From Kilpatrick to Kampala: how social enterprise unites vulnerable children in Scotland and Uganda

Through the art of jewellery-making, children who attend a Scottish school enjoy an international partnership with young people in the slums of Kampala, Uganda.

Kilpatrick is a school for children and young people from birth to 18 years with physical, sensory, behavioural or medical additional support needs, located in Clydebank, west of Glasgow.

The school, which is split into early, primary and secondary sections, is a long-established asset to the local area and provides specialist learning support which cannot be received in mainstream education.

Now there’s a new dimension, as Linda Murray, social enterprise teacher at Kilpatrick, explains, and it’s based in part on a shared history.

“We have always been passionate about enterprise. But what we found was that a lot of the social enterprise projects in Scotland are very focused on mainstream education and are not a good fit for our young people. We needed something which was slightly different, which helped our young people – a more co-operative model rather than a corporate business kind of framework.”

This is where the idea of an international enterprise arose. Awamu means ‘together’ in L’uganda, the main language spoken in Uganda, and a partnership of togetherness is exactly what Linda was looking for when she discovered the charity.

Based in the slums of Uganda’s capital, Awamu provides educational scholarships, employability skills workshops, and health and well-being support for orphaned and vulnerable children in Kampala. Awamu makes jewellery with local artists which is then sold to help fund their work.

In 2013, Linda contacted Emma Scullion, a former aid worker and founder of Awamu, about the possibility of a partnership with the children at Kilpatrick. “For many years we had been making ceramic beads in our art class and really improved the quality of them,” she says. “We found that they sold well among teachers and parents and outwith the school too. That’s when we thought of expanding to work with Awamu.”

And the shared history? The women of Kampala use world famous old Singer sewing machines, once manufactured in Clydebank during the town’s days of heavy industry. Linda saw this as the perfect way to tie the partnership together across continents.

Over the past four years Kilpatrick has been working on social enterprise projects with Awamu. The pupils of Kilpatrick started workshops in jewellery and ceramic manufacturing and then created a studio and shop to expand their work.

Beads from the Kilpatrick school shop made from ceramic and paper materials in Glasgow and Kampala.

The shop is now a prominent feature of the school with a variety of ceramic jewellery and ornamental animals on sale, all of which are created by the pupils of Kilpatrick and the people of Kampala. The jewellery is also on sale at Clydebank Museum and Linda hopes to expand its retail reach.

Kilpatrick also contributes to Awamu’s food garden project and raised £1000 which funded 10 raised vegetable gardens in Kampala. The partnership works both ways, since jewellery made in Kampala and sent to Kilpatrick raised enough money to fund a school trip for the school pupils.

“It’s funny to think that children in Kampala actually helped children in Scotland to have a weekend away,” says Linda.

“Someone said to me the other day that this is organic, and I thought that that was the perfect word for it, because our little enterprise has just gained a life of its own. It has encouraged our children to realise that the work they do has real value. We have autistic pupils who have really found their creative side through the workshops. It’s socialisation for our young people which is probably the most important thing.”

On a visit to Kilpatrick, Emma Scullion said: “What’s great is that it benefits everyone. Children who are used to only receiving support actually feel like they have a purpose and that their work can make a difference. They’re no longer just receiving, they’re also giving.

“It’s really touching to see how they have embraced our children. I didn’t realise how amazing it was going to be.”

Now the plan is to strengthen the ties between Kilpatrick and Kampala. The school have been awarded a £5000 funding grant from the One Family Foundation to create a post-school workshop for school-leavers to continue participating in the social enterprise and expand its reach.

Following a few years of study at college, Kilpatrick school-leavers often struggle to find employment and rely on welfare payments as a result of their learning difficulties or additional support needs. It is hoped this new funding will allow for ex-pupils to develop and expand upon the skills they learned at Kilpatrick and gain workplace experience and continue that sense of purpose which they felt working with Awamu at school.

“Funding is the main focus right now,” says Linda, “But we are trying to think as big as possible, who knows how successful we can be in the future?”

For more information on Kilpatrick School, go here

For more information on Awamu, go here

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