Starting and growing a community reflective space – the case of Mayuge Community House

This blog is an introduction to the journey we (Andrew and Stine) have taken in curating their first home in Mayuge – Uganda, into a community co-working space. We both define why it is important, and what we will be working on in the years to come.
Read more below.

Mayuge Community House is as the title suggests a house located in Budhebera village, in Mayuge Town Council, in the rural district of Mayuge in Easter Uganda. The house built between 2006 and 2007, belongs to the Civil Connections founders Andrew Julius Bende and Stine Eilers, where the two lived for a couple of years before moving to Denmark in late 2009.

During the couple’s stay in Uganda, their home was home to community development activists, community groups, RISE soccer, and netball league youngsters, as well as community organizing committees that flooded in for meetings, discussions, advice, or just conversations about development and community life.

The house became an automatic extension to the RISE Uganda (the NGO they worked with) office housed in the RISE Board Chairperson – Dr. Wilson Mwanja’s office lets about half a kilometer closer to the center of town. The RISE office and the house then became joint hosts all sorts of people and community activity.

What have sports got to do with grassroots engagement?

When the world seriously went into a face-off with Covid-19 in early 2020, Sam Magumba from Mayuge in Uganda reached out to me (Andrew Julius Bende) – with the narration below.

The pandemic had forced the country to close schools and force a lockdown on its population. The young people, in particular, were most hit – this is both from not going to school, but also because the school functioned not only as an education/learning space, but equally as a socializing, friendships growth and maintenance, and an escape space away from homes – a space of both love as well as chores, restrictions, conflicts, etc.

Many young people were resorting to spending their days hiding around corners, habits like substance abuse were on the rise, and the national statistics for teenage pregnancies were on the rise. Sam suggested that we should provide some form of leisure activity to mitigate some of these and purposefully engage the young people. Luckily, we had many years before with success started and ran a soccer league that was now in slumber – and with about 600 USD (4.500 DKK) we reinitiated the league towards the end of 2020.

This blog is an update on the league and what role sports can play in community engagement and eventually empowerment/agency – three years after setting the ship to sail. The blog also delineates a few thoughts on the future of the league. Enjoy your read.

Reflecting on 2021 – and what gives me hope.

What gives you hope, Andrew? This is a question I have encountered countless times over 2019, 2020, and 2021 as the world struggles with the Covid-19 pandemic. The shadow of the pandemic has understandably cast doubt, fear, and worry, but I refuse to lose hope and I hope that the world agrees too. That is the purpose of this blog – to take you down memory lane 15 years ago, and to tell you that we still have a lifetime ahead to change things for the better.

On the need to pay attention to and work at the grassroots level

Over the past many years, I have grown interested in and pursued working from a grassroots point of view. This adventure has exposed me to some interesting principles that many grassroots proponents base their work on. But not just that, these principles have over time exemplified the increasing relevance of working closely with local grassroots – as a more sustainable approach to supporting communities to build and sustain their agency and how this contributes to development.

In this blog, I share with you these principles.