The Eden School Project, v2
What is the Eden School Project?
The Eden School Project was originally started in October 2014 to help provide food and educational materials to the 60 pupils at the school, but it soon grew to something I could have only dreamed of. After months of fundraising, in April 2015, I took a month off work to go and build a brand new 5 classroom school in Uganda. My next visit was in November 2016, where I built a fantastic playground for all the children at the school in co-operation with East African Playgrounds. Additionally, I managed to build 3 extra classrooms up to roof level during my week at the school.Eden School now provides basic education to over 300 pupils and orphans, including 13 boarding school pupils looked after by the schools director, Ronald Twongyeirwe.
How did the Eden School Project start?
In October 2014 whilst travelling across Eastern Africa I stopped by a tiny school in the mountainous South Western region of Uganda, the school was then home to around 50 pupils. I was completely taken in by the huge smiles and warm hearts of all the children at the school so stayed a there for a few days. During my time at the school, I bought them basic supplies such as food, pencils, books etc but also a few other items such as footballs for the children to play with.
All the children were running around excited with the new footballs except one young girl who sat by a tree crying. I went over to see what was wrong, and discovered she had a nasty burn to her leg which was starting to get infected. The girls was named Promise, and she was 5 years old. Her family couldn't afford medical treatment so myself, Promise and Ronald hopped on a Boda Boda (motorbike taxi) to the nearest town to get treatment.
The medical centre cleaned up her burns and medication was provided. The total cost of medical treatment and transport to/from the town was just £5, this potentially saved her entire leg.
Once I got back to the campsite after spending the day with Promise and everyone at Eden School I posted a quick message on Facebook explaining what I'd done that day. Before I knew it, people wanted to donate money to help the children at the school. The donations kept coming in and soon I had £200, so I bought more supplies for everybody.
After I returned home to the UK, people kept wanting to donate money so I decided to start the Eden School Project with the aim of raising money for food and supplies for the school. The money kept coming in, first £1000, then £2000, then £3000 and so on. I now decided it was time to do something big at the school, and aimed to build a brand new 6 classroom school with all the money raised.
What has the Eden School Project achieved so far?
Between November 2014 and March 2015 I had £5000 in donations from over 200 people across the globe. I took a month off work and headed to Uganda in April 2015 to build the new Eden School, I aimed to build 6 brand new classrooms during my time there.
The plans were drawn up for the new school and rough cost estimates worked out. I arrived to the school on day 1 to find a fantastic turnout from parents/guardians who had come to volunteer their time and dig the foundations for the school. It took only half a day to dig the entire foundations for 6 classrooms!
Every day was spent supervising the construction of the school as well as travelling to/from Kabale town for building supplies. It soon became apparent that things were more expensive than first anticipated so I decided to build 4 full classrooms, and convert an old building into a 5th classroom.
The builders I employed did a fantastic job working from sunrise till sunset each day. The unskilled labourers were paid £1.55 a day, and the skilled masons £3.30 a day. I agreed to provide lunch free of charge to everyone invovled in building the school each day as a thank you for their hard work.
The rate at which the school was built was astonoshing, especailly by African standards! In only 3 weeks we'd gone from nothing to 5 classrooms, something unheard of in Uganda. People flocked from nearby villages to see the school rising from the ground each day. The sense of excitement from the locals was brilliant.
By the end of my month in Uganda, we had successfuly built 4 full classrooms and converted an old room into a new classroom. Each room had iron windows/doors, benches for children and a large chalkboard.
In November 2016 I returned with the aim of building a playground that would allow the children to develop their social skills, and also allow them to behave how children should behave - Enjoying their spare time interacting with each other. I reached out to East African Playgrounds for help, and after months of discussions we signed the contract for EAP to build and install the playground with my help. In just 5 days, we had a full £1800 playground installed at the school for all the kids.
Whilst I was in Uganda, the Facebook page UNILAD created a short news video about the project and shared it, receiving over 3million views in just one week! As the donations kept flooding in, I commissioned the building of the remaining three classrooms I was unable to build the previous year. These were all completed up to roof level in a few days.
How is Eden School today?
Today the school teaches over 300 pupils who otherwise may not have access to basic education. The majority of children who attend Eden School will not go onto any sort of secondary education, so we aim to teach the children practical life skills along with their normal education. These skills are aimed at helping children earn money and gain employment after they have completed their primary education. In addition to the 300+ pupils at Eden School, there are also 13 orphans who board at the school full time.
Who funds Eden School?
The school receives absolutely no funding at all from the government or local authority, and is completely reliant on tuition fees paid by the pupils parents/guardians. It costs around £5 a term to send a child to Eden School. All money raised from tuition fees goes directly towards paying teachers wages and educational materials. The teachers at Eden School are paid £50 per month.
Occasionally the school is lucky enough to receive generous donations of food, materials, supplies and even sometimes cash from passing visitors in the Lake Bunyonyi region. For example Julian Claxton has done some excellent work at the school, supplying cameras to the students teaching them the art of photography. Additionally, he has built and funded a brand new toilet facility along with a permanent water source linked to the mains water supply. His project can be viewed here.
I want to donate, but how will my money be spent?
I will be returning to Uganda in 2017 to spend two weeks at Eden School. During my time there, I will be purchasing food, supplies, educational materials along with getting medical treatment for those children who desperately need it.
During my next visit I plan to finish roofing the remaining three classrooms and also build a brand new, purpose built home for the orphans who stay at the school. Currently, between 3-4 pupils share a bed so if enough funds are raised I hope to provide a single bed for each orphan staying at the school, along with a running water supply, solar panels to provide electricity and a working toilet.
