The History

R.E.A.CH started life as Bury African Outreach (BAO) more than 30 years ago. BAO was established in 1992 by Bury resident Betsy Keating following a visit to Uganda. Betsy was shocked by the number of children she met who had lost their parents and were homeless. When she returned to Bury, she began raising money in her local community (hence the name Bury African Outreach!) to help raise funds for these vulnerable children. To date the charity has helped more than 300 children to get a good education and provide essential medical care. These children have gone on to gain jobs such as Teachers, Nurses, Hotel Managers and Priests.

R.E.A.CH is committed to making sure the children we support are as safe as possible (During the COVID-19 Pandemic the charity has been alerted to the fact children have gone hungry and responded very quickly to send money for food).

R.E.A.CH’s main role is to raise funds to support the education and care of vulnerable children. This is done by either sending funds directly to trusted advisors or by funding the initiation and development of small self-sustaining community projects which will in-time raise funds to support children within the community.

The Charity Today

In 2012 the charity founder (Betsy Keating) and her fellow Trustees (Derek Roe, Pauline Roe and Hugh Spink) made the difficult decision to ‘hand over the reins’ after 20 years of managing BAO.

Having visited Uganda themselves in 2010 and seen first-hand the incredible work done by BAO; husband and wife team Tom and Lydia offered to take over the ongoing management of the charity. Alongside them Phil and Rebecca Lay have joined the team and make up the remaining trustees/committee members.

Like the previous trustees before them, this new team all work voluntarily and do not take any money from the charity in wages, expenses or travel.

“We jumped at the opportunity to take over the running of BAO. We visited the children in 2010 and saw the great work being done and how the money is significantly changing the lives of these children.” Tom (Secretary)

“The children are incredible, a true inspiration. I will never forget my time with them. Taking over the running of BAO means that we can ensure that they all get the childhood and education that we all take for granted in the UK.” Lydia (Chair Person)

“The great thing about BAO is that it doesn’t spend excessive amounts on things like advertising, salaries and offices etc. As a trained accountant I hope that my skills will help us to maximise the amount of money we can send to Uganda.” Phil (Treasurer)

Tom and Lydia returned to Uganda in 2013 to evaluate progress and establish links with a Stockport-based charity ‘Helping Uganda Schools’ (HUGs); with their support R.E.A.CH now has links with the Good Shepherd Special School (in Western Uganda) and the 2 organisations have worked together on a number of projects since this time.

After 30 years as BAO, in 2022 the trustees decided that it was in the best interests of the charity to change the name. As our supporters were from all over the UK (and the trustees were no longer in Bury), we felt as though we could broaden our reach with a name that wasn’t linked-specifically to a place in the UK. R.E.A.CH (Reaching East Africa’s Children) was born!

Schooling in Uganda

The schooling system in Uganda is very complex!

Many people ask does the Ugandan Government provide free schooling. The answer to this is ‘Yes!’ However, it’s not that straight forward…

Government Run Schools

‘Universal Primary’ education is supposedly free education in Uganda however (despite not charging school fees), students are required to pay for many items in order to attend and many families simply cannot afford this.

State schools are also incredibly oversubscribed, and its common to see more than 100 students in one classroom. Meals also aren’t provided so children go hungry and struggle to concentrate. The school environment makes learning quite difficult..

Privately Managed Schools

The majority of the schools in Uganda are what you might call ‘private.’ Mention the words ‘Private School’ in the UK and you may think of something reminiscent of Hogwarts reserved only for the most wealthy and privileged.

It is not like this in Uganda!

Private schools in Uganda are still very basic. Classrooms rarely have electricity and look more like a garage or scout hut than somewhere you would expect a lesson to held.

However the smaller class sizes (approx 30-50 students per class) provide a much-improved level of education. Furthermore, these schools provide basic food at lunch time for the children. This means that they are more likely to be able to concentrate in class. Again however, these schools do not cater for children with any kind of disability or special educational needs.

The Good Shepherd Special School

Good Shepherd Special Needs School is a Non-Profit Organization owned by the Daughters’ of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, locally known as Banyatereza Sisters. The need for a school for children with special needs in Fort Portal, Western Uganda was first mooted by Sr. Theresa Abigaba some years ago based on her experience as a teacher in mainstream primary education. She noted that accessing the Curriculum remained difficult for children with disabilities, particularly those with learning difficulties, due to large class sizes and limited expertise.

The original intention of starting a special school was to have children complete the Primary cycle and continue to Secondary level, which has been achieved because of Individual, special attention provided to these children. Many have managed to score high grades at the end of Primary school and continue into Secondary schooling. Another aim of the school is to raise these children’s status and value in their community – often special needs children in Uganda are abused, neglected or abandoned because they are seen as a ‘curse’ or worthless to society. More to this, the school’s aim is to build respect, responsibility among young children who have special needs for human rights; so that they feel they are worthy human beings with dignity and become useful Citizens with a future. Foster their long term self-sufficiency, and to protect them from exploitation and child abuse of every kind.

Categories of disabilities we have in the school: