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Rotary clubs connect to bring aid through WASH

posted 5 Dec 2013, 21:14 by Sekuma Peter

The Oakville Rotary clubs are asking the community for help in bringing clean drinking water overseas to a country ravaged by war.

The Rotary Clubs of Oakville Trafalgar (RCOT), Oakville (RCO) and Oakville West (RCOW) are partnering with the Rotary Clubs of Kampala and Lira Uganda on the WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) Project to help those in need in Uganda.

The RCOT held a fundraiser recently at Otello’s Banquet and Convention Centre to raise money and awareness for the ongoing effort. The luncheon featured presentations from Martin Ogang of the Rotary Club of Kampala and Lorna Pitcher, founder and president of Children of Hope Uganda.

“Uganda has come from a very difficult past. When I went to Nairobi in 1973, I was basically running away because there was a real abuse of power at that time,” said Ogang. “Things have improved considerably since then because we have some form of democracy.”

The near-$450,000 project will install water supply systems, solar-powered bore hole wells, reservoir tanks, rainwater harvesting tanks and flush-toilets in Aloi and Barlonyo.

It will also use bio-gas to improve soil fertility in the area and plant trees to serve as windbreaks. Once finished, WASH will improve quality of life for more than 8,000 people.

“I was excited to learn how important water sanitation is. While we have power from solar, flush toilets and water, it is isolated. So many people don’t have anything,” said Ogang.

Barlonyo has inadequate toilet facilities and lacks access to clean water, which results in outbreaks of disease and fighting among the residents.

Access to water is also a problem in Aloi, where nearly 4,000 people share one, often-broken down, water pump.

Ogang noted his involvement with WASH began last January after he attended a conference near Lira. He began working on the sanitation project a few months later after visiting Barlonyo.

“We started preparing an 83-page document on the WASH project in northern Uganda. I advised to combine the two communities, Aloi and Barlonyo, and make it one project,” said Ogang.

Before the project could move forward, he said the Rotary Clubs had to complete a needs assessment for Aloi and Barlonyo.

“Does the community really need this? Or is it a matter of saying, ‘the community needs this?’ As Rotarians, we had to go down to Aloi and Barlonyo and ask the people, ‘What is it that you need?’” said Ogang.

While the physical implementation of WASH is expected to take six months to complete, Ogang said, “the behavioural change of the community” will take two years.

The Rotarian noted the local club will be visiting the communities every other week to monitor progress and will send frequent reports to the International Rotary Clubs.

In 2004, Barlonyo was left in ruins after a deadly attack from Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army — a rebel group the Ugandan government has been fighting since 1987. The assault killed 301 men, women and children.

Part of Pitcher’s presentation showed slides of the aftermath in Barlonyo, including images of a memorial site for victims.

“In March 2012, a video was put out called Kony 2012 and was seen by 88 million people around the world. It explained who Joseph Kony was,” said Pitcher.

She said the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army is the first to be indicted by the International Criminal Court. He was charged with 33 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“He is responsible for the displacement of 1.8 million people, most of them in northern Uganda. They were sent to displaced persons camps,” said Pitcher. “The horrific part is the abduction of (more than) 20,000 children as child soldiers or sex slaves.”

But Pitcher said there was a “happier ending” to Barlonyo’s story and the Rotary Club is a part of it. She showed an image of a school the Children of Hope Uganda charity built in 2010.

“The (residents) are warm and forward-looking. They are not dwelling, but they sorely need our help. The water and sanitation situation is appalling, but it (doesn’t have) to be.”

The RCOT’s goal is to raise $130,000. If successful, the group will qualify for matching grants from its Rotary District and the Rotary International Foundation.

Those wishing to make donations can mail a cheque to June Oliver at 2530 Sixth Line, Unit 14, Oakville, ON, L6H 6W5. A charitable donation receipt will be provided.