Heart of Uganda Project Plan


Heart of Uganda Project Plan

The Heart of Uganda project is about to launch in mid-October.  This document outlines our plan and what we hope to accomplish.

Program Location

The program will be located in rural villages in southern Uganda.  Meaningful Volunteer has a policy of only working in rural areas for safety reasons.  Poverty tends to be more extreme in rural areas.  We will use the towns of Mukono and Jinja as initial bases before finding villages to set up in.  Criteria for these villages include:

  • Reliable electricity
    This is required for the computer work that needs to be done.  "Reliable electricity" is almost a contradiction in Uganda with the power generally being on every second day.  If necessary, a diesel generator will be purchased
  • Access to the Internet
    Meaningful Volunteer coordinates much of its work through the Internet.  There are many great mobile Internet options around the world.  Failing mobile Internet in the village, we will use the phone lines and dial-up Internet, and failing that it is important that the village is a short trip to an Internet café.
  • A short trip to townships
    One of the most dangerous things in Uganda is the public transport.  The malaria won't get you, but the public transport might!  Minimizing the transport times increasing safety, productivity, and access to hospitals in case of emergencies.
  • Accommodation
    It is envisioned that volunteers will stay in either a currently empty house that will serve as a dormitory or with a host family.  A local Ugandan will be employed to perform laundry, cooking, and cleaning.
  • Educational Facilities
    The RYE School (see below) is our educational program.  It is important that a good location is found to conduct the classes in.  
  • Great need and great locals
    These should be easy enough to find in abundance!

The Heart of Uganda Components

The Heart of Uganda program is a wide ranging project with many aspects to it.  It is likely to branch off into many sub-projects such as human rights education, family planning, school building, livelihood projects, HIV work, and education.

RYE School

One of the key tasks for the Heart of Uganda program is to set up a RYE School program in Uganda. 

What is a RYE School?  We have designed our RYE (Recycle Your Education) Schools to be radical education environments.  They are funded - in part - by volunteers, and partly by the students who pay their school fees in garbage.  Garbage?!  How does that work?  Click here for more information.

Key tasks for setting up the RYE School include:

Control Group Testing

We are passionate about making a real and positive difference in the lives of many Ugandans.  One of the ways we will do this is to increase their literacy and ability to speak English well.  How will we know that we have accomplished this?  It will be via control group testing.  

Before we do anything else, we will conduct an educational survey with as many school aged children as we can.  RYE School students will take the same test.  After six months or so, we will conduct a similar testing program.  If the students in the RYE School are doing significantly better than those not in the RYE school, then we know we are doing something right!  If not, then something needs to change.  

Convert materials for local use

Most of the RYE School materials are already set up, but need conversion for local conditions.  This will involve having all the key vocabulary converted to the local language.

The Filipino program is working well at the Intermediate level.  The intermediate program assumes the students can at least read a little.  The first lesson teaches things phrases like "My tummy.  Your head" and the final lesson teaches students to write simple essays about their favorite party food.  

It is thought that the base education level in Uganda will be a lot lower and we'll need to introduce a basic reading program.  We have a series of five phonics book that start with writing the letters through to reading complicated English words such as "through" and "cough".  Lesson plans need to be put together for these books as well as preparation of classroom materials like flash cards

We also have some advanced level books that teaches students complicated English phrases such as past participle verbs ("I have eaten sushi").  This series of books also need some structure and lesson plans, but it is task for a future date.  

Identifying Students and Coordinating Environmental Activities

Teaching students to learn - regardless of their ability - is one of life's great joys.  Teaching students who don't want to learn is one of life's great horrors.  There are about 500,000,000 children in the world being denied a basic education.  We want to target children within that group who want to learn.  This will lead to a positive leaning experience for both the teacher and the student.

These students will be identified by coordinating local environmental activities.  The exact type of activity will depend on the program location but would be something like a community cleanup or collection of recyclable materials.  Only students who participate in the activity can attend the RYE School.  A student who can't be bothered to help with the cleanup is unlikely to benefit from the program. 

