Northern Uganda – The Changing Life of Brian

“You’ve really helped me, Ben”, Brian says.  Brian is one of the newest members of the Butterfly Project recruited this

Brian at a recent visit to social enterprise farm, Katende Harambe

Brian at a recent visit to social enterprise farm, Katende Harambe

year to be trained as a social entrepreneur.  “Since my older brother lost his job, he’s only been able to afford to pay for my sister’s school fees and that meant I was at school but with no way to pay for the fees.”

“Actually, I had to hide in the school, as they frequently caned non-paying pupils,” he added.  “I found places they wouldn’t look for me and most of the time, I was able to avoid the punishment.”

I remembered the discussion I’d had with Brian earlier, when he told me that when he was younger his mother used to listen to the radio to hear about when the Rebels were nearby, how she told him to “Run, Run, Run” until dusk, when children had to hide under long grass at night, rather than sleep in their beds, because they risked being found and pressganged into the Lord’s Resistance Army.  Brian knew many that had joined that army and had seen many beaten up by it.  His mother used to run alongside him, with his small brother in her arms to save themselves, time after time.

Eventually, they were moved into a Displacement Camp, which were defended by local militia.  Even these camps were attacked by Rebels and the children inside would pray that the camp defence would be strong enough.

He told me that teachers were recruited into these camps and that he used to go into these schools knowing nothing at all and with little enthusiasm to learn.  The thinnest exercise books were then cut into pieces, so that most children could have some semblance of a book on which to write their class notes.  Maybe they would share pens too – I don’t know.  Brian knew just two words of English and he smiled as he said he used to answer all the questions using just these two words – his age and his class.

When the war in Northern Uganda came to an end, Brian was able to move back to his home from the camp and moved to a new school, near where our new Centre has been built in Gulu district.  The trauma of the previous years was still a problem and his education had hardly progressed and he found himself doing not very well and thinking he was not very good, even repeating a year. Gradually his performance improved and he started to realise that he was learning and shocked himself with a brilliant First Grade result early in his last Primary School year, then translated into a First Grade in the final examination to qualify for secondary too.  Brian explains that his young mind was immature and had not understood the importance of being educated beforehand, but I sense that there was more to it than that.

While his father was alive, his education also consisted of learning how to trap and kill animals for food, how to create snares and how to avoid angering dangerous creatures, risking injury.  But Brian has a special affinity to animals and above all he loves dogs.  He says he can sense things in animals and they will often respond well to him.  He hopes to be a vet in future and he plans his animal rearing projects with a finesse well beyond his years.  He recounts stories of going hunting with his sister and smaller brother, but in the end preferring to hunt on his own.

Brian at home in rural Koro, where our new centre is based

Brian at home in rural Koro, where our new centre is based

Brian’s father was killed by a hit and run driver, a woman driving to Sudan, Brian thinks, as they tried to trace the number plate in vain.  It was a few years back, but the impact is still being felt, as the family struggles with adversity.  His father used to lead a construction team and was a very skilled builder.  He died a few weeks after being hit by the car from his injuries.

We try to encourage our members to be thinkers and in fact we teach “Thinking Skills” as part of the Butterfly Curriculum, using de Bono’s six thinking hats.  It’s one of those sessions where you teach and you hope, but later you realise how exciting it is for children to be thinking and expected to come up with solutions themselves.  Brian has had a long-term idea to bring water to his village.  In fact it is really dreadful in Koro, as most children are walking or, in some cases cycling, 2-3 miles to the nearest borehole.  So I asked him how serious he was about his water project.  “Very serious”, he said.  “How many piglets would I have to sell to create a borehole?”

And this is the essence of the Butterfly Project.  Children exposed to hardship wanting to create a better life for others around them, using the education that they have been given, but their parents and most of their community have lacked.

Brian is also amongst those we have in our project who don’t yet have a sponsor.  £45 per month creates a new social entrepreneur for Uganda.  Please contact me at for details, if you’d like to sponsor him or any other member of our project.

Written by Ben Parkinson, Director, Butterfly Project, Uganda

READING IS FUN BUT………………………….!!

Hi, my name is Charles Obuk, aged 17 and a member of Butterfly project. I am from the Up-country Uganda from Lamwo District at the boarder of Sudan.

I am carrying out a cause of Reading project in my rural village, Agoro sub-county. It has been since 2012 and still progressing. I work with children of age bracket 5-15.
Reading is fun but advantageous in a way that it enables one to acquire reading skills, learn how to write, improves on their vocabularies and broadens their mind. It is essential that the children must know how to read and write and that’s why I’m concerned with the village children.
The fact is local children need to learn how to read and write but there is no one to come out and takes the initiative to help them achieve their wishes of knowing reading writing as well as English speaking. This is becoming a global problem since most of the children in the villages are taught using vernacular languages and they end up reaching upper classes without knowing a single word in English and they can’t even respond to a ‘’hi’’.

