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Kyabirwa Primary School Volunteer Project -

a grass roots Govt. Registered Community Based Organisation

 
                              Previous Volunteers' Reviews
 
Volunteers with our Project often write reviews of their time volunteering with us. Mostly they write about what a great time they had and how it enriched their lives. Some also write about projects they have initiated at the school for the benefit of the children and teachers. Read on to see what they say.

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Everytime I come to Africa, it feels like coming home. Uganda was no exception. The first thing you will learn from Moses is that you are now part of the family and I felt like that from day one. You will seldomlyMarkus who volunteered at Kyabirwa Primary School Volunteer Project find someone so visionary and devoted as Moses. He has so many plans and hopes for the school and I sincerely wish that with the little help of friends from all over the world he will be able to bring his plans to life. During the four weeks I spent at Kyabirwa Primary School I taught English together with a local teacher in both Primary 5 streams. There is so much potential, eagerness and curiosity in these children and it's such a shame that they don't have the chance to make the most of it. My first success came, when one stream came looking for me to teach them, because their teacher was not present. We did reading exercises and I made a little crossword game where the best have been able to win something, which caused huge excitement. Once in a while I also visited the Primary 3 streams, teaching Maths and helping with the marking. An afternoon art class was also very much appreciated by the pupils who didn't care to go home and rather stayed for my class.  I always stayed the whole day at school - I didn't have to - but I wanted to make the most of it and spend as much time as I could with the kids. I was lucky enough to join a selection of kids and teachers on a daytrip to Entebbe. We saw the Wildlife Resort, the weather station, Lake Victoria and drove through the vibrant capital Kampala. It was a nice opportunity to get to know the kids better and to understand their thoughts and feelings.When the day of saying goodbye came I felt guilty to leave them all behind, but the children surprised me with lovely gifts and letters, thanking me for teaching them, wishing me well and asking me to come back soon. One of the boys, whom I always considered a little joker, surprised me tremendously by writing: "I am sad that you are leaving and going back home, but God is the one who wants you to go home." And suddenly it felt alright to leave. Sometimes the most extraordinary things happen to you in the most remote place in the world!A famous writer once wrote: "In Africa we Europeans find something we have lost a long time ago at home". My experience at Kyabirwa showed that for me, humility is what I find in Africa. To know that someone was here before me and now I am here, I have something to do, I too have my responsibility. And someone is coming behind me who I must prepare the way for! I feel so proud and blessed to have had this time and I would recommend it very much, as I do believe in the butterfly effect: My help, or our help might only be the tiniest flap of a butterfly wing triggering a chain of events resulting in huge improvements in the future of these wonderful children - and they deserve it.
Markus Streicher


I had the most memorable, fantastic and life-changing time during the month I spent in Kyabirwa and I Jessica who volunteered in Kyabirwa 3 miles from the small town of Jinja.wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it – in fact I had such a great time, I am already plotting ways I can return!

I couldn’t have imagined how fantastic the people I would meet would be and I have thought about them constantly since my return. It is a cliché, but it certainly is humbling how incredibly friendly and welcoming the people of Kyabirwa are, considering how tough life is and how little they have compared to us in the West. Staying with Moses and the family could not have been more perfect. The children are amazing – funny, sweet, clever, polite and a joy to be around. I had thought I would want to spend the weekends doing touristy things in the surrounding areas, but really all I wanted to do was spend time with the family in and around the compound.
Moses was a perfect host. We spent long evenings talking on the porch over our (massive) dinners, discussing life in Uganda and in the UK. Moses’ wife Florence is so sweet and welcoming, and probably the best cook in Uganda. I don’t think it would be possible to learn more about real life in Uganda than staying with the Owinos. Obviously everything is basic, but I think that is the point of an authentic experience!
Being at the school was great, although with such large class sizes (up to 100 pupils) and a strict curriculum, it’s worth thinking in advance what you can do that’s really useful as just replacing the existing Ugandan teacher could be tricky if you’re not a teacher. I’d suggest thinking about reading clubs, helping with marking analysis to inform teachers' planning, sports, art or setting up a mini project that uses your skills. The headmistress, Robinah, and the other teachers really are keen for you to help in (almost) any way you’d like. About 25 minutes walk away is a tourist resort where if you wanted to you could go for a drink or some western food at the weekend or in the evening – maybe a good idea if you’d like to meet some other volunteers and talk about your experiences.
If you’re willing to pitch in, are open to finding out about different cultures and are friendly and patient (nothing happens that quickly) you won’t regret spending time in Kyabirwa and will experience things - and most probably make friends - that will stay with you your whole life.
Jessica Willis


