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.

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(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.

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(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.

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(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.

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(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.

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(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.

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(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.

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(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.

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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

“Small but powerful:” Being part of #teamzuri in Uganda & the UK

Zuri ambassador Jenna, who has been with us from the very start, shares her thoughts on the two months she spent in Uganda this Spring in this beautiful blog post. 

Throughout March and April I was privileged to join Ross and Danielle in Kihembe, visiting Kishunju Primary & Nursery School and finally seeing the projects supported by The Zuri Project. My first day at Kishunju is one that will forever be one of my most treasured memories; driving along the murrum road on my first of many boda boda rides, enjoying spectacular lush-green scenery and being greeted and waved at by everyone in the community we passed, we finally arrived at Kishunju. I was immediately and repeatedly told “you are most welcome” by huge African smiles and warm embraces by all of the teachers and pupils, and was made to feel just that; it was heart-warming and genuine, and incredibly humbling.

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My first day coincidentally fell on the first day of a new school term which meant the handing out of scholastic materials through the educational incentive project, to all 250 pupils, which included 2 pencils, 2 pens and 6 exercise books. They lined up in classes and came up one by one to collect their materials which also meant for a fantastic way for me to meet all of the beautiful young souls I was about to share 2 special months with! After my first experience of local food – a meal with the teachers of posho, beans and vegetables (grown from the school gardens!), we then spent the afternoon in a classroom with teachers doing a project evaluation for the ‘Educational Incentive Project’. This was facilitated by Ross using the 4+1 evaluation tool (read about it here http://bit.ly/227CmAC) and it was truly inspiring to see the teachers discuss what went well and not so well, lessons taken from it and then collectively decide on actions for next time. This was the first project evaluation of many throughout my time at Kishunju, and we saw them evolve from a very slow discussion almost led entirely by Ross continually asking questions and where teachers spoke shyly, to full blown debates with teachers becoming more and more engaged; sharing their ideas and any frustrations with increasing confidence.

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Throughout the next couple of weeks I got to know the school, teachers, pupils and got involved as much as I could in the projects. It was incredible to see the agricultural project in action; we harvested 300kgs of maize planted in the school grounds and then helped, along with the rest of the school prepare the soil and plant the new seeds just before the rains came. It was also inspiring to see the introduction of ‘sack gardening’ led by partners at Bwindi community hospital – an exceptionally innovative way to grow vegetables, in a sack as the name suggests, with limited space and resources! We also discussed plans to clear a further acre of land on the school grounds in order to expand capacity, meaning the agricultural project is well under way to achieving the long term goal of a nutritious meal for every child!

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My next few weeks flew by and were jam packed with activities. Whilst we were predominantly based at Kishunju where the projects are currently, I also visited different schools in the area, went to numerous church services, shared amazing local food at several different people’s homes, visited coffee plantations, explored nearby larger towns, spent a couple of weekends at the beautiful Lake Bunyoni, met other people from the UK working in the area and visited their projects, and even attended a lengthy and very interesting ‘giving away’ ceremony! Before I knew it, it was time for Joe and then Tomo to arrive, and we spent time again at Kishunju, where we did more project evaluations, spent time walking around Kihembe and the boys enjoyed several football matches whilst Danielle and I played games, sang and danced with the other children. It is hard to put into words how special it was just simply spending time with them all, their generosity and spirit never wavered and to echo what Ross has said I won’t make a fuss about how life changing it all was, however it undoubtedly does give you new perspectives on your own life back in the UK.

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It has been so difficult to summarise my trip to Uganda, we experienced so many things and there is so much more I want to write about but I’d end up writing a book, so I will try to keep it short. I can’t thank enough Ross and Danielle for organising everything, it was incredible to share such an unforgettable trip and thanks for making me laugh until my stomach hurt on so many occasions. Thank yous are also extended to all of the lovely teachers & pupils at Kishunju, to everyone we met in the community, to Herbert for always looking out for us, showing us round and for helping us understand Ugandan culture, to Herbert and Sarah for their amazing hospitality (and Sarah’s wonderful cooking) to our faithful boda drivers, to the staff at the BCC and to all the other Ugandans we met for their overwhelmingly welcoming attitudes!

