African Prisons Project
African Prisons Project (APP) is a charity working in Africa to improve the welfare of prisoners through education, health and justice. It was founded in 2004, by then 18-year-old Alexander McLean, who is now its director.
In 2004, Alexander McLean was volunteering in a hospital in Kampala, Uganda when he helped treat a group of prisoners from Luzira Upper Prison. McLean was shocked that the patients were chained to their beds, with no opportunity for sanitation. Despite being terminally ill, many patients were unsupervised.
McLean visited the prison. He purchased materials and with the support of the prison authorities, supervised the prisoners renovating their own infirmary. When he asked the prisoners if they needed anything else, they expressed a desire for an education.
When McLean returned to the UK, he collected books and money donated by friends and family, and returned to the prison to establish a library. When McLean's actions inspired others to volunteer to help with the cause, APP was born. Today, McLean is a member of the Tearfund Inspired Individuals Programme, along with Kelvin Mwikya.
APP is a growing NGO, now with a permanent base in Kampala, local full-time staff members and a small group of permanent volunteers in the UK. Various projects include the building of a Level Two Health Centre in Gulu Main Prison; work on a University Education Centre at Luzira Upper Prison in Kampala; and feasibility studies on legal and psychological interns offering their services in the Condemned Section of Upper Prison, proposed to be carried out in partnership with Basic Needs and with the Centre for Capital Punishment Studies.
McLean and other volunteers are developing projects across Uganda, including building a new law library with donated books and building a new education centre for female prisoners. APP is also working to install sustainable energy sources in Ugandan prisons, and has been assisted by energy student Shoko Okamura and Better Generation.
Martyn Ryan was listening to the radio one day when he heard a radio interview Alexander was giving about APP and the work he had been doing. It prompted Martyn to get in touch with McLean, who had recently been working in the condemned section of Luzira Maximum Security Prison. McLean mentioned to Martyn that groups of condemned prisoners, male and female, had formed choirs to sing at Sunday services, but had also been singing some anti-death penalty songs. McLean mentioned that he would like to record the songs.
Martyn, along with his son, Ben, rounded up a group of volunteers and the team headed to Uganda in December 2007. They spent several days in the prison, recording songs by three separate choirs. Upon return to the UK, the volunteers mixed and produced an album, Freedom Cry. APP used the album to raise awareness of the ongoing constitutional challenge against Uganda's death penalty.
APP and its founder Alexander have won several high-profile awards.
- In 2006, Alexander was named the Charity Times Volunteer of the Year in the UK Charity Awards. The award was presented to McLean by Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.
- In June 2007, McLean was named Alumnus of the Year by the University of Nottingham and the first Alumni Laureate at an alumni awards ceremony.
- In September 2007, McLean was awarded the Real World Graduate of the Year award. Two months later, in November 2007, McLean was not only presented with the Beacon Prize for Young Philanthropist 2007, in recognition of his work, he was also named the Beacon Prize Overall winner. The honour came with a cheque for £30,000 for APP.
- In September 2008, APP was a finalist in the "Best New Charity" category of the Charitytimes UK Charity Awards.
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- African Prisons Project, Registered Charity no. 1121764 at the Charity Commission