Ssamba Foundation is a registered community development non-profit organization founded by Hon. Isaac Ssamba in 2006 with a vision of helping those least able to help themselves. With a base in Mukono district, we manage a wide range of sustainable development and humanitarian projects across the country.
Ssamba Foundation uses most of its money to carry out its own humanitarian programs across Mukono District and Uganda at large. The Ssamba Foundation is a public organization to which anyone may donate and it also works as a vehicle for Hon. Isaac Ssamba’s personal philanthropy works. Mr. Ssamba doesn’t draw any salary or receives any income from the foundation.
You may say others have lived in better comfort zones but then how many have left all that behind to devote their lives, energy and resources to the stigmatized, poor HIV infected women, youth and orphaned rural dwellers? For this bold rare and selfless step Isaac is celebrated as hero in Uganda.
The eloquent soft spoken and humble gentleman, born in Namulonge– Wakiso District in Uganda, brought up and educated in Mukono District at a village called Mbalala. Born to the late Paul Wasswa and Joweria Namutebi, Isaac was born on 14th / July/ 1987 and coming third last in the poor family of 11 children. Imagine a family of a father without a stable income and a lower-educated mum! Affording school fees, food and medical fees was hard in the family. So after primary level education, Isaac started working in a stone quarry to earn school fees for his secondary education at the age of 14 years.
Isaac Ssamba is a philanthropist among very many other things, though he comes from a humble background and therefore no stranger to the hardships of life, which is why he chose to give back as generously as he can afford.
“Deprivation is a fact of life! At some point in anyone’s life there are circumstances where you do not or cannot have what you want. You either learn to cope without it or you do all you can to get what you’re missing. This phenomenon is responsible for evolution or the reason change happens, wishfully for the better. Any rational human being would not wish for their fellow human to endure unpleasant circumstances but then again not everyone can live the life they wish. I do what I can to help the ‘system’ balance, unattainable as this goal might be, by helping out wherever I can as much as I can. This is the philosophy behind my so-called generosity or philanthropy”- Isaac stated
How Charitable Duties Started
“One day as I was working in a stone quarry I came across a very young boy of about 10 years also working in the quarry carrying buckets of stones. After discussion with the boy, I felt there was a desperate cry for help . I went back home crying!! After a discussion with my mum, I started living with the young boy, struggling to earn schools fees for both of us.
After obtaining a certificate in counseling and guidance (and a short-course in filming), I got a job in a certain NGO in Mukono town where I came across many people who struggled with HIV/AIDS and related issues, many of whom were infected because of poverty. These issues bothered me so much and I felt God challenging me to go out and use the skills I had to make a difference. I felt a strong urge to work with people infected and affected by HIV-especially the poor.
So during those days with the NGO my friends encouraged me to pursue my childhood dream of becoming a civil engineer, but the urge to do volunteer work with poor women, youth and children desperately grappling with all the consequences of HIV/AIDS was overwhelming. God had fully equipped me with the knowledge, skills and courage to bring hope and self worth to them. Now looking back, I realize God had been preparing me through events in my life for an important mission.
My working in the NGO experience, my skills in counseling and guidance, the little financial support I had donated to the individuals and upbringing the young boy, were to count for much. Through what I consider divine intervention, in 2006, I went back to Mbalala village an area with poor people from different communities. I visited different homes to find many families were infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. I witnessed the struggles and issues they dealt with and how the infection was destroying families.
Many orphaned children were in care of grandmother, aunts, uncles and other guardians. Most of these guardians could hardly take care of the children. After discussions with different church leaders, local chiefs and assistants and interviews with some of the victims, I felt that I need to something. I collected what I could from my home: clothes, food and other provisions then asked friends and neighbors for donations. I dropped the donations as I counseled and educated the affected families. Each day I covered as many homes as I could.
I went as far as growing vegetables in my garden to boost the food donation. This however was not a sustainable solution. HIV/AIDS cannot be adequately addressed without addressing poverty. These people were capable, had solutions to their problems and all they needed was guidance. Furthermore, I did not want to create a dependency situation. Nor did they want handouts all the time, but something more dignified to earn a living and be self reliant.
What they needed was training to equip them with marketable skills to earn a living, to be able to buy their food, pay their rent, take their children to school and care for their infected family members. My experience in the social service sector also helped me to come up with suitable training programs. To give them a hope in life, I established a center with facilities for skills training and where they could feed; receive medical assistance, spiritual and moral support.
The choice of the name, Beacon of Hope-Uganda (then) reflected this objective. My supportive family helped me so much in getting the premises at Mbalala Trading centre in Mukono district and the organization started off simply in January 2007 at the age of 20 years from almost nothing!! I used all the little money I had to buy facilities to set up the training centre, start a feeding program and hire a trainer.
The daily needs were overwhelming but I struggled through them. I saw God’s intervention through friends and churches. Encouraging the women, youth and orphans spiritually so that they could understand the reality of God was a top priority and up to now we offer regular devotional opportunities to them.
