In the north of Uganda, where the 20-year Kony-rebel-led war has left a large demographic of orphans in its wake, FCU has launched a pilot program, The Family Care Village Project, as a holistic and self-sustainable approach to addressing the desperate needs the children and their communities face.
The Family Care Village Project is comprised of the following vital facets:
- Educational program for primary students: Plans have been drawn for a central school building with 7 classrooms, which will accommodate the orphans who will be boarding, plus an additional 100 orphans from the local community.
- Low-cost family housing units: The village will include 7 houses, each unit being home to 8-10 orphans of varied ages to form small family units, along with their care-givers, providing stability and nurturing in a family environment.
- Environmental conservation: The aim is to build the village in the most eco-friendly way possible, primarily by utilizing a fairly new, innovative technology called the Hydraform housing system.
- Housing facilities will be constructed for staff and guest volunteers, creating a small open-gated community where training for women and youth in agriculture, healthy living and a variety of activities such as sports, art and music can flourish.
Family Care Uganda purchased a 20 acre plot of land north of Gulu, where a farm was begun. The land is rich and fertile, and provides food and support for the school, and also a means of training for the community. While farming is a natural means of income in the area, after 20 years of people having been abducted by the LRA or suffering in huge Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, most have lost their touch agriculturally.
A combination of agriculture and mixed farming is proving to be one of the best ways to run a project that could become completely self sustainable. FCU's property manager, a horticulture specialist, oversees crops of cabbages, watermelon, carrots and other vegetables.
On the educational front, the program includes teacher development through seminars and workshops, presentations from visiting teachers, as well as continuing to develop student-oriented teaching methods. All of this will contribute to improving the effectiveness of local teaching styles. Apart from scholastics, arts and sports, the orphans will also have valuable opportunities to contribute and learn animal husbandry and farming, to broaden their skill set.
Once land formalities are finalized, construction of the the buildings will be underway, utilizing very eco-friendly hydraform bricks. In rural areas where sanitation and basic facilities may pose a challenge and a high risk of increased pollution, precious resources such as trees and water need to be preserved. The hydraform housing system creates bricks by compressing stabilized soil from the building site itself. Topsoil is then used to replace the pits created by the excavated soil, so that the surrounding landscape is not disturbed. The blocks require no burning, thus destructive deforestation is avoided, and they are cured under plastic sheeting, so very little water is needed (12% moisture). In addition to the water- and tree-saving benefits, Hydraform blocks can be locally manufactured, reducing transport pollution and carbon footprint, as well as creating employment opportunities for the local community.
Other environmentally friendly components include a bio-gas system for cooking, solar power utilization for energy, and inexpensive wells for water supply. All of these contribute to environmental preservation in the surrounding area, and can easily be replicated by other villages, to similarly cut costs as well as environmental damage.
And in order to promote sustainability and minimize reliance on donor funding, the village incorporates an income-generating farm, growing vegetables, raising cows, bee keeping and a couple small fish farms. Establishing a mixed farm will mean that the economic base of the project is broad—with honey production, fish, chickens, eggs, goats, fruit and vegetables. The projected timeframe for the school to be fully self-sustainable by means of the farm income is within 2-3 years.
By introducing alternative crops to the local standard of sorghum and maize, and providing close hands-on training to the surrounding communities including marketing solutions, FCU offers tangible steps towards poverty eradication for many.