AIDS CONCERN INTEGRATED ORGANIZATION – ACIO – and ACIO Child Care Center, Sironko, Uganda
ACIO is a locally initiated, community based organization founded in 2004 to address the growing number of HIV/AIDS orphaned and vulnerable children in the district of Sironko, Uganda. As of 2011, Love Is The Answer is in its 4th year of supporting programs and projects that benefit the orphaned children in ACIO’s care.
Inspired by the Love and direction of Vincent, a local school teacher, ACIO’s membership is made up of approximately 130 volunteer guardians – many of them Grandmother’s and single mother’s caring for over 400 orphans in their homes – along with concerned community members, all seeking to come up with viable and sustainable solutions to care for the children.
ACIO UPDATE – March 2011
Until May of last year, 60 orphaned children were living in full time care at ACIO Child Care Center, where they were housed in temporary mud and stick buildings on ACIO land, and being cared for by ACIO volunteers. Due to heavy rains that began in Uganda in March 2010, there were mudslides killing hundreds, and flooding that caused thousands to leave their homes and villages. While all the ACIO children were kept safe, the Child Care Center, located on low land in a valley, became very water logged resulting in flooding of the children’s weathered dorms and collapsing the latrines, and the decision was made to relocate the children to safer accommodation.
Since that time, 30 of the resident children were taken in by caregivers in the community – many with several orphans already in their care – where they will stay for the next months while ACIO works on alternate accommodation for them. The remaining 30 children were relocated to a rented home in Vincent’s village and are being cared for by him, his wife and other volunteers for the time being. The daycare at the center – an income generating activity for ACIO – was also been closed due to the flooding. All of the fixtures, supplies and items like desks, benches, blackboards, and our library ( pictured here ) – have been moved to storage – and the first 200 chicks for the ACIO Poultry Project arrived in early June to a temporary location, where they have now begun laying eggs. Please see more about the current status of the poultry project below.
Seeing the very great need that developed, a local man in Sironko stepped up and donated an acre and a half of land on higher ground in Vincent’s village, and it is on this land that ACIO is planning to relocate and build the new Child Care Center. It is planned that it shall be built in the local style, out of baked bricks and concrete, with iron sheets as roofing, as opposed to the traditional, temporary, less expensive building style of mud and sticks we have used to date. ACIO will be attempting to re-use many of the iron sheets used for the roofing at the former center, as well as the doors, windows, roof trusses, etc.
One day soon, as accumulated funds and circumstances dictate, we will commence building the first phase of the new center at the new site. This phase will include new dorms and latrines for the children as well as an admin/staff area, and be followed at a later date with a cooking/dining area, daycare, and library.. eventually there are also plans to build a vocational training building, and bring the existing poultry project up to the new land, and add heifers as well. Lots of plans are in the works.
LITA Accomplishments with ACIO to March 2011
During the ’08-’09 school year a special relationship began between the students at an elementary school in Vancouver, BC Canada ( pictured here ) and the children at ACIO in Sironko, Uganda… a relationship that is teaching me how we can positively enrich the lives of children on “both sides of the water” by linking them with one another, making it personal for them, helping them get to know about, care about and share with one another. This first relationship has continued to grow as we carried on through the ’09-’10 school year and now into 2011, and it is my longer term intention to take what we are learning and develop many more such relationships, between additional schools in the West and projects for orphaned children in Africa, along the lines of this model in the future.
It’s a simple model really … one school from the West, linked with one small, self determining, grass roots project for orphans in Africa … I’m beginning to understand the incredible empowerment and education that can take place for everyone involved!
Thank you to the teachers, students and their parents of the Vancouver elementary school, as well as other private donors, for embracing ACIO and financially supporting their project and the orphaned children in Sironko.
I think I’ll know the vision has been made manifest on the day I’m in Uganda with the children at an orphaned children project there visiting and talking on skype live with the children here in a school in Canada! A day, I can honestly say, I almost hold my breath for cause I can feel it coming..!
Please note – A very important component of the model that’s developing, one that I wish to accentuate, is that all of the products and supplies in this following list have been, and in the future will continue to be bought locally in Uganda, in trading centers and public markets within the communities the children reside in. This provides tangible and lasting support and encouragement for the local economies, entrepreneurs and small businesses, and, provides materials that are common, useful and needed within the context in which the children live.
1) 2009 – For the 60 children in care at ACIO ~ blankets, mosquito nets, foam mattresses for sleeping on, extra clothing, school uniforms, school supplies, art supplies, hygiene supplies, soccer balls
2) 2009 – For 90 children in home-based care ~ school scribblers and pens/pencils
3) 2009 – For the public daycare ACIO has recently opened ~ The daycare is ACIO’s first income generating activity and provides some of the funds ACIO requires to feed the 60 children in full time care.. donor funds have provided lumber for roof trusses, iron sheets for roofing, desks ( pictured here ), benches, blackboards, books and paper supplies.
4) 2009 – For the new ACIO Library ~ The library serves the 60 children in full time care as well as the 350+ orphans living in home-based care in the community. Donor funds helped with the purchase of windows, 1 shelf, desks, benches, a selection of supplementary Ugandan curriculum text books, novels and beginner readers.
5) 2009 – For Vincent, the Director of ACIO ~ After years of riding a bicycle, we have been able to provide Vincent with a used motorcycle to help him in his daily travels including to remote and mountainous villages and communities where his membership and many orphaned children live.
