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Our Ugandan Expedition – July 2011

Background to the Exchange

The Ugandan exchange originated in 2006.  Wisewood School & Community Sports College was chosen as part Specialist Sports College schools to link with Uganda through the Dreams and Teams partnership set up and coordinated by the British Council. During this time the Headteacher and Deputy Head of Wisewood visited Kibuli Secondary School in Kampala, Uganda, with a reciprocal visit the following year by the Headteacher and Head of Geography.

In 2008 the Head of Geography and Head of PHSE of Wisewood visited Kibuli to share good practice in teaching and learning.  This was followed up by two members of Kibuli Staff visiting Wisewood in 2009.   The next natural step was to investigate a student exchange to take place.

In October 2010, 4 members of staff from Wisewood and our partner school Myers Grove visited Kibuli to establish the potential visit through British Council funding.  At this point we were joined by Tim Ellis, director of Face Africa who would later become our tour operator while in Uganda.

At this time we also became trustees of a newly set up charity called Omukwano, meaning friendship in Lugandan, the local language in Kampala.

In July 2011 our visit came to fruition with an 17 days visit to Uganda which involved visiting Kibuli Secondary School, our partner school taking in the sights and sounds of Kampala, working with SoftPower Education, a UK based charity that re-builds and develops primary schools in Jinja and Murchison Falls in Uganda as well as working with Kijumbia Primary School to paint their recently build primary school.

In terms of experience of international visits, the staff at Wisewood and Myers Grove have had much more than the staff in Kibuli School. While the adult exchange has been two-way, the student exchange was initiated through previous experience of staff and the wish to develop the link further.

Aims and Objectives

Exchange Theme: Promoting active and global citizenship among students.  To highlight the effect of Climate Change on an international country.

Aim of the exchange: To develop a meaningful and sustainable link between the communities of South Yorkshire and Kibuli School, Uganda. To promote global citizenship between students of both countries.


  • UK Students will interact with students from Kibuli School
  • Environmental work will take place around the theme of offsetting carbon within the community
  • Both sets of students will have a greater understanding of their role within the world and their impact on the planet
  • Students will create a lasting positive impact on their communities

The Aims and objectives were shared with our partner school in Kibuli before we left the UK; they were agreed as appropriate and suitable objectives for both parties.

Recruitment and selection

Students were recruited to the expedition in July 2009.  Y9 & Y10 (ages 14-15) students were invited to take part in the application by completing a brief application form. Students who were deemed suitable were invited to interview.  Students were asked to present a short presentation on a series of topics including: the impact of Fairtrade on Uganda, the AIDS epidemic and how Uganda has tackled it, the wildlife of Uganda and the rein of Idi Amin.

Students were interviewed by at least two the expedition team as well as Ken Dunn, Director of Connecting Communities Worldwide, an organisation set up to establish links with sustainable international projects. They were asked a set of questions which tested their integrity for the visit, how they would cope without their luxuries of the UK as well as they plans for fundraising and teamwork.

From this 16 students were selected. One student later withdrew due to personal circumstances.  Following discussion with expedition leaders the project was extended to Myers Grove School, the partner school of Wisewood. 5 students were interviewed and selected from Myers Grove, making a full complement of 20 students (ages 15-16 when leaving for the expedition).

Staff were interviewed in a similar way. This was imperative when one member of staff became pregnant and was no longer able to travel. This was a huge disappointment to the expedition; however we were fortunate enough to appoint two additional team members approx 8 weeks before leaving.

As part of the agreement from School Governors a medical doctor would escort the expedition to ensure any potential medical issues would be dealt with swiftly and safely. Requested were put out through our network as well as the expedition medicine website. Dr Tom Poyser, an ex-pupil of Wisewood School and a family friend of one of the expedition leaders.

Young People’s Participation and Preparation

As previously mentioned students were selected in October 2009 and November 2010.  This meant that the majority of the team were selected approx. 24 months before the visit to Uganda. This was too long for some of the students as ensuring the fundraising was continuous became difficult, however on the flipside, this amount of time was needed to fundraise the amount needed.

Our intention for the next visit will be approx. 18 months from selection procedure to participating in the expedition, with a greater insight into how to fundraise this will be a more management time as well as ensuring the fundraising is sufficient.

