Why Destination Jungle and Kitanga Mission?
We were first introduced to Father Gaetano of Kitanga Mission by a friend of ours called Mr. Antonio Pizzi. After knowing more about the mission we at Destination Jungle began advising travellers interested in experiencing the reality of a mission in a very remote and rural area to visit Kitanga from which visits we received positive comments from the people who have been there.
Kitanga mission is located in a very beautiful and peaceful environment, normally people think of a mission as an enclosed place with a big fence and poor people living around, but this is not the case with Kitanga Mission. In Kitanga, the mission and the people are one. The mission’s structures and the cultivated areas are spread along the valley where everybody can access them. Destination Jungle decided to partner with Kitanga Mission because of the good management and organization of the place, it is clear how much improvement has been done in a few years time, mainly because Father Gaetano has a big heart for the people of his parish.
A Brief History of Kitanga Mission and Father Gaetano Batanyenda
Kitanga Mission was established in 1935 by the catholic White Fathers led by Father Osvaldo Torelli (coming from Lugan in Switzerland). Kitanga is a Catholic Parish found in Kabale District and Dioceses, with 30 churches led by catechists with an overall population of about 85.000 people (half catholic and half protestant). The Mission is located along Kisisi Valley, 25 km off Mbarara Road near Kabale town. People in this area mainly depend on subsistence agriculture for food production growing foods like bananas, maize, beans, which explains the very level of economic development taking place. Women are the main bread earners for their families as they are the ones who do the farming and they have to work long hours to get enough to feed their large families.
Today the Mission is headed by Father Gaetano Batanyenda, who arrived in Kitanga in 1996 (coming from Kanungu district in Uganda). At the time he arrived, there was only a church and a small priest house. Sick people in the community had to travel for 22 km on dirt roads to reach the nearest hospital of Kisisi. Building of the Kitanga Hospital was therefore a priority and construction started in 1999. Today the hospital is well developed with out-patients and in-patients clinics, maternity ward, eye clinic, dental clinic, x-ray and laboratories. Treatment is offered at a low cost so that people even the poor can access these health facilities.
Another great achievement of the mission was the setting up of the cooperative Bank with the objective of helping and encouraging the women to have savings that could sustain their families. The Rukiga Cooperative Bank was launched in 2004 and today in 2013 the bank already has five branches with seven thousand clients, mostly groups of women who opened collective accounts. The operations of this bank are based on the real needs of the people of the area; therefore, the bank offers loans for agricultural investments and for school fees with affordable rates. The Rukiga Cooperative Bank proved to be very efficient and effective in helping the people to save and to improve their livelihood and gained reputation at a national level in Uganda as a sustainable – responsible bank.
The other sector of development by the mission is education. With the support from different donors (mainly small donors), the nursery and primary school were built, (St. Clelia Primary and Pre-Primary Schools), plus the girls and boys hostels. At the moment there are six class rooms with a total number of 500 children in school, all of them supported through the project of distant adoption.
Development however still remains a great challenge for the future despite the fact that an industrial park has been build in the southern part of the country for the benefit of these people. Tea nurseries were started so that commercial tea plantation can be launched in this area. Tea farming is more income generating than the current banana plantations growing.
The industrial park is already at a certain stage of development, there are carpentry and metal works workshops, tailoring are done there as well, production of oil from seeds, grinding and printing. The construction work is being completed with the working tools mainly got through donations; some sectors of the industrial park are already operational like the grinding and oil production thus generating some income for people involved in this business.
Lack of hydro power (electricity) is one of the major thing things that slowed down the progress of the industrial park in the area and currently power is supplied through powerful generators; however the power has now reached this area and soon development might be faster. All these industrial activities can generate new jobs for a class of newly trained young people from the area; moreover, this can sustain and complement a vocational education from a vocational school (which is not present at the moment).
What You'll Find Here?
At the Kitanga Mission you will find a newly constructed Guest House which can host large groups of people. All the rooms are self contained with the provision of hot water showers through solar system.
The mission is built on a hill, next to it is the Catholic Church and the Parish house, then not very far away is the Nursery andPrimary School, the Hospital, the Cooperative Bank (branch of Kitanga) and the Industrial Park all within the same location and not very far off.
What You Can Do to Help?
Volunteering in Kitanga will give you a good experience of the rural African environment. Volunteering can be done in many fields, from nursing and medical activities, to education and teaching, banking, farming and agricultural advice, building and construction, cooking and training. There is always something to do in Kitanga Mission and you will comfortably be staying at the Guest House.
Support Children at the School
The mission currently supports 500 children from Nursery to Primary education. Some of the buildings required are still under construction and school fees contribution to the future of these children is a good thing to do.
Help the Industrial Park
The industrial park still needs help and expertise in several fields, from carpentry to metal work to printing to tailoring to grinding and oil production. Any support will be highly appreciated.
Experience With the Local Community
In Kitanga you have the opportunity to spend time with the local rural community and learn more about crop cultivation, rearing of animals and the traditional life of the Bakiga people.