Why Uganda

Why did I choose it for my Gap Year?

I was originally unsure as to whether I would even take a gap year as I believed I would simply head straight to university from school. However, arriving Haileybury in lower 6th meant that I had never heard of HYT. I first heard of it in a school lists (assembly) where Russel Matcham spoke of it and explained what it entailed. The prospect of living in Uganda and being heavily involved in a charity for 6 months to me was incredibly exciting as it would entail the ultimate adventure. I spoke to Russel further on what volunteering for HYT would involve and he explained the broad scope of what I could do out here, whether it being spending a lot of time working on site, designing sustainable stoves or working in the office. For me the freedom which HYT gives you as a volunteer whilst being able to be heavily involved in a charity which visually makes a difference is something which I felt I couldn’t turn down.

Playing with some children whilst on a site visit

First Impressions

With a sense of trepidaton and excitement, Rob and I both walked off the plane to be welcomed to this unique country by the sheer scorching sunlight and heat and then headed off to Jinja. The roads here are different to anything I have ever experienced before with potholes on every turn. Throughout the journey the view from the car of the Ugandan hills and vegetation was something to behold with bright green illuminating the hilltops everywhere you turned.

Rob and I at the Kayak festival

Jinja where Rob and I are based, is a beautiful town situated right on the Nile river. The town is full of life and main street is filled with colour. We have finally got used to travelling on BODA BODAs which are motorcycles which we ride on the back of and this is main mode of transport here. The first one we went on was truly petrifying, I can assure you I was hanging on for dear life and praying for it to end, but now it’s somewhat relaxing. “Mzungu” seems to be shouted at us at least once a day and it is the word which Ugandan people use to shout at white people as it means wealthy foreigner, which has taken some getting used to. The view of the Nile is something that is truly spectacular and it never gets boring watching the sunset with a beer in hand.

Bujigali Sunset

Work

Rob and I have been busy focusing on designing the most efficient stove, using the ISSB bricks. The stove which we have been developing are most efficient than the stoves which are traditionally used here in Uganda. The traditional stoves are simply where they light a fire between 3 bricks and place the pot on top of the bricks. The stoves which we have been developing use 16 ISSB curved bricks to make a circular structure. This method is more efficient as it helps to keep the heat in the stove, therefore speeding the cooking process. This as a result means less wood is burnt, meaning less trees are cut down leading to CO2 emissions being drastically reduced. Our stoves also have a chimney meaning smoke can be directed away from the cooking area, something which the traditional stoves fail to do. This is a such a severe problem that 13,000 Ugandans die a year from inhaling smoke when cooking.

Painting on a water tank

In our first week in Uganda, we visited the town of Ngora where we spoke to the head of the family who was an orphaned 19-year-old, Okelo, who also had to care for his 4 other siblings. During the visit, I was overwhelmed with happiness as we were able to witness the effect that the construction of a brick house for Okelo and his family had done as they had been living in a small thatched roof mud hut. Having spoken to Okelo we then went to put up 2 lightning conductors at a school. Lightning is a much bigger threat than back home in the UK, with Uganda having the highest number of lightning fatalities per year and in 2015 there was 70 lightning strikes per. On top of this, Rob and I have also visited sites in Kamuli where we helped in the construction of a school for 2 days. I have huge respect for these men, who work from 7 till 5 in the scorching heat, helping to improve the community.

Digging a hole for the end of the lightning conductor to go into

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Winners of the Ashden International Award for Sustainable Buildings 2017

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