News From RYDA

2021

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February 2021

Ron Can Do Continues

In the December News we introduced you to Ron Seccull (see 2020 News and scroll to the end) who has begun collecting cans and bottles in Yarrawonga / Mulwala to convert to cash for RYDA. We mentioned that at the end of the first month of his project he sent us $375 which was included in a December transfer to RYDA.

Ron walks 45km every day - twice a day when it's not too hot. One morning in January it was already too hot during the morning walk. By afternoon temperatures would be over 40C. Half way round Ron's walk brings him to the bridge linking Yarrawonga in Victoria with Mulwala in New South Wales - a border crossing which on this morning was barred by police checking permits to cross interstate. You can guess why. Ron parked his wheelie walker, folded down the seat, sat and watched the process while he took a rest.

After a while a policewoman walked over.

Hello sir. Are you okay?

Sure. Ron replied. Just taking a breather before heading home.

I thought you might like a cool drink, she said as she passed over a cold bottle of water from the police car fridge. Take it easy on the way home.

Ron thanked her for her kindness, then sipped his way through the bottle before re-activating the walker and continuing. Here's another 10 for the collection, he said to himself as he left the police and public to continue their Covid Caution.

It is Ron who set the ball rolling on this project, but it is the public, the good people of Yarrawonga / Mulwala, who are making it succeed.

  • Some have taken to bagging or boxing all their bottles and cans and dropping them off at Ron's garage door.
  • Some give him a call when they have a collection and invite him around to pick them up.
  • Some have arranged for him to drop in at the same time each week to pick up what they have.
  • Some don't have much interest in sorting them out for him but are happy for him to go through their bin; so he does.
When Ron started he thought it would be great if he could raise $50 a month. In the middle of January he sent us another $500 for RYDA. That's a lot of bottles and cans.

Ron tells everyone exactly why he is collecting, sorting, packing, delivering and cashing in the bottles and cans. He prints this news page and hands it out as he does his rounds. He is not only gathering from the people. He is giving them back the RYDA story - an African success story that for more than 20 years, without any direct government assistance, has been helping orphaned and vulnerable Ugandan youths to learn vocational and life skills and supporting them into their first job.

Ron is overwhelmed by the response.

I have met so many nice people, he says, and the work doesn't take that much time really. It's mostly the time I would otherwise be watching the midday movie or reading a book.

We are overwhelmed by the response. Good people of Yarrawonga / Mulwala you are very much thanked from far beyond your river community. Keep up the good work. You really are making a difference in Africa.

Ron had his 79th birthday at the end of January.

Funds Transferred

$500 from Ron Can Do, donations from several families for Christmas Gift Certificates (including an amount from Ron and Fay for their grandchildren's certificates) and other regular and occasional donations meant that St. Margaret's was able to transfer an additional $131720 (USD 95944) to Rubaga Youth Development Association on January 28th.

Stunning! Thank you everyone.

  • Geoffrey has confirmed that the money has reached the RYDA account.
  • We will let you know when RYDA tells us how it is spent.
We believe the USD 83725 sent in December has been used to complete the two bathroom blocks required to meet new government Covid hygiene regulations. We hope to see photos soon.

Double Diary Date

A Cappella choir Singularity missed the opportunity to present Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado in concert last year.

In faith, we are once again planning to make it happen:

St. Margaret's Uniting
Church, Mooroolbark
Sunday June 6th

St. John's Uniting
Church, Cowes
Sunday June 20th

Please put aside one of these dates now.
Singularity has been singing for RYDA annually for many years.
It is always an afternoon not to be missed. Which event will you attend?
More details to follow.

Uganda Update

January in Uganda has been a difficult month. The good news is that following a mid-December spike in COVID cases the number of daily new cases has been clawed back, with one measure on the web suggesting that on February 8th only 12 new cases were detected. However data from Uganda, as with many other countries, may not be as accurate and consistent as it is in Australia. To date there have been no cases at RYDA and we pray it stays that way.

