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

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."

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)
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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, 29 December 2014

Huge Progress at Kasese Humanist Primary School!

Newly-built children's desks at the Kasese Humanist Primary School in Uganda. (source)
I can still remember the very first days of building repair at the new Kasese Humanist Primary School Rukoki campus like it was yesterday. Back in March 2013, modest repairs began on a single damaged building on newly acquired land for a permanent Humanist school in that region. There was no electricity to the building yet and a huge gaping hole was in the wall where someone had made off with the last door.

Picture of single building on Rukoki campus on March 2013.

Since then, entire classroom blocks have been constructed and the tiny chicken shed I helped them construct in 2012 has been replaced with a brand new building on the new site! So as to not waste anything, School Director Bwambale Robert has hired local craftsmen to convert some of the old timbers from the shed into desks for the children, some forty! They are using the school's new vocational centre (training workshop) as a staging place for this construction.

From a December 16th Facebook post:
Making furniture at the school site is going on smartly and the carpenters are trying to speed up the works, so far they have made forty twin desks. Each desk accommodates 3 pupils and on average, we normally place 12 desks in each class. The KHPS CLASSROOM is designed to accommodate 50 children per classroom.
Here are a few pictures of the carpenters building the desks.

Carpenters at work in the Kasese Humanist Primary School vocational workshop. (source)
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Bwambale wrote on December 21st that they were 50% done the furniture.
Right now I am 50% done in making up the school furniture for the Rukoki Campus, have tried making 40 twin desks, 2 sitter benches totaling to 10 and Twenty stools. All these so far plus the 24 plastic chairs we have for toddlers can have 184 pupils sitted and this puts us at a better side. I will perhaps do more furniture as in teacher’s tables, filing cabinets, Vocational center tool cupboards and shelves. Also will try to ensure each classroom has a size-able cupboard or book shelf.
Back in August 2013, I posted about how electricity was soon coming to the school grounds. Well, now Bwambale has put in an order to get clean potable water connected to the school. I believe this is even a step above the old school grounds.
On the other hand, I have today filled in an application to the National Water and Sewerage Corporation to extend safe piped (tap) water to the school permanent property and i am optimistic before the school reopens we will be connected to the water grid.
I am also working on ramping the School toilet and the lower primary classrooms at the site. Ramps are very important as they allow disabled people to go in or out of a building, even wheelchair bound persons can have free movement either side of the building.
As well, on December 21st:
In an effort to finalize works on the 8 stance toilet, we are working on a curtain wall to shield off the latrine from other school buildings for privacy reasons and in line with the Uganda Ministry of Education Minimum standards, we have fixed ramps on both sides and we have partitioned the toilets separated by a brick wall, we shall also make urinals with tiled walls to allow urine flow with ease to the soak pit. We intend to put wash rooms as well for bathing purposes.

Outside of the toilets in the vicinity, we shall install a plastic rain water harvesting tank to help the children in washing their hands, bodies after visiting the toilets or after games time.
I'll be looking forward to some pictures of this!

In a more recent Facebook post, Bwambale shared recent construction work on the Main Hall building. This is the largest building on the campus and last year around this time, it was at risk from an oncoming rainy season. Well, the structure itself was completed and now, thanks to generous help from Humanist Canada, more finishing work is being done to it.
On 27th December, I was working on the school hall again after some silence. Works on completion of this unit is courtesy of Humanist Canada who provided some funds to complete and beautify this unit soon and so far not bad. The floor had to be filled with soil, add a layer of murram on top and construct a small wall to act as a foundation for the stage which will be raised from the other area of the school hall.
Today, the builders started the work of adding a slab which will cover the entire inside part, other tasks to be made are working on pouring the ceiling and possible plastering, floor smoothing, ramping to the stage and finalization of the stage area.

The school hall will serve the following: Venue for important Examinations like Primary Leaving Examinations, school meetings, social functions and important events like debates and possible marriage functions of some locals.
Wouldn't it be fantastic to see Humanist wedding ceremonies take place in this hall?

Building a small stage in the Main Hall for social and community events. (source)
Main Hall (source).
Ceiling of Main Hall will be covered with concrete. (source)
In case that's not enough good news for you, a fundraiser by Henri Pellissier from the Brighter Brains Institute to build a low cost parasitology laboratory at the school was a success!
Brighter Brains Institute (BBI) has raised $2,675 in only two days to launch a “Parasitology Laboratory” in western Uganda, at Kasese Humanist Primary School (KHPS). The de-worming institute will slay helminths that lurk inside the 325 KHPS students and the 70,000 inhabitants of Kasese, a Rwenzori mountain town. The laboratory will also instruct students in medicine, hygiene, and human biology. BBI raised its funding via a GoFundMe campaign.
Henri will be travelling to the school in a couple of weeks. A space is already being prepared for the new facility.
On 26th December, I was at the school site the whole day trying to engage my builders to do works on the Pellissier Science Laboratory where work on the ceiling is in progress.
Great progress into the new year at the Kasese Humanist Primary School! You can help the school out by donating to one of these organizations!

(Paypal: Choose Kasese Option)

(Paypal)

(Directed Donation at bottom of page.)

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, 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!

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Build the Classroom & Get Your Name On It!


Last year, I attended the Humanism at Work conference in Chicago. It was put on by the Foundation Beyond Belief and centered on how nontheists can put their compassionate humanism to work for a better world. A lot of the emphasis was on effective fundraising. I was struck by David Smalley’s talk about keeping goals simple and not overwhelming donors with wildly ambitious challenges that left people with a sense that what they could donate was not significant enough to make any real difference. A sort of cynicism sets in.

