Katereza Marathon - Taking Quick Steps Towards Achieving A Big Goal

Text by Ibrahim Batambuze, Reach A Hand, One World Partner

In the depths of the Western Uganda district of Mbarara lies a small happy village called Katereza. It is gifted by nature away from the pollution of the bustles and hustles of the town, presenting an apt countryside environment. All this could have been worth the savour, but this settlement is marred by the appalling state of schools, no access to healthcare, limited access to electricity and nail biting poverty.

Katereza’s population is 60% of school going age. The answer to this call is that there is only one school - Katereza primary school - whose numbers drop per year that passes. According to a baseline study done by RAHU and the Global Livingston Institute, 60% of the mothers have given birth without the guidance of or care from a trained medical personnel. Most of the 1500 households in the village use kerosene lanterns as a power source by night fall, and these have been known to cause arson-related hazards in places with similar characteristics.

In the wake of these challenges, Katereza Community Alliance (KCA), an initiative by  Reach A Hand Uganda (RAHU)’s adopt a village program with the interests of Katereza at heart, steps in. Being a youth-led non-profit initiative, KCA aims at empowering the village by placing emphasis on the spheres of education through early childhood literacy, renovating the only school, improving healthcare by providing a health centre, poverty alleviation and providing renewable and alternative energy sources (electricity) like solar.


The Katereza Marathon came in as a first of its kind event. It was a charity based run, aimed at bringing to reality one of the ambitions of KCA - improved health service delivery. To zero it down more, every single penny raised was to be allocated to the construction of Katereza Community Health Centre, which too would be the first of its kind in the remote village.

The event was slated for and executed on December 27th 2016, also coming in as a late Christmas gift for the ‘Katerezans’ who contributed to the marathon through participating after paying a modest fee. It also attracted sponsors and well-wishers, especially Unilever Uganda who provided gift hampers and prizes as well as and One World Children’s Fund who blessed KCA with its first grant.

It was a 10km long race, and the participants felt every impact there is about a marathon. The sweat, fatigue and exhaustion crept up, and some runners yielded and fell off the course. However, a good number persevered and managed to reach the finish line, with Gift Bagembe  finishing ahead of all and taking the cash prize of 500,000 UGX home.


Athan Ananukire, one of the participants in the run referred to the marathon as a mind blowing experience.

“It was great seeing different people of different age and wealth levels coming together to run for a common challenge. It certainly gave us, Katereza residents the feel of Christmas joy” mentioned.

Reach A Hand Team Leader Humphrey Nabimanya heralded the marathon as a key uniting factor among Katerezans and the outer community, using the success to foresee a brighter future for the community.

“This year’s run brought together so many people who appreciated the cause. I can see Katereza with improved structures and systems in health, education and economical  empowerment of young women and girls” Humphrey said.

The run will be an annual event, serving as a uniting factor for the residents and  well wishers, and also as an income generator for the activities. As Humphrey said, there is no better way to help people than to have them involved.

You want to support or donate to Reach A Hand, Uganda village program, visit One World Children’s Fund. Click here to donate

Bitone Photo Essay Uganda

The Art of Healing

Bitone Center in Uganda uses traditional music and dance to heal trauma and inspire youth leadership

By Rucha Chitnis, Director of Storytelling & Line Stage Clemmensen, Social Media Intern

Photographs by Rucha Chitnis

Aisha Nabitosi says the purpose of her life is to make people feel they are not alone. “I lost my father when I was very young. When I first came to Bitone, I felt alone and didn’t have love my heart,” she said. When Aisha was 14, she connected with Bitone Center, a Kampala-based group that uses traditional dance and music to heal trauma and build the leadership of vulnerable children and youth.

The rhythms of traditional Ugandan music fill up the rooms of Bitone Center. Bitone was founded by Branco Sekalegga, who felt it was important to create holistic models for leadership development by allowing children to explore the rich cultural heritage of  traditional Ugandan performing arts. “I grew up in difficult circumstances, but I was able to go to school and received a scholarship to go to college. I felt it was important to give back to the community to other children, like me,” said Branco.  

Branco Sekalegga is the founder and Executive Director at Bitone. He believes that traditional arts are powerful tools for healing trauma and building youth leadership. 

Branco Sekalegga is the founder and Executive Director at Bitone. He believes that traditional arts are powerful tools for healing trauma and building youth leadership. 

The big vision of Bitone team is to create a performance troupe, where youth can showcase their talents and build their leadership and interpersonal skills.  “Music is powerful. It gives children, who have experienced trauma, an opportunity to express themselves and understand their self worth and potential”, said Branco. The Center is also home to nearly 18 children and youth, who receive education, room and boarding.

Desire Nakibirango, the Center Coordinator, sees Bitone as part of a larger vision to touch the lives of other vulnerable children through music and dance. “We have a passion to see children empowered and their talents recognized,” she said.  The Center also teaches children food gardening to strengthen their self sufficiency. They now want to lease land, where they can grow their own food, build a home and theater for youth performances.  “We are are nurturing a nursery bed of the next generation of leaders,” said Branco.

