• Team Followings

Our November 2017 trip! Written by Ross Hitt.

A report on my first visit to Busubi

SOME CONTEXT

Rural Uganda. Children play soccer with plastic bags. Girls fetch water instead of going to school. Domestic violence runs rife. A hub is needed. A place where people of all ages can find resources, education and support.

But there’s a problem: Building a centre costs money, and so do the resources inside, but there’s barely enough money to eat in rural Uganda. And there’s no internet, so information that could be found in 15 seconds takes a villager days, weeks or months.

Here’s what we’re doing about it: We’re raising the money to build a learning centre – “Busubi Learning Centre”. The centre is planning to partner with local professionals and universities to become fully self-sustaining. And worlds will change. The worlds of the local villagers, who’ll finally have a place to come together. The worlds of the 8 fundraisers who will visit the village to participate in an 8 day leadership program. And the worlds of everyone who supports us along the way.

Fundraising Prior to the Trip The aim was to raise enough funds to build the centre and meet the costs of transport, food and accomodation. Each of the 8 team members signed on to raise A$6300 each. The trip was then planned so as to get building work started and start with some workshops in Busubi Village.

The following short report will explain where the funds collected have been spent, will be spent and why more ongoing funding is required.

Who is Followings? Followings is the parent NGO and is run by Lauren Exton – a very committed and amazing person who is absolutely driven to achieve results in Uganda. The Busubi Learning Centre is the first project for Followings.

THE TEAM

The Expatriate Team Members of the November 2017 trip None of the team members knew each other prior to this trip and only all first met face to face on Ugandan soil (on arrival at Entebbe International Airport)!!!! We’d all met via our many weekly planning video conference calls leading up to the trip, so we felt like a team already.

Emily Weatherburn – Australian from the Sunshine Coast. A Laboratory Technician now working in the Education system at 2 schools.

Melissa Wells – Australian from the Gold Coast. Home hardware & gardening worker.

Jayde Woodgate – Australian from Brisbane. Works for Santos as an Administrator.

Heidi Valkenburg – Australian from Melbourne. Works in Theatre and TV.

Greg Weiss – American from Arizona. Medic/consultant and very experienced NGO worker.

Mark Christopher – Australian from Melbourne. Carpenter and builder.

Ross Hitt – Australian from Melbourne. Retired Civil Engineer.

Lauren Exton – Australian who now lives and works in Arizona in USA. She runs a small entertainment company. She is the founder of Followings and the Leader of the whole team in so many ways. On earlier service trips to Uganda she met up with John Ssentamu and they together identified the enormous need for such a centre and identified John’s home village as the ideal location.

The Ugandan Team John Ssentamu partnered with Lauren and came up with the concept. John is a School Teacher and like Lauren has been involved previously with NGO development work in Uganda. He arranged for all the team to be accommodated within his own family house! Has donated the land for the Learning Centre. Very generous indeed. He was assisted by so many Ugandans, and way too many to name here except his mother “Mamma”, his Wife (known to us as Mamma Joanna) and all their family members – their children, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunties, nieces, nephews and more!

11 DAYS IN BUSUBI – A DIARY

This is a brief summary of the trip with a  few pics from one persons perspective (mine).


Day 1 – November 8 – on the way for some for of us. The start of a long journey to Africa – for many a first African visit. Two leave from the USA and one leaves from Australia.

Day 2 – November 9 – The remaining Australians leave for Dubai from Melbourne and Brisbane.

Day 3 – November 10 – It’s time for 6 of us to meet at around 7.00am in Dubai airport Terminal 3. Everyone a bit tired but a few have time for a beer for breakfast while others drink coffee or rest prior to our next flight to Entebbe, later in the morning.

We arrive at Entebbe to be met by Lauren, Greg and John. Everyone meets for the first time. We collect our baggage, chat and then load up the hired bus for our 5 hour journey to Busubi. After arriving at Busubi at 9.00pm and being greeted by dozens of women & children, it is out with some solar lamps, a quick check of the toilets and off to bed. Made sure mosquito nets were in place.

Day 4 – November 11. Up at 5.30am for an early morning walk. Did get a touch lost and back just in time for breakfast from 8.00am. The first day in the village was used by the team to have a full briefing from Lauren and John and then discuss our trip objectives, workshops and participants. Spent time getting to know each other.

Cleared block of land for new building. A big community effort to get the clearing done.

Day 5 – November 12. Early morning rain disrupted our program but proceeded with a class for young girls. 

Good participation with Heidi and Greg running the workshop. There were some fun activities as well. 

The afternoon session also for women/girls and covered Empowerment and Respect. Jayde, Noelene and Ida were the main presenters. When drizzle stopped we reverted to the program and has some sports on the cleared plot. Quidditch (from Harry Potter) was the main game that was played. Some soccer and netball also played until dark.


