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The desire to help the vulnerable forced former USPA boss into charity

The Aliguma Foundation is one of those charity organisations that have come out to address the plight of the vulnerable in marginalized communities, especially women and children, in Uganda. Sabiiti Muwanga caught up with the CEO/founder of the foundation Ms Rita Aliguma and asked her questions on the birth, progress and prospects of the foundation.


Qn: Madam Aliguma, tell us, what exactly is Aliguma Foundation?


Aliguma Foundation is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that uses sports and enterprise top champion the plight of the maginalised in communities, especially children and women..


Qn: Why did you choose sport in particular?


We believe that sports and football inherently offer a transferable set of skills for social development through team building, acceptance, tolerance and discipline. It's a simple philosophy, but one that is having a tremendous impact on the population particularly Children and their Mothers.


Qn: Who takes part in these tournaments?


Over 50 teams take part in each edition. These come from all areas around Kampala (slums) and the just concluded edition had 52 teams.

These tournaments attract teams

We have international players like Joseph Ocaya and Sadat Anaku (Dundee, Scotland) who have been part of these programmes in the Acholi Quarters. We hope such players will be an inspiration for the young ones still at home. The tournaments have thus become another base for talent identification.


Qn: So, so far what do you have to show in that direction?


Since 2017, we have organized eight slum soccer tournaments in Acholi Quarters, one of the biggest city slums in Kampala. These events have secured peace in the slum, fostered teamwork and love in the community and have also helped the youth in the community to abandon bad traits like drug abuse and other vices.

We have over 280 hitherto marginalized children in schools that we partner with, through our education programme. We pay their school fees and we also meet some of other school requirements as the need may be.

Nicole Apio, currently working with NBS Sport (Next Media), is one of those who have gone through our education programme. As a young reporter, she was nominated for the AIPS Young Reporters Programme (YRP) and she has already scooped local award. We believe that all these will be testimony for the young ones to show them that despite the living conditions, hope is not lost.

 

In the education programme we are not gender sensitive as boys and girls are considered equally.



Qn: So do you help the women through educating their children?


That’s not all. We also try to empower women economically. We started with the Books Project. The women make exercise and quire books for school going children. We know this is a booming business especially during the back to school days. The surrounding areas have come to learn of the project so every beginning of term these women especially in Acholi Quarters make some good money selling the books.


Qn: So what is your biggest dream for the Aliguma Foundation?


The completion of the Aliguma Foundation Empowerment Centre in the biggest dream, and upgrading the Acholi quarters pitch which we use for our Sum Soccer tournaments.

We have already acquired 15 acres of land at Kinuuma village, a suburb of Masindi Town and construction of the empowerment centre is already underway. We expect the centre, on completion, to cost about five million euros (about 21 billion Uganda shillings) and so far we have injected close to 400 million Uganda shillings.


Qn: You appear so enthusiastic about this empowerment Centre, what should one expect of it when completed?


Other than the sports activities that we shall continue to use to address challenges in marginalized communities, the centre will also address economic empowerment. We hope to start/install a production unit for sanitary pads as we improve on menstral hygiene, there will be a warehouse, accommodation for guests and teams that may choose to use our facilities for residential training and a demonstration farm.

On the sporting side, we shall have two football pitches, one with a running track; basketball courts, and a facility for American football. We are already teaming up with the American National Football League (NFL) for that purpose.




Qn: This sounds a bit too ambitious. How do you hope to achieve this?


I am a woman of faith. As money comes in we embark on a particular project.


Qn: Have you had any external assistance or funders in this regard?


Our primary funder is the UEFA Foundation for Children with whom we have a two-year contract that is renewable in case they find out that we are making good progress.


There are also individuals, incidentally football players plying their trade in Europe, like Wilfried Singo of Olympiakos in Greece but from Cote d’Ivoire. The others are Ola Aina of Nottingham Forest but from Nigeria and Bremer who plies his soccer trade with Italy's Juventus.

The American Embassy, United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) have also given a hand. The International Sports Press Association (AIPS) has given us a platform to advance our cause and it is through such that we made contact with the UEFA boss Alexander Ceferin.


Qn: But how did you conceive this idea of starting up a charity organization?


As I grew up, I wanted to become a journalist but I was always passionate about charity, or even setting up an orphanage. Even in my village, I used to feel pity about children going about without shoes, wearing torn clothes and my mother used to collect clothes to take to Hoima to the needy there. Even when I was at school, I always asked my mother to organize two packs for eats because the second one was always for those who could not afford to bring any.

However the turning point was in 2019. Working on an assignment as a journalist on UBC TV, I met a young girl Janat Arach working in a stone quarry in the scorching sun. I later learnt that she was in P6 at St. Matia Mulumba and she had just been sent home to get school fees and she was working in the quarry to raise the fees. I felt touched. I swore to myself that Janat must return to school.


When I got back to my duty station, I mobilized friends and Janat returned to school but that was not all. I thought I needed to do more for the plight of these women and their children in the Acholi Quarters slum because all these mothers I discovered, for all the responsibilities they carried, they were earning less than one dollar a day. Many of them worked in the stone quarry while others collected used plastics for resell.

I am happy to announce here that Janat, one of the pioneers and beneficiaries all through of our education programme, is now in high school at Kireka High School.


My birthday was around the corner and I vowed |I would celebrate it in a big way with these slum women. I mobilized friends for whatever everyone could afford and indeed it turned out to be a big do. We donated clothes, sugar, soap and other domestic necessities and the women were very excited and happy. Since then, we have not turned back.

And using my sports journalist’s background, I used it to mobilise and bring happiness, peace and hope to the people in the slums.


Qn: What is your turnaround so far that you boast about?


They are many, but the biggest so far is the education project that has turned around youths’ fortunes to give them a glimmer of hope in the future. Like I mentioned before, we have been able to guarantee decent education for over 280 children since 2019.

The 15 acres of land for the empowerment centre is also another breakthrough for the Aliguma Foundation because this will hold our legacy even when we leave this earth.



Qn: Where do you see AF in the next 5 years?


Our main focus is on the empowerment centre. We are vesting a lot of energy there because, as the name suggests, this is where we expect to empower women and the vulnerable girl child, educate and also provide employment opportunities. We know the centre will lead ud into the path of self-sustainance so we don’t entirely depend on donations.


Qn: But who is this daring Rita Aliguma?


I am a simple human being, passionate about the plight of the vulnerable. One thing that I want people to know about me is that I am a go-getter. When I set out for a mission, my desire is always to see it to completion.

I am a trained journalist with a bias in sports journalism and that is where I have risen to be appointed vice president of the most credible journalist body in Uganda, the Uganda Sports Press association (USPA). I was also the first Ugandan to be nominated for the AIPS Young Reporters Programme and since then I have been on their radar. I am also a mentor for the Hong Kong Sports Press Association and, until Covid 19 set in, I was always invited on an annual basis for their camp.



Qn: You have not talked about your marital status

That will be a discussion for another day, not today.


Qn: Any message that you would like send to fellow women out there, or even other leaders in their various capacities


To fellow women, let us have self-belief. We will achieve whatever we desire as long as we have focus and faith.

To the government: we appreciate the Uganda government for the peaceful and and conducive environment that has enabled us operate smoothly. However we add our voice to those voices that have been heard before. We appeal to our government to support organisations and individuals that are trying to transform society in any way.


We get free donations from well-wishers, which donations we also give out for free. However, these donations are overtaxed at the point of entry yet they are meant to improve the lives of Ugandans something we do to supplement the government role. We pray for tax exemptions in such cases.

 

 

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