NovatoSpirit gives children hope through sports

By Marian Schinske, Founder and Executive Director, Novato Spirit USA

Seeing that many children in my hometown of Novato, California were not able

to participate in sports due to financial limitations, I founded a nonprofit a

decade ago. Since then, the nonprofit KarmaSpirit, which now does business as

NovatoSpirit, has helped hundreds of low-income children experience the

transformative therapy of physical exercise.


The sports we offer are therapeutic, because we have good teachers. Where

there is a good teacher, there is hope. And where there is hope, there is



All children need hope, especially those living in poverty. As you know, poverty

can magnify health problems. So many of the kids who participate in

NovatoSpirit have a significant health issue, such as asthma, obesity, motor-skill

difficulties, depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And increasingly so, some are homeless.

Marian Meme.png


Our athletic teachers are patient, kind, and persistent. They encourage each

child to try new moves, even if that seems impossible, and the child learns how

to move beyond self-doubt. Children are placed in situations where they

discover their precision, their strength and their harmony with others. They

practice empty-handed, unadorned. They see what they can achieve with

nothing but mind, speech and body.


We award each child an athletic scholarship for 5 years, and during this time,

they learn how to move through their difficulties. They learn that they can be

asthmatic and excel at tae kwon do. They can be homeless and win gold

medals at karate tournaments. And they learn that depression will not prevent

them from rising above the dance floor.


They proceed with difficulty, but they proceed nevertheless. They see they’re

not ensnared by their so-called abnormalities. And, perhaps, they begin to

cease glorifying what society calls “normal,” focusing instead on embracing

what they can do with who they authentically are.

One of our dancers said, “Dancing is like becoming a work of art—a

masterpiece. I hope I can keep dancing forever.”

And one of our tae kwon do students said, “I am learning different techniques

that teach me self-defense, self-discipline, respect towards others and

endurance. Some of these techniques are kicks, punches and locks. Although

this may seem simple or violent, that’s not what tae kwon do is about. This is

the art of self-defense and not violence. I have learned that showing up every

day ready to participate and absorb the knowledge from my master is essential.

I find myself wanting to learn more and better myself.”


Besides offering the benefit of physical fitness, sports can generate a sense of

purpose. And the mentorship of a good teacher over several years can help

children orient themselves towards a hope-filled future.

We are grateful to have the support of several charitable organizations,

including our partner One World Children’s Fund. To learn more about

NovatoSpirit, please visit www.novatospirit.org.

Girls To Women, USA

On Sunday February 21st of this year, we hosted the inaugural public showing of the girls’ Words of Wisdom art and literature project at Café Zoe in Menlo Park.  Over one hundred parents, family members, volunteers, donors, staff, and Board members attended.   Each of our participating girls had posted a framed, large-format version of her choice among the project-related digital photos which she’d taken, along with a mounted & printed statement which she’d written exploring the subject of ‘wisdom’ and featuring a particular quotation which she’d selected from statements made by family members, noted public figures, or others. Each girl introduced and summarized her installation, and her process involved in creating it.

The impact on attendees was palpable, and parents seemed particularly moved by the event.  One mother was holding back tears while she observed how valuable it was that our programming didn’t confine itself merely to the imperatives of academic support (as important as those are), but broadened developmental opportunities for girls to include activities in the arts.

Manuela, one of our 9 year old participants, had been petrified at the prospect of having to stand before more than one hundred people and deliver her presentation.  With a little calming-down and coaching from staff member Kristyn Crouse however, Manuela gathered her resources and surprised everyone – not least herself, we believe – by delivering a very articulate and forthright explanation of her project for one so young and unused to public speaking.

Finally, we observed that the event brought together parents and other family members who aren’t always willing to be under the same roof together, on behalf of their girls.  We could see how thrilled more than one of these girls were to have both of their parents and extended families present to acknowledge them and the hard work which they’d put into their Words of Wisdom projects.  Thanks again to OWCF for making this possible.


Qian Zhen Memorial Scholarship, China

PAN Qianqian is a Scholar whom we selected in 2012, her sophomore year. She is the only child of a low income worker’s family. Since high school, she had worked in various factories doing menial tasks to help alleviate her parent's financial burden. She has always been studying hard, winning academic awards since middle school.

After joining the Qian Zheng Memorial Scholarship, she was able to reduce her hours in part-time jobs as a tutor and had time to take up classes during the summer quarter in math modeling and electronic design. She also used part of the scholarship funds to buy technology textbooks on subjects not covered in her curriculum. She leads the robotics club at her university and regularly participates in modeling and robotics competitions.

In early 2015, PAN Qianqian was chosen as a candidate to enter the PhD program at Southeast University, Nanjing, without examination, majoring in Signal and Information Processing. She has co-authored two academic papers and has presented at an international academic conference.

Though she is soft-spoken and has a shy personality, she has been actively participating in all the group video conferences and often contributes thoughtful topics in advance. During the calls, she appears well prepared to express herself in English. As a recognition for her efforts, she was granted one of the two special scholarship, in the form of an 8-week online course called Confident Communicator, taught by Silicon-Valley-based Femgineer , which takes place in May-June 2016.