Mary shares her experience of volunteering in Uganda

We recently caught up with Mary who volunteered with us in Uganda along with her husband Charlie. She shares their experience of seeing and supporting our projects first hand, as well as making the most of exploring all Uganda has to offer from our base in Jinja.

How did you first hear about volunteering with Lively Minds?
Charlie and I heard the Radio 4 Appeal about Lively Minds and later met up with Alison (CEO and Founder) who told us more about the charity. We felt that if we were going to support the charity to a serious degree then we should see the projects in action, and with the staff’s support made the plans to volunteer in Uganda.


Mary with her husband Charlie in Uganda

What are you career backgrounds, and how did you use your skills and experiences whilst in Uganda?
Charlie’s background is in accountancy, and was Finance Director of a sizeable company for a number of years, so his expertise is in business. I was involved in Adult Education, although my subject was History rather than Early Childhood Education! Whilst out in Uganda, Charlie helped with setting up the financial model and giving advice about grant applications.

What did you do whilst volunteering?
While we were there we visited two Play Schemes, we watched the teaching sessions, taking photos and notes. We also took part in a discussion with the staff about children’s rights and parental responsibilities, which was to feed into one of the training workshops for the mothers’.


Mary sharing photos with children at a Play Scheme 

What did you most enjoy about volunteering?
To see the Play Schemes in action, and to see the difference they made to the lives of the villagers, young and old, has inspired us to remain involved, and to help in whatever way we can, now and in the future. We loved the warm welcome when we arrived in the villages, we loved the songs and smiles, and the obvious joy both mothers and children felt to be learning.

Did you travel around Uganda much?
We had travelled up to Murchison Falls before arriving in Jinja, and had had a few days fishing and on safari there. It was a great place to visit, and worked really well. We also had a half-day on Lake Victoria, fishing again, while we were in Jinja. Jinja was a good place to be based in – we stayed in a small hotel just down the road from the office. It felt very worthwhile to meet up with the staff team each day and to spend time with them.

How have you stayed involved with Lively Minds on your return from Uganda?
Our continued involvement is as donors, and Charlie is now a Trustee. He has helped with the accounts and financial advice, as well as other support. I have done some research into funding possibilities and help with Trustee meetings. We have also put friends and contacts in touch with Lively Minds, and we ‘spread the word’ whenever we can.

Lively Minds are looking for individuals who have a host of skills and experiences to support our projects in Uganda. Whether you’re a retired marketing executive, a semi-retired accountant or still at the peak of your teaching profession, we will tailor your volunteering & maximise your skills to make a lasting and sustainable difference to the communities we support. 

If you are interested in volunteering with us visit our website at to find out more or email


Happy International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day! Today we are celebrating the 3039 Volunteer Mothers who run our Play Schemes in Ghana and Uganda. Sahatu is one of our inspiring Volunteer Mothers at the Zangbalung Bihi Play Scheme in Northern Ghana.

Sahatu Abukari is a 30 year old Mother of eight from Zangbalung Bihi village. Much of Sahatu’s adult life has largely consisted of farming to make ends meet, and cooking and cleaning for her family.

sahatu square

Volunteer Mother Sahatu 

Despite only having limited opportunities herself, Sahatu has always wanted better for her eight young children. When Lively Minds approached the Zangbalung Bihi community, Sahatu jumped at the chance to become a Volunteer Mother, and set up an educational Play Scheme. Asked why she put herself forward, Sahatu explains:

‘Because I want to be part of giving my children a good education.’

94% of Volunteer Mothers at Lively Minds Play Schemes in Ghana have never completed primary school. For many of the mothers, becoming a volunteer acts as a second chance learning opportunity, and for Sahatu this was especially true:

‘I did not have a huge amount of knowledge and skills before… I was unaware of the right names of the colours.

Today Sahatu is one of 38 mothers at the Zangbalung Bihi Play Scheme. The Volunteer Mothers underwent six weeks of training where they were taught how to teach the children through play, and how to set up and run their own educational Play Scheme using the local materials around them.

Lively Minds - A charity empowering vulnerable women in rural Eastern Uganda

Volunteer Mothers undergoing training

The Mothers now take it in turn each week to teach all the young children in their community. The Play Scheme provides the children with the opportunity to develop key cognitive skills in small groups and through discovery based play. On the day that Sahatu teaches, she notes:

‘I start at 9:00 and teach until 10:00. I teach the children many things including how to count, and how to recognise colours and objects… the children build their knowledge, and play. I think that it is helping the children to be more creative, and they are much better at maths now’.

By becoming a Volunteer Mother, Sahatu is making a vital contribution to the development of her community. Sahatu enjoys meeting and working together as a team with the other mothers at the Play Scheme. She is a change-maker, not only for her own life and her children’s, but for the community as a whole.

“I think the Play Scheme is good for the community and I would like it to continue”.

Sahatu’s experience is similar to many of the Volunteer Mothers at our Play Schemes in rural deprived communities in Ghana and Uganda. Growing up in poverty, and lack of access to quality education, mean that many women in rural communities risk being marginalised. However, by training them as Volunteer Mothers, we empower women like Sahatu, and give them a voice and a standing in their community .

In 2016 we aim to train over 1,400 Mothers in Ghana and Uganda to set up a further 38 Play Schemes. This will not only give quality early childhood education to over 4,500 children, but it will also give women like Sahatu the skills, vision and confidence to give their children a better start in life, and break the cycle of poverty.

Support us this International Women’s Day, and become a change-maker for women like Sahatu. Donate here, or by texting WDAY16 £5 or £10 to 70070.