Acute need for an OB/GYN referral facility to reduce maternal/child death at OCAN Community Clinic

Posted on September 24th, 2017 in Uncategorized | No Comments


Ocan Community Clinic, formerly founded by Ochan Self-Help Alliance ( a Baltimore based 501(3)c NGO, is one of three post-war health care facilities selected for funding under the USAID-Uganda Voucher Activity” in Alebtong district, Northern Uganda. This newly-funded program allows “poor pregnant women” to receive free pre-natal, delivery and up to 5 months post-natal services that are reimbursed to the clinic. We report here that after 8 months of successful operation the program has been able to draw an increasingly larger number of pregnant peasant women who seek safer child birth for their children at Ocan community Clinic.
Along with this success have emerged a high number of complicated pregnancies that threaten maternal/infant life and that require immediate gynecologic/obstetric referral service. The nearest such service is 26 miles away at Lira Hospital. We have recorded the loss of a high number of women and infants in the course of this rescue attempt due to poor roads, heavy rains, and scarcity of vehicles for transportation.

In such critical situations a 20 min. delay in service has been observed to take life away. Still-born deliveries on the road to the hospital have been documented by our staff at Ocan Community clinic.
Availability of a referral obstetric/gyn. facility close to our clinic has become critical partly because it stands to serve 5 adjacent districts with a combined total population of nearly 2 million.
To support safe child deliveries by “poor women” at OCHAN clinic, please, send donations directly to our Paypal account at:
Thank you.
Bonny Boto

Thanksgiving 2016 Letter to donors

Posted on January 2nd, 2017 in Uncategorized | No Comments




6414 Park Heights Avenue, Unit B4, Baltimore, MD 21215    Tel. 1 410 358 7502

December 2016

story-classroom-2Your good wishes and generous donations in 2016 have enabled OCHAN to complete construction of the final set of classrooms for Ayaa Nursery and Primary School in Opac Village, Northern Uganda. Due to limited space on the school compound, this final structure of 4 classrooms is two floors. (See left). Our hope for housing a library in this building was not realized due to the need for classroom space. Now teacher cupboards in every classroom house books for students to enjoy. The campaign to build this school took three years of donations, grants and labor (all by hand!) The roof was added in late November of this year. With fifty students in each classroom the space gets fully used. Perimeter fencing and security lights are needed to protect the boarding students and the school compound at night.



woman-with-newbornOcan Community Clinic, which is next door to the school, continues to serve the women of Opac in the delivery of their babies. Thanks to your continuing donations, every mother in labor at the clinic receives a “Mama” kit that contains the items needed to ensure the safe birth of their children. After delivery, OCHAN congratulates them with a soft receiving blanket and a bar of soap purchased with donor funds. These small gifts encourage women to choose the clinic for childbirth rather than the dirt floor of their one-room residences. Because of its crucial maternal services, the clinic is continuing to attract more women from an ever widening circumference.
Please help OCHAN continue the fight against maternal mortality.






With best wishes and gratitude from the Board of OCHAN: L-R: Bonny (Pres.), Zenobia (Secy.), Paul (Treas.), Georgia (Trustee), William (Pres. Emeritus), Susan Record (new member) (photo not available.)





Support Mama Kits for Mothers’ Day in Opac

Posted on April 30th, 2015 in Uncategorized | No Comments

Mama Kits

Robinah with 5 monh-old son, Desmond

Robinah with 5 monh-old son, Desmond

When a woman gives birth in a clinic in Uganda she must purchase a kit of supplies that will be used in delivery.  Items include the following:  2 pr. of surgical gloves; a bar of bathing soap; an immunization card for child and mother to get free vaccines in the clinic or government referral hospital; two face towels; cord ligature; razor blade; roll of cotton wool; and 2 pieces of plastic sheeting. The majority of women just recovering from years of refuge from war are not able to afford these clinic supplies.

