Showing posts with label humanism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label humanism. Show all posts

Monday, 30 November 2015

Watch LogosPilgrim's Talk at CFI Ottawa


Back in June, LogosPilgrim was kind enough to write a guest post for us about her long brave voyage from religion to Humanism.
When the box, the “refuge” I’d lived began to waver like a mirage, one of the first things I did was start wearing men’s clothes, and it felt wonderful. More and more, I reintegrated, in a manner of speaking, the material nature of what I am. I saw that being material isn’t inferior to being a “spirit.” I learned, finally, about evolution, which made so more sense than any of the woo and fairy tales I’d been taught, and I realized that my brain is a fantastic illusionist. It’s vital to be knowledgeable about the nature of things, otherwise we’ll be fooled not only by every peddler of hogwash out there, but by our own brain, because of the way it works.
Then in September, she was kind enough to be on my fledgling podcast! It was a fun interview which covered her trip down to the 2015 Non Conference, her current book, There’s a Hula Girl on my Dashboard: How I Left Faith Behind and Embraced Life and a new book she's working on too!

Well, LogosPilgrim (aka Quiet Professor) recently did a talk for CFI Ottawa and AtheismTV has released the video.


In addition to all this, a second new book is also in the works!
Oh, and apart from Atheist Tiki Hour: Your Guide to a Secular Blast, I'll be working on another book, The Rollicking Adventures of an Unrepentant Tomboy. I'm including a picture of the cover, because I thought you'd get a kick out of it.
You'll find a cropped version of the image up top. If you want to see the whole thing, you'll have to check back when she's done writing the book!

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

BiZoHa Orphanage - 'With Science We Can Progress!'

The Andrea Vogt Roadside Stand will allow the school to sell homegrown produce alongside a busy highway.
This is a guest post by Chris de Brabander documenting some of the absolutely astounding progress being made at the BiZoHa orphanage in Uganda!



The project to build and operate a secular orphanage in Uganda was launched at the end of February, and in just a little over four months time has made remarkable progress. 

Donations have steadily streamed in, and under the capable management of Project Director Bwambale Robert, already five buildings are completed including the hostel, classroom, kitchen, latrine, and a roadside stand for earning income from sale of snacks, drinks and crafts on the local road frequented by travelers. Construction has also started and is progressing very quickly on a health clinic at the site. 

The BiZoHa Clinic will serve the local communities as well as the orphanage and school. While it will not be able to handle all the medical needs of the area, it will be a great relief. Currently there is only one small government-run clinic serving the six local communities, and most essential drugs are not always available at that health unit. 

BiZoHa Clinic will have a trained medic with a small science lab for examining specimens and dispensing medications for common problems such as malaria and parasites. They will also provide health and hygiene education to the community.


Future plans for the site include adding a museum, which will feature exhibits about the culture of the Rwenzori People and way of living. It will serve as a tourist attraction and an educational tool for research students. Plans to erect more hostels to serve orphans plus students to enroll in the future school and some guest houses to shelter volunteers and guests will come in the course of time. These will offer alternate sources to sustainability.

Water has been piped in to BiZoHa from the mountains. In addition, Bwambale has plans to install rainwater harvesting tanks to supplement the piped water, especially as sometimes the pipes break or get washed away. Tank water can be used for washing clothes, bathing and in the latrine toilets.

BiZoHa plants crops in order to be self-sustaining, and irrigation is needed during the dry season for the crops to thrive. Also, Bwambale is exploring whether further water purification mechanisms might be put in place at point of use for drinking water, to replace boiling.

One solar panel has been installed, and a second has been funded and will be installed very soon. These solar panels and others (funding welcomed!) will make the site self-sustaining with electricity.

The intention is to enclose the hostels, classrooms, dining area, kitchen and toilets in one walled area for security reasons, with the clinic just outside the walls. 


The local community has been very welcoming. Local construction businesses have been busily engaged in getting the site ready quickly for the arriving orphans. A matron has been hired to look after the children in the hostel, and there will also be employment for a cook, teachers, medic, and perhaps other positions as BiZoHa becomes increasingly established. The site will welcome sixteen orphans in late August, and Bwambale has been visiting the local communities to identify children for this pioneer group. 

In addition BiZoHa’s school will accept students on a tuition basis from the nearby communities. Education will be secular humanist, based on science and using reason and free thought as the foundation for knowledge. Instruction will be in English to establish the footing for success in life for the children. The motto of the school will be “With Science, We Can Progress” which is painted on buildings along with the “Happy Humanist” logo. 

Opportunities to sponsor room, board and tuition for the resident orphans ($250 per year) and needy local students who live at home ($125 per year for tuition only, and/or $90 for meals at school) are available. Information on some orphans is already listed and ready to accept donations. Sponsors will receive communications about the child’s progress in school. 


In addition to scholarships, donations to the building and outfitting of the site are very much needed and each one is so very appreciated. These monies will go to such things as security, a microscope for the lab, medications and supplies, educational items for the school, furnishings, uniforms for the children, play equipment, partial sponsorships, food, etc.  To support this project financially, any coin counts and will be spent on what it’s meant for! 

Donations can be made easily at 

For inquiries on large donations to sponsor upcoming construction needs (building dedications), or any donation where a tax receipt is desired, please visit the Brighter Brains website and donate via that channel and use the email provided there to indicate that the donation is for BiZoHa and whether there is any particular need you want your donation to go toward.  [Note that due to summer vacations, tax receipts will be processed after August 18 and email responses will be delayed.]

We look forward to hearing from you. With science, we can progress!

Sunday, 21 June 2015

There's a Hula Girl on My Dashboard: How I Left Faith Behind & Embraced Life

Portion of book cover. (source)
Earlier this month, I put up a guest post by author logospilgrim, Trapped No Longer: I Left Religion, Found Beauty in This Life & the Courage to Embrace it As Myself

There, her words spoke of mental shackles and bonds which blocked her self discovery and undermined her mission to find peace and meaning in this world. They are one picture from a thick album which recounts the long voyage of discovery she traveled from fundamentalist Christianity, to Orthodox Christianity and finally towards Secular Humanism. It wasn't easy --all the while, she was discovering her own identity as an androgyne, bi-romantic asexual person. She was questing for a home within religions hostile to anything which lay to either side of their dogma blinders.

