In Memory of Bishop Emeritus John Wilson Ntegyerize

Late last week, we were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Bishop Emeritus John Wilson Ntegyerize. Not only was Bishop a wonderful man who showed kindness to everyone he met, but he was also the founding chairman of our Ugandan organisation, Opportunity Africa.

When Herbert first introduced me to Bishop John in 2015, I was struck by how humble and approachable he was, given he had held such high office throughout his professional life. As Herbert’s father-in-law, he was only too happy to act as the first chairperson for our Ugandan CBO, and he leant his guidance and expertise to our inexperienced team.

Over the years of working with him, I gained a deep respect for Bishop and thoroughly enjoyed his companionship. His support of our projects in Kihembe is something I will be forever grateful for, as our work wouldn’t have been possible without his guidance.

He leaves behind an incredible legacy as the inaugural Bishop of Kinkiizi Diocese, and has touched countless lives across the district of Kanungu and even further afield. After being one of thousands of attendees at his burial on Saturday, I was struck by the sheer volume of people that turned up to pay their respects.

In addition to his family and friends, in attendance were church dignitaries from across Uganda, as well as present and past political leaders [including former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi], such was the respect that people had for this great leader.

But what struck me most was the fact that so many regular people turned up to say goodbye. In the days since his passing, it seems that everyone has a memorable story to share about Bishop, and it’s a small comfort that the collective memories we have of him are overwhelmingly positive.

He leaves behind his loving wife, Kaka Pamela, as well as his daughters Priscilla, Sarah, Lois, and Sparkle.

All that’s left to say is that everyone at The Zuri Project is so grateful to have known Bishop and to have benefited from his guidance and good-nature over the course of the past six years. It was truly an honour to contribute to his legacy, and we will strive to continue our work in his absence.

Rest well, Bishop.

Reflections on 2020

2020 is a year that will be etched in our memories for all the wrong reasons. COVID-19 has been a scourge that we’re all sick of, and we’re collectively yearning for the day that we can consign it to the history books. That day will undoubtedly arrive, but for now, we have to stay as positive as we can and try and adapt to life in and out of lockdown as best we can.

It’s been a tough year for me personally, too, but I was thrilled to spend six months of it in Uganda. In spite of cuts in funding, lockdowns, and a whole host of other challenges, we’re absolutely thrilled with the outcomes we’ve achieved with our Ugandan team. In this post, I want to share some of the highlights with you, while thanking you for contributing to our success this year.

Food Distribution Project

In April and at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, we partnered with the government of Uganda and identified 190 families in the village of Kihembe who would each receive 10kgs of maize flour (for posho), 5kgs of beans, 1kg of salt and 1 bar of soap. Although this project isn’t something we would normally support, we fundraised specifically for it and gave donors the option to contribute £10, which would support a family for a week. We were overwhelmed when we raised over £800 to support this project, and the families were delighted with the food that they received.

Food packages ready to be distributed to families in Kihembe.

You can read more about this project here.

New Kitchen at Kishunju PS

At the start of the government lockdown, we put together a budget to construct a new kitchen at Kishunju PS. This was because the previous kitchen was dilapidated and close to falling down. Our team used bricks and timber to try and make a more permanent structure. Although our work was slightly disrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak, we’re delighted to say that the structure was finished, and once schools are permitted to reopen, the kitchen block will be put to good use. We were able to recycle the doors and the iron sheets for the roof from the previous structure, which allowed us to complete the project in a cost effective and timely manner.

The new kitchen at Kishunju PS

You can read more about this project here.

New Science Lab at Kihembe Vocational Secondary School

Perhaps our most significant achievement of 2020 was completing construction of the new science lab at Kihembe Vocational Secondary School. As it turned out, building the lab was the easy part. In order to understand what a school science lab looks like in Uganda, we visited a number of schools in Kanungu to get some inspiration. Working with local carpenters and guided by the science teachers at the school, we created a plan for the interior of the lab, which included a storage room at the back, desks and stools, as well as electricity and a sink with running water.

As a result of the work carried out in the Spring and Summer of 2020, the new science lab at the school is fully equipped with desks, equipment, a water source, and electricity. This is a remarkable feat and something that the whole team is understandably very proud of.