Student Biographies and Photos

At the time of writing. Meaningful Volunteer is about to launch its online store: The Meaningful Shop.  Click here to see what has happening thus far on the Meaningful Shop imitative in the Philippines.  One of the components of the shop will be student sponsorship.  A student with a biography and photos is much more likely to get sponsored than one who is not.  Click here for an example of a Filipino students biography.  

Computer Studies Lesson Plans

Meaningful Volunteer will providing three laptop computers for use in the computer study classes.  One of the lesson learnt from the Philippines is that is important to have set courses as opposed to ad-hoc teaching.  For example. there might be a 10 week introduction to Windows course.  This allows us to have a clear start and end to the course and allows us to reach a greater audience through replication.

Lesson plans will need to be developed for each of these courses and then added to Meaningful Volunteer's website.


Teaching programs can commence once the above are set up.

Human Rights Education

The goal of the human rights program is to come up with a human rights education packet that is easily replicated across many villages.   It is important to note that we are not looking to reinvent the wheel.  We are look to take existing materials and courses and tailor them to local needs.  Shown below, are the curriculums we wish to teach (developed by Betty Reardon) and some suggested methods of teaching the materials.

Curriculum Outline

The packet will be taught to various school aged.

8 years and below
Rules, order, respect, fairness, diversity, equality, personal responsibility, classroom rules, Declaration of the Rights of the Child, inequality, unfairness and harm.

9 to 10 years old
Citizenship, community, freedom, charter, constitution law declaration, social responsibility, community standards, Declaration of Independence, African Freedom Charter, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Convention on the Rights of the Child, prejudice, discrimination, poverty and injustice.

11 to 13 years old
Justice, equality, equity, conventions, covenants, global responsibility, Regional Human Rights, Conventions, U.N. Covenants & Conventions: Elimination of Racism; Discrimination against Women; Civil, Political Rights; Economic, Social, Cultural Rights, ethnocentrism, racism, sexism, authoritarianism, colonialism, hunger. 

14 to 15 years old
Moral exclusion, moral responsibility, world citizenship, ecological responsibility, Nuremberg Principles, U.N. Conventions on: Prevention & Punishment of Genocide; Prevention & Elimination of Torture, Defining & developing new standards, ethnicity, genocide, torture, political repression, environmental abuse.

Classroom Methods

A variety of classroom methods will be used, including:

  • Lectures
    Long lectures are the least effective approach to helping students understand the law. Short lectures may be useful to provide background or summarize a discussion, but proceed carefully when considering lecturing, and combine it with more "hands-on" methods.
  • The Case Method
    Although the case method and Socratic questioning are not widely used in secondary schools, they have become very popular in capturing the interests of teenagers. The case method is also effective in helping students understand that many legal conflicts are not simple matters of right against wrong, but of legitimate rights in conflict. Thoughtful questioning can help students identify the reasons, values and legal principles that support their views and can give them a better understanding of the views of others with whom they disagree. While many law school teachers leave issues unresolved, closure and clarification are important for students. Also, be careful not to intimidate students and discourage their participation by intense questioning.
  • Role Playing, Mock Trials, and Appeals
    In these activities students assume the role of another person and act it out. Role-playing helps students understand the issues and views of others and can add a more realistic, experiential dimension to law studies. Role-playing can vary from informal in-class assignments to formal moot court and mock trial presentations.
  • Cooperative Learning
    Cooperation is working together to accomplish shared goals and cooperative learning is the instructional use of small groups so that students work together to maximize their own and each other's learning. Within cooperative learning groups students are given two responsibilities: to learn the assigned material and make sure that all other members of their group do likewise. Students discuss the material to be learned with each other, help and assist each other to understand it, and encourage each other to work hard. Learning situations are structured so that students cooperate with each other to learn the material. Role-playing, research, mock trials and social action activities are very appropriate methods in which to use the cooperative learning model of classroom participation and learning. 
  • Social Action Activities
    This is a very important component to the partners in human rights education project. The incorporation of issues in the community, school and lives of students in the application of human rights principles empowers the students to become informed community participants who act upon their understanding of human rights and the responsibilities that accompany them. It is important to ask the question: What can we/I do about this situation? What will we/I do? and plan and carry out that activity


It is needless to say that HIV is a huge problem in Uganda.  The Heart of Uganda program will address this issue in two ways: Education about HIV, and working with HIV+ people.


