St Peters Henleaze is linked to St Philip's Pro-Cathedral in Gulu. There has been a close relationship over the years, and in 2003 we received a request from the then President of the Mothers' Union in Gulu to consider sponsoring one boy, Peter, through his secondary education. Through the generosity of one member of the congregation we started to support Peter.
We thought it would be good to explore the possibility of supporting orphaned children. There are thousands of orphaned children in Gulu, as result of the war and of disease. While primary education is free, secondary education has to be paid for and this excludes many children from continuing with their education. It particularly affects orphans who have no one who can earn the fees for them.
It took a while to work out the logistics, but after a visit to Uganda in 2004 by a two members of the congregation and discussions with the Mothers' Union in Gulu, we were able to launch the Fund in 2005. It was named The Peter Fund after the first young man to be supported. It has captured the imagination of St Peters and has been far more successful than we could have imagined.
The Mothers' Union in Gulu administers the fund for us, which means that it fits into the cultural norms of Uganda. Unlike bursaries given by NGOs, the MU requires that each student also contributes what they can, so that they learn that life doesn't come for free. Three young people have left the programme, one because she wanted to be married, but now regrets leaving; one because the ladies of the Committee discovered that he had gained funding from another source; the third wasn't studying well.
When I visited in January 2008, there were 14 students. The Committee intends to keep even numbers of boys and girls, so although there is enough funding to support 25 students, the numbers have risen to only 24.
Most of the students are at schools in Gulu; though it is hoped that the displaced schools will soon return to the country near to villages, as the people return to their homes.