Melanie de vincentiis was a student from Northwestern University who participated on FSD Fall II 2020 virtual internship. She had interest in working on a project related to environment sustainability and Ecotourism. She was also interested in learning more about Uganda and its traditional cultures.
Her interests prompted us to place her with our partner organization Phoebe Education Fund for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (PEFO). The Organization was interested in building on their Tour Through Rural Uganda (TTRU) program. The program aims at promoting rural tourism, and encouraging appreciation of human nature particularly grandmothers and culture. The primary beneficiaries of the program were PEFO grandmothers (grannies), a community group that is supported by PEFO organization.
From the community assessment that Melanie conducted, the grannies shared challenges of inadequate basic needs for their children, poor shelters, poverty, inadequate market for their goods, and ignorance on tourism. To address these challenges, the grannies expressed interest in working with Melanie along with PEFO staff team to build on the ideas of the Tour Through Rural Uganda (TTRU) Program.
Among the ideas was to align the TTRU program to help improve their farming businesses and other general practices through skill sharing with tourists. The grannies believed interacting with tourists would also positively disrupt their daily routines and provide opportunities for them to make new friends, share their life stories, and showcase their traditions and the fruits of their labor (vegetable gardens, animal rearing, crafted objects, etc.), which would boost the grannies’ confidence in addition to their income.
This formed a baseline for Melanie's project goal which was, “To Make TTRU a tool for promoting government policy change that protects and recognizes the cultural and caregiver role of older women in rural Ugandan societies.”
During the project implementation, a series of zoom session workshops between the grannies and Melanie were conducted to establish project activities both Melanie and the grannies would do to achieve their goal and help boost the TTRU program in the long run. These included: Collection of information on indigenous plants and traditional food from the grannies, then collected into a booklet, which will soon be translated into Lusoga; Designing of a TTRU flyer for marketing purposes, translated into both English and Lusoga; Editing the PEFO website to reflect the new TTRU structure; Compiling a list of partners, both for business (e.g. potential hotels and caterers, if necessary) and for tourism (e.g. nonprofits, universities with departments of international business, agriculture, etc.); creating a feedback system for both the grannies and the tourists.
A leadership structure among the grannies was formulated to help govern the management of the tourism activities of the TTRU. The leaders were also responsible of empowering and transforming the acquired knowledge to the rest of community members of the grannies group who were also interested in hosting tourists.
People can support the project by attending the webinars offered or visiting the grannies community as a tourist; the fees paid for these services will partially be re-invested into preparing for future tours, and the rest would be put into their microcredit or emergency health or other fund, according to community needs and following a democratic process of decision-making.