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.

Skills Development Grad!


I am Loving early morning here! Often I wake between 5 and 6am (11 hours ahead of PST, that’s 6 to 7pm the previous day for people back home), the roosters are starting to crow and a great variety of birds are gently singing, filling the cool fresh air with their beautiful music. I think it’s correct to say that there are over 1000 species of birds in Uganda. Not being a ‘birder’ I can’t really say which kinds I’ve seen but, let’s see, there have been many, they are all of the winged variety 🙂 and many have colors as vibrant as the tropical flowers that grow everywhere! Sunrise is magical to me…those moments when the light of the new day weaves itself around the patches of clouds and contrasts so brilliantly with the fading darkness of the night before… particularly stunning! I have spent time in the north of Canada and loved the type of light there for it’s color and depth that you can almost reach out and hold…here there is a quality of crispness and clarity, a drama to the light that still catches my attention regularly even though, soon, wow, I have been here for 3 months!

I heard my first ‘song of the season’ the other day! A country/western singer from the US was giving it her best singing how it wouldn’t be the same without you here for the holidays, or something like that! I laughed to realize what I was hearing and how it literally seemed to be coming to me from a world somewhere far away. Usually by now, back home in public areas I might have been listening to ‘Jingle Bells…’ for a couple months already! Here, I observe decorations and the ‘usual stuff’ are almost non-existent so far into this month of December. I’ve seen one tree with lights and tinsel and it happens to be at a place where many muzungus visit. I think it’s accurate to say that consumerism for many is strictly on a ‘needs only’ basis and revolves first and foremost around food, maybe sometimes (for many, used) clothing.

I’ve read that about 2/3 of the over 27 million people living here in Uganda follow ‘Christianity’. In my travels I have met several who refer to themselves as being ‘Born Again’. There are also a number who follow ‘Islam’ and for many in rural areas, ’Animism’ remains an integral part of daily life. Tribal culture is varied and complex, there are at least a couple dozen different groups with different languages and customs found within the borders of this country.

So, this past week I met with the young locals as described in my last posting and began discussions about empowering communities… fun and exciting! Along with additional guidance and suggestions from my continuing research, we’re getting together again today to further our idea exchange. Each of these locals desires to learn how to stimulate and develop grass root involvement regarding solutions in their own community for the orphan children within it. Further to ACIO and their work in Sironko, I am now involved with others in considering ways to uplift the orphan children in 3 other districts in the country!

The current session of Skills Development at the NGO is completing this coming week and I’ve been preparing a booklet to hand out to the graduating class! In it is info about poultry raising, goat keeping, knitting, crochet, quilting, jam making…plus a photo taken the day we made pineapple jam…mmmm, embroidery and making paper beads, all skills they have covered in their classes in addition to sewing and tailoring which have been the main focus of their training over the past 6 months. To aid them in their ability to earn future income, all participants will receive a sewing machine this week, sponsored by donors to the NGO. Indeed, the machines are the highlight of the whole course and to receive them will be a most empowering moment for all the clients! You may have read on the ‘projects’ page…all of these people are HIV+, were once very ill, have regained much of their health and are doing well on ART and food aid. Coming soon to the completion of the 1 year of the food aid they qualified for, the purpose of Skills Development has been to empower the clients to self sufficiency following the aid.

Over the time we’ve spent together, I have formed some deep bonds with many of these people, finding their joyful and Loving Spirits very inspiring. We’ve been creative together, we’ve learned about raising chickens and goats, we laughed tons and I’ve been privileged to help with the distribution of their monthly food aid.

Their individual and collective Love is a lasting treasure…
As ‘start up capitol’ is something many quest for here, one day in the class we talked about the idea of using scraps of fabric to create ‘shopping bags’ to sell. I showed the group a photo of one I had seen. Following our discussion, I went to a fabric store and paid 3,000Ush (about $2) for a decent pile of fabric remnants. I brought them into the next class and together we figured out how we could use the bits to make at least a few bags and earn a few thousand shillings profit on the sale of each…another income idea for them to consider in the future. The next morning, sitting at a desk in an office at the center, I looked up to see one of the class participants bowing her way forward into the room, her young son held by one hand, a little bag with 3 fresh eggs, in the other. She placed the eggs gently into my hand and said ‘Thank you for Love’.

‘Thank you for Loving us’ is something I have heard many times from this special group…It’s one of my deepest wishes that they can truly know what a huge honor, and how very easy it has been, for me to Love them. That, and how very much I thank them for the rich experience of receiving their Friendship and Love!

There are a few in the Skills Development class who, in addition to their upcoming tailoring business’ wish to start other income earning activities for which they require funding or micro financing. If you hear the call… please email me now.

Peace, Joy, Love…
Catherine xo

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