Annual report for 2015

27 Nov

Dear fellow ‘Friends’ of Ray of Hope,

As always, this year, as with previous years, has been a mix of challenges and blessings. We have made new Friends – even our first corporate Friend – and as a result, we have been able to meet our responsibilities and end the year financially secure. However, on top of the scheduled building work, there were additional surprise costs to cover, and then this year’s major funding crisis came in the form of greatly increased sponsorship costs for those children sponsored into the Ugandan State School system.

Building work – In the summer of 2014 we began building work at the school to improve the sanitary conditions for the children and staff. A new toilet block was built to replace the totally inadequate previous structure.  Also, a proper kitchen was built to replace the shack from which food for around 150 was cooked each day.  Phase Two of the work commenced in January 2015 with work on the main building which involved knocking down internal walls to make best use of the space for classrooms.  An existing outbuilding was improved to enable it to be used by the women’s group as a workshop.  Although we had not anticipated a Phase Three, we were made aware that the main building’s roof timbers were in a very poor state and many needed to be replaced.  That work was completed by the early summer and no further building work is anticipated.  The reaction to the building work by the staff of Ray of Hope has been very positive.  Their workplace now looks the part, i.e. a proper school, and not just an adapted five bedroom house.  Staff and children have always taken a pride in belonging to Ray of Hope School, and that is even more the case now.  Emily (Project Director) said ‘At Ray of Hope School, the year started in a fancy new building. Our classes had been enlarged and our whole facility tiled and is looking so great. All the pupils and staff were very excited to be operating in such a new home. A big ‘thank you’ to all those who made this face -lift possible.’

Funding crisis – Early this year we were made aware that the amount of money we were sending out to sponsor Ray of Hope graduates through their secondary education had been increasingly falling short.  A request to sponsors to raise their funding has met with only partial success and has left us facing a considerable extra sum to find each term.  We are grateful to those sponsors who were able to raise their sponsorship, and we do understand that others may not be in a position to increase their giving.  The Trustees felt that we needed to maintain our commitment to the children already in education and so we have been meeting the shortfall.  All future sponsors will be asked to sponsor at a higher rate (£20 monthly minimum), although even this figure falls short of the current cost, which is expected to rise even further.  So, although we have decided to honour our commitment to those children already sponsored, we will not be looking to take on further children for the foreseeable future.

New Corporate sponsor – We are very grateful to Lottery Funding Services Ltd who have chosen ‘Friends…’ as a local charity that they wished to support.  We have benefitted directly with a very generous gift early in the year which enabled us to meet this year’s challenges with confidence.  In addition, both corporately and individually, the staff have sponsored a dozen more children, bringing the total number of children now sponsored by our group to 53.  Thank you LFS!

In addition to LFS Ltd, we would also like to express our appreciation to All Saints Church, MoS, who have adopted Friends of Ray of Hope for a minimum of three years. Thank you.

Gift Aid – After a long process involving delays and re-submissions of our application, we are now registered with HMRC for the purpose of claiming gift Aid, and in the closing days of 2015 we received our first Gift Aid receipt.  This means that each year from now on we will be able to claim back the tax that many of our supporters have paid on their gifts to us.  Our first receipt from HMRC was £4,586, a substantial boost to our income and a great help to us. Our first claim was for the year 2013. The plan is to keep our claims two years in arrears so that we will always have a fall-back fund if we require to draw upon it.

Accounts – The detail of the accounts are available separately, but just to give an overall view in round figures, we began the year with £22,000 and finished the year with a balance of £29,000.  Our income was £41,000 for the year and our out-goings were £34,000.

New Trustee – We welcome Sue Forward of Milford on Sea as our new Trustee, bringing our number to five.  Sue has been an active supporter for some time, specifically running a monthly coffee morning group to raise funds.

2016 – We do not have any major expenditure planned for the next year.  We will however be exploring the possibility of a future expansion of Ray of Hope School to enable us to keep our children another three years, that is, to the end of their primary education.  This will mean the purchase of a piece of land and building classrooms etc, and will necessitate finding major funding.  This is not something that will be happening soon, but it does mean that we will be exploring the possibility, the costs and the potential for funding.

Staff wages – The Trustees have decided that our staff at Ray of Hope School should receive a pay rise in line with inflation since the last increase in April 2014.

On behalf of the Trustees I would like to end by acknowledging that without the commitment of all of our ‘Friends’, the wonderful work done by the team in Kampala would just not be possible. So, ‘Thank you’ for being with us for the long haul.

