PETER Symonds Uganda Expedition staff and students have this week been awarded an Appreciation Award for their contribution and support of villages in Uganda.

Symonds is keen to encourage students to develop themselves individually and culturally too.

The Uganda Expedition has been set up as one of Peter Symonds’ enrichment activities with increasing popularity.

Students spend the academic year raising money to support the grass roots charity Project Embabazi, helping villagers in south west Uganda support their own communities through building, education and sponsorship schemes.

Lauren Lewis, Head of Geography, introduced the expeditions and founded the charity with former PSC students in 2011.

When Lauren first visited Uganda in 2002 for a voluntary teaching placement at Kamuronko Secondary School, she observed the kind of suffering the local Ugandan communities were being subjected to due to escalating poverty.

The population was characterised by misery and rampant deaths. Income levels were very low (estimated at less than US $1 per day), infant mortality and maternity mortality rates were above 40 per cent the majority of families were characterised by malnourished children and domestic violence and only 24 per cent of village children could afford to go to school. The schools’ conditions and environment were of a very low standard due to ageing buildings and facilities. Teachers lacked basic teaching materials and teacher to pupil ratios averaged 1:80. Many residents had to walk for over 20 miles for very basic medical facilities including a dispensary.

As a result of her first visit, Lauren started to recruit student teams annually to visit Uganda. They arrived with resources to assist the local communities through a number of development projects and have achieved commendable results.

Dick Byamukama, community co-ordinator in Kanjobe, said: “On behalf of the Ugandan local community, and my own behalf, I take this opportunity to express our heartfelt appreciation to the entire college for your exceptionally big heart. The support to our local schools namely Kanjobe PS, Kyeibale PS, Rwiraguju PS and Kamuronko SS cannot be overlooked. The villagers life expectancy has improved significantly, household income levels improved, domestic violence minimised, infant mortality rate controlled and education levels improved, amongst other things.”

After Dick presented the award to Principal Stephen Carville, Lauren Lewis and Sally Hodgkinson (former Uganda Expedition PSC student), he concluded by saying: “Life was very hard. But with your intervention, and that of the students, life will never be the same again”.

Further details about this and their other schemes can be found on their website

Students are able to sign up for the expedition at the start of the academic year and then set about fundraising for the projects of which they subsequently go and support for a few weeks in the summer. They also manage to spare some time to include a few adventure activities including wildlife safaris, chimp tracking and dug-out canoeing.