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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

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.