Tales from our travels

August 16th, 2017

We are back home in New Zealand after an epic time in Uganda.

It all started with literally the longest flight in the world, Auckland to Doha , 17.5 hours straight. The anticipation was running high as we were unsure our sons, Asher ( 3 ) and Roman (2) would handle the long haul. We were pleasantly surprised how painless it actually was, Roman watched a bugs life almost 8 times and was so happy about it. We were all stoked to finally be on Ugandan soil after another 8 hour flight. The first thing Asher asked us when we landed was ‘where are the Hippos and Crocodiles?’

We spent a few days in Kampala city connecting with the head office of Watoto and getting the last project supplies sorted with Banet. It’s a buzz walking through the inner city marketplace, heaving with people and product. The crazy traffic and crowds of humanity is almost overwhelming until you adjust to the Ugandan way.


On the drive up to Gulu


Venturing North to Gulu was a fun filled day of driving. The road seems straight for all 6 hours but it is great sight seeing, From the road, the rural Ugandan fields are filled with subsistence farmers living in their grass huts, Producing charcoal and crops for their families. We passed a lot of primary schools. Most school uniforms are brightly coloured making passing a vibrate scene. We spotted Baboons and Monkeys as we crossed the wild Nile river, but a dung beetle spotted at a gas station has etched in our boys minds.




Excited to get on site we arrived to see all the familiar faces of our Watoto tank Building team. Greeted with lots of hugs and laughter. The hole for the 4 under-ground water tanks was already dug and ready for the team to get started.Our goal within project’s goal was to continue to train the local team with the tank building process, not to so much do it ourselves.


Us and most of the Watoto tank team


Sam in the big tank hole


Working on the both tank

Brett did an amazing job but naturally he leads by example so he definitely worked hard and fast for the 7 days we were on site. Seeing two tanks completely finished and two more on the way.

There was moments of story telling while plastering in the tanks . Some of the team told personal stories of the time where the Lords resistance army had control of the region of Gulu. One slept every night up a tree for the good part of 20 years to avoid being found in the night raids. With both siblings murdered he now cares for their children along with his own. Each one of our team had been effected in different ways , its sometimes hard to fathom how they can continue to function.  Having a job means a lot for these men and they were so appreciative for the chance to work. There isn’t as much other building work as there used to be. They shared their gratitude for this work at the celebration lunch we had together at the end of our time on site.


Brett, Jacob and Sam Plastering inside the tank

While the team was working our littlest members Asher and Roman, played in and around the site, The  dirt that had been dug from the hole was in  massive pile that provided hours of entertainment for the boys along with the Watoto children. They were swamped at times by the kids as it was a novelty to see young white children with straight blond hair. Once the shock of the attention died down the boys soon made lovely connections with the Watoto children partically with some girls who where a little older then them, Calling them “My big girl friends”. They would have their mid day sleep under the smoko shed while one of us had to fan the flys away.


Roman playing on the Sand we used for building the tanks


Some Watoto children showing Asher a grass hopper


Asher and his big girl friend

We were building in the same village where we built the two classrooms and the house years ago, so it was lovely to see the classrooms full of children learning and the family whose house is their home.


Emily having cuddles at Baby Watoto Gulu , This place is where we have installed another rain harvesting system

We also assessed the last two rain harvesting systems. Happy to report the tank structure was looking good however it was evident that some maintenance on the gutters and piping was needed. Brett and I helped to put together a maintenance schedule while we were there.



Image from inside a tank that was getting checked out for maintenance. The boys wondered was was happening down there.

Leaving Gulu was a big day. Over the years our connection with the guys on the tank team has developed into that strong friendship that you only get from working hard together in the hot African sun. It is always hard to say goodbye. However we had achieved what we had planned.Leaving the rest of project in the trusted hands of Banet and the team. I am happy to report that almost all the project is now completed with just the final pumping connection needing to be done in the next few weeks.


The four completed tank




Saying good bye to a special Watoto Family in their home.

Our time in Uganda wasn’t up as we had some other people and places to visit. One was the amazing Omar Farms run by Randy and Judy Sochencen, We then flew down to the West to stay with a family in the coffee region of Kanungu. This was a great time and this story will come later. Last but not least we went on the much anticipated safari to spot those crocodiles and Hippos.


May 22nd, 2017

Emily Parson’s life was changed forever when she visited Uganda in 2008. Since then she’s been quietly running a project that is changing the lives of others.

Back then, Emily was part of a team building a house for orphaned children. She was particularly touched by the plight of the children. She encountered Watoto, a child-care ministry, and was inspired to find a way to help.