January was also the time of the Presidential and parliamentary elections. There have been reports of civil unrest that has been met with increased military presence. In days around the election the government ordered the internet to be shut down. Wikipedia provides an easy to read summary of the facts, events and atmosphere in a article titled 2021 Ugandan General Election.

Our concern is the continuing success of Rubaga Youth Development Association in its mission to provide vocational and life skill training to orphaned and vulnerable youths. Its operations centre is only 8 miles from the centre of the capital Kampala, so we must remember that it operates in the centre of whatever community events are current. When society is peaceful and stable RYDA can easily network in the community, as we have seen in the past, for example with students in the concrete and bricklaying course helping to extend the local police station; or hairdressing students being able to provide services for local women.

From December however, changes and adaptations have been necessary.

  • Usually over the Christmas / January season almost all students are able to return to wider family or nominated families of good heart. This gives staff a break too. This season however they have stayed on campus because of COVID; partly to recover learning time lost when schools were ordered to close in 2020 and partly to wrap students and staff in a hygiene bubble.
  • Students are absolutely confined to the 10 acre campus and are continuing the sanitising, social distancing and mask wearing begun in 2020. Staff move out only when essential and when they return they must enact an extensive self-cleaning routine.
  • Moving away from campus has also been difficult because of enhanced military presence on the streets. Even if, for example, you are going to the bank to access a donation, or to an official meeting with the vocational training department of government, it is at best uncomfortable (and at worst scary) to know that you might be challenged on your journey at any time by an armed soldier demanding explanation for your movement.
  • The internet being non-existent has cut communications with supporters. In our case we had to wait days for example before we could transfer the above amount. Geoffrey was able to discover with a phone call that it had arrived in the bank, but actually getting to the bank to organise its use wasn't just a case of walking out the door into the van.
  • Also the internet doesn't just come back. RYDA has to re-establish the connection which is another challenge that takes time and probably money. Certainly we have had no email communication at this end since mid-December. All we have been able to achieve has been a couple of short calls by Skype phone direct to Geoffrey's mobile.
However, despite all, there are 200 boys and girls being fed, clothed, housed and cared for and doing their best to learn every day from a staff who are committed to their mission.

March 2021

Letter from the Director

I am often asked, "How are things at RYDA?". The best way to answer that at the moment is to invite you to read this email, which arrived in the evening of March 15th, then read on to see the photos Geoffrey has sent and our current action to continue supporting RYDA.

Dear Doug,

Indeed am very sorry for the inconveniences caused, but bare with me that I have been sick and at the hospital. I was discharged over the weekend. Today reported to the centre, to get this info to you. Very sorry but it's not intentional.

I hereby send you the pictures of the work we have managed to do. To fence at the girls wing. With the funds which was available (approx. $US950 sent on January 28th) we manage to buy sand, cement, bricks, and labour for the mason. The funds got finished. We are also stranded.

Today, students have started to do UBTEB and D.I.T exams. Pray to us to manage this exercise.

With COVID-19, challenges are many but we need to salute our donors and supporters for their continued support and prayers.

We have dry season now. Food and water are becoming very difficult to get with no funds to buy them. Also internet and electricity becomes a problem. Both Principal and Director of Studies sometimes need my support. Though these problems can be turned into challenges, then challenges into an opportunity.

Blessed are those who trust in HIM.

Water is needed at the centre more and currently when reached the centre the bills for water stands at 3,996,000 Ugandan Shillings (about $A1400).

I don't want to bother you with our endless problems and challenges. God knows the answer. Our role is to pray, when we pray, HE hears our prayers and HE answers. Thank God that I have managed to send you this info.

Once again, thanks for accepting my apologies. Send my warm greetings to all those who stand with us in this challenging COVID-19 era.