HIV education is lot more than standing in front of youths with a banana and a condom...  In a similar way to the Human Rights Education program above, we are keen to provide an education packet on HIV based on existing materials and then adapting it for local conditions.  The methods and techniques explained above - lectures, the case method and so on - will be used to teach people about HIV.

The ABC method of sexual health will be taught. 

  • Abstinence
    Not having sex is one of the best ways to avoid HIV.
  • Be Faithful
    If you can't abstain, then be faithful.  Get yourself and your partner tested and then only have sex with them.
  • Condom
    If you can't abstain or be faithful, then wear a condom.

Note:  Some people have accredited the decline of HIV in Uganda (though it is increasing again...) to the ABC method, while others say it was largely due to other factors such as a decrease in internal migration (less people moving around).  Nevertheless, it is a good starting point . 

Note also that some people - most notably the Christian right - have accredited it to Yoweri Mussevni's (the Ugandan President) policy of abstinence only sex education.  Those people are either a) grossly misinformed (there was no such program) or b) maliciously manipulating public option to promote their own religious ideals.  We will NOT be teaching abstinence only methods.

Another key task will be to make condoms readily available to the village so we don't arrogantly preach "Use a condom!  Use a condom!" where there are either no condoms available or too expensive for the locals.  The soon-to-be-launched Meaningful Shop will have an option for people to sponsor a "condom package" containing hundreds of condoms.

Working with Sufferers

An informal study of the ladies in Grassroots Uganda (see below) show an HIV rate of about 40%.  The Heart of Uganda program will work with these ladies and other HIV+ people in the following way:

  • Sponsorship
    Many of the options below require money.  The Meaningful Shop will be used to provide sponsorship options such as: "Support HIV+ People with a ARV pack" and "Sponsor an HIV+ person by providing them with nutritional meals for a month".

    • ARV Medication
      ARVs are the medication you take when you are HIV+.  The trick with ARVs is to take them at the right concentration level.  Too little, and they do no good.  Too high, and the virus builds up an immunity.  As a result, it is very important for HIV+ people to have regular checkups with a doctor to determine the correct level.  

      This makes for a difficult logistical and financial challenge for many HIV+ people.  The Heart of Uganda program will attempt to get the medication in the HIV+ people's hands and coordinate trips to doctors.  
    • Exercise
      Regular exercises is another way to manage HIV.   The Heart of Uganda program will start exercises programs designed to benefit HIV sufferers.  Yoga is being looked at as a possible option.
    • Nutrition
      Good nutrition is important for many reasons.  HIV+ people especially benefit from a good diet
    • Friendship
      There are many misconceptions about HIV and AIDS out there. Some people think that hugging an HIV+ person will give you AIDS, for example. HIV+ people are shunned by their community and sometimes even their own families.  The Heart of Uganda program will organize visits to such people.

Family Planning

The fertility rate in sub-Saharan Africa is 5.5.  i.e.  Each female gives birth to 5.5 children.  This is leading to a population explosion in the continent that is least equipped to handle it.  There are many reasons for this. Lack of access to contraception is one, and high child mortality rate is another: If you can't guarantee that all of your children will survive to care for you when you are older, then it is better to have a "few extra, just in case".

Meaningful Volunteer has had success in the family planning field with its Project Lifecycle initiative in the Philippines.  For the SDM method to work in Uganda, potential participants would need to screened for HIV as the SDM method is not suitable for HIV+ people.

More research needs to be done in the best way to approach family planning in Uganda.

Expansion of Grassroots Uganda

Meaningful Volunteer is partnered with Grassroots Uganda (see the YouTube video here).  The Heart of Uganda program will seek to expand and update Grassroots Uganda and bring it under the Meaningful Shop banner.

Possible Expansion

Meaningful Volunteer might also expand into neighboring Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya.  The programs discussed above should all be designed with the intention of replicating then into neighboring countries