The book is finished

Happy New Year.

Hello everyone that followed my journey through Uganda back in June 2014.

Since then I have been processing the photos and putting together a book about the people and projects of Soft Power Education.

I finally finished the book at the end of December 2014 and the printers Screaming Colour printed me 5 coffee table books.

I have also put the book on blurb and it is available to buy. All profit (£10) from each book sold will go directly to the charity.

Please take a look and share with everyone you know.

Enjoy

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These photos are of the full size coffee table book. The book on blurb has the same content at a smaller size.

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Trip Diary Part 5 – Murchison Primary Schools, Buliisa District

Our last day of visits has arrived and our first stop is Ngwedo Primary School in the Buliisa district. The children are aged between 6 and 12, the school currently has over 1000 registered who come from the surrounding villages.

13062014_MG_8541This year student volunteers from Leeds University will be coming to help build a new block of 3 new classrooms.

Today there will be a meeting between parents of the children, the senior figures at the school and Soft Power Education to finalise the details of the project, who will be responsible for what and what the school and community can expect.

We arrive and only a small number of people from the community have arrived. Sharon, Sam, Grace and Opira are here to represent Soft Power Education and are sitting at the front with the Head Teacher and other school staff. Slowly other community members arrive. The meeting is being held in an old open sided tin roofed structure, lots of church style pews have been brought out from the classrooms for the parents that will be attending.

13062014_MG_8552As the meeting gets underway I start to take pictures then move on to explore the site of the new block, right next to where the meeting is being held. It is currently a few bits of rubble scattered across the dusty floor. It appears there must have been a building here that has been demolished.

13062014_MG_8573This is the last major meeting before the project gets underway and it is vital to clear up any confusion about what is going to happen. There are limited budgets for each project, the schools and communities are also responsible to help support the visiting volunteers with water and accommodation.

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Throughout the meeting more and more people arrive and soon all the seats are full, yet this is still only a small number of people representing the community. The meeting goes on much longer than expected, but finally everything is covered and the meeting is concluded. We take another wander around before we head off.

13062014_MG_8774 13062014_MG_8674We are due to attend another meeting with the local community at Nyamitete Primary School, but en route we will be passing Kibambura Primary School and we decide to stop in, say hello and see how they are getting on.

13062014_MG_8840Kibambura was originally a community school held in the community church and under the trees. From 2008 to 2010 Soft Power Education built two blocks, one with 3 classrooms and one with 2. Now the school is flourishing with decent class sizes and overall school numbers that help take the pressure off of Ngwedo Primary School.

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Sharon tells me, this is how more of the schools should be. We have a wander around and meet some of the students and teachers. I meet Robert, a teacher that has been there from the beginning. He is very proud of his school.

13062014_MG_886613062014_MG_8853Time is of the essence as we need to make the meeting at Nyamitete Primary School. This school is situated right next door to the village of Gotlyech that I visited yesterday.

Although the meeting is to discuss the same points and project requirements as the earlier one, there is a very different feel to the school. The meeting is already underway as we arrive. The number of people from the local community in attendance is a lot smaller and they are all gathered in the shade of a small tree. They are discussing the new 2 classroom block with a new head teachers office and a store room. This much needed new block will ease the congestion in the other classrooms and allow the children currently using the shade of big tree in a clearing behind the school to sit in a classroom. The current Head Teacher’s office and store room are little more than a crammed mud hut.

13062014_MG_8891I explore the school, and much of what is already here is in a dire state and in need of repair and a lick of paint.

13062014_MG_893513062014_MG_8908Morning break is sounded and children burst out of the classrooms. As I’m exploring, the children hide round corners and behind doors, cheekily peering round before hiding as I raise my camera, as I approach they run to the next hiding place. It becomes a game as they giggle and run off. Sharon decides she’ll take them on at football, but this is short lived as her shoe goes flying as one child skilfully tackles her.

13062014_MG_8926As with all the schools I’ve visited there is an energy that all the children have, I find it refreshing and inspiring to see them all enjoying and taking full advantage of the opportunity they have. One we are often guilty of taking for granted back in the UK.

I hope you’ve found the final instalment of my trip interesting, and if you would like to help support the charity directly please visit their website here

Thanks for reading and please share.