Yours sincerely,
Geoffrey Steven Kyeyune
Director-RYDA

A Wall Story

This narrow public road separates the main RYDA compound on the left from the girls' dormitory compound on the right. Torrential rain in late December 2015 undermined the wall which you see patched with iron sheets in the before photo. When you learnt of this security breech in February 2016 you responded with $A1100 in a few days and in March we received the after photo showing the repairs.

BEFORE
AFTER

The water tank services the girls' toilet block and the dormitory rooms extend perpendicular to the wall from there. But the girls' compound extends up the hill beyond the security gate for perhaps 50 metres. At that end it is bounded by a simple fence.

The funds we transferred at the end of January this year were a major contribution to replacing that insecure fence with this much more secure wall.

Up the hill looking down to the water tank.
Inside looking up the hill from near the gate.

Why Do We Give?

The answer is simple. So that RYDA can spend on whatever is needed to provide vocational and life-skill training, and a home, food, comfort and community, for orphaned and vulnerable 12-18 year old youths. The aim is for students to graduate with a trade qualification and be placed in their first job. Despite COVID and all its consequences these students from the current cohort are sitting their first exams on this pathway to a better future. Your prayers and gifts play a significant part in providing this opportunity.

Ron Can Do (see February 2021 News) has just transferred $600 to St. Margaret's account from Ron's work since the beginning of February. St. Margaret's account details are:

BSB 633 000 ... Account No. 157319310
Swift Code: BENDAU3B
(Donors outside Australia only)
As soon as the account balance creeps over AUD1000, we can send the next transfer. Can you help?

Make It To The Mikado

It couldn't happen last year, but so far so good it looks like it will happen in 2021. We look forward to seeing you at one of these performances. (Times to be announced soon.)

Plan now to enjoy a rollicking Sunday afternoon outing to Gilbert & Sullivan's Mikado. Possibly the best comic opera in their catalogue. We can expect a releasing, revitalising, colourful, musical performance in concert from SATB Choir 'Singularity'. All proceeds to support Rubaga Youth Development Association, Uganda.

Add one of these dates to your diary now:

  • St. Margaret's Uniting
    Church, Mooroolbark
    Sunday June 6th
  • St. John's Uniting
    Church, Cowes
    Sunday June 20th

 

An invitation from Three Little Maids.
  • Yum Yum - Ellen Maple
  • Pitti Sing - Cynthia Van Der Hulst
  • Peep Bo - Elanor Franklin
Photo: Robin Halls

Uganda COVID Update

The country has come a long way since its reported peak on December 12th of 702 new cases and a 7-day average of 698.
On March 16th the figures were 2 new cases and a 7-day average of 15.
The national vaccination campaign began on March 10th.

April 2021

How Does It Happen?

Check back in the March news, published mid-March, and you will find that Geoffrey mentioned in his letter that a current need was to pay overdue water bills of just under 4 million Ugandan shillings. We didn't promote this to you as a cause. It was just something that Geoffrey mentioned.

Within days one supporter had donated $500. That person has since been thanked directly by Geoffrey. Then, as the end of the month - and Easter - approached, Ron sent a further $600 from his can and bottle collecting hobby. His work has also been recognised in a personal letter from Geoffrey. So, the Treasurer looked in the account and found other amounts had appeared through donations of various sizes from a range of faithful supporters. They totalled just over $400.

On March 31st, two days before Good Friday, a total of AUD1544.75 was transferred to the RYDA account. After Easter Geoffrey found that there was enough to pay the overdue 4 million shillings and have a little change!

How does it happen?
... The water bills were only mentioned in passing. There was no focussed fund raising. You weren't set a target. But what was needed and a bit more appeared within two weeks of being mentioned.

How does it happen?
...Check Geoffrey's letter again. In the sentence immediately before the mention of the water bills Geoffrey wrote:

Blessed are those who trust in HIM.
Could that be how it happens?

Singularity Sings 'The Mikado' for RYDA

You have the fun and RYDA has the funds.