“The Watoto model totally inspired me. It struck me as both profound and simple the way they restore the lives and communities of orphaned children.” Emily recalls.

Back at home on Waiheke Island; Emily created The Village Project as a way to share money and skills from one small community to another.  The Village project started with funding and building houses and classrooms.

The Village Project then pioneered their first Rain Harvesting Project in 2011, after seeing that the houses they were physically building in Uganda didn’t have any water catchment amenities. Emily saw this instantly as another piece to the puzzle, how one village can help another, and she knew the perfect person to get it going, her dad, Brett McDonald.

Mr. McDonald from Stoneyridge Construction has been manufacturing tanks for over 30 years and quickly took up the challenge. Through The Village Project his tanks are now being developed as part of the Rain Harvesting model for Uganda.

In Uganda the Village Project has already established three rain-harvesting systems in different villages in  Uganda. They have the trained and equipped a Ugandan team who have built 16 concrete water tanks.

The Village Project, in collaboration with Engineers from Beca Engineering  and Watoto, undertook an assessment of rain fall; roof and gutter capacity; concrete tanks and existing boreholes in Laminadera village, in Gulu.

“We worked out how we could get the entire village, which is home to more than 900 orphans and former child soldiers, self-sufficient in clean water.”

Volunteer teams from The Village Project kicked off the implementation of the project in 2013, and since then the Ugandan teams have worked independently since then to progress the rest.

Next month, it is expected that the Laminadera village project will be complete. The cost of the project will be over $40,000. Emily says she is “stoked ” to see her vision near completion.

Emily, her parents Brett and Joy, husband Jacob (along with their and their two young sons Asher and Roman) are going back to Uganda in June to complete what they started years ago. They’ll oversee the final stages of the project, celebrate with the local team and help empower them to continue the work long after they return back home.

The Kiwi ingenuity twist to this model is that it not only provides clean drinking water for orphaned children and helps villages become less vulnerable to droughts, it also provides an income stream for Watoto. Establishing a business model of rain harvesting with market potential right across Uganda.

“None of this would have been possible without the help of the people of Waiheke, Titirangi and Britomart. So a huge shout out to everyone who has helped so much in so many ways over the years.”


Left   Asher, Jacob, Emily, Roman, Brett and Joy

Words by Peta Stevalli

Heading to Uganda

May 21st, 2017


Emily and Jacob own the Tannery cafe in New Lynn, Auckland. This is a flag ship cafe for Mt Atkinson coffee roasters and Kohu road Ice cream.

Their customers  are really interested in the work of The Village Project and because both of them are heading to Uganda  in June they were so excited that they painted it on the wall.




Playtime at Baby Watoto

July 2nd, 2014


Baby Watoto rescues the most vulnerable babies in Uganda, East Africa and gives them the chance at a new life.  Care is provided to destitute babies aged 0-2 years, giving them the best possible start in life. When they are older and physically well enough, they either graduate to a Watoto children’s village or are reunited with existing relatives.

Cally B&A

On our first tank building project to Gulu, we built four tanks for the babies home, giving them more than enough water all year round for day to day necessities including playtime!  Playtime at Baby Watoto

Girls at the Pool

The babies come to Watoto from a number of different referral sources such as hospitals, local authorities, child protection units, good Samaritans or other homes and care organisations.  These babies are mostly abandoned or orphaned due to the HIV/AIDS crisis, poverty or lack of education.


Heres a little video of the babies loving the water at the Gulu babies home:

Playtime at Baby Watoto



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Give to the project
Everything you give goes directly to the ongoing project in Gulu
Join a team to Africa
We have a team going this year, come along!  

Congratulations Watoto!

June 3rd, 2014

This week  Watoto celebrate 30 years as a church and 20 years reaching Africa most vulnerable women and children through Watoto Care Ministries.

Out of a visit with a widow in a town called Rajak, Gary Skinner was faced with a reality and need that he couldn’t ignore.  Eight years earlier he along with his family started a church with a vision to help see change in the city of Kampala, a city that was famous for war and poverty.  Then on this day, as a result of seeing what this elderly lady was facing because of aids and war – Gary knew the need  was far greater than he originally had seen. Now 20 years on, they are reaching 10′s of 1000′s rescuing, raising up and rebuilding a new future for Africa.

LH lady with kids at home (small)

It is such an honour for us to be able to partner with an organisation who are doing so much and to be able to practically help them in such a basic but fundamental way.

Congratulations to the Gary and Marilyn Skinner and the whole team at Watoto!  