You can find the whole album, the entire story -- or at least all which has been put down into ink and parchment -- within her beautifully written mini odyssey, There’s a Hula Girl on my Dashboard: How I Left Faith Behind and Embraced Life. I recommend it. It's simple and honest. It's humble and empowering.

From Amazon:
"I didn't need to be redeemed from any unacceptable state. I didn't suffer from any metaphysical disease. I was a living, mortal, fragile, complex sentient being, and that was fine. I could make my own decisions. I could think for myself. I had my own voice." In There's a Hula Girl on my Dashboard: How I Left Faith Behind and Embraced Life, writer, lecturer, and maverick Logospilgrim candidly shares the remarkable and passionate journey that took her from religious belief to secular humanism.
I also found a single typo in the entire document, which is astonishingly good for a self-published manuscript. Believe me, I've read a number of self published books lately and this is truly refreshing.

Rather than dwell on the quality of the work itself, I thought I'd share a few passages with you from the book which stuck out for me, personally.
Then, confronted by my persistent defiance of miraculous prayer and by my failure to serve up an inspiring, praise-the-Lord metamorphosis, the pastor and his wife told me the following words: “We’re not sure you’re saved.”

We were in the kitchen. I heard the words and felt my heart sink into the ground. I felt... How can I describe the despair that went through me like a barbed lance?

“We think you’re going to hell.” That’s what I was told.

“There’s no hope for you.”

And it’s not that I didn’t try... I tried. I tried and I tried. I wanted to make Jesus happy; I believed in love. But I could never measure up. I was a disappointment. Between the ages of sixteen and nineteen, I think I must have cried in every dark corner I could find in that cafeteria-like Baptist church, with its plain walls and wooden chairs and many Bibles.

I remember holding on to mine. I remember underlining passages, running my fingers across the precious, thin white pages.

But my pain was like rust, causing bits of me to flake away and cave in and fall off. I wasn’t a good Christian like all the other young people. I often felt afraid of them. My self-hatred and my anger increased. Which made me even less acceptable. I could sense the pastor’s disapproval. I could see the way he’d look at me.

I didn’t want to stay in his house anymore.

They had a baby while I was there. I remember one time, the pastor’s wife was babysitting someone else’s infant, I forget whose. It was small, a fragile-looking thing, unlike their larger child, and it would weep and weep unless it was being held. She let it cry, and then at one point she picked it up, saying she would give it “a little break,” but she was clearly unimpressed. And she said that this baby
was “selfish.” It wasn’t being raised correctly. That’s why it was small.

I never forgot that.

I once asked the pastor what he’d do if their child had problems like me when it was older. He said that he was sure their child would be “a blessing from God.”

Well, I was probably not saved, and all that. What candyou do.

I had to leave. I couldn’t stand it anymore.

What if it was okay, just being a Homo sapiens?

The more I thought about it, the freer and more at peace I felt. The “dreadful consequences” of living without the divine force were dropping from my consciousness like the insubstantial threats, manipulative tactics, and rampant ignorance they’d always been.

The relationship I’d had with Christianity and its deities was now looking like an abusive marriage. As long as I submitted to them, I was “okay.” They would care for me, love me, protect me; all I had to do was accept everything I was told, only have the few friends they approved of, not think about anything they didn’t want me to, not question their authority, be completely dependent on them, obey all their rules, look the way they wanted me to, cower before them, and be pleasing to them.

This was bullshit. I didn’t need that so-called love. I was a living, mortal, fragile, complex sentient being, and that was fine. I could make my own decisions. I could think for myself. I had my own voice.
There are many more rather kickass quotes in the book. I really enjoyed it and parts of it resonated with me and would likely resonate with others going through the tough voyage of de-conversion.

You can get it in pretty much any E-reader format worth its salt. You can also get good old paper as well. Visit logospilgrim's bookstore  for more information!


Thursday, 4 June 2015

Trapped No Longer: I Left Religion, Found Beauty in This Life & the Courage to Embrace it As Myself

logospilgrim
This is a guest post by logospilgrim, who recently published the beautifully written book There's a Hula Girl on my Dashboard: How I Left Faith Behind and Embraced Life. I'll be doing a review of the book hopefully in the next couple of months.


“A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the Lord your God.” ~ Deuteronomy 22:5
“You shall not sow your field with mixed seed. Nor shall a garment of mixed linen and wool come upon you.” ~ Leviticus 19:19
Ever since childhood, I’ve lacked the ability to squeeze myself into nice, neat, clearly delineated categories. To make myself fit in tidy little boxes. Sooner or later, I rebel, I fight against this unnatural confinement. It’s in great part due to this, I believe, that I’ve never been able to remain in any mainstream religion.

They tell you that it’ll be better in the box; outside the box, it’s dangerous. It’s harmful. It’s sinful. It’s dirty. That’s a message I heard when I was still small and vulnerable to falsehoods disguised as supreme wisdom. It’s a message that’s hard to erase. It’s etched into you.

Outside the box, you won’t be okay. The fact that you’re thinking of getting out of the box means you’re ill or lost—or worse. Of  course you’re tempted by what’s outside: you’re essentially wicked, or at the very least unable to make the best kind of decisions on your own, because you’re not entirely in your right mind. Curiosity is bad. It’ll get you into trouble. Read Genesis again.

Now, the more loving authorities will say that their god loves you even if you decide to leave the box. But the truth is that he doesn’t love you as much as he does if you stay inside, like a good boy or girl.
“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin.” ~ 1 John 2:1
That’s the type of message I was exposed to, again and again: an infantilizing message that causes you to question everything you do, every thought you have. Can you really trust yourself? No. You’re too proud, or flawed, or blind, or whatever else. Being human is never good enough. You have to listen to Jesus, to the priest, to the elder, to the teacher, to the guru, to the master. You have to be obedient, and surrender yourself. You’re helpless without the one who knows better than you do.