Please join us at one of these venues for a magical, musical afternoon.

Afternoon tea and bikkies available at both venues following the performance.

Click on the venue town to reveal a poster with additional details.

Feel free to distribute the poster electronically, or print and display.


St. Margaret's Uniting Church
Sunday June 6th, 2pm
Mooroolbark

June 2nd: Sadly, this concert is cancelled due Melbourne's COVID lockdown being extended to 14 days. We hope to reschedule later.
At this stage the Cowes performance might still go ahead.


St. John's Uniting Church
Sunday June 20th, 2pm
Cowes

June 17th: Sadly, this concert was also cancelled due to COVID. Travel restrictions were lifted, but density limits were tightened, making the event untenable at the last minute. We hope to reschedule later.

June 2021

COVID: A Turn for the Worst

On Monday night, June 7th, we rang RYDA to see how things were going. The news reports from Uganda were concerning. Executive Director, Geoffrey Steven Kyeyune continues to have his personal up and down battles with diabetes due to irregular access to insulin, but they are now in the context of a new COVID wave that has suddenly begun to ravage the country.

From February to mid-May Uganda had daily new cases of no more than double figures. From May 16th when it reached 105 it has grown at a staggeringly fast rate to 1,259 per day on Sunday June 6. (See data at:https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/uganda/)

On Sunday the President instituted another lock down. The following information is from a Reuters news report at: (https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/uganda-re-imposes-lockdown-beat-back-covid-19-case-surge-2021-06-06/)

"Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni on Sunday re-imposed a strict lockdown that included the closure of schools and the suspension of inter-district travel to help beat back a surge in COVID-19 cases in the East African country.

The new measures, which will be effective from Monday morning, include the closure of all educational institutions, some bans on travel, the shutdown of weekly open markets, and the suspension of church services.

Most of the new restrictions, Museveni said, would be implemented for 42 days."

RYDA had to close on Monday! As happened last year, their contact tracing data base has meant most of the young people have been sent to a relative or a family of good heart. An amazing achievement in 24 hours. But this time - due to a school population reshuffle at the beginning of the school year - they are left with around 80 young people (rather than 35 as in 2020) who have nowhere to go. They must be fully cared for on site for perhaps as long as 6 weeks. The only alternative is that they return to the street. RYDA students are 12-18 years old, are orphaned or otherwise vulnerable, and RYDA provides all their accommodation, health, living and education needs. There are only two things we can do to support Geoffrey and staff to keep hope alive at this critical time.

  • Please pray as you will and give as you can.
St. Margaret's is aiming to raise at least $1000 for emergency funding within a week. Over $500 has already been gifted or promised. If giving is possible St. Margaret's details at Bendigo Bank are:
BSB 633 000 ... Account No. 157319310
Swift Code: BENDAU3B (Donors outside Australia only)
Please reference RYDA in the donation
If you have any questions please contact me directly.

Shalom,
Doug. Williams
RYDA Support Co-ordinator
St. Margaret's Uniting Church, Mooroolbark, Australia
doug@blackdouglas.com.au / + 61 401 177 775

