Design-a-Thon with Bamboka Andrew in Kawempe, Uganda.

I was excited to work with Bamboka Andrew and his schoolmates and to see how they would experience the Design-a-Thon process and what kind of ideas they would have. Our theme for the workshop was ‘To Overcome’ with the plan to look at some inspirational stories and inventions and then through a series of design worksheets and a great collection of making materials to allow each child to come up with an invention which would help them overcome some daily challenge they themselves experience.

Andrew & Collette, classmate. Photo by Emmanuel Museruka

I had read about Andrew’s life story, his families poverty and his handicap of dwarfism, but that still didn’t quite prepare me for just how small Andrew is, he is about the size of my 2 year old neighbour here in Amsterdam, yet Andrew is 11 years old. But Andrew is not phased, he gets on with things and ambles in to the workshop space, so we can all get started.

Andrew at work on his prototype, classmate. Photo by Emmanuel Museruka

The group of children are a little shy, and from their point of view of course some foreigners have just arrived with a photographer and they are not quite sure what to expect. We play a game and then start discussing inventions and challenges in life. Thanks to Kenneth Ngai of Lilliane Fonds and Sekovia whom I met via Action Aid, they help me translate to Luganda where needed and put the children at ease.

As with all children once they got working and thinking about their ideas the atmosphere changes, excitement grows and chatter starts about what their favorite places are, what they (have to) do after school, what their favorite animals are and what challenges they have. 

The children exploring and making.

Again I am taken aback, when the children describe their daily challenges, I see things written on their sheets such as ‘no lunch’, hunger,’ ‘being beaten at home’, ‘sore feet from walking to school’, and then to think that one would be also physically handicapped in an environment where hunger is just around the corner.  

The class and facilitators: Photo by Emmanuel Museruka

Hat’s off to Lilliane fonds working with these children with a very holistic approach, whereby the child gets help at school to be more accepted by both classmates and teacher, gets medical care and physio for their disability and furthermore advice to the family as to how they can help the child be accepted and helped in their community. Lilliane fonds also cover school fees, when needed. And to think that many such children would never even get a chance to go to school at all. 

Bamboka Andrew prototype design: A one person electric vehicle equipped with off the road wheels, lights and an alarm button. Specifically designed to help get him to school on the diffcult roads where he lives. Photo by Emmanuel Museruka

Bamboka Andrew further impressed me by not being satisified with having just lights on his vehicle he wanted a circuit to be able to turn them on and off. So we happily taught him how to work with the wire stripper and create a circuit. Andrew had said earlier that he would like to become a police man, now he also sees options as an electrician or some one who fixes mobiles phones and gadgets, in such a job his small fingers would be an advantage.

This project called ‘To Overcome’ took place in July 2015, thanks to the assistance, from Het Dolhuys Haarlem, Het Liliane Fonds, Kennneth Ngai, Sekovia, Faith Longwe, Tamanda Longwe, Maeve Kuitenbrouwer, Emmanuel Museruka, Ina Conkic and of course all the participanting children. The outcomes of the design process were displayed as part of an exhibition called “The Imperfect Human”, an exhibition to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the Dolhuys Museum in Haarlem.

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