You have to be guided by perfect rules and commandments. And you have to have the correct understanding of these rules and commandments. There are wolves and demons everywhere, eager to deceive you and lead you astray, both outside the box and inside your ailing self. Do you see now why you need strict guidelines, and overseers, and gates all around you?

No garment of mixed linen and wool must come upon you. Sheep to the right, goats to the left.

I’m genderqueer. I’m coloring outside the lines. I like to mix things up. This has been a “problem” for me for a long time. I feel happier, more comfortable, more at home in my skin when I wear masculine clothing, when I cut my hair. I’m not statuesque and look like a delicate, feminine man—what could be more blasphemous? I can’t look like someone who might have a Holy Penis when I don’t have one, right? I should know my rightful place. I can’t cross the line.

But I cross the line. Every time I do, I can see that it’s an arbitrary, imaginary line at that, just as imaginary as the religious fictions I once believed were true.

I can see why there are so many bizarre-sounding prohibitions in “sacred” texts. Once you start questioning what you’re told, there’s a fine line indeed between slavery and freedom; but if you’re fine with being forbidden not to mix linen and wool, whatever the fuck that even means, there’s not much you’ll question.

When I was still a Christian, I embraced a very mystical way of understanding the texts, one that left nobody outside of divine love—not even the devil. Everything would eventually be restored by love, everyone would find their way back to the waiting, open arms of love. My experience was that this radically inclusive way of looking at the world has two consequences. First, you reject the box—you need to go outside the box to love everyone—and then, the box simply disappears. You realize that there was never any need for it. It only existed because you were willing to live in it and let it enclose you.

Slowly but surely, you see that the world is what it is. Messy, sure, but also beautiful. Stupendous.

The dire warnings of preachers fade away, the old books crumble to dust.

There’s nothing to be afraid of. Me, my ties, my growing collection of tattoos, my thirst for knowledge, the people I love, the world I'm in, we’re all completely fine. There’s always room for growth, but that’s not the same as saying there’s something inherently wrong with me and everything else, that we’re afflicted by an existential mark or spiritual disease. No pure system will make our troubles and pain disappear; no amount of religious winnowing will create some sort of enchanted world where humanity is safe from disaster and questions and death.

Death isn’t the proof that we’re somehow cursed; it’s just something that happens because we’re physical and mortal. That’s all.

When the box, the “refuge” I’d lived began to waver like a mirage, one of the first things I did was start wearing men’s clothes, and it felt wonderful. More and more, I reintegrated, in a manner of speaking, the material nature of what I am. I saw that being material isn’t inferior to being a “spirit.” I learned, finally, about evolution, which made so more sense than any of the woo and fairy tales I’d been taught, and I realized that my brain is a fantastic illusionist. It’s vital to be knowledgeable about the nature of things, otherwise we’ll be fooled not only by every peddler of hogwash out there, but by our own brain, because of the way it works.

I’m so glad I crossed the line. I’m so glad I spiced up my life and sowed mixed seeds in my field. That’s when a multitude of flowers came out of the ground, all different and colorful and wild. The universe is more wondrous to me now than it ever was, and no eternal perfection could make my human moment in our universe more joyful and precious than it already is, exactly like this, with its ups and downs, its tears and laughter, its beginning and end.


Logospilgrim (logospilgrim.com) is a writer, renegade, and cosmic love vagabond, a secular humanist and gonzo maverick. You can find her books on her website, logospilgrim.com, and Amazon. She recently published There's a Hula Girl on my Dashboard: How I Left Faith Behind and Embraced Life

"In There's a Hula Girl on my Dashboard: How I Left Faith Behind and Embraced Life, writer, lecturer, and maverick Logospilgrim candidly shares the remarkable and passionate journey that took her from religious belief to secular humanism."

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Help Dopio and Other Orphans in Uganda's First Atheist Orphanage: BiZoHa

One of the orphans, Dopio Everlyne. Her father died and mum is too sick with epilepsy to properly care for her.
In March, I posted an interview with Bwambale Robert, Director of the Kasese Humanist Primary School in Uganda. With the help of the atheist and Humanist community, Bwambale is opening the first non-religious -- atheist -- orphanage in the world and he's doing it in Kasese, Uganda.

After a successful fundraiser by Hank Pellissier at the Brighter Brains Institute, construction began on the orphanage. You can follow the amazing construction of the new orphanage over at Hank's blog.

In the first 60 days since the initial fundraiser raised $5,830 for the construction of the new orphanage, just take a look at all that's been achieved!:
  • A primary dormitory building was constructed, with glass windows, for 25 orphans and staff.
  • A 30 ft deep latrine was dug.
  • A pipeline to bring fresh water was installed.
  • A substantial portion of the orphanage's 7 acres of land has been seeded with crops for the sake of future self-sustainability.
Here's a photograph of the new crops. The smart white and red building is the dormitory (building 1) of the orphanage.

Crops planted around the new BiZoHa orphanage dormitory building.
Since then, a generous donor, Dr Bruce Chou, anesthesiologist from California, has contributed $1,000, which is going to construct a classroom for the children. Construction has already begun on this new structure.


This is amazing progress for this project, but more funds are required to see it fully to fruition. Now that the buildings are going up, supplies are required to get the orphanage off the ground and functional -- so that children can move in.

Full disclosure, I am an honorary fellow over at Brighter Brains. Here is a list of the items we want to raise funds for.
Items Needed Now for BiZoHa Orphanage: 
  • $1,200 - Kitchen construction, plus pots, pans, utensils, and appliances
  • $500 - Solar panels - for electricity! BiZoHa is on the equator, with daily sunshine
  • $350 - 1/2 year salary for orphan's "Mother" Guardian
  • $350 - 1/2 year salary for orphan's "Father" Guardian
  • $925 - construction of Roadside Stand (where farm produce and beverages will be sold for self-sufficiency) 
This comes to a grand total of $3,325 needed. The goal here is to use this money to kickstart the institution into self-sufficiency.
BiZoHa Orphanage will be economically self-sufficient in 1 year. This goal will be achieved by selling corn, beans, cassava, peanuts, and lettuce grown on its farm, and by selling drinks at a roadside stand, on the adjacent well-traveled road.
Remember Dopio Everlyne, the little girl whose picture is featured on this post along with a previous post in November when Bwambale provided her with a kikoy dress? At that time, her father had died and her mother was too ill with epilepsy to care for her. She was living with her grandmother. She will be one of the first children to be moved to the new orphanage.
Orphans will soon be moved to BiZoHa - from Muhokya, Kahendero (fishing village on Lake George), and Kasese (provincial capital). The orphans - like Dopio (top photo) - are 5-8 years old.

