Saintfield Charity Ride To Support Ugandan Water Project

A rural Ugandan water project is set to take another step forward thanks to the support from the Saintfield Horse Show and the Saintfield Christmas Ride

A rural Ugandan water project is set to take another step forward thanks to the support from the Saintfield Horse Show and the Saintfield Christmas Ride

John Joe McCrickard and Eugene Milligan, organisers, pictured with Joan Cunninghan, Director of the Saintfield Horse Show, with a cheque for £4,300 for the second stage of work on a water system project in a rural village in Uganda.

Joan Cunningham, the driving force behind the Saintfield Horse Show and the Saintfield Christmas Ride which is taking place on Saturday 5th December said she was delighted to make a further contribution to the Ugandan water project.

She said: “Our first donation managed to get a borehole drilled and water supplied from the well to a very deprived African community.

“We have now gone a stage further and have raised funds for phase two to go towards developing a water system providing good clean drinking water for people in the village. To pump it directly to people’s homes would be too expensive, so providing access for everyone to clean water is a very important step forward.

Joan Cunningham, front centre, at a dinner in Denvir’s Hotel in Downpatrick to mark the successful Saintfield Horse Show event and present the cheque for their Ugandan appeal.

“Clean water means improved hygiene, less disease and better life prospects for the local people who mainly work on the land for their sustenance.”

Joan explained that the Saintfield Horse Show started in Saintfield and moved to Tyrella and then went on to Eugene Milligan’s farm at Castlewellan, a beautiful venue with the Mourne Mountains as a backdrop. She said: “We are very grateful for Eugene allowing us to host this event on his land.

“The Christmas Saintfield Ride is also a very popular equestrian event and from it last year we were able to donate £3000, and we raised another £500 from a coffee morning.

Trucks arrived last year at the I Am Academy in Uganda to drill a borehole for water.

“Our contact in Uganda is an orphan called Pius Kulama. He is 24 years old now and is the headmaster of the local school. People go to him for advice and support, and see him as an important figure to look up to.

‘I invited him over to Saintfield for six weeks last year. He is a very dynamic young man and is faced with a lot of significant challenges. Pius was also over here in 2009 with a Ugandan choir.

“He was orphaned when he was four years old and his sister Mary was two. His parents died of HIV/Aids and they were left to fend for themselves. He has grown into a remarkable young man and is the beating heart of his village.

Pius Kulama, the headmaster of the ‘I Am Academy’ in Uganda.

“Pius has actually managed to achieve a degree in quantitative economics through a government scholarship at the University in Uganda. He really wanted to study civil engineering.

“Pius finds his position difficult as pupils have to be sponsored to go through their education. In many cases, a sponsor may drop out and the child is just cut adrift with no education or support.

“The poverty in his village is quite stark. The school pupils are fed with a bowl of cornflour each day if they are lucky. Pius wants to create local wealth to help pay for their sustenance and education.”

Looking back at the fundraising efforts by everyone involved in the Saintfield Horse Show, Joan Cunningham said: “We have all worked so well as a team and I am proud of them all and I thank the volunteers, helpers, businesses and sponsors for their great efforts.

“Perhaps we can help Pius fulfill his dreams too for his people. He wants to build a mill to grind the corn. Very often they farmers are forced to sell their crops to unscrupulous middle men, but a mill would add value to their products and help boost their local economy.

“I will continue to support Pius in Uganda and his small rural community. It might take a few more years to get there but we will do what we can to support this worthy cause.”

Pius Comments On The Progress Being Made In His Village.

Pius Kulama is certainly a man on a mission.

Speaking to Down News, Pius said: “My dream is to give people in my community and most, especially the kids, to live a bit of normal life.

“I have been there before where they are, and I don’t wish anyone to continue living under such life conditions with no clean water, no hospital, not enough food, working hard for almost nothing for their agricultural produce, no electricity, and girls being forced out of school into marriage because they have no hope.

“My dream is to transform this village into one where people can sustainably live and educate their kids.

“After providing them with the clean water, the next project is to support agriculture which is their main source of income. This will empower families. I want this village be a model village in our country.

Ugandan pupils filling up plastic containers with water from a dirty stream before the borehole was drilled.

“I want household incomes to increase. When you create a situation where family incomes increase, the people can then afford to live above the poverty line.”

Pius added: “We are now done with the phase 1 of the borehole drilling. The trucks arrived at the school and drilled a borehole 133-feet deep into the ground and thank God, we were able to reach clean ground water!

“The water project is located at the school, and this will benefit the children who come to school. It will also be an open access point for the community to get water.

“We shall pump the clean water into big tanks from underground, and make sure that everyone in the community has free access to the tap water.

“Previously, the community and school had no access to clean water. Sharing dirty well water with animals and walking very long distances to reach the water streams was how the local people have survived so far.

“This will all be in the past very soon thanks to Joan Cunningham, organiser of the Saintfield Horse Show and Saintfield Christmas Charity Ride and all the sponsors and helpers to these worthwhile events.

“I am the Principal of the school, the ‘I AM Academy’. I went to the same school for my primary education, so I draw my motivation basically from the life I lived then as an orphaned pupil in a village school, with no clean water, no access to hospitals and not having enough food. I just want to bring positive change to this difficult situation for the local children and families.

“We want to put up a maize milling factory, organise farmers into associations, train them, provide better seeds and add value to their produce, and give them a market for their surplus produce.

“With an increase in village household incomes, parents will be able to send their children to higher education, get enough food, and build decent homes. This is what I call a sustainable project.

“One day I hope to be involved in government so that I can be in a position to influence policies that benefit poor communities positively.

“This mill will help to provide food for school age children and for their homes, and will it provide jobs to the locals. We shall also be food suppliers to other communities. 

“We will find a new direction away from depending on the greedy middle men who are exploiting the poor farmers.”