Ross Jenkins, who oversees construction at Bellway’s Hawthorn Place development in Wellingborough, put his building skills to good use on a recent trip to Kabale in Uganda as part of a team of 46 volunteers taking part in the Abode Project.
The 35-year-old, from Northampton, worked to improve facilities at The Abode Junior School, which has 120 children on its roll. His participation in the trip was partly funded by Bellway, which donated £350 and match-funded the money Ross raised to help him reach his £2,000 target.
Ross said: “The work we did at the junior school started almost straight away – we made the framework for two extra classrooms, and we completed and opened the special needs centre.
“The completion of the special needs centre was one of the main reasons behind visiting the school and a big reason for me joining the trip in the first place. In Uganda, children with disabilities are often not accepted by society and hidden by their parents in their houses. This centre will give parents somewhere to drop their children off whilst they go to work and will give the children a place to escape – it will make a huge difference to so many people’s lives.”
The work carried out during the trip included rendering, digging foundations, bricklaying and carpentry.
The group also redecorated the other five classrooms at the school with a fresh coat of paint and some educational artwork.
The Abode Project is a non-profit organisation aiming to help children in East Africa by providing education facilities and medical care as part of a long-term sustainability programme.
Ross said: “The people we met out there were amazing. Some of the children had practically nothing but what they did have, they were willing to share. Everyone was happy, even with the bare minimum. It really made us appreciate everything I’ve got at home and made me realise how much we take things for granted in day to day life.
“There are around 120 children enrolled in the school, but as the trip was during the school holidays there were only 40 children present when we were there. Those 40 children were all either single or double orphaned and they board full time at the school.
“All the children welcomed us by singing songs and throughout the first day we had music playing and had a mini sports day. We did the three-legged race, the wheelbarrow race and played some football – it was a great way to get to know the kids.”
Out of the 120 children who attend the school, 100 of them had sponsors before the Covid-19 outbreak, with sponsors paying for their uniform, school fees, food and books, but since the pandemic 80 of those sponsors have pulled out.
Ross continued: “These children really need our help. I sponsored a little girl when I was out there but there are so many more children without sponsors.
“When I got home, I felt a sense of guilt about how much money we waste and how much emphasis we put on things that don’t really matter. You realise there are bigger problems in this world.
“There is a real sense of community out there, everyone looks out for each other, and I can’t wait to go back.”
More information about the Abode Project is available at https://theabodeproject.squarespace.com/.