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You can read more about the Watoto story here  

More tanks are happening

May 29th, 2014

Two more water tanks have been built, the first to be complete soley by the team from Watoto, led by Banet.  This takes the total of tanks built by The Village Project up to fourteen.   It is a great achievement as it shows the success of the model and achievability of the vision to have the Watoto Village in Gulu, a home to over 900 orphan children; self sustainable in rain harvesting by the end of 2015. 

There is still more to do – many communities in Uganda lack access to one of the most basic and fundamental needs – clean drinking water. Due to this, over 12,000 children die every year from the effects of unsafe water and poor sanitation.

In supporting the Village Project you are able to join with us in providing a sustainable answer to Watoto’s water supply, changing the horizon for 1000′s  of children who have been left orphans due to war, famine and disease. 


Spread to word
Share the blog, follow us on Facebook with your friends and family
Give to the project
Everything you give goes directly to the ongoing project in Gulu
Join a team to Africa
We have a team going this year, come along!  

Foundations being laid




Onwards and Upwards

May 27th, 2014

 Thanks to our friends at Britomart for the feature in the SCENEZINE!

Feature in Britomart Scenezine

If you can’t read the fine print from the photo, the article writes about The Village Projects goal to see the Watoto Village in Gulu completely self sustainable by 2015 and offers you a chance to travel with us to Uganda and see it for yourself.  For more information about the Village Project teams or ways you can support get in touch, we would love to hear from you!

The Scenezine is available from any store around Britomart or else go to for your copy

Tumblers for Christmas

December 4th, 2013


WORLD combo


Designer WORLD has joined forces with us for a second year , Hand-crafted Tumblers made on Waiheke Island .Buying one of these designer cups gives  YOU the opportunity to help Ugandan Watoto villages in need this Christmas. 

There is a current water crisis in the Watoto Gulu Village, this is what we are raising funds for . During this years trip we witnessed first hand the increase need for clean water.  Our initiative of rain harvesting and distribution is the best long term solution for this Watoto Village.  It is this system that allows villages to become less reliant on wells and ultimately less vulnerable to drought. 

The WORLD tumbler act as a bright and positive reminder that our community can do something to help struggling communities far away from Aotearoa.

“WORLD is once again proud to partner with The Village Project with the release of a collaborative ceramic coffee cup. The Village Project are a dedicated group whose work directly effects those in need inan awe inspiring way. WORLD is honoured to have the opportunity to partner with a group of such committed and giving individuals! This season we have created a gorgeous coffee cup with a simple message of LOVE. So

WORLD wants to give you a bit of love and pass on your love to the Village Project…the circle of LOVE!” – Benny Castles, WORLD Designer.



Click here to Buy on line or go to any WORLD store

Homeward bound

August 31st, 2013
Completed Tanks

We’ll we did what we came here to do folks! The four tanks are built and ready to be plumbed and we’re exhausted but super happy and feeling proud of what’s been achieved here in such a relatively short time. High fives all round!

So, from here the next step is that Banet and the rest of the Ugandan guys are going to add guttering, piping and plumbing to one cluster (eight houses), to collect and supply the rainwater for these tanks, which will see to the immediate water need, as the children can’t go back to school after the holidays without this water supply.

Then they’ll be building the next four water tanks and depending on funding, they’ll gutter as many buildings as possible to be able to collect the water needed to sustain this village. As this stage our estimate is that we need about another 16 houses guttered/piped for this to happen, so if you’re willing and able, you can donate towards this section of project, to help bring it to life.

For us, this trip has been a hugely significant chapter in our lives and from seeing first hand how these tanks really work, we know it’s life changing for the people in these villages. We were right there when the bore ran dry and the houses didn’t have any water, despite it raining on and off over the past few days, as they weren’t yet collecting rainwater. And we know that as soon as these tanks are plumbed, the water will be collected and distributed and this problem just won’t be there anymore. Spending time with these precious people (just check out the pics on Facebook of the kids…they’re adorable) and working alongside the Watoto boys as one team was one of the best things I’ve ever experienced, and it was a total honour to be able to help out on some way.

Before I go, I need to mention that the team wanted to say a HUGE thanks to our family and friends who’ve supported us individually in getting over here, and while we’ve been here too. You’re the best!

See you soon NZ and Aussie, we’ve missed ya.

Ugandan Boys


These are the Watoto construction team that will continue it our project :)

Gulu Water Crisis

August 28th, 2013

Check out this rough cut clip we just shot, The need is REAL. There is  currently no water to start school again.

Since we have been here the need has increased with the Watoto village facing with hardest few months of water supply. To help this we need to add  guttering to more houses to ensure enough water is collected in these tanks  for the current 450 children.

To gutter one house cost $1500 this will provide water for orpahned 8 children and a mother for the rest of their lives

To donate click here