AmFuture

AmFuture

“I am the future”, or “AmFuture” for short, is the name of a very special group of young people I’ve had the privilege to become friends with and lead over the last nine months.

I first got involved with them when a friend asked me to come along with my guitar one Saturday afternoon. After that first meeting, I was hooked. Hooked by their vibrancy and passion; their selflessness and generosity; and their sheer tenacity and overwhelming positivity. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been able to get them out of my head for a single day, for the whole of the last 3 weeks I’ve been in the UK.

When asked to speak at my church last Sunday, I couldn’t help but focus it on AmFuture. For me, they sum up a lot about my experience in Uganda, whether it be friendships, youth culture, Christianity or anything really.

Speaking at church on Sunday

Speaking at church on Sunday

So what exactly is AmFuture? And why is it so special?

Well, Uganda has the world’s largest percentage of young people under the age of 30 – 78% and a large proportion of these young people are uneducated and unemployed. In fact, Uganda has the highest youth unemployment in the whole of Africa.

Since March 2013, AmFuture has been meeting once a week in one of the leader’s homes to share stories, sing together and hear the word of God. Beginning with around 20 people, the group has now grown to over 50 regular members.

AmFuture meeting

AmFuture inspires, encourages and nurtures its members to believe that they are the future of Uganda, and that they have the potential to make positive changes towards their country, families and in their own lives.

Specifically, we believe that every person that attends AmFuture is special (especially to God), and that they have their own talent and something to offer. Our vision is to see young people making positive changes and believing that they can ‘pursue their dreams’ by offering them words of encouragement, a listening ear and a safe place to attend.

So what happens at AmFuture?

Every Saturday afternoon we meet as a group at one of the leader’s homes.  It’s a time for our members to hang out, listen to and play music, share food and talk, pray together and reflect on a topic introduced by one of the leaders (often this involves a bible study).

Lately, we have also been running regular movie nights and on a few occasions have taken some of the members to visit other youth groups and fellowships.

Songs learnt as a group have also been sung by some of the young people at church services within the community.

Why is it so important?

A lot of AmFuture members lead difficult lives, with family problems and youth unemployment affecting every single one of them. As a result, AmFuture doesn’t just serve a social purpose, but a family one too. AmFuture is there for the young people in a way that a lot of friends and family aren’t, and members support each other unquestionably and to the full. Already, a number of individuals have been given the courage and guidance to turn their lives around, and it’s an amazing thing to witness.

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In 2015, AmFuture’s vision is to help tackle youth unemployment amongst its members, by establishing projects such as a piggery, as well as providing funding and support for the young people to start up their own enterprises and businesses, using their personal talents and skills.

We would also love to purchase some musical equipment so that some of the members can grow their singing talent and perform in the wider community. In time, we believe that this group could find paid bookings at functions, restaurants and hotels in Kampala, resulting in funding for AmFuture and the young people themselves.

Kairos Music, Dance and Drama Day

Two AmFuture members awarded for exceptional music, dance and drama performances at their secondary school

Supporting AmFuture

To help AmFuture achieve its vision, please consider supporting one of our projects. Any contribution is very welcome and we will be sure to keep you updated on our progress.

(a) Donation towards the running of AmFuture

Help us to cover the cost of weekly meetings and additional events over the next year.

(b) Sponsorship of an individual to start a business (e.g. arts & crafts, tailoring, farming) –

£25 is enough to help an individual with a talent or idea to start a business. Closely monitored and guided by the leaders of AmFuture, these enterprises will not only teach them valuable skills such as book-keeping and management, but also provide a vital income for them and their families.

(c) Donation towards the AmFuture piggery –

Support our 2015 project by sponsoring a piglet! Starting with 4, we will slowly expand our piggery under the watchful eye of two of our young people with farming experience. The profits generated will go to those working on the project and AmFuture itself.

Each piglet costs £25 but all contributions are very welcome!

Finally…

For any more information on AmFuture, please feel free to contact me on emmabaker173@gmail.com, or go and check out the AmFuture facebook page – just click here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Amfuture/476703619089133?hc_location=timeline

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Thanks for reading!!

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Life is Precious: A birthday and a funeral

A couple of weeks ago was my host brother Fahad’s 9th birthday.  The weeks leading up to it were tough for my host mum, Madina, who supports so many children both at home and back in her village that she was struggling to pay for her own children’s school fees, let alone birthday presents or a party for Fahad. I’m always amazed at the acceptance and understanding of African children when they are told they can’t have or do something, and Fahad was no exception when he heard the news from Madina, he just nodded his little head solemnly and looked down at the floor, trying not to show his disappointment.

The morning of Fahad’s birthday was completely unremarkable and just like the start of any other school day, with the usual rush to get all the children dressed and out of the house by 7am. I gave him a big hug and his younger brother Ark joined me in singing Happy Birthday before they were ushered out of the gate by Mama Fina, the housekeeper.