Here's What Came Next

7th June

  • Lock down need discovered in conversation with RYDA about 20:00.
8th June
  • The bank account revealed just over $200 was already in hand for RYDA. This was made up of $150 given to our speaker by people at the presentation organised two weeks earlier at Cowes Probus (see below), plus a regular fortnightly salary sacrifice by a long time supporter and contributions from the 'RYDA Box' used at St. Margaret's church services.
  • Ron Can Do promised $400 that morning and transferred it around midday.
  • Email message above sent to supporters on the eNews distribution list around 15:00.
  • Within an hour the first response ($100) had been transferred by a faithful subscriber.
  • $500 was recorded as the total to date in the item above when the letter was mounted around 22:00.
9-12th June
  • A wild storm hit the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne and across the east of the state during the night of the 9th.
  • Power was off and internet and mobile communications intermittent or unavailable for days in our base communities of Mooroolbark and Cowes.
  • Further donations resulting from the email appeared in the account.
13th June
  • At the St. Margaret's morning service, worshippers were informed about events of the week.
  • At this point the total had risen to a little under $1000 - amazing.
  • After the service several people gave cash which totalled to $370.
  • At Cowes the congregation was encouraged to hope that Melbourne's lock down restrictions would be eased sufficiently for Singularity to be able to travel to perform The Mikado fund raising concert next Sunday.
  • Several members of the local community had already made contact to express the same hope.
  • St. Margaret's rebooked Singularity for July 11th (COVID permitting) because the original arrangement for June 6th had to be cancelled due to lock down.
14th June
  • Power and internet still out for some Mooroolbark people.
  • Power returned to Cowes last Friday. Some still have internet problems.
  • President of the Moke Owners' Association of Victoria rang at 20:00 from a committee meeting to promise $500. The constitution of this club declares that the club shall "be of some good in the community". Their secretary receives the eNews and RYDA's vocational training work with orphaned and vulnerable youths, which includes a Motor Vehicle course, resonates with the committee.
15th June
  • At the end of the day the amount actually available in the bank was now $2257.30 - 10 times what was available one week ago - stunning!
17th June
  • We woke to the news that several thousand homes in the Dandenong Ranges, adjacent to Mooroolbark, would not have power for a further 3 to 4 weeks.
  • The Moke donation appeared in the account bringing the total to $2757.30 - Praise God!
  • Singularity's concert in Cowes is cancelled. Travel limits were removed, but density limits and other rules related to performance spaces meant the largest possible audience would not have made the event the fund raising success everyone wanted.
18th June
  • $US1992.44 transferred to RYDA. This amount is made up of $AUD2757.30 + $20 for bank charges at their end.
    It will appear in their account early next week. Geoffrey was informed by phone. He was very relieved and overflowing with thanks. And so are we.
  • Thank you to every person who has kept RYDA in their prayers.
  • Please continue to do so as they care for those 80 young people through lock down.
  • Thank you for each and every amount that has been given.
  • For now they are secure, but the need will persist.

An African Success Story

This is the title of the presentation given to the Cowes Probus meeting at the end of May. Linked by video and photographs it tells the story of how RYDA began, its objectives, its growth, its achievements, its struggles and the remarkable story an Australian support network dedicated to RYDA that has been with them for over 25 years.

Could this be something for your club, group, school or business?
20-25 minutes plus questions ... Interesting, informative, inspiring.

The Mikado Rides Again

No it's not the latest Spaghetti (or should that be sushi) Western. It's the good news that Singularity have been able to reschedule their performances of the Mikado:

  • Cowes .... 2pm Saturday July 10th
    Please reserve your seat with Lyn Francis:
    lynatcowes@icloud.com
    5952 5723

  • Mooroolbark ... 2pm Sunday July 11th
    Please reserve your seat with Janet:
    jacun@tpg.com.au
    0418 567 591

Fingers crossed that COVID doesn't get in the way.

COVID Update

  • Daily cases since lock down peaked at 1,735 on June 12th.
  • Daily cases 943 on June 26th.

July 2021

Meet Jennifer

Director Geoffrey Steven Kyeyune invites us to meet a former student who is waiting for her opportunity.

Kampi Jennifer, aged 19 years old, successfully completed her course in Hairdressing and Cosmetology before Covid. Now she would be working if it was not the lockdown.

Her home is in Kaliro, 212km from Kampala. Her dream is to work in Kampala city. The trade she studied is still under lockdown.

We have no doubt that Kampi Jennifer will have a better life after training.

