Blog Archives

News from Ben Parkinson

As regular readers will remember, since 2009 Ben has been working in Uganda, where he has been responsible for developing the Butterfly Project, with the most disadvantaged children living in remote rural and slum areas. It is supported by the Chrysalis Youth Empowerment Network (CYEN), a charitable organisation with an administrative base in Birmingham, UK.

The Butterfly Project is a network of committed young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, who are determined to be catalysts for change in their communities and are supported in their objectives by Chrysalis, through specialist training and support, to start and develop their own social project.

Ben sends the latest news from Kampala

We’ve had a good year for almost all of the Butterflies this year, with the Pioneers stepping up to new responsibilities, C2s moving into and through university, C3s becoming more capable citizens and leaders and C4s starting to believe in themselves as changemakers.

We’ve had a good year for entrepreneurship developments:

  1. We’ve added a new site for goats in Omoro, about 5 miles from our Koro Centre.  The existing site continues to raise about 3.6m UGX per annum.  We have also acquired 4 pigs in Koro on that site, which we will likely breed from.
  2. Grace has started a substantial herbs, onions and tomatoes garden on our Koro site, which includes coriander, turmeric and ginger.  Now the borehole is nearby, watering is easier and so far all of the crops have come up.
  3. We have sold out of our initial hard soap production run and will be doing a second run this week.  Barbara (C3) and Rose (C4) are leading on this.
  4. Our initial run of Skin Tender petroleum jelly has sold well and we have promised regular orders for this from a school.  Sione and Suzan (C4) have been leading on this SkinTender brand.
  5. We have been working on the production of a Ugandan boardgame – Omweso – which we have been producing using recycled pine to try to inspire and enable children in rural areas to learn and play their local game.  We have orders for 20 or more units.
  6. We also have three partly-designed boardgames, which we are hoping to market next year.  Patrick’s (C3) game is coming into prototype this week, so that it can be reviewed by the games publisher.

The C4 group have now moved forward to a stage, where we can include their training with the C3 members, who always add a new dynamic to discussions.  We have covered topics such as global warming, plastic in the oceans, as well as science and technology developments, such as the bacteriophage this year!  We are also making progress in fostering teamwork between the two groups, with a recent event, where both groups had an equal role in training boardgames for the Boardgame Bootcamp.

We have settled into the whole centre now, which has given us seven new rooms, which have been repurposed as cinema, kitchen, library, office and three sleeping areas.  Cooking has also evolved a lot this year, as the young people have been able to experiment with new recipes on our gas stove. 

The Nursery still continues and we have an excellent head teacher that has become a leader in the Koro team.  We have been able to expand it this year to include the necessary desks and chairs and a separate classroom for each nursery year, as required by the local authority.  There are now three teachers, one of whom also cooks the porridge each day.

Finally, we have developed a plan for the Chrysalis School in Koro, which is below for your information.  The blue areas are already built, the white parts are not.  We will need to raise some further money to complete this work.  We presented the plan to a church in Birmingham yesterday and are hopeful that we can raise some money through this and other routes to complete the work by early next year.


If you are interested in seeing more photos of our activities, then click the links below:

Boardgame boot camp

Cooking and carpentry

Climbing and adventure

Mission Painting

C3&C4 Training session







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:

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.