I'm sorry, I haven't blogged for a long time. I hope to start again very soon, but until then, enjoy the archives!
It’s barely been half a year since the work of a little bit of HOPE got underway. We had been extremely encouraged by all the communication we were getting over email and the occasional phone calls. However, we were slightly nervous about what we were going to find when we got to Busolwe! What we discovered was extremely encouraging, we are no longer nervous, but we are a little daunted!
In the two weeks before I arrived in Uganda, Hannah had visited many of the projects the charity is supporting and spent a lot of time with the administrator, Josephine, developing monitoring and evaluation systems. My focus was on issues to do with governance, in reality this meant talking and thinking about the structure of a little bit of HOPE (Uganda) and how it relates to a little bit of HOPE in the UK. For some, actually for most, this probably sounds pretty boring (and/or stressful) but I’m a bit of a geek and it’s something I love doing, and slightly tense and stressful meetings tend to invigorate me rather than frustrate me!
The outward work of a little bit of HOPE is all very encouraging, but it’s obvious that we are growing a little faster than we expected to; it’s fair to say we’ve reached adolescence, with all its challenges, a year (or more) earlier than expected! Therefore, I spent most of my time ensuring that we made the necessary changes to the structure of the organisation so it could continue to operate effectively, grow rapidly and nurture creativity. I could write about this for ages, I’ll spare you the details, but I very much enjoyed the challenge of doing all this in a cross-cultural environment. The end result is that we hopefully have a staff team, a board, and a membership committee who all know their roles, feel valued and communicate well with one another. And we also learnt valuable lessons on how to improve the communication between a little bit of HOPE in the UK and a little bit of HOPE (Uganda).
One of the things we discovered that we had overlooked was just how important it is that we communicate our activities well with the local community – partly to ensure that the local community don’t think that the board of a little bit of HOPE (Uganda) are only helping their friends and family. Therefore over the coming year we are going to invest a sensible amount of money into doing this effectively. Some of the ways we choose to do this will seem strange to our UK donors! (e.g. printing and distributing calendars!) However, it’s why we are going to be increasingly encouraging a little bit of HOPE (Uganda) to direct the charity – because they know what works in Uganda. One way we’ll be ensuring that the local community find out about a little bit of HOPE is by fixing more boreholes. This is because clean water is so important and it demonstrates that we want to help the community at large, because fixing a borehole helps a lot of people.
Many people commented on how my itinerary looked pretty busy, especially when you factor in ‘African time’(!). It actually went pretty much to schedule and while I was there I managed to cram in a load more meetings! Sceptical at first, many younger members of the a little bit of HOPE (Uganda) team now love the novel concept we introduced them to of a 30 minute, discussion based, meeting!
a little bit of HOPE provides grants to people so they can start up community development and income generating projects. The a little bit of HOPE team – in Uganda and the UK – believe that this is an important part of our work. That said, it’s also the most challenging aspect of what we do! Therefore, while we were there, we spent a lot of time with the a little bit of HOPE (Uganda) team developing this area of our work. We have introduced a new, easier to navigate, application procedure, we’ve employed a project coordinator (read more) and we’re developing a ‘marking criteria’ so it’s clear why we accept some project ideas while reject others.
To ‘launch’ this new approach I did some training, it turned out to be a memorable afternoon! Firstly, I was expecting about ten to twenty people, but over fifty turned up (I guess that’s not surprising, we were offering to give people money!). Secondly, my translator-cum-co-teacher was Ivan, the chair of the Board of a little bit of HOPE (Uganda). In the end, whole sections of the training were me giving a heading, and then Ivan doing all the training associated with that heading. This was so encouraging. Last year I taught Ivan, now he is teaching others, and he is doing so in a way that is so much more appropriate to those listening. Increasingly I hope that he, and his team, will be the driving force behind a little bit of HOPE, with us in the UK playing a more supporting role. Thirdly (as I wasn’t getting to say that much) I introduced a new fun game, I kept saying as many words as possible that I knew there were no direct translation for, and then watched as Ivan tried to translate them! (Words like ‘innovation’.) As childish as this sounds, to me, it illustrated the not only developing working-relationship and understanding between Ivan and I, but also a genuine friendship. Fourthly…
…the training was briefly interrupted by a mob-justice-stoning!
A man had attempted to steal a goat, and then was chased down the road by men (and children) running, riding bicycles and motorbikes throwing stones and bricks at him. The first brick struck his head as this mob arrived in front of us. I’m not sure exactly what happened in the confusion that followed, but soon the police arrived and dragged the thief away. At the time people weren’t sure if they would just leave him to die or take him to the hospital. The following day I was pleased to hear that they chose the latter, and he survived.
Mob-justice such as this is technically illegal, but still widely practiced and many people seem to consider it an acceptable punishment, especially for thieves.
An hour or so before this incident we had presented someone with a digital camera so they could develop their photography business. He was quick to take photographs of the incident, at first he intended to show them to the police as evidence, then the businessman in him realised he could probably sell them to a national newspaper!
We’re no longer nervous about a little bit of HOPE; the team in Uganda are doing a great job and are really beginning to own the charity as their own. However, we are leaving Uganda feeling a little daunted. It seems we’re the only ‘international’ charity that has a permanent base in the area and we’re rapidly becoming established and the expectations are high. We’ve proven to the doubters that we mean business and are in this for the long haul. Increasingly the eyes of the community are on us, and we’ve even had one large, well-respected, national Ugandan NGO want to work with us. In Uganda, children grow up quickly, it seems that this is what’s happened to a little bit of HOPE (Ugandan), we now need to successfully navigate the adolescence years to become a fully fledged adult NGO.
Please, if you’re not already involved in the work of a little bit of HOPE, let me encourage you to sign-up to our e-mailing list.