The students met on a weekly basis in the two separate schools to ensure that any fundraising information was transmitted as well as any other events.  As part of the fundraising students were put into smaller teams as part of Big Challenge (a local enterprise activity).  Each team took various roles to ensure their projects were successful.  The groups had mixed success.

Students were consulted on the types of project work they wanted to take part in, and the work of SoftPower Education was suggested as a viable option to take part in.  At the school, students discussed some of the things they wanted to do e.g. attend lessons and visit the sports facilities available in the school.  A timetable of events was put together with consultation from staff at Kibuli School, as well as SoftPower Education who would be hosting the project work and our visit to their headquarters in Jinja.

As part of our recruitment procedure students and staff attended two residentials.  The first being very early in the first recruitment procedure during October 2010 in North Yorkshire at a YHA hostel over a long weekend of team building and outdoor pursuits.

The second residential took place in May 2011, with the whole compliment of students, staff and expedition doctor. This was at Thornbridge Outdoors Educational Centre in the Peak District.  The weekend, which was camping, was designed to ensure that the group worked as a team and expedition leaders were able to identify any issues.

The residential gave leaders the opportunity to watch students interacting and identify leaders.  Students were set problem solving activities including cooking for themselves on a budget.  Throughout the activities students were given time to reflect on how they worked a team and how they could make improvements. During the second evening there was an emphasis on thinking to the future and the visit.  Students had time to reflect on what the hardships would be, what they would experience and what life would be like.

Both residentials were extremely successful with no major issues were identified.

Residential in May 2011

Day Time Activity
Friday 3.10pm Students collected from WW and MGS using school mini-bus and private insured cars
  4.30pm approx Arrive at Thornbridge, erect tents and set up camp site area
  6.00pm Students to good food using camping equipment under supervision from staff.
  9.30pm Students go to bed in tents
Saturday 8am approx Students to cook breakfast and prepare for the day
  9am Students split into 3 groups1)      Students and staff take part in Jacob’s Ladder and cargo net activity (activity run by Thornbridge staff)

2)      Students take part in Low Ropes course (run by Lesley Norton, attending training 17th June 2011)

3)      Students and staff take part in orienteering activity around Thornbridge, as well as ‘nightline’ activity outdoor under supervision by group staff.

  12 noon Students and staff return to base and cook lunch.
  1.30pm Student continue activities from the morning  (1,2,3)
  4.30pm Staff and students return to base, shower and cook evening meal.
  7.30pm Students and staff spend the evening carrying out teambuilding and problem-solving activities indoor.
  9.30pm Students go to bed in tents.
Sunday 8am approx Students to cook breakfast and prepare for the day.
  9.00am Students to pack away tents and cooking gear.
  10.30am Group work designing murals for Ugandan Primary School.
  11.30am Aim to leave Thornbridge and return to Wisewood School.
  1pm approx. Students dismissed from Wisewood School as agreed with parents.

As part of the preparations there were two briefing which took place in school.  The first was led by Tim Ellis, the Director of Face Africa. The second was led by Ken Dunn, Adge Last (Sheffield Outdoors Advisor) and Lee Jowett (Expedition Leader).  Both were designed to engage students with the expectations and commitments that the students would have while away. An agreed contract was constructed and signed by all students and parents.

As part of cultural preparations students did their own research about Uganda, we regularly discussed what Uganda would be like as well as sharing a film and photos which the expedition team took while in Uganda in October 2010. We also produced a film which told the story of our school as well as the families of the students who would be visiting Uganda.  This film was played to students at Kibuli School in Kampala, and disc was left to be played to other students.

As part of our ongoing link many students had experienced information about Uganda in their lessons such as Geography.  Unfortunately we were not able to swap email addresses effectively before the visit; however we have now done this afterwards to ensure the link is sustainable.

The staff who co-ordinated the work at Kibuli School met on regular occasions.  There was one key contact at Kibuli School who was regularly in contact via email with staff in the UK.  Tim Ellis, Face Africa was also regularly in touch with Kibuli to ensure that the programme in place would be suitable for all involved.

As previously mentioned a pre-visit occurred during October half-term 2010 by the 4 expedition leaders, this was funded as part of the British Council Teacher Independent Professional Development (TIPD) fund. This visit gave staff the opportunity to interact with staff and students from Kibuli School (where we were warmly welcomed) staff from SoftPower Education as well at seeing the project work that students would undertake in July 2011.  This visit ensured the success of the visit in July 2011, and also fulfilled a lot of the risk assessment procedures which needed to be in place in order for the visit to take place. Without the visit the expedition simply could not have gone ahead.  A big thank you must go to the expedition leaders for giving their entire half-term to this venture.

