In 2017, Linda was part of a small team, registering a charity here in the UK, with two distinct objectives: a child sponsorship scheme in Kumi, Uganda, for those young people identified as most vulnerable and an employment project here in York for those marginalised in our city.
The sponsorship scheme has been operating since 2012 in Uganda, and Choc Affair has been offering employment opportunities to guys who’ve had a challenging past, who found entering the workplace difficult, since 2009.
Respecting people and communities is at the heart of Choc Affair and Linda is passionate about seeing people’s lives transformed through the power of education, training and employment. Of her last trip earlier this year to Uganda Linda said:
“We had an amazing trip, seeing all the young people on the programme after a two year gap due to covid, was just wonderful. They’ve grown so much, both in stature and in maturity, they’ve had an incredibly tough 2 years, and somehow they’ve all come through. We’ve seen a rise in pregnancy rates in our teenagers, and also more hunger amongst the elderly within the young people’s communities, but we’ve working to address that with food provisions. One of our young girls, Caroline is 16 and had a baby boy just two weeks before we arrived. What a treat it was for us to be able to hold her baby, whilst chatting with Caro. She walks 3 miles to school every day, just two weeks after giving birth and her sister then brings the baby to school at lunchtime for Caroline to feed him, before waiting in the school grounds with him, until he needs his next feed. There are no baby bottles or powdered milk to make this easier, and there is such acceptance that this is how it needs to be. Caro is clever, a good student and determined to complete her education. She cried when she saw us, as she was so worried we’d be disappointed that she had become pregnant. We were so proud of her, to see how overwhelmed she looked, the fragility of this young girl and her tiny baby, in a school setting, it was incredibly emotional.
Because of covid, some of our children are having to repeat school years, due to missing so much during the lockdowns, and this was a difficult time for the community. The police would beat anyone found out on the streets when they shouldn’t have been, and so moving around for food was incredibly hard. For us as a charity, that means we go back to the beginning with school materials, and school fees, so it’s vital that we keep doing what we can, to make sure we continue to support more young people.
We were disappointed to see many of the street boys we are engaged with in the local prison, which occurred due to the local police rounding up these young men. We were able to visit some of them there and sit and chat for a while to hear their stories and their situation within the legal system. It’s a tough system, where they work all day in the fields, in blistering heat, barefoot, swinging pickaxes to break up the ground, only to come back to the prison to sleep on the floor, with around 30 other men, in a space no bigger than an average sized living room here. It was good to see them, though and have the opportunity to talk and to encourage them as best we could.
Uganda is a very beautiful country, the scenery, the climate and the people – they have tenacity, faith, and even in the midst of extreme hardship, they have a sense of hope, and I think that’s something so many people don’t get the privilege of seeing – the beauty amidst the desperation, and it’s difficult to convey in words. We have a real love for this community and those who live there, and we’ll be involved for many years to come. “