That afternoon Madina and I put our funds together and bought a cake, candles and a present for Fahad, a new school bag which I filled with sweets for him and all the children. When evening came, all the children put on their best ‘party clothes’ and sat in a circle to sing Happy Birthday, which I discovered has many more verses in Uganda, including ‘How old are you now?’ and ‘You look like an angel’ sung to the same tune!

The knife was brought for Fahad to cut the cake, and all the children joined in holding and cutting it with him, even the toddlers!  Once the first piece was cut he went straight to Madina who fed him a little piece of it before taking some herself, then Fahad took the plate around the room giving a tiny piece to each person.  Once everyone had eaten some, Madina cut the rest of the cake into normal pieces to share between us, and gave Fahad a bottle of Sprite she had brought home for him which he drank in tiny sips, making it last for at least an hour!

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Then it was time for the present (hidden in one of Madina’s scarves!), which Fahad unwrapped slowly and carefully, his face lighting up when he realised what it was (his old school bag was so full of holes that even the safety pins weren’t holding it together anymore!) After posing for a couple of photographs, he handed out the sweets to the other children, who went crazy with excitement and ran around cheering until Madina shouted at them to ‘Genda webake!’ – go to bed!

Just two days later I witnessed my first Ugandan funeral, for the son of one of my colleagues at Environmental Alert.  Tragically the boy was just 15 years old, and died falling from a mango tree on a Sunday morning before church.

In Uganda, funerals are a community event, and it’s almost considered rude if you don’t attend, so on Monday morning when the news was delivered to the office, the other staff and I piled into the 4×4 and drove straight to the village where the funeral was taking place, nearly two hours away from Kampala. We didn’t know where exactly to go when we got there but it didn’t matter, as soon as we arrived at the village we saw a steady stream of people, taxis and boda bodas turning off the main road, with everyone dressed in their smartest clothes.

We followed behind and soon reached the house, where a white tent had been erected and lots of plastic chairs laid out in a semi circle around the coffin, which was sitting under a small tree. When we arrived the funeral was already underway, with family members taking it in turns to speak into a microphone, expressing their sadness and condolences in Luganda. Nearly all of the chairs were already occupied, so we joined the crowds standing behind as still more people kept arriving. There must have been easily 200 people there, if not more!

We stood for at least an hour as the sun became hotter and hotter, babies started crying, phones began ringing, but the family members kept coming with their messages – more than I could keep track of. When they finished, it was time to read out the financial contributions from schools, churches and institutions both from the village and Kampala, where they boy went to school. I was amazed by the generosity of the donors and the sheer number of them too – the list took at least another hour to read!

It came to the burial and the coffin was carried slowly to a patch of freshly dug earth behind the house, followed by everyone else that was able to walk. A small group of women led the crowd in singing hymns, then some prayers were said before the coffin was covered. The crowd dispersed remarkably quickly, as people went back to their homes or work – there would be a small wake for family and close friends only.

On the drive back, I sat contemplating while my colleagues chatted in Luganda around me. There are moments when you’re reminded just how precious life is, and although these moments seem to happen a lot here in Africa, it doesn’t make the pain is any less for the loved ones left behind.

It’s official!

In January 2014 I will be volunteering in Uganda for 6 months with ICYE-UK (Inter Cultural Youth Exchange)!

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I’m incredibly excited about this next chapter in my life and what’s waiting for me in Uganda!

This was a big decision for me, and not one I took lightly. Arriving back from Sierra Leone last December, I was full of questions about what I had seen, heard and experienced, and what on earth I was going to do next?! (see my blog: http://www.adventuresinsierraleone.wordpress.com)

I threw myself into my ‘Action at Home’ projects, speaking on five separate occasions about Sierra Leone, ICS and being an international volunteer. Every talk was an emotional rollercoaster for me, recounting the triumphs and challenges during my three months in Sierra Leone and trying my best to answer questions about culture, language, religion and so much more!

Yet each talk I did made me more determined that this would not be the end of my volunteer journey, that there were unanswered questions I needed to explore myself.

What stood out for me straight away about ICYE was its emphasis on cultural exchange through interaction and collaboration, in an environment in which volunteers can learn as much as they give in return. ICYE is also unique in that it provides young people in developing countries the opportunity to volunteer overseas for 12 months in the UK or elsewhere, supported by the funds we help to raise.

Uganda has long been a country of fascination and interest to me so watch this space for more blog posts on my adventures in Uganda as an ICYE volunteer!

For now though, it’s time to get fundraising and preparing for my trip! I will be taking donations on my Just Giving page (http://www.justgiving.com/Emma-Baker173) and I’ll also be updating it with my activities and progress. Every little helps so thank you so much for your support in my next adventure!