Young Changemakers in Uganda Take Mission to Isolated Island in Community Projects

Joanita Katushabe, a tutor at 'Together for a New Africa' poses for a photo on the sidelines of the training of the African initiative in Nairobi, Kenya. Credit: ACI Africa

In a list of grassroots projects that the Ugandan wing of Together for a New Africa (T4NA) engaged in in the initiative’s first cycle, the young changemakers set sail for Bussi, a small island in Lake Victoria to inspire children at the island to work against all odds to stay in school.

Located about 10 kilometers from Uganda’s Entebbe town, Bussi Island remains partly isolated and does not have sufficient social amenities to support its population of about 18,000 people.

In an interview with ACI Africa on the sidelines of the just ended T4NA training, Joanita Katushabe, tutor at the initiative for African youth changemakers said that some children go through school without having stepped out of the island. Many of these children, she said, do not have enough motivation to study hard and to have better lives after school.

For their mission on the island, the T4NA Uganda members chose Hope for the Island Child Orphanage, a foundation that runs a school and also takes care of orphaned children.

“We went to talk with learners at Hope for the Island Child Orphanage. We realized that some of the children have never left the island in their entire life. We went to talk to them and to assure them that they can still make it in life,” Ms. Katushabe, an engineer who works with a top telecommunications firm in Uganda said during the September 29 interview with ACI Africa.


She added, “Some of the girls at the school can’t imagine leaving the island and having a good career. We told them that everything is possible; we told them that ‘look, here is an engineer talking to you; you can also be an engineer.’”

A report, “The Invisible Plight of People at Bussi Island Human Rights Situation” that was compiled by the Wakiso District Human Rights Committee (WDHRC) indicates that residents of Bussi Island grapple with a myriad of challenges, including the lack of well-equipped health facilities.

The report further indicates that the only health center serving all residents of the island lacks skilled manpower to handle maternal health care services like theater and X-ray services among others.

According to Uganda Youth Alliance for Family Planning and Adolescent Health (UYAFPAH), Bussi Island is characterized by a very high rate of school dropout, and that many children prefer to stay at home and engage in fishing activities.

UYAFPAH has reported that the island population is mainly youth and that many are “hardcore criminals”.

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“It is a fish-folk community characterized by high school dropout, with teenage pregnancy at 78.7 percent, and many early marriages… there is high domestic violence and all sorts of violence against children,” the foundation has reported.

“The standards of the education system are very poor in that only two primary schools are available. Most of the children are engaged in fishing activities, and for those in school, the environment is not conducive for them as most sit in the dirt for lack of chairs,” UYAFPAH has further reported

The visit to Hope for the Island Child Orphanage is just one on the list of local activities that T4NA Uganda has engaged in, away from the main aim of the initiative, which is to equip the youth in the East African nation with skills to identify challenges that the people are facing.

“The whole idea is that we can equip the youth with skills, but also values to make sure that they can have the skills to identify things that are not going well in our society to be able to be aware, and be able to choose courses that they can work on in an attempt to address those challenges,” Ms. Katushabe said.

The Ugandan singer was in the T4NA pioneer group of 100 youth from seven African countries who were trained to become tutors and sent to their respective countries where they started transformative movements that impacted over 20,000 youth across the initial seven countries.


Started in January 2018, T4NA is aimed at equipping young people, especially those graduating from Sophia University Institute, and other universities abroad to go “back to Africa” and “to shape a new Africa together” by seeking solutions to the leadership challenges that the continent faces.

A member of the Focolare Movement, which supports T4NA, Ms. Katushabe was attracted to the initiative’s desire to change the mindsets of the youth in Africa in a bid to address the leadership challenges that the continent grapples with.

“What captured me was the idea of being able to do something about improving my own country. I'm not a politician, I wasn't politically inclined. But I could see that there are things that are not happening the way they should in society. And that a lot of that has to do with our leadership; the kind of values that our leaders have,” Ms. Katushabe told ACI Africa September 29.

She added, “I felt that if I could not necessarily be a politician, I could at least participate in the formation of young people who would eventually be leaders, not just in the political sphere, but also in other areas of other disciplines, in economics, in law, in their different organizations.”

In its first cycle that ended with a graduation in January, Ms. Katushabe worked in a team of 17 youth who traversed Uganda, giving talks in schools and colleges, and empowering young people across the East African country through various income generating projects.

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The group also ran various campaigns to raise health awareness during the COVID-19 pandemic and sensitized the public to participate in the country’s 2021 general elections.

Underlining the need to empower the youth through income generating activities, Ms. Katushabe said, “In educating the youth, especially the unemployed, you don’t just tell them ‘these are the values you are supposed to have as a leader’. You also want to give them purpose in their lives.”

One of the activities that the Ugandan wing of T4NA participated in was tree-planting, which was realized in partnership with the Catholic Church.

Ms. Katushabe said that the project was to procure seedlings through the donations, and explained, “This was partly from the Archdiocese of Gulu. It was a sort of income generating project to keep the youth busy, to keep them off streets and drugs, and all sorts of things that people tend to do when they lack purpose. It was a sort of empowerment to lift them up.”

The Ugandan changemaker said that participating in the T4NA initiative had been rewarding, and had opened up her mind to the challenges that young people in Africa face.

“It has been rewarding to me especially through the relationships I have been able to make. I have grown through the relationships,” Ms. Katushabe told ACI Africa, and added, “I have understood my continent better. I have had an appreciation of the challenges we face as a continent.”

She added, “Having an engineering background, I didn’t study sociology, psychology, anthropology and all other disciplines that we delve into while we are here.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.