Sarah Nayiga

Programme Director SOS Children’s Village Gulu SOS Children's Villages in Uganda

It is possible!

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It was the village educator job that was very confusing at the start, but there was all the will to perform it excellently, doing the best all there is, to support each child and co-worker. This involved a lot of commitment to have it right, and do the right thing. Self-sacrifice is part of the puzzle, helping children to do their homework, supporting mothers to follow up on the individual development plan for each child. This task was not clearly understood but lots of hours and energies were put in place to have it work because it was an important aspect of child development that needed to be alive, since SOS Children’s Villages carries it dearly as a brand domain.

Many children were supported to do better in school through special remedial sessions including actual instruction as a teacher, the profession I never signed up for. The determination and dedication at times meant that I had to do more than one role. This aspect I have carried through to date. The role which was a little bit of everything, made many people’s lives easy: Mothers were supported in documentation of their work, sponsorship department received data for the sponsor letters that were needed on time, the Village Director received all the support in report compilation, the youth care co-worker received all the support for children’s placement, follow-up and regular motivational sessions for the young people. Central to this was the child protection activities that were crucial. It was the hearty commitment to make a difference that kept the fire burning on the inside. No wonder it is still alive in many lives of young people today with one of biggest achievement. A good number of students were recruited by Hermann Gmeiner international college. Their lives have not remained the same to date and their story changed and Uganda has the biggest number of students at Herman Gemeiner internationalcollege and can now access international university scholarships all over the world.

Supportive supervision fires up the passion
The support that came along from several supervisors to date, makes me feel like it is working and the passion to impact more children gets bigger and stronger. This many times brings in a lot of need for critical assessment whether the movement would not cause gaps. With all due respect, I was allowed to take on the sponsorship coordinator role at the national office that I had applied for. The new job opened doors to work with over 490 children and young people within programmes of SOS Children’s Villages. Knowing each of them by name and face was very interesting but also challenging. There were strict deadlines; the need to be articulate and timely for the work to meet the required international standards. Let alone the individual needs of sponsors abroad across all donor continents. The numbers of sponsors in this period grew from 1500 to over 3500. Creativity was part of the parcel as there was need to keep the sources of information, children, mothers, youth care workers, still interested.

The move from national sponsorship administration to fundraising gave rise to a comprehensive knowledge of work in order to support more children. This was tough and needed a lot of patience, a strategic mind and honesty. Getting individual givers, corporate givers, manage events was stretchy but fulfilling. At the end of the day, funds were realised and this confirmed to the fact that at times one needs to follow their heart (self-made commitment) to do work outside their training and they get results.

Back to the initial passion
It was time to reconnect to the initial passion, but this time to a larger scale as more results needed to be visible in work. The major focus was to influence many lives of children a national child and youth development coordinator. This time all issues to do with children in SOS Children’s Villages Uganda were on my desk e.g. one child strategy, child and youth development involving advocacy, guideline development and strategies for implementation including child admission, education, child protection, youth care, psychosocial guidelines from scratch to paper in context of local and international SOS standards. I still feel that it is many children’s lives at stake if co-workers do not know what to do. I see a need for standardisation of tools, ways of work and then look for results. The torching stick was the focal view on child protection programme development in SOS Children’s Villages. This faced resistance among co-workers. Overtime it got clearly understood and practiced.

All we can say is that despite the fall it is not o.k. to stay on the ground. One always has to restart and believe in their work. Going the extra mile was the order of the day. Even then, it was still possible to focus on the individual child and young person. As a result we can now see clear fruits many youth have decided to serve their country as lawyers, accountants, educators, business men and women and those that received their money gift have started independent living. This required me to play a role of an aunt, helping young people to settle in their new families “now married”.

Change that can never be contained
Soon, with the changes in the organisation the passion for the SOS Children’s Villages’ work grew stronger. Many co-workers who had worked in the organisation for many years needed to look at innovative ways of doing the work, for the better. The target was clear now: Reaching the child who has no parent and those that are at risk of losing parental care. We are now meant to work more with the communities and build on what already exists. The communities including government authorities are more than glad to have an extended hand in support of children who are at highest risk. The quality of SOS Children´s Villages work in Gulu, spoke louder and often opened door for partnerships. No wonder partners sign up to hold hands with us. Till today, we have many committed co-workers that are willing to go the extra mile. This is done in teams that focus on real issues that cross the path of their daily work. The needed change and the transition can only be a conduit for greater success. To keep core values is very important too. It is only the past that can propel us fast into the future. It is paramount to note that what gives long lasting satisfaction is not a position or title but rather the contribution one makes to people and the children that smile back at him or her.

Remain visionary and keep achievements
Remaining visionary but not losing the achievements made to date is crucial. Today we live in a more constrained world with little resources to do what we would have wished to do. It is better that we sit in the boat with others that are like-minded. This is how teams in Uganda have been able to go beyond the set targets. There is no one way of reaching the goal. We all have a contribution to SOS Children’s Villages mission whatever position or task, if we do things right and with passion then we are building SOS together. Trying out new things and supporting others, trusting teams to do work builds lasting trust among colleagues. If we engage others, it is the most reliable way we can build strong relationships that can enable us support more children.
It is now time to rekindle what was the hub of the beginnings of the work in Uganda: The standards, the collective achievements over the years and the energies provided to other new county programmes, utilizing the skill and professionalism to propel further success. Being creative and brave enough to recombine knowledge and skills to undertake new roles with new goals is paramount.

To all my co-workers: It is possible not to loose the individual picture of a child in what seems like a path not so defined, pressures from all circles speak loud for a change. Many children still need our help. We can do it faster, taking care of each other, not feeling overwhelmed in changing lives of many beneficiaries and communities. Going beyond minimum requirements is what makes the SOS Children’s Villages grow. SOS is the sum of all people going beyond limits to provide the best care and dedication is the major force in building trust both internally and externally.

Sarah Nayiga Kalungi

joined SOS Children's Village Uganda in 2003. She ist Programme Director at the SOS Children’s Village in Gulu, Uganda.

What she treasures most at work is team achievement; that is why working in team to achieving best results is for her a treasure highly desirable. Level of team achievement and motivation go hand in hand and the latter is always on her mind as she begins the journey to accomplishing any given task. A trusting and caring environment form the treasures of family as a cardinal value, elements of which are: being well provided for, trust, a helping hand to the less privileged and a striving for common happiness. Living these values is for Sarah always a choice consciously made. Leisure for her is a mindful search for work-life balance: She cooks for the family, works in the garden, picks time for hearty laugh with friends etc. For Sarah, home is synonymous with hosting. It is an art, a game to be made: Creating special moments for family members and friends, designing home surroundings into pleasing scenes for eye and mind etc.