Our projects cover four major areas of need:


Education is where HSOA first started its work, and is at the heart of our projects in the Mbale area.

Although primary level education is mandatory in Uganda, many government schools struggle with lack of funds and poorly maintained buildings, and some have been overwhelmed by the rapid population increase as people have fled conflict in Northern and Western Uganda and South Sudan.  Harpenden Spotlight on Africa aims to fill the gaps by funding construction projects, and supporting new schools until they are self-sufficient - always our final goal.  Our management model combines representatives from SOA Uganda and local government with senior teaching staff and elected community members to ensure a sense of shared ownership.

Getting the basics right can transform educational experience for the schoolchildren of these slums. Often children will have never had windows in their classrooms or desks to sit at; never had access to books; no access to lavatories or clean water at school. We aim to create an environment where kids can actually learn.


Our starting point for improving health is through hygiene and basic healthcare education.

The areas in which we work suffer from high morbidity and mortality rates, with no meaningful primary healthcare provision, exacerbated by poor hygiene and the absence of clean water.

We organise and fund training for volunteer Community Health Promoters (CHPs) in hygiene and basic healthcare. The training takes place in three stages, with the final level the equivalent of a nursing qualification. Having graduated, these CHPs are able to act as advocates for safe practices and as a first point of call for sick people, who can then be referred to Mbale Regional Referral Hospital if necessary.

In total, we have now trained nearly 250 CHPs.

We are now planning to build a primary care clinic between the villages of Musoto and Masaanda which will be staffed by visiting doctors from Mbale and will act as a focus for CHP activities as well as providing basic preventative medicine, delivery services, immunisation and treatment of common diseases.


A clean water supply drastically improves the quality of life in a village.

Typically, the communities we work in have had shallow, polluted wells as their only source of water. The water is dirty and dangerous, contaminated by animal and human faeces, and a breeding ground for insect and microbial pests.

HSOA oversees the drilling of boreholes in strategic locations, maximising the supply of clean water in a community. Deep down into the water table, and secured by a concrete lid, these hand pumps provide access to clean, uncontaminated water. Once opened, the community takes responsibility for the upkeep of the site through a committee of locals, ensuring that the borehole is fenced to prevent damage and pollution from livestock, and maintaining adequate run-off. 

We hope to continue expanding this high-impact, relatively low-cost programme in future years.

Economic development

Providing a source of income helps the disadvantaged help themselves.


The local economy has been badly hit by the loss of many young adults to conflict or AIDS, leaving households headed by widows, grandparents, or children themselves. It is now composed mainly of subsistence agriculture or the dangerous distilling of Waragi, a local moonshine that can be made from millet, corn, bananas or pineapple. Distillation takes place in oil drums over open fires, creating toxic fumes and residue and carrying a constant risk of explosion.

We aim to provide alternative, sustainable sources of income. Our first established programme is a goat-breeding project, which provides income and improved nutrition to the most disadvantaged households; two other programmes at the pilot stage are fish farming and "push-pull" agriculture, a joint venture with the world-renowned Rothamsted Research and the Kenyan research institution icipe.  We have received funding from Rotary Foundation to extend 'push pull' in the area we work in.

We are working to change people's lives:  immediately, by giving them access to a reliable source of clean water, health education and elementary healthcare, and permanently, through educational and economic development projects.

Click on the pictures to find out more

In 2016 we celebrated our tenth anniversary. This decade of support for the communities around Mbale is an enormous milestone for Spotlight on Africa and we are overwhelmed and encouraged by what has been achieved in this time.

  • We have helped drill 25 boreholes to provide local communities with clean water. Coverage in the county is now at 80% compared to only 25% ten years ago.
  • Musoto Christian School, built by Spotlight, has enabled pupil attendance numbers to rise from just 60 children to over 900. And the provision of a cooked meal at lunchtime for every student is something we particularly value, as often this is their only meal of the day.
  • We have made significant progress empowering the local community to improve basic health by training over 250 local Ugandan volunteers to deliver practical advice to their communities - ranging from hand washing, to malaria and HIV/AIDS control.
  • And our focus on economic development has helped individuals to become self-sufficient through schemes such as giving goats to widows and orphans, providing them with food and income, Fish Farms that generate jobs and Push-Pull faming that increases crop yields.

Please watch our slide show and see photos showing the changes that have been made. Thank you for your support.