Saturday, 26 September 2009

Love Africa Skills Sharing Trip – September 2009

In mid-September three members of St James went to Uganda for a week for the first Love Africa skills sharing trip.

Map picture

Jacky Hughes, Nigel Young, and Andrew Laughland spent most of the week in the ACET Uganda head office, in Kampala, meeting with staff members and discussing aims and objectives, vision and strategy.

The purpose of the trip was two-fold: to use skills and experience that the visiting team could offer (in coaching and organisation, in finance and in information and communication technology) and to find out from the ACET team what skills they and the HIV projects need which members of St James could share in future trips.

Andrew takes up the story…

I had visited Uganda before in 2008 and had had the opportunity, at short notice, to do a day’s IT work and training in the ACET office. This time I was keen to plan ahead and I was able to take tools and equipment out with me and also to pre-arrange meetings with some of ACET’s technology providers with a view to improving service and reducing costs.

Meeting room in ACET's Kampala officeWe spent much of the time in a meeting room filling whiteboards with information and ideas but we also had individual sessions with various members of the ACET team. Additionally I was able to service and upgrade a number of the computers in the office.

One of the exciting things for me was going as part of a multi-disciplinary team so, for example, when Nigel shared his findings on their frustrations with aspects of the finance systems, I was able to locate and install some accounting software which should help overcome those frustrations. If only one of us had been there that probably would not have happened.

Children singing at Kiswa School. KampalaWe did take a little time out from the office and one of the  highlights for me was visiting the Kiswa school in the suburbs of Kampala. This school is partnered with our own Gerrards Cross C of E School and it was very special to be able to take out gifts of pens, paints and paper for them, and to build on the relationship with them. Visits to schools in Uganda usually involve much handshaking and singing and Kiswa school was no exception.

I think what has struck me the most this trip is the powerful difference cost savings and efficiency improvements in the office make for ACET and the HIV projects. I have worked for many years in business using IT to make improvements but it is a privilege in this relationship with ACET Uganda to help direct more of the money and resources to projects which change, and save, people’s lives.