Photos from Mbale in Uganda, East Africa

I was lucky enough to work as a construction co-ordinator, from early 1997 until just before the millennium in Uganda. Wonderful place, wonderful people with fantastically challenging and rewarding work; although there were also terrible, dark, dark times as well. A classic journey which turned my life upside down and opened my eyes.

VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas) provided the training, and found the job. Everything else came from CARE International who employed me.

VSO also provided an incredible and mostly hilarious bunch of fellow volunteers and our collective ‘survival mechanism’ was to host (probably) way too many parties……..

Which is probably why many of us ended up married at the end of it, go figure 😉

The following images are all from the 2500sq kms of South Mbale District that was ‘mine’. I roamed far and wide, often on some pretty impressive roads. As much for their spectacular views as their technical difficulty to actually drive down them, especially in the rainy seasons! People I met were friendly, helpful and extremely hospitable, even though they had little to give. Apart from very few individuals, I found this to be true everywhere in East Africa and never once did I feel unwelcome or in danger (well, except on the road!).

Anyhoo, this page was supposed to be about the photos, not me, so here they are……

large group of ugandan children laughing and waving madly at the camera

What it is all about

ian andersons house at bushika near mbale uganda

Home sweet home, no running water and occasional electricity......

driving a landrover 110 through a river in the dry season in mbale uganda

The Landrover thought that the bridge looked a bit rough.............

driving through a river in a landrover in mbale uganda

I wouldn't have done this during the rainy season.....

landrover driving up steep slope in mbale uganda

Not easy with wet tyres even for a landie!

floods and damaged roads in mbale uganda after el nino rains

A reminder of what often happens after El-nino rains in Uganda........

floods wash away a road in mbale uganda after el nino

Another one gone, made getting to some of the Health Units difficult...

temporary bridges in mbale uganda

My friend and co-worker Damascus 'modeling' the new bridge we built for a Health Unit that had been cut off

vista from wanale ridge mbale uganda

Me and the guys admiring the vista at Wanale Ridge, above Mbale, Uganda.

wanale ridge health unit in mbale uganda

One of the Health Units, this one at Wanale is built using local stone gathered from the surrounding area

local scaffolding at wanale health unit in mbale uganda

Local style scaffolding at Wanale Health Unit, the only stone one we built

Wanale Health Unit nearly finished with much welcomed visitors ian anderson

Wanale Health Unit nearly finished with much welcomed visitors

Young Ugandans in Mbale

Young Ugandans in Mbale

pit sawing timber in uganda

Pit sawing timber in Mbale, Uganda. Tough work for strong guys

crowded pick up truck in mbale uganda

Getting around in Mbale, Uganda

ian anderson, graham talbot and james dunning pool building in mbale, uganda

Happy days building a seat in a dip pool in exchange for a BBQ and beer if I remember correctly!

breaking stones for concrete in mbale uganda

Aggregate for concrete is made the hard way by breaking up stones....

bed on a cycle in mbale uganda

Mind out, I'm coming though......

carrying bananas on a cycle in mbale uganda

Heavy loads on rough roads......

Kampala taxi park in anyone?

Kampala taxi park in anyone?

rubbish skip and piles of rubbish in masaka uganda

Spot the chicken.........

children in bushika near mbale uganda

This cheeky pair always seems to be under my feet in the village!

nametsi health unit

Taking friends to visit the finished Health Unit at Nametsi, a long walk after the road ends......

nametsi health unit

Tired visitors at Nametsi Health Unit

I will break here to explain about Nametsi. Several aid agencies had looked at building a HU at Nametsi but decided that it was logistically too difficult. But I had a good team plus great local support so we did it. Nametsi is in a remote village more than an hours walk after the road ends. Truly in the bush. Which made it the most important Health Unit that we did (there was more than 15). No road meant that everything had to be broken down and carried up there. I took several groups of visitors up there because it was such a great place, truly peaceful and a typical rural African idyll.

On the 2nd of March 2010 millions of tons of mud and rocks obliterated Nametsi village. Only 40 survived out of about of 350 people. Nothing was spared, even the Health Unit…..or the people sheltering in it. Children from the local school ran for the Health Unit believing that its solid construction would survive. I can’t say any more.



Thanks for making it all the way down here! (Back to top)
Stay well

6 Responses to Photos from Mbale in Uganda, East Africa

  1. Ian says:

    Agree Robert. Re-location never works. I don’t think that there is anything inherently wrong with the region either. I spent many months walking back and forth to Nametsi Health Unit. Even then I could see strips running straight up the hillside, devoid of any half decent stabilizing plants. A recipe for mud slides if I ever saw one.

    Better education on soil erosion and not stripping the soil of stabilizing vegetation would be a good start.

    Thanks for stopping by and for the news

  2. Ian says:

    Many thanks Robert, are you still in the region? Some fresh news about the area would be most welcome!
    Stay well

  3. ROBERT SHISA says:

    God bless you and all your offspring, I happened to reach most of those areas during the CARE/UFHP final evaluation and after the nametsi disaster. You guys accomplished a great deal.

  4. Ian says:

    Oh, it was truly life changing Wanda. Up to then, as a twenty something, I had a thriving building business and wanted to take over the world, but thought that I should do something interesting before it was too late. Little did I know that it would make me realize what a naive lad from a small town I was! It changed the way that I looked at the world and opened my eyes. I met my now wife there also!

    Went out as a green lad and came back a nearly married man lol! Bit more than I bargained for. I wasn’t so interested in building up a big business after that, just wanted to be happy and work doing something that I enjoyed and travel a lot more. Life is too short and all that!

    Thanks for calling in Wanda, I’ll put the kettle on next time!

  5. Wanda says:

    What an amazing experience. I would imagine that the friendships you form and the practical works that you do when volunteering to work in places like Uganda make up for the heartbreaking sights that would be experienced. I admire greatly anyone who has the fortitude to undertake such a task.

  6. Pingback: Uganda. Images from a volunteer experiences | Polishing Peanuts.......

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