreme hardship, they have a sense of hope, and I think that’s something so many people don’t get the privilege of seeing – the beauty amidst the desperation- it’s difficult to convey in words. We have a real love for this community in Kumi, have made some precious friendships over the years, and we plan on being involved for many years to come.
On a final note – OFH sponsors children and teenagers with primary and secondary education or to receive skills training. To date the OFH program has assisted over 75 young people in this way and all the young people who have completed the sponsorship program to date are employed and are able to support themselves, and in some cases their families. Medical care and nutrition are part of the program as well as pastoral care and support, for both the young person and their immediate family. From as little as £25 a month you can support a child like Caro or Silas, through their education, or you can consider making a one off donation towards the emergency medical fund.
To find out more please visit:
Our Fathers Heart