Rotaractors making a difference in Uganda

Published 7:18 pm Friday, August 3, 2018

Uganda now hosts more than 1.5 million refugees within its borders but allows all registered refugees to move about at will. As a result, established in late 2016, and officially inaugurated last July, the Rotaract Club of Nakivale, Uganda, may be the first Rotaract club (young Rotarians) based inside a refugee settlement or camp. Covering 184 square kilometers and three distinct market centers, Nakivale feels like anywhere else in rural southwestern Uganda, an undulating land of banana trees, termite mounds and herds of longhorn cattle.

This all began when leaders from the Rotary Club of Kampala and from the Roseville, Minnesota, club agreed to work together to get the Rotaract club started and support its growth.

Unlike other governments in the region, Ugandan authorities grant plots of land for farming to new arrivals. They also assist with materials to erect a basic house so they can move toward self-reliance. Refugees have access to free primary education for their children and permission to work so they can contribute to the economy.

Rotary clubs in Uganda are planning training events and leadership activities, says a member of the Kiwatule club. In October, local Rotary leaders signed a memorandum of understanding with the office of the prime minister to help refugees in other settlements and possibly form additional Rotaract clubs.

Uganda now hosts more than 1.5 million refugees but sees them as more of an opportunity than a liability. Rotaractors and the Ugandan government are working to help them with homes and employment. This type of “win-win” situation is what Rotarians are all about.