Kihembe Vocational Secondary School: A dream that became a reality

Two years ago, when Danielle and I were first introduced to Monica Agaba, she told us about something she wanted more than anything in the world. Alongside her friends, family and other community leaders, she wanted to build a secondary school in her village. The village of Kihembe is populated by six primary schools and home to thousands of children, but the nearest secondary school, until earlier this year, was over 10km away; an insurmountable distance for most considering the fact that public transport is non-existent and the only way that most children can get to school is by foot.

Danielle and I were totally inspired by Monica’s drive and determination to bring a secondary school to her village. We wanted to support her to achieve her dream and, as The Zuri Project, this is exactly what we aim to do: we help local people in Uganda turn their project ideas and dreams into realities. Since we first learned of the idea, the secondary school has truly been a collaborative effort and so many people have been integral to its initial success as a project.

In Uganda, we must thank and pay tribute to Kihembe Development Association, led by Monica, for persevering and for acquiring the land from the government on which the secondary school could be built. The work of the Opportunity Africa team, who have been responsible for planning the building work, facilitating and monitoring the project, has also been incredible. In spite of facing the devastating reality of losing Herbert, the OA team has been resilient and committed throughout, and has seen the project all the way through to its conclusion. We are immensely proud of what the team has achieved. We are also incredibly grateful to all of the hundreds of other people in Uganda who have donated their time, money and effort to get involved in the secondary school project. It would not have been possible without their support.

In the UK, we must extend our thanks to all of our individual donors and fundraisers, who have worked tirelessly to raise funds to send across to our Ugandan team. Zuri Co-founder Martin cycled literally across the European continent to raise money for the secondary school project, an achievement that I still can’t begin to fathom how difficult it must have been. Ambassador Chris arranged and participated in a gruelling 3-peaks challenge with friends and colleagues, and battled the horrible British weather to raise an unbelievable amount of money to contribute to the secondary school project. Joe, Em and Jess have organised the first ever Zuri Project Summer Ball in Birmingham, due to take place at the end of this week. With over 100 people expected to attend, we are hoping that enough money will be raised to start planning the next phase of expansion for the secondary school, due to start in January 2018.

In addition to our passionate volunteers, we are also very grateful to our generous donors and funders, who have supported us with very generous financial donations over the past couple of years. Earlier this year, I wrote a blog about the generosity of The Rotary Clubs that we work with, and you can read all about their support for Zuri here.

As you have read, so many people have been involved in turning the secondary school dream into a reality. Below is a timeline of events showing you how the project unfolded. I hope you are inspired by the progress that our Ugandan partners have made. We certainly are.

Phase 1

September – October 2016

  • Land legally acquired from the government of Uganda to start the building process.

Untitled.png

  • Community mobilisation and fundraising. Once the land was confirmed, community leaders and decision makers got together to organise community wide fundraising, which resulted in just short of £1000 being raised to support the first phase of the project.

Untitled.png

  • Laying the foundations. Many community members [Between 100-150] donated their time to clear the land and dig the foundations for the school, as well as providing building materials and tools to support the contractors during the next phase.

Untitled.png

Phase 2 

November – December 2016

  • Contractors hired and main structure started. Opportunity Africa put the contract out to tender to local building firms and the building work started in the middle of November.

Untitled.png

  • ‘Super structure’ finished. By the start of December 2016, our team in Uganda had finished the super structure of the main school building, finishing the brick work up to the roof level.

Untitled.png

Phase 3

December – January 2016 – 17

  • Community meeting. Opportunity Africa arranged a meeting between community leaders, local councillors, local government officials and local NGOs to share updates and plan the opening of the school. It was agreed that the school should be open by the start of February, subject to funding.

Untitled.png

  • Latrines completed. Community members fundraised for three pit latrines to be dug and a structure to be built around them, resulting in one for girls, one for boys and one for staff.

Phase 4 

January – February 2017

  • Roofing and doors added to structure. After the Christmas break, work recommenced on the secondary school building, with contractors adding the roofing and ordering the windows and doors. During the first week of February, the roof was finished, and the windows were ordered to be added to the structure.