The interior of the new science lab

You can read more about this project here.

Improved Coffee Plantation

This summer, we struck up partnerships with Kigezi Coffee Development Academy and Kingha Coffee, both pioneering organizations working locally to improve the quality of coffee grown in Kanungu district. Our relationship with Kingha, and Andre in particular, has been truly educational. Andre visited our plantation last month and offered some feedback and instruction on how to improve our growing practice organically.

Working with Bright, he first instructed us to start ‘gap-filling’ – the simple act of replacing dead coffee trees with new seeds. He also told us about the process of ‘mulching,’ explaining that we can organically improve the soil’s quality around our coffee trees by utilizing debris from our vegetable plantation. Moreover, because the effects of climate change negatively impact Kihembe and droughts can happen, he showed us how to dig trenches around our plants to retain water during dry seasons.

We hope that our coffee in Kihembe will be utilised as a source of income generation for our projects in 2021.

Parents working in our coffee garden at Kihembe Vocational Secondary School.

You can read more about this project here.

New Classroom Block at Kihembe Vocational Secondary School

After the success of the science lab, we were thrilled to start construction on a new classroom block at the secondary school site. Eventually this classroom will serve as a computer lab and library, and we hope it will be operational by the summer of 2021. We have exciting plans in place to donate books and laptops to the school now that solar is available, and thanks to many generous donations over the festive period, we’re a step closer to making this a reality.

Some of our team assessing construction work at the site of the new classroom block.

You can read more about this project here.

Workshop for Girls

In partnership with Girl Power Foundation, we launched a series of educational workshops in the summer of 2021, aimed at encouraging girls to stay in school. These workshops were a timely intervention, as COVID-19 caused schools to close in Uganda and many girls dropped out for various reasons. The Girl Power team, alongside our project managers, delivered workshops that encouraged girls to stay in school and avoid risky behaviours at home.

Some of the Girl Power team speaking to girls from Kihembe.

You can read more about this project here.

Overall, we’re delighted with the progress that we’ve made in what has been a challenging year for everyone. We would like to thank everyone who has contributed to our work in 2020, and everyone who has supported us with donations.

We hope you’ve had an enjoyable festive period with your families and we are looking forward to seeing the light at the end of the tunnel in 2021.


Science equipment for the science lab!

Teachers receiving the equipment from Monica.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post telling you we had completed the science lab at Kihembe Community Vocational Secondary School. This was an outstanding achievement, and we were proud to complete this project during the lockdown. However, due to government restrictions, we were unable to source any science equipment for the lab. We weren’t sure when we would buy the necessary things from Kampala and transport them to Kihembe.

The lab is equipped with water, gas and solar; all essentials for practical science lessons.

I’m delighted to tell you that we managed to buy science equipment from Kampala, and the school teachers have now received it. It’s excellent timing, as schools in Uganda re-opened last week, having been closed since March. The science teachers designed the interior of the lab and requested the necessary equipment to enable them to teach their subjects successfully.

It’s incredible to think that these teachers had been teaching practical science lessons without any practical science equipment! Many students managed to pass their practical science examinations to show how diligent they are and how talented their teachers are with limited resources at their disposal.

We constructed a store room at the back of the classroom to keep the science equipment safely and securely.

We sincerely hope that the arrival of the science lab equipment will be a turning point for the school. Understandably, many students have elected to study elsewhere, given the lack of equipment and resources that the school has had. We are now confident that many young people in Kihembe will elect to study at the school in terms to come, now that it is adequately equipped.

We received guidance from the teachers of other schools in the district on what equipment we needed to stock.

The final stage of the initial development plan for the school is also about to be completed. The new classroom block that we built during lockdown is being converted into a library and computer lab. We are currently fundraising to send 1,000 books and eight laptops to the school, and we’re close to our target. If you can contribute to this project, we’d be so grateful, and you can do so by following this link.

Thanks so much to everyone who helped us fund the science lab, it was a long time in the planning, but collectively, we’re so thrilled to see it completed!


Improving our coffee plantation at Kihembe Secondary School

Parents digging in the school compound. Debris from the vegetable garden can be used in ‘mulching’ – a process designed to improve soil quality.