Where do I begin…due to working full time I could only spend 10 days at Kyabirwa Primary School and with Laura volunteered at the Volunteer Uganda School ProjectMoses and his family and I wish I’d had more time. I had a fantastic and fascinating time. The children and teachers at the school were all really welcoming. The week I was at school was the last week of term so the children were revising and taking exams. I sat in on several Social Studies and English classes. The first thing that struck me was the size of the classes; they have between 80 and 140 pupils in each class! But despite the size the children all seem eager to learn. I was amazed at some of the things the children were learning, far more advanced than what I learnt at Primary School. I was able to help with marking as the children practiced exam style questions. I also took a group of P6 children for reading class after school.
One day I came into school and the cook wasn’t there as she’d had a death in the family. Thanks to the St John's CE Primary School and Food for Thought the children all get porridge once a day, but as the cook was off they weren’t going to be able to have it. So I offered to make it, I often make porridge for myself at home but I have never made it for over 300 children! I carried a jerry can of water from the pump to the current kitchen and I have no idea how the children and women carry them day in day out. On other days I cleaned and painted the new staff room ready for the next school year.
I loved living with Moses and Florence and all the children. Moses and his family are some of the most generous people I have met always putting you before themselves. The accommodation was great, exactly what I expected. The food that Florence, Maureen and Lydia made was delicious although the portions were huge – and I did feel a little bad when I couldn’t eat it all. It was the rainy season and one piece of advice I have is take wellies they are essential as it gets really muddy everywhere! I came out to Kyabirwa to meet my friend Jess who was volunteering for 3 weeks at the school. I have her to thank for finding the project and I am so glad she did I feel lucky and honoured to have met all the teachers, children and of course Moses and his wonderful family.
Laura Francis

Kyabirwa was completely amazing. I had a wonderful time, and Moses, Florence, and the children could not have been more fantastic hosts. This is the best program ever!! I would love to be involved in any way in helping keep the project running. Please let me know if there is anything I can do.
My experience with the students of Kyabirwa Primary School was incredibly powerful. It was simultaneouslyShannah also had a great time volunteering at Kyabirwa Primary School exhausting and rejuvenating; exhausting because teaching is so challenging, but rejuvenating because, as a former teacher, I drew immense energy from the students' deep desire to learn. I loved getting to know the students and hearing about their daily lives and their hopes for the future. I have carried home piles of letters, stories, and pictures that the children gave to me as parting gifts. I look at them often and get nostalgic for my time with those amazing students. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been their teacher! I taught English to Primary 5 and Primary 6. I also began an after school reading & writing program for Primary 5 and Primary 6 several days a week after school during which students could read books of their choice and write creatively. As a personal choice, I also worked with Lydia, Isaac, and David in the evenings on their English. I felt very supported by Moses and by Robinah and the fellow teachers. I wish I had known about how strict the Ugandan curriculum is, and how much it focuses on obscure grammar constructions. I would have brought more materials for teaching grammar if I had known how constrained by the curriculum I would be.
I loved living with Moses’ family and learning about Ugandan customs from the children. I also loved the freedom and support I had to teach English. Robinah and the fellow teachers were very eager to let me try any strategies that I thought would work for my lessons.
The accommodations were great—they were exactly as I expected. Sometimes I felt badly that I didn’t want evening dinner sometimes. Also, there were a few times when I did not request dinner, but it was given to me because Moses and Florence were worried that I was hungry. It was really sweet of them to be concerned—but I truly wasn’t hungry at those times! :)
Moses is clearly the linchpin in this system—his patience, kindness, honesty and compassion cannot be overstated. He is a true gem. I feel lucky to know him.
Shannah Varon