Uganda COVID Update

As we publish, Uganda only has to wait a few more days to see if their 6 week strict lock down will be eased. Certainly it has had a significant impact on the spread of the Delta variant. As reported in the previous news, new daily cases peaked at 1,735 on June 12th, a week after lock down. On July 26th the daily new case number was 234. This brought the cases since the 2020 pandemic began to just under 93,000. However Geoffrey reports that many people have died - 22 reported on July 26th. Since the first appearance of the virus in Uganda the official total is 2,601 to July 26th.

The 80 young people and the staff living with them on the RYDA campus since lock down began are reported to be safe and well. The situations of the 120+ who had to be sent away when the government closed schools is unknown.

Our donations have been a godsend.

Local networks - an underlying strength of RYDA which have been nurtured for over 20 years - are decimated during lock down.

How June 18th Donation Was Spent

It has been clear for some time that Geoffrey's ability to lead Rubaga Youth Development Association has been severely hampered by his inability to afford regular access to insulin to manage his diabetes. Most of us are aware of how debilitating that disease can be when it is not properly treated. When $US1992 was sent in June we discussed this situation and agreed that $US200 could be used to secure that medication supply for now. At this end we believe our donors will see this as an appropriate decision that strengthens the opportunities for RYDA overall.

Geoffrey reports that the funds have been distributed between these medications, the purchase of food, training materials, Covid cleaning and hygiene needs and payment of water bills. $US150 has been reserved for emergency use.

Geoffrey has sent the following message to all who supported RYDA by contributing to this donation.

I hereby write to acknowledge for the receipt of US$1992 sent to our account in June 2021. On behalf of Rubaga Development Association (RYDA), I appreciate our donors and suppliers for the continuous support. Special appreciation goes to the Moke group, St Margaret Uniting Church and St John's Church and other individuals.

May the Almighty God reward you abundantly.

Note: It was reported in the previous news that AUD500 of the total was donated by the Moke Owners' Association of Victoria and further AUD400 was from Ron's work collecting bottles and cans in Yarrawonga. Geoffrey has sent separate messages to both.

Singularity Sings Away the Doldrums

Yum-Yum and Nanki-Poo married twice on the weekend of July 10th and 11th. On the Saturday in the Uniting Church, Cowes, and on Sunday in the Uniting Church, Mooroolbark.

After three COVID-cancelled attempts between March 2020 and June 2021, Singularity was finally able to support the celebration of these nuptials at both venues with a gloriously costumed, magnificently musical, full concert performance of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado - as it turned out, just 2 days before Victoria's 5th lock down!

Rejoice in these photos and the unbelievable door takings for RYDA of $801 at Cowes and $962 at Mooroolbark. Both totals were at least double the amount that could have been raised by ticket price alone - some very generous people must have been present. Then look beyond them to see the stunning amount transferred to RYDA in July.

On behalf of RYDA, Geoffrey also rejoiced and wrote to Musical Director, Cecily Woodberry:

Let me take this opportunity to write to you and choir to thank you for your continuous support through organizing the concerts over the years. With this, funds have been raised and sent to RYDA. We are very grateful for this Noble gesture. Even in this COVID period you have struggled to make it happen. Please send our sincere appreciation to the choir and others who have been involved all these years.
Shalom
Geoffrey Steven Kyeyune
Generosity Overflows in July

Following the two concerts it was obvious we would be sending a further donation to RYDA. The treasurer checked the account in preparation and was amazed to discover that between the June 18 donation and July 21st, an additional $816 had appeared!

Thank you and bless you all the people involved.
Regardless of the amount every dollar does do good.

There were some special surprises in that amount, including a gift from the Sack family in Ohio, a retiring offering from the folks at St. Luke's Uniting Church, Highton, and members of a family who gave donations to RYDA as birthday gifts to one of their own who "doesn't need anything".

On July 21st, AUD $2579, plus $20 for bank fees, was transferred to RYDA and converted to USD $1807.08.

With God's continuing guidance of RYDA's management we know every dollar will be used to support RYDA's successful mission to provide vocational and life skill training for orphaned and vulnerable teenage girls and boys.

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