APP's 10 year Birthday: Interview with Brenda Simpson

Brenda had been around since the birth of APP as Uganda's regional director. 
As APP is turning 10 this month, we thought it would be a great time to catch up with her!



Why did you want to work for APP? How did you find out about the charity?

I have always been drawn to working with people who are usually in a less fortunate place than I am or who are vulnerable. in the past I worked in Youth work, the national health service in the UK and then with prisons work in Uganda and Kenya. I wanted to use my skills and experiences to support others improve their lives or attain better life outcomes. I was browsing the Dev Net website when I came across the job advert and thought - "wow" 


What have been your memorable moments with APP in East Africa and in the UK?

There are thousands of memorable moments with APP! To be honest, I couldn't pick a favourite. I can give you examples of how we spent two days on the road to Namalu stuck on a very bad road, going to meet the French Ambassador who was coming to visit one of the most remote prisons where we were installing a biogas sanitation system. I remember my first night in Namalu very clearly. We cooked for ourselves and were lucky to be given a room to use as our 'temporary residence.' Namely, the prison is nested right at the backdrop of the amazing mountain ranges. Its people were so removed away from the rest of Uganda, the women wore these most luxurious neck pieces signifying their wealth in cattle and the men at times wore a small piece of cloth around their waists. I wondered which prison officers worked in a place like this?!

In the prison, the officers were not from Namalu - they came to work from other parts of Uganda. The prisons were humane and it is this humanity that drove me to visit Namalu over three times after that, despite the gruelling travel conditions. On the above occasion - the French ambassador who was the funder of the project - failed to reach the prison due to bad weather/road conditions! she never made it - we had no choice - we had to be there, we walked, crossed burst river banks, drove through wilderness/national park, slept on the road, were carried by people carriers in very dangerous rivers...out of the cars as there was fear the car would be swept away.....but we got there - FUN right?!  


What is the most interesting thing you have done working for APP?

Again - to be honest - I couldn't tell you one thing!

But I remember the pride and the joy I felt when I saw for the first time a Prison Based Human Rights Advocate, raise their hand, in court and so eloquently put across to the magistrate the reasons for bail on behalf of a prisoner who couldn't speak English. I saw in this man (the advocate) the reasons I studied law - to enable those who can't access law because of the poverty/language or other barriers have equal access to the equity of the law. I think this was my proudest moment. A 'mere' prison officer, redefining his role in society changing lives. I tear as I recall this actually. This programme went on to win many accolades and has been rolled out in the whole mid-northern region in Uganda. The wheels of justice are in motion. The project's internally developed justice/paralegal manual is being edited for use nationally - how cool is that?


What significant milestones did APP reach? How did they get there?

From 11 prisons to over thirty

from one country to two 

from around 12 staff to nearly 40 

from welfare provision to penal reform programme delivery  

from under half a million (i think the budget was circa £150K-£350k when I started with APP - it was under £2m?


What difficulties did you see that APP faced? Were these overcome? How? (e.g. issues with prisons in Uganda)

  • Financial constraints 
  • Unfriendly local government policy

These were overcome through building effective relationships. It is these relationships that sustain organisations through tough times. 


Looking back on your time with APP, how has the charity developed over the years? What’s different now compared to when the charity started? Were there more difficulties back then because the charity was new?

The strategy has changed, the organisation is bigger and there are a lot more resources available to employ better qualified staff etc. There were definitely more difficulties.  


What future do you see for APP?

Definitely a bright future.