2008: Suubi Africa UK (originally known as The Kwagala Trust) was formed on the 4th May 2008 after two of our founder trustees were introduced to Esther Zziwa. She is a Ugandan national who had watched her father being shot by the rebels in the early 80s and whose mother had subsequently died. She and her siblings were left abandoned in a local village. Esther was only 4 years old. They were lucky and were saved by being taken in by the African Children’s Choir who provided them with food and shelter within one of their orphanages.
The African Children’s Choir saved Esther's life. They provided her with food, shelter and more importantly an education. However, she has equally found that she has no roots, no family home and experienced no real love or attention during her time at the orphanage. Esther had an ambition to provide a loving family environment for abandoned children, different from her own experience. She wanted to provide a home and a place where children could develop, thrive, feel loved and valued.
Our founder trustees loved her passion and determination to create a better and safer world for some of the poorest children in Uganda, so it was decided that The Kwagala Trust would support Esther in her efforts. A home was leased and funds where raised so that Esther could provide a home, for 6 abandoned children from Kampala. She was supported in this by monthly contributions collected by the Kwagala Trust, initially from local churches and events held within the local church district of Consett.
Unfortunately one of our original children died due to illness when she was just a baby, and a further child joined the home, which at that time was based in Kampala. It became apparent that every 6 months or so the landlords of the homes where the children lived would double the rent when it was discovered that they were being supported from outside the country and as a result it was necessary to move, initially to Entebbe, and then again back to Kampala.
2010: It soon became evident that the only way to sustain the charity and therefore secure the future of these children was to purchase land and to build our own house. In 2010 it was agreed that we would purchase 3 acres of land on the outskirts of Wobulenzi which lies approximately 30 kilometres north of Kampala and was the original home of Esther’s husband, Jeremiah, whom she had met and married during her time with the African Children’s Choir.
2011: It became obvious that the trustees and the fundraising needed to be extended beyond the Consett circuit. Durham Elvet Methodist Church agreed to make the Kwagala Trust its oversees project for the year 2011. The original trustees were reduced to Christine and Neville Steptoe and Jenny Nicholson, they were joined by Chris Harder from Elvet Methodist Church and Keith Johnson, the brother of Christine Steptoe and a local businessman, and subsequently by his daughter Rebecca Powell.
Keith Johnson arranged to have a local architect in the UK design a suitable house and visited Uganda with Chris Harder to meet a Ugandan architect and set in process the necessary consents needed to start building the new home.
2012: A total of £77,000 was required and this was raised through Elvet Church, Keith's business and professional connections, the rotary clubs of Durham and individual donations and fundraising. We found it impossible to find a builder in Wobulenzi or Kampala who would undertake the project and as Keith was a chartered surveyor with experience of building houses in the UK, it was decided that he and Esther’s husband Jeremiah (who had some knowledge of construction) would undertake the work on a subcontract basis. Keith subsequently revisited Uganda during the construction and ultimately the house was substantially completed and the children, together with Esther and her family moved in at Christmas 2012. The number of children the trust looked after had then grown from 6 to 8.
2013: In May 2013, Christine, Neville and Jenny visited Uganda and found that progress was being made, the house was substantially finished internally, and whilst there was a great deal of work still to be done externally, the children were thriving in their new environment. A security fence had been built around the immediate house (which is a necessity in Uganda) and the children had been accepted into a good local school.
Esther and Jeremiah were anxious that throughout this process it was vital that we maintain good relationships with the local people that lived in the community and very quickly built up a good working relationship with the village elder. We have been able to provide employment to one of the local village ladies on a permanent basis and employ others in and around the house on a temporary basis.
The children are provided with clothes mainly by donations from the UK and the trustees take out these clothes during their visits. Esther recycles these clothes into the local village community. The trustees in the UK where concerned that as well as looking after the 8 children, which was our primary purpose, we could provide some outreach to the village children.
2014: We started up the Saturday Club, inviting children from the local village to come and play on our playground, have a proper meal and generally have fun for a few hours. We estimated and budgeted for around 50 children but within weeks of starting this outreach project, word had spread and soon we were receiving over 200 children! Some of these walked for miles from outlying villages, often carrying younger siblings on their backs. When they arrived they were so exhausted that they would sleep, then eat, then play.
Our three oldest girls, Faith, Joy and Vanessa were accepted to go to the African Outreach Academy which is a very good boarding school in Luwero. Not many children have this opportunity to go to such a good school and as education is so important we decided that it would be in their best interests for them to go. It was not easy for them to leave but they soon settled in and look forward to returning home during the school holidays.
Unfortunately in 2014 we had to say goodbye to one of our girls, Esther. She had been having difficulties and with the assistance of the school and the Ugandan Welfare Services, she has been dialogised as Autistic. We also found out, with the Authorities help, that Esther has relatives in Entebbe. When contacted and informed of the situation, they expressed a desire for her to live with them and we all thought this was in Esther’s best interests. Esther herself was happy to be with her own family so we agreed to support her in this. Although Esther is now with her natural family; she is still considered to be part of our family.
2015: The Saturday Club was really thriving but with so many more children coming than expected, we had to find a way to raise more funds to cover the costs. The local Rotary Clubs of Durham very kindly agreed to help with this and thanks to their generous donation we were able to guarantee that this essential outreach project continues to run.
It became apparent that we needed a shelter with a roof so that the children have somewhere to go during bad weather. We build a large community shelter, which also has a kitchen, that we use for the Saturday Club, the adult English class and other one off events. We also bought a lot more playground equipment as what we had was struggling to cope with the amount of children using it week after week! The children were very excited when it arrived!
One of our future plans was to build a medical centre and Esther found a suitable building owned by Jeremiah's relative that we thought would be suitable. After some negotiations it was agreed that we would renovate and turn this small building into a 2 roomed children's medical centre. The money was raised and within a matter of weeks, this derelict building was transformed! So on 2nd December 2015, Suubi Africa Children's Medical Centre opened its doors and with a full time nurse, now treats over 50 children every week.
We were made aware of some children from a neighbouring village who were in a bad situation and in desperate need. Esther went to visit them and it was decided that, due to our 3 eldest girls being away at boarding school for a large part of the year, we had room in our house to offer them a forever home. They are 2 sets of siblings and they joined our family in December. They were all quite ill but didn't take long for them to settle in and their health began to improve.
2016: In February we opened Suubi Africa Primary School. The school has been under construction for a while and is not finished, but it was decided that the need for a good school in the area was so great that we would complete the first 2 classrooms and open. It will cost around £35,000 to finish the school, which we hope to raise in the future. For now, we have 60 children attending over 6 classes with 6 teachers.
Elvet House, Suubi Africa Children's Medical Centre, Suubi Africa Primary School, The Saturday Club, The Community Building, The Farm, The Playground, The Adult English Class and the Playing Fields complete our village - Suubi Africa Village. We are working on plans to start building a 2nd home to take in another 10 orphaned or abandoned children in desperate need.