Once upon a time, a small team of intrepid Ogilvy Healthworld and Ogilvy explorers embarked upon an incredible expedition to Uganda. They set out with the proposition that by working together with a local community, they could achieve something incredible. And so it was, that in partnership with International Needs, Many Ogilvy Hands was born.
Ambitious yet simple, the aim was to build a much-needed secondary school in the small village of Buikwe in rural Uganda.
Building the school
In five short years, the building progress has been incredible. With the help of 30 or so Ogilvy volunteers each year — ready to get their hands dirty by digging foundations, laying bricks, mixing concrete and plastering walls* — the site has turned from harsh brushland into a thriving school campus.
The school is now helping over 400 pupils every year to get a secondary education. Not only does this transform the prospects of each individual child, but little by little it helps to transform the prospects of one of the poorest countries in the world.
However, this project has always been about more than just putting up a structure. The most incredible success stories have been those of the people of Buikwe. While leading a trip in early 2014, I was called — covered in cement — to a very excited headmaster’s office. The results for that year’s exams had just been published in the national newspapers… and they exceeded all expectations.
Exam success that rivals the city schools
It was the first year that the school had taken part, and Paul — the headmaster — along with his entire faculty were overjoyed. A small school in rural Uganda, built in part by a bunch of dainty handed advertising executives, was listed in the league tables alongside some of the best schools in the capital city. Not only was this a great achievement, but the school’s growing reputation is now attracting the best teachers and pupils from far and wide, bringing with them a sustainable source of income.
This is just one of the many incredible experiences I have been lucky enough to share first hand in Uganda. What I have personally found the most rewarding on my trips — beyond how welcoming the local community has been — is having the opportunity to meet so many people who are passionate about making a difference. From the social workers, to teachers, pupils, parents and the builders, everyone has been driven to make the school a triumph.
So what does the future hold for Many Ogilvy Hands?
We may have come to the end of our five-year project in Uganda but we are continuing to support what we affectionately see as ‘our school’ as it grows, flourishes and becomes completely self-sufficient. At the same time we are currently exploring new international projects (watch this space), and are also continuing our partnership with a local charity Centrepoint here in London.
Author: Lexi Fletcher, London
*Under the expert guidance of an ever-patient and rather rambunctious group of Ugandan builders.