Two Years Beside the Nile: A Retrospective

Posted on July 16th, 2018

Two Years Beside the Nile

A fisherman casts his golden net, just a stone’s throw away from the Haileybury Youth Trust’s offices.


When returning to Haileybury to sing in David Fanshawe’s African Sanctus in November 2015, I was particularly moved by the Crucifixus. The chirruping of South Sudanese frogs leads the audience down the Nile into Uganda, where the crooning of a fisherman and his wooden enanga (zither) conjure up a haunting image of the country I was hoping to work in for the next two years.


Ugandan Drummer in Mayuge

Music is one of the many medium through which Uganda expresses its warm and vibrant spirit.


8 months later I was to listen to the little amphibians from my bedroom in disbelief; their croaking was so loud I was convinced someone was playing one of those rainforest ambience CDs!


Sunbird in Mabira Forest

Subsequent wildlife encounters, such as this sunbird in Mabira Forest, confirm that Uganda’s natural environment is truly beyond belief!


The sounds of nature may not have changed, but the musical accompaniment to my time in Uganda has been far from the pain of a Crucifixus. Much more common have been the jubilant dances at the opening ceremonies of HYT classrooms, to the beating of goatskin drums and the boom of the village emcee! During my two years in the country, I’ve attended 6 of these events, each of which has marked the culmination of months of hard work by HYT trainers, trainees and the communities themselves.


Pupils Celebrate at HYT's 10th Community Project

Pupils Celebrate at HYT’s 10th Community Project


To put that work into perspective, I saw 30 structures completed in 2017 by a team of 4 trainers and their 3 managers, expertly led by Country Manager Mauricia. That makes an annual total of 7.5 buildings, and nearly 2,500 beneficiaries, per trainer!


HYT Team by the Nile

Among the many skills of an HYT trainer is the ability to make a convincing 90’s album cover…


It’s humbling stuff, as is the modesty and professionalism with which the Trust’s core team members carry out their award-winning work. Philip, Freddo, Johnny, Mattias, Sam and Eric certainly know the importance of a strong foundation, and it is on their shoulders that HYT’s 2017 Ashden Award for Sustainable Buildings proudly stands.


The Ashden Award Ceremony itself was a pivotal moment in the history of HYT, and a testament to the dedication of Director Russell Matcham over the last 12 years. His speech on the future of sustainable development in East Africa, delivered to an audience at the Royal Geographical Society which included former US Vice-President Al Gore, reflected his place at the beating heart of the Haileybury Youth Trust, which continually flies to new heights!


Russell Matcham Speaks at the Ashden International Conference

Russell Matcham Speaks at the Ashden International Conference


Of course, no speech about HYT would be complete without Country Manager Mauricia Nambatya, whose engineering qualifications from Makerere and Cambridge universities and impressive yet friendly leadership place her at the head of operations here in Jinja. In her the Trust has a sunny, Ugandan future!


Mauricia Nambatya Speaks at the Ashden Awards

Mauricia Nambatya Speaks at the Ashden Awards


So far in 2018, HYT has forged beyond Lake Victoria, up to the savannahs of Karamoja and the refugee camps of West Nile, in partnership with Enabel – Belgian Development Agency. I feel lucky to have overseen the inception of these important projects, and cannot wait to see where Mauricia and the incoming Assistant Country Manager, Ed Brett, will take HYT in the coming years.



Nakapiripirit Sustainable ISSB House

Enabel projects have seen the marriage of innovative ISSB technology and traditional construction techniques. 


As my term ends at the Trust, I take with me far more than the chirruping of the frogs (though HYT’s protection of wetlands has helped to secure even that)! I leave with memories of red marram soil, singing in the villages, and a suitcase full of smiles. Russell hopes there might be room for an ISSB in there too, but I’ll have to save that for next time…


A Clap for HYT

A round of applause for the men and women who make HYT the life-changing organisation it is for so many.

Summer News from HYT

Posted on June 25th, 2018

HYT says au revoir to Charlie


After two years as Assistant Country Manager, Charlie Tebbutt leaves his Ugandan post for the more rarefied atmosphere of Oxford, where he will begin a Master’s degree in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management. Charlie has been a wonderful member of the team – not least in his near fluency in Lusoga – and we wish him all the best for his future.


Charlie works on the HYT Enabel project

Assistant Country Manager Charlie Tebbutt has seen HYT complete 5 ‘One Village at a Time’ projects.


Here, Charlie looks back on his time with the Trust:


It is difficult to summarise two years of taking part in HYT’s diverse and extensive work here in Uganda; the Trust’s journey from the shores of Lake Victoria to the mountains of Karamoja has been as exciting and varied as the destinations themselves.


Having risen from its grassroots foundations to international recognition at the Ashden’s Awards, and collaboration with the Belgian Development Agency, I have no doubt that the organisation will continue to soar


As I leave the Nile for the Thames, I take with me a deeper appreciation of the diversity of East Africa’s cultures, the vitality of its environments, and the hard work of HYT’s champions, both in the UK and Uganda.


HYT begins new projects with some of the world’s poorest people


Supported with funds from the EU, HYT recently started training projects in two new areas in Uganda: Karamoja and Adjumani districts. This exciting work is a first for the Trust, running short, intensive training programmes among some of Africa’s most vulnerable people.


Trainees on the Enabel projects

Trainees learn to build together on the Enabel projects in Karamoja.