Day 6 – November 13. Fine weather allowed us to sit outside again. There was a Women/Girls session on menstrual health, violence and sex education. It was decided that no male team members be present to allow women to discuss opening about their issues.

The afternoon was a visit to various adjoining garden/agricultural plots to understand local crops. Bananas dominate (although there is a disease impacting small scale farmers. Coffee, corn, beans, avocado, mangoes and jack fruit are present. Some assistance with disease prevention or control is required as no help from Ministry of Agriculture. In the afternoonwe visited Masaka the nearest major town about one hours drive. We had discussions with the proposed builder (Brick by Brick Ltd) about where we could reduce the building contract and convert to a lump sum price. Meeting was useful. We need to get the cost down to USD 20,000 (reduce by USD 4,000). We were able to visit an NGO run “Cafe Frikedellen” and enjoy a cold beer. Back home in Bususbi by 9.30pm.

Day 7 – November 14. Visited the hand water pump with children early in the morning on the first of a number water collections – about 3kms roundtrip. 

Day 8 – November 15. Morning session women on making of reusable menstrual pads. Emily had made more than 100 in Australia and bought those and ran the session.

This was followed by forms of expression and confidence by Heidi. It was decided to proceed with Brick by Brick contractor after discussion reduced the price to USD 20,000. Some ongoing team discussion about a Strategic Plan for the Learning centre.



An afternoon boys session run by Mark which ended in games for the boys. There was kids dancing in the evenings (as most evening) to various local and Rap music.

Day 9 – November 16. Morning session with Ladies on Domestic Violence issues. Greg and Emily explained 3 easy mechanisms to escape from violence. 


This was followed by a session on Nutrition with mainly women but open to all.

The afternoon was the construction of a demonstration keyhole garden. The concept being in have a compost area at the centre to fertilise the garden bed without removing the compost. An NGO group came from Kampala to demonstrate how to build the garden.



Went to Masaka in the afternoon to sign contact for the Learning Centre building. Start date for construction is first week of December after payment of mobilisation advance payment. Went to Frikidellen again to celebrate contact signing.

Day 10 – November 17. Last full day in Busubi. Morning session with ladies & men on household income. 

Girls session with games. Some school materials were delivered to a small school in Busubi. This was hugely appreciated.

The afternoon was a time for a large community gathering of around 150 people. There were many Thank You speeches plus cultural dances of all types. The evening finished with a feast prior to darkness and then more dances to complete our time in Busubi. PARTY TIME!!!

Day 11 – November 18. Early morning departure at 5.30 am from Busubi and its off to Entebbe Airport for flights home. Stopped midway for a “Rolex” breakfast. A Rolex is a hot chapati with an egg rolled up inside. Delicious. We made it to the airport, after another stop at the Equator, and said our good byes and boarded various flights. End of an amazing journey for all of us.

ACHIEVEMENTS

  1. Plot cleared for building construction

  2. Building contract signed

  3. Many various Workshops presented by team members to various community groups of all ages

  4. Strategic Plan matters discussed and rough draft prepared for an Action Plan

DONATED GOODS

The visiting expatriate team members all donated many things and included the following:

  1. Soccer Balls and pumps donated by Mac Millar Foundation and all inflated on site

  2. Solar Charging Panel from Emily

  3. Solar small lights by Solar Buddy with help from primary schools on the Sunshine Coast who made the lights

  4. Books, pens,pencils, paints, crayons etc by everyone

  5. Clothes for children and some adults by everyone

  6. Some shoes by everyone

  7. Clothes and shoes team members were wearing were in many instances left behind – well done team

  8. Reusable Sanitary pads donated by Emily

LIFE IN THE VILLAGE FOR THE TEAM

This was pretty tough for all and very well handled by the ladies as there was no running water and no electricity. We used about 3 litres of water each a day for washing purposes. There were pit latrines which was a new experience for many.


PLANS FOR THE NEXT TRIP

  1. This is still being worked out by Lauren and team but will include the following:

  2. Workshops similar to last time (all notes being typed up)

  3. Something on waste management/environment

  4. Keyhole gardens – follow up to see how they are progressing

  5. Building fit out, maintenance plan, etc

The next visit by myself, Lauren, a new team and perhaps some of the old team is in May 2018 – when the building will be complete.

THE EXPERIENCE

This has been an amazing effort to get the Learning Centre starting to function. A really rewarding time for all those involved and one not to be forgotten by the Team who worked so well together. The cooperation and team work was outstanding under the “village living” that was experienced. Workshops were held in cramped conditions when wet and under the beautiful shade and shelter of banana and other trees when fine. One can only grow from the experience and appreciate what we all have in the developed world. We will have a special bond forever with Team members and our workshop participants. Special thanks to Lauren!!

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