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Full News Archive > A Letter From Uganda
2020-04-09

A Letter From Uganda

Con+3 will raise urgently needed money for The Butterfly Project

We are hurriedly making arrangements and will be announcing the date in the next few days for some time in May.

You can help today by donating at the Con +3 Donation Page where money donated will go directly in to the account of the project.

The Butterfly Project has been providing vital food, soap and charcoal to children and families living in the Kinawataka slum district.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began we can all be forgiven for being somewhat distracted with our own situations, things are not easy for anyone at the moment so the news of what was happening in Kampala struck me out of the blue.

For those who remember last years convention, we raised money for The Butterfly Project. A charity who uses board games and role-playing games to turn some of the worlds most under privileged children in to social entrepreneurs and change makers in their local communities.

Guests who attended Con+2 were blown away by the children on the project, who are avid gamers just like us.

Since the outbreak however, The Butterfly Project has become the only lifeline for dozens of families living in the Kinawataka slum district by providing food, soap, and charcoal to families who are unable to travel to work.

In a country where poverty is so bad that 80% of the population dies before the age of 30 the residents of the Kinawataka slum district of Kampala are some of the poorest people in the world. Social distancing is impossible when whole families live in a wooden shack so small that it is not possible to stand up in it.

The lock down is preventing these people from working, and they have no food or soap. The Ugandan government has been delivering food to people's doors but so far has not provided anything to the people of the Kinawataka slum.

The Butterfly Project has been cooking and providing food and teaching children hygeine practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

I spoke to Ben Parkinson, founder of The Butterfly Project, about the new and unusual role The Butterfly Project is now playing in saving lives and he wrote this letter which expresses the urgency of the financial situation being faced by the charity.

- Becky Rose

Helen, a staff member from The Butterfly Project, has been cooking for dozens of children who have no other source of food

I hope you are well and safe in Corona Virus-impacted Britain.

You asked me to let you know how we are getting on in Uganda in this international crisis, so let me try to explain what has happened here and how it has impacted on our project but most particularly the local people that live near us in the slum districts of Kinawataka, Kaso Koso, Kiganda and Acholi Quarters.

For now, Uganda has had only 53 cases of COVID-19 throughout the country. Of these 12 were discovered in the communities - Iganga, Kalangala, Wakiso and Masaka - and the remainder were "caught" at the airport, after people were moved into quarantine. However, before lockdowns were imposed internationally, 18,000 were let through the airport unchecked from countries which were termed "low risk". Many of these were returnees from Dubai and some have been subsequently diagnosed with COVID-19 and were already starting to infect their families. The government is still following up all of these 18,000. However, most of them were Ugandan nationals and thus were not required to provide details of where they were staying.

As a result the government introduced several severe lockdown measures, resulting in the closure of all schools, a restriction of a maximum of five people gathering in one place (if outside the household), no movements in and out of Uganda, other than cargo, cargo drivers to be tested for the virus, no public transport of any kind and no shops opening, except for food shops, no outside exercising. Training NGOs were also forced to send children back home to stay with their parents until the emergency is over. There is also a curfew from 7.00pm to 6.30am each day.

The impact of these measures has been enormous on the poorest people, many of whom no longer have any means of income and therefore the government is starting to provide food door to door in some slum areas. However, the area we work, as of yesterday, was still to receive its first delivery. We have been supporting our local children with lunch and their fanilies with charcoal, soap and sugar during the crisis. We've also given the children puzzle activities to do at home, which I can see that they have done with enthusiasm. For us, the nearest supermarket is about 3 miles away, so is a long walk, if we need to buy specific goods not available locally.

Yesterday, the President gave us further notice that people would be arrested for "attempted murder" if they did not comply with these regulations and he said that he believed that "the indiscipline of Africans would be their downfall and encouraged everyone to social distance.

Because of the school closure, Chrysalis has had to reduce its activities and can no longer train its Butterfly project members, whom we are training to be social entrepreneurs, though I have been in touch with many of them through Facebook Chat from their village areas and they are eager to restart school and return to the Centre, but, unless there is a significant change of heart, schools will not be resuming for a while yet. There is no clarity as to how long the restrictions will last, but yesterday's Presidential announcement suggested to me if anything an extension to the lockdown, not a relaxation.

This will mean that Chrysalis will start to struggle financially, as we rely on gift aid from the Charity Commission and, without school fees, then much of our income to cover core costs is reduced. Chrysalis has to pay rent (£350/month) on its site in Kampala and, for now, we are trying to keep most of our staff in post, as they are still working, even if at a reduced level, due to government impositions. Without our salary support, they would also struggle to survive. I estimate that Chrysalis needs about £1000/month to maintain these basic expenses moving forward and continue our support for the local community.

We have had to postpone our annual Village Board Game Convention, which normally takes place in May. We have also cancelled our Platinum League Kids Athletics event, which was also due to take place in May and August, however, we are hopeful that these can still go on later in the year.

Currently, I am in Kampala, staying with three of our older youth, who were not impacted by the government regulations for NGOs. We are all gamers and most were the founders of the roleplaying project that we have been doing now for several years. We run two roleplaying sessions a week. I am running Pathfinder 2.0 and Joseph (now 19) is running Pathfinder original. I hope also to run some Traveller with them in the near future, though we are enjoying the current adventures. Arnold, who some may have seen before interviewed by Becky is working on his Board Game Review Channel and will be uploading more videos soon. Patrick, who launched the roleplaying project in the village many years ago, is learning Android Studio and is working on an app to help university students gain access to books for their studies. Joseph handles the village board game project training and, for now, he is busying himself learning our library of games.

My personal focus is the Chrysalis Secondary School, as it was our intention to build the school this year ready to support our members' education there next year. I am still hopeful that this can be achieved, though we will need five months to put the build into practice, assuming the finance can be raised for it. This school will encourage boardgaming and roleplaying as extra-curricular activities, but will also be the new headquarters for the Butterfly Project from next year, leaving the Kampala centre, as a place to support local children and become a training centre for global warming awareness in the capital, in conjunction with Fridays for Future.

So, in many ways we are very lucky here, as Uganda has not been contaminated with the COVID-19 virus to any great extent. Were it to spread, however, it would be catastrophic and I worry greatly that other countries, such as Cameroon, Nigeria and Ivory Coast may struggle to contain the virus. For those in Britain or other countries where the virus has taken hold, we sincerely wish you good health and hope that your loved ones are able to recover, if they are affected.

Very best wishes to our friends around the world.

Ben Parkinson
Chrysalis Uganda

You can help today by donating at the Con +3 Donation Page where money donated will go directly in to the account of the project.