Muhokya is near the Rwenzori mountains and the Congo border.
As mentioned above, this will be more than just a place to take care of children. A classroom is being constructed and the orphanage will be affiliated with the Kasese Humanist Primary School.
BiZoHa will provide its orphans with an excellent education, because they’ll be instructed by the highly-regarded, science-based Kasese Humanist Primary School (KHPS). Many graduates of KHPS advance to secondary schools and universities.

Secular education and atheism in Uganda is supported by Atheist Alliance International , Foundation Beyond Belief  , PZ Myers , and other irreligious groups and individuals in Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, USA, and Canada (the “Godless Poutine ”)
Like the Humanist school, BiZoHa has the humanist logo on the side of its first building, celebrating its humanist pedigree.


In addition to all of this, there are amazing rewards for donations, ranging from a copy of Bwambale's e-book Orphans of Rwenzori: A Humanist Perspective to getting your name or photo on a permanent plaque on one of the buildings.

There will be more updates to this as the weeks go on. For now, I'll invite you to follow developments over at the Orphans at Kasese Humanist Primary School Facebook page. I also encourage you to make a donation to this cause for the sake of secular education in Uganda and to show the world that atheists really do run organizations which help the community.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

How You Can Help People In Nepal


By now I'm sure you've read about the devastating earthquake which hit Nepal  -- magnitude 7.8. The death toll is already over 2,000 and at least one major aftershock has already struck the already smashed city of Kathmandu.

Foundation Beyond Belief's Humanist Disaster Recovery Drive has begun accepting donations which will be directed to relief efforts in Nepal (donation page).

Hemant Mehta, who is on the FBB board of directors,  gives us some background information about the effort, which ought to determine at least one eligible recipient organization by today.
We are still in the process of vetting a beneficiary that is secular in nature, efficient, and local. We should have that figured out by tomorrow. In the meantime, if you’d like to make a donation now, you can do so here so we can get that money out as soon as possible. 100% of your donations will go to that recipient — Foundation Beyond Belief doesn’t take any overhead for this. If you’d like to wait until we announce the charity we’ll be working with, I completely understand. You can see recaps of our previous disaster efforts here.
Hemant rightly reminds us that prayers aren't going to cut it. Real funds are required to help this city in the hard days to come.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Results! Humanist and Atheist Charities Sprouting & Flourishing In Uganda!

First building of the new atheist orphanage in Uganda.
There is something amazing going on in Uganda! People are getting together -- Humanists, atheists and others -- to help Ugandans help themselves! I know, it's not even close to religious charities in terms of size, but it's growing.

Earlier this month, I featured an interview with Bwambale Robert, one of the founders of the first atheist orphanage in Uganda -- and the world.
Like I said, we are breaking the monopoly that religious people alone have no right to own orphanages, people with no belief also care about orphans. I think this will send a signal to religious people that we are not sitting back when we see some injustices committed in the name of religion; we have had of pedophile priests, pastors defiling children, children made to do hard labor, children being molested or abused.
Well, thanks to a successful fundraiser, construction has begun on BiZoHa Orphanage. You'll find several updates on this over at the Brighter Brains blog.

Last update on the orphanage Facebook page are some photos of the first building, a hostel or dormitory for the children.

First building of the new atheist orphanage in Uganda is a dormitory for the children.

Here is a extract from Kasese Humanist Primary School Director and BiZoHa founder, Bwambale Robert from a recent update (30 March) on the page:
Here is a brief update on what is going on at BiZoHa Site in Muhokya, Kasese District - Uganda.
  • The hostel has finally been roofed with colored iron sheets.
  • The pit latrine has been roofed and plastered fully, it remains to be shuttered though plus fixing a curtain wall.
  • Tapped water has been brought to the site.
  • The latrine is almost complete as the remaining work is to put on shutters.
  • As it’s a rainy season now, we have cultivated ground nuts, maize and some beans on the Site plantation area.
  • The locals however are insisting that we put in place classrooms so that the very many orphans in this area get chance to attain quality education which still lacks in this area.
  • The constructed hostel will accommodate 16-18 orphans plus one caregiver.
For any kind of assistance to this cause, pass it through the Brighter Brains Institute through their website http://brighterbrains.org/

Attached are the images of the developments as they unfold. Many thanks indeed for supporting our cause.
In the wake of an extremely harmful anti-LGBT wave of fundamentalist Christianity flooding into Uganda from the United States, there now seems to be a small, building, wave of Secular Humanism and religion-free atheist organizations sprouting up. Although the money is most certainly coming in from well wishers outside of Uganda, these organisations are being founded locally, at the grassroots level with the plan of being self-sustaining.

You've got the Kasese Humanist Primary School, which succeeded in buying land for a permanent home (they are renting their old location). They then built a new campus and are now offering nursery school and primary school services. They also have a small medical and anti-parasite clinic on campus!

Of course, you have this new atheist orphanage under construction, with zero affiliation to any religion whatsoever -- apparently unique for Uganda.

Mario Mouton and Deanie Mouton are doing amazing work with their KidsHeartKids Humanist charity! Just recently, they completed a classroom for Humanist Empowerment of Livelihoods in Uganda (HELU).

If you missed what this is about, I posted about it earlier on this blog.
There’s a brilliant and highly achievable project in Uganda like this. It’s called HELU (Humanist Empowerment of Livelihoods Uganda). In Uganda, single at risk women with children often find themselves trapped in crushing poverty with little chance of escape. HELU welcomes them and teaches trades like vocational skills, farming, sewing and hair styling. HELU even builds them a permanent place to live -- brick hut with thatched roof -- and provides them with start up money to build a business so they can get their lives started!
Here's the classroom now! 