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The Zuri Project is a small charity run entirely by volunteers and it has been amazing to have gone from helping to organise and take part in fundraisers in the UK, to then travel to Kihembe and see first-hand how donors money is spent – directly on the projects. These projects are truly community-led ; they are run by and for the people of the community, it is their hard work, their ideas, their dedications that are already producing some amazing results. On a final note I’d just like to emphasise how inspiring it is that all of this is ultimately driven by the passion and extraordinary commitment by both Ross and Martin who founded the Zuri Project. I’ve grown up with Ross; we went to school together and have known each other for longer than we will admit, and met Martin through the Zuri Project and both of them are passionate, kind, devoted, and two of my favourite humans. Without them, none of this would be possible and they both put in so much of their time to an incredible cause. Thank you both for including me in The Zuri Project; I love being part of a charity that is small yet so powerful, I’ve learnt so much and met some fantastic new friends both in the UK and Uganda through it, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds, and of course visit Kihembe again!

Jenna Draper 

@jennadraper

Zuri Project Marathon Football Match 2016

Wherever you live in the UK, whether that be the North, the South, or if you’re unfortunate enough to come from the Midlands, there are an increasing number of charity football matches being held as fundraisers for local charities. With The Zuri Project Uganda being registered officially just over a year ago, the 29th May saw our first ever, unique, charity football match.

The ‘Light-Bulb’ Moment

I have been volunteering for The Zuri Project Uganda for just over a year now – pretty much since we became officially registered. At that time, I was helping Martin with little odd jobs and running the Instagram page. Myself and Martin worked together at DGCOS and HIES, which is predominately where we spent most of our lunches talking all things Zuri (amongst other things). It was on one of these lunch breaks we toyed with the idea of running a charity football match to raise awareness of The Zuri Project Uganda. Now, if you don’t already know Martin, then I’ll need to point out a few characteristics which will become apparent to the event shortly. First of all, he’s extremely ambitious, he’s very enthusiastic, he loves anything to do with fitness, particularly endurance sports/activities, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t sleep. Which brings me back to the discussion of the charity football match. Whilst I was more than happy to help organise a football event, Martin wanted more. He wanted something unique. He wanted a marathon football match! So, it was from Martin’s ambition and passion that I’m sat here – watching the Euro’s – writing up how we held our first ever ‘Marathon Football Match’.

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In November 2015, we experienced our first ever Zuri Conference Call. This involved all ambassadors and our two Co-Founders. During this call, we opened up our idea to the group about our marathon football match. Not surprisingly, we received a positive and supportive reception from everyone on the call. In fact, it was on this call that we recruited Becky as co-organiser. It was Becky’s suggestion to hold the match at Brinscall Village Junior FC. So, with groups approval and the location decided on, Becky and myself were all set to being organising the Zuri’s first ever marathon football match.

Organisation

First things first, we had to decide how long would the marathon match would last. Our very own Co-Founder Ross, had previously participated in a marathon match which lasted 12 hours. For our first event, we thought 12 hours might be a little much, although this is definitely something we haven’t ruled out for the future. In the end, we settled for a modest 8 hours. A decision was made to split the 8 hours into 40 minute intervals with 5 minutes break between each interval.

We then moved on to the players and the structure of recruiting enough participants for the full 8 hours. Thanks to Becky, her Dad and brothers, Brinscall Village FC were 100% committed to getting as many players as possible. Likewise for myself, playing at Eccleston & Heskin FC, I had manged to get a few of the lads to support our event. With numbers picking up, we planned to keep the match structure as close to a typical game as possible: two large squads, two captains, two managers and one score separating the two teams.

