Imagine encountering a community where children and youth get abducted, lose their parents and do not have the financial means to attend school.
This is the type of community Lorna Pitcher, president of Children of Hope Uganda (COHU), encountered when she travelled to northern Uganda in 2007.
Struck by the poverty and need, Pitcher promised to do whatever she could to help orphaned youth, who were formerly abducted by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), obtain an education.
COHU is a Toronto-based registered charity that supports the education of youth in northern Uganda, specifically in Barlonyo, a city few hours north of the capital city of Kampala. To date, Pitcher has been raising funds to help educate more than 200 students through a variety of educational programs.
“We have a nursery school and a vocational school in Barlonyo,” said Pitcher, in an interview with KnowHOW. At the vocational institute, Pitcher says students are trained in carpentry, tailoring and bricklaying; the school is also introducing an entrepreneurship training curriculum in coming months.
“The final course that the Ministry of Education has just mandated, which is brilliant, is entrepreneurship,” said Pitcher. “So they’re not just learning trade, they’re learning how to go into business and make money out of it.”
“They’re not just learning trade, they’re learning how to go
into business and make money out of it.”
Currently, COHU has 36 employees based in northern Uganda, most of which include teachers and support staff. Along with directly supporting the education of Ugandan youth, COHU also works with local artisans, including orphans’ caregivers and relatives, who craft paper bead jewellery, baskets and other sewn crafts, which are sold in Toronto to raise money for students’ fees, dormitory mattresses, malaria nets and other necessities.
Sales of these products are one of the many ways COHU raises funds. With that in mind, Pitcher says it’s crucial for the general public to understand how this money is being used. She mentions how the sale of a $12 necklace can put a child back in school for an entire year when his or her family cannot afford a child’s year-long tuition fees. The sale of a $5 baby stuffed animal ornament can provide youth with a malaria net.
While COHU has impacted many youth in Uganda, it also impacts students in Toronto. Rebecca DaPonte, a third-year nursing student at Ryerson University, travelled to northern Uganda in 2013, where she was able to see the work that COHU does on the ground. Upon her return to Toronto, she started a COHU chapter at Ryerson University and the University of Toronto, where students regularly host sales of the products crafted by Ugandan women.
Last week, COHU’s Ryerson chapter raised $317 during its holiday market, which according to Pitcher, can be used to pay the nursery school teachers’ salary for three months. DaPonte says it’s rewarding for university students to actively seek ways to give back to the local and global community by volunteering for organizations such as COHU.
“Every time we host a sale, it’s nice to see all the students or people who are interested,” said DaPonte. “When you’re in university, it’s one of those things [where] you’re working to better yourself and you’re working to get a better job. But what you also have to take into account is the giving back part and it does make you feel really good.”
According to Pitcher, COHU is a growing organization that is making an impact on several war-affected youth. She emphasizes how her motivation to keep the organization sustainable comes from the idea that small efforts can go a long way and make a lasting impact.
“I think it’s just realization how little effort it takes to actually change a life to really produce a [doctor],” said Pitcher, when referring to the success of one Ugandan youth who graduated from COHU’s school and is now in medical school.
As COHU continues to grow, Pitcher says the organization is looking for volunteers and contributors in various areas.
KnowHOW you can help Children of Hope Uganda
Email Lorna Pitcher (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested in any of the following opportunities.
Volunteer as a web-designer to help COHU develop and improve its website
Volunteer at one of COHU’s Holiday Sales
Assist with bookkeeping, data entry, and the designing and
printing of COHU’s brochures
Host a COHU sale at your home to sell jewellery,
pouches and stuffed animals to your friends, family andneighbours