Ten years ago, I was travelling in Africa working with an Ashoka fellow on a social project to support rural livelihoods. We arrived in a very remote village and began to talk to the inhabitants there. A 15 year old boy stepped forward saying how fed up he was living in his village. "Every day is the same", he said, "and I know things can be different, but I don't know how to make it different. Can you teach me?"
We discovered many other young people in these rural areas had similar views and we set about finding a way to put what we called the Butterfly Project into practice. The idea was that these rural children were caterpillars that just needed nurturing and feeding with knowledge to become Butterflies that others would emulate. Working with just a few trainees, we could see that even small numbers can create a ripple effect of social action in society. Next we set to work to develop a curriculum that might stimulate young people to become social entrepreneurs who can create change in the communities in which they live.
Since 2009, Chrysalis Limited, a company limited by guarantee in Uganda, has been training up children from remote villages and the most disadvantaged slums to be able to spot community needs and then how to act upon them. Some reading right now might have already supported Crowdfunders that our members have set up to support their community projects.
We are now launching our fourth cohort of trainees from some of the remotest parts of Uganda, Pader and Agago.
We choose only those children who have ideas about how they can bring change to their village area, so when we train them, it is easy for them to embrace the idea of becoming a social entrepreneur. What the children do not have is experience and our training programme is geared around providing them with a breadth of activities and training, to enable them to make good decisions and be able to know how to solve difficult problems.
Our training sessions are a mixture of theory and practical but, most importantly, involve working through the Butterfly workbook, a tailor-made booklet, which helps provide independent self-driven training and achievement-building, to increase confidence and develop initiative. The booklet also provides revision notes for the regular training sessions that we do on Saturdays.
Computing is a crucial element of the training and we have partnered with organisation Fun-Tech to provide distance learning to the Butterfly Cohort 4 group, to give them a fast track path towards computer literacy. In addition to this, we offer typing practice, through the FunTyper programme and always integrate computing into our training programmes. For instance, in Session 2, we asked the trainees to research the differences between China, Japan and Taiwan, having first showed them how to use Google. The photo below shows their first ever Fun-Tech session.
Training sessions are themed weekly and each week we study a new country or area around the world. If possible, we taste food from that area, listen to music and research the culture of people living there, compared to Uganda. We try to watch films too, related to the weekly theme. For instance, we might watch Avatar, when we have been discussing deforestation.
Training also takes place in Kampala, where a greater range of activities can be made available. The village children live the lives of more advantaged children for one year, so they can gain an understanding of where the living standards might move to and at the end of the year, they are asked to develop some ideas that can be implemented into their village locale, whether it be a small social enterprise or a key social project that they can introduce to local leadership.
All of the new cohort are from two remote parts of Uganda, adjacent to each other in Northern Uganda - Pader and Agago. Pader is a neglected area, where the roads are very poor and the local population cry out for markets for their crops. Transport from place to place is rarely available and thus people tend to stay put in their villages. Agago is an incredibly beautiful , but rarely visited part of Uganda, as there are only small roads leading there and no buses. The vast majority of children growing up in these areas do not go to secondary school and we try to fill that gap in a unique way by training children to want to be the catalyst for more schools in their area.
Susan (13) is from Pader town and she is part of this programme because she was already fighting for children's rights in her area, as the school chairperson. Her role at school was to solve problems that occurred amongst the children in the school, tackling dropouts, domestic violence, bad language and she spoke directly to local parents. This year she wants to work in the Acholi Quarter, our nearby slum area, to help children access school, as there are so many who spend their days wandering or collecting scrap to feed themselves. She plans to make parents more aware of the value of education for their children. She also wants to advise girls about their career prospects, encouraging them to look further than traditional roles.
Mary (14) is another, this time from Pacer, a small village in Agago district. Mary was head girl at her previous school and was chosen for her care for others and leadership ability. As head girl, she talked with girls about the importance of studying and discouraged them to enter early marriage, as many younger girls marry older men in this area. She wishes to continue this work in Kampala, as many girls are tempted to enter relationships with older men in the Acholi Quarter slum area. Even some teachers have taken advantage of local girls in their class in this way and Mary seeks to have an impact on this. She is also very aware of the number of girls who are out of school in the slum area, many of whom are just living to do domestic work, with no thought for their schooling.
Innocent (13) is focused on education, as his family have taught him the reasons why education is important - to avoid poverty and ignorance. Now he has been to Kampala and witnessed what life can be like, he sees himself more as a bringer of change, less a recipient. Like the boy in Nigeria, Innocent is an ethical visionary who, without support, would not be at school this year, but has an enormous amount to offer society in Uganda. He is determined to be a teacher "to teach the nation" and wants every young person to be able to speak english proficiently, so they can be part of the future Uganda. He worries about early marriages, as he has seen so many young girls forced into marriage and he wants to set a law to forbid this and heavily punish those men involved.
