No one is born being a citizen. You have to be taught what it means. Sonia Sotomayor
Do you want to know who you are?
Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.

Thomas Jefferson

Current Programs

Helping Youth Take Actions that Promote Gender Equity, Enhance Community Health, and Develop Entrepreneurial Skills.

 

Picture a situation where girls are unable to attend school during their monthly menstrual periods because basic hygienic supplies are scarce or unaffordable. Or, due to lack of resources, they are unable to attend school beyond 7th grade and therefore lack opportunities to become independent wage-earners. Unfortunately, these describe circumstances facing families in many parts of the world.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

This Youth Empowerment Program, launched in early 2021, brings together teachers and students from three schools in Gulu, Uganda and Rumbek, South Sudan, which collectively serve over 1200 children, and skilled workers from a Women’s Cooperative in Gulu. They have selected two projects that address these problems on both individual and community levels and closely align with several of the Sustainable Development Goals.

E Sustainable Development Goals

Reusable garments for feminine hygiene are produced at the Wawoto Kacel Cooperative Society facility and the Abukloi High School in Rumbek. These kits include reusable pads, soap, washcloths, and undergarments in sizes appropriate for middle- and high school girls. At the Co-op, experienced textile workers provide on-site training for girls who have been unable to go beyond elementary education levels. During their estimated 6-months of training and production, they will also receive lessons in reproductive health, sustainability, and practical aspects of running a business including digital literacy. These are provided by staff and students at the Concerned Parents Association School in Gulu augmented by on-line workshops developed by students in other Words Into Deeds programs.

Teachers at UNIFAT Primary School in Gulu examining a model of the feminine hygiene kits.

Teachers at UNIFAT Primary School in Gulu examining a model of the feminine hygiene kits.

Liquid soaps will be manufactured by students at the UNIFAT Primary School in Gulu and sold in either small reusable containers for personal use or multi-liter jugs for school and commercial uses. This project was initiated by teachers and students at UNIFAT in 2019, and scale-up capacity is already underway. In addition to making the product, students are taught financial literacy, marketing, and computer skills, using the resources of the Digital Learning Center established by Words Into Deeds.

Students learning how to make liquid soap for community distribution.

Teachers at UNIFAT Primary School in Gulu examining a model of the feminine hygiene kits.
Teachers at UNIFAT Primary School in Gulu examining a model of the feminine hygiene kits.

MEET OUR PARTNERS

The UNIFAT Primary School in Gulu, Uganda was founded in 1992 to serve orphans and broken families victimized by nearly two decades of civil war then HIV, and now enrolls over 600 students, PreK – 7. The enthusiastic embrace of the concepts and practical aspects of the Words Into Deeds program by the school’s teachers, administrators, and students served as a model for the more recently-enrolled participants. UNIFAT serves as the soap production site and global communications hub for all Gulu participants, and works closely with the other partners to design and implement community advertising and sales.

UNIFAT classroom

The Abukloi Secondary School, located in Rumbek, South Sudan, enrolls nearly 650 students, 250 of whom are girls. Their project focuses on training students in the production of feminine hygiene products. They are sharing educational and project design issues during on-line ZOOM conferences with other participants, but for practical reasons are not able to share material resources.

Abukloi classroom
Wawoto weavers

Founded in 1997, the Wawoto Kacel Cooperative Society provides support and training for women ostracized from the community for health issues, disabilities, or societal stigmas. They are taught how to manufacture traditional crafts, produce clothing with contemporary designs, and also develop skills in the full range of “from cotton to finished product.”  By expanding capacity, including the purchase of additional sewing machines and support for more trainers, groups of 10 trainees at a time will be recruited for on-site training. The co-op serves as the feminine hygiene kit production site, and coordinates with CPA to provide additional educational programs.

The Concerned Parents Association (CPA) of Gulu, Uganda, enrolls 25 students who are mostly late-teen or early twenty years old and were unable to attend high school. CPA provides vocational training and and support that enables these young adults to launch independent, sustainable businesses, with emphasis on practical aspects of entrepreneurship. CPA is expanding its capacity to serve as the hub for reproductive health classes and vocational training related to running a business for the Wawoto Kacel trainees.

Teachers and students at the Chung-Hsing University-Affiliated High School in Taichung, Taiwan are enrolled in Words Into Deeds projects that focuses on quality education, gender equity, and digital literacy. As part of their outreach projects have designed and are presenting on-line computer training workshops for Youth Empowerment Program participants. 

FROM PLANNING TO IMPLEMENTATION

This program follows on-site workshops presented in November, 2019 at the UNIFAT Primary School that introduced Words Into Deeds concepts and practical elements to teachers a few months before the school classes were cancelled for 22 months. Even while closed, teams of teachers, staff and students met on campus to design outreach projects, and funds were raised to renovate, fully equip, and staff a Computer Learning Center and install solar power that allows uninterrupted use of the computers. This facility is used extensively by teachers and students to acquire skills in digital literacy and participate in weekly ZOOM conference calls with other partners as part of planning for the current program.

Peer-to-Peer 8.2021

UNIFAT teachers and students sharing their projects vis ZOOM teleconferencing with global peers and youth leaders.

