Updated: Sep 29
I finally received some good news from the surgeon regarding my leg. He said that it’s OK for me to start walking short distances and he confirmed that I am able to both drive and fly (on an aeroplane, not by myself). I took this as the perfect opportunity to book a flight to Uganda. I’ll be visiting to spend time with our team for three primary reasons:
To enjoy their company.
To reflect upon the projects completed throughout the course of 2019.
To plan our strategy for 2020.
To be fair, I need little excuse to go to Uganda, but I think the timing of this visit will be ideal. It’s taken me a long time to nurse myself back to something resembling decent health, and the draw of Uganda has proven irresistible. Before I go to Uganda, however, I will be speaking at Arden Academy’s presentation evening on November 15th. Almost a year to the date after my wedding speech, I’m actually even more nervous about what’s going to come out of my mouth this time around.
The temptation for me when I stand in front of a large group of people, is to simply talk about Uganda. But I’m not going to do that this time. I might mention it, but it’s unlikely to be the focus of my little speech. We’ll see.
Anyway, onto the topic of this blog post. For those of you who are unaware of our way of working, I want to clear things up. Our organisation is essentially split into two:
The Zuri Project (UK)
Opportunity Africa (Uganda)
The UK team is responsible for fundraising, attending events, administration and reporting to the Charities Commission. We also advise and support the creation and delivery of projects in Uganda, however we don’t actually do any of the work.
The work is done exclusively by our Ugandan team, currently consisting of five members of staff, who work in the village of Kihembe. The team represents the wishes of the local community, is accountable to a board of directors, and oversees the delivery of all projects that are funded by The Zuri Project and our UK supporters.
(Our Ugandan team is led by Monica (right) with Elly (left) playing a crucial role in the organisation’s development since its inception)
This successful way of operating has been achieved by a number of years of trial and error and building trusting relationships based upon shared values and a coherent understanding of what both organisations want to achieve. As part of the UK team, I feel that it is not our place to dictate to our Ugandan partners what type of projects we think that they should develop and deliver. We give our Ugandan team full autonomy over project selection, monitoring and delivery. This way, we know that the community members are invested in the project, as it is not an outside intervention, but a community led initiative. Yes, we are involved in the evaluation stage, but this is simply to ensure that we are compliant with our duties as a charitable organisation in the UK.
Our visits to Uganda are mostly relaxing to be honest, with time spent chatting, visiting people and enjoying the hospitality proudly dished out by the ever-friendly Ugandan people. Every time I go to Uganda, I adopt a minimalist philosophy; less is more. The less I plan, the more I enjoy. The less I do, the more I learn. All I really need to take with me from a professional perspective is a notebook and a camera. The rest just plays out in front of me and as always, I’m astounded and quite simply amazed at how brilliant our Ugandan team is.
(Focus groups, like the one above, are a great way of learning lots about the will and ideas of the community members)
In the UK, we have recently passed a milestone of our own. What started as a simple idea to do things slightly differently, The Zuri Project has turned into something much larger than we ever imagined. We’ve recently passed the milestone (without realising it) of raising £60,000 to support our projects in Uganda, with more money on the way as I write.
When I think about what that figure has helped to achieve – renovate a dilapidated health centre, build a secondary school from scratch, deliver numerous community wide projects, create jobs and provide on-going support to a private primary school – I can’t help but feel a little proud.
(The signpost outside our office in Kihembe, Kanungu district)
It really is amazing what you can achieve when you do things with integrity, a clear purpose and common sense. More of the same is in order, I think.