Monday, 20 July 2009


Well, I'm home and happy to be out of the red dust for a while. There is a lot of work to do to draw up the programme, help "stabilise" the Butterflies in their home environment and then we are ready for the challenge of progressing their social entrepreneurial abilities in September.

During this delay period, I can draw up a tailored programme, probably different (albeit with some commonality) for each Butterfly group. I intend that they can spend their Summer holiday in getting to know each other and their project coordinators, perhaps taking part in some activities that they design and plan themselves.

I am happy to say that I feel that the trip has been very successful. The Butterfly groups are a wonderful and unique bunch of individuals and I am certain that some will become "Changemakers", some in the near and some in the more distant future.

I will shortly publish a "Trip review", which I will draw up some conclusions and perhaps give sopme views on the unique aspects of Uganda, as I see them. There will be some more pictures then too!

Monday, 13 July 2009

Our Induction Weekend - did it sink or swim?

I have spent much time recently wrapped up with developing the platform for the ongoing Butterfly Project and this past weekend was the first combined Kampala and Lyantonde event, where the selected Butterfly group were briefed on what is to come.

For those that are unaware, the Butterfly Project aims to train up young social entrepreneurs from disadvantaged parts of Africa, by giving them specialist training, stimulus sessions and a chance to participate in the work of an NGO. This weekend was a chance for them to be meet each other and take some time to visit Lake Mburo National Park, where I was fortunate enough to meet the Director for a possible new project.

Butterfly is for Gifted and Talented youth, as these are the ones that are most likely to be able to learn social entrepreneurship quickly alongside their standard school curriculum.

Funding for Gifted and Talented is never easy in the developed world, as it is presumed that these young people will rise to the top, but in the main it simply does not happen, as schools are designed for the mainstream, not the exception, unless they have a specific disadvantage and then these are often too difficult to access.

In Uganda, there are as many gifted and talented children as there are in Britain, yet few ever reach anything like their potential, so Butterfly tries to harness these potentials in a way, which might support more social development of all kinds in the future.

Part of the project is to let the Butterflies explore their environment and let them learn from the experts that exist in Uganda. Child Aid Uganda support very disadvantaged children in Lyantonde and they took us to visit some of their beneficiaries as part of the weekend. On Sunday we visited Lake Mburo National Park, which was a beautiful place with zebras, elands, buffalo, fish egales, hippos and many more creatures living wild.

A few weeks ago, some of these rural young people had never seen a body of water larger than a pond and on Sunday, they floated across the water in a boat for the first time. I tell them that this is what they deserve, not a luxury or good fortune. In time, I hope they will come to realise this....

1.Our innovative induction session around the pool table - someone had commandeered our briefing room!
2. A few weeks previous, some had no idea what a life jacket was. Now, Lake Mburo demanded them!
3. Left - Francis (14) from Lyantonde Right - Gilbert (12) from Kampala. The rural Butterflies may be smaller, but they have just as much potential

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Butterfly Kampala

I found a couple of photos of the testing from last week and have just got back from the weekend Kampala testing, so am sticking up one photo from the weekend, maybe a video later.

The Kampala kids I know very well now and it will be a shame to not be selecting those who have shown a lot of promise over the last few weeks, but the process is designed to match the criteria for becoming a successful social entrepreneur to the abilities of these young people.

Many had these abilities - ability to find solutions to social issues, presentation skills, ability to learn quickly, "performance" skills, numerical ability etc. etc. - in abundance, so selecting the right six has been difficult. More consultation is needed and the six will be announced here soon.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Butterfly Lyantonde

Just to say that last weekend was the first Selection Weekend for Butterfly Lyantonde. Six were selected - Recheal, Stellah, Joshua, Francis, Manisuli and Dorah. See if you can pick them out...

Up North! - Gulu and Kitgum

My trip to Gulu was a while back but was very interesting. My colleague Grace Ayaa took me and we also took a member of the Kireka Youth Club in the Acholi Quarter.

The Kireka Acholi Quarter is an area to which people were displaced during the war. Essentially, they were promised an opportunity to make a living and were given some money to start afresh, but no land, and the Quarter became the new home for 3,500 people from the Gulu area.

Unfortunately the Acholi Quarter very soon became crowded and a new slum area outside Kampala, where actually a living was hard to find and the money was no good, when there was no means to use your farming expertise. Most moved ten years ago and now the situation is very different. Many are settled, albeit impoverished, the war is over and a few are enthusiastic to return to reclaim their lands in the North. Unfortunately, it's not quite as easy as that, as others have encroached on their lands or simply what they had has now transformed completely.

We started slowly that day, intending to leave early to arrive around 5pm in Gulu - it's around a 5-hour bus ride. There were delays upon delays and we eventually boarded a bus a 2.50pm and then sat in it unmoving until 6.00pm. The way transport works is simple - the bus goes when it is full and the next one goes when that is full. It's the cheapest way to make a profit and keep prices cheap, but it can be very frustrating, if you arrive and find the bus empty, as we did.

