Joseph Otim, one of the Reading Trainers

Joseph Otim, one of the Reading Trainers

Ugandan children living in slum districts and isolated rural areas have limited opportunities to learn to read and this affects all their educational years, so that they grow up not realising their full potential.  This has become evident to us during the last four years of working at the Chrysalis Centre in Kampala, Uganda, amongst children living in a nearby slum.  However, the issue of low reading ability is not restricted to deprived urban areas.  It is, if anything, more prevalent in rural village areas, where there are fewer teachers able to teach reading and where there  tends to be less commitment to education.  It is for these reasons that we are launching a new fundraising initiative designed to improve reading abilities in Ugandan children and awareness elsewhere about the issues involved.

While most children attending the Chrysalis Centre are registered at a school, the majority of them do not have 100% attendance, very many of them missing more than half of their school tuition. This leads to failure in the end of year exams and the necessity to repeat the school year, in some cases multiple times.  In the Acholi Quarter slum area, there are no schools offering free tuition, even government schools, so the issue of free education comes only to those fortunate enough to find an educational sponsor.  The family unit in the slum area can be very chaotic, with men often ignoring their parental duties and drowning their sorrows in alcohol.  In contrast, the mothers work hard in low-paid work – bottle-picking, quarrying, banana-selling – as so few of them have education of any kind.  These jobs generate too little income for anything more than food and charcoal for the family (and perhaps rent) and thus these families really struggle to buy even the books and pens that the children need for school, let alone being able to pay for them to attend school.

So, despite stories to the contrary, Universal Primary Education is simply not available in Kampalan slum districts and the tiny number of schools offering free education are only the tip of an iceberg of provision that is required for children living in the capital. Thus, sporadic school attendance has led to a lack of reading ability amongst even the most intelligent and capable of children.  Of our Chrysalis members 55% had no, or low, reading ability.  Older siblings, who often can read, have little chance to teach their brothers and sisters how to read, as there are so few story books at the varying reading age levels available to use as resource material.

Campaign Aims and Objectives

At Chrysalis Limited, we believe that reading opens up the world to children, enabling them to achieve their potential, so we plan to set up a long-term reading project. Initially, this will be through serving the communities in which we currently work, in Kireka and Gulu (northern Uganda) but, over time, providing resources to other NGOs working with children, to enable them to deliver similar programmes.

Reading is also very critical for children being able to access the learning available on the internet which, over the next few years, is going to help supplement their school education as curriculum evolves in Uganda.  Without an ability to read, the technological revolution will likely pass them by.  Therefore we aim to utilise recognised software and technology to teach reading, not just by utilising books, but also on-line mechanisms and even mobile phone apps.

While we aim to ensure every child can read, we believe that the Buddy system will encourage the more proficient readers to start reading more than they were before, due to a ready access to story books.  We know that developing creativity inspires problem-solving and children can develop confidence in this area by reading about children who strive against adversity and succeed.  In Uganda, there are very many inspiring and talented children, though we in the West often see African children portrayed as helpless.  In this campaign we want to encourage more awareness of the capabilities of these children, if they are given support in education, enabling African children to inspire those living in more privileged circumstances, as well as showcasing some African authors who have written for children and who European children will enjoy reading too.

By highlighting this issue to children in schools, we can link up children internationally via Skype, allowing them access to find out about each other’s lives, with reading as the first talking point.

Chrysalis Limited has a track record in teaching children skills to pass onto others, through encouraging them to be selfless.  We believe that, in countries where children represent the bulk of the population, peer-learning is a key part of a solution to the speedy improvement in education levels.  Over time, this might also create more capable teachers, as children discover the rewards of bringing knowledge to others.

Finally, we aim that the teaching of reading will enable disadvantaged children to perform better at school, no longer needing to repeat a school year, and thus moving more quickly through school, avoiding the embarrassment of 18 year-olds studying beside 10 year-olds.


At the Chrysalis Centre, roughly half of attendees have some reading ability, though even these are not comparable to their peers in the UK.  We intend to train these up to become “Reading Buddies”, who will earn points for teaching others how to read.  Their points can be exchanged for treats during holidays, perhaps a tour around Kampala, a trip to the zoo or swimming, or even visits to the theatre, none of which slum children would have any expectation of being able to do.  Those learning to read through this process will also receive the same points for participating.

