A few years ago, Gulu was the center of an ugly uprising that left northern Uganda in dire straights. Since the defeat of the rebel group–the Lord’s Resistance Army–the area is in recovery, but is still poor.
Our objectives in being in the Gulu area were threefold:
- perfect our well drilling skills (an activity shared with Engineers Without Borders),
- evaluate new technologies for improving education, and
- repair and install swing sets.
The latter activity is to encourage children to attend (and/or stay in) school, and to provide children with a break from their difficult existence. Playgrounds have also been found to improve socialization skills, an important activity for young children.
The first place we installed a swing set was at Mt. Trinity Nursery School located in a rural area about 4 miles from Gulu. Sunday, the head mistress, has plans to expand her school to include early primary grades and views playground equipment as an important part of her school’s future.
At Mt. Trinity, we installed a double-wide, 4-seat swing set. One of the seats is a plastic baby basket for the younger children (an item we brought from the USA).
The second location where we worked was at Albilnino, a small rural community located 40 miles northeast of Gulu. We had done work there several years ago, and wanted to check out the status of an existing swing, plus we wanted to add a new one.
At Albilnino, we installed a 2-seat swing set, and made repairs to a 3-seat swing set. The latter needed replacements for worn parts. We also had a chance to talk to community leaders about the future for their small school. Conditions at the school are quite dire. Luckily we had brought with us a healthy collection of school supplies. And we promised we would continue to help as much as our resources would permit.
The third location for a swing set was in Gulu at the office of Boston/SLC-based NGO: THRIVEGulu. Thrive works with women and children to improve their social and economic status. The swings will be used to entertain children while their mothers are in training. At Thrive we installed a 2-seat swing set and promised to look at adding additional playground equipment in the future.
Swing hangers are one item that we have difficulty making in Uganda. For this reason, we brought 48 with us from the USA. But in the future, we need to find a way to fabricate them in Uganda.
Over the 6 years that we have been building swing sets in Uganda, the quality of our product has improved dramatically and our efficiency with installation has greatly improved.