Any donation, no matter how big or small, will have a huge impact on all 300 children at the school. 100% of your donation will be spent directly on the school by myself on supplies, no cash is ever handed over directly to anyone. 100% of your donation will be accounted for and you can see exactly what your donation bought the school, and the impact it had on their lives. During my time in Uganda I'll be posting frequent updates so you can see the change!
Most of the children attending Eden School live in dire poverty, where proper meals are few and far between. Far too often the children bring rotten out of date food to school as they simply have nothing else to eat. Your money will be used to provide a basic but nutritious meal for the children who need it.
Other essential supplies such as pencils, pens, soap, books and reading material will also be purchased for the school. Oh, and of course, footballs!
£1 - For just one pound, you can feed eighty children at Eden School a portion of posho
£2 - For just two pounds, you can buy 100 pencils
£3 - For just three pounds, you can buy 50 pens
£4 - For just four pounds, you can buy 2kg of salt (it really helps make the Ugali edible, trust me!)
£5 - For just five pounds, you can give a child emergency medical treatment in Kabale Town
£12 - For just twelve pounds, you can buy over 100 books
£13 - For just thirteen pounds, you can buy 30 x 30cm bars of soap
£20 - For just twenty pounds, you can buy eighty children at Eden School a pair of socks
The majority of children at Eden School own almost nothing, it's normal for them to only have one pair of clothes and no shoes - so you can imagine how much it means to them to receive something as simple as a pen!
You can make an impact for generations to come
Before the new Eden School was constructed the school had less than 80 pupils, and attendance was poor. The school now has over 300 pupils, a figure that's increasing each day! That's 300 children who previously wouldn't have received any form of education at all in Uganda, and would spend their lives in fields harvesting crops. The 300 children who are currently receiving an education are doing so because of YOUR generous donations. Without your donations, the school would be nothing, the children would have nothing. Whether it's £1 or £10, every penny makes an enermous difference in a country where the average person lives on less than £1 per day. A donation of £5 will provide emergency medical treatment for a child who may otherwise die without the neccesary help.
and finally, my favourite part of Eden School...
Classroom number 1! The names of every person who has helped support Eden School, past and present, are painted onto the walls of this classroom and are surrounded by the handprints of pupils at the school. This is a small but lasting reminder of the huge impact your donation has made to the kids of the school, and leaves a little piece of you in Uganda for many years to come!
I'll be planning to roof the remaining classrooms built in November and also construct an orphanage for the orphans currently staying at the school, hopefully with running water and electricity. I can't wait to start planning my next trip to Uganda!
A huge shoutout to Turkish Airlines for providing my flights to/from Rwanda, which has allowed me to return to Uganda much sooner than planned
The school got it's new playground, 30 new desks for all the primary level children, 200kg of posho/beans and 3 more classrooms built up to roof level!
In just a week the school has changed massively and the kids absolutely love it. I'm told that the kids still can't get enough of the playground and now spend most of their spare time skipping across tires, climbing through holes, driving the 'cars', swinging on the swings or going down the slide for hours at a time which is great to hear.
They also love their fantastic new purpose built desks, which means they no longer have to lean on their knees to write - fantastic stuff!
It's only been a week but I'm already planning my return to Uganda and preparing myself for the next round of fundraising. I managed to achieve so much during my short 10 days at the school last month but there's still so much more that can be improved.
The main aim of the next trip is to roof the remaining three classrooms that were built up to roof level, as it's extremely important to try and protect the building from wind/rain as quickly as we can.
Additionally, I hope to build a brand new purpose built orphanage for the boys and girls who live at the school. If funds allow, I hope to provide 1 bed per pupil so they no longer have to share, along with solar powered electricity for night time reading etc and a shower area with running water. There's a bit to go before I can afford to do all that, but I hope over the next few months enough donations come in.
Once again, I can't thank everyone enough for their massive support and donations over the months. It's been an absolutely incredible journey so far and I can't wait to start the next chapter at Eden School...
I set off on this journey 6 months ago with the aim of raising £1500 for a small playground, and leave today having raised just under £8000.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think my humble little project here in Uganda would be seen by over 2,300,000 people across the globe, thanks to the amazing team at UNILAD.
The week started with the arrival of the playground which had been manufactured by the incredible UK charity East African Playgrounds, who do an astounding job across Uganda. On Monday work started to install the playground and was almost finished by Friday.
Donations kept flooding in from friends and family during the week which gave me the opportunity to do more than just a playground. An additional slide and climbing frame were purchased for the playground, along with 200kg of food, 30 brand new desks and most importantly construction began on the 3 remaining classrooms I was unable to finish last year.
Then, on Friday night, things got interesting. I'd been working with UNILAD for a few days and at 1820 GMT the fantastic news video they'd made went live. It didn't take long for the donations to start flooding in, along with tens of thousands of kind comments from people across the globe.
The support and attention I've received over the past few days has been so overwhelming and I wish I could thank all the donors individually, and reply to all the messages I've received. Words cannot express how thankful me and all the kids are, we're all speechless.
I'll be returning to Uganda as soon as I can to complete the roof on the 3 classrooms, and hopefully start construction of an orphanage at the school.
Once again thank you to all my friends, family, work colleagues and strangers for the immense love you've showed this little project
With the target reached for the roof, if the donations keep coming perhaps we can build a brand new orphanage for the 9 boys, and neighbouring 16 girls who share 6 beds in equally poor conditions.
An absolutely incredible response so far, let's see if we can change even more lives!