The cost

Ochan Self-Help Alliance funds a healthcare project in Opac Village, Northern Uganda, to help women have safe births, as part of our commitment to meeting the U.N. Millennium Development Goals #4 and #5 (Improve maternal healthcare and reduce infant mortality).  We encourage women to come to the clinic for antenatal care, fetal monitoring and delivery (or even home delivery with  a trained traditional birthing attendant.)  OCHAN’s providing free mama kits at this transitional moment after war helps ensure that the materials for delivery are available and sterile.

How you can help

A single mama  kit costs $15: a carton of 25 kits costs $375.  We hope you will consider sending your tax-deductible donation for this cause in one of two ways:  1) cash/check to “Ochan Self-Help Alliance” in an envelope marked “Mama Kit” to the collection plate at St. John’s. Mt. Washington; 2) a check mailed to  Ochan Self-Help Alliance Inc., P.O. Box 172, Cockeysville, MD 21030-0172.  What a powerful, life-saving gift to give to an expectant mother this Mother’s Day.  Whenever  members of OCHAN visit the mother and newborn in the clinic,  they are invited to name the child.  Most of the first names in Uganda are biblical. We would be delighted to include your name in a list of donors’ first names  to present to the new mothers and then to send you the news and, perhaps, even a photo.

Lydia, the financial officer at the clinic, holds little Lydia named after her by the child's mom at right.

Lydia, the clinic financial officer, holds little Lydia– a few hours old and named after her by the child’s mom (at right).

AYAA Nursery and Primary School rises in Opac Village, Part 1

Posted on October 24th, 2014 in Uncategorized | No Comments
January, 2013, Community leaders meet to elect school board for Ayaa Nursery/Primary School

January, 2013, Community leaders meet to elect school board for the new Ayaa Nursery/Primary School

First year of operation:

February 2013: two classrooms and teachers' room are ready. Two makeshift classrooms were added   to serve upper nursery students and first grade (primary 1)

February 2013: two classrooms and teachers’ room are ready. Two makeshift classrooms were added to serve upper nursery students and first grade (primary 1)

OCHAN thought that only two classes of students were to be selected for entry in the first year as we had built only two classrooms and a teachers’ office. (at left): one for Nursery 1 (baby class) and the other for Nursery 2 (Intermediate class.)  Nursery 3 (advanced class) would come on board the following year when one more classroom had been built, or so we reasoned.

When we returned to Opac from America in June 2013, we found four classes (instead of two) engaged in learning:  Nursery 1 and 2 in the new classrooms, Nursery 3 under a mango tree, and Primary School 1 (First Grade) under the veranda roof of a nearby grain store! Clearly, the women were determined to realize their dream as soon as possible.  Why a primary school so soon? Parents had sent their first graders to Ayaa that year because government primary school teachers were on strike over salary and there was no resolution in sight.  Besides, the local government school was not well-stocked with materials or motivated teachers.  And, for the first 3-4 years, lessons would be taught in the local language rather than in English.   Consequently, the large number of students were being more warehoused than taught. Along with AJWS and OCHAN, women farmers had contributed all their money from three years of group. farming to build this first classroom.


new pit latrine is in background of students standing with their headmaster,

new pit latrine is in background of students standing with their headmaster,

One donor’s gift  added an appropriately-sized school pit latrine and hand-washing convenience.  Another donor gifted the school with a playground set  consisting of a slide, a merry go-round, a seesaw, and swings.

the playground set was a big hit as the children had never experienced such rides.

the playground set was a big hit as the children had never experienced such rides.

150 students enrolled in the first year.  All classes learn English because the medium of instruction throughout their nursery/primary years would be English to ready them for the national  primary leaving exam at the end of grade 7. Pupils’ scores  on that exam determine if they qualify to continue their education at a  secondary school or leave the pursuit of education altogether.

Opac Village welcomes’Terminalia superba’

Posted on October 17th, 2014 in Uncategorized | No Comments


One of OCHAN’s missions is  to populate the village  of Opac with baby hardwood trees that hopefully will help to counter deforestation in this part of Northern Uganda where villagers have cut  down trees to rebuild their homes, destroyed by the 20-year war that forced the villagers to flee to war displacement camps.   Upon their return to Opac from the IDP camps, villagers had no means to buy household necessities so they cut down and burned trees  to  make charcoal for quick trade .  In earlier blogs, we  introduced our readers to two  hardwood trees we are currently germinating and planting in Opac:  Melia volkensii and “tic,”  both of which were introduced to OCHAN by Mr. Julius Odwe of Dokolo.  For more information, please click on the dates below to take you quickly back to these earlier entries.  For Melia volkensii,  the following dates that blogposts appeared:  February 27, 2010August 2, 2010; December 14, 2010.  For Tic,  May 2, 2012.