International Dimension and Fundraising

We intend to do a reading marathon using Skype, linking children from Kampalan slum areas (our Reading Buddies) with children in UK schools.  They will take turns in reading passages from their favourite books.  Each UK participant will need to find people to sponsor them in participating, in order to raise money to fund the practicalities of this project. In time, we aim to have Ugandan children reading the same passages back to the children in the UK.  We hope to attract some UK schools to participate, by putting up videos of their children reading their favourite books and pledging to send a copy across to us in Uganda. Perhaps we might also encourage some schools to purchase books by African authors to study in their English classes and thus learn more about the lives of people in Africa.

However, to realise this, we will need to attract some support in a variety of ways:

  1. We need books at a variety of reading abilities, from beginners to advanced children’s books and a means of sending them to Kampala;
  2. We need some additional technology to increase our capacity to use some of the on-line reading mechanisms – Smart phones, tablets, laptops – and a means of ending them to Kampala;
  3. We need advice and expertise on which apps, books and sites are the most effective for this process and which are the easiest for our Buddies to be using;
  4. Support and ideas for treats in Kampala and Gulu;
  5. Finance to cover Chrysalis costs in delivering the programme via the Readathon;
  6. Schools or youth organisations interested in working with us to include UK children in the project.



Chrysalis Youth Empowerment Network (Readathon), 31 Prince of Wales Lane, Yardley Wood, Birmingham, B14 4LB.

Gift aid forms are available at this link.

Thank you.


How to participate in the Open Run in Kampala 14th September 2014

IMG_4592 - cropped

The Slum Run is an annual event hosted here at Chrysalis Centre in Kireka-Kampala. Generally the Slum run is hosted to support Children who have been deprived of Education, food and their rights. 


The money we get through the slum helps to keep these Children in school for a year, helps to keep them away from the stone quarry for a year and helps them buy good food and cloths.


This year’s Slum run is going to take place on 14th September 2014. I am so excited to say that this year we have an open run. Therefore I would like to invite all the people to come and take part in the Slum Run 2014, because your involvement will help us create the change we seek and most excitingly it will change someone’s life.


Entrance is Sh:5000 – you can wear your own T-shirt, or purchase a special Slum Run 2014 T shirt for 15,000 shillings IN ADVANCE.  We will  be providing water and glucose during the run. We are also giving a prize of 50,000 shillings to the overall winner of the Open Run.

 The Run will be started off by a special guest. at 11.00am, so please be at the Chrysalis Centre for registration by 10.00am.  For directions, please call me on 0788 532844 or Alex on 0774 527024.


Francis Ssuuna,

Founder of the Slum Run Since “2012”

Facebook. Slum Run Uganda.


Cell Phone: 0788532844.

Slum Run 2014 – How can I participate in the Birmingham Run 21st Sept 2014 2.00pm?

The Slum Run in Birmingham, Small Heath is approaching fast and here is the information you need to take part.

Firstly, you’ll need to register ahead of the day – 21st September.  Just write to Ben at and he will send you the necessary papers.  The cost of registration will be £15 for adults, £12 for youths and for this you will receive a special Slum Run 2014 T-shirt, to collect on the day – please specify the size you need, when registering.  Deadline for registering will be Wednesday 17th September.


Alternatively send a cheque made payable to CYEN to Chrysalis Youth Empowerment Network, 31 Prince of Wales Lane, Yardley Wood, Birmingham, B 14 4LB

CYEN is a registered charity no. 1158392

You can start finding sponsors straightaway by downloading a sponsorship form here.

You can pick up your registration documents and T shirt on the day.

Please come to Small Heath Baptist Church by 13.00pm on 21st September 2014.  There is a car park opposite the church that can be used, which is patrolled.  The church is in Jenkins Street, Small Heath.  Click here for a map.

The Slum Run circuit is 2km in length and you can run or walk up to 5 circuits.  There will be some serious runners, as well as some casual walkers and the full run will be 10,000m and will be a race.

Slum Run Route and Instructions


Advocating for the rights of girls – Phiona’s chance to make a difference


Over Christmas, our Butterfly Project member, Francis Ssuuna, spent a lot of time in his rural village and perhaps for the first time, started to consider the role that girls and young women play in local society and this prompted him to write his recent post The Story of Girls in Impoverished Uganda.  It’s an important read for anyone interested in understanding why girls rarely pass through to their secondary education and why girls are considered in terms of dowry, not in terms of their academic potential.

