What is Soft Power Education?
Soft Power Education (SPE) is a British registered charity and Ugandan NGO. Since 1999 we have been working with communities in Uganda with a mission of:
“Improving quality of life through education”.
Our vision is for:
“An empowered and self-sustaining society taking responsibility for its own development”.
What do we do?
We focus on three key related areas;
- Alternative Education – Supplementing mainstream education with innovative ideas;
- Livelihoods – Empowering people to drive forward their own development;
- School Infrastructure - Providing clean, safe and inspiring learning environments.
Why is Soft Power Education needed in Uganda?
SPE focuses its work within rural areas in Uganda. The majority of the rural population across the country is deemed by the UN, World Bank and various other commentators to be living in chronic poverty, solely dependent upon farming for food and income. This level of poverty stems from a number of inter-related factors, including; lack of education; serious health issues; environmental destruction; large households and remote locations. Uganda’s turbulent history has exacerbated the problems contributing to the poverty experienced by a significant proportion of the population. Many families in rural communities are caught in a perpetual cycle of poverty from one generation to the next.
To-date our work has been largely focused on infrastructure in the primary education sector, however, in recent years we have begun to tackle many more of the factors that contribute to poverty, including;
- training children in transferrable life skills at our Amagezi Education Centre;
- supporting Special Educational Needs awareness;
- running various community development programmes aimed at promoting entrepreneurship;
- tackling health issues by improving sanitation at schools;
- promoting environmental conservation through education.
The Government of Uganda currently relies heavily on input from external sources, particularly NGOs, to meet the basic needs of its population. Although the government is very supportive of the work that we do, at SPE we work with a view to reducing dependency by equipping people with the skills and resources they need to break the cycle of poverty for themselves.
How do we do it?
Our success to date is based on our partnerships with local schools, communities and other organisations.
Every project that we are involved with has come about as a result of opportunities identified with our partners for bringing about change or specific requests for assistance from the local community. SPE helps to deliver sustainable solutions through the expertise of its staff, the ability to raise funds and through inspiring travellers and tourists to get involved with our work.
Fundamental to our success in delivering beyond our original scope has been the ongoing and sustained support from visitors to Uganda. From the outset SPE has aimed to facilitate partnerships and friendships between visiting tourists and the local community, providing an opportunity for travellers to contribute in a meaningful way. SPE channels the enthusiasm of overland truckers, visiting university and school groups and independent travellers to assist with programmes. Volunteers are often so inspired by the work they have done and the change that they have been able to effect that they continue to fundraise for Soft Power Education when they return home. This ensures that we can pay for skilled Ugandan staff, such as foremen for construction, tutors at the Education Centre, and programme managers.
We are fortunate enough to find ourselves in the rare position of being able to bring about a phenomenal improvement in the lives of people in Uganda and are actively seeking donations and volunteers, be they from Australia, Azerbaijan, Europe and the UK, Ethiopia, USA or Uganda! We are 100% charity and every single penny donated to Soft Power Education goes straight to our programmes.
We provide volunteer opportunities for people worldwide to live and work abroad in Uganda whilst offering the following experiences;
- Living in the local community;
- Experiencing new cultures;
- Working alongside Ugandans;
- Rewarding challenges;
- Making lasting friendships.
History of Soft Power Education
Hannah Small worked as an overland driver in both Africa and Asia. Her passengers would frequently express their desire to contribute to the communities they encountered on their travels but time was precious and the opportunities few and far between. Hannah saw that this desire could be harnessed into a more serious force for change and quit her job. Uganda was the natural starting point as she had run many trips there and had felt a natural affinity with the Ugandan people.
The moving force of history was, in the past, “hard power”- in the form of military might, political authority and wealth. What we have seen in recent years, however, is a decrease in the relative importance of this factor, and in its stead a remarkable increase in the importance of “soft power”- factors such as knowledge and information, culture, ideas and systems.
Daisaku Ikeda at Harvard University, Boston, USA on September 26, 1991
In 1999, SPE was launched and Hannah moved to Bujagali near Jinja. Tapping into the dedication and generosity of tourists and independent travellers, SPE first project was the construction of Buwenda Pre-School for orphans and other vulnerable children. The land was a gift from the community and after twelve months of hard work, assisted by local builders, a pre-school appeared on the landscape. To the delight of 120 children the pre-school was officially opened in March 2003.
The community of Kyabirwa looked on with interest and gifted more land to SPE requesting that a similar school be built for their children. Kyabirwa Children’s Centre opened in the spring of 2004 to the sound of 100 orphans, many the victims of AIDS some simply from desperately poor families. Both pre schools were staffed with qualified teachers who were, and continue to be, determined to encourage these little ones to learn English, play games, write, sing and dance.