We are pleased that Mr. Odwe  recently introduced us to Terminalia superba, a hearty hardwood tree from West Africa.  He sold us 200 seedlings to plant in Opac Village.  For more information on this tree, please go to  the following link: Wikipedia.

Below:  a baby terminalia is growing well.   Michael Omongo of the village’s reforestation team  inspects  its top growth.

2014-09-20 17.28.42                                                                                                                           


Aquifer water fuels development in Opac Village, N. Uganda

Posted on October 12th, 2014 in PACE, ProFam | No Comments
3 x 5,000 liter tanks and cables connect to underground solar pump

3 x 5,000 liter tanks and cables connect to underground solar pump

Food, healthcare, household economic empowerment, and education are essential requirements for post-war development in Opac and surrounding villages.  Clean water is the linchpin for all of the above to renew life  for those who spent 20 years away from home in war displacement camps.  With donor support, Ochan Self-Help Alliance (OCHAN) has been able to drill down 195 feet to an aquifer and install a solar  pump which draws the water into 3 tanks for a total volume of 15,000 liters.  The product was then tested and certified by a national laboratory as “fit for human consumption.”

See below for distribution of aquifer water in Opac Village.



Planned Distribution and Use of Aquifer Water powered by Solar in Alebtong District, 06/09/2014

Planned Distribution and Use of Aquifer Water powered by Solar in Alebtong District, 06/09/2014


OCHAN installs solar power grid in Opac Village

Posted on October 11th, 2014 in PACE, ProFam | No Comments

Solar Installation

Opac village had no electricity; however.  healthcare workers’  having to work at night by kerosene lamps and cell phone light is now  history at Ocan Community Clinic.  With recent, generous donor support, Ochan Self-Help Alliance (OCHAN) has installed 8 solar panels that will harvest 940 watts of electricity along with 820 AH storage batteries.  This package of equipment can supply solar lights to a small town (500 households), but our clinic will use it to power such needed electronic equipment as the following:  1) a binocular microscope; 2) a digital infant weighing balance; 3) an incubator; 4)a fetal heart monitor; 5) an ultrasound machine (when it becomes available); 6) a desk-top computer to enable storage of/access to patient records and other medical information; and 7) a freezer/refrigerator for storing vaccines and other labile clinic supplies.  We also anticipate the availability of solar electric power to help generate additional revenues for the clinic  through the following services to the community:  cell phone charging at low cost and operation of Mobile Money, a form of banking by cell phone commonly used in rural Uganda.

8 roof-mounted solar panels

8 roof-mounted solar panels










Power house with 4 solar storage batteries.

Power house with 4 solar storage batteries








Power  Distribution

To distribute solar power to the clinic, the nursery/primary school, the police post,  the tree nursery,  as well as to an underground water pump, OCHAN needed  the following equipment:  various types of underground electric cables totaling 870 m in length, tools, sockets, plugs, nails, nuts, bolts, light bulbs, timber, metal frames, and metal boxes.  (See following blog.)

Ester, Molly, Sofia: snapshots of successful farmers

Posted on July 31st, 2014 in Uncategorized | No Comments

Though OCHAN’s farming program began in 2009, the majority of women in the  Opac community joined this farming group in 2011 and benefited from farming extension plots and the group farm through 2013.  OCHAN spoke with many farmers about the benefits of the farming program to the economy of their households.  Funds for this program were provided by the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland and supporters’ contributions to  OCHAN’s mission.  Here is a sample of three beneficiaries’ gains from their five years in  this successful program:


Figure 1

Figure 1

Ms. Ester Okwir, pictured in Fig. 1, reports that her family  managed to construct a house, pay school fees, and pay medical bills with the funds that she raised from participating in OCHAN’s farming program.  She also bought a bicycle, two goats, and one big bull.


figure 2

figure 2

Ms. Mollly Ogwang managed to construct a house, (see fig. 2).  She sent her children to competitive boarding schools, bought two bulls, 2 goats.  In addition she planted citrus orange trees and  pine trees.  These gains would not have been possible without hr participation in OCHAN’s farming program.


figure 3

figure 3

Ms. Sofia Odongo was able to construct a house, (see fig. 3).  In addition, one of her sons got school  fees to complete a diploma course .  Her other children are now in school as well.  She also added  three goats and a bicycle to her household.

Economic Empowerment

Since most families do not have access to a bank (the nearest one is 25 miles away), they purchase  livestock as their “savings banks” to cover expenses such as funerals, weddings, school fees, a new plow, etc.   Money to get quality healthcare at the clinic helps women stay healthy for their hefty household duties.  A bicycle helps  to transport her harvested crops to larger markets where she can also buy second-hand clothing and new shoes for her family.  Her Sunday offerings  contribute to new roofing  for the church she and her family attend.  No wonder that the women pictured below have paused momentarily from their sowing of sunflowers in 2013 to greet  OCHAN and, by extension, all the supporters who contributed to the women farmers’  increasing economic empowerment.


Planting sunflower crop seed in Group Farm

Planting sunflower crop seed in Group Farm

2013 Sunflower Finale: WOW!

Posted on July 26th, 2014 in Uncategorized | No Comments

The 2013 sunflower season marked the end of a 5-year continuing grant for free hybrid sunflower seeds from the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland to women farmers seeking to restart their economies in Opac Village after years of war displacement. 

 How the program worked this year

300 farmers were each given 2 kg seeds of hybrid sunflower crop seed to plant one acre of their farms  in Sept.-Oct. 2013.  They harvested the grain in early 2014.  Some sold to different vegetable oil company agents; others chose to sell to OCHAN Agenne’s grain store where the seeds awaited sale at an optimal market price.  The harvest was bountiful and the best selling price for the farmers was UGS 1200 ($.50) per kg for seeds bought at UGS 900-1000 per kilo.  the day that the big trucks came to load the bags and carry them to Mt. Meru Vegetable Oil company was an exciting culmination of the season.  Many in the village ( including this reporter) helped to push the loaded lorries to the main road.

 Sunflower harvest in grain store  being inspected by Jimmy Ogwang, Chairman

Sunflower harvest in grain store being inspected by Jimmy Ogwang, Chairman

By the numbers

To see the farmers’ gains more clearly, OCHAN took a random sample of 20 farmers’ cost of seeds bought and their price at harvest. We then extrapolated results for the 300 farmers in our program.  Even though efforts were made by local group leaders to verify crop acreage for individual farmers, the validity of the total return on investment was marred by about 5% error due to several factors:  some farmers diverted some or all of their initial seed to other purposes (e.g. sale for cash);  unfavorable weather and individual field conditions that affected seed germination; poor crop management –i.e. delayed weeding, incomplete drying at harvest.  In addition, a majority of participants sold their yield directly to other buyers.  Reasons vary but mainly this group needed immediate cash so decided not to make use of the grain store.


The sale of 146,985 kg of crop harvested by 300 farmers earned the local equivalent of $55,523 (given the exchange rate of  $1=UGS 2525).  This amount excludes related costs and does not take into account the sweat equity farmers invested in tilling/re-tilling, weeding, and harvesting.  Still, this is an awesome amount of capital to diffuse into such a small community as Opac.

The financial impact of this banner harvest is visible in an increasing number of livestock and school enrollments, foundations laid for building permanent homes, bricks for church construction, and increase visits to the local clinic.

From Group Farm to School

DSCN0629This year, the Group Farm realized the local equivalent of $1,256 of the total yield.  The women directed this into their Group Farm bank account to fund their dream–building a local nursery and primary school for their children.  For three years, the proceeds of the women’s Group Farm were held in a bank account until enough had been raised to begin laying the foundation of the school in 2012.   Now there are 4 classrooms completed.  Even as construction is ongoing. children are in their second year of learning at Ayaa Nursery and Primary School.  The parents are thrilled!!  OCHAN is thrilled!  Pictured at left is Ayaa Nursery School where a young American donor helps to unload her timely and abundant gifts of books and school supplies.