I’ve tried to analyze the causes of this global enemy (Rural children failing to read, write and speak English) and this acted as a moving force for me to take a step forward to have this project in place.
But before I came up with this cause, my fellow village mates whom I used to play with could not even say their ages when I ask them in English, it wasn’t a big surprise to me coz I also went through the same challenge before I joined the Butterfly project, I remember my first time to speak English for atleast 2mins was when I joined the project and I was for an exclusive interview, guess what, I exploded broken English like a baby learning to call dad and mum, wisely I could wait for other members who knew a bit of English to go first for the video shooting while I heed to the words they say and I could try to imitate the exact words but I would miss some.
But anyway that’s not the main point, the fact is there is no motivations and role model to the rural children, first of all most of our parents never went to school in their days like my mum, she was the last born from the family and she spent all her days looking after animals and weeding, she told me that she attended Primary one for two days and that marked the end of her education. So you can see such a scenario where a child is born by uneducated parents and lived among the uneducated population, the child will automatically have no inspiration. I tell you that it was only through getting exposed to outside environment – Kampala that I got inspired to learn and love English.
So, it is a challenge to us that if we can turn the children population in the rural to be literate by enabling them to read, write and speak English, and then the generation after them will live among literate population and automatically learn easily.
For the last two years of the cause – Reading Project, a number of kids have proved themselves ready to learn and that’s what keeps me going. But still like I said, the parents do not see the philosophy as to why the children need to be trained how to read, write and speak English and so they tend to keep their children busy in the gardens, I believe with time as this cause prospers and progresses with greater achievements, their ears and eyes will open up and more kids will join.
For the first time I arrived in Kampala in 2011, I thought it was only the village children who had this problem but to my surprise, I realized that there are local kids within slum areas in Kampala who also suffer from the same problem and I decided to have them benefit from the same training.
It was marvellous over the Easter Period here in Kampala where I had enough time to interact with some of the local children in the slum community of Acholi Quarter, I organised an Easter Readathon where an individual enjoyed reading more than 5 different books of small volume – story books.

”It is really fun” said this young girl. Nothing was more fun than to have the children reading story books.
I have made it a priority that every holidays when I am at home in the village, I have to get the children into reading and besides there are mobs activities for fun that we have with the children like Drama and other fun events.
The real issue is I’d like to see other people around the globe coming in to join hands for the greater success and achievements of this cause, I mean supporters and mentors. There’re lots we need for this project but the little you have matters a lot for the betterment of this world. Like I said there are always holiday activities that need supports
Please can you help??
Charles Obuk.

Why we need more changemaking youth in our world

Dogarra7 years ago in late 2007, a young boy from a remote Nigerian village said to me in Hausa “I don’t like my life in this village.  It is the same every day.  I know things can be different, but I don’t know how to change them.  Please help me.”  Thus began the long story of the seven year development of the Butterfly Project in Uganda.  This boy was 15 and clearly very adept, he had been going to a free Nigerian school, yet could not write his name and had rarely even held a pen.  His latent potential was immense, yet there was no project or strategy to empower him.

Access to education in Africa and elsewhere is rising and huge progress has been made with a higher percentage of children reaching the end of their Primary education than ever before.  However, this statistic does not record many of the hidden issues about education:

a) Curriculum is often based in the past, not the present changed world, and there is little practical application of knowledge learnt that is feasible in a school environment, where often there are 70+ children

b) Large class sizes make it very difficult to manage classrooms without the threat of caning or teachers that are very frightening for children.  Children who like to speak their ideas are often ridiculed or threatened with punishment for “disrupting the class”.  So children learn not to rock the boat, when at school, even though the country they live in is dramatically different from the one they are being taught about.

c) Free education does not exist anywhere, except for those who are sponsored and even in this situation, many sponsorship schemes mean that families still need to contribute to the costs.  This means that children often attend school sporadically, as they lack needed materials or fees and are regularly thrown out from school, even when sponsored.  This leads to learned truanting behaviour and unreliability as a learned character trait.

d) Quality of education is measured differently in Uganda where I have most experience, as it is based almost purely on exam results.  Exams are used to lever fees out of parents and pupils are threatened with poor reports if they don’t pay fees or even having to repeat a year, when they are perfectly capable of moving up to the next year.  Ethics and character are rarely if ever measured, as pointed out in the letter to children by a Lancashire head teacher in the UK – so the problem is worldwide, though very prominent in Uganda.

There are other issues, but I just wanted to demonstrate that traditional school education does not create changemakers and there are very many reasons for this.  Thus, we need new strategies, especially in those countries where you look around as a social entrepreneur and see things that need addressing like:

i) Community cohesion

ii) Lack of entrepreneurship ability

iii) Failure of youth to realise their potential

iv) Lack of awareness of how to use computers and the internet to find solutions to problems

v) High crime from disenchanted older teenagers, who have failed to find a job

vi) Fear of becoming ill and not being treated.

