Patricia Brenninkmeyer awarded a National Honour from
the President of the Republic of Uganda
On 9 October at celebrations marking Uganda’s 53rd Independence Anniversary, Patricia received a National Award (Golden Jubilee Award) for her immense charitable contributions and social impact she has made through her charities in Uganda towards helping Ugandans to help themselves. It is indeed a rare occasion for a non-Ugandan to receive such an honour. The award was received on her behalf by her brother, Thomas Brenninkmeijer.
Patricia arrived in Uganda in 1970 after obtaining a degree in Social Work from the University of Edinburgh. She was pursuing her early childhood dream of working in Africa.
In 1974 she professionalised the Nsambya Babies Home which has provided abandoned children with a future and been an inspiration to generations of Ugandans that continues today.
In 1981 Patricia set up Kulika Uganda. Since the beginning of the Kulika scholarship scheme, over 2,000 Ugandans have been awarded scholarships to attend higher education institutions both in Uganda and in Britain. All of these students were set in their journey to the top of their professional ladders with a scholarship from Kulika. They use their skills and qualifications to serve Uganda and its people. Through the sustainable organic agriculture training programme over 16,000 farmers have been reached directly and indirectly. They have food security, improved nutrition, have acquired income that has facilitated access to education, health, improved shelter, and transport. Kulika Uganda has a training centre 37km on Hoima road where Patricia’s work of farmer training continues.
Thomas Brenninkmeijer on his sister’s work in Uganda.
Thomas came to Uganda twice in two months to celebrate his sister’s achievement. He came in October to receive Patricia’s Golden Jubilee Award from the President of Uganda at the 53rd independence celebrations. He came back in November for the Launch of Patricia’s biography “Seeds of Hope” by Leslie Read and Raymond Menino.
We caught up with him about Patricia’s work, below is our interview.
KU: How often have you visited Uganda and what have the other visits been like compared to this particular one?
TB: I last visited in 2001 with Patricia. This was the time of the twin towers because while we went out to visit the farmers on their properties, we heard from our London office that the towers had gone down. We were a group of eight people on a mission during that visit to discover what progress Kulika was making.
Prior to 2001, I came here after school. Patricia was at the Baby home and I came with my mother after seeing what Patricia was up to we went sightseeing.
This particular visit is a crescendo in Patricia’s life; we are celebrating her work which makes us very proud. It is an overwhelming event. My wife and I are very excited.
Patricia’s family has been very involved in her work. As one of the family members what do you attribute this to?
Growing up, Patricia was quite challenging. She wanted to work in Africa. She couldn’t get to St. Andrews’ University, because she had difficulty with her Latin. Our parents agreed to take her to Africa together with Msg. deReeper. He would teach her Latin in the morning and go sightseeing in the afternoon. So they came to Africa and stayed in a luxurious hotel which Patricia hated. She hated the contrast of the luxury inside the hotel, and the world outside. This made her want to work here even more. She passed her Latin exam and went to University. She later became a social worker. She loved being close to the underprivileged and felt guilty growing up with privileges that others never had, and so she always wanted and worked with the poor. She came to Uganda and stayed at Rubaga Hill staying with the ladies of the Grails and close to the White Fathers. She then started her first baby home. The supply of babies was simple but to keep a baby was difficult. Babies would be picked up off the streets from all over. Patricia would try as much as possible to trace their families, which worked sometimes but often it failed.
When Idi Amin took over, our parents insisted that she returns to England which she did. While she was in Uganda, she had noted that 80% of Ugandans worked in agriculture hence her interest in sustainable organic agriculture. Basil was Patricia’s eyes and ears in Africa during her absence. She bought a farm in Berkshire called Warren farm.
She worked with the Commonwealth Society upon returning to England. She soon realized that African students in England with children were facing challenges with English foster parents. Fostering children in African society is very different to England. English foster parents denied access to the children by their African parents and judges would often rule in favour of the English parents. Patricia was horrified and would go to court to defend the African students. Her family was worried that she was losing contact with her English friends and would never find a husband.
At Berkshire, she established a baby home for the African students and had a number of guest rooms so that the parents could visit, this was a wonderful solution to the problem.
The law in England changed and carers for children had to be properly trained and qualified. It got too complicated and it became impossible to keep the baby home going. At this point, she focused on the sustainable organic agriculture training for farmers. She got a link to the University of Reading and the quality of the training at Warren farm was accepted as a university degree. Bringing farmers to England was becoming too expensive so now the farmers were trained in Uganda. Upon their return these farmers were later to become the trainers of other farmers. Although bringing students to England was effective, studying at Makerere University was more efficient.
More recently, Patricia’s family realized and appreciated the effect that her work was having in Uganda. Our mother accepted Patricia’s achievements and admired her greatly. Our father, a proud business man also understood the effect of Patricia’s work. The Family realized that Kulika was a blossoming organisation rapidly growing towards independence.
When Patricia realized that Kulika was in the good hands of Elijah (RIP), Elizabeth (RIP) and Joseph, she then had the energy and the finances to start Ka Tutandike. Unfortunately she became ill before the project could be completed.
KU: Where do you see Kulika in the face of growing interest in Social enterprises and changing donor focus?
TB: Kulika Uganda has a team of passionate leaders that identify themselves with the beliefs and ideals of Patricia. Self-sustainability is essential and the top team is developing the new skills of effective fundraising, passing on the benefits to the Kulika beneficiaries. The Kulika team must anticipate what needs to be done and in what time this is to be achieved. Enthusiasm and leadership is essential to inspire the Kulika family in the future.
I have visited the training centre which was an impressive experience. The centre team is qualified, successful and needs to have a constant stream of farmers and groups of students. The top team needs to be creative to achieve an optimal return from this investment. The buildings are in a good shape but need a bit of work to be done. Self-development is essential for everyone to remain relevant.
KU: If you had one wish for Uganda, what would it be?
TB: A government that puts all the people first.
World Environment Day (WED) is celebrated every year on June 5 to raise global awareness to take positive environmental action to protect nature and the planet Earth. It is run by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Ms Rachel Musoke a Commissioner of Forestry Sector Support Department (FSSD) officiated the Kulika tree planting function held at the KULIKA TRAINING CENTER, LUTISI- Wakiso.
She was accompanied by the Executive Director of Kulika Uganda, District Representative, Environmental Representatives, Kulika Staff members, Farmers and school children among others were also in attendance to commemorate the environmental day. Activities included planting different tree species including; Grevelia robusta silk oak, mugavu, Iroko-muvule,Red mahogany, musizi, terminalia superba umbrella tree, mango, guava, avocado, oranges and a whole forest of pine trees and many more other tree species..