What now?

OCAN 1224The women farmers are deeply grateful to the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland for its unwavering support of this sunflower program over the past 5 years.  Now knowing that sunflowers are economically beneficial as well as relatively easy to cultivate, the women wish to continue planting them and are trying to figure out how to budget the seed cost on their own.

The next growing season for sunflowers begins in August which gives the farmers time to plan and to save.  OCHAN will continue to help the women identify quality seeds to buy at the best prices, to advise them on marketing their harvest, and to store it securely in the grain store until the best time to sell.  Shine on, women!  Shine on, sunflowers!

Little Clinic in Opac makes Big News in 2013

Posted on January 14th, 2014 in PACE, ProFam, Uncategorized | No Comments


IMG_0709Ocan Community Clinic (OCC) in Opac Village, Northern Uganda, was built in 2008 as a dry goods store and then later remodeled by OCHAN into a small 9-room emergency clinic.  In 2012, a maternity ward was added along with a childhood immunization program, an antenatal clinic, a family planning program, HIV/AIDS preventive care, and most recently, a cervical cancer screening service.  this rapid rise in excellent service is attributed to grants from churches in USA, partnerships with NGOs operating in Uganda, and the clinic’s staff that has performed efficiently in providing safe births to over 100 women in the community since 2012.  Such a record has drawn the attention of prominent health non-profit organizations operating in Uganda.

Pictured here is a mom and her newborn at OCC.  Her smile of relief and gratitude for the recent safe birth of her child says it all.

Big NGOs select little OCC for first-ever  ‘Mama Project’ site

PACE operates at OCC in the area of HIV/AIDS prevention and management as well as in reproductive health.  In December 2013, PACE, in conjunction with PROFAM, launched the “Mama Project” for antenatal, maternity, and post-natal care.  The opening ceremony, officiated by the Prime Minister (LC5 Chairman) of Alebtong District, took place at the clinic.

OCC was selected as the premier launch site of this project for the entire 5 regions of Uganda, the view of the new providers  being that if it does not work at our clinic, then the Mama Project is unlikely to work anywhere in Uganda.  A great honor was thus conferred upon OCC by this action.  Selection of OCC was based on a thorough tour of all of OCHAN/Ocan Agenne’s community projects, facilities, financial accountability, record keeping and staff competence in providing various health care services 24/7.  Neatness of the place and community mobilization were among important criteria in the selection as well as OCC’s recent hiring of a second comprehensive nurse–a woman, certified as a mid-wife with whom maternity patients are usually more comfortable due to culture-based apprehensions.  Inaugural Day for the Mama Project coincided with the presence of many women scheduled for cervical cancer screening.  The clinic compound was bustling!  PACE brought food packages to share with all.

Next Step

Johnson Acuma, Officer-in-Charge of the clinic, displays a new non-electric instrument sterilizer which will be useful in cleaning well all the instruments needed for use in this project.    Cavine Adongo nursemidwife 001Ms. Cavine Adongo, is our new comprehensive nurse/midwife.  We had advertised the position for over two years until we found the best qualified person in her.


In addition to PACE’s choice of OCC–over all other clinics in Uganda–as the site to launch its ambitious Mama Project,  a half-dozen other NGOs have been referred to Ocan Agenne, the community organization in Opac that is OCHAN’s partner in development. According to the government office for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) which steers groups to community-based organizations for partnerships, Ocan Agenne is described as “an NGO that does not lose (steal) money.”   OCC may be small but respect for it is growing in ever-widening circles.

New tiles welcome patients and visitors to the clinic

Summer2013_ 030


Summer2013_ 023The main corridor’s blue tile floor is meant to suggest the Nile River which flows north not far from the clinic.  Wall tiles help to clean it quickly each day.  The checkered grey and blue tiles cover the floors of the wards.