Fundraising and publicity

Fundraising was a major undertaking for the visit. As part of the bigger picture of the exchange we set up the registered charity called Omukwano (meaning friendship in Lugandan).

The fundraising was principally split into 4 distinct ways:

  1. Grants
  2. Supermarket collections
  3. Buying/making and selling  goods (inc. many summer and Christmas Fairs)
  4. Group fundraising (inc. auction, car boot sale, race nights)

The students and staff on the expedition worked extremely hard to fundraise the large amount of money which was needed to make this project as successful as it was. Briefly some of the events which students and staff ran included:

  • Summer Fairs
  • Christmas Stalls
  • Open evenings and parents evenings at school
  • Entrepreneur events through Business and Enterprise – South Yorkshire
  • Sleepover
  • Staff Party
  • Clothes recycling
  • Race Nights
  • Raffles
  • Bag packing
  • Mobile phone recycling
  • Non-uniform days
  • Quiz sheets
  • Cook book/calendar/badge/key ring sales
  • School Prom
  • Auction
  • Night at the Dogs

We received some publicity in the local paper and plan to have a full report printed in the local paper in the near future.

Air Travel

The majority of the group travelled with KLM, which were booked through the Flight Centre (used previously on expeditions).  Flight Centre was exceptional in dealing with our requests and following up information for us.  Our flight flew Manchester (most local airport) to Amsterdam, then Amsterdam to Entebbe, Uganda (via Rwanda). The return flights were Entebbe- Amsterdam and Amsterdam-Manchester. The flights were perfect and KLM were extremely helpful in our group travel.  The additional two expedition team who were selected later flew with Brussels Airlines (as the KLM flights were fully booked), which flew the same flight path as the main group, approximately an hour later.


Programme and Integration

18th July – 19th July 2011

Students spent the day with Kibuli School students in lessons, sporting activities and meetings with groups such as the Christian group, Environmental group, AIDS awareness group etc.  Students discussed ideas with the group of Ugandan Students who will be working on the project work in Murchison. There were opportunities to have lunch together as well as learn about each others’ daily routines and activities. There was a guided tour of the school as well as take part in the weekly whole-school assembly. Sports Day took place while we were in school. UK students were able to play a game of football and a game of netball.

20th-21st July 2011

Students from the UK and Kibuli School travelled north in convoy to Murchison Falls area.  Camp was  set up by both groups.  There were opportunities to find out about the local area in small groups. Students and staff from both schools visited Buliisa, where Soft Power Education is currently developing a primary school building project.  Students from Kampala and UK interacted with local primary school children and get to play games and started the project work during the afternoon. This project was very innovative in that UK students and local Ugandan students visited a much poorer area of Ugandan to carry out project work.

22nd-23rd July 2011

Students from both schools worked together to paint and develop the primary school interior and exterior.  Murals were designed to help primary school students with the language & maths skills and also understanding about the local wildlife and its importance to the community and planet.

24th July 2011

All students and staff took part in a game drive during the early morning and evening.  During the late morning there was a river boat up the Nile to Murchison Falls to observe wildlife at close hand, (this was UK students only).  In the late afternoon there were opportunities for students to mix and relax in the camp site.

25th-26th July 2011

Students continued with project work as described above. On the 26th a celebration took place to celebrate the work that has taken place by all. There was a large tree planting project where over 800 trees will be planted around the school, as well as at local people’s homes through donations of trees to take away and plant.

27th July 2011

Students from Kibuli School travelled back Kampala, due to the end of term arrangements at their school. The UK party travelled to Jinja – approx. 8 hour drive and set up camp.

28th -29th July 2011

Students visited Soft Power headquarters where the charity is primarily based.  They were able to observe up close the activities which have been developed in the area and find out about the long term plan for Soft Power in Buliisa.  In the afternoon they were able to visit the source of the Nile as a group.

The following day was relaxation by all including walking through the Mabira Forest as well as swimming in the camp pool. Students had ample opportunity to share their experiences with each other and reflect on the time that have all had in Uganda.

30th July 2011

UK students packed up and returned to Entebbe to fly back to UK.

