On Thursday, 27th April and 4th May, more than 300 youth graduated from skills-based vocational trainings led by Reach Out Mbuya Parish HIV/AIDS Initiative that aim to address the high youth unemployment in Uganda and provide HIV-infected or affected vulnerable youth with practical job skills.
The first of this year’s graduation ceremonies, which was held at the Reach Out Mbuya site in Banda during the afternoon of 27th April, recognized 160 graduates of programs funded by Barclays Bank of Uganda in shoemaking, catering, motor vehicle mechanics, and welding. The remaining 146 graduates received their certificates in tailoring at the Reach Out site in Kasaala, Luwero district on 4th May.
Reach Out Mbuya’s services include social support targeted to youth out-of-school or individuals without a formal education background. Vocational training programs like the Barclays-funded program equip youth, women, orphans and vulnerable children with entrepreneurship, financial knowledge and management skills.
Reach Out Mbuya has led trainings in partnership with the Barclays Bank citizenship since 2006. In four years of trainings, the program has helped empower more than 700 youth and women. During other years, the training also included skills in beadmaking, arts and crafts, knitting, and crochet.
This year, Reach Out Mbuya also worked with various enterprises for mentorship and practical training, including Crane Shoes Factory, Nafona Shoe Manufacturers, and Reach Out Mbuya’s Roses of Mbuya tailoring workshop. The program also included adult and computer literacy education.
One of the beneficiaries receiving his certificate on Thursday is now 17-year-old Katumba Isaac, who completed a training in metal fabrication and welding for eight months.
When he was 13, Katumba lost both of his parents to HIV and was left an orphan with five siblings. He is also HIV-positive; as a child, he did not understand why he took medicine every day until a community health worker finally disclosed his status to him.
“I can’t express how I felt, but just know I was half-dead for almost three months,” Katumba said. “Education became harsh for me. I hated everyone including my relatives.”
After his parents died, Katumba was put under the care of his aunt. But after she lost her job, the adolescent stopped going to school and began babysitting her one-year-old baby while his aunt sold cassava chips in the nearby market.
“Ever since I joined, I have come to believe that my future dreams are about to be realized,” Katumba said. “I have learnt a lot of practical concepts in the field of welding. I feel that my dream of supporting my little sisters who are struggling with school fees in the village will soon become a reality.”
See this New Vision story about the event for more information.