The journey was dull, with just blackness outside and we eventually arrived at 11.00pm in Gulu. The place didn't look at all war-torn - in fact it looked brighter and shinier than Kampala - and the hotel apparently seemed decent, albeit 50% more expensive than my Kampala hotel. Power was out in Gulu and the hotel (irritatingly) did not have a generator, as they ought to have done for the price. So we went to our darkened rooms, tried to find our beds, tripped over the fans, which weren't working and bravely tested the toilets. The hotel smelt bad too.

Next morning we headed out to breakfast and I realised I'd eaten something bad again on the journey - maybe the water. I took it easy and we found 3 boda bodas to take us to our first destination - an agricultural entrepreneur, who had some great ideas about providing community silos for agricultural produce. The place is near the border with Sudan and apparently Sudanese pay more for their goods than Ugandans and thus there were opportunities...

Next we visited a school. The Principal was very excited about the prospect of a Butterfly Project in Gulu and we immediately signed him up and perhaps there will be some names coming from there soon? The kids were playing some interesting local musical instruments and apparently there are local competitions for the best performers.

We then had a meeting with Gulu Youth group and settled down to another hotel, since the last one was poor....

At 4.30am there was a banging on my hotel door. "Open up, open up" the woman shouted. I asked her who she was and she said "It's me", which seemed to indicate that I should know who she was. I searched my memory for Grace's voice and it didn't match, so I said I wasn't going to open up to someone I did not know. She then left.

We were starting early to head over to Kitgum and I was up mentally for two hours before I actually got up at 6.30am in the dark. Power was still out and this hotel - half the price - had a generator, but it didn't switch on until 7.00am. I learnt how to shave in the dark and clean my teeth and pack my things in pitch darkness. I'd actually planned on this and left everything in known places. I was feeling a lot better too, which helped. I got to the door of the hotel and a shape jumped out at me from the blackness....

A man was apologising for the intrusion by the hotel staff 2 hours previously. He said "We did not realise that you were white," which was very reassuring.... I paid him the 26,000 shillings (about £8) the woman had wanted and wandered out.

I waited for Grace but she did not appear, so I decided to walk up to the bus - I didn't want to miss it. In fact I needn't have worried. We got on it at around 7.30am and it did not leave until 8.45am, when it was full!

Halfway on the journey to Kitgum, a family got on. There was the mother, an older daughter and two boys. The daughter had very stained teeth and the kids were in poor condition with no shoes, but one was looking out the window, pointing and asking questions. I asked Grace to ask him what he wanted to be when he grew up, expecting the usual answer. He said he wanted to be a policeman, because they stopped vehicles and insisted on people giving them money for nothing. I didn't ask another, but Grace said that the two boys were being sponsored by somebody into boarding school in Kitgum - I pondered on the fact that it was not just me thinking that bright children from rural areas needed support in Uganda...

We arrived at our destination - Kitgum was an interesting terminus, where we kind of landed in the middle of a market. There was a private hire (taxi) and we took it all of about 300 yards to our destination, an NGO working on some niche projects around and about Kitgum. They weren't really ready for us and I seemed to wait a while during a lengthy conversation in Acholi. I wandered around and found someone who showed me an egg chamber for maturing eggs for sale. Money, money, money, I thought - I worked out it would generate 30m shillings every 21 days - but I was told that it used too much electricity and the power was always off. Anyway, there were no beneficiaries to give the eggs too and, as an NGO, we're not allowed to sell them.

"Rubbish" I pondered, as we gathered to board a vehicle, which I was apparently paying for. Moses was my cameraman for the trip - he was a member of the youth club, as mentioned, but also a keen gadgeteer, with some talent to fix and maintain equipment. Apparently he had been left behind, as there was no room for him. I stepped in on his behalf and sent the car back to collect him. Young people are simply not valued here for their capabilities and input. They are viewed as water-carriers or minions of other kinds, by many.

The settlement we visited was a camp - actually a very nice camp, with water flowing, a quarry for building and a picturesque environment. The poeple there seemed animated and apparently some of their number had been missed off a project and were annoyed about it. I guess money was involved here, but the place looked good - even some nice houses, a sophisticated piggery (is there such a thing?), but it is true to say, there were some very poor people there and many of the children looked malnourished.

The rest of the day was driving and chatting in Acholi, driving more and chatting a bit more in Acholi. I don't speak Acholi, so I can't really tell you much more!

Kitgum is full of these camps - maybe hundreds of them - and each is a new small community of its own. however, they are built for functionality, not for space and the Acholi are used to having land and space around them, so the camps are an imposition. I'm not personally sure whether the camps are better or the original set-up, where huts are hundreds of yards apart produces a more effective outcome for the people, but for now most were living in these camps.