All photos and text Copyright © Jhy Turley 2014

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Trip Diary Part 4 – Murchison Falls National Park, Buliisa District

Yesterday we had a long hot 8 hour drive from Jinja to Murchison Falls National Park. Today I am meeting Opira, he works for Soft Power Education and is based in their field office in Ngwedo trading centre. One of his roles is to work with the communities around the National Park and help run the People & Parks programme. The purpose of the programme is to promote environmental conservation through education and sustainable community driven initiatives. After the extensive poaching of the 1980’s the park is slowly recovering, but the who people live around the park still need materials and food, which they would have previously sourced from the park. Entering the park is dangerous, ‘the rangers patrolling are armed and will shoot’ one villager told me.

Soft Power Education is currently working with 56 community groups, providing the means to purchase livestock, seeds for trees and many other community initiated projects.

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First the community group puts together a proposal for what they feel is needed in their village. This is submitted to Soft Power Education. Once the proposal has been agreed, members of the community group attend training days that help them learn the skills to manage livestock, or grow the seeds and then transfer the seedlings to the ground. The charity then provides the means to purchase what they need. It is important the groups make the purchases themselves, they are then responsible for the quality of their own stock. Soft Power Education will visit the groups every month throughout the first year to support them, offer any additional guidance and make sure that the communities are managing their new resources well. With resources at their fingertips there is less need to poach or log.

This is the part of Soft Power Educations work that I have been most excited about seeing. So when we arrive at Mubaku, our first village of the day I’m nervous about how I will be received,  who I will meet and what I will see. Waiting in the van at the side of the road, a motor bike pulls up and off steps and man wearing the biggest, thickest jacket and helmet. It’s 30 degrees and humid, I’m sweating in just a loose shirt and light trousers. Opira introduces himself with a big smile and my nerves start to subside a little.

He leads me through the village, between the homes to a small clearing with the shade of a large tree. Here there is a row of chairs, a table and huge blanket on the floor. As Opira introduces me to the group leader, Annett, all the women of the village appear one by one and sit in front of me on the blanket. I feel quite uneasy I am not quite sure what the village is expecting from me. I was there to photograph the projects but this felt a little like a press conference. Anyway I went with it and we talked about the project, what the community were doing, the resources they had purchased, how their goats were doing and what the People & Parks programme means for them. From the 9 goats they started with a year earlier, they now have about 18. They also grow trees in an area away from the village.

12062014_MG_812712062014_MG_825312062014_MG_8171I ask them if they would let me photograph them, and I get a few shy smiles. I spend some time photographing them and their livestock. As I finish, they all gather in front of me and one of them starts to sing. Opira tells me this is a song they have prepared to thank Soft Power Education for their work. I’m completely caught off guard. I feel very honoured.

I can instantly see why they value Soft Power Education’s support. The communities are not receiving charity, but the resources that enable them to be self sufficient and that is more valuable than just giving them money. We say our goodbyes and I’m no longer nervous but excited about meeting the people of the next village.

Khartoum is a very similar village to Mubaku and we are here to see the trees they have been growing right next to the village. They also have goats. We sit in the shade of a huge tree in the centre of the village. This time there are a lot more men in the community group. They are also comprised of a wider age range. We talk about the resources they have and how they are working with them. They want to show me the trees and lead me out the back of the village through a small patch of scrubland. We emerge to an area full of young trees, maybe 10-12 feet high. The entire group have followed, maybe 30 people. It is clear they are very proud of what they are growing. I’m told about how the leaves and branches are used for fuel and roofing, then when the trees are big enough they will provide building materials. Although the trees do offer some short term benefits, this is a long term project with the real value in the wood as a building material. The growing of trees is an important investment for the villagers to make in their future.


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We head back in to the village and they are keen to show me their herd of goats. From the original 9 they started with, the community now has 36. As I take more photographs I’m introduced to a young girl holding a goat. Opira explains that she was given the goat to fund her education. She takes extremely great care of it. The value in having these resources doesn’t just mean meat, they give the village communities commodities for trade, the money then enables education. That can only lead to a better future.