New HELU classroom. (source)
For the cost of a missionary's plane ticket and living expenses to go to Uganda and share one book, you can find locals that care, and local labor that needs the money to build a classroom and fill it with books.
I love it! You can help this project over at their website.

More recently, they have begun work on a chicken coop at the site to increase self sustainability. This is the first boost that the Kasese Humanist Primary School got a few years ago, thanks to this blog and others!

There's a lot going on in Uganda. So much that I don't think I can keep track of it all. This alone is a sign that things have picked up immensely since only a few years ago.

So I suggest you follow the above Facebook pages!

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Interview With Humanist School Volunteer and How You Can Help

Maseraka Solomon maintains and augments the computer lab at Kasese Humanist Primary School in Uganda.
Maseraka Solomon volunteers at the Kasese Humanist Primary School in Uganda. I've written before about his good work as part of a school staff profile series I did back in April of last year. I also did a post about a letter exchange done with US students which featured a short quote from Maseraka.

Maseraka is a graduate of Information Technology from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda's largest city. Since he has discovered Humanism and atheism, he has found his calling: to volunteer at the school and make a difference for young people in a dogma free environment. Getting children -- many orphans -- in Kasese exposed to computer technology and the Internet is a big step towards functioning in the 21st century workplace and opening their minds to a universe of ideas.

To make this possible, Melissa McAllister, a US ex-pat living in Bavaria, Germany has set up a fundraiser to help fund Maseraka's efforts.


Although Melissa has a disability which prevents her from traveling far from her home. She is now using her networking and crowd-funding skills to raise money to help Masereka do good for children in Uganda.

Awhile back, I set up a banner for the fundraiser on the right side of this blog, but I wanted to do more for him. I thought an interview with Maseraka might also help people know where he comes from and what he wants to do as a Humanist doing good for others in Uganda. You'll find Maseraka's responses to an email interview below. Note that I've corrected some spelling and grammar.

When and where did you grow up? How many brothers and sisters do you have?
I was born in 1989 in a small village called Kakogha Karambi Sub-County in Kasese district western Uganda. I stayed in the village with my mother until the age of five when my father enrolled me in town school where he had his business. My father had many wives and many children of which my mother has two boys and five girls. I am the last born of my mum.
Are your parents religious? Were your once religious?
My father died when I was still young but he was of a different unique faith. My mother is a strong Catholic who thinks everything is from the will of god. Dad was selfless Protestant who later converted to another religion of a man in Uganda who calls himself GOD and claims that Jesus never was. This man is called Ow’ obusobozi Bisaka’ he was a good friend to my dad. 
I therefore can’t say I was that religious because I was exposed to different beliefs. My dad was not strict with any of his children concerning religion. He was free and loving. He was friends with this Ugandan god because perhaps he also questioned the works of religions. He died of high blood pressure and diabetes in early 2000. I think he was a humanist/atheist but never knew how to define himself that because of the community he lived in.
How did you discover Humanism, critical thinking and science?
Sometimes we are made what we are because of the communities we lived in when we were young. Most likely a religious mother and father will bring up a religious child who will later believe the dogmas of her/his parents teach. I grew up in the hands of many parents.

My step mum was a Muslim. I saw how they all prayed. I used to ask my mother why Christians hate Muslims so much. I was never a friend of wasting my time to prayers, my mother knew that since childhood. I used to go to sleep when it was time for prayers.

With my dad it was different. His religion almost had the same Lords’ Prayers but there they are directed to the Ugandan Ugandan God Bisaka.

With all this exposure I was able to discover Humanism, critical thinking and science. I also credit much of the reading material provided by Bwambale Robert who is also a humanist and also my love for reading. I came to Bwambale because he was the only one that easily understand my style of life.
Did you come out as a Humanist or atheist to your parents and friends and family?
Yes, I came out as an atheist to my mother and family members and my friends. It has been hard for both of them to understand how possible it is to live good without GOD. However, I am firm with my atheism and humanism principles when I relate with my family.
Has this affected your relationships with them?
Yes, my relationships have been greatly affected. Some friends have limited their communication with me. I however try my best to explain what I stand for and why. I have also shown them that things are not possible because of god or prayers but because of hard work and doing well to others. I follow no ten biblical commandments, I value the ten principles of a rational world.
Has this jeopardized family support for you?
It has to some extent, but currently they are left amazed because of selfless ideas. I have two sisters who have greatly applauded my activities though they still want me to join them for prayers. I hope one time they will be joining my art of helping people live better lives. I have not distanced myself from my family members. I have worked and helped them in a number of activities. I have also been their best advisor and consultant whenever they have problems not limited to marriage/relationships, sickness, stress, and education. I think my atheism and humanism has positively benefited those around me.
Where are you living now? How are you supporting yourself?
I am currently living in Kasese town and spending most of my time working at Kasese Humanist Primary School Railway Campus. I love the teachers and the children there. We are the only school that has a sense of humanism. We understand our backgrounds and make discussions based on serious positive thinking. We teach just like other schools around but we are open to discuss reason and faith. What is supporting my life here is hard work and use of my skills positively. I think I am doing well to the community and the opposite is true though with a few challenges.

Life in Uganda is not easy unless one understands that Uganda is a developing country which needs to welcome development strategies proposed by different investors and also support human rights basing on reason but not faith. Because Uganda is God fearing state, it’s a big problem to develop positively.
What have been your volunteering duties at the school in the past? What are they now?
My volunteering duties have not been limited to exposing children to computers. It’s been a great deal of volunteering at Kasese Humanist. I have helped pupils write to penpals in other states supported by KidsHeartKids charity, teaching subjects like Social Studies, counselling children when necessary, meeting different people (the teachers) and explaining what humanism is.  Currently I am more than a volunteer at Kasese Humanist. I love the school and hope its quality continues to improve daily.

