Hannah Small, a former overland bus driver, saw the need and poverty during her many tours through East Africa. In 1999, she returned with a project in mind. Counting on the support of tourists, she started in the village right next to Bujagali Falls. Today, Soft Power Education is a true success story. They run pre-schools, primary schools, a health clinic and a community center. The project has been even extended to other villages and regions.
One of many great ideas was to invite volunteers even for a day, which is what most individual travelers can and are willing to give. Beside their time and skills, they are also asked to donate a minimum of 25 USD. Only this scheme has brought in tenths of thousands of dollars over the last decade.
Of course many volunteers stay longer. July, an Australian teacher, has been coming back for years. Each time she teaches English for 6 months and lives in the nearby village. A lady from New Zealand, who was there for three months, gratefully accepted our help in producing class room material for biology. Together with Bianca, a young New York banker, we painted human organs on empty rice bags to be put up on the walls. Heidi spent an afternoon with an English teacher who works with older ladies from the village. They all skipped class that day, so the two teachers exchanged classroom stories.
The school administrators put a lot of effort into choosing the right kids for the program. Especially pre-school is high in demand: 300 applicants are narrowed down to 50 and those families are visited by the teachers to crosscheck the information on the application form. Some tricky parents indeed figured that if they can get the kids into the free pre-school, they can save on a few years of primary school, which they have to pay for.
After the great success of Soft Power Education, other organizations choose this village for their projects. This oversupply of educational courses confuses many villagers who register for hairdressing, sewing and English on the same day. Maybe this was the reason why the adult English students stayed away from the lessons the day we visited. Our brief glances across the yard, to the group that came for the hair dressing lesson, could not make out any activity there either. Just a bunch of women sitting around, chatting!
For more information, check the website of Soft Power Education.