12062014_MG_8346I thank Matongo and the rest of the villagers and as I am getting into our vehicle I hear a drum. Looking round the villagers are all heading towards me carrying a giant basket of fruit atop of a woman’s head and singing. Their kindness and hospitality is overwhelming and I don’t know what to say.

12062014_MG_8361Our final stop of the day is a village called Gotlyech. We are here specifically to see the pigs they are rearing. So far during my time in Uganda, I’ve seen no pigs. Goats and cows appear to me to be the prime cattle of choice.

We arrive and are met by Otim, the community group leader. We sit in the centre of the village and talk about the program and how it is helping them support their community. Otim tells me there was no specific reason they chose pigs over goats, but I suspect my question is lost in translation.

12062014_MG_8408 12062014_MG_8384The village are also growing trees, but they are on a piece of land away from the village. We move through the huts and quickly arrive at the back of the village, on the edge of a field of crops. There is a roofed pen made from tree branches, and pegged up at the back of the pen are 3 pigs, each with a litter of piglets. I get the impression they are less open about their participation in the project. As I ask questions about them and the pigs, Otim appears very guarded. I get the impression he believes I’m checking up on them. Opira tries to explain the purpose of me being there to photograph them, their village and their livestock. He starts to relax and we continue to photograph.

Back at the village centre the women of the group sing. Only this time it’s not one but 4 songs, the last in English.

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On the long drive back to the lodge I try and think back over the day. It has been more rewarding than I would have ever guessed. The truth is I have only witnessed one percent of the villagers’ lives and hardly scratched the surface of the projects and how it affects their lives in the long term. I feel very lucky to have met the people I did and caught a small glimpse of lives of the people of rural Uganda.

I hope you’ve found the forth instalment of my trip interesting, and if you would like to help support the charity directly please visit their website here

Thanks for reading and please share.

All photos and text Copyright © Jhy Turley 2014

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Trip Diary Part 3 – Primary Schools, Jinja

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We arrive at Butagaya Primary School after about a 30 minute drive out of town. We are in a much more rural part of Jinja in the Butagaya sub county. This is quite a large school made up of several blocks of classrooms. SPE worked at this school for the first time in January 2013 when they demolished part of a condemned 7 classroom block and built a brand new 2 classroom block thanks to fundraising from a group of students from New Zealand who also came to assist with the project. Then in July 2013 with fundraising from Aston university students, SPE was able to complete minor repairs on all of the existing blocks as well as to add another one classroom block to the new block built earlier that year. The school is lucky enough to have a large paying field behind the main block of class rooms. Where they are not so lucky is the number of children they have here. 1025 children attend the school. The classes run from P1 who are 6 year olds, to P7 who are about 12. However, children often miss a year here or there and one of the main reasons is that families can’t afford for them to attend. It is not uncommon that pupils can still be attending primary school aged .

Soft Power Education - Building Education ProjectWe meet the head teacher. He is pleased to show us around his school. In the far corner of the school grounds is a half fallen down building. We are guided around the crumbling structure pointing out floor to ceiling cracks and holes in the roof. The school desperately needs these classrooms but can’t use them. At the moment class sizes are between 70-100 pupils in each. Children are crammed and in some cases they are sitting on the floor.

Soft Power Education - Building Education Project

Soft Power Education - Building Education ProjectThere are two reasons that I can see that the schools have to cope with such large numbers. Firstly there simply aren’t enough schools. Secondly there are so many children. Families are usually big out here. Many children don’t get to go to school for a myriad of reasons. It is now even more apparent how important and vital the work of Soft Power Education is.

Soft Power Education - Building Education ProjectAfter spending a little more time at the school seeing the classes and talking we say goodbye and move on to the next school.

Heading off down another long dusty and bumpy road our next destination is Kimasa Primary School. A fresh new bunch of volunteers have just arrived and I’m looking forward to seeing them and seeing what they will experience during their time in Uganda.

Kimasa Primary School is located in the Mafubira sub county. We turn off the main road and head up another track that shakes my bones. It is immediately clear that the community around the school here is very poor. Homes are little more than shacks, the streets are lined with rubbish and waste. I can’t imagine how hard life is here. We drive round a large walled market looking for the school, and finally find the track that leads to it.