Having recently retired I was able to commit to visiting Kyabirwa School for a significant period. Although I am an electrical engineer I am also quite handy with most DIY tools and could help the school with improving You can see that you don't have to be young to volunteer. David is a repeat volunteer at Volunteer Uganda School Projectmany of their facilities. Although I could have easily written a cheque to enable some of their projects to be fulfilled locally I thought it important to go there and instruct the teachers in the use of common woodworking tools to enable them to then help themselves and teach the skills to others. So I arranged to go out with some easily transportable hand tools, there being no electricity at the school electric driven items would not have been much use! What I did not take out I proposed to purchase in Jinja, which has a wealth of equipment, if only you can find it, but much of it is of poor quality.
On the first day I was introduced to the many of the members of staff and most of the school children to whom, because of my advanced age, I was introduced as Moses’ Father. As I have difficulty remembering my own name trying to remember the names of 20 staff was quite beyond my capabilities, however the teachers were all very friendly and I got by without remembering the names of some of them. The school children seemed very cheerful considering that many of them have loads of domestic chores to complete before walking maybe a kilometre or so to school and few had any breakfast. The food provided to them by the school was always very welcome.
I made and installed very many window shutters, some shelves for the Store Room, and partition doors for the Hall so that it could be used either as a Class Room and a Staff Room or as a large assembly area. I was thus able to demonstrate the use of many standard woodworking hand tools and encouraged teachers and the older children to use them under my supervision until they seemed proficient. Indeed some teachers were eager to learn about and use the tools themselves. In any case I would not have been able to accomplish the works that I was trying to complete without their help. As the afternoons were quite warm and humid I also welcomed the chance to take more frequent breaks, and it was good to see most of the teachers helping from time to time. I found the experience very rewarding and would recommend helping schools in Uganda as very often they are poorly equipped and have little funding to improve their own situation. It takes very little effort to make a vast difference to their lives and, like me, you will see the difference during your stay there and receive their very genuine gratitude.
David Harris


We spent six weeks at the school and had an incredible time. Moses and his family were unbelievablyRichard and Jackie had a lot of fun with the local kids as well as those attending Kyabirwa Primary School. It would be great if we can get all the kids to go to school one day soon.welcoming, even moving out of their home into the volunteer accommodation in order to ensure there was space for the two of us and another couple volunteering at the same time. We immediately felt at home and like part of the family - we were very well looked after!
The school was open to whatever we could do to help. It's a good idea to have a think about what you would like to do before you arrive, but that is always, quite rightly, going to be subject to their curriculum needs and there will always be many things for you to help with. We spent some time teaching the children rounders, playing volleyball, reading with small groups and working on the new school garden; and much of the time painting a series of Biology diagrams and a large map of Uganda on the walls outside. We also helped run a few Physics practical lessons for the P7 class, something they don't often have the chance to do. We also supported the choir at their competition between local primary schools - a full day of traditional music, dancing and plays and 2 hours of constant celebration when they won!
Conditions at the school are far from ideal for learning with many classes having more than a hundred students in one classroom, but it is quite inspiring to see how much the children seem to enjoy and appreciate the opportunity to learn and also the improvement to the situation that this volunteer project has made.
It was a great experience and we would love to go back again one day!
Richard Seymour and Jackie Dix