Since then, SPE has gone from strength to strength. What seemed like an ambitious five year plan to renovate and refurbish the 20 government-funded primary schools in the area was achieved two years ahead of schedule. We continue to work on this programme in a wider area and have to date worked at more 50 schools across six sub-counties!
In February 2007 SPE opened the doors of the Amagezi Education Centre, which welcomes several thousand children each year into a unique learning environment aimed at creating a hands-on approach to education with plenty of active participation. The centre also works closely with the local community offering courses in sustainable agriculture, ICT, science, art and craft, drama and library sessions.
2007 also saw the commencement of a new programme area opening in Buliisa District in Uganda’s Western Region. Working with communities bordering Murchison Falls Conservation Area, Uganda’s largest protected area, we continue to support primary school infrastructure but also work in close partnership with the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) to encourage conservation education and improve access to sustainable livelihood options within the local communities and schools.
It is only through the ongoing support of donors and volunteers that we have been able to achieve so much in such a short space of time. Our funding comes from overland groups, independent travellers and sponsors around the world. Every single penny donated to SPE goes towards upgrading primary schools, running our two pre-schools, maintaining the work of the Education Centre; supporting communities living around Murchison Falls National Park and paying our inspirational local staff.
We are celebrating 15 years of working in Uganda, and over the years there have been too many amazing folk to name who have given their time and money and above all passion to help grow the charity. Without all these wonderful connections, nothing would have been achieved.
where we are
Soft Power Education HQ is in Jinja, Uganda, a landlocked country in east Africa lying on the equator and neighbouring Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Jinja is a beautiful town on the shores of the magnificent Lake Victoria, home to the source of the Nile where the White Nile begins its journey through to the Mediterranean Sea. Jinja lies just two hours east of the capital city Kampala and approximately three hours from the main international airport at Entebbe.
SPE’s second programme area is in the north west of Uganda, operating out of the regional office in Masindi and carrying out operations in Buliisa District, directly bordering Murchison Falls Conservation Area and Lake Albert. This beautiful and rugged district is characterised by a wide array of people from many of Uganda’s tribes carrying out subsistence farming on sandy soils to a stunning backdrop of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Blue Mountains.
- Total Area: 236,040 sq km
- Climate: Tropical. Dry seasons are December to February and June to August
- Terrain: Mostly plateau with a rim of mountains
- Lowest Point: Lake Albert 621m
- Highest Point: Mount Stanley 5,110m
- Natural Resources: copper, cobalt, hydropower, limestone, salt, arable land
- Total Population: 32,369,558
- Age Structure: 0-14 years 50.0%; 15-64 years 47.9%; 65 years + 2.1%
- Population Growth: 2.692%
- Birth Rate: 47.84 / 1000 population
- Death Rate: 12.09 / 1000 population
- Infant Mortality Rate: 64.82 / 1000 live births
- Life Expectancy: 52.72 years
- HIV adult prevalence rate: 5.4%
- People living with AIDS: 940,000
- Literacy rates (2002 census) (age 15 and over can read and write): Male 76.8%, Female 57.7%, Total 66.8%
- Groups: Baganda 16.9%, Banyakole 9.5%, Basoga 8.4%, Bakiga 6.9%, Iteso 6.4%, Langi 6.1%, Acholi 4.7%, Bagisu 4.6% Lugbara 4.2%, Bunyoro 2.7%, other 29.6%
- Religions: Roman Catholic 41.9%, Protestant 42% (Anglican 35.9%, Pentecostal 4.6%, Seventh Day Adventist 1.5%), Muslim 12.1%, other 3.1%, none 0.9%
- Languages: English is the official language used in schools, most newspapers, radio etc. However, each region has its own language too for example the Baganda speak Luganda and the Basoga speak Lusoga.
For a more detailed report go to The World Factbook website.
Jinja is one of 111 districts within Uganda, situated in the region of Busoga and is lucky to enjoy a healthy tourism industry. This is largely due to the draw of the grade 5 rapids along the River Nile which people seem to enjoy throwing themselves down!
The majority of our volunteer activities are based at Bujagali in Jinja District.
In 2007 we expanded our projects to the north west of the country. The Murchison Project works in Buliisa District where we run a school infrastructure programme and our People & Parks livelihood programme, which promotes environmental conservation through education and sustainable income generating projects.
photos and videos
Here are some of the latest photos from our projects:
See more pictures at Soft Power Education’s photostream
If you have a nice fast Internet connection (unlike those of us in Uganda!) you might like to watch these videos, they’ll give you a good idea of the work we do and life as a volunteer. They can also be found on the relevant pages throughout this site.
Living on Site
One Day Volunteering
Amagezi Education Centre
Working with rural primary schools, we have created a complementary learning environment for pupils based at the Amagezi Education Centre.
Leeds University has supported us for the last 10 years and every year the number of volunteers who come to work in Uganda increases as does the amount of money they fundraise. This video was made by some of the crew from 2006.