progress

(This was actually written about a week ago, but I haven’t been able to get internet access on the computer I wrote this on.  Due to this, our ideas have continued to evolve and change, and I will try to write more about them in the coming week.) 

Things have been going very well and I am beginning to formulate an idea of what could potentially be an innovative and somewhat unique direction for the organization to go.  The main idea is for Educate! to pursue two core programs.   

One would involve school development, with an eventual focus on trying to implement an entrepreneurship/leadership curriculum into the schools we work with.  There are many organizations focusing on leadership and entrepreneurship, of which the African Leadership Academy (www.africanleadershipacademy.org) and Prep for Prep look most interesting, and I am hoping that working with them we can come up with a practical and useful leadership/entrepreneurship curriculum that could supplement what students currently learn.  I have heard so many people say that finding a job here is difficult, and I think if one can find a way to empower people to start their own ventures when they cannot find employment elsewhere, it can have very powerful benefits (this is assuming that this is possible, which can only be found out by trying…). Working directly with schools would also allow us to sponsor additional students there in a more efficient and administratively easy manner. 

The other would focus on encouraging community service among elite secondary school institutions, building on the idea of the Kids Helping Kids model.  I attended their awards ceremony last Saturday and was very impressed with what I saw.  But I think the program could be even better if it lasted over a much longer period of time (where students would be involved for years) and had more non-monetary incentives.  One potential way of doing this could be by starting Educate! clubs at these schools, which would focus on direct community service.  The incentives to participate (apart from just helping your community) could be a direct link with an Educate! club in the U.S., opportunities to network with business professionals, or leadership seminars/getaways.   

As part of this, I actually spoke on Friday with the Headteacher of arguably the best secondary school in Uganda, St. Mary’s Kisubi, about forming a club there (I met several students from there at the Kids Helping Kids event and they were enthusiastic about getting involved), and he seemed to be fairly interested in the idea.  St. Mary’s would be the perfect school to start this program at.   

These are mostly just some very early stage ideas I have had, so please feel free to comment/make suggestions if you have any.  My ideas have more or less been consistently evolving as I meet more and more people, and this is just where I seem to be right now.   

On another note, I have been really happily surprised/amazed at how willing people are to meet with you and help out in any way possible.  Just last week I met with a woman who was the Chairperson of Windle Trust Uganda (which is part of Windle Trust and does refugee sponsorships similar to ours), which somehow led to me meeting the Executive Director for dinner on Friday because he happened to be in town.  He has run the Trust since 1986, when it was even smaller than us, and currently sponsors about 6,000 students.    

On that Friday, I also met the Uganda country director of BRAC, which is mostly known for microfinance but does a bunch of other things and is apparently the biggest NGO in the world.  This meeting came about after I e-mailed BRAC’s general e-mail address.  Additionally, earlier in the week I met with CARE’s program officer, a recent grad school graduate who just returned to Uganda and wants to work in development, and again with Leslie from the Real Uganda (she’s very helpful).   

I also got a chance to speak at one of Kampala’s rotary clubs, after having met the Associate Governor of Rotary for all of East Africa at the Kids Helping Kids event, with whom I am supposed to have coffee sometime next week.  It’s really great how people are so willing to meet with a kid who can’t really help them in any way but is just looking to hear their thoughts.   

I have a couple photo albums for those that are interested.  One is from the Entebbe Botanical Gardens.  The other is from Sports Day at Springs of Hope, which took place this Saturday.  The pictures more or less speak for themselves (several of them involve the kids dancing) but there are a couple in particular I wanted to point out.  Towards the end, there are some pictures of a cute little boy in yellow.  This boy has a condition that I found out was called club foot, which is related to extra bone in the foot originating at birth.   

The reason I point out this boy is that for practically all of this trip, while I have seen many people struggling in poverty, I have not been affected to the point where I felt a very deep sadness for the plight of a person.  But for some reason, seeing this cute little boy from the village running around with his feet deformed, trying to dance with all the other children and be just like them, deeply affected me and made me feel, perhaps for the first time on this trip, that there was a very serious injustice here.  Perhaps learning earlier in the day about the death due to AIDS of Angelo’s cousin, and the sister of a cousin that spends almost every evening with us, added to this sense of injustice. 

This is not to say that I have not seen or noticed the other injustices one finds here – practically all of the students at Springs of Hope are AIDS orphans, and many of our Educate! students are orphans as well.  But just that this moment, for whatever reason, personally affected me, to the point where I would have paid several hundred dollars on the spot for this boy to have an operation to fix his foot problem (I was told that the problem, unfortunately, could not be fixed).   

I guess it just shows how people react differently to different situations.