Shifting the power to the community with FICH [VIDEO]

By Maria Creamer | March 30, 2021 | Africa & The Middle East | Education, Gender Equity, Youth Empowerment

Emmy Zoomlamai, Founder and Executive Director of Foundation for Inclusive Community Help (FICH), in Uganda, shares details about the organization’s work, its long-term partnership with Global Fund for Children, and the impact of COVID-19 on children and youth in the community.

Emmy is particularly proud of FICH’s new multi-purpose community center, built with funding from GFC. Located in a remote area of Uganda that lacks basic infrastructure and access to technology, the center is part of FICH’s effort to shift the power to the communities it serves and expand opportunities for the people who live there.

“FICH was founded in 2010 with a vision to see a generation of healthy, innovative, productive, and self-reliant youth, women, and families in the community. This is a vision that started after the conflict of the Lord’s Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony for over 20 years in northern Uganda. FICH works to transform youth, women, and families through education, training, and opportunities in thriving communities.”

How would you describe the community FICH works with/for?

FICH works in schools and remote communities with poor infrastructure, like roads, which limits access to more social services for women, children, and the community in general. There are difficulties in access to health services and access to school for children. [There are] no clean water sources from the community where FICH has recently established … a multi-purpose community development center. This is endangering the lives of young children and making them suffer from diarrhea and malaria; hence, making children drop out of school, which [in turn] is also promoting … [early] pregnancies. There is also limited access to information and technology equipment such as computers, printers, and internet usage. Our children cannot access information because they lack some of this technology, and providing this for the children will provide access and knowledge on how to use them.

How did FICH’s partnership with Global Fund for Children begin?

In July 2013, I received a phone call invitation from someone called Emmanuel Otoo, and he said he wanted to come to our office. I then directed him to our remote office in Alidi, Oyam District, here in Uganda. When he came, he introduced himself, that he’s from Global Fund for Children. When he went back to the United States of America, he sent me 31 questions to answer about FICH and myself, but I was not checking my email for close to two weeks. But then the email he sent, it was already 13 days ago, so when I answered the questions, he responded later. He responded later that Global Fund for Children is going to give us the grant. Then we got our first grant from Global Fund for Children in 2013, after answering 31 questions that were sent by Emmanuel Otoo, the staff [member] from Global Fund for Children.

How would you describe FICH’s partnership with Global Fund for Children?

I could spend several hours speaking about this, but in short, GFC supported FICH in several ways. The first one: GFC supported FICH to rebrand itself. Before, we were called “Fight to Improve Community Health,” which did not represent what we do. But now we [rebranded] ourselves as Foundation for Inclusive Community Help, which brings all the programs that we do together. GFC supported FICH in terms of organizational capacity assessment, and we were able to understand our capacity, based on the assessment done by the consultant. Also, GFC’s interaction with FICH has made and motivated our human resources, our personnel; we are very much motivated as a team working within the organization. We have staff who have never left the organization, but they are very motivated because of the hope they have in FICH’s growth because of the partnership between FICH and Global Fund for Children.

GFC supported FICH in fundraising and capacity in terms of influencing policies, so at the moment we are able to work with the policy makers and influence them to change what we really need for the children. For example, we are part of the civil society organizations influencing the curriculum reform for Uganda. Also, we are very privileged that we understand the office administrative procedures because we have the policies which have been developed by the board, so we have a very strong governing system governed by the board of directors, who are very focused and [are] concentrating to ensure that FICH succeeds. Recently GFC supported FICH with a grant where we were able to establish a multi-purpose community development center.

You can see [in] the background the building we have just recently constructed with the support from GFC. So that is FICH’s agenda to shift the power to the community, and we were very proud and excited to partner with GFC through Step Up program initiatives to ensure that we understand what “shift the power” means for the community.

What are the greatest needs among children and young people that you see emerging?

We have interacted with community members and realized that access to education and health services is a huge challenge in this community for children and young people, because of the distance of these facilities. Also, the issues affecting children and young people in this community are access to clean water; information and skills to use technology like computers and the internet; and lack of skills to generate income from agricultural activities, since most of the community members and young people are farmers.

How are you responding?

FICH is shifting its administrative operations to the very remote communities and establishing the multi-purpose community development center to bridge the gap and address the effects of COVID-19 in the communities and the effects of conflict that have been in the region. This is also our “shift the power” agenda, to strengthen our relationship with communities we serve so they can realize their full potential.

Secondly FICH is redesigning its programs’ approaches, which provide access to technology for program participants and underprivileged communities living in hard-to-reach areas. We have also started scaling youth in agricultural activities, especially in growing horticultural crops like cabbages, onion, tomatoes, among others, so that they are able to increase their household income and children can go back to school and young people can get employed.

How has your organization had to adapt due to the pandemic, short and long term?

FICH has the advantage of being community based with its office locations; this does not require a lot of [administration-related] operation costs during this limited funding moment. COVID-19 is even providing us more opportunities to design cost-effective programs and get program participants involved in the process of decision-making. We are establishing community-based structures to continue providing services to program participants. For example, we have identified and strengthened community mentors who are role models, to provide support to children and young people in the community.

What are some of the fears/hopes you’ve heard from young people related to the pandemic?

Young people foresee challenges in continuing and scaling some of their social programs due to limited funding for most community-based organizations, like FICH. The most vulnerable and underprivileged communities will have the [most difficult] time in coping with new changes of access to services due to COVID-19. Young people think economic hardship will continue, and many children may drop out of school, especially girls. Young people hope for high creativity and motivation toward learning, since many people are losing their jobs and businesses are becoming depressed.

FICH’s presence and its growing closer to the community with the multi-purpose development center are providing the opportunity for community and children to access information and network with local and international peers through the internet and social inclusion programs, such as sport activities in the center.

You can see from the background: children are relieving their mind with football [soccer]. In addition to sport activities, the center will provide opportunities for emerging leaders to come together and discuss mutual interests to influence practices and policies, so this is the hope of young people in the community where we have shifted. Thank you very much and bye!

 

Learn more about how GFC is supporting children affected by the coronavirus – and how you can help.

Header photo: Young woman watering FICH crops in front of the organization newly built multi-purpose community development building. © FICH

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