We hope you had a lovely Easter! At Ecologia, we love this time of year. The days are growing longer, Spring bulbs are creating beautifully bright displays, and over the season our days are filled with the wonder of what’s possible: new life and new beginnings-and that is exactly what we reflect in our work supporting children in our projects to reach their potential and move on from their disadvantaged circumstances.
With face-to-face events on hold, fundraising has been a bit of a challenge, to say the least. But we’re delighted to say that once again, Team Ecologia will be donning our tartan, paying attention to the rules and keeping safe, whilst we stride (or stagger) around our local areas. We’re raising money for all our projects, and the Hunter Foundation will be giving us an extra 50% of all funds we raise. If you can afford to do so, please pop a few pounds on to the Team Ecologia page. Your money will go further and it’ll give our Kiltwalkers a motivational boost! Thank you!
It’s been over a year since the pandemic caused its first major lockdown. Due to travel restrictions, we’ve missed our annual visits to our projects in Russia, Kenya and Uganda. While COVID-19 has been busy creating worldwide chaos, it has done little to sway our determined International Partners from doing whatever they can to help disadvantaged children. Here’s what they’ve been up to the past 12 months…
As Kitezh and Orion are largely self-contained communities, they have managed to navigate the Coronavirus pandemic well. Even though there were reported cases of COVID in both communities, we are thankful that they were mild and the communities were well protected to stop it spreading further. In both the Kitezh and Orion schools, the ‘Moscow programme’ children said they preferred to be in a beautiful rural community than in a high-rise apartment in a big city during the lockdowns. Encouraged by the children’s wishes, the families in both communities opened their homes so the children whose parents live in Moscow, could live with them and continue their education at Kitezh and Orion.
In Kitezh they are excited to complete the third section of beautiful Education Centre this year, which now offers a rounded, experimental education to 30 children, 15 from Moscow and 15 residential. Two new couples-who have been visiting Kitezh as volunteers since they were students-have joined to work as teachers at the Education Centre.
In Orion, the number of families has grown! Across 13 families there are now 12 foster children, 8 biological children, and 20 Moscow programme children. Two recent graduates, Vanya and Dima, are currently doing their military service, and will enrol in College once they have finished. The big excitement of this year is building a home for Tamara Pichugina, which I’m sure you have already heard about. The foundations will start as soon as the snow melts! And it will be ready for her 70th birthday on 18th August. We will keep you updated as the build progresses.
After the lockdown was announced in March 2019, Sky Is The Limit had to close its school for seven months and 315 children were sent home. During this time, Rose and a few staff nmembers continued to care for the 35 residential children who live at Noah’s Ark. Thankfully, the graduates of Sky Is The Limit returned from their studies at University to help take care of the children and teach lessons. As restrictions slowly eased, 11 staff members returned to volunteer their time (without pay), to teach so that the children would not fall too far behind. As the lockdown lifted, we were able to support Sky Is The Limit prepare to reopen the school, following guidance around COVID-19. Hand wash stations were built around the site, soap supplies were restocked, and masks were provided for all staff and pupils. We are very glad to tell you that no cases of COVID-19 have been reported at Sky Is The Limit, and we hope they continue to stay safe!
Looking towards the future, there are many plans in place to assist Sky’s development as a sustainable organisation in Uganda. We are currently pulling together funding to support the development of its 8-acre farm, so that it can sustainably provide food for the 400children and staff who now attend Sky Is The Limit School, and lessen their reliance on annual funding for their school meals programme. This will also provide young people with more opportunities to learn agricultural skills, which is a major source of livelihood in Uganda. We’re also looking at developing a project–‘Fruits of Sky’-to provide graduates of Sky Is The Limit, and other young people in the local Rwenzori Region with skills training, job opportunities, and funding to start their own businesses.
International Peace Initiatives was also affected by the lockdowns we experienced last year. For seven months, the Polytechnic through which we run our skills training programmes was closed, which meant the women on our Hair & Beauty course had to cease lessons. Many of these women had left commercial sex work to start new lives for themselves, and with no means of generating an income they struggled to care for themselves and their children early on in the lockdown. Thankfully, emergency funding donated by our supporters allowed us to provide these women with packages containing food and other necessary supplies, and rent money so that they would not lose their homes. As restrictions eased, many were able to put the Hair & Beauty skills they had learnt so far to use by providing a service to their local communities. From this, they have begun to grow their clientele in their local communities for their at-home Hair & Beauty business. Once the Polytechnic reopened, with added health and safety measures, the women were able to return to their lessons, and we are so happy to announce that 23women have officially completed their course and will be graduating with a Diploma in Hair& Beauty this summer-with those who haven’t set up small businesses finding employment in local salons. Our new cohort of 35 women began in early March, and we wish them the best of luck on their journey.
We’re also thankful to report that the 35 children and staff living at KACH have also been able to navigate the pandemic safely. Hand-wash stations and PPE have been supplied, and the children were able to continue their lessons throughout the lockdown with support from the graduates who returned to KACH to help out. Dr. Karambu tells us she couldn’t have managed without them!
Just like our other African projects, Tarnos School also had to close its doors to 250children during the lockdown in Kenya, but was able to reopen in October following the installation of health and safety protocols. This year, there are now 300 children attending the school. Ecologia was able to assist the building of hand wash stations and supply PPE and signage promoting hand-washing and social distancing. As there is not enough classroom space to accommodate social distancing, some teachers have chosen to teach lessons outside, under the shade of a large tree on the grounds. While not a perfect solution, it means the children can continue receiving a quality education until additional classrooms are built. We’re also looking to develop a sewerage system at Tarnos, with an ablution block to improve sanitation, and help support the health of the children at Tarnos.
We know that the pandemic has presented some tough financial times for everyone, but income we can rely on is needed now more than ever to continue our work supporting disadvantaged children around the world. If you’ve been inspired to set up a regular monthly direct debit-and you’re able to-we would will be so grateful! You are truly making a difference to children’s lives, and we invite you to get in touch if you would like to know more about setting up a direct debit or standing order.
Once again, thank you for your continued support. It really does make a huge difference. Our very warm wishes to you, and your family and we hope that you are all safe and well.
Liza and Robyn
P.S. Please also consider leaving a gift to Ecologia Youth Trust in your Will. Legacies from people who care are the best way to ensure the future of the charity and means we can continue to help children who need it the most.