In 2017, we planted 1500 coffee trees at Kihembe Community Vocational Secondary School (KCVSS) due to our sustainability commitment. The idea was to provide the school with a sustainable income-generating source, independent of fee-paying students, allowing the school management committee to buy essential educational materials, textbooks, and teacher resources to improve the quality of education delivered.

Three years on, we’re delighted that the first crop of coffee is ready to be harvested later this year. We aren’t expecting a great deal, but we’re thrilled that we’re taking a step in the right direction. We decided that we wanted to grow only organic coffee and avoided all pesticides and fertilizers. While we’re content with this decision, it has resulted in a loss of some of our crop, due mainly to environmental factors such as climate change.

This summer, we struck up partnerships with Kigezi Coffee Development Academy and Kingha Coffee, both pioneering organizations working locally to improve the quality of coffee grown in Kanungu district. Our relationship with Kingha, and Andre in particular, has been truly educational. Andre visited our plantation last month and offered some feedback and instruction on how to improve our growing practice organically.

Working with Bright, he first instructed us to start ‘gap-filling’ – the simple act of replacing dead coffee trees with new seeds. He also told us about the process of ‘mulching,’ explaining that we can organically improve the soil’s quality around our coffee trees by utilizing debris from our vegetable plantation. Moreover, because the effects of climate change negatively impact Kihembe and droughts can happen, he showed us how to dig trenches around our plants to retain water during dry seasons.

Gap filling is a simple yet important process for regenerating the planation.

Andre also introduced us to different organic fertilizers and pesticides available on the local market. He gave us an insight into best practices regarding their use. Kingha’s coffee is delicious, and you can find out more about their work on their website. Although not currently available to buy in the UK, I understand they’re exploring opportunities to import it soon!

Upon reflection, we perhaps didn’t invest enough time and resources into managing the plantation throughout the first three years. However, thanks to Andre’s input, we’re in a much better place to improve the coffee and see much higher yields in seasons going forward. Once we have harvested the first crop at the end of this year, we look forward to meeting with the school’s management committee to plan how the money will be spent at the start of the next term.

Digging trenches between the coffee plants provides a basic water storage solution and improves the yield of the coffee plants during dry seasons.

Ultimately, we see this as an innovative solution for schools that lack essential resources and improve the quality of education delivered. We’re excited to see what the future holds for our coffee plantation.


Smile! Amazon is making fundraising easy for our supporters

Since COVID-19 arrived in our lives, it’s fair to say that a lot has changed. We’re all adapting to changes that are out of our control, and we’re doing our best to get on with business as usual.

We’ve seen a seismic shift in the funding landscape. Like The Zuri Project, many small charities are having to develop creative new ways of generating funds for our vital work. Like many other charities, we have lost donors throughout this period of COVID-19. While understandable, it’s still frustrating and challenging for us to plan for the next couple of years.

Despite this, we’re happy to learn that many people are still passionate about supporting our work in Uganda, and we’re certainly not going to sit quietly and feel sorry for ourselves! We’re also trying to make it easier for you, our supporters, to fund our work without putting yourselves out a great deal.

That’s why we’re thrilled to inform you about our inclusion in the Amazon Smile program.

As one of Amazon’s designated charities, you can now raise funds for us when you buy anything through the Amazon store. And the great thing is, there is absolutely no cost to you – Amazon donates 0.5% of the transaction value directly to our account. You can be happy in the knowledge that your purchase is supporting our work in Uganda.

We would be so grateful if you could sign up to support us in this way, particularly if you use Amazon regularly, as many of us do right now! To sign up, all you have to do is the following:

  1. Visit and search for ‘The Zuri Project Uganda’ in the search bar and designate us as your chosen charity.
  2. Once you have selected The Zuri Project as your charity, purchase as you usually would.
  3. Upon checkout, Amazon will inform you of how much you have raised for us.
  4. That’s it!

It is straightforward and will make a massive difference to our fundraising if you sign up! However, one crucial thing to remember is that you must shop through Amazon Smile, and not merely, in the future to raise funds for us. It might be worth bookmarking the site so that it is there in your browser waiting for you, as it’s easy to forget!

We hope you can support us in this way and select us as your Amazon Smile charity.