Untitled.png

Phase 5 

February – March 2017

  • Desks crafted. In order for the school to open during the first week of February, we purchased enough desks for both classrooms, which were hand crafted and painted by local carpenters from the community.

Untitled.png

  • Scholastic materials purchased. In addition to the desks, we purchased textbooks and other scholastic materials to ensure that the school could open its doors to the community at the start of February.

Untitled.png

  • Teachers recruited. We supported Opportunity Africa and Kihembe Development Association to recruit the first teaching staff at the school – a headmistress is now in place as well as a number of full time class teachers.

Untitled.png

 

 

 

 

  • 71 students recruited for the first term! Students from across Kihembe have signed up to the school and paid fees for the first term. This number increased to over 100 by the end of the second full term, and we expect this number to continue to rise.

Untitled.png

  • Windows added and fixed. The windows were purchased and fixed to the building during the first term. Many schools in Uganda go without windows, which makes teaching during the rainy season nearly impossible.

Untitled.png

  • Painting done and building work completed. The final touches were added to the building during the Easter holidays and the building was painted white.

Untitled.png

Visit of UK team 

April 2017

After hearing the tragic news of Herbert’s passing, Danielle and I decided to visit Uganda, to pay our respects to Herbert’s family and also to visit the secondary school. We were completely taken aback by just how much our Ugandan team had achieved in the short that passed since the work started.

Untitled.png

Danielle with Moses, Job, Elly, Mercy and Monica, with the secondary school in the background.

Untitled.png

Me [back row] with the class of 2017 after a showcase football match against the villagers, which ended in a hotly contested 2-2 draw!

The future?

We are absolutely thrilled with the success of the secondary school project to date. Supporting a project that has enabled over 100 children now have access to a secondary education is something that we are immensely proud to have been a part of. But this is only just the start of the journey. We have supported the teachers to plant vegetable gardens and coffee on the secondary school site, which we hope in the long term will support the school to have a sustainable, ongoing income on top of school fee payments [see gardens below].

Untitled.png

Given that the school is already full to capacity, we are hoping to support Opportunity Africa to build another classroom block at the school at the start of next year, to enable even more children to have the opportunity to attend the school. All of our fundraising efforts from now until Christmas, will go towards the secondary school project. If you would like to contribute to our efforts, then you can donate via our website:

http://www.zuriprojectuganda.org/donate/ 

We really are incredibly grateful to everyone that has supported our charitable work in Uganda over the past three years, and for helping us to turn the secondary school dream into a reality.

As they say in Kanungu, webare munonga [Thank you very much].

Ross x

 

Can altruistic acts improve your overall wellbeing?

Too often, particularly in capitalistic societies in the Western world, wellbeing is defined and therefore understood on parameters that are far too narrow. When considering one’s wellbeing or one’s success, people often struggle to get past material accumulation, career prospects and monetary wealth when considering how ‘well off they are’ or how successful they have been in their lives. Contrary to what so many people think and aspire towards, more money and more power does not equate to more happiness. In 2010, economist Angus Deaton concluded that increases in emotional well being do not correspond with increases in annual income beyond $75,000 [USD] a year [1]. Although perhaps it’s overly simplistic to say that money can’t buy happiness, I do believe that several other factors have to be considered when thinking about wellbeing and happiness.

Research in the field of wellbeing in recent years has been extensive and varied and it would be very easy to draw upon a number of studies to present certain arguments. For example, in 2008, The New Economics Foundation developed a set of steps that we can all take to improve our personal wellbeing, and therefore our subjective happiness [2]. Interestingly, money isn’t mentioned at all. The five, evidence based steps individuals can take to improve their wellbeing are:

  1. Connect – connect with people around you – family, friends, neighbours, community members
  2. Be active – discover a physical activity that you enjoy and can practice regularly
  3. Take notice – Be curious, catch site of the different and appreciate the beauty of the world around you
  4. Keep learning – Try something new, re-discover a new interest, set yourself a challenge
  5. Give – Do something nice. Smile at someone. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Be the change you wish to see in the world.

