The 'Declan O'Toole' Social Centre in Watakau, Northern Uganda

The 'Declan O'Toole' Social Centre in Watakau, Northern Uganda

Diocese of Kotido


Watakau is famed as the largest village in Uganda. There are about eleven thousand people living in the village. The village is one big cluster of small huts standing next to each other. Due to the large population clustered together, the village has serious problems of hygiene and sanitation. The young people in the village are prone to idleness and drunkenness and the level of poverty in that village is very high. The level of vulnerability in the village is always high. It is in this village that Fr. Declan O’Toole Social Centre has been opened.

Watakau village was the natural place for us to start this new ministry because of the unique challenges of the place.

With the return of peace and the end of cattle rustling, more people have settled down. This has brought with considerable challenges for the young men who were engaged in the securing and herding of cattle. It is approximated that in the last five years the community has had a significant reduction in the number of animals to nearly a half. This has led many young men to return to the villages and seek other sources of livelihood. The centre offers a “refuge” to these young men as they seek to cope with the drastic changes.

On the 19th March 2016 on the occasion of St. Joseph’s day, the centre was officially opened. It was a very beautiful celebration which was attended by thousands of people

The centre comprises a library which is very much used by student during the holidays. It is also used by a number of poor students who are doing self-study. Since these students cannot afford to pay school fees, they study at the centre by themselves and only register for the final exams. The centre offers various indoor games like scrabble, ludo, and snakes and ladders and also outdoor games like football, volleyball and netball.

The centre also offers young people the opportunity to discuss and share topics of interest. The focus has been on issues of HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, peace and justice, alcohol and drug abuse, cultural and social changes in society. Most of the times they hold discussion by themselves but sometimes outside facilitators are invited. Among those who have come to the centre so far to stimulate discussion is Bishop Giuseppe Filippi of Kotido Diocese.

The centre will in the future give a chance to the youth to study computers and also to explore their talents in video taking and photography. The centre will also offer skills and training in art and craft, music and dance, catering, tailoring and hairdressing among others.

The centre is a sign of hope to the young people and the entire community who are going through a social, cultural and economical transition. In a very humble way, the Mill Hill missionaries in Panyangara continue to reach out to the people most in need of grace as was the dream of our founder Herbert Cardinal Vaughan 150 years ago. The centre has now given a new opportunity to engage in pastoral activities in a more creative way.

Philip Adede Amek mhm

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