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Punishment Island – the documentary

April 9, 2013 3 comments

Laura Cini, an ex Edirisa Volunteer,  has been making a documentary about Punishment Island on Lake Bunyonyi. Here is her account of her experience:-

Punishment Island

Punishment Island

“Since I volunteered for Edirisa in 2009 to film a short documentary about crafts makers,  my life has been haunted by an idea: documenting the story of Akampene. Akampene is a tiny island on Lake Bunyonyi in South-West Uganda where un-married, pregnant young women were abandoned by their fathers/brothers and left to die in an attempt to shun the shame they brought to their family. What struck me immediately was that nobody had tried to research the story before. The only further information I gleaned from the older members of the local Bunyonyi community was that on occasion poor men, unable to afford to ‘buy’ a wife, would pick up one that had been left on Akampene island. So, I decided to document the whole story.

Two years ago I convinced a camera operator to invest his time, and his equipment, in the crazy mission of finding survivors. Next, I wrote the script, which I developed in Nairobi thanks to a program run by European Media, and I spent a year looking for funds. The market is tough and no broadcaster or documentary foundation will come on board if they don’t see a rough cut. So last year we started another crazy adventure, crowd funding on the web (http://www.ulule.com/punishmentisland). In the end we managed to raise over €10.000  for the filming thanks to the generosity of our supporters.

In February this year we finally went to Lake Bunyonyi with an International crew plus two wonderful local translators. It was tough, from many points of view. Our first and greatest challenge was finding the women who had been left to die on Akampene Island. But find them we did. Then came the next challenge, convincing them to share the story. As it happened this was easier than I had anticipated!  As the women listened to each other it was clear they found it easier to share their own experiences.

And so the next step is to edit a rough cut and present it to all broadcasters and foundations that expressed interest.

Now we face our next challenge. We need to raise money for the last part of production and post-production. “Punishment Island” won’t be a traditional documentary; the crazy difficulties experienced during research will be part of the narrative and the story will be reconstructed from a point of view inspired by the local animist traditions. Apart from concentrating on finishing the film, I am also thinking about an outreach campaign run by local teachers with screenings at local schools to spark off dialogue about equal rights. I wish the film to become a local educational tool focusing on gender issues and a way to raise public awareness about vulnerable women in remote parts of the world. If that would happen, this massive and crazy mission will have been worth it.”

Laura (left) with some of her team

Laura (left) with some of her team

We wish Laura every success and look forward to seeing the documentary.

“Punishment Island” is not Laura’s first documentary. As she mentioned in her account above, she worked with Edirisa on a Craft Documentary. In September 2012 a viewing was held in one of Edirisa UK’s nursery classrooms and the craft women involved travelled from all around Lake Bunyonyi to view Laura’s finished work. This was the first time most of them had ever seen themselves on film!

Phionah laughing at herself

Phionah laughing at herself

Watching the video

Watching the video

Island Experience at Tom’s Homestay

March 3, 2013 Leave a comment
Tom's Homestay

Tom’s Homestay

Tom’s Homestay is a community overnight visit hosted by the family of Tom Karemire on Habukomi Island (Lake Bunyonyi) and organised by Edirisa Uganda. It has to be booked in advance, as it includes much more than sleeping on a remote island – it is a full-blown cultural tour into the traditional life of the Bakiga.

Tom was born on the lake, as was his father, he has been the Night Watchman at the Heart of Edirisa in Bufuka for almost 10 years.  A former prison guard he has many interesting stories to tell.  He is 68 and has 6 children, all boys, one unfortunately died on the lake returning from an election polling station late at night. Very few of the locals swim and the lake does claim many lives during the course of a year. This drives home the importance of swimming lessons for the children, which we try to provide every day at the Heart.

Tom

Tom

Edirisa has been bringing trekkers to Tom’s since 2005 and during these years he has developed a brilliant campsite. In 2013 it is finally being made accessible to those guests who might not opt for hiking but still crave for a unique island experience. For those more active  you have a choice of  combining it with a 5-hour Lake Bunyonyi trek, a 1-day Kabale-Bunyonyi trek or a 1-day Canoe Trekking.

