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.

LITA Workshop in Making a Strumstick (Final Update 25May2015)


25 May 2015 –

(If you are visiting for the first time, please scroll down to the start, the ‘6 May 2015’ entry below)

Staying by Lake Victoria, flying out from Uganda this evening. This is the last blog entry that we’ll be doing about the strumstick workshops.

Bern teaching the names and purposes of the tools.

The 2nd course begins with 8 boys from CCDO – Community Child Development Orphanage – in the community of Buyobo, accompanied by their young woman teacher.

Everyone worked hard all morning.
Bern demonstrating the first step.. gluing on the tail piece.
Serving lunch.. beans and rice, the favorite meal.
Mzee cooking lunch for the crowd.
We were amazed about how much the boys could eat.

Playtime.. some children were drawing, some playing football.

Back to work.
Finishing up filing.
Local ingredients for the finishing wax.. beeswax and sunflower oil.
Applying the finish coat and polishing.
The music lessons start with Mr. Johnson.
The all important certificates presentation.
Watching themselves on video for the first time.
Watching ‘The Lion King’.. a special treat.
Village bound, back to the child care centre where the boys live.
Traveling along the village road, Wanale Hill in the background.

When rains permitted, we took a day trip to visit both ACIO and CCDO projects that LITA has been involved with now for many years.

Favour Primary School and dormitories at CCDO in Buyobo.. built by LITA in 2014.
Onward to ACIO, it was market day in Mutufu trading centre.

The girl’s latrine and dormitory at CCDO beyond the beautiful floral surroundings.

Returning the bedding to ACIO, walking along the trail to the children’s dorm.
LITA has just installed solar lights in the dormitories and one of the classrooms at ACIO. The chidlren were so excited when they returned to school. They could now study in the evening.
A 3-stance, 2 bathing stall latrine LITA is just being completed at ACIO with funds from our 2015 Valentine’s Day Benefit Dance.
Strumstick workshops completed, we’re enjoying what else Uganda has to offer.. seen here on the Victoria Nile at Murchison Falls National Park. A big thank you to Catherine for hosting us and enabling the workshops to be so successful.

PS from Cath – Already starting as of last week, we are very happy that the music classes that began in our garage workshop are going to continue throughout this second term, taught by Mr. Johnson twice weekly, at both ACIO and CCDO schools.

Please check out ‘Figurenotes’ at: http://www.drakemusicscotland.org to learn about an amazing approach to teaching/learning music that Mr. Johnson is using to further the children’s understanding about music, the recorder, and strumstick.

You can click here to watch a short video about ‘Figurenotes’.

Thank you for your kind consideration to support the continuation of this program with a donation to LITA’s music project. More info about donating can be found here. 

16 May 2015 – 

Mr Johnson, a wonderful Ugandan musician, music teacher, and director of TASO (The Aids Support Organization) Mbale Drama Group, gave the boys a music lesson, starting with using recorders that we had brought over from Canada before he moved on to the strumsticks.

With nine strumsticks completed, on the last day of the 4 day course we had a fun music lesson, learning beginner recorder and strumstick arts.

Followed by a very important presentation of certificates to each participant.

Then after another big lunch, the truck ride home as far as Mutufu, and the walk on the trail through the village to the ACIO orphanage.

The lesson continues…
Any flat space will do for doing the homework ……
And here’s the finished product.
Nine smiling faces, nine completed strumsticks!
Congratulations one and all! Very well done!

15 May 2015 – 

On May 4th, the first workshop began with the 9 boys, their Director, Vincent, and Bern’s assistants helping.

The boys worked in groups of 3 at 3 workstations
Bern and his brother, Norm, made aluminum jigs to ensure accuracy and success by each student.
Six hands make light work! Drilling needed care not to break the fragile drill bit.
Gluing the parts together, using a locally made brick wrapped in a plastic bag as a weight. This young man was one of our star students!
Bern teaching how to sharpen a knife.
Bern teaching the students the importance of taking care of the tools.
LITA’s Ugandan Agent, Bonny Mark, dropped by for a visit and some strumming!
Stringing and tuning required some adult help. Fortunately Bern’s assistants all became quite expert at it!

Director Vincent, enjoying the finished product!
Judy’s diagrams to help in teaching English words.

8 May 2015 –

The day before the boys from the ACIO orphanage arrived, was spent on logistics in housing, transporting and feeding our 10 visitors – 9 boys and caregiver Vincent.

Our neighbour cook ready with his 3 -stone fires to cook lunch daily for 20!
Cath and one of the boys planning the meals and food buying for 3 meals in 2 places for 20 people for four days!

The boys had a long journey from their child care center, along the muddy trail carrying their foam mattresses on their heads, to the trading centre, where they were met with transport to bring them to Cath’s home in Kamonkoli.. some two hours away.

This was an exciting trip for the boys, many of whom have never left the village before, been in a truck or on a tarmack road, or seen a three storey building or been in a city like Mbale..

Upon arrival in Kamonkoli – Let The Strumming Begin – With Vincent, the Director of ACIO, overlooking, Bern handed some of the boys strumsticks that he made and brought along from Canada!

6 May 2015 –

After Bern and his cousin, David, attended a course on making a strumstick in Vancouver, Bern decided it would be a great project to take to the orphans supported by LITA in Uganda. A strumstick, originally derived from an African string instrument, is a simple 3 – stringed dulcimer tuned to one key and is a good preparation for learning to play the guitar.

The first strumstick training workshop in Vancouver with four friends ~ Dec 2014

With brother Norm, they developed a method for the kids to make a strumstick for themselves.

As there is no electricity in the countryside in Uganda, their design used hand tools only and inexpensive components. They designed aluminum jigs and pre-cut the main parts of the sticks. We packed two large suitcases loaded with tools and parts and off we went to Uganda.

From Vancouver…
Arrival in Entebbe, Uganda

The first week was spent preparing Catherine’s garage into a workshop, and training Bern’s three assistants who live with Cath, the founder of LITA.

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