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Bududa Learning Center
Sheila Havard, Bududa Volunteer from Canada.

Set in the lush volcanic foothills of Mount Elgon on Uganda’s eastern border is Bududa Learning Center (BLC), an African Great Lakes Initiative project that has made its mark on the sprawling, rural, mountainous Bududa District community. Bududa Learning Center provides a triple-pronged program addressing the issues of unemployment and children orphaned by AIDS, landslides, and disease. The three components are the Bududa Vocational Institute, the Children of Peace program (see page 19), and Women’s Microfinance Initiative.

Bududa Vocational Institute (BVI)
From 2003 to 2006, Western and Ugandan volunteers worked side by side at summer work camps building a vocational school in the rural Bududa District. At the end of 2007 the school moved to a new site, two miles from the village center. A Philadelphia Friend, Barbara Wybar, moved to Bududa and took charge of the project. It is thanks to her persistence and determination that Bududa Learning Center with its Bududa Vocational Institute has flourished. From the one original classroom block a whole compound sprang up, comprising a kitchen and storehouse, a bricklaying and carpentry shelter, latrines, and a guesthouse. Programs were developed for four subject, bricklaying and concrete practice, tailoring, computer skills and nursery teacher training. Students flocked to register! By February 2008 there were thirty-four students. In November 2011 for the first time, four students took national exams at the highest level, the craft exam, and eight others took the Uganda National Examinations Board exams at the junior level in brick laying and concrete practice, carpentry and tailoring. Most importantly, graduates generally find jobs in their field.

Women’s Microfinance Initiative (WMI)
It is widely agreed in development circles that improving the fortunes of women has beneficial effects on the whole of a society. The Women’s Microfinance Initiative aims to help women become more independent. Head administrator, Betty Bigala, started recruiting industrious women for this loan program in 2010 when Bethesda, Maryland-based Women’s Microfinance Initiative (WMI) launched a BLC chapter. Forty women were provided with loans, up to the value of $150 each, and trained in marketing and accounting. Now the loan recipients are busy selling produce and staples. Since they have paid back their original loans and have received further loans, they have paved the way for a third group of twenty women who received their first loans in February 2012.

Future Plans
Thanks to a major fundraising drive, BLC has expanded and at the beginning of 2012 has moved to new quarters in the center of the village of Bududa. The new site will belong to BLC, whereas the former one was rented. This “downtown” location will boost visibility, provide greater convenience for teachers and students, and be a better catchment area for new students. No longer will it be necessary for the Children of Peace orphans to scramble into the back of a rented truck every week for the trip to and from Saturday School. A major asset will be electricity to run computers and sewing machines. In addition, boarding girls will be safer as they can be housed on site. The district authorities have been most supportive and encouraging during this major change. Additional land adjacent to the new site may be available from the district should BLC need to expand in the future.

Volunteers
Volunteers make a big difference in every way?by their financial contributions, their enthusiasm and their unique skills. By the end of 2011, the volunteer program had hosted more than fifty-five volunteers from North American, Canada and England. They have brought countless riches to Bududa Learning Center: girl’s dresses sewn by the Quakers of Coldstream, Ontario; an array of musical instruments brought over from New Jersey by Scott Douglas; medical supplies collected by eager supporters in the West, etc. Each volunteer also makes a financial contribution. Skills contributed have ranged from painting a map of Uganda on the wall for children who had never seen their country depicted in print, so scanty are public school learning materials, to a school photography trip on which each orphan was furnished a camera to take photos. Volunteers love their experience so much that some come back year after year. Bududa Learning Center intends to keep hosting volunteers for their skills and fresh ideas.

Sponsors and Donors
Sponsors and donors are the heart and soul of the Bududa Learning Center organization. These are truly the people who put the staff’s good intentions into action and encourage Children of Peace orphans and Bududa Vocational Institute students to dream big. Sponsors “adopt” a child by making an annual donation while donors give funds for operations and capital improvements. Thanks to sponsors and donors in the United States, Canada and the UK, Bududa Learning Center has been able to build a new school in the center of the Bududa District where the organization can connect to the electrical grid and have a true school campus. Bududa Learning Center looks forward with hope to receiving donations to acquire the adjacent plot of land for a boys’ hostel, football field, library and perhaps a small plot of land for growing food to help feed the students. To all who have supported Bududa Learning Center in the past and to those who will lend support in the future, we thank you for giving Bududa Learning Center hope for the future.

To keep abreast of new developments at Bududa Learning Center, check out its website by clicking here.