PROGRAMS AND ACTIVITIES
Bondeko Center has open doors for the East African refugees who continue to come to Kampala without resources, without community, and often without hope in rebuilding their lives. The stories of success we witness prove that positive change can happen in times of struggle. Bondeko's livelihoods trainings and centre activities are where this often starts.
Those of us who have witnessed students who have graduated from different trainings can attest to the difference it has made in their lives. We believe that the social support, structure, and business skills our trainings offer improve lives not only through creating self-reliance but through emotional betterment. Refugees who previously had nothing to do were given a structure to their lives, and support to learn. Students talk about feeling happier and more confident because of the trainings – in addition to starting their own small businesses. One refugee woman, for example, used to ask for charity from Bondeko every week in order to feed her children. After she participated in the tailoring training, she opened her own sewing shop, and now only returns to Bondeko to visit.
We offer trainings in mushroom growing, tailoring, baking, and urban farming. In addition, trainings are linked to savings and loan groups created and led by members, which offer a means to take out small loans to start or expand businesses. In addition, we offer business trainings, English lessons, and computer classes. These are led by refugee and international volunteers.
Our programs have the potential to foster self-reliance for refugees in Kampala through skill training and tool provision. The Livelihoods Program also directly contributes towards the sustainability of the Bondeko Centre's other projects – our ultimate aim is to become a self-reliant organization that is able to pay rent and other bills through contributions by those trained in the Livelihoods Program and taking part in connected enterprises.
The Mushroom Growing Section of the Bondeko Livelihoods Program began in 2014 with ten members (4 women, 6 men) forming the main group. The group rented land for growing mushrooms and had a very positive experience with selling them. The mushrooms were so large and of such a high quality that we began receiving phone requests from customers in addition to selling them around Nsambia, Chibuye, and other parts of town. We even approached Shoprite for selling them in the store. A preliminary agreement with Shoprite was reached, but soon after the group bought three sacks of seeds that never sprouted. This set us back but we have continued growing and selling mushrooms on a smaller scale. However, we seek to continue our original plan and fulfill our deal with Shoprite, and eventually sell our mushrooms in other stores around town.
The Tailoring Section of the Bondeko Livelihoods Program began over a year ago and first operated out of Bondeko Center. In January 2015, the section moved to its own space right near the center, where it currently takes customers and trains refugees in tailoring. We have four sewing machines (donated by the African Center for the Treatment and Rehabiliation of Torture Victims – ACTV), yet three of these are in virtual disrepair. Despite this, 12 refugees (9 women, 3 men) are currently being trained for a period of six months by three volunteer teachers (fellow refugees). Due to the limited number of sewing machines, the trainees are split into three groups and undertake training twice per week.
The Baking Section of the Bondeko Livelihoods Program began in January 2015. Everyday, the four leaders and their trainees bake rolls and donuts in a small oven located in the back of the center, as well as fry them in a large pan in front of the center. These baked goods are then sold in front of the center, and around the neighborhood. Two of the Baking leaders had worked in bakeries in the DRC, and then trained the others. The Baking Section primarily focuses on supporting women, and has made plans to formalize its training program into a three-month training (one month of theory and two months of practice).
GARDENING AND ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
Thanks to the Lemon Tree Trust we are now expanding our garden and preparing to raise chickens and pigs. With this initiative, our goal is to promote great learning opportunities for those in need.
SAVINGS AND LOAN GROUPS
The Bondeko Women of Hope Savings Group began in 2013 and is now completing its second year-long loan cycle. The group is comprised of 30 women, who meet every Saturday to repay loans and discuss business challenges and ideas. Each woman runs her own enterprise, ranging from selling vegetables to jewelry, and the savings group offers a chance for these businesses to expand. Loans must be repaid within one month of borrowing. The group also has a welfare component, where weekly donations are made to support other women in unexpected situations of need, such as family illness or death. The Savings Group is run by Aimee, the Head of Women, Girls and Children at Bondeko and a former statistician from the DRC. The start-up of the group was supported by the Finnish Refugee Council (FRC), which supplied booklets to record savings in, a safe box, and a short small business training. This April we started a new savings group for men, which currently has 40 members. The Savings Group is currently looking for outside loans to enable women to borrow larger amounts of money at a time.
Bondeko Centre runs volunteer-taught English classes to fellow refugees three times per week. The classes started in 2002 with a seed grant from individuals Beert Bassert (Belgium) and Christina (Canada), and have thus far helped many refugees improve their English skills and better integrated into Ugandan society. Over the years we have also been grateful for the support of Caritas and the Finnish Refugee Council. Please see our volunteer page if you are interested in volunteering as a teacher or if you would like to make a donation for class supplies such as books or chalk.
We teach learners to speak quickly through using the four basic skills of languages: Listening, Speaking, Writing, and Reading. We help people learn real-life fundamentals, such as how to greet people, how to buy goods at the market, and so on. The teacher helps the learners to participate through interactions, and gain fluency and confidence.
BUSINESS AND MICROFINANCE
Bondeko Centre runs business and microfinance trainings to help our trainees learn how to manage their new businesses.
Bondeko Centre also offers computer classes and a computer hub to provide internet access to members of the Centre, providing valuable skills and connectivity to our members.