German Partners

The start of it all: A refugee from Uganda finds a new home

When in 1974 Nyine Bitahwa fled from the reign of terror of Idi Amin, he originally came to the German city of Kiel and its surroundings. After being welcomed there and great friendships that formed over the years, he received a room in the Kronshagen parish community centre in 1978. Pastor Klaus Onnasch had transferred there a year prior and Nyine actively participated in congregational life and contributed dedicatedly to events like Reformation Day at church and in schools. Broadening one’s horizon was the main focus of his and with that he wanted Christians to live in a global relationship with believers of other countries. This resonated with a lot of people.

Promising beginnings in Uganda – support from Schleswig-Holstein

After the fall of Idi Amin in 1979 hopes of reconstruction in Uganda were high, despite a civil war. Nyine wanted to be a part of this movement and requested assistance. He had formed more friendships in Pretz, Plön, Lütjenburg, and eventually to Flintbek; there the project with cows (in the method of “Zero-Grazing”) was especially supported. After a visit from bishop Bamunoba from Nyines home diocese West-Ankole in southwest Uganda the plans were specified:

On one side it was about emergency aid after the destruction. On the other hand, collaborative partnerships were attempted to be established, in which everyone can learn from one another.

Construction of Rukararwe

One crucial step forward was the plan to build a centre for the partnership work. The plan was for seven huts as well as a workshop with several rooms which was intended to be financed by Kronshagen. A previously uninhabited piece of land with the name “elephant grass” was sought out for the purpose – the origin of the name “Rukararwe”. In 1985 a group of people from Kronshagen and its environs set off to Uganda to assist in the construction of the new centre.

Later, numerous schools were built with German support in mud-brick construction.

Learning from one another

All these and more projects were supported by different partnerships in Germany. Developments like these were more and more about putting the focus on life as a community: How can we live together in this world; how can we protect nature – in Uganda as well as Germany? These were central topics in many schools that had partnerships with Uganda (e.g., the Gorch-Fock-school in Hasseldieksdamm and the primary school in Kashozi) and gained practical relevance through the exchange. The same thing happened with several parishes, groups, and world shops in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. 

Other notable friendships/cooperations were:

  • A fruitful exchange between the psychologist Klaus-Peter Dörfer and the healers in Rukararwe
  • The “Interreligious Association” in Rukararwe and its connection to the interreligious workgroup Kiel

New developments since 2009: AKU in Schleswig-Holstein

In 2009 the workgroup “Arbeitskreis Uganda-Partnerschaften Nordelbien” (Workgroup Uganda-partnerships northelbien) was formed. Since 2012 it is called “Uganda-Partnerschaften Nordkirche” (Uganda-partnerships north church) with the abbreviation AKU. It is an association of different Uganda groups in church parishes, world shops, as well as schools, support groups and organizations, furthermore individual persons that are active in the Uganda partnership. The goal of the AKU is especially to plan proposals together and to account for agreed projects. Thus, in the last years, the AKU has mainly planned and implemented the training of youth in agriculture and technology (e.g., solar energy) together with other partners. They were respectively financed through their resources, church funds and subsidies to the lottery “Bingo”. As of 2022, there is a project to distribute glasses in the planning, that wants to help many people in the region of Bushenyi improve their vision.
Another event happened back in 2009: The newly founded church district Plön-Segeberg begins a partnership with Rukararwe. Within this church district there are the parishes Raisdorf/Schwentinental, Preetz, Schönberg and Lutjenburg. 

TUCK in Kronshagen

Also in 2009, the Uganda work in Kronshagen is resumed after a period of rest. It is connected to the work in Tanzania that already exists in the Kiel/Altholstein parish. This is how the Tanzania- and Uganda work with the abbreviation TUCK was created.

Grief counselling in Rukararwe and Kronshagen as well as Kiel and its environs

One important shared field of work in TUCK is grieving and counselling, especially for orphans and widows. This includes the Rukararwe grieving group and the children at the Rwanshetsya orphanage to which Rukararwe has a close bond. This work is particularly supported by Heike Förster (Preetz), through the Ernst-Barlach-Gymnasium Kiel as well as through the wedded pair of Anna and Bernhard Schnackenburg (Berlin, both took part in a Gebeco-tour to Rukararwe).

