August 2014. If you’d asked me then, about where Uganda is, i’d probably have to say somewhere in Africa with no perceptions as to where it would be, look like or what way of life it’s people lived. Fast forward only 4 weeks and I was on a plane, away for a week and half to the unknown. Prepared to help the Manjeri School Project in making a short piece of documentary work. 18 years old, with little travel experience I received a grant from UTS BUiLD for my flights that changed my life. On arrival, I met up with Nick Harrington, the founder of the Manjeri School Project and Luke Tregurtha, an agricultural specialist.
After a 3 hour drive to the remote location of Lugazi, surrounded by farms, sugar cane fields, and mud brick homes we went straight to visit the school, The Erinah Manjeri Mixed Primary School, with the founder of the school and passionate family man, Bbumba Mark Nicador. Immediately I felt a part of the Manjeri Project’s small passionate team, I was able to meet teachers, children and members of the community. Although what is really at the heart of this project is empowering the people of this school, allowing them through opportunity and guidance to become fully independent from donors in Australia. That’s where I really started to feel a connection with what Nick had set up to do, I was able to film and interview people to tell their amazing stories.
However at times I was also cementing safety cages, painting tables, installing newly donated laptops, going to check on new bee hives or interviewing dairy and vanilla bean farm workers. Every day had a jam packed agenda, and it was amazing to see at the end all that we had achieved. What was equally as exciting, was two weeks after arriving back we screened the short documentary about the school and the project at an inaugural cocktail gala with Bumba Mark Nicador in attendance, a night which raised enough funds to cover the costs of the school for a year (*Nick will know a correct figure). Since then the story has been shared nation-wide with my photos from the trip in Yen Magazine and hopefully a longer version of the film will soon be online, with a larger perspective on the story.
Written by Bryce Thomas