View of Habukomi Island

View of Habukomi Island

The full-board homestay experience includes a professional guide, a dugout ride to the island and back, a tour of the island by Tom, camping near his house in spacious tents, a great local dinner enriched by crayfish, a performance of an enanga (traditional string instrument) player and the island dance troupe, stories near the campfire, breakfast with local honey, bananas and chapatis.

Campfire

Campfire

In case camping isn’t your cup of tea a night boat ride back to your lodge an be arranged – but then you will miss the beautiful, relaxed Habukomi morning.

For bookings call the Edirisa Home in Kabale on +256 75 2558 222 or send an email to home@edirisa.org .

We’re looking forward to celebrating Tom’s 10th Anniversary with him next year!

Savings Lives at Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda

August 5, 2012 Leave a comment

For the children who live on the shores of Lake Bunyonyi,  the second deepest lake in Africa, collecting water and travelling in canoes on the lake is part of their daily life.  The  lake has a steep drop off from the land and fetching water  poses a high risk of children falling in and drowning.  Canoes often capsize in bad weather or when they are overloaded, and on average  between one and two people a month drown here. It is difficult to find someone who has not lost a close friend or relative to the water.

 

Going home from school

Going home from school

 

Edirisa’s swimming programme is part of a larger effort to mobilise swimming at schools around the lake. The Lake Bunyonyi Development Company train teachers in swimming with the hope that they will make time in the holidays to run swim camps with their students. At our centre in Bufuka the lessons are staffed by our volunteers and run during term time PE classes as well as during the school holidays. We are lucky to have the facility to teach students in a locally made swimming platform that sits in the lake rather than take novice swimmers into dangerous, deep open water.

 

The swimming platform

The swimming platform

 

Kids by the pool

Kids by the pool

As the school term ends our volunteers have started planning a summer swim school for the month-long holiday. It’s a part of the volunteer programme that is very much appreciated by the students and wider community as it continues to help save lives. Students at Bufuka have come a long way in the last year; Julia Fellinger and Ziva Skrlovnik recently took the first group of advanced swimmers on a 300m open water swim with great success.

We would like to say a big THANK YOU to all of our Teach Inn Bufuka volunteers who have been at the centre of this project. It is their efforts that have made such a big difference and we hope that our continued support will give these children not only confidence in the water but also the ability to swim to safety if needed.

 

This is fun!

This is fun!

Swimming

Swimming

 

Sarah teaching swimming

Sarah teaching swimming

We are also grateful to our partners – Edirisa Slovenia – who have just donated funds for much-needed renovations of the swimming platform. It is almost ready to be painted by volunteers in time for the summer lessons (watch this space!). Vrtec Volce, a Slovenian nursery, has also donated a number of children’s swimming costumes, towels and arm-bands which are much appreciated.

A GREAT TEAM EFFORT

Challenge Africa Cycle Ride – Conquer the Virunga

June 12, 2012 1 comment

Early in the morning of Saturday June 16th twelve intrepid cyclists will fly out of Heathrow Airport bound for Rwanda. After months of training and raising sponsorship they are about to embark on the trip of a lifetime.

Back in late 2010 Edirisa UK  signed up with Classic Tours to run a “Charity Challenge” fundraiser giving willing participants an unforgettable experience plus the opportunity to raise money for Edirisa UK through sponsorship.

The challenge is to cycle 300km starting from Rwanda’s capital city Kigali and finishing at the beautiful Lake Bunyonyi in Uganda where some of Edirisa’s projects are located.

The countryside they will be cycling through is some of the most spectacularly beautiful in East Africa. The route takes them through the Virunga Mountains into Uganda and on to Lake Bunyonyi. At Bwindi they will spend a day tracking the mountain gorillas through the forested slopes of the Virunga Mountains,  a magical experience and something they will never forget.

mountain gorillas

mountain gorillas

When they arrive in Kabale, Uganda they will visit the Home of Edirisa and see the small Cultural Museum of the Bakiga (local tribe).