Our work in Northern Uganda has started to demonstrate the importance of developing girls who have a confidence to empower other girls in their communities.  This is not a fancy word, it just means that a girl would agree with and encourage those girls, who have aspirations for themselves and then advise, from the benefit of their experience, what action they can take to stand up for themselves and their collective futures. 

While Phiona. Francis’ sister, may not be in line for early marriage or prostitution, she is in the unenviable position of seeing the possibility of no further education, having had a blemish-free period of education in her life to date, thanks to Universal Primary Education.

Francis is convinced that we should invest in some of these village girls, who rarely get the level of international exposure as those living in slums and urban areas and hence are less likely to receive sponsorship.  Based on our experience with Nancy Lakot and Mercy Moro, who have now become confident advocates for women’s rights, as established members of the Butterfly Project, Francis believes that by educating her in Kampala for a short while, she can similarly become an advocate for girls’ rights in her rural area, having gained the confidence of staying at the Chrysalis Centre, learning ICT, how to type and liaising with international people.  Taking this back to the rural village in holiday periods can help change communities, support girls away from early marriage and encourage parents to think outside their own personal financial needs.

Reducing prostitution amongst these girls will reduce the spread of AIDS, as well as encourage girls to think of their real potential, not simply feel forced down a track that other girls are travelling.  The Butterfly Project believes very strongly in this idea of Peer Mentoring, but we know how critical it is to support these young people in the early stages in learning about the world around them, especially focusing on ICT.  The Butterfly Project also helps them develop the vision for their communities and even their own lives.

Our Project of course is breaking new ground and is funded sparsely.  So to train up Phiona, we need money for her food and schooling and daily needs, which for this term will add up to £200.  Thereafter we can follow her progress as an advocate for girls’ rights into the future and we can measure how well she is doing at Easter time with a video of her experience to date.  We would like to start her back at school this Monday, but if we cannot raise the money for her, then we will have to return her to her village to an uncertain future.

A chance conversation over Christmas between brother and sister could change the lives of hundreds of girls in rural areas, if this concept can be made to work.  Can you contribute towards Phiona’s chance?

The Story of Girls in Impoverished Uganda

My name is Francis Ssuuna and at Christmas I met with my 12 year old sister Phionah, who has just completed her Primary Leaving examinations.  We talked about her future and it has prompted me to think about this subject and raise some issues which people may not realise in a blog.  I am a member of the Butterfly Project in Uganda, which trains young people to be social entrepreneurs.

Uganda is an East African country, with many natural resources. Ideal for tourists with its year round warm sunshine, one might think that Uganda had every opportunity in its favour, but instead we live in a land where there are many problems. Two different groups of people live alongside each other –  middle class rich people, common in urban areas and impoverished people from urban slums and remote rural areas.

Maria, from the Acholi Quarter,  thinking about her future

Maria, from the Acholi Quarter, thinking about her future

The difference in income makes a huge impact on the way these two groups live. This also means that each group of people have their own way of tackling problems and this can have a massive effect on their Children.  Let me give you an example.  A child falls ill with malaria, which is extremely common but a high risk to the child.  A rich middle class family will immediately take the child to the hospital for medical attention.  Parents living in the slums will wait hoping that the children recover, as many don’t have medication costs easily at their disposal.  In the rural areas it can be worse, as local herbal medication is the first choice option, if the disease worsens. The issue in both cases is lack of money, poverty, which forces a course of action which is generally wrong.

For girls, this poverty can lead to further dangers – loss of Education, early marriage, being forced to look after yourself at an early age.  Girls can lapse into prostitution very easily and there are no shortage of men prepared to take advantage of young girls, many of whom are HIV positive.

In Slums and remote rural areas girls are always considered in monetary or prestige terms, not as individuals with their own purpose in life, as parents choose to marry them off or sell them for sex. The fact that their parents live in poverty means that this negative culture has developed over many years into the way people live.  A girl is born, taken though the Primary level by the help of the Government (Universal Primary Education) and this system of education is truly free in the rural areas and transforms her life. However, once she has finished Primary at the age of 11-14, then poverty means that she has nowhere to go as far as Education and her future are concerned.

This is the time when she hopes to go for secondary education, as a way to improve her chances in life. However, this is impossible for her because there is no free secondary education. This girl’s dreams now end here at 14.  This will not only make her pessimistic but will change the way she thinks about her future in a negative way.

