My heart just burst tonight with joy and pride as the staff of Life Concern, Paidha, Uganda, shared a closing dinner with us after two full days of visiting their projects. We ate in candlelight because the power was off, and the ambiance was so warm that I looked for the light switch when it came back on so I could turn it back off.
Before dinner, I spent four very difficult hours showing them WordPress and getting their first website (a free WordPress blog) set up. I say painful because we were surfing on a GPRS modem – a wonderful technology that allows you to surf anywhere you can get a cellular signal – but it was so slow we despaired of being able to do anything but post one test page and one test post before fatigue, frustration, and then a power failure led even this stalwart group of peacebuilders to call it a night. The connection did not even allow one picture to upload, but I’m sure with (copious amounts of) time and bandwidth they will succeed in sharing their inspiring stories on http://lifeconcernuganda.wordpress.com.
The sincere appreciation they expressed made me proud to have been able to contribute something so valuable to them, and grateful for the opportunity to do so. This is exactly the reason that I keep sharing technical knowledge with resource-strapped NGOs in Africa, especially when the needs are so great. They had attempted for years to start a website, but technical knowledge and lack of funds prevented them from doing so. They shared that paying for a website would have cost millions of shillings (one million shillings is about $500), and who knows if the technology would have been easy and sustainable enough for them to manage fee-free after that?
Thank goodness some funders discovered their work offline and supported it anyway, because the impact we saw on the ground was amazing. Yesterday they distributed bicycles, T-shirts and boots to their “Community Messengers of Peace,” comprised of ex-poachers and others who now ardently protect wildlife and intervene on resource-based and other types of conflict in their communities. (An alternative source of income remains an outstanding need.)
We visited two of their high school peace clubs, and were sincerely impressed with the inspiring music, dramas, and creative fundraising initiatives the youth shared. They planned and budgeted to start a school canteen to enable them to become self-sufficient and provide scholarships, training, and youth exchanges for members.
I was grateful for the very generous gift of time Life Concern staff, especially their Director William Anyolitho, shared with us, taking us as far away as Paraa to see some of these initiatives. They truly are having an impact that appears multiplied like the loaves and fishes compared to the resources they have. I look forward to finding a gift of time myself so I can edit and post the numerous videos I was able to take to share their work more vividly. Look for them on their new blog!