Approved by the Trustees and signed on their behalf,

Steve Jennings

Chair of Trustees

Annual Report for 2014

26 Jan

In 2014 Friends was again able to maintain the existing support given to the project in previous years and also to improve the facilities at the school.  The welfare of the children and improved working conditions for our staff were the motivation for making the improvements. We were blessed to have the capital in hand to commit to these building works, and for that we once again acknowledge the debt we owe to our fellow friends. Our numbers have increased by only one or two during the year, but the committed support we have received has not diminished. The Trustees would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to all who have sponsored children or supported other aspects of the work in 2014. You have made a real difference in the lives of some of the poorest people in Uganda.

Improved facilities at Ray of Hope School

In last year’s report we identified several areas where significant improvements to the facilities and fabric of the School needed to be made.  Even if we were to be considering such work here in the UK it would have been the cause of some anxiety, so you may appreciate how much more so was the case when the work was to be done in Uganda.   Not least of our concerns was finding a reputable builder and someone to Project manage on our behalf. We were able to meet both concerns with the help of another charity called Fields of Life, an Ireland based charity that works in Uganda building schools.  Through them we identified a builder and an Architect who agreed to be Project Manager for us.  On the first meeting with them we were impressed with their professionalism.  Contracts were agreed and signed in April and work on Phase One began in the summer school holidays, with Phase Two scheduled for the Christmas break in January 2015.

Phase One – The priorities to be addressed in this first phase of the work were, the building of a new kitchen block within the school yard and a new toilet block for the children.

Kitchen – Our Cook, Mama Santa, has catered for around 150 every day, cooking over open fires in the school yard, with only a galvanized tin roof for shelter.  Smoke from the fires was always billowing around her and the children – it was a health and safety nightmare! Now Mama Santa has a purpose built brick structure which has three large cooking vessels over charcoal burning stoves.  The smoke is chimneyed away safely and the kitchen environment is now much healthier and safer.

Toilet – The existing pit type toilet block in one corner of the school yard was unsanitary and a disgrace. Although the children had been using it, the high water table in that area meant that it was usually full to brimming over.  We who have visited the school were only able to peer in from several feet away such was the awful smell.  Although the new structure is also of the pit type it has two tanks and an overflow modification.  This means solids are kept in the first tank along with some of the liquid waste, but the excess liquid flows off to the second tank which allows waste water to soak away.  The system is aided by a flush water tank which is something the children need to be taught to use wisely – water is metered and costs money in Kampala!   The disgrace and embarrassment of the old is now replaced by the new and efficient, and so now the toilets will definitely be part of the tour for visitors in future.

The work for Phase One was completed on time and within the agreed budget.

Improving staff wages.

You may recall that improving our staff’s wages was a priority in 2013 and to achieve that aim we have given our staff inflation busting pay rises to increase their standard of living.  In 2013 we increased wages for all our employees by 20% and this last year we increased them by a further 10%.   Our teachers are now on the equivalent of £25 a week, so not exactly in the lap of luxury!  Nonetheless, this has made a big difference to them and they are very grateful.  I understand that our teachers are now on a par with the state sector, but that is still fairly low pay even by Ugandan standards – state teachers have been on strike in recent times and some have gone months without wages at all!

Crisis in the community

In August we had a frantic email telling us that the railway authorities had moved into the slum community with bulldozers without having given any warning.  The community is built illegally on land adjacent to a railway line that runs from Lake Victoria into the centre of Kampala.  Before anything could be done to stop it, hundreds of people were made homeless, some of them the families of our school children.  The community leaders were able to get together and challenge the decision in the courts and until the legal status is clarified further demolition is on hold.  This presented Emily (Project Director) and her staff with a crisis of huge proportions.  Following an appeal to our friends we were able to raise an immediate £3,000 for Emily to use to relieve those most affected.  This has been spent on food and clothing, shelter and resettlement.  The crisis continues and funds in excess of what we would normally be sending out this January will have to be sent to allow Emily to continue to work with other agencies and charities in helping the homeless and dispossessed.

We have no date for when this matter might be resolved in the courts, but it will not be soon.

Plans for 2015

Building work at Ray of Hope School – Phase Two.

Phase Two of the building work taking place as this report is being prepared in January 2015. The work being done will ensure that we get best use of the present school building by removing some walls and thereby enlarging two of the classrooms.  It will also be dealing with damp issues in the flooring and walls, as well as redecoration throughout.  In addition, a separate building that is currently used as a storeroom will be modified to allow it to be used as a work shop by the women for their craft work.  At present the women and their craft have to work alongside the school admin staff, which is inconvenient and means a lot of setting up and clearing away after each session.