All of the above point to lack of proper engagement with youth, yet we know that young people are anxious about their future.  They do not want to be involved in the corruption they see around them.  They dislike being bored.  They fear being failures and living a life of poverty.

Some few children are able to see things differently.  Mercy’s blog of a couple of year’s back showed how she felt that she needed to be strong and be ready to shape the society she and other youth wanted, which is so important in our age of rapid technological development.  Mercy is one of 15 young people, who are Butterfly Project members, who have already started to change the world.  Here’s some examples how:

Francis2Francis Ssuuna has devised a training programme called Vision 4 Change, which teaches youth about how to develop the vision to spot social projects and then how to go about implementing these projects.  He believes that youth only should teach youth how to do this and this programme has now been spread to hundreds of young people in Uganda.

IMG_1196Eunice Namugerwa developed a poultry business while still at school and spoke about it to inspire other young people at TEDx Kampala.  She also contributes to local community cohesion and children’s talent development with her music and dance project for children and youth.

SamuelSamuel Lubangakene believed that children needed more than just basic food in schools and devised a way to encourage Ugandan schools to vary diet.  More recently, he has devised and implemented a project which uses videogames to expand the problem-solving ability of young people in the slums

Nancy2Nancy Lakot sees girls living in the village as her personal challenge.  She wants to empower them and show them a different option to the life that their mothers are leading.  Most recently she has been training girls in computing, but she uses every mechanism she knows to encourage young girls to reach their potential – such as drama, debates and even song-writing.

Charles2Charles Obuk has been a pioneer in the development of reading ability amongst children in villages and has devised his own reading method.  This year he has launched a reading library project and we are working with him to implement a range of reading libraries in rural Northern Uganda, based at schools.  Reading is never more crucial than now, when youth will need to read english to benefit from the knowledge the internet brings.

Every member of the Butterfly Project is an influencer and has a significant circle of youth that they interact with and inspire.  Each one works with a different community in Uganda and will take their inspiration to wherever they are needed.  In many countries in the world, young people may have a voice, but they have little opportunity to create change because adults believe they already know the answers.  In Uganda, youth are often better placed to provide solutions problems in their community than their parents, who have never had an education.  Young people have the energy and, if they have the vision, I believe they can realise it far more readily than in a country like the UK and we have proved this with these early projects from our Pioneer Butterfly members.

Cohort 3 CompilationThis year we have discovered 15 new young Butterflies, that need training and we need support for them to become changemakers in their communities.  Nine of these are from remote rural village areas and six are from very disadvantaged slum districts.  We need £45 per month for each member to carry out their training and this includes:

a) Education costs

b) Boarding costs at the Chrysalis Centre in Kireka

c) All training costs and vision development activities

More information about how you can support us is at this link.  You can either support with a one off donation or commit to a regular support each month.  You don’t need to support the whole £45/month, any regular donation will go into the Butterfly 2015 Fund.

Often sponsorship goes only to those in the right place at the right time or it is suggested that education alone will be enough, when we know that education alone rarely inspires changemakers – it gives many of the tools, but does not train children to have a positive mindset  that they can be the ones to be the change.  The Butterfly Project fills in the gaps by training Ethics, International Citizenship, Problem-solving, Activism, ICT, Leadership, Project Management, Accountability and Transparency and many more areas conducive to creating visionary world citizens.  This is what the young man in Nigeria wanted, so we do our best to provide it.

Birmingham Auction to Support New Butterflies

CYEN is to hold a special auction 10th January to support the training fees and education of the 15 new Butterfly members joining the project this month.

Lot viewing starts at 9.00am and the bidding starts at 10.30am.  We’d like to sell everything on that day, so there will be some amazing bargains to be had!

The event is at Small Heath Baptist Church, Jenkins Street, Birmingham B10 0QH.

Example lots can be seen at this link

Charity Auction2

15 New Butterflies Joining the Project this month!

Cohort 3 Compilation

Sharon is 14 and from rural Gulu.  Sharon is a talented dancer and already runs a girls’ group in her village.

Sarah is 15 and also from Gulu.  She is interested in drama and passionate about education for girls.

Patrick is 13 and from Acholi Quarter.  Originally from Arua, Patrick is very sharp and has been running a games project for other children in the slum.

Daniel is 13 and from rural Gulu.  His passion is sanitation and he plans to sell chickens to build toilets in his village.

Shadia is 13 and from Kisenyi slum in Kampala.  She is new to us and qualified brilliantly at our recent recruitment.

Agnes is 12 and from Kiganda slum area.  She is a comic and loves to make people laugh and is very good at this, amongst other things.

