Uganda

The Uganda team has been working with the Byana Mary Hill Primary Orphanage School in Uganda since 2005.  The Orphanage, which houses roughly 500 children, is located just outside of Masaka. We have worked on various projects at the orphanage including: a drinking water system (including a well, pump, pumphouse, and storage tank), a rain-water catchment system, a computer lab with internet connection, and a solar power system.

Our most recent trip to Uganda was from June 2nd to June 24th, 2010. The team consisted of a faculty mentor and five USU students. The USU team hit the ground running with the first couple of days reviewing plans of the projects with the leadership of the orphanage. Once the team had reviewed plans, they began to implement the projects.

The first project was to construct a new latrine. Once the local laborers were hired and intense negotiating of material prices was completed, construction of the latrine began. The USU team designed a lined pit that could be pumped every year and a half or so, increasing its life span and making it more sustainable. They supervised and worked closely with the workers to ensure that the concrete support beams were constructed correctly to carry the load of the bricks that would line the latrine pit. The team also monitored rebar placement, cement mixture ratios and construction quality. The goal was to complete the latrine to the slab level, including drop holes, with the construction of the superstructure being left to the community, and the team is happy to report that this was a success; the lining of the pit and slab construction are complete. With a sustainable latrine, the children now have a sanitary bathroom, reducing the spread of diseases common at the orphanage and fulfilling a basic human need.

The goal of the second project was to bring wireless internet to the orphanage. With help from the orphanage’s electrician, the USU team acquired parts from local electronic stores in Masaka and Kampala. Next, the team traveled to the nearby seminary that would be donating the internet signal to the orphanage and discussed the projects with them. It was necessary to create their existing signal wirelessly over their campus to enable the signal to be beamed to the orphanage. The seminary was happy to receive campus-wide wireless internet in exchange for the orphanage’s use of their signal. With full cooperation, the building of the solar-powered wireless nodes began. The team mounted the antennas on the exteriors of buildings with the batteries and other components housed safely indoors. This created a sustainable wireless system entirely “grid power” free that would beam the signal down to the orphanage. Once the seminary’s field was created, it was only necessary to build one last node at the orphanage. The team is happy to report that this was a success and the orphanage now has the ability to receive the internet. Learning typing programs and setting up emails will greatly influence the children’s ability to obtain better jobs in their future. This project gives the orphans more accessible education, a future, and hope. Additionally, extra solar panels were mounted on the roof of one of the dormitories and wired in to provide a much needed source of night-time lighting.

The EWB team’s third goal was to assess what would be needed to create a sustainable fish pond on site at the orphanage. The current diet of the children contains very limited amounts of protein. A careful examination of the dietary records for the orphanage found the students receive a meal including meat only one day per year: Christmas. The goal of the fishpond is to give the children more protein in their diet, as well a possible way for them to bring additional funds to school. Members of the team visited nearby fishponds to learn, view, ask questions and understand what is necessary for the orphanage to house a successful fishpond operation. After much discussion with the EWB team and leaders of the school, it was decided that the school could, in fact, sustain a fishpond. Light modifications and construction began on the existing pond that would be used as the fish pond site. Water flow, water quality, and soil tests were completed to ensure viability. Modifications on the inlet and outlet channels were completed to maximize hydraulic efficiency through the existing system. Instructions were given to the leaders of the orphanage on what was necessary to care for fish. Finally, 1,000 catfish fingerlings were purchased and placed inside the pond. This was designed to be a sustainability test, to see if the orphanage is capable of successfully maintaining a fishpond and marketing a successful product. If the first population of fish reaches maturity, the orphanage can sell the adult catfish and then use the money to purchase additional fingerlings and expand their facility to provide a continual source of income for the orphanage and a consistent protein source for the children. Through continued contact with the orphanage via their new internet signal, the team has been told that the fish are doing well and growing.

The Utah State EWB team was also focused on education. Classes were prepared and taught by EWB team members to educate students and staff regarding the projects being implemented. Some of these classes were hand sanitization and the importance of actually using the latrine, general classes on germs and the ways the diseases are spread, proper internet usage including instructing the leaders of the school how to set up filters, and one-on-one training of how to set up emails, use typing programs, and how to search Google to answer educational questions.

The process of developing projects and seeing them implemented in Uganda was absolutely worthwhile. The team had to overcome unforeseen obstacles and work together in a completely new environment. They had to be patient working on the timeline of a developing country. They had to get creative with everything from mounting brackets to negotiating prices. Instead of reading about people who can be helped from simple engineering projects, the team saw them with their own eyes, felt their gratitude, and realized that with proper education and resources we can make a big difference in the world we live in.