The NEF has spent a lot of time researching how the combination of each of these five steps can improve people’s wellbeing and happiness, and I love the idea. I practice the concept both personally and professionally, and I can be honest and say that it has a profound impact on my overall wellbeing. For the purposes of this short blog post, however, I want to focus on step number five: the act of giving.

I wholeheartedly believe that altruistic endeavours can improve our own sense of worth and can make us feel happy, satisfied and productive. Just take a minute to think about the last time you went out of your way to do something nice for someone, without expecting anything in return. Did you feel good about it? Did you feel as if your contribution had a positive impact on that person’s life? If the answer is yes, then you’re not alone in this trait of thinking. In a seminal 2005 research study entitled Altruism, Happiness and Health: it’s good to be good, Stephen Post concluded that “a strong correlation exists between the well-being, happiness, health and longevity of people who are emotionally and behaviourally compassionate.” [3] I would certainly agree. Having the will, motivation and dedication to help improve the world in a small way is something that is commendable, and should be celebrated.

Having spent a number of years facilitating development projects in rural communities in south-western Uganda, I have become very close to a number of people who have tried to make the world a better place for others, in spite of the fact that they have very little themselves. I’ve worked with people in Uganda who have given up everything to help improve the lives of members of their communities and have given up opportunities to move away and earn lots of money for themselves and their families. It’s been truly inspiring to meet people with such a mind-set, and an absolute pleasure to work alongside them. I’ve worked with Ugandans who have built a school in a village where children have never had the opportunity to attend school previously; I’ve been moved by people who have given so much of their own time, and money, to renovate a dilapidated health centre that exists as the primary care facility for 5000 people; and I’ve been inspired by pioneering individuals who have advocated for the betterment of their communities in the face of extreme adversity.18010516_10154276371255706_5843147821941424790_n 2

The common personality trait that these change makers share, in my opinion, is gratitude. The people that I’ve been working with over the past few years are grateful for what they have and they use this as a springboard from which to give something back to their communities. As a result, they are determined to help their friends, neighbours and other community members improve their lives. In the communities that I have visited and worked in, there is a collective appreciation that altruistic acts, no matter how small, have the potential to catalyse change both intrinsically and extrinsically.

We are all capable of altruism, it is not simply innate. We can all do a little bit extra to help people out, whether it’s volunteering in a local hospice, holding a door open for the person behind us when we’re in a hurry, or making a small donation to a charitable cause that we’re passionate about. Give it a go. Be altruistic, even if for selfish reasons. You might end up feeling good about it.

You might even change the world.
Ross.

 

[1] http://www.pnas.org/content/107/38/16489.full

[2] http://www.fivewaystowellbeing.org/

[3] http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.485.8406&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Celebrating the past to build our future

It was just over a month ago that we first heard the devastating news of Herbert’s death. Although we’ve had time to grieve and come to terms with the loss, it’s still difficult to imagine the future of The Zuri Project and Opportunity Africa without Herbert. He meant everything to us all. Our tribute to Herbert, which was read out at his funeral by the reverend, is below for those of you who haven’t read it:

Yesterday, we lost our brother. Our leader. Our inspiration.

The tragic passing of Herbert Niwagaba has broken our hearts and created a chasm that will never be filled.

We will be forever indebted to Herbert for everything he has achieved, for every relationship he has built and for every life he has touched. His contribution to the world around him has been immense, he has changed lives, created opportunities and enriched people’s futures.

Above all else, we are eternally grateful. We are grateful to have known a man whose humility, selflessness and compassion knew no bounds. Grateful to have shared some wonderful times, to have laughed together, to have cried together, to have dreamed together.

It is now our responsibility to build upon Herbert’s legacy, to celebrate his remarkable achievements and to be inspired by a man who made the world a better place. May Herbert now rest in peace, assured that together, we made a difference, and that he will remain forever in our hearts.