Encouraging girls to stay in school

In Uganda, we’ve partnered with Girl Power Foundation to launch an ambitious project to try and reduce school drop out rates amongst girls in Kihembe. In the two months since the launch of the project, Monica and the team have delivered workshops to 50 girls from 4 different schools in Kihembe.

Winnie speaking to girls at Kihembe Vocational Secondary School

The workshops have been educational in nature and have been structured to provide girls with the opportunity to hear from role models who have progressed through school and achieved an education. Role models such as Winnie, the founder of Girl Power Foundation, offer girls the chance to see what is possible when they stay in school.

It’s a sad reality that the drop out rates of girls compared to boys in Uganda is disproportionately high. This is often due to the many expectations placed on the shoulders of girls, particularly in relation to work to be done at home. Also when girls are in secondary school, they are sometimes encouraged to find a partner to marry, instead of staying in school. Sadly, many girls also fall pregnant and are forced to drop out of school by their parents/teachers.

Monica and the team have devised workshops that try and mitigate against some of these challenges that girls face. For example, girls are being warned about the dangers of participating in risky sexual behaviour and being counselled on ways to avoid advances of older boys.

Moreover, our team is speaking to parents in Kihembe to try and emphasise the importance of allowing girls to stay in school. Parents often place press on girls to work hard at home, often neglecting their school work to complete chores and work in the garden. Monica and Winnie are trying to show how girls can contribute to their families by staying in school. This is an incredibly important message.

Thanking Monica, Winnie and the team for the workshops delivered at Kihembe Community Vocational Secondary School

As schools in Uganda remain closed due to the COVID-19 situation, we’re hoping that the workshops will inspire girls to stay focused and stay motivated to remain in school. There are so many potential distractions and it’s incredibly important that the girls know they have the support of role models like Monica and Winnie. We are confident that these workshops will continue into the future and we hope that we see as many girls as possible return t school when they re-open at the start of next year.


Kihembe Vocational Secondary School: Building for the future

After finishing the construction of the science lab at Kihembe Vocational Secondary School (KVSS) last month, as a team we wanted to keep the momentum going and start a new project as soon as possible. Therefore, at the end of last week we provided the funding to start work on the construction of a new three classroom block at the school.


The money we have sent will complete the construction of the first classroom and lay the foundations for all three classrooms. We hope that in the course of the next 12 months, we will acquire funding to complete the other two classroom blocks in a timely and efficient manner.


The new classroom block is significant in many respects. However, most excitingly and most importantly for the school, one of the new classrooms will serve as an IT lab and library. Thanks to the sub-county team who installed solar at the school in June, we now have a vital power source that gives us the opportunity to provide IT equipment for the first time.



Until recently, learners at the school have had to undertake practical science examinations without access to practical science equipment. The same is true for IT. How can you feasibly sit an IT exam without ever using a computer? It’s baffling but testament to the hard work of the students that many have passed these exams in spite of the obvious challenges that they face.

We hope that by the start of 2021, this situation will have changed. But we need your help. We have put the funding in place to construct the classroom, but we need your help to provide IT equipment. Through your generosity, we hope to acquire the following:

  • At least ten PCs or laptop computers, cleared of all passwords, personal information and files etc. to stock the IT lab.
  • At least one printer that can also serve as a photo copier and a stock of replacement ink cartridges.
  • Information books that can stock the library – these include encyclopedias, reference books, dictionaries, IT books, informative non-fiction works etc. Please note that we aren’t currently asking for novels.
  • Funding to buy a Microsoft office package for each PC.
  • Funding to ship the equipment over safely and securely.

We aren’t clear on exactly how much funding we need, but we estimate that it will cost approx. £1500 – £2000 to ship the equipment to Uganda and deliver to the village. Normally we like to buy the necessary equipment for our projects in Uganda, but given the cost of computer equipment we feel that this isn’t feasible for a charity of our size at this time. That’s why we are humbly asking for your help.


Many of us have spare PCs at home that we no longer use and some of us may have access to PCs or Laptops from work that are no longer needed due to new working from home instructions from our employers. If you think you can help us with this, then please send me an email – – and I will let you know how we are hoping to store and send the equipment.

