Category Archives: Ben Parkinson

Ben Parkinson in Uganda: the latest development

Ben writes:

Boardgaming is turning into a major hobby for those children in Uganda, whom we can connect to board games.  We’ve seen confidence build and even children learn to read, as they desire to play the games better. 

Visitors to this website, from ten countries in March – who may not have read earlier news of the Butterfly project – should know that there are too few useful things that Ugandan children who live in slums or remote rural areas can do, so often they can end up in scrap collecting or worse in cities or into alcohol in villages.  Board games which are part of Ugandan culture are a welcome addition to our activities, and it is a privilege to be able to introduce these games to so many.

In May this year, we hope to host the second Village Boardgame Convention in Uganda, more details here, following on from last year’s amazing event. At our remote rural centre in Koro, near Gulu in Northern Uganda, we have a children’s activity centre, where we plan to bring children and youth from multiple districts of Uganda with your help. This event is part of an initiative by UK charity CYEN, which trains teenagers from remote villages to be social entrepreneurs, young people who can catalyse change in the most disadvantaged parts of society.

We believe that boardgames can effect change in these young people by teaching them skills, which they would otherwise find difficult to learn.

For instance:

  1. a) Games can teach young people about the outside world in fun ways, which will stimulate their interest and ambition
  2. b) Winning games can build confidence, when often schools have few mechanisms to boost the confidence of their pupils
  3. c) Most games have a planning or memory element, which can help their players think in different ways, when often children might live day to day for their survival
  4. d) Many games are creative and help inspire problem-solving, which is key in seeing change occur in these remote places
  5. e) We hope to inspire new game designers from communities, who can then earn money that can help enhance local school or health provision.
  6. f) Co-operative games can inspire teamwork and partnership, a factor often needed in impoverished areas.

The initiative is called Gamechangers

See the video here: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/uganda-village-board-game-convention/

New clubs have sprung up in two sites in Gulu and another at our centre in Koro, in Northern Uganda.  In Kampala, we launched our Boardgame sleepovers two weeks ago, which were incredibly well attended that we barely fit everyone in!

In December, we ran Christmas workshops for village children as part of the Gamechangers Road Trip making it to some of the most remote parts of Northern Uganda.  Last weekend we opened up a third official Gamechangers club in Mpigi, about 30km to the west of Kampala.

Our team of 16 young trainers taught 12 games to almost 70 children and staff at the Abato Foundation.  During the next month we plan to open eight more small clubs in Northern Uganda, in advance of our second Village Boardgame Convention, so that we can bring a further 80 children to the Convention to meet their peers and learn from our more experienced players. In total we estimate we have introduced boardgaming to almost 1000 children in Uganda and regular boardgaming occurs now to at least 100, from North to South.

 

 

 

 

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News from Ben Parkinson

Ben writes:

During 2018, we will be working on the construction of the Chrysalis Campus, most specifically the Chrysalis Secondary School, which will be a school that empowers more youth to be social entrepreneurs.

We’ll be enabling young people at the school, which will be in remote Northern Uganda, to learn what their own talents are, which will mean there will be opportunities for them to develop their creativity in arts, crafts, music drama, sports and even games and game design.


Here are some of the highlights:

We’ve received a 20 foot container distributed the contents and transported it to our remote rural centre in Koro in Northern Uganda

We’ve sponsored 83 children in school or university.

We’ve produced thousands of bricks using a donated brickmaking machine and started building our own school in Koro.  We hope to complete Phase 1 of the building programme early next year.

We’ve trained a new group of Butterfly trainee social entrepreneurs and continued supporting disadvantaged children living in Acholi Quarter slum areas and remote rural Koro with activities.We’ve launched Gamechangers, a board game outreach project, designed to encourage new young people into board gaming and identifying new changemakers. 

Boys and girls from the Chrysalis Athletics Club members have won every athletics event they have participated in this year!

Uganda needs more schools that put their pupils first and we believe we can have a major impact in Northern Uganda, based on our track record to date.

Grace Ayaa, the Director for Northern Development for Chrysalis, the organising running the Gamechangers programme in Uganda, is a great fan of board games and her children (9, 11 and 15) play frequently and have been helping with the teaching.  Grace has discovered that board games can be very good at teasing out capability in children and building confidence.

“In Uganda, when growing up, children who are a bit different often underperform in schools and lose confidence.  If they excel with board games, that confidence can be brought back.  I find that, once discovered, the children want to learn more and more games and I can see their abilities and confidence growing week by week, which has to be a good thing.”

We want to give special thanks to The Creativity Hub, who are helping us in a number of ways this year to develop our board game activities.  Creativity Hub produce the famous Rory’s Story Cubes, which have been so important in teaching children how to tell and write stories.

They are helping us expand the board game clubs and also to help train our young people in game design, so that in the future Uganda can have its own game design hub, where young people can learn games and then have some support to bring these to the international market.

We need to raise a lot of money during this year and are looking for partners to help us fundraise.  To that end, we have set up a Justgiving page to allow people to fundraise for us.

 

 

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Ben Parkinson

We have been reporting on the work of Ben Parkinson for some years on our former website now as part of Christine Parkinson’s news archived here (scroll down) and – since 2012 – with extra news in four articles on a Birmingham website. He has achieved such a remarkable body of work in Uganda – on a financial shoestring – that it seems right to add him to our list of networkers in his own right.

Ben started his career in marketing and is an accomplished jazz pianist who has played with the Midland and National Youth Jazz Orchestra and at Ronnie Scotts and the Hundred Club.

In 1998 he set up a music social enterprise known as Choice Music, which was developed to improve access to live music in the UK, which won an award for its innovation in 2000.  In 2002, he became Chief Executive at Jericho Community Business, an intermediate labour market (ILM) organisation in Birmingham that still provides work placements to long-term unemployed.  Ben brought in and operated New Deal, LSC, MATRIX, Co-Financing, and ESF while at Jericho, which also became one of recommended places to visit for the government Social Enterprise Visit Programme.

Ben has now been working in Africa since 2007, initially in Nigeria with Ashoka Fellow, Emmanuel Nehemiah and since 2009 in Uganda, where he has been responsible for developing the Butterfly Project, a project to train social entrepreneurs from the most disadvantaged children living in remote rural and slum areas.

He used the money from the sale of his house to found the project in 2009, intending it to be just a pilot for one year, but the results were remarkable, as the children being trained embraced the idea of being changemakers much more than expected.  Since then he has recruited three other groups, from both rural and slum districts and has recorded similar positive results.

He is now most at home living in Uganda and spends most of the year working on the gradual evolution of the Butterfly Project.

In 2017, Ben hopes to set up a school to train teenage social entrepreneurs in Northern Uganda, implementing the core Ugandan curriculum with Saturday sessions concentrating on developing vision, implementing projects and otherwise utilising the existing Butterfly Project curriculum in conjunction with school programmes.

The original Pioneer members are now established young activists and lead Ashoka’s Youth Venture Programme in Uganda; many have won awards for their work or received publicity.  Most have social projects that they are delivering, on which they can focus their passion for change.

 

 

 

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