The two months spent at Kyabirwa Primary School were … indescribable. The first time I met Moses and his family I was in awe of how friendly, welcoming and considerate they all were. I immediately felt so at home with their wonderful family – I remember spending nights dancing on their porch by candlelight, listening to African music on the radio, washing our clothes in the Nile, walking around the village
Katie was a very enthusiastic volunteer with Volunteer Uganda School, playing netball with the girls, fetching water with the kids… it felt amazing to be surrounded by such genuine people. Florence was a great cook, I loved the food we ate and she always made sure I was full up. When I first experienced the school, it was very different than what I had imagined as the teaching styles and methods are vastly different than what I am used to… but of course this is just a natural part of experiencing a different culture. Initially I assisted in teaching some classes, but then started to take smaller groups of older students to practice English, reading and comprehension. After a few weeks I started painting the school, and along with another volunteer we painted a world map on the end wall of the school. I think the most incredible part of being at the school was meeting all the students. I cannot begin to describe how amazing they were – they always had stories to tell (although sometimes heartbreaking), they all wanted to know infinite things about Canada and what was outside of Uganda. They seemed to always be happy; excited about everything, and luckily I was there during choir season and was able to watch them sing and dance after school. Often, students would invite us back to their homes after school and we would eat dinner with their family, walk through their garden, and inevitably always come home with bags full of mangoes, papayas, maize, avocadoes, and much more. Everything about my experience at Kyabirwa was awesome. I miss everyone I met so much and would love to return.
Katie Ralphs
Alice is a wonderful artist who decorated some of the walls at Kyabirwa Primary School

Kyabirwa Primary School and villages are comprised of the most genuine, warm, generous, friendly, and kind hearted people I have ever met. I felt so welcomed from the day I arrived to the day I dep
arted. During my trip, I was able to get to know and understand the people a little bit better, by attending church with them, visiting their homes, visiting the sick and seeing medical help administered, attending school together, and creating art. It was my first time in Africa and I didn't know what to expect at all. This experience was something more than I could ever have expected. It gave me so much more than I could have offered. Through my experience at Kyabirwa, I was able to learn more about myself, and people. I am sorry that I couldn't provide much, and couldn't stay longer. I'm sure the impending volunteers would experience this and would be of great assistance to the community. They need all the help that they can get!
Alice Cho


I volunteered at Kyabirwa School in Jinja, Uganda for 3 weeks and found it to the most amazing and fulfilling experience I have had in my life. The staff and children are an absolute delight and are so welcoming and supportive. With the help of my fellow volunteers and colleagues, we taught the chKatie one of the 5 students from London South Bank University at Kyabirwa Primary Schoolildren throughout the school and we were able to learn a huge amount from the staff. Their sheer dedication and how they manage to teach large numbers of children with little to no resources available is a true inspiration.
Jinja is a beautiful and very safe place. The people are always willing to help and this attitude was on full display at Kyabirwa School. Moses and Robinah would go out of their way to make sure we were happy and were always on hand with a cup of African tea!
The children always had a smile on their faces and are thankful for everything they had. I found it an absolute pleasure working with the children and formed close bonds with many while I was there.
I have learnt a huge amount from my time in Uganda and have certainly built up my confidence and skill sets to become a successful teacher.
I was thrilled to part of the team that set up the ‘Food for Thought’ Programme in the school. Before the programme started, only 30 out of 1200 children could afford a bowl of porridge at lunchtime. With continued financial support we hope every child can have a bowl of porridge for their lunch to further aid their concentration and progress in learning.
At Kyabirwa School you can volunteer to do anything to help the school as a whole. If you are a volunteer thinking of helping the school, do not hesitate. It will the best decision you ever made.
Katie Siddall


I want to write and tell you what a truly interesting and great time I had visiting the school. I really didn’t know what to expect when we arrived, would anyone speak English? Would I be upset by the poverty? Would I like the food? What will I be doing every day? Within moment of arriving I had forgotten my fears due to the welcome, kindness, friendliness and hundreds of smiles I got. I was really shocked by the genuine need at the school -a need for basic resources, classroom space, food and water, firewood, the list could go on and on. Despite the need the school was a fun place to be. Sometimes my face would ache from laughing. Robinah and the teachers were always around to offer us a friendly cup of African tea with a smile.