What do you require the funding for? Projects? Sustenance?
I thank all those who have so far put in a great amount of funds to my fundraiser. I have already paid for the printer and a new laptop, I also have a few plain papers, having enough plain papers, refilling the printer is important in order to keep providing teachers and the pupils with learning materials at Kasese Humanist.

I think humanity can destroy humanity but still humanity has all the power to save humanity regardless of their location, there are a number of problems both students, teachers and parents face as they all to look to have a good life.

Lives need to be improved. Learning environments also need serious improvement so as to have well informed population in future and now. With an informed mass we reduce the suffering and violation of human rights. When we improve our standards, we get life longevity and this is something also important as we fight the death verse. When the populations are having stress factors, they are likely to die young hence aging is disease we can treat by educating and improving or putting a smile on someone’s face.

With the funds, I am sure many pupils and teachers will have a smile and nice moments to remember hence improving their performance in all their activities. A number of projects can be implemented though small but they will mean a lot to the population which will benefit. Pupils face problems not limited to lack of enough exercise books, lack of mathematical sets, dirty uniforms because their parents are so poor that buying a bar of soap is a problem, torn uniforms without even buttons, dirty hair that needs to be clean or cut short, dirty teeth -- they actually miss that basic parental love and they deserve it.

I think helping such a population is perfect and rewarding, funds are wanted not to benefit me alone but they are meant to benefit a good number of children and improving the teaching standards of teachers at Kasese Humanist. Teachers drawing illustrations on chalkboards may be OK but it may also be a waste of time and very inaccurate. With printed illustrations, the pupils will save time and have access to better drawings and understanding improves. Let these pupils and teachers
also have a feel of modernization.
What are your plans for the future? With the school? Outside of the school? Long term career plans
My future plans are positive towards Kasese Humanist. I think following up the old students of Kasese Humanist Elementary School would sound good.

This calls for perhaps a high school with the same aims of exposing what Humanism and living godless lives means. I find it lacking when pupils move out of Kasese Humanist and most of them join high schools that actually consider prayers important for their success. I think my success has been out of good and hard work, you read you pass, you pray you are nothing but a big problem.

We need to bring reason over faith, we need no religious ideas to drive our education systems. I want to implement a number of projects based on the different acts of kindness that you can think of, they are many ways people can bring positive change to their communities.

Directing another secular school in Uganda is part of my plans, I think improving the quality of teaching in schools is key to having responsible and creative people. Ugandans are lacking because of too much religious departments in their schools. This is hard to understand for the Ugandans because even the state house family runs a family church. I am not there to convert people from their religions, I am there to impress Humanism and atheism. I respect no religion but respect science and reason.
Remember, you can  read more about Masereka Solomon and help to support him through a fundraiser being facilitated by Melissa McAllister.


You can read more about the Kasese Humanist Primary School at their website!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Classes Have Begun at the New Kasese Humanist Primary School!

Young students at the new Rukoki campus of the Kasese Humanist Primary School. (source)
My last post about the Kasese Humanist Primary School in Uganda, was written the day before classes began. Here's a little taste of how things are going at the new Rukoki campus of the school. Remember, it was our atheist, Humanist and Freethinker community which helped buy the land, bring electricity and build the brick structures which make up this new school!

If you're on Facebook, remember to go Like the school's page for updates about progress and ways you can help!

On February 2nd, day one on the new campus, School Director Bwambale Robert made a short update about new enrollment and included some pictures of progress in the School Hall, which is the largest, most impressive structure on the premises. Humanist Canada is helping to fund this exercise and here's a link to the photos.
We have today begun the 2015 Academic year, at the Rukoki campus, a total of 62 pupils were registered today and we do expect the number to shoot up in the course of the week. Painting works for the School Hall is in progress.
(source)
Two days later, Bwambale shared that student enrollment at the school had already reached 89! I'll just partially quote his post, but you can find more pictures there!
I today managed to take snapshots of some pupils making use of the just concluded classrooms, the pupils are having good time studying in a quiet and conducive environment. The parents are appreciating the good looks, smart and elegant colors and the good teachers we have just recruited.

As the majority of the pupils are new students, their uniforms is being made and in more weeks ahead, most of the children at the Rukoki Campus will be clad in school uniform.

As a commitment, i assured the parents that we will try our best to offer quality balanced education to the learners. Some of the things not usual in most primary schools are the buildings themselves, well stocked library, computers, science laboratory, spacious site, vocational skills workshop and evidence based learning!, Kasese Humanist Primary School is moving slowly and steadily in the right path to success.

Am attaching images of some classrooms, school hall updates, poultry updates and the outdoor school environment. With Science, we can progress.
(source)
(source)
(source)
To give you an idea of how quickly things are progressing at the school, just two days later, Bwambale updated again about the new Pelissier Science Laboratory, which has been constructed to help treat students for intestinal parasites and other illnesses which affect their learning and quality of life. The laboratory was stocked by Hank Pelissier from Brighter Brains Institute after a successful fundraiser.
Some months ago, the Pellissier Science Laboratory was established at the school. The purpose of this laboratory is to show case the school purpose and commitment to promote science through service delivery. The lab handles simple medical examinations, tests and drugs to our children, staffs and a section of our parents, it also has reservations of stocking up some of the usual science apparatus and science related model requirements that match with our educational system. Lastly the laboratory offers first aid treatments to our students.

Funds that maintain the smooth running of this lab is catered for by the Pellissier Family based in the United States who are friends to the school. Their assistance is a gesture aimed at saving lives of children and staffs at the school. The laboratory is managed by a qualified medical lab technician who does the stool and blood examination. Attached is an image of one of our dedicated staff issuing out some medicine to one pupil who is suffering from Malaria. Indeed Science has better answers to solving the problems that affect our lives. With Science, we can progress.
A huge thanks to Hank and the Brighter Brains Institute, of which I've been made a fellow! I've been called an interesting fellow but I've never been on someone's staff as a fellow.
(source)
The school now has a dedicated medical staff member to diagnose and treat common illnesses including parasites. (source)
I've been following the school for at least three years now and the progress has been astounding!

If you would like to help, why not donate some money to the following organizations?
(Paypal: Choose Kasese Option)

(Paypal)

(Directed Donation at bottom of page.)

