Oftentimes in the development world, an outsider may be tempted to offer money or goods to people lacking resources; however, it is significantly more valuable to empower communities from the ground up to solve community issues. As the old saying goes, “Give a Person a Fish, and You Feed Them for a Day. Teach a Person To Fish, and You Feed Them for a Lifetime.”

Over the summer, Johnathan, Sean and Flavia, came to Jinja as students from SUNY Geneseo. They were paired with Phoebe Education Fund for Orphans and vulnerable children (PEFO) to create a sustainable, community-development project working directly with a group of elderly women in Budondo. During their community assessment, the team found that many of the jajas (grandmothers) expressed that they wanted to be empowered in their business skills to increase their income. Oftentimes elderly people are faced with the challenge of generating income needed to provide things like food, education, and healthcare. In Uganda in particular, many elderly people face problems finding employment; maintaining their strengthen, physical ability, and health; and caring for their children and grandchildren.

Throughout their time together, the jajas explained to the SUNY students that they had practiced skills in things like crafts and tailoring, but that they lacked the business knowledge and key practices which greatly prohibits their ability to generate income. After learning of these challenges, the SUNY team, along with their colleagues at PEFO, designed a project to teach the elderly these necessary skills while also working to provide them with a platform to promote their products. The goal of the project was to empower the women with the tools and skills needed to run a successful business. With a group of about 30 jajas, the students organized a series of business classes focused on financial bookkeeping, marketing, and production-related skills such as finishing and quality-checking. The jajas were taught necessary business skills that they can also share with other members in their community. The jajas began production of a variety of crafts that were upheld to new standards and monitored through record keeping. Additionally, an online shop was created in conjunction with a new PEFO website to serve as another means of opening the market. The Jajas plan to have a physical market as well as an online market to sell their products.

Through this initiative, the jajas said they feel more confident with their newly acquired business and craft skills. The grandmothers have been keeping better physical records of the costs and profits from their businesses. Since the students have left, the jajas continue to meet weekly producing quality crafts and selling them in town. Since then, they have been preparing a catalog to be placed on the website. Through Flavia, Sean and Jonathan’s efforts, they were able to “teach them to fish” and create lasting, sustainable impact through educating and empowering the group of grandmothers in Budondo.

Improving Pupils Literacy Project

A student’s ability to read, write, and comprehend are critical skills for student academic achievement, yet many schools in Uganda fall behind in literacy development. According to UNICEF, only 40% of students are literate in Uganda by Primary 6. ( How can primary schools in Uganda increase literacy rates for students? FSD Intern Hannah Patterson spent her internship with Community Concerns Uganda (CCUg) exploring these questions and developing an asset-based approach to increase literacy development. Hannah came to FSD after completing her bachelor’s degree at Adelaide University. Upon joining CCUg, Hannah undertook an extensive community assessment to understand factors of successful and sustained literacy development at two local schools: Wabulungu and Baitambogwe Primary Schools. Through her assessments, she found that one of the greatest threats to literacy development was overstretched resources and strained relationships, which in turn negatively impacted student performance, student literacy, and student retention. However, because they are public schools, she faced limitations in increasing resources in a sustainable way without the support of the Ministry of Education and Sports, which is often difficult to secure. Therefore, the project focused on emphasizing the use of existing resources and strengths of the school.

Using the asset-based approach, Hannah looked to build the capacity of the school community (parents, teachers, and students) to address and solve their own identified challenges. By enhancing the relationships between students, teachers, and parents, she realized that all stakeholders could become engaged in the child’s academic growth. Hannah then designed a Literacy Action Plan in consultation with teachers, parents, and students to create mutual accountability in literacy development and academic growth of the students. She piloted the program at Wabulungu Primary School which included implementing “Literacy Days” – a day full of literacy games and activities at school that parents are invited to attend, which had a benefit of practicing literacy skills and building relationships. She facilitated the development of a discipline policy which would decrease corporal punishment and strengthen the relationship between teachers and students. She also created Literacy Committees for students and teachers to take accountability for their own learning.

Through her research and pilot program at Wabulungu, Hannah was able to strengthen the bond and empower the community to engage everyone in the student’s literacy development. Both CCUg and the community at Wabulungu Primary School expressed that her efforts made lasting impact on student achievement.