Soft Power Education - Building Education ProjectThere are not quite as many pupils here, only 908, but class sizes are just as big and and conditions are very similar.

We go and sign the obligatory visitor’s book and meet the head teacher. Students from Middlesex University have recently arrived and are settleling into their work. We meet them in the first classroom they are working on. Before they arrived, SPE completed some minor repairs on the classrooms and the now the volunteers have 4 weeks to paint the entire school and paint beautiful teaching aids on the walls. This will be a tough 4 weeks. It’s hot, dusty and about as far removed from their day to day lives as possible. They are camping in one of the classrooms, all crammed in together. Soft Power Education provide a cook who stays on site with them and makes sure they are fed. We chat with some of them, full of enthusiasm and excited about their time here, they’ve managed to keep the hard work fun with a paint fight, all of them covered with hand prints.

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Soft Power Education - Building Education ProjectEach student had to raise £600 as the donation to SPE as well as pay £50 to cover their food and transport for the four weeks. They pay the costs of flights, insurance and weekend activities and these costs are not fundraised but come out of the pockets of the students. The entire £600 goes to the charity and towards the projects. The programme is entirely run and managed by SPE, with no support from third party travel or expedition organisers. This is rare and means all the money raised goes where it should, the communities and schools it was raised for.

Soft Power Education - Building Education ProjectIt is coming to the end of the day, both for the volunteers and the pupils of the schools. Classes break and children swarm out of the doors. We spend a little time with the children and say our goodbyes to the volunteers.

Soft Power Education - Building Education Project Soft Power Education - Building Education ProjectWe managed to fit 2 days of visits in to one. My mind is overloaded from the days sights, experiences and the people I’ve met. Everywhere we have been, the teachers have welcomed us, the children have been excited, and everyone is always incredibly proud of their work and schools.

It has been a truly extraordinary day.

I hope you’ve found the third instalment of my trip interesting, and if you would like to help support the charity directly please visit their website here

Thanks for reading and please share.

All photos and text Copyright © Jhy Turley 2014

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Trip Diary Part 2- Amagezi Education Centre (AEC), Jinja


The Amagezi Education Centre (AEC) was built in 2006 predominantly thanks to funding from a group of student volunteers from Leeds University. It shares a compound with a sister charity called Soft Power Health who run a health clinic alongside many other projects. Made up of several blocks, the AEC creates a little oasis with hedge lined paths that connect the different buildings. The main building sits furthest from the entrance and is home to the drama theatre, computer suite and an exhibition that shows the history of the charity and its continued growth over the past 15 years.

Soft Power Education - Building Education ProjectSPE partners with 15 Government Primary Schools from across the Jinja District. Each year more than 2500 children in the P6 yeargroup – the penultimate class of primary school and usually 11 years old, but sometimes older, attend the centre. Each pupil comes to the centre twice in the academic year and spends a half day in each of the four departments of Art, Drama, ICT and Library.  The lessons in each of the departments focus on life skills, such as food nutrition, family planning, malaria awareness and computer skills. The children further enjoy some sessions in Agriculture and Science taught as outreach sessions at their school.

As we start to tour the centre we meet Daniel. He is actually a member of the Special Needs Project, which is currently temporarily operating in a small space at the AEC. This project will soon move into the new building at KCC. The Special Needs Project offers basic education to children, who are often rejected from mainstream schooling, in two different locations. The children who attend the education clinics are a wide range of ages and disabilities. Sula, the oldest here today at 17, has just been on a work placement with the School Refurbishment Project of Soft Power Education helping out at one of the current building projects. SPE sees it as important to help these kids learn practical skills to help them contribute to society and to their families.

Soft Power Education - Building Education Project SPE also offers physiotherapy and occupational therapy to the children with more profound disabilities. Disabled children in Uganda are often hidden away and do need receive the care or support that they need. Misconceptions about the causes of disabilities range from punishment to eating some fruit or other during pregnancy and witchcraft. SPE works hard to try to change these perceptions whilst also supporting the children and their families.

We move round the corner to the Art Department, where we meet Rita who is using art to teach children about the importance of eating healthily and food nutrition.

