Stand On Your Own

A Ugandan NGO No:9095

guest house

Working alongside stand on your own is a collection Guest rooms, called Uganda Lodge. It’s known far and wide and is situated on the main road trans African Road. It’s run as a social enterprise business, Mr. Denis Aheirwe is the director and financial help plus manpower comes from volunteers and donors (mainly through Uganda Lodge Community Projects which is based in the UK) . It consists of 20 rooms, with hot showers and nearby western toilets. All it’s profits go to funding the school and other community projects. Volunteers, Medical Electives and tourists pay to stay in the guest house.

You can contact Denis for a “Holiday with a Difference”. This is a mix of some volunteering using Uganda Lodge as a base as well as Gorilla Trekking, Chimp habituation, Queen Elizabeth Country Park Safaris, Lake Mburo Safaris, Lake Bunyoni trips and safaris. It’s for volunteers and other visitors who wish to have the experience of volunteering in a beautiful rural hilly area of Uganda – with easy access to Queen Elizabeth National Park – or simply to have a holiday, that makes a positive difference to other people’s lives.

There are self/contained Bandas or Cottages at both of the QE Lake Retreat sites – as well as basic camping areas. They have solar lighting and facilities to charge phones etc.


Currently Stand on Your Own can offer work to some of the communities, by bringing in tourists to the villages. This means locals have an opportunity to sell goods such as snacks & souvenirs. Once fully completed we plan to support local mothers, in making and selling crafts, plus setting up pre-school play areas for little ones and provide books and toys for their use. Most cannot afford nursery school.

At Kisenyi the 1000+ inhabitants rely entirely on the fishing industry and at Kasenyi its very similar, although some villagers do gain an additional small income from salt gardens on Lake Bunyampaka. The NGO has supported both villages by giving them practical advice on how to attract and benefit from low impact tourism. The results in addition to the making and selling of crafts and snacks, have been setting up budget accommodation, plus offering guided community walks.

vocational training

After asking Ann about the importance of funding for the vocational centre, I got this response. “Funding for the Vocational Centre is particularly important, as so many children leaving our Primary 7 classes will not afford even government Senior schools & even those that do – after 4 years there are no jobs & they have no skills for self-employment. Our existing classes are almost self-funding, classes such as tailoring & knitting make school uniforms. In the salon students learn and practice by doing the hair of local village clients”.

We’re currently building a vocational kitchen/restaurant – being on the main trans Africa highway will bring in an income and help fund other training classes. We plan vehicle servicing, (for passing safari vehicles so drivers can have vehicles checked while clients have lunch break) and other traffic on the way route to Rwanda and Congo. Then later building trades such as: carpentry, plumbing, bricklaying, electrician, welding etc. We’re also building dormitories to accept vocational students from further afield.

The main project we are currently raising funds for is the kitchen and restaurant. The top donate button is for the restaurant. The purpose of the vocational centre is to make the school and all other businesses self-funding. The following Donate link will take you to the donate button: Donate Link. This will enable you to donate for the vocational kitchen for teenage girls.

medical centre

The £50,000 it cost to build and equip the McNeil Medical Centre, was a donation from a UK company ASE consulting as a Goodbye to a retiring Director (Duncan McNeil) In 2018 ASE were ‘taken over’ and we were not part of the deal. Mr McNeil has personally given some financial help recently, but we can’t expect an individual to fund the medicine and salaries of an entire medical centre. Daviot and Old Meldrum Explorer Scouts visited Uganda Lodge in 2018 and raised £30,000 to build the 90ft x 45ft school hall. They then raised another £15,000 to build dormitories on top of Medical Centre in 2020. The medical centre is now two stories high. It hosts: a permanent nurse, a qualified Lab Technician and has regular visits from a local qualified doctor. It has a number of roles within the community, including the following.

  • Basic primary care for villagers.
  • Regular screening for the children in our own and nearby schools for the early signs of malaria and other life-threatening diseases.
  • A First–Aid post -for passing traffic.
  • An ongoing vaccination programme for the villagers.
  • Training to local health officers and trainee healthcare professionals from the surrounding area.
  • Disease prevention and education addressing, amongst others, HIV/Aids and malaria.
  • Regular Baby Clinics and Antenatal Check-ups.

Many different services have been offered at various times, thanks in no small part to overseas and local medical volunteers these include: dental check-ups, eye tests, HIV and other counselling, plus community outreach work and advice.