This work is estimated to cost £8,500 and will be completed by the time the children return to school in early February.

Staff wages.  We will be keeping the matter under review and will consider making a further pay increase in April to at least cover any increase in the rate of inflation over the past year.

Recruit more friends

If the project is to grow, and its facilities to improve, then we need to attract more friends to support the work.  We look to our existing friends to advertise the worthwhile nature of their own involvement with Ray of Hope amongst their friends and family.  Perhaps you could do this?  We would gladly come and talk to a house party if you could arrange one, and perhaps bring and sell some of our craft goods.  Or perhaps you could think of some sponsored event that you could do as a way of involving your family and friends.  Whatever you can do would be very much appreciated.  One thing is for sure, and that is, that it will not cost less to finance Ray of Hope School in 2015!

Accounts for 2014

Total income for the year was £25,559.  Total payments were £41.356.

As always, nearly half of the money we raised this year came by way of regular monthly giving, and most of that is tied to either funding the feeding programme or to sponsorship. The total amount sent out to Ray of Hope in 2014 was £25,753 (2013 – £24,311.45 2012 – £22,144.76) This sum covered all aspects of the work, from staff wages to the cost of feeding the children and paying sponsorship fees to the State schools.

The total cost of Phase One of our building plan was £15,603.

Together in 2014 we have continued to make a real difference for the better in the lives of the children and families at Ray of Hope School. We hope that you will be able to continue to support us in this new year of 2015.

‘Thank you’ in anticipation.

On behalf of the Trustees,

Steve Jennings

Friends … AGM

7 Nov

All are welcome to attend our AGM which will be held on the evening of Friday the 14th November 2014 at the home of one of our Trustees, Matthew Brearley.  The venue is in Milford on Sea, Hants.  For full address please contact Steve and Liz by phone 01590 642717.

If you can make it, please come prepared to have desert and coffee before we get down to business.  Matthew and his wife Nicola have just returned from the project and will give us an up to date report on the work being done as well as concerning the crisis in that community.  There will also be craft goods on sale.


26 Aug


Three weeks ago we heard of the demolition of homes, by the railway authorities, in the slums of Kampala, and we launched an appeal .Emily, the director of Ray of Hope Ministries, sends her heartfelt thanks to all those who have donated money to help the dispossessed families in the Namuwonga Community. This money has been used to help some families resettle back in their villages; to help other families relocate in neighbouring communities; to help those families who must stay in Namuwonga, by providing food baskets containing staples such as rice and beans, and by providing basic requirements such as blankets, and mosquito nets and mattresses. EVERY penny donated is always given to support the work of Ray of Hope Ministries.

Thank you. 


3 Aug

The children who attend Ray of Hope School live in the Namuwonga community, a huge slum area which has a railway line running through it. We have recently heard that the railway authorities have demolished all the homes thirty metres either side of the railway line. No warning was given and scores of families are now homeless and destitute. We, ‘Friends of Ray of Hope’, want to respond to this crisis. If you would like to help by making a donation to our General Fund, this will enable Emily [the Director] to respond in practical ways. You can do this by using the Paypal button or by emailing
Thank you so much!

Knitting for Ray of Hope

1 May

Steve and Liz Jennings would like to warmly thank all those senior ladies of Stockport who have very kindly spent months knitting jumpers for the children who live in the Kampala slums. On their recent visit to Uganda, Steve and Liz were able to distribute these lovingly made jumpers amongst the families they met.


TOYS donated by  pupils at Ballard School, New Milton, and  supporters at All Saints Church, Milford on Sea, were also given to many children. There are hundreds of children in the slums of Kampala who simply do not own a single toy. Their access to education, books and all the things our children in the developed world take for granted, is severely limited.




1 May

In early April, Steve and Liz Jennings visited the Ray of Hope School, which is situated on the edge of the sprawling Namuwonga community in Kampala. They had the joy of taking a hundred children and their teachers to a local amusement park, where the children could escape the poverty and unhealthy squalor of the slum for a few hours. The children had a brilliant time on the rides and in the swimming pool; they also enjoyed a tasty, nutritious meal and a drink of coca cola – a rare treat! This day out was made possible through the generosity of many of our supporters, particularly those who attend All Saints Church, Milford on Sea. Steve and Liz would like to thank all who gave their money to make this day possible, and put huge smiles on the faces of Ray of Hope children!