Soft Power Education - Building Education ProjectSoft Power Education - Building Education ProjectOur next stop is the kitchen, where SPE uses a fuel efficient stove to cook lunch for the pupils visiting the centre each day. I meet the 4 ladies who cook all the food and they kindly let me take their portraits.

In the main centre there is a drama class being run by Fred. He is using a game to teach the children about family planning. In Uganda it is not uncommon for parents to have large families and the average is 7 children. So it is vital that children understand how to manage large families, how much it will cost them and how they would support them. The game allows the children to visually see the implications and what problems they could face. There are 2 groups, each planning the weekly budget for different sized families, each with the same amount of money to spend.

Soft Power Education - Building Education ProjectThe main building is a flag ship for the charity. It has a tower that can be climbed via a spiral staircase to see the surrounding area.  Since being built the surrounding vegetation has all grown up and now all you can see are the tree tops and some nesting birds. However it does offer an additional space where lessons can be held and offers a different perspective of the world.

Soft Power Education - Building Education ProjectThe number of children attending today meant that only 3 classes were running so there are no children in the ICT room. We move on to the library. I am welcomed into the class by the teacher James. He is teaching the children how to use the English dictionary. Although there are many regional dialects, English is the official language of Uganda. The children have been given a list of words, each related to malaria, they need to find them in the dictionary and write down the definitions. This exercise not only helps to learn how dictionaries work, but also educates about the dangers of malaria, its effects, signs and ways to avoid it. All the pupils are intensely studying and for the first time no one really pays me any attention.

Soft Power Education - Building Education ProjectWe arrive at the AEC office where we meet the staff who keep the centre running and organised. Unfortunately they are dealing with a break-in that happened the night before so I quickly move on. It turns out that someone decided to steal a large collection of knitted items created by one of the community groups that uses the centre. This is sad news as they were going to be sold in a gift shop in Kampala to raise funds.

I feel extremely fortunate to have seen this centre. It offers amazing opportunities and support to a wide section of the community. We are only half way into the first day of the trip and I am staggered by the sheer amount of work that Soft Power Education undertakes, and we have barely scratched the surface.

Before coming here I researched the projects I would be visiting, what they do and how they work with the community. Reading about it doesn’t compare to seeing how much effort actually goes into making these facilities run.

10062014_MG_1976As we drive between the different projects I get the chance to see the communities that benefit by having schools and education centres available to them. Ugandans are proud people. Everywhere we travel people take great pride in their appearance; the men usually in shirts and the women wearing flamboyant dresses and head scarfs. The boda boda riders (motor bike taxis) are regularly seen scrubbing their bikes until they are gleaming. But there is also great poverty.  Many people’s only concern is how they will get through the day, selling goods and produce from huts or small shops along the roads.

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 I hope you’ve found the second instalment of my trip interesting, and if you would like to help support the charity directly please visit their website here or to help support the book and exhibition please visit my WeFund page here

Thanks for reading and please share.

All photos and text Copyright © Jhy Turley 2014

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Trip Diary Part 1- Pre Schools, Jinja

Before we even started, we were a day behind. On Monday, we were due to visit some primary schools but thanks to luggage not arriving and rain all day, we were forced to abandon our original plans and make a 7 hour round trip back to Entebbe Airport. Not the start I was hoping for. So today we’ve got some catching up to do and some visits to fit in before we head up to Murchison on Wednesday.

Our first stop is Buwenda Pre-School; it was Soft Power Education’s first project 15 years ago. By all accounts it was a long hard process to get this school built, one bag of cement at a time.

Soft Power Education - Building Education ProjectWe arrive in the morning and classes are already underway. The school is nestled in amongst the homes of the local community and just off the main Jinja-Bujagali road. In a small compound it consists of a single block of 3 classrooms. The entire Pre School is funded by Soft Power Education. The 3 classes are made up of Baby Class with kids aged 4, Middle Class with kids aged 5 and Top Class with kids aged 6, there are 30 children in each class. The school has one Head Teacher called Anna and two teachers called Regina and Esther. Esther is covering for another teacher, Hellen, who has just had a baby.

