There are not many people in and around Mubende who have never heard of Abingdon Vesper Rotary Club. And that is not surprising, given that the Club has been active in that poor rural area of Uganda for 23 years.
We have provided agricultural and medical training, donated tools, supported many schools, assisted a vocational training centre and helped the hospital in Mubende. All these projects are managed and supervised by our own members, many of whom went out to Uganda to inspire and came back inspired themselves.
It is hard to single out individual projects, but some stand out and are worth looking at in more detail, as they could serve as a model for other Rotary clubs.
Since 2007 Abingdon Vesper is running a microcredit scheme for farmer groups. These groups receive a three-year interest free loan combined with training in bookkeeping and organic agriculture. The members of each group decide amongst themselves who will receive a loan and those members pay interest to the group. This interest forms the future microcredit loan pool of the group, after the principal loan sum has been paid back. The returned principal is used as a new loan for another farmer group. The money provided by Abingdon Vesper and our twin Clubs gets recycled again and again. This microcredit programme not only provides the money which farmers would find hard to obtain elsewhere, but brings huge added benefits because of the many skills that are being learned in the process. It is the farmers’ own responsibility to make a success of the programme. It is not a hand out, but a valuable business and learning process. Abingdon Vesper’s microcredit scheme in Mubende has already helped thousands of families achieve food security and a higher household income and the programme can run for many years to come.
Another remarkable Mubende success story is the Kyamukoona Skills Centre. Situated in a village without running water or electricity, this centre offers very affordable vocational training courses to children who dropped out of primary school. In the past these youngsters had nothing to do and were hanging around aimlessly, drinking and getting into trouble. A group of dedicated local people decided to do something about this and set up the Centre, working as volunteers. The Centre was provided with tools and materials, and all the school buildings, including the bricks, were made by the students themselves. Apart from general building skills, the students learn carpentry, tailoring, hair braiding, and, thanks to the donation of some computers and a generator, also IT and welding. With these skills they are able to earn a living and look after themselves. In fact, many of them have found work in the project I will highlight next.
Learning 4 Life, a primary school development project, is a charity with roots in Abingdon Vesper. It started in 2015 and it is presently giving comprehensive support to six rural schools. The facilities and quality of education in these schools were very poor and absenteeism of teachers and pupils was a big problem. Lack of public transport means that pupils have a long walk to school, often barefoot and without breakfast.
Learning 4 Life provided seeds and tools and motivated the parents, teachers and children to develop the school garden under the expert guidance of a Key Farmer Trainer. The organic growing methods which are being taught at school can be replicated at home. Every day maize, beans and vegetables from the garden are used to prepare porridge and other school meals for the children and their teachers. Other schools have started to follow suit.
We also improved the school infrastructure by renovating buildings, or, in the case of temporary mud structures, by replacing them with permanent classrooms. We built latrines for the girls, kitchens with chimneys and fuel saving stoves, accommodation for teachers, school desks, solar panels and, very importantly, water harvesting and safe drinking water systems. Some of these improvements received Rotary District Grants. Many of the craftsmen working on these projects learned their trade at the Skills Centre mentioned above.
The teachers are trained in new, more engaging teaching methods and are provided with a variety of teaching materials and class libraries. We stimulate teaching and learning by organising inter-school competitions at the end of each term with quizzes, sports, music and debate. These events are great fun and many pupils go home with a small solar light which they won as a prize in the quiz. Those who did not win, will have another chance next term. As a result of all these improvements, the enrolment, attendance and exam results at these school have seen a sharp increase.
Due to Uganda's high birth rate it is difficult for all children to learn basic skills. Many children also drop out before completing primary school. Meeting these challenges requires a sustained effort.
Coordinator Mubende Projects