Integration between students was paramount in our visit.  We ensured that activities that took place created opportunities for both parties of students to mix.  We were really pleased with the interactions that took place. Many of the students have swapped email addresses as well as Facebook contacts.

We reviewed our progress each day at student’s level as well as leader level.  At student level we carried out reflection each evening, including the night when it wouldn’t stop raining and we sat in the girls toilets!)  This gave opportunities for staff and students to reflect on what they have seen and experienced and what they plan to do next with their experiences.  Between the leaders of both UK and Ugandan groups we regularly met in the evening to discuss progress on integration and project work.


While in Uganda we used camping facilities as this was the cheapest option by far. While in Kampala we used Red Chilli Hideaway, a well established back packers camping site. Equipment for camping was provided by Face Africa.  We also had access to two ‘camp lodges’ which were used for storage, some cooking facilities and as a sick bay if needed.

While in Murchison Falls we were in a less established camp site.  Cooking was completed on large gas burners and food eaten around the camp fire. Access to toilets and clean water were always ensured.  Showering and toilet water was taken direct from the Nile, which was carried in 25litre plastics jerrycans.  Students (and staff) quickly used the 1000 litres on the first night!  As part of the experience students carried water over 200 metres from the river up to the store tank.  We soon realised how to conserve water after the experience – certainly a life changing experience for a lot!

We were more than happy with the quality of the services.  While in Murchison, students from Kibuli School used the National Park Education centre accommodation – as this was free for Ugandan students.  We were more than happy to let them use these facilities as they had wild animals to deal with outside their accommodations.  We only had potentially hippopotamus walking through the camp at night! Luckily the guard did not see any while we were there, but we could certainly hear them.

Health and Safety

As previously described students and staff took part in a series of lengthy risk assessment training. This ensured that all were aware of the potential dangers in Uganda. Our doctor was able to also have his input on the residential to describe the risks that he could have expected.  This training certainly mitigated any risks that Uganda posed.

While away in Uganda we experienced very little in the way of health problems. Our main problems were 3 or 4 people with diarrhoea, which were soon remedied. We also had a couple of students with cut and grazes from playing sports. Other than this we were illness free.

Taking a doctor certainly put a lot of parents and staff minds at rest and we would certainly do this again in the future.

Young People’s Evaluation and their Experiences

As the visit took place at the end of school term, we have not had time to fully reflect with the students on their impact since they have returned to the UK. However in Uganda we ensured that we carried out refection time for students to share their thoughts.  On the last day we had approx. 1 ½ hours to fully reflect and what we plan to do next.  This time was extremely heartening to hear the students’ thoughts.

Our students have certainly changed in the time that I have known them from selecting them to their return to the UK. It is difficult to put it into words, but the students have matured and grown from their experiences.  They have a greater understanding of Uganda and how different the country can be.  They have experienced richer students who live in the capital in a boarding school to the outskirts of Uganda where clean water and access to sanitation are basics which people do not have.

The students have come to realise how different their lives are to others around the world. One parents sent me an email the other day to say her son is thinking of doing a gap year in Uganda in the future based on what he experience.

While in Uganda we created a special Facebook group for parents, friends and family to leave messages and for us to upload photos and messages. This worked extremely well.  Below are some of the comments from parents and students on our return to the UK.

Quotes taken from our Facebook Blog

There are too many people I want to thank for the success of this expedition and great fun and things we have achieved individually and as a group also. So here goes , thank you so much to all the teachers, Chris and Nixon, Tim, Kirunda, all the guys at Softpower and Kibuli School, all the kids at Kijumbya who helped paint their school as well and finally all the guys that caries up jerrycans for us and everyone in our group. George, Student

Thanks teachers, parents, Tom, Tim, Kirunda, Nixon, Christopher and everyone at Softpower that helped us in Uganda, you all made the expedition a success 🙂 and a big thanks to the other students (UK and Ugandan) who made it unforgettable, I will miss the group! Ellie, student

WOW!! WHAT AN EXPERIENCE Just like to say thanks for all the teachers and people involved in making this expedition happen 🙂 it was AMAZING!!! And I really enjoyed it. It is something that I will never forget. To see the different culture in Uganda was amazing and has helped me to realise how lucky we really are and how much we take things for granted. I would love to go again next year it was that good! Once again a big thanks to all the teachers for their hard work. Josh, student

A big thank you to all the teachers and everyone who has contributed to a life time experience no one will forget Once again thanks to the teachers really appreciate what u have done for them. Parent