Back to the project in hand – as you can see from the photos that are included in this post, work has already started on the new classroom and we’re thrilled with the progress that is being made at this early stage. On Tuesday of this week we held a commissioning at the site that was attended by the whole team, board members and local political leaders. It was a great day and one that encouraged us all about the future direction in which the school is heading.


The local radio station made an announcement about the work being done at the school yesterday and we hope that it will help us increase enrollment when schools reopen after the COVID-19 lockdown. We all recognise that we’re part of something very special here and we invite you to join us.


Thanks for your support and I hope to hear from those of you that can help us continue building KVSS.

Ross x

A new science lab at Kihembe Secondary School

I’m absolutely delighted to share with you the news that the science laboratory that we’ve been building at Kihembe Vocational Secondary School (KVSS) has finally been completed! This project has been a long time in the planning and development and I’m delighted with the progress that has been made.

science lab 1

The government of Uganda announced that all schools would have to close back in March due to the outbreak of COVID-19. As a team we used this as an opportunity to complete work on the secondary school. As is the case with all of our projects, this was done in phases and began with the completion of the building work, which was actually finished at the start of the year.

science lab 2

As it turned out, building the lab was the easy part. In order to understand what a school science lab looks like in Uganda, we visited a number of schools in Kanungu to get some inspiration. Working with local carpenters and guided by the science teachers at the school, we created a plan for the interior of the lab, which included a storage room at the back, desks and stools, as well as electricity and a sink with running water.

science lab 3

The carpenters from Kihembe skilfully handmade all of the furniture for the lab and it looks fantastic, as you can see from the photos. They also created space for the storage of the science equipment at the back of the lab. We are waiting for the equipment to arrive from Kampala and as the lockdown is still ongoing, we’re not entirely sure when it will arrive. But at the very least we know we will receive it before schools reopen, whenever that is.

Arguably the most challenging element of equipping the lab was acquiring a safe and constant water source that could pipe clean water to the sink that is needed for practical lessons. We decided that a water tank would be the most cost effective and simplest way of achieving this. I’m very grateful to Coventry Jubilee Rotary Club who very generously donated £500 to contribute to the construction of the water tank.

sceince lab 4

As well as supplying the science lab with water, the tank will also serve as a crucial water source for the school kitchen, and the staff will use it in order to prepare meals for the students. Everyone in Uganda is very grateful to the Rotary for their ongoing support of our projects and this latest contribution was both timely and integral to the successful completion of the science lab project.

Another significant development that we’ve seen at the school site during lockdown is the installation of solar. We are very grateful to the sub-county team for organising this and it is another example of our collaborative model that we’re so proud of. There are many stakeholders involved in the development of the school and it’s always wonderful to see local politicians and leaders making a positive contribution to schools in their districts.

The installation of solar is hugely beneficial in a village where there is currently no electricity. The solar will provide power to the science lab, but it will also provide a power source for our next project: the creation of a computer lab and library. We have already approved a budget to start building work on the new classroom that will serve as the computer lab, but we would like to ask for your help with this project.

science lab 5

Because computer equipment is so expensive over here in Uganda, we’re asking you to have a look at home to see if you have any old laptops that you no longer use. If you do, then we would be incredibly grateful if you’d be willing to donate them to the school. We ask that you reset factory settings on your laptop and remove any passwords. We are also requesting for novels and informative resource books that students may be able to utilise. All textbooks will be purchased in Uganda.

It is our hope that we will be able to send across 10 computers and a significant amount of books that will stock the library. We will do this in one shipment and we hope to send them before Christmas. If you can contribute to this project, then please send me an email – – and I will let you know how you can support us.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has contributed to the science lab project at KVSS. We hope that now we have a science lab, we will be able to attract more students to the school and we hope to see a significant improvement in the test scores of the students who undertake science practicals in their examinations. As the plans are already in place to work on a computer lab and library, we’re very excited to see the school this time next year.


What about us? BLM and the scourge of colonialism.

What about us

The scourge of colonialism has never gone away. Many of us Brits know too little about this dark chapter in our history, yet it lingers in every corner of the previously colonised world today.

