Building Long Term Impacts in Communities across Uganda
Sandra Villegas is a prime example of the VMM volunteer ethos, why we do what we do, and why we love it. She has been with VMM since 2012, volunteering her services as a Development Officer with our partner organisation, the Little Sisters of Saint Francis, based at Providence Home in Nkonkonjeru, in the Diocese of Lugazi, Uganda. A congregation founded in 1923 by Irish missionary Mother Mary Kevin, they provide education, healthcare and social services to the most vulnerable in society, such as the elderly, orphans and the disabled. However, Sandra’s talents are utilized on a number of projects for the Sisters in various locations across Uganda; and she has done so, for the last number of months beyond her project end-date, without funding for her own living expenses. The list of her accomplishments is nothing short of impressive. She truly has undertaken the VMM mission to, “share who we are, not just what we have” and follows in the steps of Mother Kevin.
Providence Home for Vulnerable Adults
In recent years, the approach for the care of children and vulnerable adults has moved from institutional care to home care, where possible. In Providence Home the resettlement of children and vulnerable adults is ongoing and the number for Community Based Rehabilitation is now 82. 38 children remain in Providence Home and 37 live outside, supported by boarding school fees. Sandra, the Sisters and staff have been given training by Catholic Care for Children in Uganda through the Association of Religious in Uganda and meetings in the villages are well attended, reaching a total of 1,680 participants, 145 pregnant women and assessed 45 children in 2018.
Providence Home also holds a monthly cerebral palsy clinic with an average of 110 patients, both children and adult, in collaboration with Butabika Hospital in Kampala. Other philanthropic partnerships also provide stroke awareness and ophthalmic clinics. Recent refurbishments to the Home under Sandra’s guidance saw the building of a new convent with solar pumping, heating and lighting, a new incinerator, improved wheelchair access, repair of the boys’ dormitory, repainting and furnishing of the library, Occupational Therapy room and dining room and provision of musical instruments for the children. In addition, Sandra runs an education sponsorship programme for 75 children; 14 in University, 19 in secondary level, 40 in Primary and 2 in Nursery, which requires a budget ranging from $65,000 – $70,000 a year.
Health and Education Projects
Other projects that Sandra has overseen include:
Stella Maris College and Stella Maris Boarding Primary School in Nkokonjeru, now have a water system benefiting a total of 1,600 children, teaching and non-teaching staff. The drilling of a bore-hole for a solar pumping system is ongoing for the health centre and St. Francis Primary School in Kavule, which opened February 2018, benefiting 250 attendees and 200 school children.
Food supplies were secured for 150 children in St. Francis Primary School, Kavule and 650 children of St. Alphonsus Demonstration School in Nkokonjeru. A bore-hole for a water source will also be drilled at St. Alphonsus Demonstration School and at St. Maria Gorreti Primary School on Kikajjo, where repairs of the convent is ongoing. When the Sisters took over the school in Kikajjo at the beginning of 2017, there were only 150 children. By 2018, enrollment had risen to 352 children and projections for this year are 450. Students have performed well in Primary Leaving Examinations, with 21 children progressing to access national secondary schools.
Sandra also oversaw the construction of a health centre facility in Kavule, Uganda. The current health centre, attending to expectant mothers and 40 people living with HIV/AIDS, is a small structure of 6 x 8 meters, which Mother Kevin built in 1936. The original delivery table is still being used and delivers an average of 9-12 children per month. The new facility will expand its services to allow a two-bed male and female ward with a formal health education room, HIV counselling room, a laboratory, treatment and examination room and a drug store. And in Kanyenye another bore-hole has been drilled and a solar pumping system installed in preparation for the Mother Kevin Primary Teachers’ College, soon to begin construction.
The St Francis Nyenga Hospital, which serves 40,000 people within Buikwe District, Uganda, received a CBC machine (complete blood count) to help diagnose numerous diseases and solar lighting was installed at Saint Francis Nursing and Midwifery Training School also in Nyenga. The school had only 20 students when it started in 1998. Training was halted in 2005 but resumed in 2012 and there are now 250 students and 100% passing rate.
In Kakooge, Uganda, Sandra has sourced funding for the equipping of a maternity unit and construction of the sanitation block of the health centre, which serves 37,000 people and solar lighting and a solar pumping system was also installed in Saint Anthony’s Girls Secondary School in Kakooge benefiting 450 students. In addition, Saint Anthony’s Nursery Teachers’ Training College toilet facilities have recently been completed for the 120 students, which had grown from the original 12, in 2012.
A bore-hole will be drilled and a solar pumping system installed for Busowa Wellness Centre as well as the building of an Assessment Centre for Children with Disabilities; while solar lighting will be installed in Pallisa Formation House in the Archdiocese of Tororo, where workshops will benefit 652 sisters with perpetual vows.
Volunteering’s Positive Impacts on Communities
VMM are very proud of the volunteer mission of VM Sandra and her work in partnership with Sisters of Saint Francis, working tirelessly and selflessly to build the educational and health facilities and services in communities all across Uganda which, like the work of Mother Kevin in the 1920s and 30s, will reap positive impacts long into the future. When asked about her work and her mission Sandra replied, “We have big projects this year and I pray that I will be given good health and the strength so I can continue working with the Sisters.”