Untitled.png1.pngAs we entered 2016, the plans for the event were fully underway. With a confirmed date of the 29th May and a definite ‘all-clear’ on the location, we grew more and more excited to get players involved and increase the awareness of the event. With that said, we contacted our trusty Graphic Designer, Charlie Brown (genuine name), to help us come up with a banner design which perfectly reflected the event and captured the eye of those who drove past. It’s worth adding now, after the event, we had many families and locals come to support the event solely because of our banner. So for that, we are immensely grateful to Charlie. Whilst on the topic of marketing, we were extremely fortunate enough to have our own bibs made with the Zuri Project’s logo for the event. Brinscall Village JFC not only provided us with the facilities, they went above and beyond and supported the event by offering the bibs as a donation – we would have been lost without their generosity.

Brinscall Village JFC and Parbold Douglas Academy Primary School

At the onset of organising, and leading up to the event, we had created a group email thread to keep all ambassadors informed. But additionally, this allowed us to communicate our ideas and accumulate feedback for what had been arranged so far. Within our group of Ambassadors, we have two teachers, Becky Kealey and Jo Eccles (My better half) both of whom came up with the idea to include a children’s football game at the event. We toyed with a few suggestions as to who could be incorporated, but finally decided to include both Parbold Douglas Academy and Brinscall Village Junior FC. Both parties are already involved with The Zuri Project Uganda, so we saw it very fitting for them to have the opportunity to Kick Off the marathon match.

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The Big Day

Bank Holiday Weekend, Sunday the 29th May, 2016 – The Zuri’s first ever marathon football match. The day had arrived and we were incredibly lucky with the weather. Maybe in fact, a little too lucky. I think there were a few sunburnt faces the following day. But all worth it of course for an amazing Charity. Just before we had set up, I couldn’t believe it – we had suggested the idea of holding a football match the best part of a year ago, and now it was here. All 8 hours of it.

The teams were ready. Kanungu XI – captained by Simon Blackledge and Botogota XI – captained by Dale Vardy. Brinscall Village JFC and Parbold Douglas were prepared and ready to kick the match off. We had BBQs ready for the burgers. Small kids games alongside the pitch. An Ice-cream van scheduled for just after lunch. The club’s bar would open early afternoon. We had organised for a set of speakers to be playing in conjunction with game. We also thought to organise for a couple of student physiotherapists to help us out. With every last detail planned we were ready!

The event was a great success, even more so than we could have imagined. We managed to raise a staggering total of £835 – which is still so overwhelming even typing this. The two children’s teams were fantastic and played some great football. They kicked the 8 hours off with a bang! The atmosphere was what you’d expect of a perfect summers day – jovial, full of laughter and everyone loved getting involved. We ended up with a great mix of players, age ranging from 8 years old, right through to mid-forties. By the end of the 8 hours we were all shattered, but with huge smiles on our faces – I couldn’t have asked for a better day.

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During the organisation of the event, I was extremely overwhelmed to see how many people offered to help myself and Becky. Particularly I would like to just say a massive thank you again to Becky and Becky’s family and all those involved with Brinscall Village JFC, Ged and Anne Whewell (Martin’s parents), my parents, the student physio’s from The University of Bolton and most importantly, to all those who took part to make the day so special. Here’s to next year!

Chris Hogan @cjhogan8

 

Uganda, take 4.

I’ve been trying to write this blog post for a month. Every time i’ve opened up the document, i’ve deleted stuff, changed sentences and even changed the topic. Today, before my flight back to Europe, i’ve decided enough is enough, and whatever I come up with in the next 45 minutes will have to suffice. So here goes.

My fourth trip to Uganda is the one that will stick with me for the longest. It’s been a roller coaster ride. I have no idea how to succinctly summarise what has been the most challenging, enjoyable, infuriating, exciting, tiring and at times baffling three months of my life. I’m not about to ramble on about how life changing it might have been, but I want to focus on a specific aspect of the trip: The people.

