In 2008 Richard McCance and Andrew McClure, 2 leaders from 1st Slieve Donard Boys’ Brigade, Newcastle raised £28,000 to help fund the ambitious project of building a school in Uganda. £6000 was used to purchase the land for a school and £22,000 went to school funds. In January 2010 Bethel Royal High School was built by Hope Builders, Fields of Life. There are now over 700 pupils attending the High School.
A new headmistress called Annette Kiisa arrived at the local Kawondwe Primary School in 2003, located 2.5km from the High School. Although the locals were disappointed to see a young female headmistress arrive, she soon earned their respect. She worked tirelessly to improve conditions in the area, but found it difficult to recruit teachers due to no clean drinking water. In 2007 the Boys’ Brigade funded a borehole opposite the entrance to the Primary School. After 11 hours of drilling the water burst out of the ground and it has never dried up. Annette, often referred to as the ‘Queen of the Community’ continues to spend her time, skills and resources to improve and grow the community of Nakasongola.
During July 2014, 58 members over two teams representing Down Battalion Boys’ Brigade travelled to Uganda to work at Bethel Royal High School. The main objectives were to run a Holiday Bible Club in the morning at the Kawondwe Primary School, followed by skills training at the high school. Some team members woke at 6am daily to pump water daily from the borehole for the guesthouse and the New Beginnings Orphanage. All pupils received a new outfit of clothes, whether a new dress or pair of shorts and t-shirt. Girls at the High School were shown how to make reusable sanitary products and were given new underwear.
Annett, who is now also the Headmistress at the High School, felt compassion for the community and realised her need to help. People from Northern Ireland provided her with the finances to purchase 130 acres of land, farming equipment and animals. She has managed to reduce food costs at the schools by 85% and it is her desire to feed 2000 people in the area. She has also outreached to several families in the area by providing them with new housing. Annette has a deep down desire to be able to help the underprivileged. She would like to provide employment for many, especially the ladies in the area.
In July 2014, with the support of the Down Battalion Boys’ Brigade, Annette launched the newly built Rapha Health Centre, located beside the High School. Its doors first opened in the late summer of 2014 and the centre has already been used to serve and treat over 1000 people in the surrounding community. The centre is in its infancy and will rely on further funding to see that it continues to provide medical care for those that need it the most. A large proportion of the Team Bethel fundraising efforts will go towards this.
Two groups, newly named ‘Team Bethel’, will return to Bethel Royal High School under the auspices of the Field of Life charity during July and August of this summer. Annette has emphasised the need for teaching vocational-based skills to the pupils, teachers and the community. The team will teach skill such as first aid training, joinery, sparking, welding, sewing/knitting/crocheting, computing, accountancy, occupational therapy, veterinary skills, music lessons, cooking and sports.
Gareth Murdock, a member of Raffrey Presbyterian Church is leaving his home comforts on 19th February 2015 to work at the school for six months. He is a builder by trade and will use his skills to build new brick homes for the neediest families in the area, as well as help with maintenance projects at the High School. Some families still living in mud huts will have their lives transformed by a simple two-room brick house with an outside toilet, which costs less under £1000 to construct.
Annette, the Director of both Bethel Royal High School and Kawondwe Primary School is a wonderful African Christian who works so tirelessly for God in the care that she provides for so many in Nakasongola, Uganda.
For more information about Team Bethel 2015 and to donate to their cause go to http://bethel.raffreychurch.org/