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International recognition for Haileybury Youth Trust

Uganda is struggling to provide jobs, homes, and access to clean water for its rapidly growing population, which is one of the fastest rising in the world. But the Haileybury Youth Trust (HYT) is making ground-breaking steps to tackle the problem once and for all and create sustainable homes and schools for future generations.

HYT's work in Africa was recognised last night with a prestigious Ashden International Award, which was presented to the charity at the headquarters of the Royal Geographical Society in London. Former US Vice President Al Gore was a guest speaker at the ceremony.

The 127-year-old charity – set up by Haileybury – trains young Ugandans to build sustainable buildings using a pioneering block made from compressed earth.

As Uganda has tried to house its rapidly-increasing population, the environment has suffered greatly. The traditional fired brick is one of the biggest contributors to the destruction of Uganda’s forests; as trees are chopped down to fuel the kilns. These kilns also emit huge quantities of CO2 when creating the bricks.

HYT is working hard to solve this problem by championing the use of Interlocking Stabilised Soil Bricks (ISSB); a low-cost, carbon-saving alternative made from compressed earth.

The ISSBs are made by mixing subsoil (known as marram) with 7% cement, water and a small amount of sand. This mixture is then compressed and air cured. As the blocks interlock, very little mortar is needed in the building process, reducing the cost and saving more carbon.

The Trust trains young Ugandans to build affordable homes, schools, sanitation facilities and water tanks using the ISSBs, which as well as helping protect the environment is also transforming whole communities.

Young people are also learning valuable construction skills through the work of the Trust, improving their career prospects and transforming lives.

To date, the 139 buildings constructed by HYT have improved the lives of over 40,000 people.

Speaking at the Ashden Awards ceremony last night, Russell Matcham, HYT’s Director and a teacher at Haileybury, said: “HYT will make the most of this award, to spread more widely our approach to sustainable development, empowering more people, training more young Ugandans, building more homes and schools, improving access to clean water and sanitation. Together we will build better futures across East Africa. We will do this and more we hope in a way that preserves East Africa’s fragile but beautiful environment.”

HYT began life 127 years ago in the East End of London, helping the poor of Stepney. British Prime Minister and former Haileybury pupil Clement Attlee was once the Trust’s manager. After a century of working in the East End, HYT relocated to Uganda in 2006.

Current and past Haileybury pupils regularly travel to Uganda to volunteer and see HYT’s work first hand; 21 Sixth Form pupils will be making a trip to the African bush in October 2017. Pupils also fundraise for HYT throughout the school year.

Old Haileyburian Harry Hughes (Thomason) has just spent four months volunteering for HYT in Uganda.

He said: “The highlight of my time in this beautiful country was trips to a village, where I was taught the most basic elements of construction by young Ugandans who had previously been on the streets. They were incredibly friendly and welcoming, and overwhelmingly enthusiastic and proud to be working with HYT and improving the quality of life for themselves and their families.”

Thank you to the Ashden Awards for the film.