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Agandi! Hello from Itambira, a small island on Lake Bunyonyi, near Kabale in South Western Uganda. I am Gad Mucunguzi, and I was born and brought up on the island. I still live here with my family and work on the island at Byoona Amagara, a tourist camp.
My childhood was typical of most children in this part of Uganda. My parents were very poor and I was only able to complete primary school – we could not afford to pay the fees for secondary school. Local people helped me as much as they could and I appreciated their help. I was lucky to find work at Byoona Amagara when it was just starting up and have worked there ever since. I am now a Director of the business and in a position to give something back to my community.
I set up the the Community Project in 2017 to help improve the lives of local children and their families. While Lake Bunyonyi is one of the most beautiful places in Uganda, for the people who live here life is just as hard now as it was when I was young. The majority of people still live in poverty, dependant on what they can grow to feed their families. There are a lot of children living with just one parent and some are orphans. Many children are cared for by extended family members, who take them in despite struggling to provide for their own children.
Although primary and secondary education is now free, the schools are not well funded and lack resources. Many of the children’s parents are not well educated and lack the ability to help their children with schoolwork. Access to healthcare is also difficult without the money to pay for transport to medical facilities in Kabale or pay for treatment.
The Community Project does what it can to help the families of Kakooko village, of which Itambira is part. I have donated land on which we have built a small community centre/bar and library. We offer regular swimming lessons so fewer children drown in the lake. We provide help with homework and extra lessons during school holidays. There are agricultural projects to help people use their land better and a handicrafts group which helps provide families with additional income. We are a small project, but we make a big difference in bringing the community together to help each other.
Our volunteers have lots of opportunities to see what real life is like in Uganda. You can see how we live around the lake; what we grow, what we eat and how we cook it; how our community works; some of the problems it faces; how we have fun and celebrate – we love to drum and dance – and how we are as self-sufficient as we can be.
We are friendly, welcoming people and love to spend time with visitors. We look forward to learning more about you and your country, your culture and food and we enjoy finding out about the differences and similarities between our cultures and lives.
Help with the kids’ projects: during term time we need help late afternoon/early evening, after school, to help the children with their homework, reading and revision and to provide different perspectives on what they are learning in school. During school holidays (December and January, May and August) we need people who can do some teaching to help the children understand better what they have learned in school and to provide fun and creative activities such as music, dance and drama activities or sports practice and competitions. Volunteers who are willing to help teach children to swim are always welcome.
We have also decided to extend our nursery and will be running groups during term-time for pre-school children. There are lots of opportunities for volunteers who love working with small children to get involved.
During the day, there are sometimes agricultural projects to get involved with, here on Itambira and on the mainland at Kakooko.
We are also building classrooms and need help from people with carpentry skills to finish the doors and windows and build desks.
We ask that volunteers stay for at least a week, and are happy to welcome long-term volunteers.
We have a double room with a sitting room, attached to our small library. There is also a brick house, built in the traditional round style, which has a single bed.
There is an eco-san (compost) toilet and a shower area – you can heat water for a hot shower if you like. All of our water comes from the lake, but don’t worry you don’t have to fetch it yourself! We drink the water from the lake, boiled, but we also have bottled water if you prefer.
There is a limited amount of electricity – enough for lights and phone charging – and candles/paraffin lamps.
Unfortunately, we cannot afford to provide meals for our volunteers, but will help you get to the market and will bring supplies from Kabale. There is a gas ring and charcoal stove that you can you use. It is also possible to go to Byoona Amagara for meals – they have a great menu with main meals priced from 13,000 UGX to 20,000 UGX, as well as snacks and desserts.
In your free time, you can learn to paddle a dugout canoe, go hiking, watch the many species of birds around the lake, enjoy watching the chameleons, experience a Sunday morning church service, learn to play our drums and dance Bakiga-style, cook with us, learn to weave papyrus, have a Nile beer in our bar or try the local bushera (sorghum beer), visit Byoona Amagara, go to the market… And there is always the lake to sit and watch – it looks different at different times of the day, different times of the year and in different weather – and there is always a canoe or two passing by, especially on market day.
I will send you instructions for getting here and will meet you in Kabale town or at Rutinda, the main market area on the edge of the lake, whichever you prefer. I can also help you with information about safaris and other things to see and do in Uganda, if you need it.
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
Can host families
More than two
Maximum 3 hours a day, 5 days a week