6) 2010 – For Phase 2 of the ACIO Library ~ Donor funds have helped to purchase additional text books, readers and novels along with 2 shelves
7) 2010 – For the 60 children in care at ACIO ~ School scribblers, pens, pencils and math sets
8) 2010 – For 90 children in home based care ~ school scribblers, pens, pencils and math sets
9) 2010/2011 – For the new Poultry Project at ACIO ~ This is ACIO’s 2’nd income generating activity to help the org take steps closer to self sufficiency. Through a gift card program at Christmas ’09 donors helped generate the capital required to start the project.
Sponsoring chicks for $11 each – which included funds for the building of the hen house – donors supported the purchase of one chick and all it’s medicine and feed costs for the first 6 months until it would begin to lay eggs. In total, I am most grateful to say, the equivalent of 312 chicks were sponsored!
By June 2010, the first 200 day old chicks were delivered and “peep-peep” the “ACIO Poultry Project” was underway!
As of January 2011, the project looks to be right on target towards self-sustainability by month end, 6 months since the launch, generating eggs to feed the children in full time care at the “center”, eggs to sell to raise income for the feed the hens require… and profit for savings! From here on in the project will continue to grow as new chicks are introduced and so on and so on. Once we commence building on the site for the new child care center, the hen house located at the former center that was flooded no sooner than it was built in 2010 will be moved and the entire poultry project will be relocated there!
Thank you to donors who have helped make this ( and these pictures ) possible! So grateful!!
AND HERE’S WHAT WE’RE WORKING ON RIGHT NOW WITH ACIO:
1) From “Chicks to Bricks” Program ~ Due to flooding in 2010 at the existing child care center, as noted above, ACIO is now in the process of coming up with plans for a new center to be built on higher ground in Sironko. After a successful gift card program in which donors sponsored baby chicks ( and their housing, care and feed costs until they begin to lay eggs and create an income ) for the new poultry project, I am now turning my focus to raising funds to build the new permanent Child Care Center… out of bricks! In much the same way as the chick program, donors will be able to sponsor “Another Brick In The Wall”. Fun!
2) A “Heifer Milk Cow Project” for Caregivers
~ This is a project designed to support guardians and caregivers, including Grandmother’s of orphaned children, to help provide better nutrition for the children in their care and to increase their ability to earn income in order to be able to continue to provide home-based care for the orphaned children living with them.
Regarding the heifer project Vincent wrote in an email to me..
“We had a meeting with caregivers ( pictured here ) and they agreed on the following project. ACIO has 127 members who will participate in the project. They agreed to form clusters of 5 people per group which resulted in 25 groups . They suggested that if they could buy 25 heifer calves, each group of 5 could take 1 calf. One member keeps the cow when it gives birth, he/she takes the calf and pass the mother cow to another member and the cycle continues… ”
Vincent also confirmed that each group of 5 members has agreed to raise and contribute 25% as stakeholder contributions toward the purchase of the first heifers, asking for our help with the 75% balance of the purchase price. ( A heifer costs $400, so the caregiver’s portion is $100 or $20 each, which is a lot of money when you typically live on less that $1-2 per day..) The group will also build the proper pen for the heifer, and plant and grow and store the special grass the heifer will feed on that will help it produce excellent quality milk. Once the heifer program starts, the milk will contribute to better nutrition for the orphans in their care and for themselves, and the caregivers plan to create a milk co-operative in the trading center and sell the excess milk as the number of cattle grows over time! Nutrition, income, sustainable self-sufficiency … caregivers and orphaned children benefitting … YEAH!!
“Heifer Milk Cow Project” Update – March 2011
~ Very exciting news, phase 1 of the “ACIO Heifers Milk Cow for Caregivers” project has been launched! Vincent, the Director of ACIO, along with the ACIO Heifer Committee has purchased and distributed the first 12 heifers to 60 caregivers who are ready to receive a heifer. These groups have each built a heifer pen, are growing/harvesting/storing grass for feed for their heifer, and have saved 25% the value of their heifer as a stakeholder contribution, and now LITA, through the generosity of family, friends and donors – 9 of the first 12 heifers were sponsored by the fundraising efforts of the children at the Vancouver elementary school mentioned above – has helped with the 75% balance required for each heifer. Very inspiring and empowering for the community, Vincent relays that the members and children alike overjoyed and filled with hope these days, and are happily working together to bring all aspects of the project to fruition!
Now that the first 12 heifers are in place, bringing empowerment to 60 caregivers and the close to 200 orphans in their care, we shall move on to help purchase heifers for the next 3 groups of caregivers now ready.. bringing the total heifers LITA has helped to acquire to 15.. and so on, and so on, we shall continue as additional groups of caregivers become ready and donor funds are collected. Eventually, once all 127 caregivers are participating in the program, all in all over 400 children will benefit from this project! Wonderful!
Here then, are a few of the wonderful pictures I’ve received from Vincent, showing caregivers with their newly constructed heifer pens, standing in the grass/feed they are growing for their heifers, and even a few of our little orphaned darlings who will benefit from this project.. followed by pictures of the recently acquired heifers at their new homes, with their new families!
Enjoy ~ Blessings and Love, and so much gratitude to all those who have made possible these incredible and empowering changes in the lives of the caregivers and children alike ~