Until we meet again, brother.

Webare munonga sebo.

Ross and Martin x

 

It was because of the depth of our relationship with Herbert, that Danielle and I decided to travel to Uganda earlier this month to spend time with Herbert’s family, and to pay our respects to his friends and to the community that meant so much to him. In spite of the circumstances, it was wonderful to see so many familiar faces and to spend time with people who have grown to become like family over the past few years. We cherished our time with Sarah and the children in particular, sharing our memories and celebrating how much Herbert was able to achieve throughout his short life.

17991218_10154276370985706_3318293566651180828_n 2.jpg

It was also great to spend time with the Opportunity Africa team and to visit all of the projects that we’ve been supporting in Kihembe recently. We had a number of meetings, discussing predominantly what the future might have in store, and looking at ways in which Opportunity Africa can continue delivering projects that will have a positive impact in their community. We were completely overwhelmed by the commitment and determination shown by the team to continue with the projects and to plan for the future. We’re confident that Opportunity Africa, led now by Elly, Monica, Job, Mercy and Bright, will do Herbert proud and collectively, will continue to create lasting positive change in Kihembe.

18010516_10154276371255706_5843147821941424790_n 2.jpg

In the UK, we are as determined and resolute as ever, and if anything, our fundraising efforts will intensify. As I write, Martin is 350km into an epic 3500km bike ride across Europe, for which you can sponsor him here. We also have a number of events planned throughout the year and if you would like to support us by arranging an event at work or with your friends and family, then please do get in touch.

We thank Herbert for what he started and for the memories that we cherish. We now must ensure that we continue his work, and ensure his legacy is fulfilled.

Ross x

 

Capacity Building with Opportunity Africa

Fundamental to our participatory ethos here at The Zuri Project is empowerment. We strive to ensure that every project that we support allows our partners in Uganda to take control of the whole project process, from planning to delivery, all the way through to evaluation. In order to achieve this, we believe that it’s incredibly important that all local stakeholders are involved in the process as much as is feasibly possible, and that the project outputs and objectives are clearly articulated and communicated at all times.

With this in mind, our in country team, led by Herbert Niwagaba of Opportunity Africa, delivered a one day capacity building session at Bwindi Cultural Centre*. The primary focus of the day was for Herbert to communicate the values and objectives of The Zuri Project & Opportunity Africa, to provide our new partners, staff and volunteers with an understanding of what we’re trying to achieve in collaboration with local people. The day provided people with a platform from which to ask questions about our work and to understand why we do things following a very specific participatory methodology.

sam_0493

Some of the Opportunity Africa team after the training at Bwindi Cultural Centre.

Herbert spent lots of time listening to ideas about how our projects in Uganda could be improved, as well as considering ideas about how our partnerships could develop and grow. He also conducted a four plus one evaluation, listening to what people are pleased about, hearing any concerns about certain elements of our work, writing down what we’ve tried in relation to project delivery and evaluation and then thinking specifically about what we’ve learned about our processes so far, before agreeing on a number of SMART actions that together, we can take to improve our work in Uganda.

The day also presented Herbert with an opportunity to bring our Ugandan partners up to speed with the progress of our ongoing projects, and it coincided with the opening of the first secondary school in Kihembe; something that we’re immensely proud of and a project that I will be writing about in more depth in the weeks to come.

The feedback that we’ve received from the attendees of the capacity building day has been fantastic – people have said that they now feel more involved in our projects and have gained a greater appreciation of why The Zuri Project is different to many other INGOs they may have worked with in the past. In addition to our regular community led focus groups, through Opportunity Africa, we are committed to delivering capacity building workshops a couple of times each year, to ensure that community members feel truly empowered and valued.

From the very start of our journey as a charity, we’ve always said that we would be nothing without our in-country partners and the people who work tirelessly in Uganda to achieve positive outcomes for other members of their community. Two years in, we’re incredibly proud of the relationships that we’ve built and many of the outcomes that we’ve managed to achieve. But there’s still so much to be done, so much to be learned and so much to be improved.