Mourners in Germany and Uganda learn from one another in aspects of expressing grief and the organisation of sustainable grieving groups. Besides grief counselling, numerous other projects evolve in Kronshagen that are highly fruitful for both Rukararwe/Bushenyi and Kronshagen.

More independence

After the tragic, far too early death of Nyine in June of 2008, it became necessary to redefine and arrange the goals and methods of collaborative work in the NGO Rukararwe. The legacy of Nyine was supposed to survive, however, the focus now was on how to reduce the dependence on foreign sponsors and focus on promoting self-reliance and sustainability. In this context, the plan to organize Eco-tours and design Rukararwe in a way that it can also be used as a travel centre was created. 

Implementation of Eco-tours starting in 2011

In the year 2011, this initiative was realized: The first Eco-tour took place. It was organized by Rukararwe and Kronshagen together. While all workers in Rukararwe were highly active in realizing this project, in Schleswig Holstein the realization of the venture was especially supported by: Walter Schroedter (Raisdorf, später Flensburg), Sibylle Schwandt (Raisdorf / Schwentinental), Annekatrin and Alwin Feldmann, Eva Thiede (Schöneberg) as well as Ev Pagel and Klaus Onnasch (Kronshagen). In the establishment of the eco-tours following were particularly involved: Gudrun Netter and Hartmut Schultheiß (Kronshagen) and Dietrich Onnasch (Kiel).

Numerous tours with up to 16 participants took place in the years 2011 to 2020. From Kronshagen alone 16 tours were organized, and they were all reviewed positively (8,5 to 9 out of 10 points on average). All these tours and the encounters that go along with them significantly furthered the collaborative relationships, especially between people in the region of Bushenyi and Kronshagen. The video on Youtube, which was initiated by Geoffrey Kawempe, shows distinctly how the project succeeds and how it influences the partnership: The approach is so attractive, that it is supported: The Onnasch family donated the money to build a Restaurant in Rukararwe, that can also be used for meetings and training. This restaurant received the name “Onnasch-House” from the NGO. Travel agencies like Gebeco increasingly also offer tours in which travellers come to Rukararwe and can gain an insight into the work on-site. Besides the eco-travel department, further projects were developed together to produce income, for example, tailoring, solar energy, mushroom cultivation, honey production and chicken and goat farming. In Rukararwe many youths learn how to organize such work effectively and thus gain skills to support themselves.

Foundation of the friendship union Kronshagen-Bushenyi/Ishaka 2016

To intensify and sustainably shape the relationship between Kronshagen and Bushenyi the friendship union Kronshagen – Bushenyi / Ishaka (KroBu) was founded in 2016. You can find the website here: The municipality Kronshagen as well as the Kronshagen parish are members of the union. Many travellers that visited Rukararwe / Bushenyi have since joined the union too. The work within the union focuses on 4 areas:

  1. Construction of rainwater harvesting facilities in the municipality
  2. Promotion of the health care system and the cooperation of healers and doctors in the treatment of AIDS, Covid-19 and others
  3. Conservation of nature by tree planting and the collection and utilization of waste as well as the usage of solar energy

Progress in Rukararwe/Bushenyi – despite the corona crisis
While struggling with closed schools, health concerns and the missing revenue of the Eco-tours the efforts to generate income independently and sustainably paid off. Additionally, a coffee cooperative was founded that united over 80 farmers in the region, who now plant the coffee, harvest, process, and market it (together with the big coffee association ACPCU in Sheema, close to Bushenyi). You can find this coffee in the small coffee roastery in Kiel. Initiators of this project were predominantly the coordinator of Rukararwe Chris Ahimbisibwe and the chairperson of KroBu, Ev Pagel, who got the name “Coffee-Queen” in Uganda.

Two symbolic trees

As a symbol of friendship and cooperation, the “Kronshagen-tree” stands in Bushenyi. Correlatively, the municipal council of Kronshagen has decided to name a tree in the centre of Kronshagen the “Bushenyi-tree”. In this centre, there will also be a signpost that points in the direction of Bushenyi and how many kilometres lie in-between.

The Kronshagen Tree in Bushenyi Town