The Bush Fire Community is located 50 kilometers east of Jinja, Uganda on 40 acres of fertile soil in the village of Bubutya, Bulange Sub-county, Namutumba District. It began in August 2003 when the directors of Uganda Family Resource Link felt the Lord impress on them the need to care for orphans. As the Lord provided, UFRL was able to purchase the land and build the first home. Additional homes were built from support of various donors.
Bush Fire is not only a place of love, help, and hope for orphaned and neglected children, but it is also a light in the midst of the 37 villages and 30,000 residents of Bulange with the evangelistic and ministering efforts of the Bush Fire Community Church, located on the same property as the Children’s Home.
What follows is a glimpse of the individual parts, which together form the Bush Fire “Community.” We want to emphasize that this has been the work of many. The Lord has used not only Bush Fire Project, but also individuals, churches and organizations from around the world to make the Bush Fire Community what it is today.
The Bush Fire Children’s Home, established in 2003, is the main ministry that Bush Fire Community Church and Uganda Family Resource Link supports and is located on the same property as the church. Bush Fire Children’s Home is a safe and supportive environment for orphaned and neglected children. The children learn what it is to be loved as part of a Christian family, as they have access to nurturing, nourishment, housing, and education. UFRL believes in covenant relationship rather than contracts with the children. The children, therefore, are not removed from Bush Fire once they reach an appointed age. It is truly a “family” atmosphere in which the long-term welfare of each child is considered. When Bush Fire Project began here in the United States in 2005, there were 4 homes (2 duplex-style buildings) with approximately 60 children under the care of the Bush Fire staff. In 2007, an additional duplex was completed bringing the number of children at Bush Fire to near 100.
In 2012 governmental regulations required that the housing structure be changed. Boys and girls over the age of twelve are required to be housed separately by gender. These children are supervised and cared for by resident teachers and other Bush Fire staff.
Uganda Family Resource Link owns additional plots of farmland near Bush Fire. Bush Fire established a for-profit farm for the purposes of providing food for Bush Fire and teaching vocational and business training skills to all students coming through the Bush Fire schools. Crops include rice, peanuts, maize, sweet potatoes, cassava, and soybeans. Livestock has included pigs, chickens, goats, and cows.
Bush Fire School
Although there are several primary and secondary schools in the Bulange Sub-county, the majority of these schools are not meeting the academic needs of children in the area. On average, there are 55 students per teacher. Some teachers even have 110 students to teach in the same classroom! School structures are very limited, and many schools can only accommodate half of their students in classrooms. The other students have their classes held under trees. This proves to be quite a problem, as distractions are many and classes must be cancelled when it rains.
The Bush Fire children used to walk more than two kilometers to attend local primary and secondary village schools and were affected by the circumstances at these schools. The main issue revolved around class sizes. Many children were unable to attend school until Bush Fire took them in, and were then behind in school and unable to catch up. They needed special attention in order to progress in their studies, but could not receive this attention as teachers have so many students to teach. The teaching of English is not seen as a priority, but being the language of further education, life and business, English is crucial for the children’s future.
To secure a better future for the children, it was determined by UFRL that there was a need to have a school at the Bush Fire base. With financial assistance from Bush Fire Project, construction began in September 2005 on a seven-classroom building along with a library and an office. Classes began in February 2006. Students benefitted from limited class sizes where the teachers could provide more help to those who needed it. The children also gained two additional hours available in their day as they no longer had a long walk to school. This time could be used for extra studies, helping out around their homes, or just enjoying being children.
Bush Fire now offers primary, secondary, and vocational schooling. Beginning with the new school year in February 2013, Bush Fire Secondary School began offering senior 1 and senior 2 classes. As resources allow, additional classes will be added to the secondary program.
All schools are open to outside students. These students are expected to pay the cost of their schooling. Bush Fire Project does provide assistance with school fees for primary school children whose families are unable to pay the full cost.
Built in 2007, the vocational training center began providing limited vocational skills such as carpentry and metalworking to students at Bush Fire. In 2012 the vocational training program became accredited by the Ugandan government and therefore is able to offer certificate level training in 35 vocations, each of which will individually be added to the current program as interest allows. Examples include agriculture, tailoring, carpentry, construction, metalworking, computers, hospitality, catering, mechanics, baking, cooking, butchering, tanning and leather working. All Bush Fire children are now required to complete two areas of vocational training as part of their education.
Bush Fire Community Church is the supporting ministry of all programs run under Uganda Family Resource Link, including the Bush Fire Children’s Home. Located on the same property as Bush Fire, the church looks to be a shining light in a large area, as it is located in an area surrounded by 37 villages with over 30,000 people. Its pastor is UFRL director Samuel Kitalya. What began as a fellowship of eight in 2003 became a congregation of 800 in 2007.
Growth continues in the form of new churches started in neighboring villages. This provides local churches so people do not have so far to walk.
Besides meeting for weekly Sunday worship, the church also offers regular bible studies twice each week. It is involved in many forms of outreach, evangelism, and education, both on its property, as well as in the villages. This includes education regarding the growing of nutritious food, economic advancement and sustainability (acquiring and using land and livestock effectively), abuse and HIV/AIDS. The church also responds in practical ways to meet the needs of the community, including assistance with medical needs, home construction or repair, etc.
In 2011 UFRL director and pastor Sam Kitalya was invited to speak once a week on a local radio station. The overwhelming positive response resulted in an expansion of this ministry to twice/week live radio broadcasts where the focus is on practical Christian living. Listeners have the opportunity to call designated church staff members who provide additional counseling and prayer support.