Days like this help us to reach out to others and work together, to achieve positive outcomes with the people of Kihembe.

Ross

@rossoross

* We’re incredibly grateful to Canon Precious, owner of Bwindi Cultural Centre, for funding the day and offering his support to our work in Kihembe.

Meeting to plan for the future

Yesterday, Martin and I were delighted to join Herbert and 80 members of Kihembe community on a Skype call, to hear an update from community leaders about the progress of the secondary school project. Such is Herbert’s skill as a community mobiliser and facilitator, the meeting was attended by representatives and opinion leaders from each of the sixteen small villages that make up Kihembe.

20170123_174045.jpg

(Community members in attendance at the meeting)

Also in attendance was the chief administrative officer for Kanungu District, District Councillors from Kanyantorogo sub-county and a number of local councillors. The fundamental purpose of the meeting was for Herbert and the Opportunity Africa team to update the wider community on the progress being made at the secondary school site, and also to request their support and guidance to take the project forward in the coming years. The local leaders and councillors all agreed that the school should start in early February and that they will support the school’s application for a licence from the Ministry of Education. Moreover, the group pledged their financial support for the school project, and promised to donate one million UGX (£225) to provide scholastic materials and books for the classrooms.

20170123_174214.jpg

(Local leaders outside the secondary school building)

Yesterday’s meeting also marked the start of the recruitment and registration of students for the first school term. As of yesterday morning, 42 students were registered and the recruitment of teachers is also underway.

20170123_123441.jpg

(The secondary school structure, Jan 23rd 2017)

It means so much to all of us at The Zuri Project that the first secondary school in Kihembe has received community wide support. Herbert and the team in Uganda have done such a wonderful job so far in managing the project and ensuring that all of the work is carried out to the highest possible standard. We’re hoping that the building work will be finished by the end of January, and that the school can open its doors to the community in the weeks to follow.

Thank you all again for your support.

Ross.

@Rossoross

Kihembe Secondary School: A festive update

As many of you will be aware, since October, we have been supporting the build of the very first secondary school in Kihembe, a project that has been almost two years in the planning. In a catchment area of approximately 15,000 people, Kihembe currently has 6 primary schools but no secondary schools, with the nearest secondary school 10km away. With transport options limited, children who graduate from primary school very seldom make it to secondary school – an alarming reality that our partners in Uganda are urgently seeking to address.

Bearing this in mind, we have partnered with Opportunity Africa and Kihembe Development Association to support the build of Kihembe Vocational Secondary School. Much like the health centre project that we have recently completed, this project is an example of co-production in practice; we are collaborating with community members in a participatory, inclusive way, to achieve outcomes together that have been articulated by the community themselves. Our project plans outline a five phase process, three of which we have already completed. Phase one saw the community come together to fundraise and lay the literal foundations for the school, clearing the land that was donated by the government and doing the initial labour required to start the building work. A short video showing the community members coming together can be viewed here.

14666094_1255274681180767_2162642674211849577_n.jpg

(Work begins, October 2016)

Phase two, which was funded by The Zuri Project and The Rotary Clubs of Chorley Astley & Knowle and Dorridge, saw the initial structure being built up to the roof level. This phase was completed at the start of December, and you can see the current state of the structure in the pictures below. The third phase was funded by the community members thanks to mobilisation from Opportunity Africa, and has allowed three pit latrines to be dug and installed at the secondary school site, one for boys, one for girls and one for teachers. Going into the Christmas period, we are absolutely thrilled to have the shell of the secondary school completed, with ambitious plans in place to complete the building work by the end of February!

14720590_1255274687847433_1016937400834415414_n.jpg

(The start of phase two, November 2016)

Whilst this project is community led, it wouldn’t be possible without the incredibly generous support of our donors from The Rotary Club, DGCOS & HIES and also our passionate and dedicated team of volunteers, who help us to arrange fundraising events throughout the year. We had a wonderful time at our pub quiz last week, raising over £500 to contribute to phase four of the secondary school project. As it’s Christmas, we would like to take this opportunity to thank you all sincerely for your generosity and for the unconditional support that you give to our projects in Uganda. I hope you are as proud as we are of some of the wonderful things that we’ve achieved together in 2016, and are looking forward to what 2017 will bring.