Report for 2013

4 Feb

In 2013 ‘Friends’ was been able to not only maintain the existing support given to the project in 2012, but to extend it, improving the welfare of the children, and the working conditions for our staff. This was only possible because of the generosity of our relatively small group of Friends – we are now about fifty in number – and the commitment of a small number who have applied themselves to fundraising. The Trustees would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to all who have sponsored children or supported other aspects of the work in 2013. You have made a real difference in the lives of some of the poorest people in Uganda.

2013 saw three significant developments at the project

The provision of fuel briquette making equipment. We had been made aware by Emily (Project Director) that wood for the purpose of cooking was becoming increasingly expensive as the government is trying to clamp down on deforestation. It was suggested that we might consider purchasing briquette making equipment. This would allow the women of the project to mix readily available and sustainable materials to produce briquettes that could be used for the school’s own needs in food preparation, and in due course perhaps provide an opportunity to make a profit in the community. There would also be another, not insignificant benefit, and that would be Mama Santa the cook would have a much safer and healthier environment in which to work. When Trustee, Matt Brearley, and his family visited the project in October he saw the equipment in operation and confirmed the improvements had been delivered. In addition, there has been a significant saving in fuel costs and that has meant that despite other costs rising, the feeding of the children is still being done within the 2012 budget.

Extension of the Feeding Programme into the school holidays. Being very much aware over the past years of how well the feeding programme has been regarded by the staff and parents at the project, and not least, how it has benefitted the children, we made the decision this year to extend feeding into the holidays. Emily has reported that this move has been gratefully appreciated by the parents. During the holiday periods it is mostly the younger children who have come into school for feeding, as the older children are more often than not required to work to support their families. Of all that we Friends have achieved through the project, the Trustees feel that the feeding of the children has been the aspect of the work that has brought the most immediate benefit to the children and community.

Improving staff wages. The Trustees decided that that after the children, our staff’s welfare should be next on our list of priorities. We felt that just because our members of staff are employed by a charity, that should not be a reason to pay them less. We learnt that the plight of some of our staff was little better than that of the people in the community that the project serves. The wages we had been paying since we took over the responsibility in 2011 had been considerably below comparable rates in the Ugandan State system, and had further been eroded by steep inflation in 2010/11. We therefore took the decision to make an immediate increase of 20% this year in staff wages and resolve to keep the issue under review, with the intention of bringing them into line with the State average in due course if our means allow.

A review of Ray of Hope’s child protection policy was carried out when Matt (Trustee) and Nicola Brearley visited the project in October. Nicola, who is a teacher, has experience of drafting and implementing child protection policies here in the UK, and shared that experience with Emily and her staff.
Nicola reported that Ray of Hope’s policy was robust, but what was lacking was any understanding concerning ‘safeguarding’, that is, a policy of investigating the motives and establishing the identity of any visitors/helpers who come to the project. Such a policy was put in place before Nicola left. We now feel that the children of Ray of Hope School are as safe as we can make them and that all the adults entrusted with their care are fully aware of their responsibilities.

Plans for 2014

Building work at Ray of Hope School. It had been apparent from the outset that the building that is Ray of Hope School was deficient in a number of ways. Chief amongst its deficiencies is the lack of sanitary toilets. The existing pit toilets are wholly insufficient for the number of pupils, and were in any case not functioning properly due to the high water table. The second priority on the list is the need for a kitchen and food preparation building, as the current rustic set up is both dangerous and unhealthy for our staff and pupils. Other work on Emily’s wish list includes the development of an existing outhouse into a room that could be used by the women for their craft work, as well as doubling as a room that could be used to train older students in practical skills. As for the school building itself, the removal of a couple of walls would enlarge two classrooms, and there are problems with damp on the ground floor that need to be addressed. The Trustees have already begun to address these issues and hope to have work commence during the school summer holidays. The funding is already in place.

Staff wages. We plan to build on action taken last year to make sure that the wages we pay our staff do not fall behind again. Our aim will be to bring the pay rates up, step by step, aiming to bring them to Ugandan State equivalents in due course.

Accounts for 2013
Total income for the year was £28,456.34. Nearly half of the money we raised this year came by way of regular monthly giving, and most of that is tied to either funding the feeding programme or to sponsorship. No Gift Aid was claimed in 2013 as claims will be made yearly, retrospectively. So gift aid for 2013 will appear in the 2014 accounts.

