Helping Hand: Building Schools on your Travels
By Ed Rex
If you’re travelling to a country, particularly a third world country, I think it’s very important to give back to the community especially if they have shown you the utmost courtesy of making sure you stay has been enjoyable during their hard life conditions.
When I went to Uganda in 2007, I utterly, madly, and enthusiastically properly enjoyed myself on the activities and excursions that I went along on, whether it was white water rafting down the River Nile, going on plenty of wildlife safaris and spotting the big 5, walking alongside the banks of the River Nile with a guide from the Ugandan Wildlife Authority, eating out of their restaurants in venues made of just mud or serrated steel, or above all else taking advantage of the goodwill of locals who happily show you around their prize and possessions and their country.
Enjoying those activities may be all very well and good and that the local communities are actively encouraging tourism to come to them, but this would prove to be a stark contrast of what happened before in the recent bloody history of Uganda after the brutal reign of Amin, when the Lord’s Resistance Army, guilty of crimes against humanity that includes child labour and mass murder, turned the country to civil war, particularly in areas of Northern Uganda.
When peace was afforded in Uganda after the Lord’s Resistance Army was driven out of the country into neighbouring Congo, it was time for a rebuild and what’s to help with that rebuild? Tourism.
However, as I came partly as a tourist to the beautiful country with a group of students, I came as a helping hand in rebuilding their education network helped by the fantastic work of Softpower Education working with communities in Uganda to improve quality of life through education. Undergoing through the activities they afforded us in my spare time, I felt they were extremely special and really, totally worth it especially from rebuilding and refurbishing their education network in Paraa, North Uganda.
Arriving in Paraa, after a 6 hour journey off-roading from the capital, an immediate programme of refurbishing the Paraa Primary School was set in the middle of a national park in which dangerous animals come walk by in the middle of the night, and alongside a programme of teaching in which we promoted English, Sex Education and Music. We did not even stay in any hotels as we camped in tents alongside the school. We did not even cater to just refurbishing the education programme for children but also to adults as we helped to develop an education centre, which was to be the first in the area, so adults could learn a trade and also more importantly learn about sexual health in a country which shows to have the highest rates of HIV in the world.
Through the 6 weeks there, we managed to set forth an intense educational and refurbishment programme that was immediately followed by other groups after we left that enabled to have a positive influence on the local community of Paraa, especially the young kids we struck up a friendship with to help them to inspire themselves to help move their country forward.
At the end of our stay, sore from using only basic tools particularly digging up floor concrete using only sledgehammers, chisels and flint, we could step back and look on knowing that Uganda is definitely on the road to recovery with the amazing communities we supported to inspire, protect and cultivate their country’s already evident livelihood.
Uganda…you rock my world.
About the Author
Ed Rex is an environmental expert Englishmen who has degrees in both environmental science and consultancy. He is about to set off on an 8 month globetrotting journey hoping to become a travel writer along the way. We’re going to try to help him get there. You can also check out his personal website at http://www.rexyedventures.com