On Sunday (6th September) I sent someone a message that my heart was literally full to overflowing. Since Friday evening, I was honored to be in the presence of and watch Ugandans of all walks of life giving to various causes.
CivSource Africa is committed to writing the stories of giving in Uganda, in order to re-write the narrative that we are not a giving nation. And so, you can imagine my goose pimples at being right there when a giving story is happening! I felt like a reporter live on location!
The first occasion was a Nyaka Fundraising Dinner. Nyaka Aids Orphans Project was started in 1996 by Mr. Jackson Kaguri Twesigye. Jackson’s heart is as big as they come! Back in the day, at the height of the HIV/AIDS scourge, like many people around the country were doing, Jackson took his nephews and nieces under his wing when two of his siblings died. He soon noticed that all around him, many people, especially grandmothers, were having to take care of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Not only that, such children’s lives were literally cut short as the parents, who were the breadwinners, died. This meant many children started dropping out of school. Jackson took some of his savings and started the first Nyaka school blocks (with two classes).
That was then. For the last 17 years, Jackson has committed his life to help the children of his village go to school. The Nyaka Aids Orphan project employs a holistic, human rights-based approach to development. They support health care, nutrition, access to clean and safe water, they build houses for indigent grandmothers looking after AIDS orphans, and now Nyaka has recently added a program to address sexual and gender-based violence.
Jackson has relied in part to giving from and by Ugandans. Nyaka is a story of giving both financially and materially. In fact, at the recent fund-raising dinner, Jackson recognized those who have volunteered their time with Nyaka since it began.
The second occasion this weekend was the benefit concert organized by the Gayaza Old Girls Association (GOGA), class of ’91. The concert was held at Kampala Serena Hotel, and it was graced by old girls of the school and well-wishers from all walks of like. For 4 years now, the Old Girls of the School have been raising money to build an administration block at the school – to enable the teachers and administrative staff of the school, have a better working space. Over the four years, GOGA has raised money from the Old Girls and from parents of the school. They have held various fund-raising events including a dinner dance, a charity walk and a fun day. SSEGOGA’s as they are called (that is husbands, fathers and other male relatives of Gayaza Old Girls, have also pitched in and done their own fundraising in aid of the school. It's great to see this love in action. Not just love for the school but love for and belief in the investment of education for girl children. The Gayaza Administration block is among the many giving stories there are. In fact, GOGA is not the only alumnae association in Uganda. Year-round in Uganda, many alumnae associations give back to their schools – in the form of educational scholarships, support to teacher housing and salaries, and infrastructure support to schools.
The third is the story of a young man called Felix Wamala Okumu. Felix is a fitness dance instructor. I met him several years ago when I was battling the bulge! Felix and I have become friends over the years. We happen to attend the same church where almost every Sunday, the pastors encourage us to give in any way we can, to impact the communities around us. One day, Felix came to my office to see me. He had an idea to share. He was looking for a way to make his own small contribution and he particularly wanted to give money to address a plight related to teenage girls. He had done his homework and came across an organization called Youth For Christ that runs a home and support center for teenage mothers. Felix’s idea was to rally those that attended his dance fitness classes to help give to this cause. So, he chose one Saturday in November and dubbed that particular dance class “Dance With a Purpose”. Felix decided he would give the proceeds from that one Saturday to the Teenage Home. Its 3 years down the road and Felix is still going strong. He has raised money for sowing machines for girls at the Youth Center. He has collected clothes for the babies at the center. Last year he even took a cake to the center, to help them celebrate Christmas.
So now you know why my heart was full all weekend. It warms my heart not just to see Ugandans give, but to be able to tell this story as loud and as often as possible.
We are givers! Yes, our current needs may seem to outstrip our pace of giving, but Ugandans give every day in so many beautiful ways!
And we encourage you to share these stories with us. Tell us where and how you’ve seen giving in action. This giving may be of time, talent or treasure. It doesn’t matter the nature of giving. All giving is important!
By Jacqueline Asiimwe