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Food for Thought in Bwindi

As Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy marks its 40th anniversary, the global pandemic highlights the importance of our community investment projects around the world. As travel returns, we spotlight how AKP has positively impacted the lives and livelihoods of people who live on the edge of wilderness in Uganda

Communities that live on the edge of wilderness steward a critical relationship between forest and human settlement; between wildlife and habitat conservation. As a travel company delivering the world-class gorilla trekking experience for our guests, A&K has a vested interest in these communities. We believe it’s critical to find a balance between conservation and sustainable development. We do this through investments with our community partners in education, health care and job creation.

School children who live on the periphery of one of East Africa’s most famous national parks could soon be tucking into a daily hot lunch. Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy (AKP) is expanding its school partnership to deliver a main meal to 4,000 pupils in 11 primary schools that border the misted mountains of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

While this may seem an ambitious goal, AKP has never been shy of addressing the big issues. Since it was set up in 1982, it has gone on to develop 46 projects on all seven continents. Thanks to continued support from AKP, Bwindi now has a new school (built during the pandemic), a successful bike shop run by six enterprising women and a community hospital which was recently given the royal seal of approval.

“AKP projects have touched every life in the Bwindi neighbourhood,” said Keith Sproule, Executive Director AKP, who pointed out serving lunch is not just about ensuring children have a hot meal. “Lunch is a magnet for getting the students into school,” he said.

New School Welcomes Pupils

Prior to the pandemic, AKP made a commitment to help Bwindi Ebenezer Nursery and Primary School build a new school. The project was originally founded by community members in 2016. However, the structures were made from discarded construction materials and thatched walls.

AKP worked alongside its partners on the construction of an entirely new school campus, including 10 new classrooms, an administration building, kitchen to serve the lunches, bathrooms, and a meeting hall. The new school has been designed for up to 350 students. Despite heavy rains and Covid, construction of the school continued and is now complete.

The new school represents AKP’s largest educational investment, approaching (USD) $250,000. This was made possible by the incredible generosity of our guests, and in partnership with the Kamu Kama Foundation, started by past A&K travellers.

Hospital with Royal Seal of Approval

What began as a clinic under a tree has matured into Bwindi Community Hospital (BCH) with the support of AKP.

The hospital was founded in 2003 to help the Batwa indigenous community who used to live in the forest before it was registered as a sanctuary for the mountains’ gorillas. From its humble roots it has now grown to a 112-bed facility helping 24,000 patients annually.

We were honoured to be granted the Prince’s Prize for Innovative Philanthropy in 2021 by HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco. BCH was recognised for its exceptional work in providing access to healthcare for the community.

This year AKP, in partnership with the Walkabout Foundation, delivered 100 wheelchairs to the hospital in the presence of Kerry Golds, chief tour operating officer UK, Europe, USA, and Australia.

“A seven-year-old boy told me how life-changing this was for him, now he could go to school and learn,” said Kerry.

“Several family members expressed their eternal gratitude for AKP’s donation of the wheelchairs and told me that their lives had been changed by these gifts.

“I was amazed by the achievements of Bwindi Community Hospital. Their dedication to the healthcare of the local communities and education of nurses through their nursing school and their immense hard work and passion left me truly humbled,” she said.

The hospital also offers a Waiting Mothers Hostel for Batwa women to ensure they are cared for by a qualified midwife during labour and to learn new skills during their pregnancy.  

Bike Shop Entrepreneurs

Thanks to The Bwindi Women’s Bike Shop, supported by AKP, five women who previously never had an opportunity to earn their own money are now independent business owners and entrepreneurs.

Used, donated bikes are collected and shipped to Uganda where the women sell them after an extensive training programme to teach them business skills and how to be bike mechanics. Nothing is wasted as even the shipping container was converted into the bike shop. Restock shipments are sent on a regular basis, proudly paid for by the women with bike sale proceeds.

The bike shop has transformed the village to use a sustainable form of transport. Children can now cycle to school, water can be carried long distances, and farmers can easily get to their fields.