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Invisible work camps
INSPIRATION: Work camps can build local development capacities instead of putting up a house. MS Uganda’s youth partners experiment with modernisation of the camps. Learn from their experiencesBy Henry Muguzi
Stop building houses, start building the capacity for development in the youth organisation and the local community.
In Uganda, the youth co-operation concept has undergone a process of modernisation over the past year. Supported and pushed for by MS Denmark, five youth organisations have brainstormed, designed, and tried out a more modern version of the work camp concept.
Five MS Uganda partner organisations participate in the Youth Co-operation Programme (YCP). They have conducted work camps focusing on environmental protection, sports and development, HIV prevention, and showing solidarity with internally displaced people in Teso in north-western Uganda.
The fifth organisation, Uganda Pioneers’ Association (UPA), conducted a health and sanitation work camp. Among other activities, the work campers erected dish drying racks for the benefit of the local community. Following the YCP-thinking the camp also featured components of informing the community about primary health care and of enhancing the work campers’ mobilising skills.
James Kimbowa, the information volunteer exchange officer at UPA, finds that work camps provide a platform for work campers to assume leadership roles in their communities. Others have acquired hands on experience and skills in executing community related activities, which they later pursue as a career. This then promotes sustainability so that the activities started during the work camp do not just die away when the work camp closes.
According to the officer by then in charge of YCP at MS Uganda, Charles Draechabo, information and documentation are areas that are being addressed to ease the sharing of tips and tricks with those communities, which may not have directly benefited from the work camps. Or better still, to empower the communities to mobilise their own youth instead of waiting for the MS partner organisations to bring the camp to their area.
The question, however, still remains of whether the communities and the youth organisations themselves find the YCP camps satisfactory compared to the more traditional ones that protect water springs for example.
“We cannot totally leave out the manual work. It’s important for the communities to have an outcome that they can see. But for the participants, this kind of work camp is more satisfying because they also benefit. They go back home with new knowledge,” says James Kimbowa from UPA.Henry Muguzi is the information officer with MS Uganda’s partner organisation, ACCU, and a member of MS Uganda’s editorial group