We arrived in Muhanga on Thursday afternoon after a long journey on the Uganda Postbus. The road from Kampala is fairly decent until you pass Mbarara. After Mbarara the ride have more in common with a roller coaster than a intercity bus ride. Fun : )

Yesterday me and Zola spent mostly at the main school in the project. Zola went around the site measuring and trying to fit the image she has from the pictures we showed her. Me, I guess I didn’t do much work. I talked a lot with Rominah who is our local administrator at the site. The rest of the time I spent playing with the kids . The football and Frisbee we brought for them were very well used yesterday.

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On Sunday St Catherine Sweden travels down to Uganda again. The trip is made by Robert, who will work together with the organisation in Uganda to further develop and extend the work being carried out at the project. With him is Zola, who will concentrate of solving what we have started to call “The water problem”. Which include taming the heavy floods during the rainy season but also study the feasibility of a water harvesting solution. Zola will write her master thesis in water resource management based on this work.

We will try to update the blog with pictures and stories as often as possible while being down there. So keep tuned in.

For those of you who want to support our work, and our trip, you can become a one-time, or a monthly contributor here. It is of course possible to designate donations to specific purposes. Just send us an email with your request.

Our sister organisation, CAVODE, who is dedicated at helping the community in the area around Muhanga, Uganda, has started to educate the parents to children who is enrolled in the primary schools which is run under the patronage of CAVODE. The purpose is to provide the parents with skills in order to enable income generating activities.

One of the projects, started in November 2013, is to facilitate mushroom culturing. Each school in the project received 10 packets of mushroom seeds in order to start up culturing projects with the parents.
Romina who is the administrator sent out some pictures from the projects we want to share.

One of the key challenges has been that the parents do not usually have any suitable shed or house in which the mushrooms can be cultivated. Efforts are being made to find funding to have a shared small house in connection with each school in the project, dedicated for the agricultural activities.
If you are interested to hear more about this project do not hesitate to contact us.

The work on the design of the resource center is continues forward. And since at least some of us, teaches project management at university level, we do have a project plan, with a gantt chart, all according to the books. Though there are setbacks; this week we had some delay due to a broken laser cutter, used for making a scale model of the site down in Uganda.

Call for support to Insamlingsstiftelsen St Catherine Sweden!

The public is invited to provide financial support to the trust’s mission and development efforts in Uganda. All financial contributions will be received by a charitable trust to be named “Insamlingsstiftelsen St Catherine Sweden”. The purpose of the trust is to support those in need of financial support of all ages, support the care and rearing of children and to work for education and vocational training for young and adults living in the district.

Read more about this call for support here

The call for support is also available in Swedish here also.

During this autumn St Catherine Sweden was able to provide funds for scholastic materials for vulnerable children in Muhanga. All in all, our fantastic sister organisation CAVODE managed to distribute 519 sets of books to children in the area, in just a few days. We post some pictures our Ugandan friends sent from the project.

BOOKS 1 BOOKS 2 books JESUS CARE RWAMAHWA STEP BY STEP sunshine web pic web1

While Kat is taking a much deserved break in the Indian Ocean underworld, the design team has started with the first design phase in Sweden. The meeting was a  rewarding  gathering of specialists in both participatory and industrialised design, sustainable construction, and passive solar building design. Carlos calls this integrative design.

/Robert

In earlier posts Katrin has talked about mysterious workshops being conducted in Muhanga. And I thought I would explain what those workshops are and why we have been running them.

Two of us, me (Robert) and Carlos double as both project members and as researchers. One of the projects which run at our division at Lund University is on a topic we labelled “stakeholder management through participatory design”. Our goal is to understand how social innovation can occur in a community during construction projects, and more importantly, how can those social innovation processes be used to gain social benefits in the community. I remember an anecdote told by a Finnish researcher about a woman being affected by a refurbishment project. The contractor had put in a lot of effort in raising standards and providing high level of quality throughout the apartments being refurbished. In the process, during the refurbishment of the bathrooms, all bathtubs had been thrown out, and replaced with a luxury shower unit. The problem was that this woman had a routine; every Friday, after a hard week at work, she would open a bottle of wine, put some bath oil in the tub and have a hot, steamy, relaxing bath and a glass of wine. This woman was not happy after the refurbishment, and I doubt she felt that her quality of life increased. Experience show that if you do not handle all those affected you will get 1. an angry or discontent public and 2. poor delivery of social values. In other words, people will get mad, and in spite of, for example, getting better living conditions, they will still be displeased or feeling that there needs is not met, if you have not involved them. Because despite all brilliant ideas taught in architecture school and in civil engineering classes, reading of thoughts are not yet included in the curriculum. And if you do not ask the people what they want or need, you simply do not know what they want or need. Our research project tries to find out how to handle all those being affected by projects in Sweden and in Uganda, and we are trying to figure out how to use the projects themselves to actually improve the social situation in the area where the project is located.

This may seem to be far away from the realities in Muhanga, but actually we need to ask the same question when doing research on projects in Sweden as in Muhanga. There are two parts of the question: what do the community need and how can we engage the community in the process? And this is where the workshops come in. Instead of guessing or presuming what is needed, we want the people in Muhanga to tell us, and explain to us, what is needed. So we conducted different workshops we different interest groups, we met with the board of St Catherine Vocational Development, we asked the head teachers of the schools being connected to St Catherine, and we also invited parents and the kids in the school to come and share their thoughts. All workshops (well, except for the kids) followed the same recipe: First there was a brainstorming on what needs exist, generating a lot of needs based on different viewpoints. Then all participants were asked to rank the five most important needs, as they themselves thought. After this, we had a group session were the participants as a group would rank the five most important needs. Then the second step came in, where we used the result and asked in a brainstorm what facilities they need in order to meet the identified needs. Again they were asked to rank the different facilities and also to consider the relationships between different facilities. That is, there is no point of building a computer lab before electricity has been brought in. This helped us to dwell into the actual needs of the people we met. As for the kids, they were given a more playful activity, and were asked to draw their dream school, or rather to draw objects for their dream school.
At the end of workshop week we did one last workshop. We invited everyone who has helped us during the week to lunch, and at the same time we asked them to help us to design and build a swing for the kids. As you can see in the pictures, we all succeeded.

All this gave us a lot of insights on the needs of the community, the teachers and the kids, and we will use all this material we collected in the project in order to create project goals, specifications and priority lists.

/Robert