Remember you can also subscribe to the school's Facebook page! They are very responsive, so if you have any questions about how you, specifically, might be able to use any special skills or knowledge to help out in a non-conventional way, just leave a comment on their posts!

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Classes Begin Tomorrow at New Kasese Humanist Primary School Site

The school has really come a long way! Classes scheduled to begin in earnest at new site, tomorrow.
Here's a quick update on the new Rukoki campus over at the Kasese Humanist Primary School in Uganda taken from a recent update on the school's Facebook page.

Classes begin full swing tomorrow at the school. Classrooms have now been mostly furnished. The furniture itself along with library shelves has been made in their own workshop.

Meanwhile, the other buildings on the campus are being connected to the electrical grid. Electricity was actually brought to the land via a fundraiser on this page back in 2013!

Here's a couple more photos of the school, which is painted in the official KHPS colours! Check out the stunning landscape!

(source)
(source)
I still cannot get over how far this school has come since almost precisely two years ago when School Director Bwambale wrote me about purchasing new land for the school!

Remember, you can help this project by donating at one of these locations!

(Paypal: Choose Kasese Option)

(Paypal)

(Directed Donation at bottom of page.)

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Help Uganda Single Mothers Help Themselves

HELU is yet another positive Humanist organization in Uganda. (source)
Back in November, I posted about Mario Mouton at KidsHeartKids who is running a fundraiser to construct a classroom for HELU, Humanist Empowerment of Livelihoods Uganda. This organization helps give job skills to single mothers so they can become self-sufficient. Funds have been raised to begin the construction, but more funds are required.
We have come a long way, but we still need to finish the classroom floor and fill it with supplies. This classroom will free up mothers participating in a program to get them on their feet and provide a better life for their kids as well as and provide a nursery and preschool for their kids. Help us, Help them...Create some smiles.
Check out this construction update I made back in November.

Interested? You can help out at the fundraiser's GoFundMe page!

Monday, 15 December 2014

Help Kasese Humanist Primary Students Learn - Without Intestinal Parasites

Around 3.75 IQ points are lost per parasite infection and an MIT study “found that deworming was by far the most cost-effective way to increase primary school participation.” Kasese Humanist Primary School student (source).
I truly believe there is no greater force for positive change in the world than bringing knowledge and critical thinking to young minds through dogma-free evidence-based education. However, no mind can flourish if the body withers. This is why my first fundraising project for the Kasese Humanist Primary School was an egg-providing chicken coop.

Intestinal parasites, which are a common problem in the Kasese region's primary schools, work directly against this goal.
Worm infections interfere with nutrient uptake; can lead to anemia, malnourishment and impaired mental and physical development; and pose a serious threat to children’s health, education, and productivity. Infected children are often too sick or tired to concentrate at school, or to attend at all.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

HELU Classroom Construction Begins in Uganda!

HELU is yet another positive Humanist organization in Uganda. (source)
Back in October, I posted about a brilliant initiative by Mario Mouton of kidsheartkids.com to build a classroom to help educate children while their mothers learned valuable, life-changing, trade skills at HELU (Humanist Empowerment of Livelyhoods Uganda) in the Gulu region. A fundraiser was set up to raise $1,500 to build a single classroom structure and various thank you items were offered to donors -- I donated $50 and got a nice t-shirt!

Well, as of today, $840 has been raised. That's pretty good! So good that the project was started on November 17th even with funds being short.

Work begun on November 17th. (source)
Well, as I've mentioned before in my post about Humanism at Work in Chicago, KidsHeartKids fundraises at conferences by selling autographed copies of books and other materials at atheist, Humanist and skeptic conferences. It turns out that people over at Skepticon bought so many books and were generally so awesomely amazing, that the classroom construction is completely funded!
We went to a conference called Skepticon and raised enough funds to ensure that the HELU classroom can be fully funded. We will continue to raise funds for it, because once there is a structure we will need to fill it with classroom supplies, toys, and various other needs. Thank you to everyone that contributed. In the funds we raised this weekend we will also fulfill our Art Supplies contribution to Uganda Humanist Schools Trust and we have a ton of stuff to send to Kasese Humanist Primary School. More importantly, we brought a lot of attention to the schools that will hopefully lead to support in the future. Thanks.
So the structure itself is funded, but so far it will just be an empty room. If you want to help put stuff into it, then why not truck on over to the fundraiser page and chip in a few bucks.

As you can also see, KidsHeartKids supports the Kasese Humanist Primary School as well as other Humanist schools in the region. Over the past couple of years, I've seen nothing but amazing results from these charities. Unlike other large charities, you see immediate improvements for your donated dollars. Real difference is being made here for children and communities.

So, my American friends, while you sit down to a turkey (or tofurkey) dinner and are perhaps thankful for what you have, why not contribute a little and make a big difference. You can call it penance for the deep fried turkey or whatever you guys eat! 

A donation to any of these charities might also counteract BLACK FRIDAY which is sort of disgusting... well at least to this Canadian it is.

First batch of building materials being dropped off at HELU for new classroom yesterday. (source)

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Kikoy Dresses for Uganda Orphan Girls

Dopio Everlyne, age 5, Upper Nursery, father died and mum sick with epilepsy, lives with grandmother. 
Kasese Humanist Primary School Director Bwambale Robert and Hank Pellissier, Director of Brighter Brains Institute have teamed up to create a fantastically simple and effective way to help orphan girls in Uganda.

In a nutshell, they have hired a local tailor to make custom kikoy dresses for orphan children throughout the Kasese District -- mainly impoverished regions near the Congo border.

Help Orphans in Uganda Humanist School - buy a girls dress for $12

It really cannot be any more simple. You send twelve dollars and an orphan girl gets a dress.
We paid our tailor - Mr. Safari to sew 100 dresses of East African Kikoy cloth. We will give these lovely, well-made dresses to orphan girls who reside throughout the district, many in remote orphanages maintained by widows.
Just to prove that this money is not going to waste and to show just how amazingly effective your $12 was, a photograph of the child in the dress will be posted onto the Kasese Humanist Orphans Facebook page!

