What have I learned this year?

 

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(Councillor Brian at the secondary School site)

What an outrageously difficult question to answer! I’m sorry the blog hasn’t been updated for a few months, but I’ve been quite ill and I’ve had to take some time off work. Nevertheless, The Zuri Project & Opportunity Africa projects are flying and as always, I have to pinch myself to appreciate what we’re achieving together. Even throughout my illness, I haven’t been able to stop working on the projects and developing ideas with our team.

To briefly summarise what we’ve been up to:

  • We have completed the construction of the first ever secondary school in Kihembe, with two classroom blocks and just short of 100 students signed up.
  • We’ve provided the funding for our partners to build a kitchen block at the school, as previously, the school had been using the kitchen of a very friendly neighbour!
  • We’ve planted over 1,500 coffee trees at the secondary school to work towards our five year sustainability plan.
  • We’ve provided funding for the Opportunity Africa team to purchase a motorcycle. Expenses for our team were ever growing, so we decided to buy the motorbike to save on boda boda fees.
  • We have hired a new member of staff in Uganda and we welcome Jims to our team as an agricultural officer.
  • We’ve reviewed our relationship with Kishunju PS and we are starting from the beginning. We’ve tried lots of smaller projects at the school, many of which have been positive, but some of them haven’t worked as well as we hoped they would.
  • We’re conducting our biggest ever research project in Kihembe. Our team in the field, led by Elly, is creating focus groups across the community to get feedback and to gain an insight into future ideas. We want to collect data from at least 100 focus groups by the end of the year, so Elly really does have a job on his hands!

 

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(Students outside the new secondary school in Kihembe)

I could go on, but this sums up what we’ve been up to since the start of 2018 quite nicely. Back to the subject of the blog, what have I learned this year through our work in Uganda? I think that, above all else, I’ve realised just how resilient we can be as a team, and also as individuals. After losing Herbert last year, we’ve also had a lot of difficult issues to deal with together this year, and we’ve still managed to achieve so many great outcomes, as you can see above.

 

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(Niwagaba Herbert. Our inspiration, always.)

Being resilient is difficult. It’s about sticking to your values and beliefs when things happen to challenge the very soul of what you truly believe in. But in our case, resilience has brought us closer together. It has strengthened our bonds of friendship and trust, and we are definitely stronger for it. I suppose it’s difficult to learn how to be resilient, you either are or you aren’t. But when people are resilient together, it’s amazing how much confidence and belief you can retain to try and keep moving forward. My Ugandan friends have been simply incredible in every possible way this year. What they’ve done and what they’ve sacrificed for their own community is simply outstanding, and I want to tell everyone about it. For all the negative stories circulating around the media, we have our own little world in which we succeed together and fail together. It’s an incredible thing to be a part of, particularly in dark and difficult times. Knowing you can be resilient with incredible people behind you is something amazing to learn about yourself, and by extension, the reasons why you are drawn to other people.

Danielle and I are getting married in two weeks and I wish more than anything that our Ugandan friends could be with us, but it hasn’t worked out. I think we will be shooting off to Uganda as soon as we can, to celebrate with everyone who couldn’t make it to our big day. This excites me so much. We’ve been through so much this year and it’s been tough. But we’ve all done it together. And we will continue to do so in the months and years to come.

Have a great couple of months and I’ll be back with another blog post at Christmas.

Ross x

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