This is the secret to making a real difference in this world. Real movement, sustainable change for the good comes from small incremental steps forward. When donors have a sense that they can give enough to make a difference, they are no longer overwhelmed or intimidated. They don’t give up. They are empowered.

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!

This is excellent, but it can be made even better with a single, simple achievable goal. Mario Mouton, who runs the excellent charity KidsHeartKids.com, explains a new fundraiser he’s set up to enhance the services provided by HELU.
While the women are receiving their training, the children predominantly wait outside all day.  We can provide a unique opportunity to help these women out by building a classroom with preschool to early primary education.  This will get the kids a head start on schooling, provide the mothers with much needed time to concentrate on their tasks, as well as provide a healthy environment for the kids to develop, themselves.
This can be a reality for $1,500 -- just 150 donations of $10. At the time of writing this, over $400 has already been raised!  This is a gift that will go to something concrete and will keep on giving for as long as HELU is required in the region. You will be helping current mothers and future generations by giving kids a space to be safe and learn while their mothers acquire the tools to secure their livelihood.

Just seeing the classroom being constructed and knowing you’re part of a small group of donors who made it possible is reward enough, but there are physical thank you items as well.

items.jpg
From left to right: Dreaming of Africa print, Ingersoll quote t-shirt, Jamira art print.
Donors will have their names put onto a poster which will be sent to HELU. A ten dollar donation will get you onto this list.

  • A twenty-five dollar bronze donation will get you a 12”x14” Jamira art print and listed in the bronze donor list.
  • A fifty dollar silver donation will get you a T-shirt with the quote “Give to every human being every right you claim for yourself”, a 12”x14” Jamira art print, and listed in the silver donor list.
  • A seventy-five dollar gold donation will get you a T-shirt with the quote “Give to every human being every right you claim for yourself”, a Dreaming of Africa art print, and listed in the gold donor list.
  • A one-hundred dollar platinum donation will get your name engraved onto a plaque to be permanently displayed inside the classroom, the T-shirt, the Dreaming of Africa art print, and the Jamira art print.

Want to feel like you’re making a direct different to the lives of single mothers and their children in Uganda? Want to get your name on the wall or onto a poster as one of the important donors who helped make something life changing for mothers and children possible?


This fundraiser was created by Mario Mouton who runs the charity KidsHeartKids.com.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

KHPS Building New Chicken Coop

The new chicken coop is miles ahead of the original one.
Bwambale Robert, School Director of the Kasese Humanist Primary School in Uganda, has been updating us on the progress of school construction at the new permanent site at the school's Facebook page. By all measures, this is a great success.

One measure is the chicken coop. Back in 2012, this blog along with help from other blogs sent the school enough money to build their own chicken shed. The structure is a smart wooden box -- two stories of chickens.

The original wooden chicken shed at the original leased railroad KHPS site.
Well, since then, with the help of donors, the school has managed to buy its own land for a permanent site and has constructed permanent brick structures for classrooms, latrines, kitchens and training centers. Well, now construction is progressing well on a new chicken coop -- a much bigger one that will allow the school to move towards self-sufficiency.


Bwambale's update:
KHPS coop construction update in photos. Floor slabbed, meshing exercise in progress. Two doors fixed, gable plastered, one front metallic door procured and to be fixed soon at the main entrance.
As for the old coop, it will not be wasted. The timbers from this older structure are still fairly new and will be recycled to build chairs and desks for the new classrooms at the new site.

Take a look at the whole picture set over at the Kasese Facebook page! There, you'll also find out about how a charity has recently sent a shipment of used shoes to the school which has already been distributed to those in need of them.

Remember you can support this effort over at the Atheist Alliance International donation page.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Update From Kasese Humanist Primary School

Kasese Humanist Primary School student, Christine (source).
Wow, it's been awhile since my last update about the Kasese Humanist Primary School in Uganda. I went ahead and emailed School Director Bwambale Robert to get the latest news. Here's the response I got.
Am okay and all is moving on fine. Atheist Alliance International sent in funds amounting to 2.7 K and much of it were mega donations of 2K from Australia. I also received funds from private donors who wish to remain anonymous who gave me funds to finish up the chicken coop at the school site, this time the coop is more spacious and permanent.

Like I told you some months back, upon completion of this new coop, all the chickens we have in the other wooden coop will be transferred in this new one and the timbers from the old coop will be taken to the vocational workshop at the school to make school furniture for the classrooms, there will be nothing lost in this.

Construction kicks in early next week as funds for all these activities are already on our side. As usual I will keep all of you posted on what is going on. Many thanks for your efforts Sean plus of-course all well wishers, supporters and partners.
This is great news. Nice to see the old coop, which this blog helped construct, being put to good use! As you can see, Atheist Alliance International is a huge help to this school. Since the beginning, they have helped collect and send funds and the school has prospered over the past few years -- sending money to Uganda can be quite a struggle, believe me, so this is a huge service they are doing!


You may be wondering who the beautiful smiling child is at the top of this post. That's student Christine and she was one of the students who received a letter from their pen pals in the USA. The letter writing program is being made possible by KidsHeartKids.

Here's Bwambale's update over at the school Facebook page.
It was an exciting moment today 10th September at the school as children participating in the Letter Exchange Program received their return letters from their friends in the USA courtesy of KidsHeartKids Charity. In the package received were also a Soccer cleat and some pairs of socks.

Delivering the package, the School Director Bwambale Robert thanked all participants in this program to keep the friendship strong and encouraged children to always stay in touch with their counterparts as it will help them so much in learning from each other, know what is happening in other countries plus the students improving their skills in letter writing which is a way of communication that brings people together. He told them that we now live in a small world where now the world is a global village.
Go check out the post to see more pictures of happy kids.


Children show some of the gifts they received inside their pen pal letters from the USA. This service is brought to you by KidsHeartKids (source).

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