15036696_1284509191590649_5707183288624728821_n.jpg

(The secondary school structure, December 2016)

From everyone at The Zuri Project, we wish you a joyous festive period and a prosperous New Year.

Ross @rossoross

Health Centre project: a note of thanks

As i’m sure you’re aware if you follow us on social media, we recently provided funding to build staff quarters at Kihembe Health Centre, to ensure that the hard working doctors and nurses have somewhere safe and comfortable to stay, so that they can provide vital health care and outreach support to the people of Kihembe. You can read more about this project here & here.

On completion of the project last month, we were privileged to receive a letter of thanks from Chris, one of the staff members at Kihembe Health Centre, which I have shared with you below. Without your financial support this project wouldn’t have been possible, so we thank you once again for your generosity. Here’s what Chris had to say about the new accommodation:

We, the staff at Kihembe HC, extend our sincere appreciation for the financial and spiritual support towards the completion of our staff quarters.

When we were posted at the facility, there was no accommodation for the staff and we slept in the ward in the facility with patients, which was uncomfortable for us. 

The Zuri Project, through Opportunity Africa, worked with our management team to achieve the desired goal of having comfortable and safe quarters for the staff. This has improved the performance and happiness of the staff, as in the past, our doctors and nurses often asked for a transfer to other facilities as there was nowhere for them to stay on site. 

The current staff, who witnessed the quarters being built, are now living on site. They no longer ask for transfers and our performance and the care we provide will improve greatly due to the new accommodation. 

Our pledge as staff is to maintain this partnership with The Zuri Project Uganda and to continue serving the people of the community of Kihembe at large. We will provide quality service and care to all people in the community and we will be accountable and transparent to all stakeholders. 

We extend our sincere thanks to The Zuri Project and Opportunity Africa, and our management team, for working tirelessly to complete the facility. 

God Bless you.

Akatwijuka Chris. 

Staff representative, Kihembe Health Centre II

IMG_20161029_155802.jpg

(Chris outside the new staff quarters)

We’re thrilled that we’ve been able to support this locally led project, and going forward, we’re excited to be planning other ways in which we can support the improvement of the health centre.

Ross.

@rossoross

Collaborating with The Rotary Club

As a small charity, we’re incredibly proud of all of the partnerships that we’ve developed since registering with The Charity Commission in February 2015. The projects that we’ve delivered in Uganda over the past twenty months have been made possible by the hard work, generosity and expertise of all of our partners, without whom our work would not be possible.

Whilst we’re thankful to all of our partners in equal measure for their continued support, we will be forever grateful to The Rotary Club for believing in us before we really got started. During the Christmas period in 2014, John Jameson invited Martin and I to deliver a short presentation to The Rotary Club of Chorley Astley, after hearing about our ideas for The Zuri Project through Martin’s dad.

We were treated to a very warm welcome at the club, invited to join the members for a dinner and talk about our dreams and aspirations for The Zuri Project. Martin and I delivered a presentation that lacked cohesion and focus, but was filled with passion for our work and a desire to gain the support of the Rotarians, by sharing our experiences in Uganda over the previous few years and our ambitions of collaborating with local NGOs to deliver locally led projects.