NGOs had their boards out everywhere - we've done this, we've done that - and I felt that now this was counterproductive. The Acholi people needed to start thinking about determining their own future, not relying on aid and, once more, entrepreneurship training was what was needed and possibly some equipment, like the incubator. This signage was hinting at more free money coming and instead charities should be looking at pulling out of this area, not further subsidies.

Having said that, poverty existed in no small measure in Kitgum and clearly this still needed some focus. But poverty exists in no small measure in every place I have visited, so why aid here to the exclusion of other places...?

Musical instruments in Gulu
Landing point in Kitgum
The camps

Sunday, 28 June 2009


I have stupidly left my camera lead back at Kireka, so no new pictures, so I thought I would just post a picture of Uganda, to refer to, and the famous crowned crane, which is protected here and which I snapped at the zoo at Entebbe.

On the map, Kinkizi is far to the West, past Rukungiri and towards Kisoro. You can see Kitgum to the North, where I visited last week.

Will post again in the next couple of days...

Monday, 15 June 2009

Rural - Kinkizi - which comes first - the car or the road?

After a very brief respite in Kampala, I woke at 5 the next morning for an epic journey across Uganda, with my KEST contact. He had been kind enough to arrange meetings with bishops from three diocese, each of which were significantly involved in community outreach and would thus benefit from some outside investment or funding support. Each had some land, which they could use for development projects, which was the focus of my linking with the Church of Uganda.

Masaka was the first call and we were there before 8.30am and the bishop was friendly and supportive. Clearly the bishop was an expert agriculturalist and a project instigator and we agreed to cross paths on a few ideas discussed. Masaka is a large town and a significant area to house demonstration projects, close to Kampala but a better launchpoint for rural initiatives.

We travelled on to Mbarare across a wide variety of roads. Most were "under construction", as this was the main route west but was relatively free of traffic. Considering this, though, the potholes were many and some extreme and one could imagine why the roads were unpopulated. Suddenly the road turned grey and smooth and we could have been in England (even some red roadsigns), had it not been for the small children wandering the hard shoulders with large jerrycans of water half their size, or the occasional stall of local produce.

The good road did not last very long, though and we were soon on nothing more than a widish track and this turned out to be the last part of the journey, leading to Kinkizi and Kanungu. The road passed through a fertile valley, full of banana crops and where they make a potent banana spirit, which is only sold locally. At times we were driving on the edge of a ridge, with hundreds of feet to the left or right and occasionally we passed a truck, bringing goods to where we were going too. The road was also subsiding, and in the rainy times, there are often mudslides or boulders falling down onto the road. It was now dark, but in around two hours we made it through to Kinkizi.

Suddenly we were in a small town, with all sorts of ramshackle shops, but selling all types of goods. The forest was still all around us and the place had an ambience all of its own. Next day we heard, however, that the bishop had cancelled our appointment, as he had an "important" service to hold in the community, to which we were instructed we had to attend. It wasn't scheduled to finish until around 1 and it was only a little over time, but I decided to go walkabout during the service, which was in a language I did not understand (and 3-4 hours long). Around the church were hundreds of local kids all apparently waiting to sing (though they were never invited) and so I took the opportunity to see what they were about.

English was very poor so I didn't get very far, but one little girl of about 8 chatted to me about her father "beating her for no reason" and a few others showed interest in my laptop, although I didn't switch it on, and my camera, which always seems to create huge excitement.

After the service the bishop seemed irritated - apparently he had been heckled, when he had called upon the congregation to fight against the recent appointment of Catholics in local civil service posts. I think people felt they had other priorities - water, transport, educational facilities, to name a few. I was introduced to him and he was somewhat hostile. I retorted that I only worked with organisations keen to elicit change, which I don't think went down very well...

I stopped over at the Savannah Hotel, which was very nice and I heard lions grabbing antelopes in the Queen Elizabeth Park during the night! But next morning, we had to head back. Stopping off at the North Kigezi diocese, we met up with a wonderful couple of pastors, who were working in Rukungiri and the surrounds. We talked about Butterfly and some of their other projects and I'm hopeful there will be some opportunity to liaise again with them. Water was much less of an issue there, because they had worked up a strategy with WaterAid...

So, back home and on the dusty, fume-filled roads again. Another 14 hours and we were in the traffic of Kampala again. My host was driving and I can't thank him enough for some wonderful and informative discussions mid-transport but also for having the tenacity to drive safely through such tricky surroundings.

Clearly roads make trade and here in many places roads have become neglected, probably because so few vehicles use them. A short 40km journey in Kinkizi and Kanungu can take 2 hours, though and is this conducive to trade on a large scale? The government thinks not and has apparently put a proper road into the budget for 2010. Let's hope it comes and can help transform this disadvantaged place.