At The Zuri Project Uganda, we are blessed to have people in different parts of the world who are willing to give up their time, and substantial amounts of their own money, to support our work in Uganda. Firstly, my girlfriend Danielle, who quit her job as a recruitment consultant to spend the past 4 months with me in Africa, deserves a special mention. Not only has she been incredibly important in planning new projects and co-ordinating and planning volunteer activities, she has dealt with my impatience and anxieties. She deserves a medal.

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As I’ve mentioned before, The Zuri Project would be nothing without our Ugandan staff and volunteers. I couldn’t possibly name them all, but the continuous hard work and dedication of Herbert, Job, Elly, Eras, Agrey, Nathan, Moses, Johnson, Yonah, Mercy and Precious, make all of our projects possible. They are the driving force behind of all of our work; their ideas and creativity provide us with project ideas, and their passion and hard work make the projects happen. It has been wonderful to see our team in Uganda grow. It has been a pleasure to plan together, learn together, celebrate together and even to fail together. It has by no means been easy, but we’re getting there and to have such a dynamic and dedicated team to depend on, we couldn’t ask for much more.

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That brings me onto our UK based ambassadors and volunteers. Whilst Danielle and I were in Uganda, we were joined for some of our trip by Jenna, Joe and Tomo. Having three of my closest friends in Uganda with me made the trip even more special, and the fact that they flew half way across the world, at their own personal expense, to volunteer their time to support the projects is something I’m incredibly grateful for. Being good friends, they offered critical feedback about what we were doing well, and what we weren’t doing so well. They attended meetings, got involved with the school projects and even got us a mention in The Birmingham Mail! Sometimes it can be difficult to see where you’re going wrong or where you could improve, so having your friends there to support and guide you is invaluable.

uganda4It goes without saying, that thanks must also be extended to our supporters and donors, without whom we couldn’t deliver any of our projects. We’re delighted that, apart from the odd marketing expense in the UK, all of our money that is raised goes directly to support our projects in Uganda. Being just over a year old, we can’t believe how much financial support we have received from so many different people. So thanks very much for your support.

Just to finish up, as i’m heading to the airport shortly, I wanted to leave you with an African Proverb I heard whilst I was in Uganda. Typically Ugandan, it’s a little eccentric, but there’s a decent message in there somewhere: 

When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.

We’re a very small charity, hoping to achieve big things in Uganda. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re thrilled with the start we’ve made and can’t wait to see what the future has to hold.  Thanks to everyone who has supported us so far and here’s to the future…

Ross.

@rossoross

 

Evaluating The Zuri Allstars Sports Project

It’s been a few months since we last posted a blog, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy! Quite the opposite actually.

Last week saw the completion of the pilot phase of The Zuri Allstars sports project. In November and in collaboration with Opportunity Africa, we set up a youth football league in Kihembe, which brought together teams from 6 different villages, who played against each other during the school holidays. After each training session and match, the coaches delivered short workshops, educating the boys about things like the importance of hygiene, safe behaviours in relation to the transmission of HIV/AIDS, life skills and many other issues. It is our intention to run this project during each school holiday, and to increase the amount of teams involved each year.

After the final match last week, Herbert and I completed the first stage of our project evaluation. As an organisation, each project that we deliver is evaluated in relation to its impact on individual wellbeing, and we use NEF’s 5 Ways to Wellbeing as our method of measuring wellbeing. Simply, we believe that if we can co-design projects that support people to connect, be active, take notice, keep learning and give, then we can incrementally support people to improve their wellbeing. In order to measure this, we have designed a simple questionnaire that asks five questions that relate to each area of NEF’s ways to wellbeing. We asked 40 boys from different teams to complete the questionnaire, and as a result of participating in The inaugural Zuri Allstars Project:

  1. 80% of the boys agreed or strongly agreed that they have connected with their friends, family and members of the local community
  2. 80% of the boys agreed or strongly agreed that they have been active and exercised regularly
  3. 84% of the boys agreed or strongly agreed that they have been more aware of their feelings and surroundings
  4. 80% of the boys agreed or strongly agreed that they have tried new things and learned new skills
  5. 82% of the boys agreed or strongly agreed that they gave given their time to help other people in their community

