Soft Power Education (SPE) is a British registered charity and Ugandan NGO. Since 1999 we have been working with communities in Uganda to improve quality of life through education. Our vision is for:
“An empowered and self-sustaining society that takes responsibility for its own development”.
Hannah Small worked as an overland driver in both Africa and Asia. Her passengers would frequently express their desire to contribute to the communities they encountered on their travels but time was precious and the opportunities few and far between. Hannah saw that this desire could be harnessed into a more serious force for change and quit her job. Uganda was the natural starting point as she had run many trips there and had felt a natural affinity with the Ugandan people.
The moving force of history was, in the past, “hard power”- in the form of military might, political authority and wealth. What we have seen in recent years, however, is a decrease in the relative importance of this factor, and in its stead a remarkable increase in the importance of “soft power”- factors such as knowledge and information, culture, ideas and systems. – Daisaku Ikeda
In 1999, SPE was launched and Hannah moved to Bujagali near Jinja. Tapping into the dedication and generosity of tourists and independent travellers to Uganda, SPE’s first project was the construction of Buwenda Pre-School for orphans and other vulnerable children. The land was a gift from the community and after twelve months of hard work, assisted by local builders, a pre-school appeared on the landscape. To the delight of 120 children the pre-school was officially opened in March 2003.
The community of Kyabirwa looked on with interest and gifted more land to SPE requesting that a similar school be built for their children. Kyabirwa Children’s Centre opened in the spring of 2004 for 120 orphans. Both pre-schools were staffed with qualified teachers who were, and continue to be, determined to encourage these little ones to learn English, play games, write, sing and dance.
Since then, SPE has gone from strength to strength. What seemed like an ambitious five-year plan to renovate and refurbish the 20 government-funded primary schools in the area was achieved two years ahead of schedule. We continue to work on this programme in a wider area and have to date worked at over 50 schools across six sub-counties throughout the Jinja district.
In February 2007, SPE opened the doors of the Amagezi Education Centre and launched the P6 Pupils’ Project. For 10 years, this project welcomed several thousand children each year into a unique learning environment where lessons in agriculture, ICT, science, art and craft, drama and library took a hands-on approach with plenty of active participation. The centre also worked closely with the local community offering courses in tailoring, ICT, carpentry, crafts and much more.2007 also saw the commencement of a new programme area in the Buliisa district in Uganda’s western region. Working with communities bordering Murchison Falls Conservation Area, Uganda’s largest protected area, we continue to support primary school infrastructure but also work in close partnership with local communities and schools to encourage conservation education and improve access to sustainable livelihood options.
2009 saw the birth of our Special Educational Needs (SEN) programme which now works with over 140 families throughout the Jinja district. The SEN team is made up of a physiotherapist, occupational therapy and teacher who work across four clinical settings using an adapted SEN curriculum with children with a range of special needs, free of charge. We run a residential unit for 24 children, a social communication disorder group, education services, outreach therapy clinics and partner with other organisations to share skills and expertise.
In February 2018, and following on from the highly successful P6 Pupils’ Project, we launched our new education programme – Learning and Education for All, “LEAP”. LEAP aims to tackle some of the issues identified as barriers to learning at government primary schools across the Jinja district. We aim to increase the learning potential of pupils to give them the tools to succeed and become valuable contributors to Ugandan society. The programme centres around three core areas – “bellies, bodies and brains”.
It is only through the ongoing support of donors and volunteers that we have been able to achieve so much in a short space of time. Our funding comes from trusts and foundations, individual donors, overland groups, independent travellers to Uganda and volunteers from all over the world who donate towards our programmes.
In 2019, we will be celebrating 20 years of working in Uganda. Over the years, there have been too many amazing folks to name who have given their time and money and above all passion to help grow the charity. Without all of these wonderful connections, nothing would have been achieved.