This summer, I worked with the Kasiisi Project (also known as Kibale Forest Schools Program (KFSP)) in Uganda to increase their income through marketing tourist activities they offer. They work with members of the local community around Kibale National Park to provide healthcare and education with a wider goal of conserving the national park to conserve chimpanzees and other species.
It was a great honour to work with the staff at KFSP and I learnt a great deal from them in the way that they work. They are conscientious, thoughtful, hard-working, considerate and went out of their way to help and guide us throughout our time there.
One of the most important things that I realised when in Uganda was the usefulness of monetary donations and income to the organisation alongside any other volunteering support. The staff there are incredible, as I have already said, and they do everything with the resources that they have, but quite simply there isn’t enough. One day I helped at a mobile health clinic where we drove into a rural community with little healthcare access and set up a clinic for a day with 2 doctors and a small pharmacy. I registered 240 patients, turning more away and we did not have enough medication for everyone. We were able to see that many people, but very quickly we ran out because the resources weren’t there.
The team I was in focused on marketing a guesthouse and farm owned by the Kasiisi project for tourists to stay in. We spent time improving the resources provided to guests, suggesting edits to the website, finding new ways to advertise and coming up with ideas for tourist activities which could attract guests. The idea was that this would provide income for the many other projects which Kasiisi engages with and leads on. Honestly, I struggled with the fact that the work was not hands on and envied other groups who were engaging more with the community. I’m also extremely nervous that nobody will book a stay despite our work, but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth doing. Money is required to make everything else possible and we are trying to source those funds.
I was able to engage with the wider community in other ways as we stayed on the site of the flagship school so constantly had children around us who we played football with and one evening, I did an impromptu dance class. I also spent time fixing their sewing machine so that some of the students could learn how to use an electric sewing machine as a new skill. I met with a women’s literacy group who meet weekly to read books together, learning English as they go. As well as reading they all support each other through creating a fund through donations which go to a member each week who needs additionally support. Kasiisi encouraged this and I’m grateful that they were so willing to hear our ideas and give us their time, despite them being the experts in this field.
I feel immensely privileged that I was able to experience this, learn so much about a new culture as well as meeting 10 other Laidlaw scholars who I travelled with. Inadvertently, whilst learning about others, I also learnt a lot about myself. If any future scholars stumble upon this post on the network, all I can say is go to Uganda and work with this organisation.