As this is our first project evaluation, we’re absolutely delighted with the impact that this project has had on the wellbeing of the boys, but we are still learning and will have to keep tweaking our processes. For the second part of our evaluation, I facilitated a Four Plus One evaluation, through which we brought together the key project stakeholders involved in the planning, delivery and monitoring of the project. The 4 + 1 tool is a very simple, empowering way of evaluating a project, ensuring that all people involved have the chance to offer their feedback across the following areas:

  • What have we tried?
  • What have we learned?
  • What are we pleased about?
  • What are we concerned about?
  • What actions will we take in the future?

There were 5 people present at the evaluation (the coach, the head teacher from the school where the project was based, the project manager, the director of the partner NGO and the project administrator) and the process was fantastic. We started with an opening round, before spending about an hour going through the process, with everyone having the opportunity to offer their opinions and thoughts about the project. There were no interruptions, and each person gave considered and extremely insightful feedback. After a closing round, everyone involved said they were delighted to have had the chance to offer their feedback, and they all felt empowered and in control of the project. We also got some tangible, positive actions that will inform the project brief for the next sports project, to be delivered later in the year.

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We are absolutely thrilled with the results from our first evaluation, and also with how well the process was received and how happy everyone was to participate. The project was by no means perfect, and there are many things that we need to improve on before delivering the next sports project in November, but that is why we conduct these evaluations, so we can learn from our mistakes and improve for next time. Over the next few months, I will be spending time in Kihembe, working with Opportunity Africa to evaluate the other pilot projects that we have supported over the past few months. We will be following the same two-part evaluation process, and will be supporting our partners to facilitate the evaluation process themselves. We see this as a vital step in living out our participatory values and ensuring that each project is successful.

Having recently celebrated our first birthday, we’re still a very young organisation and have lots to learn. We’re extremely passionate about what we do and we’re delighted that our projects are supporting people to improve their wellbeing, even in a small way as exemplified through this sports project. We’re always willing to try out new things and adapt our ideas, so please feel free to contribute any of your comments below.

Ross.

My time in Kihembe: OPADS, football & community led projects

In this blog, CharityWorks alumnus Hayley Gardiner talks about her experiences volunteering in Kihembe, SW Uganda, and talks about how many of the initiatives supported by The Zuri Project are starting to have a positive influence on the lives of local people. We’re so grateful to Hayley for all of her hard work, and can’t wait for her to return to Kihembe next week. Here’s what she had to say… 

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I had spent 2 months in Uganda before taking a trip to Kihembe and i’d already fallen in love with the country. I was accustomed to the natural beauty of the place and the welcoming attitude, enthusiasm and creativity of it’s people. However, Kihembe somehow managed to surpass my already high expectations. The warm welcome was continued in Kihembe, with Herbert and Sarah, teachers and other members of the community all showing me unbelievable kindness and generosity (one evening I ate 3 dinners on a walk through the village!). The recognisable lush green landscape was exploding out of the soil in the West and I had many opportunities to appreciate it: stunning bodaboda rides; the agricultural project at the school; and the majestic hills of the Democratic Republic of Congo ever present in the background. More than anything, what shone through during my time in the community was the creativity and imagination shown in the projects I was visiting. To name a few: the dances and songs the children performed at school; skits sharing the experiences of puberty and growing up; rousing football anthems; debates.. wow.

It is clear that Kihembe is a place with a lot of potential. I spent a week in the area, staying with Herbert and his family, visiting and reviewing the projects supported by The Zuri Project; most of which were only a month or two from conception. It was really exciting to see the projects so early on, growing quickly fuelled by the contagious enthusiasm of each local project manager.

