We spoke to Emmanuel Tuhairwee, an innovative tour guide and sustainable tourism activist from Uganda, whose life has been transformed since the introduction of a Hello Hub in his village, Kidubuli, in October 2015.
“I am the founder and director of Trek Rwenzori Tours, a travel company I set up not only to help local people get jobs and guarantee that tourists see more of our beautiful country, but also to tackle the environmental challenges in Uganda. We use the profits from our tours to support conservation and protection projects, as well as helping to educate young people so they can make informed decisions that will benefit the environment.
One of the main reasons I decided to start my own company was because people who work in tour companies receive much better wages than those working in other industries, such as hotels. I wanted to help more people in the community to live better lives, and a tour company seemed like the right idea to support this. I used to work in hotels and one thing I realised was that very often employees weren’t being paid the right salary. It really wasn’t good for a lot of people and I didn’t like that.
I started my business at the beginning of 2015. I had been working for a tour company, but what I really wanted was to run my own. If it wasn’t for the Hello Hub coming to Kidubuli and giving me access to the Internet, then I wouldn’t have been able to build a website and to progress my idea as quickly as I actually have been able to.
“How can we have Internet if we don’t even have power?”
The first time I heard that we were going to get Internet in my village I couldn’t quite believe it. We were told during a village meeting in 2015, held by Projects For All, and all I could think was “How can we have Internet if we don’t even have power?” Also, Internet in Uganda is very expensive and we are poor people. It didn’t seem like it could happen.
But at the next community meeting I saw it for myself: I was able to access the Internet. I managed to get on Skype. It was a great moment. Everyone was very excited, but most people still weren’t too sure what the Internet was or why it could make such a big difference. I decided to support the team around Project Hello World and teach people in my community, particularly the children, about the importance of the Internet. I wanted to show them what they could do with the help of the Hello Hub.
The Hub is now so popular that people from surrounding villages come to Kidubuli to use the Internet, so I also teach them. We have made many new friends this way and it has definitely connected the whole community and is bringing lots of villages together.
"The Hello Hub has definitely connected the whole community."
The Hello Hub is a very important part of my life. I use it every day to check my emails, surf the web and run my business. Before I was able to access the Internet in this way, I would have had to travel for a long time to find an Internet café – now things are much easier. The Hub has helped me set up my business and given me the chance to build a website so people can find out about the tours we have on offer. I even have my own page on Tripadvisor now! All this has been vital to making my company grow.
The Hub has been such a success that we have had to introduce 20-minute slots so we can ensure everyone is able to get online when they need to. Before it arrived around 90% of the people in my village were computer illiterate. Now, because we have the Internet and because we are teaching and educating everyone about websites and programs, nearly everybody can at least perform basic tasks on a computer. It’s amazing how quickly people have been able to learn, and it’s great to see them so enthusiastic about discovering new things.
"Without the Hello Hub I have no idea where my business would be now."
Everything has moved very quickly for me and I am so pleased with how things are coming together. I am now in the position where tours attract so many tourists that I am looking to build a lodge to also offer accommodation. We are also going to expand the tours we do; we have hired cars and motorcycles so we can take tourists to many different areas. And we will be going to a build a botanical garden! Not only will it be popular for tourists, but we believe that there are many scientists that will be interested to come and examine the wonderful flora of Uganda. We expect all of this will be completed within two to three years.
Without the Hello Hub I have no idea where my business would be now, but I know for sure it wouldn’t be this successful. From my point of view, it has been fantastic having access to the Internet. And for the local community, it has been an incredible learning experience. It’s something we could never have imagined, and it has definitely changed our lives for the better.”