Bette with students during her trip to Uganda.
Bette with students during her trip to Uganda.

Warwick guests lend a hand

CHILDREN in Uganda are surviving on one meal a day and running the risk of being kidnapped and raped as they walk to school.

These were just some of the stark realities of life Bette and Owen Bonney were presented with when they visited Ararat Christian Junior Academy on the outskirts of the country’s capital of Kampala in August.

The couple was invited to be guest speakers at a conference which brought together pastors from across Africa by the college principal, Pastor Gideon Kabenge, during his recent visit to Warwick Christian College.

They were asked to speak on a range of issues including their establishment in 2015 of the Flexible Learning Hub at Warwick Christian College to teach teenagers who didn’t fit the normal learning system.

Mr Bonney talked about his experiences as principal managing a small school and Mrs Bonney spoke to a group of 40 single mothers about Warwick Safehaven and its work helping women and children in domestic violence situations.

“It was 45 minutes outside Kampala in a rural area that was poor and dusty,” Mrs Bonney said.

“They have to pay fees but they chose to go there for a better education.

“Despite being such a poor country, they have a culture of joy and hope.”

Mrs Bonney said the single mothers struggled to pay school fees but Pastor Kabenge, who had a Masters Degree in Business, had devised a business plan for the group to cater for such events as weddings.

Working together, the women would hire out a gazebo and such services as food preparation and waitressing.

Mrs Bonney said it was not uncommon for men with a couple of children to abandon their families after selling all their possessions.

The women worked from daylight to dark in hard physical labour, like digging gardens, to make ends meet and give their children an education and a better life.

“While we were there, we celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary,” Mrs Bonney said.

“That’s a miracle,” they were told.

The school has 120 students of which 35 are orphans, many having lost their parents to AIDS and 10 of the children are HIV-positive.

All the students and teachers are given one cooked meal a day of maize and beans which, for most, is their only meal of the day.

At the end of the day the teachers take home one or two of the orphans to sleep at their homes which are rented by the school.

“From my perspective, as nine years a small school principal, that would be the last thing I’d like to do but they do it and do it cheerfully,” Mr Bonney said.

Despite their poverty and conditions the children had high ambitions, Mrs Bonney said.

“It’s certainly been an eye-opener,” she said.

“We came back with a resolution to raise sponsorship from here in Australia for the school and the single mums”.

  • For more information or to assist, phone Mrs Bonney on 0429 432 510 or email bettebonney@bigpond.com.

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