Initially about 90% of the trainees in carpets and beads were women, mainly mothers, who brought their children along. We had to provide child care for every child brought to the center. Each child participated [and still does] in a daily devotional as well as playtime and academic tutoring by trained kindergarten teachers. This marked the beginning of a day care at the center initially with 5 children in class.
The training was diversified to suit different vocational tastes. Bead work training was initiated followed by spinning and weaving, and some members have been offered bursaries to different vocational training institutions to learn tailoring, carpentry, Art and design etc to became self-reliant. The women still needed to meet their basic needs as they trained. After about 6 months they made items that were marketable.
I emphasized on high quality and the items found ready market. All the training gave them more than the token they had earlier received and had transformed their lives. After 12 months, some of them got jobs in other workshops in Kampala, Mukono, Jinja while others were retained our workshop. Several of them are now trainers in their villages. After participating in various exhibitions, enquiries for orders followed in. and we are planning to open up a shop at the centre and others in Kampala, Jinja and Mukono town.
In 2008, a network with Mrs. Leslie Montgomery in Canada also assisted in selling these products abroad. We are also encouraging those who need to corporate with us to come. Encourage those wishing to start their own businesses by marketing the products for them or helping them find other markets. We pay them on delivery to boost their morale. Further, compulsory business management training is offered at the centre to help them in all aspects of money, budgeting and so forth.”
HOW FAR HAVE WE GONE: 2021
Dream Come True:
In 2016 in a drive for expansion of its programs to provide enough facilities for the women, youths and children as well as increasing efficiency of its operations, the organization re-branded from Beacon of Hope Uganda to SSAMBA FOUNDATION. Plans for a new comprehensive centre are on the table now. It will provide healthcare, counseling, education as well as vocational training and a production enterprise for both adults and the youth. The facility will include a comprehensive healthcare clinic, day care centre expanded vocational training facilities to accommodate more trainees, a new production department and a youth resource centre equipped with computers and research facilities.
Home-Based Care Program:
Ssamba Foundation has trained more than 895 people in Home-Based Care within the community. The main objective of this program is to equip community members with knowledge, skills on deadly diseases management at home. The aim is to reduce stigma, discrimination and to provide a wider access to care, love and support, for people living with HIV/AIDS and other deadly diseases.
Youth Tailored Programs:
Children and youth have different strengths and weaknesses. Some maybe academically challenged, hence such children are then offered an opportunity to be trained in different skills such as carpentry, beauty and hairdressing. Ssamba Foundation has identified some training outlets, which are willing to begin a partnership.
The youth in rural areas desire to have a meeting place, where they can express and share ideas in a safe environment. Ssamba Foundation is planning to establish a space and provide facilitators to help the clubs focus on desired topics and projects. The youth will meet once a week with a social worker to discuss issues that are important to them. They will also be taught various life skills, which will benefit them in the future.
Short-term Food Relief:
- Food Relief
Ssamba Foundation provides short food relief to women and children within various communities across Uganda. This is achieved through the feeding program as well as the Ssamba Cares Outreach Program. We realize that it is impossible for a hungry and frustrated person to give their best or hope for any endeavor.
- Kitchen Gardening
At its initial stages, the organization provided meals a day to women and children who visited our initial centre. Over a 100 people (men, women and children) were fed each day, through a feeding program. The food helped the beneficiaries quell the pangs of hunger and focus on their dreams.
As time and new ideas came forth, kitchen gardening was given a more preferred consideration to replace the food basket. This step was specifically taken so as to introduce self sufficiency, sustainability, affordability, accessibility, availability, and food security in the lives of women and men benefitting from our programs.
The results have been significantly visible for those who took kitchen gardening. There is a change in their daily income, their nutritional needs, and food security. Kitchen gardening has ensured that women have sufficient, food to meet their dietary needs, in order to lead a healthy and productive life.
A number of people previously taken care of by the centre have died, leaving many orphaned and needy children. Others are alive but too weak to support their children. To ensure these children are not destitute. Ssamba Foundation initiated the child sponsorship program. With over 200 children in this program, finding sponsors for this growing number of children has been very challenging.
Some are in primary schools, secondary schools and other in universities while others are still awaiting sponsorship. Those whose circumstances at home are too difficult are enrolled in boarding schools. During holidays they have their meals and tuition at the centre but spend the night in their guardian’s home most of whom are grandmothers and cannot afford to provide them with supper. Instead of giving them a food basket everyday, we introduced a basket-making projects for grandmothers from which they are earning an income.
My main work as the Executive Chairman is fundraising. Ssamba Foundation’s operations rely fully on donor support and raising funds is therefore a major area of my work. I also serve as the main Administrator in all the organizations and I also frequently address parents, teachers, and different community members within the institutions where our programs are run in order to create understanding on the objectives we seek to achieve among teenagers and adults who are our primary audience.
What I love most in my work:
What I love most in this job is that I get to help people. I remember one day as a child, I listened to Elvis Presley’s in the Ghetto (from a friend’s home) whose main message was how a young child is born alone in disadvantaged circumstances, learns to fight and steal and is eventually killed, and as he lies dying another child is born in the ghetto. That song inspired me and I have always wanted to make a difference and always to be remembered for that. I think helping people is also a God’s gift to me and I find great joy in it.