With schools in Uganda re-opening and funding for these programs well underway, we are working with our partners to purchase the necessary supplies and equipment, including sewing machines and additional computers, to refurbish production areas as needed, prepare training staffs, and enroll new as well as returning students and teachers at UNIFAT and CPA to take on responsibilities for each project. 

Funding for this multi-venue program is being provided by a grant from the Ithaca Rotary Club and donations to Words Into Deeds and Friends of UNIFAT.

EMPOWERING TEACHERS AND YOUTH AT UNIFAT PRIMARY SCHOOL

The UNIFAT Primary School in Gulu, Uganda began informally in 1985 as a place of refuge for orphans and families fleeing from the violent conflicts that ravaged the northern parts of Uganda. It has grown to now enroll over 600 PreK-level 7 students, and is widely recognized as one of the premiere schools in the region. During a series of professional development workshops Gertrude presented on-site in 2019, teachers listed as their top unmet educational needs: in-school computers and digital training opportunities for themselves and their students, and support for student outreach projects, which they recognized as key elements of the Words Into Deeds curriculum.

In partnership with Friends of UNIFAT and Ithaca Rotary, Words Into Deeds raised  over $26,000 to renovate, fully equip and staff a DIGITAL LEARNING CENTER and provide solar power for the school, which allowed computer literacy classes to be provided during the 22 months that the school was closed due to the pandemic. Words Into Deeds also established a program of MINI-GRANTS to support student outreach projects during these months. These are continuing to expand as classes resume.

While most of us recognize the importance of using basic word processing and spreadsheet programs, and accessing the internet for information and communications, people in many parts of the world do not have access to computers or opportunities to learn basic computer skills.

Words Into Deeds raised over $5,000 in private donations and received a Rotary District International award of $4,000 to renovate a room and provide 24 computer workstations and a video-projector for a Digital Learning Center that now serves as an educational center for teachers and students.


Students attending computer-training class.

The Philadelphia-based not-for-profit Friends of UNIFAT hired and is supporting a full-time IT educator, who also serves as the manager of the new center. Working with teachers, a grade-by-grade set of curricular goals has been established and is being implemented as classes have resumed.

Teachers attending computer-training class.

Electric power in Gulu is unreliable, often out of service for several hours each day. To overcome this disruption, Words Into Deeds partnered with a Raleigh, NC-based NPO called All We Are, which has their own Uganda-based engineering team and has installed 40 solar systems for schools and villages. An award from the Ithaca Rotary Club and support from private donors to Words Into Deeds raised over $17,000, and in July, 2021 UNIFAT became the first primary school in the region to have solar power.

 

Staff and students celebrate the installation of solar power at UNIFAT.

Words Into Deeds established a Mini-Grants program whereby teachers could apply for financial assistance to set-up student outreach projects. Proposals required itemized budgets, numbers of students, and plans that would give the students skills to become independent workers and entrepreneurs.

Traditional Bead-Work To Support Education

The first project drew upon teachers’ skills at traditional bead-making crafts. They taught students how to make beads from paper and then assemble them into jewelry and purses. The items were sold both within the Gulu community and in the USA.  All proceeds are invested in the UNIFAT School scholarship fund. From the first two sets of items produced­­, nearly $1200 has been raised.

Students working after class to make beads and jewelry.

Examples of their skills.

Vegetable Garden to Support a Healthy Community

Working with experienced farmers, students explored possible on-campus sites then cleared the land.  Their first planting was seeds of cowpea, which is a fast-growing legume common in Uganda. Leaf cuttings from their first crop were chopped and boiled together with okra, sesame seeds, and peanuts to make a hearty sauce called boo. This harvest provided lunches for students and staff, and part was sold to local green-grocery markets. This income provided revenue for a second planting that included onions, and three annual planting-harvesting cycles have continued.

vegetable garden

Soil preparation and first planting completed.

vegetable garden2

Harvesting and preparing to cook the first crop of cowpea leaves.

Supporting SDGs 3 and 6: Health and Sanitation

Ugandans have learned many lessons from previous experiences with HIV and Ebola infections, among them being quick and early responses that include increased attention to sanitation. Two teachers and groups of students applied for Mini-Grants to support these initiatives. One focused on obtaining masks and providing liquid soap in personal-use-size containers for all students. The masks were made by Wawoto Kacel Cooperative Society workers. 

The second project focused on liquid soap production and community distribution in 5-liter containers, with profits used to replenish supplies. Both projects continued during the months when school was closed and are expanding as part of the ongoing Health and Gender Equity Program.

UNIFAT Newsletter: Reaching Out to the Community

Prior to the school closing, students from several grade levels worked together with two teachers and a community media specialist and applied for a Mini-Grant to establish a UNIFAT Primary School Newsletter that would be distributed to the community. Using the digital learning center, interviews and student-written essays and pictures were assembled into a draft. Unfortunately, production was halted with the closure of the school.

Because many of the original team have graduated, a new team is being assembled and trained, with the idea of also having an e-Newsletter available for country-wide circulation, especially reaching UNIFAT alumni.