Sam is 13 and from rural Gulu.  He is very capable and creative and we expect him to be a great problem-solv er as he develops on the project.

Junior is 14 and a thoughtful boy from rural Gulu.  He would like to see him flourish in ICT over the next few months, as this will help him achieve good results at school and on our project.

Daisy is 14 and from Kisenyi.  She performed very well in our testing process and is very confident, which is important for girls growing up in slum areas.

Barbara is 14 and from Acholi Quarter.  She already has projects under her belt as an Ashoka Youth Venturer, supporting abused children in the slum area.

Brian is 15 and from rural Gulu.  He lives in an area starved of water and other resources and has made it his aim to bring water to his community.

Beckham is 12 and a football nut! (as might be expected).  However, he has understood the power of football as an outreach methodology and set up a project to engage with youth not going to school using football.

Dorothy is 14 and speaks English very well, considering her upbringing in rural Gulu.  She is new to us but we hope to see great things from her, as she develops.

Reagan is 15 and performed very well in our North recruitment.  He lives in rural Gulu and we expect him to move from strength to strength during this year.

Kenneth is 13 and also the editor of Acholi Quarter Youth News.  He is interested in journalism and puzzles and has included creative writing into his most recent newspapers.

If you would like to support them financially or otherwise in their training, and education this year, please contact me at


My name is Ojimam Ivan.

I am 13 years old.

The neighbour is basically what every one in the world needs as the saying no man is an island we need each other to live happily .The world is loosing many children to the ground it’s just because we still luck what to call a good neighbour to them .The world can be a better place to live in if we all knew our neighbours.

There are still millions of children not only in Africa but in the whole world who don’t have who to call a neighbour that they can look at for support and care. Their parents only are not enough that is why in Christianity there is what we call a God parent to each child .So you and me can offer a hand to be a good neighbour to them .

And let it be MY DREAM MY CHANCE “if we all have the same dream of seeing a better tomorrow for them then it’s our chance to make it ’’.

  Just as it’s in the bible when angels told a message to  Abraham .9 months from now your wife Sarah will have a child .she laughs cause it was like a dream to her to have a child at her age “Genesis 18:9-15”

Everything is a dream before it becomes a reality so every dream deserves a chance to become a reality .just as the old say, if you stop to dream you stop to live because we live to achieve our dreams in life.

There are many questions that same times we fail to know who should be asked and who should give us the answers to them so we remain wondering what to do with the questions .you might have all seen this happen in your homes, families, within your communities and within our streets.

Why should a child fail to go to school? Why should a child be given work which is not of her age and why should a child be seen on streets begging yet the rest are in schools all this happens in our communities .

For long have asked myself why are some people rich and some poor .why is there a better school and a poor school and why is there two sides in one world the better side and a bad side and why can’t we all fight for a better world.

Have you ever asked yourself what have I done just once for the good of my community how many times have I been a good neighbour for people around me?

It always hurts me and even you I belive to see a dream of every child die at a attender age and somehow somewhere we have given a hand in killing that dream by not being a good neighbour.

The world belongs to you, to me and to everyone angels will never come down to do what you and me are meant to fix so it’s my duty it’s our concern that we become good neighbours to this world especially to the children that need our help.

so when we get to be good neighbours to the children around us it my dream and my chance you plant to their future. when I read the stories of my hero Nelson Mandela he had a dream of seeing a nation where both the black and the white could live together and he had a chance to see it happen and today we are a witness to that. so am inspired that together we can work for my dream my chance to change the lives of the children that need our help.

It is a dream of every child to live but how can we say that every dream is achieved yet there are still dying because of diseases like malaria.

It is dream for every child in Africa especially to have a good and a better life but how can we say that a dream is achieved yet children still starve with hunger of a meal a day.

It is a dream for every child to study but how can we say it is achieved yet out of every ten children it is only one who might complete up to university.

In summery my dream my chance is one step walk into my project THE NEIGHBOUR  that has an objective to reach to every child that needs my help, your help our help as  afriend

Thank you









My blog for the East Africa Youth Changemaker Conference – Peter Akena (16)


Basing on the trip to Narobi for the Ashoka youth venture camp, I learned and understand very many things.

I met successful  Ashoka fellows who discussed with us some of the projects they were doing and at the age they started their venture, i met fellows from Nigeria, Kenya and Rwanda
They also discussed with us how we can develop our project, challenges facing individual’s project as well as some solutions, we met and shared with Youth Venturers from different countries and i got to know the project they were doing
As pertaining the four pillars of change making:
we discussed qualities of a good leader which i cannot noiw list them, the types of a leader, challenges leader may face and how to tackle them
team work is very essential  as working together produce a better outcome than personal working and decision making
the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
story help to express inner feelings and emotion and make it easier for some one to unsterstand you than telling going straight to the point