Issues In Focus
Over the course of five days, community members, international supporters, clergy, local and national leaders gathered on the grounds of the Pader Girls Senior Secondary School (PGSS) for a celebration that marked CCF’s 10 year anniversary and five years since the opening of PGSS.
The theme for the celebration was “renewed commitment to serving humanity for all,” a theme made apparent during the presentations and exhibitions of the main anniversary event which took place on Friday, April 20. More than 400 guests explored the exhibition tables which showcased the work of CCF beneficiaries, including displays by CCF-supported youth peace clubs, honey sales by members of CCF’s bee keeping livelihood program, and food, purses, jewelry and baked goods for sale from vocational students of PGSS.
The event drew a global audience with supporters from Europe, Australia and the United States as well as Ugandans from throughout the country. The chief guest and presenter for the ceremony was the Reverend Archbishop of Uganda, Luke Orombi, who offered a thanksgiving service and blessing for the work of the school and CCF. Additional honored guests and speakers included members of the Ugandan parliament, Woman MP for Pader C.D. Lowila, Bishop Ochola, Bishop Ojwang, and Dr. Edmond Kelly of the Uganda Fund.
The main event was augmented by a media campaign, research and documentation, and youth conference related to CCF’s work and goals. In the week prior to the April 20 celebration, CCF board members, the Executive Director, and staff participated in radio talkshows broadcast on two stations drawing attention to the challenges facing girl child education in Uganda. A study by the Forum for African Women’s Educationalists conducted at PGSS and in the community highlighted the successes of the school and ongoing challenges facing the education of vulnerable girls and child mothers. A documentary produced by the Refugee Law Project followed the lives of a few students at PGSS and their journey from “the bush” to books.
In partnership with local churches, PGSS hosted a Christian Youth Conference from April 19-22, encouraging youth from Pader and Agago to commit their lives to the values and principles of Christianity, encouraging service, faith, love and community. Spirited dance, praise, and lessons engaged the conference’s participants and readied them for the coming school holiday.
In all, the anniversary celebration was a great success, bringing together members of the community and beneficiaries who have been touched by CCF’s work over the past 10 years.
For many of the 20 students selected to represent PGSS at the Sarah Ntiro Award Ceremony March 29, 2011, the trip to Kampala was their first outside of Northern Uganda.
As part of a capital city tour, PGSS and CCF staff took the students to many of the major tourist sites in Kampala, including the shopping malls at Oasis and Garden City, the Parliamentary building and National Theater, and Lake Victoria. Among many “firsts,” the girls rode an escalator for the first time, walked down the aisles of their first supermarket, enjoyed their first boat ride within a fishing boat on Lake Victoria, and dipped their hands in a swimming pool.
The girls were graciously hosted by the Women MP of Agago District, Franca Akello, who opened her home to accommodate the students for the two day visit.
Many thanks are due to the Forum of African Women
Educationalists Uganda and the Honorable Franca Akello for making the memorable
The ceremony marked the culmination of five years of imagination and collaboration between CCF Pader and its partners. Funding for the guesthouse was provided by C3 Church Everywoman Sydney, an Australia-based Christian organization that worked in partnership with the Global Development Group and CCF Pader to construct the buildings.
Representatives from C3 Sydney at the event included Pastor Chris Pringle who first met CCF’s Executive Director Alice Achan in 2006 and played a key role in birthing the idea for the guesthouse. During a speech given at the ceremony, Pastor Chris described the guesthouse as “a dream that began in the heart,” a building “that would be a training center for positions of hospitality and a beautiful place for local and visiting guests.”
The event drew several honored guests, including the Woman MP for Pader District, the Honorable Cath
erine Doreen Lowila, the Resident District Commissioner, Lumwaka Caroline, the Chairman of the Board of CCF, Bishop Ochola of Kitgum, representatives of CCF donors from C3 Sydney and the Uganda Fund, and several church and community leaders.
Alice Achan expressed the deep gratitude of CCF staff and PGSS students for the efforts of the Australian donors that made the construction of the guesthouse possible, and appealed to government representatives in the audience to continue supporting girls’ education and the Pader Girls School.
Chief Guest Honorable MP Lowila agreed to advocate for PGSS at the national level and praised the school’s impressive accomplishments. “[PGSS] is the best school in the District, the most unique school in the country, and we’ll work hard towards making it the best school in the country,” she said to cheers from the school’s staff and students.
After several hours of speeches, singing, dancing, praying, and praising, the event moved outside of the guesthouse’s main conference hall for a tree planting, ribbon cutting, and cake cutting ceremony. Guests enjoyed a delicious meal prepared by the catering students of PGSS who showcased the skills they have developed at the school through a beautifully decorated cake and elaborate spread of food made from the best local ingredients.
Philippa Tyndale, a member of the C3 Church and a longtime supporter of CCF Pader summarized the overarching goal of the guesthouse’s donors, telling the students in attendance that “our dream for you is to have great, fulfilling lives, to see possibilities, and to achieve your dreams out of your own talent and God’s hand.”
The guesthouse aims to be a space for students to do just that: to cultivate skills in hospitality in a loving environment so that they may lead successful, meaningful lives.
Each year on March 8th, countries around the world celebrate International Women’s Day, a holiday dedicated to recognizing the important contributions of women in society and the issues they face.
This year, CCF Director Alice Achan and former Head Girl of the Pader Girls Academy Polline traveled to Kampala for the International Women’s Day Festival hosted by the Sheraton in partnership with the Alliance Française Kampala. Out of all of the charities in the Uganda focused on addressing the needs of women and girls, the Pader Girls Academy (PGA) was selected as the sole beneficiary of funds raised during the day’s events.
The decision to honor PGA is testament to the growing recognition of the crisis of girl child education in Uganda and the necessity for innovative solutions to address the special needs of vulnerable girls.
During a forum and debate at the event, Alice Achan shared her own story which served as partial motivation for the founding of PGA. “During the war, I spent four years living in the camps, and as a result, was forced to delay my own education by 4 years. War should not be a reason for girls to miss out on education. At PGA, I wanted to create an environment where girls most affected by the war could continue their educations regardless of age, social status, or pregnancy.”
Alice was accompanied by Polline, a recent graduate from PGA’s Secondary School who is now pursuing her Advanced-level studies in Kampala.
Polline’s remarkable story shows just how education can change a girl’s life. At eleven years old, Pauline was abducted from her home by the LRA. For eight years, she lived in captivity as the wife of a commander until severe complications from pregnancy nearly cost Pauline her life.
After recovering from emergency operations, Polline was too old to return to mainstream secondary school. At 19, she entered PGA, enrolling in senior level-2 and making a promise to prioritize her education. She studied hard and excelled academically, becoming one of the five top performing girls at the Academy who received scholarships for further study.
“Now, I am in Kampala for Advanced-level and I am determined to let nothing stop me from my goals. If a man says he loves me, I will tell him to wait until I graduate,” Polline told a cheering crowd.
Beneath a banner with the day’s theme, “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures,” Polline shared her dream of becoming a human rights lawyer, a career she hopes will enable her to advocate for other vulnerable girls.
Polline has used her success to become a champion for girl’s education, sharing her experience everywhere from Kampala to the House of Lords in London. “A girl should not lose hope because she becomes pregnant,” she told the crowd, “Even pregnant girls can study and have a future.”