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Team Uganda — 2005-2010

The Uganda team worked 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 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.

The last trip was in summer 2010. The EWB-USU team planned to implement multiple projects during this trip. The first was construction of 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 focused on a sustainable and easily maintained design. 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. After monitoring and assisting the workers, the crew reported success. 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.


Building the latrine

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. With full cooperation, the team began building solar-powered wireless with the help of the community. They managed to create 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 project was implemented successfully with internet access to the children in the orphanage.Learning typing programs and setting up emails will greatly influence the children’s ability to obtain better jobs in their future, as well as the technological future of Uganda. 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.


Solar panels installed by Team Uganda

The 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.

Catfish pond

Testing the catfish 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.

Kids washing

Local children wash up

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.