We were taken by surprise by the simplicity of need. We were advised to take some sewing materials, amongst other things, to add to a small kit that had been left by previous volunteers. The children were delighted have the equipment to sew their raggedy uniforms. We could not have imagined that something so simple would prove so popular. I resisted, initially, the calls of my fellow volunteers to help with the sewing. I couldn’t sew to save my life. But eventually I relented I joined the throng of children and I soon realised that my lack of ability didn’t matter. Simply being there and interacting with the pupils was enough.

My advice to future volunteers would be not to worry about what abilities you have. Bring as much as you can, but you will be surprised how important such small things are. I learnt so much whilst there about the children, about the culture and surprisingly about myself.

Volunteering is a great chance to experience life at the school and in the community. The project has a very intimate feel about it and staying with Moses you will certainly become one of the family. The trip was so rich with experiences that I am sure I will retell them for years to come. It is life changing to think that I have been blessed with the opportunity to make a very small difference. The experience is one that I will treasure forever. I’m already thinking about going back!!
Richard Buggins  -  see below, left of photo.

Five students from London South Bank University who came to Kyabirwa School to fulfil a module of their teaching qualification - 'Teaching in an alternative setting'.

Well what can I say? We all had an absolutely fantastic time and were really sad to leave. It was such an unbelievable experience and I can't thank you enough for all your help in setting things up for us. It has been quite strange adapting back to life in the western world, although I am enjoying not being covered in red dust all the time!
We were really pleased to be able to help set up the Food for Thought programme and truly hope it can expand and improve with the help and support of volunteers who will come to the school a
fter us. I think it will make such a difference to everyone in the community from health and concentration, to education and general well-being. I really think that the children and teachers have taken away a lot of ideas and information from us, as have we from them.
Amy Riley, one of 5 student teachers from London Southbank University
- see above, middle of photo


I have spent considerable time at the project on three occasions and maintain constant contact with staff because it is such a worthwhile project to support. When people are struggling with next to nothing to provide an education for impoverished children you can’t help but respect them. Each time I leave the school,Ann another mature volunteer (61 here, 62 second time and 64 the 3rd time) with volunteer UIganda School Project I came away feeling uplifted and as if I have made a real contribution to their lives and they to mine. It’s not a one way giving process. I always leave feeling as if I have received at least as much as I have given. This isn’t a volunteer opportunity just for young people either. I’m 61. Another lady of a similar age has also been there and returned several times. Actually, they are always amazed at how much we oldies do which is gratifying! Moses and Robinah are so caring that you feel very looked after and completely at home in just a few hours. Although steady progress is being made to build the school up, because it started from rock bottom it may not be apparent to new volunteers that any progress has been made at all. But you should have seen it two years ago! You will love the teachers, who only need some gentle encouragement to join in with what you're doing. One of the idiosyncrasies you will meet is that they think they shouldn't interfere with what you're doing so be sure to make it clear that you want to include them. It will make it much more fun all round! The kids are becoming much more used to muzungus and are far less shy than when I met them as the first volunteer at the school. One tip: When you ask them if they understand they will always say yes. Don't be fooled by that. They still have difficulty understanding our Muzungu English difficult. Finally, don’t forget to ask Robinah to give you some smoky tea. It’s delicious. And you'll make her laugh when you ask, because she will know where you got that idea!
Ann Chawner