We are offering places to students seeking Medical Elective placements abroad. See


The Ruhanga Development School is set amongst the rolling hills of South West Uganda, about 40kms past Mbarara, on the main road to Kabale and towards Rwanda. The school is managed by the local PTA and a Ugandan NGO called ‘Stand On Your Own’. It is supported by the UK charity Uganda Lodge Community Projects, (registered charity no. 1150023).

The school came into existence soon after Ann McCarthy travelled to Uganda and came back installing a gravity fed water system, with funds that she raised in the UK. This system feeds 20 taps in the villages and three local schools. The local mums from the villages, then asked Ann to help them start a nursery school; she set one up together with the local director of “Stand on Your Own” called Mr Denis Aheirwe. After raising more funds in the UK Ann and Denis set up a primary school.

Ruhanga Development Nursery & Primary School now hosts around 500 children, 200 of whom are boarders, receiving a good, heavily subsidised, private education. From early beginnings in 2008 the school has rapidly gained in popularity. Part of this popularity is that the school is probably unique in the whole of south-west Uganda in that English speaking volunteers from across the world assist in the classrooms; broadening the children’s horizons as well as offering help with the development of much sought after (and needed) English language skills. This requires ongoing funding for salaries, school breakfasts, educational materials, maintenance and upgrades. Families pay nominal school fees, but the majority of funds are raised through our ‘Child Sponsorship Scheme’, from this website Sponsor a Child. Where anyone from around the world can support a childs educaction while they remain in our school for just £5 a month. Please note that all such donatioins go into school funds and every child is treated equally; bursaries are not given outto one specific child except in exceptional circumstances.

The profits from our volunteer guest house and all safaris etc goes into towards running these projects. Without us many would get very little or no education, but we are managing to get them all through to year 7 Primary. For the past 5 years the school has gained a 100% pass rate for the Primary leaving exams with most getting Grades 1 or 2. This puts these students in the top 10% of the country, but unfortunately many will not afford senior school. By running a support scheme which brings in some International funding we can keep our school fees very low for all the village children and enables them all to get a good education in their own area – unlike most sponsorship schemes the money doesn’t choose one child and send them away to a normal private school, where they loose touch with their village their family and never go back.

what is

Stand On Your Own is an NGO fully registered in Uganda and focuses on improving the Education, Health and livelihood of rural, marginalised village communities in Western Uganda. It consists of a Nursery and Primary School called Ruhanga-Development-School, which offers high quality affordable education to 500 rural children; a vocational training centre for those who have finished primary school and need to bring money in. The latter develops a broad range of skills in young people and has the knock on effect of preventing early pregnancy and unwanted marriage of girls. Also included in Stand on Your Own is: The McNeil Medical Centre, which provides medical services and community outreach work. It evolved from a community based organisation started in 2007 and was registered as an NGO in 2012.

It gets support from the UK charity ULCP (Uganda Lodge Community Projects) but also from the many volunteers and visitors who come and stay at both Uganda Lodge and the cottages in QE National Park. It helps the adjoining fishing villages SOYO also supports people living in marginalised fishing villages within QE National Park. There are two such projects which are: Lake Retreat Kasenyi, which is a fishing Village on Lake George Kasese, where there is visitor accommodation that benefits local villagers through tourism; exactly the same at Lake Edward Retreat Kisenyi Rubirizi – which is also situated adjacent to a fishing village lake and park.

For Gorrilla Trekking, Gorilla habituation, Queen Elizabeth National Park Safaris, Lake Mburo Safaris, Lake Bunyoni trips and safaris, contact Denis -the director of Stand on your Own. He runs this as a seperate business to the NGO but all profits are donated back into helpinhg fund the school, medical centre and vocation training at Ruhanga in Ntumgamo District. His contact details are in the FAQ section at the bottom of this page.


Volunteering is mostly done by International Visitors, because this is not a job offer –there is no payment and in addition volunteers will pay for their own costs for accommodation and meals at our Volunteer Guest House plus all travel expenses.


Don’t be a stranger Just Say Hello!

If you would like more information about supporting STAND ON YOUR OWN; how you might help with admin work, how you can volunteer at the School or Medical Centre or simply join a safari that will benefit the local communities, please fill in this application form

How do you end global poverty? You start with kids.