The Carpentry Project’s First Year – The Story So Far

What a year it has been since I last wrote an update on the carpentry project. It has been almost exactly a year to the day since Corrie and I ended our four months here. This time we are here for just over three weeks. At the time of writing this we are currently in our third and final week. So what have we been up to?

After arriving and catching up on some much needed rest after the long journey, I went straight to the workshop in Katanga and climbed up those precarious stairs again to find out what has been happening.

On the second day I was given the privilege of handing over a full carpenters toolset (made up from various overseas donations of tools to the project, thanks to those who donated) to each of the graduates alongside their certificates of achievement. It was great to see a couple of students had worked hard and stuck with the programme.

When we left the project last year it had a handful of participants, some more keen than others. I left some rough handover documents and a project book to record and vaguely guide the project, realising that these rough guidelines would probably be overlooked as they found their own way of working. 

Being situated in such a volatile slum environment we were unsure as to whether project would take off. However when I returned it turned out these guidelines had worked well and the staff had all worked hard to maintain the procedures for the different processes involved. Also despite a number of attempted break ins not one item had been stolen or misplaced.

I also met the new teacher, Sandy. He was officially employed by KCK in February and given the responsibility of continuing teaching from where I left off. Meet Sandy.

You may be asking what happened during the months of October to February? To answer that the project was overseen during these months by KCK’s community leader Juliet, the students were able to utilise it as a creative space to build things and develop their skills.

During those few months a few of the students managed to secure orders for the small items they had learned to make, from local restaurants and residents. Funny story to add here, last week I went to a local Rolex merchant (not the watch, Rolex in Uganda means eggs and chapati.. incredibly tasty!). I noticed the guy was using a teak chopping board to slice up some tomatoes.

The board looked vaguely similar to the ones we made last year. I asked where it came from, you guessed it “KCK Carpenters”, he replied. 

The new teacher along with KCK decided to implement a shorter class time 10am until 1pm instead of the 9am to 5pm. Financial reasons being the leading factor however it actually meant that students who use the project could do so alongside trying to find money and food doing other various casual labour in the slum.

The conditions and realities the people in the slum face is deeply tragic and saddening, and the stories we hear never cease to shock us. I spoke with one of the previous students earlier this week, lets call him ‘Arron.’ He told me his daily routine; It consisted of waking up, looking for some tea, trying to find some money for lunch, then looking for money for his brothers and sisters to eat and then usually going to bed hungry, the next day was just a repetition of the previous.

Some days you eat some days you don’t, very difficult circumstances. 

After the students made and sold their chopping boards last year (which a few of you reading this might have bought). All the money you paid was directly handed out to each student. To put everything into perspective for a minute, if you find a way to earn £1 a day you are doing well in the slum, this will pay for lunch for at least three days.

The chopping boards sold at £25, which effectively gave the students a months wages (if they find work every day) in one sale. 

The students bought new shoes, new phones and some also tried to save their money. When I asked Arron where his new phone or his new shoes were, he told me he gave all the money to his mum. This is something I will never forget and it paints a vivid picture of the raw and harsh conditions these young guys are living in. 

I want the best for these guys but as a charity Kids Club Kampala can only do so much, as the old saying goes you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. The carpentry project is here to train and equip people with tools and skills to overcome poverty, that is only part of the journey though, they need confidence, conviction and a recognition of purpose and hope to be able to participate in what is being offered. They also need to maintain and steward this for long enough to stick with the programme until it bears fruit in their lives. Easier said than done when you understand the struggles their daily lives present. 

Having two people graduate might not seem like a lot but it is a start, and it is an achievement. Especially when the work does not immediately present a reward.

This year we have a full class of five students, some even travel from Kivilu, a different slum Kids Club Kampala works in. Lets hope the momentum builds and we can also work out a way to support our graduates as they try to find jobs. 

FUTURE PLANS – Creating a Sustainable Project 

In the future we hope to develop phase two of the project to integrate our graduates into a place of work. At present it costs the charity roughly £500 a month run the workshop free of charge to the community, as much as we would love if someone sponsored the entire cost of the project, we recognise that their is scope in this project in particular to eventually fund itself.

At the moment only a handful of customers have dropped by the project asking for us to make things, as we are currently situated in a slum we cannot provide items to the immediately local market as people simply have no spare money. In saying this we have taken on around thirteen items of furniture over the last year from the slum, when these orders come in the teacher adapts the students normal training schedule to accommodate them.

These items bring welcomed variety into the schedule. Ideally it would be best if we had enough orders to completely consistently combine the orders with the lessons although due to the lack of a market in the slum this option is less viable. 

We would love to buy a space near a popular busy road with some more footfall. The space or shop if you like, would allow more room for students at the original workshop as we move all the furniture they make over to the shop, it would also allow room to build up a stock of items which could then be displayed outside the shop to people passing by, graduates would be able to move onto this premises and work full time, paying rent for their bench as things pick up to then be immediately invested back into the training workshop.

Thus potentially creating a more sustainable model for the longevity of the training project as it serves the community in the slum.

If you would like to get in touch to discuss this second phase in more detail or have any ideas about helping this become a reality please email us at 

ONE LAST THING! – Teak Chopping Boards

This year I want to do another round of chopping boards to provide the next students and some of the previous ones who couldn’t manage to stick with the programme last year, with some extra finances to lighten their burdens and help meet their basic needs, along with teaching them how to make a useable sellable item for further replication and sale. 

We will be doing another round of boards this time with a slightly improved design, again utilising Elgon Teak.

Stay tuned to find out more. If you are really interested and missed the boat last year you can email me separately at register your interest, I will put you on a waiting list to make sure you get one this time.