In the weeks that followed the presentation, we officially registered as a charity in the UK, and The Rotary Club of Chorley Astley very generously agreed to fund our first project — the construction of a water tank at Kishunju Primary School. Their grant meant so much more to us than a mere donation; it gave us confidence and belief that our plans and aspirations could work, and that belief encouraged us to think big and start to broaden our horizons as a newly registered charity.

rotary 1.jpg

(Water tank at Kishunju Primary School thanks to funding from Rotary Club of Chorley Astley)

Without a doubt, the support from The Rotary Club, and John Jameson in particular, gave us the confidence to approach new organisations and try new things. Since first meeting John, we have received unconditional support from the Rotary Club of Chorley Astley, as well as a number of incredibly generous grants that have allowed us to buy new scholastic materials for Kishunju Primary School and kick start a number of agricultural and sports projects across the community of Kihembe.

rotary2.jpg

(New desks at Kishunju PS thanks to Rotary Club of Chorley Astley)

Before I left for my fourth trip to Uganda in December of last year, I was introduced to Keith McDavid of The Rotary Club of Knowle and Dorridge. Much like John was a few months earlier, Keith was really keen to hear more about our work and was passionate about supporting our projects in Uganda. He arranged for 5,000 pencils to be shipped to Uganda in the Spring of 2016, which helped enormously with our education incentive project at Kishunju. When I returned to the UK in August, I was invited by Keith to deliver a presentation to The Rotary Club of Knowle and Dorridge.

rotary4.jpg

(5000 pencils arriving in Uganda thanks to Rotary Club of Knowle and Dorridge)

This time, my presentation was a lot more polished, direct and to the point. But it certainly didn’t lack passion either. After a year and a half of Rotarian support, we have been able to refine our approach and we have very clear objectives and organisational priorities. Working with five Ugandan and eleven international partners, we have delivered fourteen locally led development projects in Kihembe, each of which focus on income generation and sustainability in order to holistically improve community wellbeing.

Going forward, we’re absolutely thrilled that Rotary are going to be part of our journey. Our charity is run solely by volunteers, and we want to keep it that way. Over the next year, we are collaborating with a number of Ugandan NGOs to build the first secondary school in Kihembe. This is a huge project for us — our biggest yet. But knowing that we have the support of two Rotary Clubs in the UK, and all of our other partners for that matter, makes it a little less daunting, and a little more exciting.

Here’s to the future.

Ross.

@rossoross

Together we can make a difference

As you may have read in one of my previous blog posts we recently provided funding to support the redevelopment of Kihembe Health Centre. After visiting the centre in April and meeting with the staff and management committee, alongside our in-country partners Opportunity Africa, we decided to provide funds so the health centre could build staff quarters, which would provide somewhere for up to four members of staff to sleep. We were told by the management committee that the biggest problem that the health centre faced was staff retention. Due to the rural location of Kihembe, there is a dearth of qualified medical professionals in the area, which means that many of the staff have to travel long distances to work at the centre. Because there was previously nowhere for them to stay and with local transportation links non-existent, staff would look for other work in centres closer to home which often left the centre in Kihembe alarmingly understaffed. The staff that persevered, like Raymond, would often have to sleep on the ward with the patients after a long shift caring for people throughout the day.

13769577_1156485254393044_6376927461160462732_n.jpg

(The start of the work, end of July 2016)

The management committee and the staff believed that the solution to this issue was to build safe and comfortable quarters for the staff to stay in at the health centre. We asked the committee for work plans and we discovered that it would cost us about £3500 to build the staff quarters to a high specification. On my return to the UK, we agreed as a board of trustees that we wanted to support the project and our wonderful team of UK volunteers helped us to raise the required funds within a month of me being back home. It was a remarkable achievement by all. Opportunity Africa decided that the best way to complete the work was to put the build out to tender, so we hired a local construction firm to complete the work in two phases.

13728951_1160347714006798_7795578409797962888_n.jpg

(Adding the finishing touches to the roof, August 2016)

Just over a month after starting the work, they had finished the staff quarters. On completion of the project, Herbert got everyone together to conduct an internal evaluation, and it was simply wonderful to hear how well everything went. Bishop Dan Zoreka of Kanungu came to officially open new quarters and by the second week of September, 3 members of staff had already moved in to their new home away from home.

