Reflections on 2017
Updated: Sep 29
It’s been an eventful year for The Zuri Project Uganda – a true mixture of highs, lows and everything in between.
In true Zuri fashion, the year started with a meeting to plan for the future. We were all incredibly excited about the secondary school project, and we were delighted to hear that the project was on target to be finished by the start of the next school term in February. Whilst the finishing touches were being added to the secondary school, we got our Ugandan team together for a capacity building workshop, which presented an opportunity for all involved in our work in Uganda to raise any concerns and to problem solve together to improve our practice. This meeting also proved to be a great opportunity to map out our priorities for the rest of the year, and it allowed us to formulate a concrete plan from which to work.
[The Opportunity Africa team]
Whilst things in Uganda were developing nicely, co-founder Martin undertook what has to be our most ambitious fundraiser yet, by cycling 3600km across Europe to raise funds for our on-going work in Kihembe. In spite of encountering a ridiculous amount of challenges, Martin successfully completed his ride and raised over £2500 for our charity. We were all so proud and inspired by his efforts, and you can read about his efforts in more detail here.
[Martin somewhere in Europe!]
However, at the end of March of this year, we were absolutely devastated to hear the news about the death of our dear friend and project manager Herbert Niwagaba. As I sit here on New Years Eve writing this blog, it still feels impossible for me to imagine the future of The Zuri Project without Herbert at the helm. He really did mean everything to Martin and I and the work that he pioneered in his community is the foundation of his legacy. A legacy that we hope will continue long into the future. You can read our tribute to Herbert here.
[Herbert evaluating our projects]
Danielle and I spent a couple of weeks in Uganda after Herbert’s death, mourning with his family, friends and fellow community members. It was an incredibly difficult time, but we were also absolutely inspired to visit the secondary school just shortly after it opened its doors to the first 100 pupils. In the summer, I wrote a comprehensive blog outlining the secondary school project in detail, and you can read it here. To date, it is the project that I am personally most proud of supporting and I envisage big things for the future of Kihembe Vocational Secondary School.
[Me and Danielle with Sarah, Herbert’s wife, earlier this year]
On that note, and through planning meetings with Opportunity Africa, we recognised that for the school to be successful going forward, then more classrooms needed to be built. Therefore, whilst we went about fundraising in the UK, Opportunity Africa brought people together in Uganda to lay the project plans for two more classrooms to be built at the school site. By early November, thanks to the generosity of our partners and individual donors, we were delighted to have the funds in place to support the building project that started in early December. By building the two new classrooms, it will ensure that the pupils who progress from S1 & S2 have classes to attend at the start of the next academic year in March 2018. It will also allow the school to recruit more students at S1 & S2 level, and also recruit new teachers to teach the relevant classes. Similarly to the first building project that we facilitated at the school site, we have split this project into five phases. Opportunity Africa, now led by the wonderful Monica Agaba, will again be responsible for managing and monitoring the project. As always, we will keep you updated with our progress.
[Adding the finishing touches to the secondary school]
Back in the UK, lots of other exciting things have been happening! As a family, we have set up a coffee shop in Shirley, Solihull called Bora Coffee Co. where we source and serve a variety of ethical coffees and reinvest a proportion of our profits into The Zuri Project. This has always been a dream of mine, and to be able to depend upon a sustainable income stream for our projects in Uganda is really important for a small charity like ours. The first six months of business have been overwhelming, and we are so grateful to everyone for their support of our little shop! In November, Bora also funded its first project through The Zuri Project, which saw a coffee plantation cultivated at the secondary school site. You can read all about it here.
[Monica and a truckload of coffee seedlings, funded by Bora Coffee Co.]
As I draw this blog to a close, I also want to give a special mention to all of our supporters and donors, for their incredibly generous support of our work. DGCOS and HIES continue to contribute a very generous amount of money each month, which makes an enormous difference in Uganda. We are also very grateful to both the Rotary Clubs of Chorley Astley and Knowle and Dorridge for their continued support of our work, and we are also excited about collaborating with new Rotary Clubs in the New Year. I would also like to publicly thank The Rotary Clubs of Stourbridge and Coventry North for their generous financial contributions towards the secondary school project.
[Secondary school children sitting at desks funded by The Rotary Club of Chorley Astley]
Next, I would like to extend a huge thanks to Ethical Currency for just being amazing! They provide an incredible service to small charities like ours, saving us both money and hassle. I was also overwhelmed to receive a message from Alastair from Ethical Currency, informing us that they wanted to make a substantial donation to our work in Uganda. For us, this funding meant that the new secondary school project could start before Christmas and in time for the new school year at the start of 2018, so of course we are incredibly grateful for this! I would honestly recommend Ethical Currency to anyone looking for a simple and hassle free solution for sending money abroad. Thanks guys!
Finally, I would like to thank everyone that has listened to us talk incessantly about The Zuri Project over the past twelve months, to everyone that has donated their hard earned money to our charity and to everyone who has given their time to help us organise events. Our work in Uganda would simply not be possible without your dedication and support, and for that we are so grateful.
Losing Herbert this year was heart breaking, and I still can’t believe he’s gone. Herbert set the standard and we must strive to ensure that this standard is always met. He inspires us all on a daily basis and we will forever remember his commitment, energy and passion for collaborative development. May we now take Herbert’s spirit forward into 2018, and hope that we can continue achieving positive outcomes with people in Uganda throughout the next calendar year.
[Herbert. Smiling as always]
Thank you all once again and I wish you a healthy, prosperous and exciting New Year.