Despite not having time to fundraise as much as I would have liked, I was glad to be able to arrive at the Kyabirwa School with a full set of football kit thanks to the generosity of Plymouth Argyle Football Chris fell in love with the entire Kyabirwa School population as well as Moses' family!Club and, in particular, Gordon Bennett of the Youth Department of the club.
The boys looked ultra professional as they lined for their team photo ahead of their football match and I’m sure that they felt extra proud to be representing their school that day. They certainly put a lot of effort into the match. I refereed the game for the first-half and could barely keep up with them in the heat. I nearly died!
There was so much that I wish I could have done to help the School and in the end I felt more indebted to them, for letting me spend some time teaching those wonderful children, rather than feeling satisfied with my own generosity. It would be wonderful to see some real investment going into the School in order to keep the nutrition programme going permanently and also pay for electricity and computers. The whole area will be very badly affected by the Dam project which will rob local people of income from the tourist industry.
My experience was brief and my contribution very small and yet I now feel part of the School family and will never forget the staff or children. In fact, I feel sure that I will be returning to Uganda again in the near future. Moses and his family were wonderful hosts and I hope to keep in touch with them and their development.
Life is undeniably hard out there but it seemed to me that the Ugandan spirit was to remain tough and dignified, upbeat and positive and to smile in the face of adversity. The children were without doubt, the toughest and most remarkable that I have ever encountered. They were, and still remain to me, an inspiration. Despite being exhausted by the heat I felt more alive in their presence than at any other point in my life. Although it is tempting to simply despair at the scale of the problems that face Uganda and its children I believe that doing something, even one small thing, is preferable to taking the easy option and doing nothing. One beaming smile from one of those children should be enough to convince even the hardest heart of that.
Chris Mercer


Gemma was one of the first volunteers at Kyabirwa School. She paid for a 60,000 litre underground water tank!I had a wonderful time at the project. I could not possibly have been prepared for the warmth of the welcome I would receive or the depths of affection I would experience for the staff and children at the school. For the time I was with them I really felt part of the school community. It was a great experience to be able to live with Moses' family, get to know his children and be part of their lives for a while, Auntie Gemma. I particularly enjoyed playing sports with the children at school and getting to know those children I was helping with their reading and writing. The staff and children work hard with very limited resources and battling huge disadvantages, and their deep appreciation for even the smallest assistance was really humbling. I have many happy memories of my time at the project and would love to see them all again. The children are wearing T shirts donated to them by friends in England.
Gemma Rickman (and Yann)


Volunteering at Kyabirwa school was extremely rewarding and fun. All the staff are very friendly and accommodating, and are willing to listen to any ideas you have. The children themselves are a lot of fun and very eager to learn. The accommodation provided is of a good standard and you are really made to feel part of the family. It is a great way to experience life in a local village. I believe this to be an excellent volunteering opportunity and whole heartedly recommend it.
Liam MacEntee - Creighton


Tim and I would like to whole heartedly recommend voluntary work at Kyabirwa Primary as it is one of the neediest schools in that they do not currently (pun intended) have electricity, have only recently had a huge water tank installed and most of the children come to school and go home hungry. The classrooms have air conditioning in that there is no glass in the windows, but for all that the children are keen to learn. They are so friendly and enjoy Susannah and Tim also mature volunteers who have returned to Kyabirwa Primary School in Uganda.every moment of attention and friendship. What the children need more than anything, is to be taken out in small groups from Primary 3 upwards to learn phonics so they can read and speak English and understand westerners better. There are limited resources in the secure store room, and you can bring more (!), it’s just the consistency of having small group attention to learn the language correctly and have fun whilst you teach them. Drama, kinaesthetic learning and laughing a lot are the keys, also practical number work, including space, shape and measure. There is always practical work to do at the school if you need a break from the intensity of working with smaller groups. Just taking responsibility for keeping the secure store room tidy and the resources in order will help as will involving the off duty teachers in that task. When you are so unused to having any resources at all you are not in the habit of keeping them tidy, until you see the example of someone else doing it. I feel that teaching larger classes is a waste of time as they do not understand the way we speak, unless you go VERY slowly or have an interpreter which is not a good use of manpower, and taking the class alone when it is so large can be very daunting.
Susannah Hills and Tim