12316619_10156410301895724_7884108215931995265_n.jpgI spent the most time on the O-PADS project; here The Zuri Project is supporting a local social enterprise to provide reusable sanitary towels to all the girls in P4 and above at Kishunju School. All around the world, women and girls are struggling with the natural and universal process of menstruation, and in Uganda it is the most likely reason why young girls drop out of school. In Kanungu where 38% of the population earn less than $1.25 a day (World Bank 2012), you can see why sanitary pads (which cost around $1 for a pack of 10) may be seen as a luxury rather than an essential. To introduce the pads to Kishunju School, Pamela (the genius behind O-PADS) led sensitization workshops with all the girls. This involved sharing stories about menstruation, a brief lesson from the matron at a local boarding school about the experience of growing up, and lots AND LOTS of questions. It felt so valuable and necessary to create a safe, supportive space to discuss these experiences and learn together. The transformation from timid questions at the beginning of the session, to the confident and lively conversation towards the end reflected an increased confidence in growing up and the power of mutual support. The boys at Kishunju also had a chance to discuss experiences of growing up with the male teachers.

12294676_10156410301865724_5823411905784956683_n.jpgIt was great to see the agricultural project at Kishunju School also prospering. Here The Zuri Project have provided seeds and equipment required to transform previously unused land around the school into a bountiful garden in order to grow various fruit and vegetables. This has the aim of supporting school meals and eventually bringing income to the school from the surplus. The project manager Job Nahabwe, who is also a teacher at the school, was delighted to show me around the gardens and explain how he manages the land and the teams who work on it. The school is split up into 4 teams who compete to see who will yield the most. On Wednesdays the whole school leave their classrooms to help on the garden, engage with the project, and gain practical skills to go alongside their agriculture classes. In a country where 86% of the population are farmers these are important skills to learn. I also got the opportunity to get involved and struggle to keep up with the weeding with the powerful folk in team TIGER.

2015-11-08 18.45.13.jpgAnother project I got to experience was Zuri All-Stars. Agrey, another teacher at the school, who qualified as a football coach with support from The Zuri Project, teaches football around the local area, and now has 6 teams ready for a local league. I was lucky enough to watch a preparatory friendly between two of the teams. What I loved about this project was (again) the dedication shown by Agrey, but also the use of football to influence and enhance the community of Kihembe in creative and unique ways. He explained how football training teaches his pupils (who range from 12 – 35 years old) lots of important life skills, including discipline, team work and dedication. Also, it is possible to get school sponsorship if pupils have good football skills, something Agrey and his sister both benefitted from, so this training could have an impact on many elements of the players lives in future. I also had the opportunity to practice my skills in rousing-speech-making when I was asked to represent The Zuri Project at the end of the game. One of the highlights of my whole trip was the Zuri-All Stars anthem that was written during my time in Kihembe and performed on my last day. It blew me away and again showed the enthusiasm and dedication of those involved in these projects.

I hope it is clear how inspiring and educational this week was for me. It flew by, and I am pleased to say that I am going to go back to this wonderful community in about a month! It is a rare opportunity to be able to work with a charity which has laid such brilliant foundations for genuine community-led development, and which is so flexible and open to input from volunteers. I hope to do some more research on my return, have ideas about skills I may be able to share and contribute, and (of course) want to catch the Zuri All-Stars League! I want to thank everyone in Kihembe for making me feel so welcome and for sharing your stories and passions with me. I can’t wait to see you all again!

Hayley Gardiner

My first trip to the pearl of Africa

In this week’s blog post, Zuri Project Ambassador Danielle reflects on her first trip to Uganda, and tells us how getting involved in the projects was a truly unforgettable experience.

Landing in Uganda for the first time, I wasn’t really sure what to expect after hearing so much about this relatively small, landlocked country in East Africa. However, the excitement of grade five rafting at the source of the River Nile, experiencing an incredible three day safari in Queen Elizabeth NP and of course visiting the projects that the Zuri Project Uganda are currently supporting in Kihembe, pushed aside my fear of the unknown. safari_elephantAfter a near death experience on the Nile (maybe a slightly dramatic explanation) and an amazing safari experience we headed to Kanungu district where our scheduled meetings with community groups and development organisations would take place. So far, I was taken aback by the beauty of the country and I was looking forward to what the rest of the trip had in store.

