Can I dare to dream?
Regardless of our social and economic status in life, all of us have a vision of what we would want to become, or achieve, in life. Some of us have the opportunity to live out our dreams, while others are left to wonder, ‘what happened to the dreams we had?’
It might not occur to us that there are those among us who cannot afford to dream because they live on the margins of society where surviving through a day is a feat in itself! But they do have dreams, although the chances of seeing them come true are almost zero. But with support from a loving community and people, we can help one another, especially the destitute to realize their dreams.
Action For Fundamental Change and Development (AFFCAD) is a youth-led organization in Bwaise slum that is passionate about bringing sustainable change to slum communities. What an amazing way to bring smiles to communities!
AFFCAD mainly works in the four main slums in Uganda’s capital city Kampala: Bwaise, Katwe, Kisenyi, and Kabalagala.
These communities are marred by poverty, limited access to basic service delivery like sexual reproductive health services, clean water among others, child-headed families, insecurity, decent shelter violence extremism, and adequate food to safeguard their well-being.
Owing to this state of affairs, AFFCAD seeks to bring sustainable change to these communities through designed responsive programs aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals: (SDG) Good health (#3), Education (#4), and Economic empowerment (#8).
How about we dive into the milestones that a youth-led organization in Bwaise slum is making to give hope and change the lives of youth, children, and women?
Education for All!
“I want to be a pilot when I grow up”, screamed little Hashim, a 6-year-old boy who happily described his dream with determination written all over his face. Hashim goes to a school built by AFFCAD in Bwaise.
With support from its development partners like Enfance Tiers Monde, Hewlett Foundation, Fonthill Foundation, AFFCAD UK, AFFCAD has increased access to a free, better-quality nursery and primary school education for over 500 children while providing a learning environment focusing on academics, character building, moral development, and extra-curricular activities. Building this kind of school was AFFCAD’s strong statement to the children and their families that indeed they can dare to dream! Especially in a community characterized by high levels of illiteracy, poverty rates, and lack of a government-aided school.
Giving Hope To Youth Through Vocational Skills
Kebirungi Magdalene is a 26 year old from Bwaise slum. She was forced out of school after her father passed on. Left with no option, Magdalene had to support her mother to raise her younger siblings despite being a child herself. She started taking up odd jobs, some of which did not pay well enough to cater to her family and personal needs.
“I worked as a housemaid to support my siblings but this was not self-sustaining. I was taken to a government organization (name with-held) that claimed to help youth like me but I got no help.” She narrates.
During community mobilization to enroll students into AFFCAD Business and Vocational Institute, Magdalene approached the team and expressed her interest to join the training institute. Based on her ambition and dire need, she was enrolled in the institute.
AFFCAD Business and Vocational Institute (ABVI) was established by AFFCAD in 2013, to empower youth like Magdalene in Bwaise. The Institute offers vocational hands-on skills and entrepreneurship training plus financial literacy programs for youths to help them become employed or find decent jobs.
Today, Magdalene is a student of Catering and Hotel management. She foresees a brighter future ahead of her and she’s optimistic that this is the beginning of a better life.
“I want to be successful and support my siblings to attain the education I could not. I have learned a lot since I joined, I like baking cake. One day, I wish to have my restaurant.” She added.
To date, the Institute has trained and graduated over 1, 734 youth like Magdalene.
Music, Dance, and Drama to Counter Violence Extremism!
Umar (real name withheld) was born and raised in Bwaise in the most pressing situation. Going to school was a luxury because he had to support his single mother and raise his other siblings. With all this in play, this young man was approached by a group of older men, that tried to lure him into joining the ADF rebels with the promise of riches and the best life for his family. This happened right in the heart of the Bwaise slum where ADF rebels, led by Jamil Mukulu recruited young children into joining these rebel groups.
Young people have been significantly affected by violent extremism in recent years. In some cases, their search for meaning and a path in life has been manipulated to entice them into extremism and violence. Slum populations have been a target, where youth have fallen victim to radicalization. Take case in point the ADF recruitment in Bwaise slum by rebel leader Jamal Mukulu in the past years. The majority of these youth are economically and socially marginalized resulting in a pervasive sense of purposelessness and lack of hope for the future; a daunting factor that makes them an easy target for radicalization and violent extremism.
With funding from European Union and support from International Organisation for Migration, AFFCAD embarked on a campaign that uses music, dance, and drama to increase young people’s capacity and resilience to resist radicalization and combat violent extremism, raise awareness of violent extremism, change the mindset of youth and in turn, create cohesive and violence-free communities.
This program involves training 50 youth from the four major slums in Kampala, that is, Bwaise, Katwe, Kisenyi, and Kabalagala in the use of performing arts for social transformation and self-development. Trainees in turn are tasked to return to their communities and train fellow youth from identified schools. This approach encouraged communities to identify issues they are facing and come up with effective solutions without major external interference.
The intervention was categorized into annual music dance and drama competitions, community flash mobs, and awareness caravans. What better way of reaching out to young people!
Can we do away with slums in a city like Kampala, perhaps it is possible with better planning and city leadership. However, until then, services and programs of organizations such as AFFCAD and its partners are needed so much because it is such organizations that make dreams come true and enable young people in such communities to dare to dream!