I have one very tired daughter. She is absolutely shattered but has had an amazing time and has not stopped talking about the experience all day. Thank you so much to the teachers who organised this. The kids have had an absolutely incredible time and they could not have done it without you. Thanks again.  Parent

Only just looked at all the wall posts that people have been putting, they are all appreciated!!! Just want to echo everyone else and say a MASSIVE thank you to everyone who has helped us in the build-up, while we were there and the welcome we received when we returned home, without this support we wouldn’t have gone!!!!! So just thank you again, been an amazing 2 weeks!! 🙂 Hannah, student

I want to thank everyone who made the expedition a reality I still can’t believe what we’ve all done and where we’ve been, it certainly has been the experience of a lifetime which I will never forget, to the group, parents, teachers, leaders, Face Africa, soft power every single thing and person who was involved I thank you as none of this would have happened, I will miss everything there, it feels a little weird coming home now  thank you for letting me have the experience of a lifetime…….:’) Dominic, student

Well don’t really know what to put to be honest. I have had probably the best 2 weeks of my life out in Uganda and I was proud to be a part of what we achieved out there. I have learnt a lot from the experience and have put things into action at home not to be selfish or take things for granted. Just want to thank everybody for putting up with my loudness and terrible jokes and I do also apologize for that matter. Also thanks to Tim Ellis for keeping us alive, Mr J, Ms G, Ms N for organising the trip and Ken Dunn for briefing us about what we should expect out in Uganda. Jack, student.

Follow up to the Visit

Since returning to the UK we have carried out several things

  1. Uploaded photos and information to our Facebook group
  2. Uploaded information to our website
  3. Created our presentations for the primary schools that sponsored us.  This was done through a bear called Jofli ( for further information) these will be played in all our feeder schools and several other schools who sponsored us, (approx. 2000 students and staff).

When we return to school we plan to:

  • Put up presentations on our display and projector screens around school
  • Put up a display in school
  • Newsletter specifically about the Ugandan Expedition
  • Carry out assemblies for the whole school
  • Present to Governors of Forge Valley Community School
  • Share information with students and staff informally
  • Get our information published in the local paper

Return Visit

We hope that our counterparts will visit the UK in June/July 2012. We have invited our friends in Uganda and they have accepted our invitation.  This will coincide with the official opening of our school and the London Olympics Games.  We are currently planning the activities and events which our visitors will do when they visit. We are in talks about the number of visitors but we hope to have 3 members of staff and at least 15 students.

Leader’s Evaluation and Conclusions

The UK Leadership in the first instance were chosen by staff who were interested in going to Uganda and supporting the expedition.  They have shown extreme commitment to ensure that the fundraising has taken place and the exchange has been a success. As a group, the leadership team were involved in the residential as well as regular meetings outside of the student/parent meetings and working in school.

Due to the pre-visit by staff integration with staff in Uganda were fantastic. Wellen based in Uganda was paramount in ensuring the Ugandan side of the link was outstanding. My advice would be to be open to ideas and share your thoughts on a regular basis to ensure that everyone knows what is expected.

I believe that all our aims and outcomes have been met as part of this exchange to date. Students have appreciated their impact on the planet (through their use of water, energy and electricity).  They have experiences hardships that people in rural Uganda have experiences, as well as the life that their student counterparts have in Kampala. They were able to successfully complete the project work (primary school painting and tree planting) in Murchison and can feel proud about their work and impact they have had.

The expedition went without a hitch – and this was down to the planning of the expedition leaders along with all our partners in Uganda.  As an expedition team we were able to share our experiences with leaders who were less experiences and I feel that they have learned a lot about international travel and about themselves.

As an expedition this has been the first step to being an international link to our school which I hope will continue for many years to come.

Personal thanks you

There have been many people in ensuring this expedition was successful:

  • The students
  • Their parents and extended family and friends
  • Tom Poyser, our medical doctor
  • The expedition leaders and their families
  • The staff, governors and students from Wisewood and Myers Grove schools involved in the project
  • Our grant makers
  • The general public for their donations
  • Tim Ellis, Face Africa
  • Sharon Webb, SoftPower Education and all her staff
  • Kirunda,  Chris and Nixon in Uganda
  • Adge Last and Sheffield Outdoors Advisory Service
  • Ken Dunn, Connecting Communities Worldwide

Anyone else I may have missed off.

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