Colonialism was a collection of acts so heinous that it condemned millions around the world to lives of servitude and assimilation. The colonisers pillaged their way through so called ‘uncivilised’ nations, denouncing their cultures and beliefs as ‘savage,’ before systemically imposing Western ideology, religion and culture on the unsuspecting populations. Nowhere was colonialism so pronounced than on the continent of Africa. In the late 19th century, the ‘Scramble for Africa’ gained momentum and left almost no corner of the vast continent untouched by the colonisers.

The so-called father of African literature, Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, was a prominent figure in anti-colonial ideology across Africa. His revered & seminal novel Things Fall Apart is perhaps his most striking exemplification of how colonialism arrived in Nigeria; proceeding to alienate communities from one another, before annihilating traditional belief systems and then systematically ruining the life of the novel’s protagonist, Okonkwo.

I read this novel in college and was struck by its simplicity and brilliance. As an 18 year old, I discovered a world of treachery so barbaric and absolute, that I couldn’t believe it was the creation of my ancestors in the not so distant past.

You see, as a white Brit growing up in the 90’s and 00’s, I learned mainly about our great triumph over the Nazis, and understood that Hitler and his cronies were the custodians of pure evil, to which every other murderous and inhumane regime and individual should be compared. Without a doubt, the crimes of the Nazis require our study and understanding. But what of the redoubtable acts of the colonisers?

It’s criminal, in my opinion, that revolutionary African writers such as Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka & Ngugi wa Thiong’o are absent from our mandatory reading lists. Crucial to understanding colonialism is to hear from the oppressed, not the oppressor. And in Ngugi’s Decolonising the Mind, we have access to four essays that have the potential to change our understanding of the indignity of colonialism.

In recent conversations with some of my Ugandan colleagues, whose parents lived through their nation’s struggle for independence in the 1960s, we’ve spoken in depth about the Black Lives Matter movement. We’ve spoken with interest and empathy about the terrible events in the USA recently and it’s sparked a conversation about race and colonisation here on the African continent.

That’s when I heard one of my colleagues say, quite innocently, “so what about us?” Of course, her intention wasn’t an attempt to renounce the current efforts of the BLM movement; it was an attempt to begin an important conversation about the dynamics of race and inequality here in Africa.

Her question sparked a surge of intrigue within me. Because so many visitors to post-colonial Africa today don’t understand the wretched policies and tactics employed by the colonisers of centuries past; there is a lack of understanding about how such events have shaped modern day society in many of Africa’s relatively new independent states. With this, in many cases, there is still the common misconception widely perpetuated that white = right and that people from countries of the ‘developed’ world need to develop countries of the ‘undeveloped’ world.

This paradigm is best explored within current development circles and you will find many organisations, often unintentionally, dishing out forms of unrefined neo-colonialism to communities where their interventions are neither wanted nor needed.

I’ve come to believe that it’s a lack of understanding, not malice, that motivates people to fall into the trap of becoming ‘white saviours.’ If only they could understand the scourge of colonialism and the history and cultures of the people they intend to work with, then much of their colonial-type behaviours could be avoided.

I praise the work of the Black Lives Matter movement and I think we all need to act. I believe that action must start with education. And if we are to consider my colleague’s question – ‘What about us?’ then we must educate ourselves about how colonialism has impacted the African continent and what we can do to avoid such acts in the future.

My recommendation is to start with the work of the three writers I have already mentioned in this post. Below is a short reading list, each of which I hope you find to be an interesting introduction to post-colonial literature and to realise that Black Lives Matter everywhere.


Chinua Achebe


Things Fall Apart

No Longer at Ease

Arrow of God


N’gugi wa Thiong’o


Decolonising the mind

A Grain of Wheat


Wole Soyinka


Myth, Literature and the African World

Ake: The Years of Childhood

A statement on ‘White Saviourism’


The Zuri Project Uganda has been my life for the past five years and along with many  talented individuals, I’ve tried my utmost to make it a success. There are many things that we should be proud of, and you can read about many of our achievements in this blog, but there are also many things that have happened that require some introspection from those involved, including myself. One ‘thing’ in particular that I have become acutely aware of since I co-founded The Zuri Project in 2015 has been a concept that has become known as ‘Whte Saviourism’ – and I would like to share my thoughts on the topic with you in this blog.