One of the first children to receive a dress from longtime Humanist school supporter, Mary Bellamy.
(Kasese Humanist Orphans)
Or more specifically, you will get:
  • A Thank You note from a director
  • A photograph of an orphan girl wearing a dress you purchased - holding a Thank You poster addressed to you (whenever possible*)
  • HTML copy of the upcoming book Orphans of Rwenzori - a humanist perspective - authored by the directors of this campaign.
I don't know how anyone could deny that this is value for your money!

* (2014-11-14) Depending on whether the dress is delivered locally or mailed (to save costs), the personalized photo might not be available. In cases where distances are too great, post will be used. Other times,  the girls may simply not be available to immediately change into the dress upon delivery, or technical difficulties may occur with photographic equipment. In these cases, a well-taken photograph of one of the orphan girls will be sent instead. This will allow this initiative keep overhead as low as possible in order to concentrate on optimizing the number of dresses distributed -- e.g. 12 were just mailed out to an orphanage in Jinja.


Just in case you are still skeptical of where the money goes, here's a breakdown of the expenses:
The kikoy dresses cost us $6.50 in materials and labor. Another $1.50 is spent on transferring/ wiring fees. Delivering dresses to orphans costs about $1 per dress.

The remaining $3.00 per dress cost will be donated to the 34 orphans of Kasese Humanist Primary School, to help pay for their tuition, meals and rooming.
The Kasese Humanist Primary School in Uganda has been a life changer for hundreds of local children and families. You can help them help the community and improve knowledge of science and skepticism in Uganda at the same time.

This initiative is also extremely smart because it employs local industry to help the local economy, it cuts out any substantial international shipping costs and shipping times and it has a very small carbon footprint.

Just in case this isn't enough. Let's take a look at who we're helping here.
Uganda has 3.5 million orphans - almost 10% of the population. Children are parentless due to AIDS, civil wars, violence, accidents, and abandonment.

An orphan life in this impoverished nation is difficult. Uganda’s per capita income is $567 per year; rural income is half that. Education for orphans is limited. When they “age out” of orphanages, many become “street kids ” sniffing glue, stealing, scavenging in garbage dumps, begging. Among girls, 60% end up in prostitution, where the HIV/AIDS rate is 37%.

Small Ugandan orphans are often naked; girls’ dresses are frequently old pillowcases.
We're talking about $12 dollars to immediately make a positive change in an orphan's life.

Read all about this initiative over at the Kasese Humanist Orphans Facebook page!


Sunday, 9 November 2014

Help Science Education In Uganda & Get a T-Shirt

Brilliantly simple design.
What a weekend. Had so much to blog about but so little time. So, I'll just plug this t-shirt that Mario Mouton over at KidsHeartKids is selling to raise funds for Humanist Schools in Uganda.

Go check it out at TeeSpring.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Uganda Humanist School New Site Nears Completion!

Kasese Humanist Primary School office block is just one of several buildings at its new permanent Rukoki campus.
Amazing progress is being made over at the Kasese Humanist Primary School in Uganda!

My first involvement with the school was raising money for the construction of a small chicken coop at their current Kasese Railyard location. They are renting this location, but not for long! The Humanist and atheist community was able to help the school purchase new land in Rukoki and since then, new buildings have been going up for a new campus! The plan is to move the school to this new permanent land.

There is so much going on, that I really recommend you check out their excellent Facebook page maintained by School Director, Bwambale Robert. Here are just a few highlights from what's been going on just in the last month.

In my last update, I reported that work had begun on a new, much larger chicken coop at Rukoki campus. This structure is now complete and even contains chickens.
Some a month ago I embarked on finishing up the chicken coop at the school permanent home with funding generated from an anonymous donor who gave me funds to finish up the chicken house that had stood some months being un-roofed. I did the job swiftly and now I am happy to report that the house is now being used by the chickens.

There are some delays however from my poultry provider in processing out my order for a 100 one month old chicks which according to him will be collected from his poultry farm on 6th November 2014. I have however stocked 50 local breeds to keep warming the newly constructed coop as i wait for the 100 layer chicks. 

(source)
The school emblem is even being painted onto the administration block! Being someone who's witnessed the school go from a rundown abandoned rail station to its own campus, I can't help but get a little choked up with emotion.

(source)
Here's a smart sign being painted onto Building 1 which I believe is the blue-roofed building shown in this older satellite image (I'm regularly checking for updated satellite imagery showing the new campus). You can tell this is the first building because it has a power line feeding into it. As far as I know, it is the only building being fed with electricity on the campus at this moment, as a new line had to be run from the city grid.

(source)
There is also a sizable courtyard which School Director, Bwambale Robert, has been clearing for the children to safely roam about on and play organized sports. Quite recently, he has also acquired some worn out truck tires which will contribute to an excellent, safe and durable playground.
In my long journey of ensuring the children at the school get access to adequate playing materials, as a starting point, I have purchased a good number of worn out car tyres, these are gonna help me when we design out playing materials for the children, outdoor playing improves and refreshes the brain of a student. 
(source)
The school is also constructing a wall around its perimeter to keep small children in and vandals out. Because of the size of the new campus and the solid building materials (brick), this is taking awhile to complete, but progress is being made. One of the walls will be reinforced with a new administration office for the nursery. Separate administration staff is required for nurseries and primary schools by Uganda law.
The northern side is complete as in fencing and a sizeable office to house the Nursery section Office has been created. Its like hitting a bird with two stones, this house stabilizes the fence at the same time helps us in putting an office in place.
Construction begins on wall. (source)
Northern wall. (source)
Within the perimeter will be school gardens as well which ought to teach the children about agriculture and provide sustenance and crops to sell locally.
Owing to the size of the property, the other extreme portion on the western side will have a secured edible school gardens where children will learn skills in vegetable growing plus a standard size playing field. The outdoor playing materials will be housed in the fence, I salute my teachers at the school for all your efforts to educate the pupils and continuing to support my cause as you enlighten young Ugandans with an education system free from dogma and indoctrination.
If you would like to help in the effort, make a donation over at Atheist Alliance International!

Search This Blog