Ronald (13) complains that there are no secondary schools in his village area, which mean that even fewer children are able to progress their education, due to lack of school availability. Despite being in a rural area, there are no suitable places for sports and he feels that children's development is not being taken seriously. He is frustrated by the lack of markets for non-staple crops, which mean that it is very hard to earn premium prices for higher quality goods. He loves to worship but there are not any churches where he lives. Generally, facilities are really limited and Ronald says he feels sad for those children not lucky enough to go into secondary, as he has been able to. He wants to be an engineer and has a vision to build a secondary school in his area for starters and then move to other places.
We don't direct the children, but simply show them how to use their own gifts and talents to create social projects. This initially might be teaching other children how to dance, sing or draw, depending on their own expertise, or it might be advising them about their lives or how to use the computers, if they have learnt things that other children have not. While in Kampala, they learn about regional, African or global issues that are important and develop their own interest and passions in the things that they discover. In time this informs them and enables them to choose an area which is really important to them and we help them with their first steps as a social entrepreneur.
For example, Francis Ssuuna, now 21, discovered that children were working in quarries for 12 hours each day, just to raise money for their school fees. He decided to encourage them to join a running club in 2010 and this turned into a large running event, which he called the Slum Run. 2017 will be the sixth running of this event and hundreds of children have benefited from getting their lives back and receiving sponsorship, as a result of the Slum Run.
Judith Amito, 19, became aware of the suffering of girls in rural areas, as a result of a lack of sanitary pads, with many being forced into relationships with men, just to find money to buy these. She has devised her own strategy for these girls, working on projects to manufacture reusable towels, to find ways to support girls living far from secondary schools enabling them to move to live nearby and thirdly to create "girl-led" confidence-building activities, such as singing, dancing and drama, which occur through a weekly club that she founded at our centre in Koro, in Northern Uganda.
All of our Butterfly members have worked on social projects and many have received recognition for it. Gilbert Byamugisha was invited to the UK to talk to youth about how he became a social entrepreneur. He has trained hundreds of young people in all aspects of dance, once he discovered his abilities as a choreographer. Eunice won the Ambition Mission Award in Uganda for her vision to support the empowerment of girls and was also invited to speak at TEDx Kampala (See photo below). Mansoor was a recent runner up of the Queens Award, for his Active Youths programme in Kampala. Philip was given the role of Chairman of the Ashoka Youth Venture for Uganda, for his work in developing football in the slum area in which he lives. Mercy made the front cover of the daily newspaper New Vision for her work in advising girls about HIV, when just 14. More information about the Butterflies here.
Academically, we simply support the children at ordinary secondary schools for now, though we will soon be launching a campaign to build our own Chrysalis School in Northern Uganda. However, this year we have had three university scholarships and none of our members have ever failed at O level or A level, despite their generally poor early education AND all have carried out their own social projects while studying at school.
Despite all of our successes, we still need to raise funds from as many sources as possible. The Butterfly Project receives little regular funding, so we need support to carry out our activities this year for the Cohort 4 members. As you can see, they are just starting out, full of ideas and enthusiasm,yet currently lacking the experience and knowledge that our previous cohort members have. The more that we raise, the more experience we can give them and we can also use excess money to prepare for future cohorts next year, as our current intention is to bring in a new group every year from now on.
Money will go to:
1. Support for trips to local and regional activities
2. Equipment and resources to run fun and engaging activities at the centre
3. Internet, computer training and (likely) computer repair through the year
4. Living costs for the C4 members at the centre
5. Upgrades to improve living conditions for the C4 members
The amount calculated represents just £20/month for each of the 13 Cohort 4 members. Click on Butterfly Project members to see their photos.
Lastly, we are a project open to ideas and development. We are aware that there is so much to learn and too little time and we wanted to give opportunities to our supporters to develop new ideas for us to implement. This could be news ideas about crafting, specialist on-line training like astronomy, or something even more innovative. If you donate £100, then we will run a session based on where you live. If you can stretch to £300, then you can talk directly to the Cohort 4 Butterflies and share your experience or specialism. If £500, then we will ask the kids, some of whom are excellent artists, to paint you a set of Butterflies and will mail them to you as a memento, as well as everything else.
If you want to help support Cohort 5 next year, then please feel free to get in touch and we will come back to you to discuss.