Meeting Herbert Niwagaba, one of the key people involved in setting up The Zuri Project and being welcomed into his home, made my arrival into the village a wonderful experience. After visiting the first couple of projects, I was brought to tears by the community spirit, the positivity & happiness of the people, along with the fact they were absolutely delighted that we were there to meet them. Visiting the village and meeting the community made me realise many of the first world problems I face every day really aren’t problems at all. Kihembe_devIt changed my perspective for the better. After visiting more projects and community groups over the next few days, as well as playing games with the local children, I began to realise what a wonderful village Kihembe is. It was very clear from our meetings, that the local people have a great vision for their development, and we’re absolutely thrilled to be supporting them achieve this vision.

The village is incredibly rural, and is not far from the border of the DRC. Ross and a local government official took a dip into the Ishasha river that separates the DRC and Uganda, and we were assured that this is perfectly safe, from both rebel groups and crocodiles! herb_selfieAfter numerous boda boda rides, lots of interesting food and many life changing experiences, my trip had come to an end and I was travelling back on a 11 hour bus journey across Uganda, reflecting. What the Zuri Project has done in collaboration with the community so far is incredible, and seeing what potential projects can be supported going forward I felt delighted to be a part of it. The positivity of the community without the materialistic things many of us in the UK require to make us happy is humbling, and it really made me think differently about the things I take for granted and complain about!

The people of Kihembe are doing wonderful things to develop their community, and the Zuri Project are delighted to be supporting a number of different community led projects. As I boarded the plane in Entebbe airport to head for London, I was filled with excitement about returning next year and putting all my effort into working with the community and supporting the Zuri Project in its development.

Danielle

@daniellecawood

Our latest projects: October 2015

Since I came back from Uganda at the start of September, everyone involved with The Zuri Project has been incredibly busy co-designing and planning our next projects. During our month in Uganda, Danielle and I were delighted to meet with many different community based organisations and a diverse array of local people during our time in Kihembe, which has provided us with the foundations to plan our next projects. Over the past 6 weeks, our team in Uganda have done wonderful work gathering additional information and conducting research, our board of trustees have met a number of times to discuss the particulars of each project to ensure they meet our charitable objectives, and our ambassadors in the UK have offered insightful advice and guidance, which has challenged us to think about our work in many different ways. This collaborative effort is something we are immensely proud of, and together, we have decided to support the following six projects, each of which is designed to improve community wellbeing in a different way:

Agricultural and nutritional community outreach programme

We have partnered with Bwindi Community Hospital Gardens to deliver an agricultural outreach programme in Kanyantorogo, through which over 150 people each year will receive practical workshops to improve the quality of their agricultural practices. Agricultural officers from BCHG engage with community members and deliver 2 training sessions per month, educating people about methods of crop diversification, the importance of a balanced diet and information about the correct use of environmentally friendly fertilisers to facilitate crop rotations. The project supports people to diversify their personal crop yield and therefore increase their income. It also addresses malnutrition and provides families with important information about healthy and nutritious foods, as well as information about how to grow these crops

Educational incentive project

One of the greatest challenges facing families in Uganda in relation to education is the relatively high cost of school fees and scholastic materials. In rural areas in particular, families often regard sending their children to school as too expensive and prefer the children to stay at home and work. In recognition of the burdensome school fees that families have to pay for their children to attend school in Uganda, we have supported Kishunju Primary School to develop an educational incentive project, whereby when school fees are paid, children receive scholastic materials in the form of 2 pens, 2 pencils and 6 exercise books to last the school term, in order to reduce the overall cost of a child’s education to the parents. Over the last few years, the number of children enrolled at the rural Primary School has fluctuated between 165 and 292, with pupil ages ranging from 3 to 20 years old. We are exploring ways of expanding this project and working with other primary schools within the community in the near future, to explore whether this pilot project can be up scaled.