The Karamojong are an ancient tribe of pastoralists, who move from area to area, with herds of cattle and goats, seeking fresh pasture in the tough environment of north east Uganda. Here HYT is training young Karamojong to build simple round, grass-thatched houses, using the Trust’s environmentally-friendly approach to building.


Enabel projects utilise locally sourced construction materials

Enabel projects promote locally sourced, sustianable construction materials.


We will do the same in the far north of the country, in the world’s largest official refugee camps. Here, more than a million refugees from South Sudan have settled, having fled their war-stricken country. The area around these vast refugee camps is rapidly losing its trees, as refugees cut these down for cooking. HYT’s compressed earth block provides an alternative building material to the traditional fired brick.


Haileybury volunteers complete a great attachment with HYT


Two of last year’s Haileybury leavers, Callum McCabe and Angelica Pettafor, recently completed a five month volunteering attachment with HYT in Uganda. Callum and Angelica helped in the Jinja office, wrote blogs, supported the team in the field and prepared promotional material. And they both learned a great deal. Particularly memorable was time spent with projects in the tropical, endangered Mabira forest and with the newest project in Karamoja. Here Callum and Angelica saw at first hand the difference HYT is making to the lives of young Ugandans.


Volunteer on projects

Volunteer Callum McCabe working alongside trainees on a water tank.


Callum wrote of his time in Mabira forest: Mabira has been a special project thanks to the fantastic teamwork of trainers and trainees and it is where my adventure with HYT started. Our trainees are the most important part of the work that we do in Uganda; they are our workforce and our ambassadors. While it is easy to look at a water tank and imagine the benefits to the local community, it is more difficult to see the impact on the trainees. But the impact is enormous.


Through our training programmes, HYT is able to empower youths, giving them a practical skill. But there is more: the trainees grow in confidence, developing a sense that there are things they can do, that they can provide for their families and live good, independent lives.



Angelica Pettafor roofs with the Karamojong

HYT intern Angelica Pettafor learns to make a thatched roof with the Karamojong.


Meanwhile, Angelica remembers her visits to Karamoja, where the landscape changed as we passed from region to region, leaving behind the dusty burnt orange roads and lush greenery of Jinja for the semi-arid savannah of Karamoja. Despite the language barrier, we were welcomed on to the grass thatched roof of a home and were shown how to lay and tie each layer of grass to the one below.


I was impressed to see how such a strong roof was made from locally sourced materials, while it was fascinating to see such a rich culture that has been preserved over centuries, and passed down from one generation to the next, like the cattle herding sticks that are proudly carried by these ancient people. 


Bravo RAVO!


One of our favourite ongoing projects is the work HYT does for RAVO, a Refuge for Aids Victims and Orphans. The location is beautiful, the children (from all over eastern Uganda) cheerful and welcoming. and the reason for our working there (with such needy youngsters) so obvious.


The pupils of RAVO gather to celebrate the opening of the new latrines.

The pupils of RAVO gather to celebrate the opening of the new latrines.


HYT’s latest support for RAVO has been to build two sets of latrines. Sanitation remains an important challenge in Africa and the supply of simple rainwater storage tanks and clean toilets can be transformational in schools such as RAVO, particularly for teenage girls.


Rainwater harvesting Projects

Rainwater harvesting aims to relieve RAVO’s residents from the burden of water collection

Water, water everywhere –  and many a drop to drink


HYT continues to provide rainwater tanks to schools across the region. We are currently completing two projects which will provide 40 schools with water for the first time. This means children don’t have to spend hours fetching and carrying water (sometimes a risky thing for girls) when they can be in lessons, learning. Our tanks are also cheaper and more robust than other tanks around, with better quality water.



HYT rainwater harvesting tank

An onsite water source saves pupils hours of queuing at the borehole during lesson time.


Sustainable Development Goals Galore!



HYT’s work meets many of today’s SDG’s.


In 2017, 285,000 litres of rainwater were made available to 14 schools. That’s SDG 6.

23 young Ugandans were trained and 50 were employed. That’s SDG 8.


School facilities were improved for 4,939 girls and 5,025 boys. That’s SDG 4.



HYT Support SDG 11

And 24 mature trees, or 114 tonnes of firewood, or 708 MWh of carbon was saved. That’s SDG 11.


One Village at a Time reaches double figures


HYT’s unique training programme, One Village at a Time, got to double figures this year. Having completed 12 programmes of training and community transformation, HYT is about to start something rather different for One Village 13. Here, using the prize money awarded to HYT when it won the Ashden International Award last year, we will build what we hope will be our best ever buildings, showcasing the Interlocking Stabilised Soil Block technology to the wider world.

HYT Batten Classroom Block

Youth empowerment remains at the heart of HYT’s work in Uganda. 


HYT is enjoying an increasingly international reputation for its work in training and sustainable construction, with the One Village programme still at the heart of what we do. Hundreds of young Ugandans have been skilled and empowered as a result of these training projects.


Haileybury Houses Batten and Thomason raise thousands for HYT


HYT was thrilled to receive support from the boys at Thomason house.


The now legendary Batten House Bistro raised more than £1800 for HYT this year, while the boys of Thomason House raised a similar sum with its sponsored Everest climb (sort of) and chilli night.


Batten House Bistro

Dinner is served in style at the Batten Bistro!


HYT is enormously grateful to the boys of these and other Houses, and their families and tutors, for their continuing support for the Trust. The Haileybury community remains at the heart of what is, after all, the Haileybury Youth Trust.


Haileybury Youth Trust



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Winners of the Ashden International Award for Sustainable Buildings 2017.

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