Empowering HIV/AIDS orphaned children in Africa to a self sustainable future

Catherine Koch

Catherine Koch

Founder and President of Love Is The Answer, a Canadian registered charity serving orphaned children in Africa.

Bedrock City and Solar Power!


If you’ve ever wondered where you can catch “The Flintstones” these days, you are most welcome to come on over to the very comfortable and beautiful home I am Blessed to be staying at in Senior Quarters, Mbale, Uganda, around 6pm on Wednesdays and you can huddle with the 3 little local neighborhood girls who giggle their way through the show each week.. when power is on, that is!

In preparation to welcome our beautiful family of 5, The Wagner’s, from White Rock BC Canada to Entebbe Uganda in the very wee hours of Dec 13th, I traveled to Kampala on the 10th! I was excited, and there was much for me to do before their arrival!

Another friend from Mbale, another Juliet (I’m quite sure that is her real name 🙂 was already in Kampala with her truck and had offered to transport back to Mbale our order of 144 solar lanterns for caregivers in Sironko, 12 solar lamps with phone chargers, and 75 mosquito nets that I was all set to purchase, some for current needs and most in prep for the 60 beds we will eventually have children sleeping in at the child care center that we shall begin building one of these fine days..

Ohh, and on that topic.. you may recall CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) had some requirements a few weeks ago, and we supplied quite quickly to them all the documents that we understood they were requesting. Thereafter, as we followed up daily with them but achieved no real connection with a human being, we were eventually informed that, her voice mail full, the woman who had requested the documents was MIA, well, to us anyways! Somewhat astonishing, with our original agent perhaps unwell, or on holidays, it has since taken well over 2 weeks to have help from a replacement officer at CRA. We have just now, at our request, been deemed a “priority” and assigned another agent by the head of the department and are hoping we will be able to move forward again on plans for the new center very soon. Thank you, we’re all grateful, and looking very forward to seeing what happens next!

So, back to those amazing solar lanterns.. with a heart full of thanks for the family I was preparing to welcome to Uganda, along with their kind and generous friends back home in Canada who donated to the project, now in Kampala I was finalizing plans for the introduction of solar powered lanterns to close to 140 caregiver households where around 300 orphaned children are living.

When I had first arrived in Uganda myself, already over a month ago, Vincent and I visited the solar lantern shop to learn first hand about the various models and products available to us. We decided on a very durable, simply designed solar lantern as recommended by the supplier, pictured here, and then Vincent had taken the information to many villages in Sironko and introduced the whole idea to ACIO caregivers. He had an amazing response!

We designed the project so that the caregivers wanting to participate would bring a stakeholder contribution of about 20% the value of the lantern, and the balance would be paid by the donor funds received by LITA. The caregivers would also sign a paper stating the names of the orphaned children in their care and committing to use some of the savings they would experience as a result of not having to purchase paraffin any longer, ( approximately 240,000 shillings or well over $100 per year ) on simple and basic needs the children in their care have, such as school uniforms (15,000), shoes (10,000), scribblers (10,000), health care, soap, etc..

Within a few very short days, Vincent had received payment from close to 91 caregivers, some who traveled far on foot when news reached them of the opportunity, and another 40 wanted to be counted in promising their financial contributions as soon as possible. And so it was that, in keeping with our budget (as determined by the donors) and the demand (as determined by the caregiver) I decided LITA would order 144 (12 cases of 12)!

Exquisite timing all over the place, once the family from Canada arrived ( more on their journey in a following journal entry, coming very soon.. 🙂 and we had all set up camp at the child care center to stay for a few days, over 120 of those very caregivers made the journey to the site to learn all about and receive their new, charged, solar lanterns! How very wonderful to have our special family on site, the very ones, who had so thoughtfully come up with the idea.. whose friends had so generously supported their idea.. present, to pass out some of the lanterns along with Vincent, myself and a local politician who came to honor the wonderful day! (Here, the oldest Wagner child presents the lanterns on behalf her family) Caregivers were most excited and very grateful, and daily, ever since receiving the lanterns, have been singing their praises loud and clear. We have been receiving awesome reviews, people are most satisfied with the lanterns, very happy to be saving on parrafin and living smoke free in their homes.. the lanterns are providing high quality light and lasting for hours and hours into the night before needing a charge again the following day. ACIO volunteers will be following up the caregiver’s committments and noting on the forms they signed the changes in our orphaned children’s lives as time moves on and the new school year school begins in February..

This project is making a huge difference in the lives of many people and along with so many caregivers and orphaned children here, I personally am forever grateful to the Wagner family and their wonderful friends for helping to bring tremendous empowerment to many of our little orphaned darlings through this program for their guardians. Due to demand, it also looks like we are going to come up with a business plan for ACIO to ask for a micro finance loan (are you interested in supporting them with this?) to facilitate offering for sale the same lanterns to community members at full retail price (through the same store of Toppy’s where we’ll be offering the “Pad Power For Girls” kits) as an income generating activity that will help further support costs at the center.. a big “wow” indeed!

Let there be Light!

May the Wagner’s and their friends, and all of our beautiful caregivers and children be forever Blessed.

With Love and Gratitude, Cath xox

Ps… Check out my styling “Christmas Hair” courtesy of 3 little neighbour munchkins who got a little bored after “The Flintstones” ended and have played with muzungu hair the whole while I’ve written this to you ~ Love ~ Love ~ Love ~

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