Having taken a deep breath and got my previous rant pretty much fully out of my system, let’s get back to something more positive.
There’s been great progress with the AmahaWe Uganda team in Kasese.
Funds were raised in the UK for a new bike in order to be able to collect materials, move the Fuel Briquette machines around to remote villages for training, and deliver briquettes or crafts made for sale by the Good Samaritan Vocational Training Centre.
The bike arrived last week and looks pretty cool…
The team are a bit nervous of it at the moment. Normally the roads and dirt tracks are pandemonium out here. They’re all used to buzzing around like mosquitos on little 125cc Chinese or Indian motorbikes. It’s like watching a cross between a Red Bull X-Games stunt team and a game of British Bulldog. The reduced manoeuvrability of a trike is going to take a bit of getting used to.
Benjamin (our Executive Director here) has somehow already run himself over once!
Work at the library has progressed well. A small Internet cafe has been set up (no one around her can afford data on their phones and there’s hardly a land-line telephone in the whole district) and the shelves are pretty well populated with a wide variety of reference books (more are always needed).
The team also run a vocational training programme in in Kajwenge (in the Rwenzori, on the road to Bwera at The Congo border). The programme is coming on well and, following 6 months of daily training, this intake of trainees is about to graduate.
…and 19 in the hairdressing group.
It may look pretty unsophisticated but there are few work opportunities in the mountains. It’s typically a subsistence lifestyle up here and people are keen as mustard to learn some sort of trade in order to be able to earn a little money for their families.
What’s needed here is a ‘hand up, not a hand-out‘.
To date, most of the equipment and training costs have been funded by the AWU UK team. But this is changing. A few months ago the tailoring team were awarded a trial phase of a school uniform contract from Bwera school.
Our team made trousers from scratch and altered pre-purchased shirts to fit the new intake of children. After transport, materials and manufacturing wages paid to the trainees enough profit was made to pay for the trainers for the next influx of Good Samaritan ‘apprentices’. Their next goal is to win further school contracts, to make the next phase of shirts from scratch and to secure a contract for the knitting team to make school jumpers.
With time, a little more investment and the dedication of the AWU team we hope that it will not be too long before The Good Samaritan Centre can be made self-sustaining entirely.
Back at the library in Kasese, the ‘Fuel From Fields’ briquette making and training continues. The briquettes have proven really popular in the mountain villages – every one that our women’s groups make saves them money on firewood or charcoal. They’re cleaner, healthier, better burning, less smoky and reduce the deforestation that is causing soil-erosion to local farming communities.
Out here, collecting firewood can be a dangerous business. The town is on the edge of Queen Elizabeth National Park and only 2 months ago a woman was killed by a lion while out searching for brush-wood.
While our briquettes are popular on a make-for-your-own-use basis in the mountains, it’s been more difficult to date to make them in quantities that can be sold commercially in Kasese town. Labour is a bit more expensive, charcoal is widely available (and the price doesn’t fluctuate so wildly in the wet season) and making our team more commercially aware has been a bit of a task – they’re evangelists and community workers by background.
Things have turned a corner though. Martin, one of our ex ‘street-kids’ (who has been mentored by the AWU team for the last 10 years or so) has been involved with our briquette making for a couple of years now.
While our team were struggling to find a way to improve the project, Martin used his own initiative and found someone with the expertise to supply a more sophisticated type of briquette press in order to make the fuel briquettes in greater quantity, using less labour.
As soon as we saw their equipment we knew this could be a real step up. Three days later we had rented the machines, moved them to the library yard in Kasese (on the trike) and set up a training day in order for representatives of our women’s groups to find out more.
We hoped this would be a real opportunity to step up a gear: to learn new recipes to make the briquettes more efficient and new processes to make them more efficiently.
More to follow… my data is running out and you’ll have to wait for the next post to find out how it went.