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
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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

Half way point

August 21st, 2013

It’s a little bit of paradise here right now. We’re sitting on the balcony of the Watoto guest house after a hard day on site and from here I can see kids playing soccer across the road, a boy herding baby goats back to his hut, a young girl washing dishes outside while her two chickens look on, and a couple of our guys chucking a rugby ball around with some of the Ugandan guys that work here…a bit ofheaven on earth I reckon.

Siftersbretts handy work


The past few days haven’t exactly been paradise, but they have been fun. And lots of hard work. When we got to the site on day one, we found that the digger had dug too deep and struck a water bed and despite trying to pump it out for most of the day, it was a losing battle so we conceded defeat and began digging another hole…this time not so deep. And from there we got stuck in.



The team (Ugandan/Kiwi/Aussie) cracked into it and we’ve been charging through both rain and hot hot heat and as we finished up today, we looked over one completed tank, one tank with the inside coat and roof to go, and one base poured for the next one. Pretty good going for four days.

money shotteam