The Royal Visit
His Royal Highness the Earl of Wessex visits Soft Power Education
In September 2011, we were honoured to receive a visit from His Royal Highness Prince Edward, The Earl of Wessex who had been in Kenya working with the international arm of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. HRH came to Jinja on a one-day visit taking in war memorials, Owens Falls Dam which was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1947, and finally our Amagezi Education Centre!
We would like to extend a huge thank you to the Soft Power Education staff who made the visit a success, the staff at the British High Commission in Kampala, and of course HRH Prince Edward himself.
SPE Celebrates 10 Years
10 Years of Soft Power Education
On Saturday 7th November 2009, Soft Power Education celebrated 10 years of working in Uganda and over 400 community members came to help us celebrate at the Amagezi Education Centre. Volunteers and staff alike had worked hard to prepare the site with a fresh coat of paint to the buildings, lots of weeding and an early start!
We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who helped with the organisation both before and on the day, we would not have been able to do it without you all. Here’s to the next 10 years!
Murchison Memories Exhibition
Murchison Memories Exhibition
Our Murchison Memories Exhibition aims to highlight social, historical and cultural attributes that impact current conservation issues. Through photographs, artefacts, stories and contemporary art the exhibition is designed to allow local school children and overseas visitors alike to learn more about conservation and the challenges both the national park and its surrounding communities face.
In the 1960s, Murchison Falls National Park was a premier tourist attraction that received up to 60,000 tourists a year. Since then, decades of national and regional turmoil ravaged the park’s lodges and other facilities, leaving Uganda’s tourism industry in a dismal state. Today, tourism in Uganda is booming. We believe that it is vital that people maintain an appreciation of the reasons why Murchison Falls National Park is the way it is.
Soft Power Education’s Schools’ Festival invites the schools who attend the P6 Pupils’ Project at the Amagezi Education Centre (AEC) to a day of fun-filled competition! Each school is represented by ten pupils who compete for three prizes – outreach participation, consistence in attendance and most participation at the Amagezi Education Centre, and the overall winner of the day’s activities. Each day is given a specific theme.
The P6 Pupils’ Project aims to give pupils sustainable life skills which they can use in the future to act as agents of change within their local communities. At the end of each academic year, pupils meet at the selected venue where they compete to showcase what they have learnt.
Schools’ Festival activities are based on the lessons taught in our six departments at the AEC – drama, library, ICT, art, science and agriculture.
In the drama competition, we look at the pupils’ sense of creativity, expression and how they used their bodies to communicate a message in a fun and exciting way through music, dance and drama. In ICT, pupils exhibit what they have learnt at the centre. To promote sustainable agriculture, pupils compete to make organic pesticides with an emphasis on the process and proper utilisation of the ingredients provided. The art department believes in fun, creative and hands-on educational experiences were pupils are taught to create using new techniques including moulding and pottery, drawing, mixing colours and painting. The schools compete to produce their best work and many often achieve top marks. In science, pupils compete to make sanitary pads using local materials. Of course, the day wouldn’t be complete without a football competition, which sees girls as well as boys participate.
We would like to extend a thank you to the sponsors of each year’s Schools’ Festival, including All Terrain Adventures, Nile River Camp, Orient Banks Ltd. and African Minerals and Rwenzori. We would also like to thank the generous volunteers who both donate pens, exercise books, footballs and sports kits for prizes and help us organise and run the festival itself.
Buwenda Pre-School Refurbishment
In the summer of 2007 we welcomed lovely volunteer Paul Tobias to Jinja, who took on the challenge of giving Buwenda Pre-School an entirely new look. With the help from other passionate volunteers, a group of local builders and the pre-school staff, the building was completely transformed in just a few weeks!
An inside wall was knocked down to let in more sunlight and create a larger classroom, the front and back yards were evened out and new flower beds put it, the whole school was painting inside and out with some amazing drawings designed by a very talented young artist named Ryan. The pit latrines were painted and the jungle gym repaired, a play house installed at the front of the school and papier-mâché objects hung from the ceilings.
We would like to extend a huge thank you to each and every volunteer who helped with this transformation project! You can read Paul’s testimonial here.
Kyabirwa Children’s Centre Refurbishment
Later in the summer of 2007, another group of dedicated volunteers took on the challenge of refurbishing Kyabirwa Children’s Centre. Whilst it didn’t need quite as much work as Buwenda, the group gave the classroom block a complete makeover. The front of the block was repainted with brightly coloured rhymes and eye-catching pictures, and an incredible mural was drawn on the back. The inside walls of each classroom were covered in teaching aids, the jungle gym was repaired and a freshly painted water catchment tank installed.
Jinja Marathon 2009
The Great Gorilla Marathon 2009
May 2009 saw the very first Great Gorilla Marathon in Jinja. The event, organised by 2:09 Events from the UK and a race committee here in Uganda intended to raise funds for both Soft Power Education and The Gorilla Organisation, and raise funds it did!
The day started at 7.30am at the Source of the Nile. Runners were on the start line ready to complete either a half marathon of 21km, or a gruelling 42km full marathon. There was a wide variety of runners, from semi-professionals to total amateurs who at the 1km marker began to wonder what they had signed themselves up for. Our very own Kibii and Venus set off for the full marathon, and long time supporter of Soft Power Education completed the half. The course started out on smooth roads unaffected by the recent heavy downpours but by the time the runners reached Bujagali, they were sick of the sight of yet another muddy track!
