Team Uganda: finding solutions to child poverty in Jinja

With the help of donor funding, Team Uganda gives students the opportunity to help young Ugandans get back on their feet.

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Manchester students are volunteering every year to help street-connected children in Uganda Click To Tweet Find out how donations are giving students the opportunity to volunteer in the developing world Click To Tweet

50 miles from Uganda’s capital city, on the shores of Lake Victoria near the source of the river Nile, lies Jinja – the country’s second largest city.

Its location and stunning beauty mean that Jinja is one of Uganda’s tourist hotspots. But if you look beyond the tourist attractions and industry, poverty can be worryingly commonplace. An alarming number of children in Jinja are living and working on the streets.

S.A.L.V.E (Support And Love Via Education) is a Manchester based charity which works in Uganda. They use education as a tool to help get children off the streets, and improve their life chances.

Every year, 15 Manchester students get the opportunity to work with S.A.L.V.E. to help bring positive change to young people in Jinja.

The partnership is called Team Uganda and was first established with the help of a generous donation from alumni Tim and Judith Sear. Since then, the project’s yearly trip to Uganda has been made possible thanks to the generosity of donors to the University.

Broadening horizons

Danielle Casentieri, a member of the recent Team Uganda trip, said: “I wanted to do something fulfilling and worthwhile in my summer to broaden my horizons, gain new skills, and find new passions.”

“The cause is important to me as I believe these children have the ability to be successful and flourish in society”, said Ali Hijazie, another student in the 2018 cohort.

“However, they are denied this opportunity as they have not received the support, love and guidance they deserve.”

The group of volunteers tackled their objective in three ways: undertaking community mapping, social enterprise projects, and running holiday camps providing a combination of activities covering education, arts, resilience and sport.  Before departure the students also raised enough money to fund the construction of an additional roundhouse classroom on the S.A.L.V.E. land.

A lasting impact

The community mapping was carried out in Iganga, a neighbouring town of Jinja, which had not previously been mapped by NGOs or local government.

Ali, who took part in the community mapping aspect of the project, said the report delivered by the team “brought the community together and provided a platform for partnerships to be made amongst community members. As a result of our research, more schools and organisations became better aware of each other’s presence.”

Danielle echoed Ali’s thoughts. “Talking to the community members and finding out what they do –in particular the different organisations – was really fascinating. I really felt like I had contributed to something that will have positive effects long after I leave Uganda.

The social enterprise aspect of the project involved devising new business ideas that could have lasting benefits to the local community. This would then inform decisions on which social enterprises could be viable in making S.A.L.V.E. less dependent on external donations. These business ideas ranged from building briquette stoves to establishing mushroom farms.

“This definitely gave me my biggest sense of accomplishment”, said Anna Dublino, who helped set up mushroom farms. ‘[The mushroom farms] which we set up were the beginning of a business and of course were a source of food for the street-connected children on the land.”

“My favourite moment was hearing that the mushroom farm project I was working on got selected by S.A.L.V.E. to be taken forward. I felt as if I had made a truly lasting impact”, said Malik Ahmed.

Experiencing different cultures

“Student volunteering projects are beneficial not only for the organisation but for the students too”, explained Jessica Somaiya. “Team Uganda has given each and every team member a feel for what it’s like to work as a full-time volunteer.

“This project has taught me about how different cultures can be so beautiful and welcoming, and these lessons are very important for young people to learn to progress forward in the world.”

“The project helped me develop skills in writing a report which I can use in my degree”, said Danielle.

The project and the skills I have developed and the memories I have will make my life after graduation much more fulfilling. I have been inspired to take up as many opportunities as I can and to continue helping those less fortunate than myself.”

“The project has allowed me to develop my communication skills, particularly communicating cross-culturally which will be beneficial for my hospital and GP practice placements.” said Daniella Joseph, another member of the team.

One of The University of Manchester’s goals is to be socially responsible and to encourage that value amongst our students. The generosity of our many supporters helps us to provide opportunities like Team Uganda to students so that they can use their range of skills to help communities in the developing world.

“I cannot express my gratitude enough for having the opportunity to undertake this programme”, said Abigail Wainman.  “I have met some amazing and inspiring people and created memories to last a lifetime.

“I will always look back on this stage of my life with such fondness and privilege to have the means to do work which values the university, S.A.L.V.E International and the street-connected children of Jinja. “Support to programmes like this is truly invaluable and means so much to all involved. It allows for more than just a trip for students; it allows for self-growth, the opportunity to help others, create friendships, raise awareness, invoke passions and realise potentials. To those who have donated, thank you.”

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