Primary school agricultural and nutritional project

At Kishunju Primary School, we have also piloted an agricultural and nutritional project, which has seen the school cultivate some of their unused land and turn it into vegetable gardens and crop fields. This project started informally in 2012, and prior to its’ inception, children had to walk long distances to cook at home or go all day without eating, meaning either missing lessons and/or pupils dramatically losing concentration resulting in a classroom environment unsuitable for learning. Presently, each child now receives breakfast in the morning, as a result of the crops that has been planted and grown on the school land. Working in collaboration with Bwindi Community Hospital Gardens, we are now increasing the scope of this project and have started to cultivate nursery beds at the school, where the gardener is growing a variety of vegetables including cabbage, eggplant, dodo, tomatoes, matooke and beans. After 2 seasons, it is our hope that the gardens will yield sufficient crops to provide each child with a nutritious meal at lunch time, in order to raise concentration levels of the children, and increase the value of education in the eyes of community members.

OPADS female sensitisation Programme

4Millions of girls throughout the developing world are disempowered by the simple biological process of menstruation. Hygienic and affordable sanitary protection is often not available to girls in many developing regions, and this is the case in Uganda. Instead, these young women commonly resort to the use of unsafe methods such as rags, grass, mud and soil. The risk of infection becomes incredibly high. In order to support young girls to have access to safe and affordable sanitary products, we have partnered with OPADS international, a social enterprise based in Kanungu district, which makes reusable cloth sanitary pads designed to offer effective and hygienic menstrual protection to young girls. The OPADS provide environmentally-friendly menstrual protection for up to 1 year at approximately 41% of the total cost of a one-year supply of commercial sanitary pads. Through our partnership with OPADS, we have designed and delivered a pilot project at Kishunju Primary School, where we have supported girls in P5, P6 & P7 to receive sensitisation workshops about the importance of menstrual health and hygiene. Each girl also receives a pack of seven OPADS for use throughout the year. For more information about this project, visit: http://www.opads.info

The Zuri Allstars Sports Project

5In collaboration with Opportunity Africa, we are supporting the implementation of a mini football league within the community of Kihembe, where 70 young people will have the opportunity to participate in competitive sport on a weekly basis, whilst learning important educational messages. Children across Uganda love football, and the ability of football to bring people together to learn, share and compete is a powerful and simple way to deliver social change. We are supporting the provision of the necessary resources, structure and personnel to create the foundations of a mini league, where small sided teams will compete against each other in weekly matches. We are also co-designing an extra-curricular educational programme to run alongside the league, through which the players will learn key life skills through their football which they can apply to their own lives, ranging from safe sex behaviours in relation to HIV/AIDS, to the importance of basic health and hygiene.

School cultural exchange programme

6We have developed a partnership between St Joseph’s Primary School in Chorley and Kishunju Primary School in Kihembe, through which the pupils from each school exchange termly letters and photographs in order to share what information about what it’s like to attend school in the UK and Uganda respectively. We have also created a buddy programme for the teachers, where teachers from each school communicate via email and Skype in order to discuss any challenges that they may face and can problem solve together. In the UK, we will be arranging an African cultural workshop once a year and a fundraiser in collaboration with St Joseph’s, to raise awareness about Ugandan culture and share our experiences of what it’s like to live in a different country. We are currently exploring ways in which we can develop partnerships secondary schools in the UK and Uganda.

We will be posting regular updates from our new projects, so please follow our blog for more information. We are also planning a number of new projects that we hope will be implemented at the start of 2016, so please check back to hear about any new developments. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our funders and supporters; we’re incredibly grateful for your continued support and without you, none of these projects would have been possible

As always, feel free to let us know what you think, or get in touch if you have any questions. 

 Ross

@rossoross