The entrepreneur set on helping rural Uganda

Down to business

To set the scene a bit: in our village, the average daily wage is just 50p; the number one business is farming; many children leave school before they’re even teenagers to help work in the fields; and there’s very little else in the way of commerce as you and I would know it.

One of the first jobs was therefore to sit down with the villagers to get a feel for what their expectations and priorities are. On their wish list is: renovations to the health centre where many patients have to sleep on the floor, bringing in a water supply, improving the road, renovating the school and buying books and building a technical school.

From the start I felt torn. Projects like improving the roads and renovating the health centre you can tell are quick fixes; things that will immediately make a difference and have a really positive impact on the village. Only problem for me is that these are really just band-aid solutions. They’ll make a difference in the short-term but have no real long-term impact on the prosperity of the community. And that’s what we’re meant to be out there for. Or at least that’s what I thought.

I want to explore ideas that can make a long-term difference. Innovative ideas that may never have been done before. But always at the back of my mind, and at the risk of sounding a bit overdramatic, is the fact that it’s people’s future lives I’m dealing with here. This isn’t some reality TV show on a set that’ll be dismantled and forgotten when filming stops.

A bust up. Already!

From the start, Steve had his heart set on a project that involved re-routing water to the village school. The idea was that by providing mains water to the school, children wouldn’t have to miss two hours of lessons a day to head down to the bottom of the valley with water carriers.

Despite my brush with death with the water carriers on our first morning, I just don’t think this is the right approach. And I wasn’t alone. Whilst obviously worthwhile we just don’t as a group believe that this is the best use of our time and limited resource. If we did it, who would maintain the pipes and what parish would benefit from the water? Would the money be better spent on, say, medicine?

Emotions are riding high. Bear in mind that in an area as impoverished as the village we’re in there are SO many projects we could work on, all of which have clear benefits. We just have to remain focused on what’s going to have most benefit to the long-term future of the village and for me and the rest of the group the water re-routing just isn’t it. We were challenged as entrepreneurs to set up businesses not work on projects like this.

Anyway, Steve has now admitted he really isn’t much of a team player and he is just going to go it alone. See you later then Steve…!

Read more of Seb Bishop’s diary entries:

Roughing it in rural UgandaGoodbye Blighty, hello AfricaSwapping five-star luxury for makeshift tentsEco-tourism – a potential goldmine?

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