Edirisa staff in Uganda will show the cyclists around the volunteer accommodation at Teach Inn Bufuka (The Heart) followed by a tour of the Edirisa Nursery School and a traditional Ugandan lunch at the Teachers Centre.  Later they will visit the clinic being built on Bwama Island, have refreshments in the afternoon on Bushara Island and then take the motor boat back to the Overland Camp. After cycling through the mountains they will be glad to relax at the Lake.Lake Bunyonyi

We would like to thank all the cyclists for their support, for all the fundraising and training they have done and we wish them a fantastic time.

Creativity, fun, sports and more with Carpe Diem Education Volunteers

April 14, 2012 1 comment

Carpe Diem Education (www.carpediemeducation.org) are regular visitors to Edirisa, stopping in Kabale twice a year, each with a different group, as part of their East African semester. A semester with Carpe Diem provides students with a unique opportunity to study and volunteer abroad.  Volunteering, community and cultural exchange are central to Edirisa UK and Carpe Diem,  and it was great to welcome another group this March.

A visit to Kitanga’s Special Needs Education Center (SNEC) has been on Carpe Diems itinerary for the last two semesters and is becoming a favourite amongst it’s students. Days at SNEC were split between classroom renovations and creative workshops. Due to the fast expansion of the school in recent years there are more classes than classrooms at SNEC, requiring different abilities and ages to be taught in the same classroom. Edirisa UK with the help of Carpe Diem  have provided partitions for two classrooms to ensure a more practical learning environment. With the help of students and teachers  Carpe Diem painted educational material specific to different classes on each side of the wooden partitions, creating a fun and informative backdrop for each lesson.

Bead Making

Bead Making

 

Creative workshops in the afternoons provided an opportunity to work closely with the small classes of students, each with specific learning difficulties. The theme this year was jewellery and our visitors taught and assisted the SNEC students to make their own necklaces and bracelets using hand made beads of rolled paper. With these beads now fashion statements in Europe and America it was a great workshop for Carpe Diem to lead and a bright, colourful, fun and very sticky afternoon for the SNEC students.

 

The second half of Carpe Diem’s visit took the team to the beautiful Lake Bunyonyi, and the ‘Heart’ of Edirisa. First on the itinerary was a day spent with one of Edirisa UK’s women’s craft groups at Rubona. This gave the students a chance to look over the plans for the future Rubona development – an orphanage, nursery school and craft workshop at the top of the hill over looking the lake – and to experience a day in a craft woman’s life. The craft lesson started with the ladies teaching the group two simple bracelet designs; one using banana fibers and one with raffia grass. After the students mastered these (some better than others!) it was time to learn to use the pedal powered sewing machine. This caused some problems for the students used to automatic electronic machines, but proved to be a fascinating learning experience.

Lake Bunyonyi

Lake Bunyonyi

After a deserved weekend relaxing and visiting islands around the lake, the final task for the volunteers was to run the annual Edirisa Nursery School sports days, over 2 days, at Bufuka and Kyabahinga Nursery Schools. The nursery students were split into teams, each with an American team captain and over the course of the morning competed against each other in a number of grueling relay races.

An obstacle course kicked off proceedings at both schools which saw the toddlers negotiating a tricky arrangement of balancing beams, tables to crawl under, and benches to jump. Then came an egg (ball) and spoon race, a hilarious three-legged race and a very excitable sack race! Although one team from each school had to be declared a winner, a great time was had by everyone and the teams went home satisfied with their performances.

Obstacle Course

Obstacle Course

The following evening we bade our visitors farewell, and wished them a safe onward journey to Kampala. Here in Kabale, we’re already looking forward to welcoming a new group in the ‘fall’.

The Heart gets a facelift

August 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Our location for volunteers on Lake Bunyonyi has been spruced up during the school holidays. All the huts have been re-plastered and given a lick of paint, and in true volunteer style, decorated with creative designs to bring a bit of interest.

Volunteers have also been busy starting a vegetable garden project at The Heart in order to bring revenue to the location for payment of salaries and maintenance. Produce has been sold to volunteers, visitors and locals. But our wonderful volunteers have gone a step further than that – we now have chickens and a coop! Self-sustaining, here we come!

Thanks to all our fab volunteers. We couldn’t do it without you.