Christine - Powering communities with solar energy

We are delighted to share Christine’s project and its impact in the community. Christine started her internship with FSD Uganda early in January 2019. Her internship lasted for a period of four months. During Christine’s internship with FSD Uganda, she selected to work with one of FSD’s partner organization called Access to Solar Technologies.

Access to Solar Technologies is a local social enterprise organization in Jinja, Uganda whose mission is to bring solar energy to disadvantaged communities in region. Christine focused her efforts on building a structured relationship between Access to Solar and the community that they serve. Through an in-depth community assessment, she assessed that the central priorities for Access to Solar were to build a better relationship with the community in order to foster education, strengthen trust, and understand more directly the village’s priorities.

Over the course of the internship, Christine developed a pilot program called the Village Solar Team to try to match the needs of the community with solar energy technologies. She worked with Access to Solar to select a village (Kagera Budondo) and a local member to partner with. The local community member was hired by Access to Solar as a VST representative to work in his community promoting awareness of solar energies and assessing their needs. She also helped to facilitate trainings for the VST representative in sales, technical skills including installations, and social impact. This had an added benefit of helping address the high unemployment rate among youth in Uganda.

Over the course of the internship, Christine, the VST representative, and the Access to Solar team invested time into moving door-to-door in Kagera to meet community members and share with them about solar technologies. They attended SACCO meetings and hosted a community launch event. Her efforts at Access to Solar helped avail solar energy in 14 households in the village, many of which was their first time ever with electricity. The pilot VST program is in its fifth month and will finish in July.

The vision for the pilot Village Solar Team is to become a structured foundation for future villages and build that relationship within the community. In the future, VST representatives will conduct most of the community awareness, marketing, sales and installations for Access to Solar. This program builds on the strength of the community and enables them to address their own needs. Future participants can adopt this same strategy for other uses. If you would like to learn more, you can contact Christine at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit

Lighting Up Students’ Education

Charlie, a student from Northwestern University, recently concluded his internship with FSD Jinja-Uganda. At the start of his internship, Charlie opted to work with one of our partner organization called Access to Solar Technologies (AST). The reason he chose Access to Solar was that he wanted to experience firsthand how business and sales work in developing countries. Access to Solar is a social business enterprise that has both of these elements: it works to enable communities’ access affordable, reliable, renewable technologies and to conserve their surroundings through environmental awareness and promotions. It mainly focuses on communities that are totally off the hydro-power grid.

During Charlie’s community needs assessment activity, he observed the community’s most pressing challenge regarding solar adoption was the high cost of solar products for low income consumers. Charlie assessed all AST existing client beneficiaries and its potential clients, including local community schools. Most student households that Charlie visited during his assessment demonstrated the desire to have light for their children to study. They mentioned that having solar powered light would work as an advantage of improving their children’s ability to study at home thus improving their academic excellence.

Lighting up students' Education

Charlie’s goal for his project was to provide solar lamps to students at an off-grid school to help ensure they have a similar chance of educational attainment as those who have access to power. He also wanted to implement a school-based credit recovery project for the solar lamps to ensure high credit recovery. In order to achieve this, Charlie and AST team worked out a way of reducing the cost of the solar lamps and offering them on credit to the students. This drastically increases the ability of the students to buy the lamps thus enabling them have more study time in the night.

The idea was introduced to one of AST partner schools: St Stephen Secondary School. Charlie and AST team selected a school Project Coordinator whose main responsibility was to help sell the lamps to the students, record sales, follow up on student’s credit recovery payments and to ensure money is properly collected and recycled into another class. Other project activities included implementing a repayment tracking system and educating the students on the benefits of solar.

During the implementation of the project, more than 60 students purchased lamps for themselves. As the project continues to grow, the AST team and Project Coordinator will be evaluating the students’ performances after receiving the lamps to assess the impact at the end of the school term. Additionally, some teachers and parents of the students have purchased these lamps on credit to use them for other personal entrepreneur businesses like poultry keeping.

Access to Solar continues to work in schools selling their solar products. The income generated from the project will be reinvested into another school project. The localized approach of selecting and using local project coordinators and village solar teams (VSTs) to monitor sales and credit repayments for solar products backs up the success of AST initiatives that have been working towards achieving community driven development.

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We are proud to share the FSD intern alumni past projects and the impact the projects have had in Ugandan Communities

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FSD Jinja-Uganda provides opportunities for students and professionals to engage in structured community development work. The programs are designed to help build careers while having lasting impact on the people in the community which is served

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