Covid-19 has created serious food insecurity and risk of eviction for Elgon Ngoma Troupe's youth...your help is deeply appreciated.
The Elgon Ngoma Troupe is a community-based non-profit in Mbale in eastern Uganda that was founded by Julius Wolimbwa just over 10 years ago. The aim is to help children and youth living or being exploited in the streets of the region by getting them off the streets, back into school and discovering and developing their potential in traditional African music and dance. During these past 10 years, Elgon Ngoma Troupe has helped about 100 youth improve their potential for self-sustaining futures. Julius has dedicated his life to helping youth in the region, knowing as he does the life of a street kid – hunger, homelessness, no education, risk of exploitation and child trafficking – because he was an orphan himself at age 9. His musical talent, intelligence and the help of some caring teachers helped him to create a better life for himself and now for other street kids.
Mbale region is a very poor rural area that lies just south of a region where ethnic strife between 1990-2010 caused much devastation. In 2018, the government estimated the number of children and youth living, or being exploited, on the streets to be 15,000 nationwide – 4,000 of whom are in Mbale district. There is little government support for street kids so non-profits like Elgon Ngoma valiantly try to fill the void.
Elgon Ngoma rents a small, very basic house (with no indoor water or toilet) for some of the youth and Julius works to reunite others with their families where possible. Maximum capacity in the house is 12 though there are usually 15 crowded in, and since Covid-19 hit, 25 youth between the ages of 8 and 16 now share beds.
With the arrival of the pandemic in mid-March and the resulting government lockdowns and economic damage, Elgon Ngoma has seen their usual donations and funding sources all but disappear resulting in significant food insecurity and the risk of eviction from the only home the youth have.
A message from Julius (Founder & Executive Director):
Raising funds for the basic survival needs of our Troupe has become an extreme struggle and worry since Covid-19. Prior to that we managed with difficulty and often the youth would go hungry for about a week most months but they were happy, safe and generally in good health.
Then Covid-19 lockdown restrictions imposed since mid-March have left us with no income, and mounting unpaid rent with ever-increasing risk of eviction. Some small donations have allowed us to so far provide basic food supplies which we ration so to stretch as much as possible.
The lifting of Covid-19 restrictions for gatherings, performances and school re-openings are not expected until the new year. When that happens, none of the youth will be able to attend school unless we can raise money to pay their school fees. With so many youth now in our care, we will likely have to make the difficult choice as to which youth will get the privilege of going to school and which will not. These youth have dreams of making a good life for themselves, be at as musicians or teachers or nurses, and even university lecturers, engineers and pilots. My heart breaks when we cannot provide enough food for them, but it shatters when I have to tell even just one that we do not have the money for them to attend school.
I humbly ask for your support with whatever amount you can afford. No matter how small, for us it is always much generosity. My deep gratitude to all for whatever help you can provide.
A message from Palma (Campaign Administrator):
I met Julius while attending the Rotary International Convention in Hamburg in May 2019, following which I was heading to meet my daughter for a 6 week backpacking trip in Eastern Africa. Both Julius and I are Rotary members in our respective small hometowns. As luck would have it, Mbale was near the beautiful Sipi Falls where my daughter and I were hoping to spend two days, and Julius kindly offered to host us.
While there, we had the opportunity to tour the home of the Elgon Ngoma Troupe, meet the youth who live there and learn about Julius' amazing work with the youth. Julius is dedicated to ensuring a family atmosphere and respectful environment for the Troupe members, developing their talents in traditional African music and dance to instill self-confidence, self-esteem and pride, and making an extraordinary effort in trying to ensure that all the youth receive a formal education which costs approximately $750USD per year per child. The Troupe’s talent brings opportunities for paid performances which provide about 30% of the funds needed to shelter, feed and educate the youth while also being a source of immense pride and joy for the youth. Former members who have ‘graduated’ from the Troupe volunteer as mentors, trainers and supervisors for the current youth and also provide administrative support.
My experience with Julius and the Elgon Ngoma Troupe was inspiring in seeing the spirit and determination of these former street youth, but it was also humbling in starkly exposing our immense privilege in the developed countries. The skills and opportunities for a better future that Julius and the Elgon Ngoma Troupe bring to street kids in eastern Uganda has become a cause that I could not leave even though I left Uganda.