The issue of white saviourism is broad, polarising and too often overlooked by development practitioners in countries of the colonial West. But it’s a serious issue. I’ve been involved with international development for five years now, and I’ve tried so hard to avoid falling into the imperialistic trappings of brazenly stereotyping Africa as a singular place, Africans as a singular people and the often erroneous action of considering people to be poor, simply because they don’t have a great deal of material wealth.

Yet in my experience, I’ve come to realise that my whiteness, not a term I’ve ever actually used before, inescapably places me at the crux of the very saviourism that I’ve been trying to avoid. Regardless of how hard I try to deflect any faux praise that is directed at me for the work that I’ve done in Uganda, I can’t get away from the fact that I receive it nonetheless.

My whiteness, in Uganda, is my distinguishing feature. I’ve realised that no matter how many times I tell people that it’s my Ugandan colleagues who are responsible for the delivery of a certain project and not myself, they don’t seem to take on board what I’ve said. They assume that perhaps I’m just being modest, when in reality I’m just being honest.

It saddens and disheartens me a great deal that development is still too often seen as something that is concocted by outsiders and then handed down to community members suffering from some kind of ailment, who should then be reassuringly grateful for the work done to them. I’ve interacted with a great deal of white people in Uganda, and the sad reality is that some (but certainly not all) of these people sanctimoniously dish out an un-refined type of neo-colonialism under the auspice of “making a difference”. That might sound harsh, but I’m afraid it’s true. It can take many forms, but kind of child sponsorship is often a favoured travail of the white saviours.

There’s also the good old voluntourism trick. Why not go to Africa; a place where undergraduate students from privileged backgrounds with little and often no practical experience, can volunteer in health centres, teach in schools and look after wild animals, whilst having a jolly good time to boot. Before you scold me, yes, this is how I first experienced sub-Saharan Africa.

And I feel terrible about it.

This is perhaps one of the fundamental reasons why I wanted to set up an organisation. I can honestly say that, in a small way, I wanted to show that it is possible to collaborate with Ugandan organisations and co-create something different and meaningful. In many ways, my decision has been vindicated. I have done things differently and as an organisation, we have challenged many stereotypes and tried to do things the right way.

The right way, as we see it, is to spend nearly all of our money in Uganda on projects and also to have only Ugandans working in our organisation, in the communities that they are from. I’m proud of this, I really am.

But the spectre of white saviourism has been ever present. When I’m in Uganda, people try and impress me and whoever I’m with. Students dance for us; project benefactors make sure they tell me how grateful they are for my work and of course, people stare at me and talk about me as I walk around project sites. Why? Frankly, it’s because I’m white and it’s because they think I’m in charge.

I’ve slowly come to realise that even after trying so hard to persuade people that I’m not, many people see me as just another muzungu, just another white saviour on a mission from God. And it’s for this reason that I’ve decided that The Zuri Project needs to be even more specific when outlining our objectives in Uganda. Whilst we have made progressive steps towards re-defining the roles and responsibilities of our project partners, we simply haven’t done enough to reverse a trend that equates white with right. I have failed, to a degree, to do enough to stop the spread of the pervasive attitude that development is being done to, not done with our Ugandan partners.

Therefore,  I have decided that as a trustee of The Zuri Project, I am going to passionately advocate against malpractice in the international development sector and educate and encourage people to only participate in projects that they are truly qualified to be involved with. I also welcome comments and feedback from those that we partner with on how we can better collaborate, as we are far from perfect.

I believe that we still have an important role to play, but we must consciously re-define it. We mustn’t get caught in the trap of believing we’re more important that we are. I’ve known for a long time that the projects we support in Uganda could happen without us (if funding was sourced from elsewhere), but it’s now our responsibility to further nurture relationships that will allow our Ugandan partners to flourish and not just exist.

I hope that in making this bold announcement, we can wholeheartedly renounce the mysterious world of white saviourism, and work in a way that is truly representative of our values and beliefs as an organisation. I feel passionate about community development and I’m proud of the friendships and relationships that I’ve developed as a result of our work as an organisation. But I feel the time is now right to adapt our organisation and become more aware of our position in the world in which we operate.

This is crucial.