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.

Comments are closed.