Completed Staff Quarters.JPG

(The finished staff quarters, September 2016)

I’m so incredibly proud of our team in Uganda for the way in which they carried out the work. From our initial meeting right the way through to the grand opening, Herbert and the team ensured that everything went according to plan. Tom, the contractor who delivered the project, deserves a special mention too. He went above and beyond what was required of him to get the job done as efficiently as possible, which is how it was finished so quickly. This whole project, for me, exemplifies effective co-production in practice. Through the fusion of successful fundraising by hard-working volunteers in the UK and efficient project delivery by skilled local practitioners in Uganda, we were able to achieve an incredible outcome together.

14317337_1211532415554994_7722680372067407506_n.jpg

(Bishop Dan doing the honours)

This is what The Zuri Project is all about. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved and I’m already excited for our next projects.

Ross

@rossoross

Meet Raymond

“We meet no ordinary people in our lives.” C.S Lewis

Earlier this year, Danielle, Jenna, Joe, Tomo & I visited Kihembe health centre during our stay in Uganda. We met with Raymond, an affable, intelligent, overworked nurse, who was putting so much effort into keeping the health centre running. It was a tough task. During the tour Raymond gave us of the facility in which he works, we were all moved to tears by a centre that lacked ceilings, windows and safe flooring. The medicine stocks were depleted, the furniture was sparse, and the consultation room had blood splattered up the walls. There was nowhere for the staff to rest during or after shifts, with nurses often sleeping on the ward with no alternative available. The area that was designated for a kitchen was over run by goats and chickens, and there was limited equipment and food in the stores. Given the ease at which we can access high quality, comfortable, free and safe health care in the UK, we were all shocked at the deplorable conditions that people have to endure when receiving comparative care in this corner of Uganda.

Meet Raymond 2.jpg

 

During our visit, Raymond did not once ask us for any support. He didn’t bemoan the conditions in which he worked. He didn’t complain that his wages are regularly paid late, or the fact that he often has to buy medicine from his own salary to ensure it can be provided at a subsidised price to the local populace. He wasn’t angry that there was nowhere for him to sleep on site, and that he had to walk long distances home after a tiresome shift. I was so inspired by Raymond, so moved that someone was willing to do so much for others, when he had very little to work with himself. For me, this exemplified human decency. Raymond is representative of the altruism that lies within us all, and I figured that to support him to continue to improve people’s lives, we could help to make his working environment a little more comfortable.

There and then, we decided that we wanted to raise money to support the improvement of the health centre. In keeping with the participatory ethos of The Zuri Project, we organised a meeting with our Ugandan partners and representatives from the staff and management committee of the health centre. We heard all about their present challenges, as well as their aspirations and dreams for the future. They presented their five-year strategy to us, and highlighted key areas in which they were seeking support. Together, we decided to raise money to support the completion of the staff quarters, which will allow Raymond and his team to continue to provide care to the people of Kihembe.

We needed to raise £3000 to deliver this project and to begin our working relationship with the health centre. A month and a half after returning from Uganda, we had hit our target. And it was all down to our wonderful team of volunteers. Chris & Becky arranged a football marathon in Euxton, Anne & Dayna completed a 160mile bike ride across the UK, Fin completed a half iron man in Staffordshire, and Joe organised a 40mile walk across the Warwickshire countryside. Every time someone offers their own time or money to support The Zuri Project, I get a real buzz; I’m moved that people are willing to try to improve the lives of people half way across the world. It’s an amazing feeling. I’m so proud to be part of an organisation where people are willing to do so much to help others.

The next three months are incredibly exciting. The money that has been raised will be spent on the re-development of the health centre. By Christmas, we hope that Kihembe Health Centre will have completed their staff quarters and will have somewhere for the hard-working staff to stay at the end of their shifts. This is only the start of our work with the health centre. Once the staff quarters are complete, we will revisit the five-year strategy and look at other ways in which we can support their development.

Raymond inspired me in a way that I have never been inspired before. The fact that we can support him and his staff to continue the wonderful work that they are doing is a way of saying thank you to him for his service and the care that he provides to those in need. We’re thanking him for being a brilliant human being.

Keep up the good work Raymond.
Ross.

@Rossoross