The Hands of Help Uganda Project began in 2005, when the founding group of volunteers packed their bags and headed to Africa for the University Summer break. With over $100,000 initially fundraised, the volunteers worked with Softpower Education and a fantastic team of Ugandan builders to rebuild Bufuula Primary School in the Jinja District; living without running water and electricity and experiencing the challenges of life in the developing world. Thanks to the generosity of so many supporters, with $75,000 raised in excess of what was required to rebuild the Primary School the foundations were also laid for the Ugandan Community Health Project.
In the proceeding four years, a total of 120 medical students (and their family and friends) from around Australia travelled to Uganda and Kenya to rebuild a total of four primary schools including Buwagi Primary School, Kizinga Primary School and Wanseko Primary School in the war-torn North of Uganda. These schools continue to be expertly managed by Ugandan education staff and Softpower Education, who are based in Uganda year-round.
The impact that the experience of living in a remote developing community has had on our volunteers has been life-changing. We are proud to see so many of them continue to work in a voluntary capacity for a number of organisations including MSF, Catherine Hamlin's Fistula Hospitals, and many other overseas aid organisations. After graduating from medical school, a large proportion continued to higher degrees in International Public Health. Closer to home, many have chosen to dedicate their careers to working for Aboriginal Medical Services or to be advocates for minority populations living within our society, such as those in detention.
This year, the Founder of Hands of Help (Phoebe Williams), who has specialised in Paediatrics and remains passionate about improving inequalities in child health worldwide, will return to rural Kenya (with her family of 5) to conduct a PhD focussed on improving the health of sick malnourished children. This will also allow her to work more closely with the Kenyan staff administering the sponsorship programmes in place; and the Ugandan staff running the Community Health Project.
We are forever grateful for the thousands of Ugandans and Kenyans who opened their communities to allow us to experience the privelege of living with them, and the incredible impact it has had on shaping our values, careers and view of the world.