The total sent out to Ray of Hope in 2013 was £24,311.45. (2012 – £22,144.76) This covered all aspects of the work, from staff wages to the cost of feeding the children and sponsorship fees to the State schools. It also covered teacher training and the provision of the fuel briquette making equipment.

Breakdown of funds sent to the project:

General Fund……………………………………………………….. £3,280.32
Staff wages………………………………………………………….£7,237.80
Sponsorship………………………………………………………… £6,076.30
Feeding programme…………………………………………………….£2,671.73
Teacher training…………………………………………………….. £916.03
Accountancy costs at Ray of Hope…………………………………………£870.85
Briquette making equipment…………………………………………….£2,815.18
Women’s craft group…………………………………………. ……….£391.68
One-off gift for ‘Eunice’ (Ex Teacher)…………………………. …..£51.56

Excess of income over expenditure £4,019.89

End of year balance
Cash £14,328.88
Project Development Fund for 2014 £16,000
Long term Major Project Development Fund £10,000
Total £40,328.88

Together in 2013 we have made a real difference for the better in the lives of the children and families at Ray of Hope. We hope that you will be able to support us in this new year. ‘Thank you’ in anticipation.

Fundraiser thank you. Made it across Scotland!

27 Sep
Thank you very much for the sponsorship! The event was hard but the mission was completed in 12 hours 40 minutes. 
Between Nairn and Fort Augustus, around mile 45

Between Nairn and Fort Augustus, around mile 45

Day one was sunny but long, it started in Nairn with a 7 mile run and then a 48 mile road cycle with a big steady climb to 380m (1200ft), before a really fast/steep decent to Loch Ness for a kayak and short run. That took five and a half hours and was frankly enough.
Loch Ness, Fort Augustus

Loch Ness, Fort Augustus, end of day one

Day two was grim. Cold, wet, windy and dark. It started with an off road cycle for 33 miles, through forests and up a lot of hills, from Fort Augustus to Fort William. There were a few low points with numb fingers and toes etc, but flapjack and knowledge that I had a dry pair of socks in my bag got me through. 
Then there was a transition to foot, I was able to add a dry extra layer and change socks quickly before setting off up hill round Ben Nevis on the West Highland Way for a little over a half marathon, climbing to 330m (1100ft) and running (and walking for the steep bits) through flooded rocky paths. 
Running along the West Highland Way

Running along the West Highland Way

The rain was pretty torrential but it was absolutely spectacular at the same time. The decent was pretty sore on the knees but reaching the finish was brilliant. Day two took seven hours. 
Finish line, 105 miles done

Finish line, 105 miles done

Your support raised a total of nearly £500 for Friends of Ray of Hope and donations are still coming in. That is pretty amazing given how late I put out a ‘please sponsor me’ plea; thank you so much for your generosity. The money really will go a long way and be used well. For example putting a kid through school, paying a teacher’s wages, supporting a feeding programme and so on. Every penny received by the charity will go the beneficiaries. (If you’d like to know more about their work or ways to support further, such as sponsoring a child through secondary school, have a look on the website and ping them an email).
Thanks again, your support was awesome!

Sponsorship Fundraiser – Scotland Coast to Coast

8 Sep

Next weekend Friends of Ray of Hope supporter (and our son), Matt, is taking part in a two day, 105miles (169km), challenge to cross Scotland from coast to coast on foot, bike and kayak. Matt has decided to ask friends if they would make a small sponsorship for the challenge, with donations to Friends of Ray of Hope.

If you would like to sponsor, please click the ‘Donate’ button to make a sponsorship gift. Thank you very much.

Make a Donation

Day one is 57 miles starting in Nairn, near Inverness. The route is; a seven mile cross country run, a 48 mile road cycle, a two mile kayak across Loch Ness and a short run to the half-way line at Fort Augustus.

Day two covers 48 miles starting with a 33 mile cycle (16 miles of which is off-road) towards Ben Nevis, then a 14 mile run mostly cross country, before a one mile kayak across Loch Leven, past the Isles of Glencoe, ending in Glencoe.

The route

The route – image from

Matt has asked friends and colleagues:

“My mum and step dad help run a small charity that funds a little school in the Kampala slums in Uganda. It gives the kids the chance of an education and a daily meal too.

I would like to try and raise a little bit of sponsorship for the charity ‘Friends of Ray of Hope’. Even just £2 would give a meal to a child for a couple of days or more.

Make a Donation

You can support by going to and clicking ‘Donate’.

100% of donations go to the cause. (Admin costs are not passed on to donors, every pound given reaches the beneficiary.)

Thank you – your support will make a difference!”

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