In most cases these girls are forced into work to pay for their school fees, if this is possible at all. Their salaries will usually not be enough to pay everything they need, and this restricts the speed they can progress through secondary school or makes it impossible. Some girls choose or are encouraged into prostitution thinking that it is the easiest way of making money for the good of their future. They don’t think twice on how negatively it might affect their lives; they lost their conscience hence they don’t think it matters. Obviously these girls end up being infected with HIV/AIDS, which most likely kills them.

At 14 years, a girl can bring money into the family through a bride price (dowry) when she gets married. Poor parents will have no strategy for their girl’s future other than getting her into marriage at an early age. They don’t care how painful it is for the girl after all, this is the way it is in these rural areas.   When married these girls might be abused by their husbands, for example caning. The men proudly do this because they know their wife has nowhere to run.  The fact that her parents were paid from the dowry also gives the man enormous control over their wives.

There are so many girls in Uganda living this kind of life, and as a change maker I am looking for your help on how I can help them get into secondary. This year my project,  the Slum Run, will help more girls than we have before, so I hope now you have more understanding of the reasons for supporting girls.

Children Mind Development Project (CMDP)



My name is Lubangakene Samuel and I am one of the            Butterfly Pioneer group members.  I have a passion and ability in art and athletics, especially swimming and running and I like to use this passion to create positive change in my community and the world at large and I believe in change and I know that if there are more people with ideas of changing the community instead of themselves then the world will be a better place to stay in. Through my passion and ability, I managed to discover the most things that people would never think of that could bring change in the community and that is the creative games and computer basic knowledge which brings to my new project called “Children Mind Development Project (CMDP).

The Children Mind Development Project started this year 2013 by me as a result of seeing many children from Acholi Quarter spending their money to play games which they don’t benefit from it. I myself have ever been in the same situation whereby I had to spend five hundred Uganda shillings to play the game and I was given only twenty five minutes but since I joined the Butterfly Project, I became to know that everything on the earth can be used to create change. I knew that I can use this games as a kind of fun but at the same time it is used for solving the problems in our community and this is out of experience because I have ever tried it out to apply the skills I used to solve puzzles to solve problems in our community and it worked forexample, there were two children from the Quarter who came arguing for one pair of sandals and each of them had witnesses that the sandals belong to him. So I had to tell them to bring their parents and one feared to bring the parents and I had to give the sandals to the one who brought the parent.

So the purpose of this project is to boost the mind of the children and provide for them basic computer knowledge so that they can apply this knowledge to their daily life and as well as their community. So far I have six members in this project and we are having session two a week so that they can get used to the new games and in future time I will introduce them to the game maker software so that they can learn how to make their own games. We managed to get some creative games into the computer like Spacechem and Braid was introduced to me by Adam Parkinson. The children are having fun at the same time learning some things from it forexample Spacechem, it improves on their skills as far as mixing chemicals are concern and this also help them to improve on their class performance as chemistry is one of the subject taught at the school.

These are some of the photos taken when session was taking place when the children were doing the Braid game as part of the session. Braid is one of the plateform game which involves the taking back of time and in this game the children are going to learn how to think before taking an action so that they make the right decision. So in the game they take an action and they take back the time if they think that what they have done is wrong so that they can make the right decision.


Our next session the children will be introduced to the game maker software and this will be all about the use of game maker in order to create more games. And on my next plan after the children learning the computer basic knowledge is to get for them some small income generating work like typing in the people’s cafe for money in order for them to get of their needs through the work they do in the cafe and also open for the members of the project a bank account for the children so that they can do some saving for their benefit as well as sustaining the project  and the next future plan is to open up game events where anyone who wants to join the game event pays some little amount of money to join  and this money will be kept in the bank account for emergency in case anything happens in the project which will need costing like repairing the computers and that money kept in the bank will be used for it.

New Blog for Chrysalis North – Gulu – Subscribe here

All the youth blogs will remain here, at least for now, but if you want to hear the ongoing story about the Chrysalis North Project, then please head over to a new blog, written by me and with many photos of the new development, which will bring the services of the Chrysalis Centre, Kireka to rural children in Gulu, as well as enable our rural members in Kitgum to set up a base for their work in a rural area and start to learn how to develop rural areas in situ.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Butterfly North member Charles introducing his drama themed on Teenage Pregnancy

Butterfly North member Charles introducing his drama themed on Teenage Pregnancy