A most precious gift
As Emma Outteridge renewed her marriage vows, she remained dedicated to a promise she had made eight years before.
She and her husband Nathan chose Uganda’s Kabira Adult Attention and School for Orphans for their November ceremony.
It seemed appropriate.
Mrs Outteridge committed to a lifelong partnership with the African school in 2009. With the help of Bermuda residents, she raised $17,500 to build a water collection system there last year.
“The school is now being sustained by the tanks from the Bermuda Water Project — four 20,000-litre concrete tanks and a 10,000-litre plastic tank ensuring that no drops of precious rainwater are wasted,” she said.
“There was guttering on less than a third of the buildings at Kaaso, meaning that valuable fresh water was wasted every time it rained. The new water harvesting system added guttering to every building at Kaaso and saw the construction of the four giant concrete tanks — adding to the handful of existing small tanks. This new system has cut down on expensive diesel for the current water pump, saves the children hours of time walking to the well, and secures a supply of fresh, clean, safe drinking water for the Kaaso community.”
Dominic and Rose Mukwaya opened Kaaso in 1999. At the time, they catered to 12 orphans in a grass-thatched hut.
The number swelled to 49 by the year’s end. The school now accommodates 638 students, some of whose parents pay.
Mrs Outteridge joined for six months as a volunteer in 2009. She made it a permanent partnership after a 12-year-old boy asked for her help to pay his tuition.
Bermuda got involved after her husband’s job as Artemis skipper brought her here. She made a local appeal and Greg Soares of Hamilton Rotary and Rebecca Roberts of RenaissanceRe jumped on board.
“I contacted Dominic to see what the highest priority was and he said the water project,” Mrs Outteridge said. “It was fantastic working with Greg Soares and the Hamilton Rotary on this project. With the assistance of the matching programme at RenaissanceRe, I was able to triple the money I contributed. RenaissanceRe is incredibly generous to all the local charities. They allow each employee to direct funds towards individual organisations they feel passionate about.”
Once the money was in hand, “things happened very quickly”.
“When I rang Dominic with the good news that we were on our way to raising the full amount, he immediately set the wheels in motion,” she said.
“I sent the first transfer on August 25 and, within a week, the funds had reached Uganda and work was under way.”
Mr Mukwaya sent photos of daily progress.
“Pipes and gutters arriving at the school, mixing concrete, connecting taps and running underground pipes — it was a hive of activity. By the first week of October, the project was complete.”
The Outteridges reached Kaaso, in Uganda’s Rakai District, on November 6. They saw the new system, renewed their vows and held a ribbon cutting with local Rotarians.
“I loved watching the children using the water taps around the school. There used to be two taps for the entire school of 600 children and now we have 12. Dominic can’t stop grinning, he’s so proud of the whole system.
“It’s changed the way the school operates, has helped ease the school’s budget by not having to pump water using the costly diesel pump and the project has also become a model for other schools and community groups in the area.”
It was a huge difference from her first visit to the rural community eight years ago, Mrs Outteridge said.
“The water pump was often broken, meaning the children had to walk for hours to go to the well to fetch water for washing and bathing,” she recalled.
“They would miss classes and it was a huge inconvenience for everyone.
“A few years back, the Rotary Club of Muyenga in Kampala fundraised for a new water pump which was great as it meant the days of walking to the well were over, but it didn’t solve the problem of the cost of the diesel fuel. Now, Kaaso has the perfect solution — all rain water is harnessed into four giant tanks of 18,000-22,000 litres and if that runs out, they have the pump as a back-up, so the school will never be without running water.”
Her last visit fell in the middle of Uganda’s rainy season. With the new system in place, the school had not needed to pump water in more than seven weeks.
“It’s about $15 each time to pump the water and they used to have to pump twice a week so that means $120 saved in a month — around the cost of a teacher’s monthly salary, to put things in perspective,” Mrs Outteridge said. “So, needless to say, the effect it has had on the school and community is great.”
Learn more here: www.kaaso-uganda.org
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