As Kibii and Venus crossed the 10km marker at the front of the field, up at Nile River Explorers 30 people were getting ready to take part in the 5km Fun Run. Now for those of you who have visited Uganda, I would like you to think back to those little tracks around Kyabirwa village and how muddy they became after a night of rain! That’s right, it was a mud bath! They all came back with varying patterns of mud splattered up the backs of their legs and all grew several inches thanks to the mud caked to the bottom of their trainers! Our staff, their families and lots of others took part and great fun was had by all!
The half marathon finished at the NRE campsite and for those doing the full marathon they had to run into the NRE campsite and then turn straight around and run back out again onto the second loop! There were plenty of people there to cheer them on and one runner completed the entire full marathon in bare feet!
Looking at the photographs (that Shaz insisted that they smile for, even when running!) you wouldn’t believe the runners had just completed a half or full marathon – it looks like they do it everyday! Kibii finished the full marathon in 2nd place with a time of 3 hours 50 minutes. The winner finished in a little over 3 hours. Venus suffered a knee injury but battled on to complete the half marathon in an impressive 2 hours and 25 minutes.
Thanks to everyone who donated to their JustGiving page, Kibii and Venus raised an incredible £1,250! Jackie Smith also set up a page and raised more than £1,300! From entrance fees, raffle tickets, food, drinks etc the event is estimated to have raised over 5,000,000 UGX which will be split between the two funds. A huge thank you to everyone involved in the organisation and marshalling, those who participated and of course everyone who came along to support.
It’s funny how things start. Back in the summer of 2008, a few people got talking about how great it would be if there was a pantomime in Jinja as there had never been one before. Now this set a challenge, but Endowoza Arts Centre Project Manager Penny had been involved with a professional pantomime for many years at the theatre she worked at. She agreed to be director and co-producer. Events escalated and the next thing we knew, an eager and enthusiastic Jinja Community Theatre Group had formed and a magical Cinderella script written. An audition date was set and venue booked, and all proceeds were pledged to Soft Power Education.
Things moved quickly and we had lots of people, ready and willing, to give pantomime a go. What was truly amazing was how everyone offered their help, not just cast members keen to try their hands at acting, but costumes, lighting, music, set construction – not once did we have to browbeat anyone in to lending a hand. We were very fortunate to find so many talented amateur actors, most of whom had never set foot on a stage before.
From the Soft Power team in Uganda, our very own ICT expert, Silas, made his stage debut playing the part of the lovelorn Buttons and Drama Tutor James made a very dashing and spirited dancer. Soft Power founder Hannah’s, two eldest daughters also looked very cute in their roles in the junior chorus. Backstage we had Kibii, not surprisingly, very capably running the bar and Ofono the Arts Centre sales. George (from George’s Book Exchange) was a brilliant Technical Manager and he programmed computerised sound and lighting – wow!
Many Soft Power volunteers came to help out and turned their hands to sewing rats and mice, stewarding, painting scenery, selling programmes and decorating the venue. But special thanks must go to Jeff and Tony who transformed an old trailer into Cinderella’s glittering pumpkin coach. The gasps from the audience were audible as it grandly entered the stage. Not quite up to West End standards, but pretty good for Jinja!
With lots of loud boos and hisses and shouts of ‘it’s behind you’, the audience immersed themselves in the magical tale of Cinderella’s rise from rags to riches. With shouts and cheers throughout, the audience were truly in that traditional panto spirit.
A fabulous time had by all – cast, crew and audience alike. Jinja Community Theatre Group performed three shows of Cinderella at Jinja Senior Secondary School in December 2008. Most remarkably the performances raised an astonishing 3,000,000 UGX for Soft Power Education, more than we could have ever hoped for!
12 Hour Cycle Marathon 2006
In September 2006, Soft Power Education held an awesome 12 hour cycle marathon. There were 14 teams of four, and two solo riders competing for the most laps in 12 hours. For Jackie and Shaz, the day started at 5am, marking out the course, on a quad bike, in the torrential rain. The course was a dirt track, so anyone who has been to Uganda, and Bujagali in particular, will know that after six hours of rain, the course was a sticky mess of red mud.
The fun started at 7.30am, when the rain had stopped. The lucky members of each team, who were selected to do the first lap, set off taking anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours to complete the 5kms. Bikes got clogged up with mud and refused to move, cyclists carried their bikes any which way just to get round the course. A new reason to wear a cycle helmet emerged – to make it easier to carry your bike on your head…
After the initial wet start, the sun shone and dried out the course, and the laps mounted up. The winning team with the most laps, was Nile Breweries, and the winning individual entry was Jesper who completed an astonishing 42 laps – over 200km! The event raised over $2000! To put that into perspective, that is enough to refurbish a classroom, buy 60,000 bricks, or 11,000Kgs of cement. We would like to extend our huge thanks to all those who took part and to all our sponsors.
12 Hour Cycle Marathon 2007
The 2007 12 Hour Cycle Marathon was another success and luckily this year the rain stayed away and the course stayed dry. Shaz wasn’t quite ready to face putting the markers out again and replacing her feet with two clumps of mud!
This year saw 15 teams competing. The Pottery Boys put in an incredible performance, determined to beat the Nile Breweries team. After fighting all day long, they came in second and Nile Breweries maintained their unbeaten title and took home a brand new mountain bike kindly donated by Jupiter Building Supplies. The boys came in second and also took home a bike kindly donated by Phenix. Everyone else raced well too and the local community enjoyed the music and surrounding party.
We would like to thank all of the participants for their enthusiasm, the volunteers who helped organise the day and the sponsors who donated money and prizes. It really would not have been possible without all these people and we raised a huge $2000!