Soft Power Education - Building Education ProjectThe rooms are small and lit only by the day light that comes through the open doors and windows, but the walls are covered with brightly painted teaching aids and more hang from the ceilings. Outside the small play areas at each end of the compound are muddy and old. Much needed new play grounds are thankfully on the cards for 2014 thanks to a partnership with another local charity!

Soft Power Education - Building Education ProjectWe enter the top class and Anna greets us as her entire class get excited to see visitors. She is very proud as her class sing us a welcome song. She tells me a little of her school and I get some photos of her and the children. The other classes are equally excited to meet us and we are treated to more welcome songs.

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At first the children all play up to the camera and giggle wildly when I show them their photos as they all crowd round to see the small digital display on the back of the camera. Quickly the teachers restore order and resume their lesson and most just ignore me as I move around to take photos.

Soft Power Education - Building Education ProjectAfter about an hour talking with the teachers and some of the children we need to move on to the next Pre School.

Our second stop of the day is Kyabirwa Children’s Centre – otherwise known as KCC. This pre school is located deeper in the rural part of Jinja. After driving through the lush vegetation and village crops we emerge into an opening. There are 2 large structures, the pre school and the local mosque.

KCC is set up the same as Buwenda Pre School, 3 classes with 30 children in each. However, this school has more space and more buildings. The main block consists of two classrooms with a large storage room in the middle of them. The third classroom is currently located in a small outdoor thatched building. They have a larger grass playing area, with a climbing frame, slide and swings. At the bottom of the playing area a new block is being finished. This new block will become the home of the Special Needs Project, which is currently using a small unpractical space at The Amagezi Education Centre, but also has a new classroom for the KCC Middle Class.

Soft Power Education - Building Education ProjectWe meet the head teacher, Justine, before touring round the school and meeting the other teachers Milly and Hilda. We head down to the new building and meet SPE Volunteer Coordinator, Aggrey, and some of the volunteers who are painting teaching aids on the walls, the final finishing touches before it will be ready for the children to move in.

Soft Power Education - Building Education ProjectThis school is a little special. In-between the two classrooms in the main block, an old store room has been turned into a small temporary classroom where 3 children are testing out a new program of learning lead by a Ugandan volunteer called Patrick. This program is about as far removed from the chalkboards they are used to writing on as it could be; they are using tablets. Loaded with a unique educational program, focusing on improving literacy and numeracy, each child spends fifteen minutes four times a week using them. They are given them with minimal instruction and in no time at all they have picked up the simple actions of swiping and touching the screen. I’m told that the first few sessions were very different with the children amazed and distracted by the graphics and unable to focus on the program itself. In just two weeks, most of the kids are using the tablets as if they have been for years – and getting the questions right!

Soft Power Education - Building Education ProjectWe are here in time for the morning break and the children burst out of the classrooms to play on the climbing frames, slide and swings. There are two teaching assistant volunteers, Denise and Silvia. They join in with the play and enjoy making the kids laugh and have fun messing around with them.

Soft Power Education - Building Education ProjectSchool has a more important role here than just learning. It gives children the chance to be children – to play and laugh. At home, as soon as they are able, they need to help around the house whether it’s fetching water, digging in the garden or looking after younger siblings, life can be hard. For these kids school is a retreat and they enjoy it free of charge but for many families sending children to a pre school is a luxury they can’t afford.

Soft Power Education - Building Education ProjectThis first morning has been hard for me. Firstly I am overwhelmed by how little the schools have, but I am also in awe of how much they make up for it with passion and sheer enjoyment of having the opportunity to attend school. It has been an extremely rewarding start to the project and our initial delays are long forgotten.

I hope you’ve found this first instalment of my trip interesting, and if you would like to help support the charity directly please visit their website here or to help support the book and exhibition please visit my WeFund page here

Thanks for reading and please share.

All photos and text Copyright © Jhy Turley 2014

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I’m back.

After an amazing 10 days in Uganda, I’m back home and the next phase of the project can start.

Writing up my notes, sifting through all the photos and editing them into some sort of cohesive story.

Keep an eye on the blog as I will be posting a short diary for each of the various Soft Power Education projects I visited.

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Remember if you want to help make this project really succeed you can donate direct to Soft Power Education here

Or help fund the exhibition and book here

Thanks for reading.

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