2017 was a huge year for Action in Africa.
After three years of working with legal representation and local officials, we received Ugandan NGO status and are now officially recognized by the Ugandan government. We hired our 14th Ugandan employee, reaching our goal of 80% sustainability on the ground. Additionally, we hired an In-Country Director, Samantha Cressey, to oversee all our operations in Uganda. In April, we installed a new water system which is now providing hundreds of cups of clean drinking water each day. Our restocked library is now filled with the primary and secondary curriculum and hundreds of youth novels, further ensuring that we are continuing to develop a reading culture throughout Nakuwadde. We launched a special needs fund which is now supporting three students to attend specific schools that support their individual needs. Our new breakfast program at our three partner schools guarantees a hot cup of porridge for 700+ students every morning. Furthermore, after living in Uganda for over three years, our President, Sarah Nininger, moved back to the US to Washington, DC which is now Action in Africa’s home base. Lastly, we ended the year with our biggest fundraiser to date, with over 300 people in attendance, it was a smashing success!
As you can tell, it was an incredible year!
We are overwhelmed by your continued support and commitment to Action in Africa. Each day our team and families in Uganda send their gratitude. We are beyond excited to see what we accomplish in 2018!
For most kids, the ideal birthday gift is anything ranging from a pair of roller blades to the latest Call of Duty (or, if you’re lucky, an envelope stuffed with cash that you can spend on anything). This doesn’t apply to Janette and Jackie Keller, two seventh graders at Aspen Middle School who have decided to forgo birthday gifts to instead make donations to their favorite non-profits. This year, Action in Africa was a beneficiary of their generosity, receiving a $75 birthday donation from the girls! This money will go towards our scholarship program, allowing one fortunate Ugandan teenager to pursue an education that would otherwise be unaffordable.
Janette and Jackie were born in Guatemala, but the two of them moved to Aspen with their mom when they were young. The girls have grown up in the Aspen School District, attending Aspen Elementary before starting at AMS in 2015. They both feel incredibly lucky to live in Aspen, which was one of the driving inspirations for their birthday donation to Action in Africa. Janette explained, “I’m proud that I can make a boy or girl go to school for the first time in their lives, it makes me feel great and it reminds me of how fortunate I am to live here in Aspen in a safe place.” When I asked them what, if anything, was there least favorite part about living in Aspen, the girls were quick to answer. “Hiking the bowl,” Janette and Jackie said in unison before adding, “and skiing down afterwards.”
The girls first got the idea to make birthday donations from their mom. “My mom said we should do it since we have too much stuff,” Jackie explained, adding that they were skeptical of the plan at first. When I asked them why they were reluctant, the girls looked at me blankly and said, “because we like presents.” This, I admit, should have been obvious. Less obvious, though, is the fact that the girls have really taken to the idea, embracing their birthday donations with a positive disposition and a wide smile. The girls always donate to organizations they know, which is why they donated to a primary school in Rwanda run by one of their mom’s friends last year. Specifically, their money helped finance the construction of a new playground for the students.
Janette and Jackie have been engaged with Action in Africa for the last two years. After our president, Sarah Nininger, gave a speech to the students describing our work in Uganda, the girls immediately decided to put on a bake sale to help raise money. The girls sold over $100 worth of cookies and brownies, donating 100% of the proceeds to our organization. They have stayed in touch ever since, paying particular attention to our videos. “I really love the Action in Africa videos,” Jackie explained, “especially the ones with dancing.” When their birthdays rolled around this year, donating to Action in Africa was an easy choice.
It doesn’t stop at a birthday donation once a year, though, as the twins also volunteer at local organizations. Janette works with kindergarteners at Aspen Elementary doing mostly arts and crafts. She first started working with kids as an apprentice at Aspen Tree’s Earth Keeps program, which, as Janette explained, “is an organization that lets kids help the environment.” Jackie volunteers as well, working at the animal shelter where she takes care of dogs, cats, and birds. The girls love animals, which is why they also donated $75 worth of birthday money to an Elephant sanctuary.
The girls are at once loquacious, thoughtful, and full of life, and it was an absolute pleasure speaking with them. Thank you, Janette and Jackie, for the donation and for being an inspiration for the rest of us! We can all learn a lot from your generosity. Happy belated Birthday!
Written By Michael Schwartz- Action in Africa
When we opened The Center two and a half years ago, we knew that we wanted to offer creative yet education-based programs. Our vision was to revolutionize the outdated education system in Uganda by providing programs and services that would not replace, but rather complement and enhance, what kids were learning in the schools.
After two years of experimenting with after school programming, we had Faruk, the director of a primary school in the village, approach us and say, “I’m not entirely sure what you do at AIA, but I can tell a significant difference between the students who attend your programs and those who do not.” While flattered by the compliment, we immediately recognized that by only working with the students and not including the schools, a huge opportunity was missed.
We then began inviting schools to come to The Center to use our public library for reading programs and our front yard for PE and sports. This endeavor has since helped us forge new and wonderful partnerships with the primary schools in our community.
For the last year we further developed our partnerships with the primary schools in Nakuwadde by diversifying the programs offered. We now have a handful of schools that on a rotating schedule come to The Center for spelling bees, debates, quizzes, writing prompts and creative writing. All programs are designed and facilitated by Action in Africa staff but executed alongside the teachers from the local schools.
As our relationships with the schools continues to develop, the Action in Africa staff regularly assess how we can better support them and their students. After months of evaluations, we recognized that a significant challenge facing most of the schools is that a majority of their students are not able to afford the daily breakfast, which is a cup of hot porridge. This means that for many, their last meal was the previous days free lunch.
Guaranteeing that no kid is hungry at school, it was a no-brainer for us to begin providing our partner primary schools with the necessary supplies ensuring that all of their students have breakfast daily.
Action in Africa is thrilled to announce that we launched our porridge program at two of our partner schools on the 1st of June and in just four weeks we have served 11,951 cups of porridge. This means that not one student at either school went hungry for the month of June and our promise to these schools is that never again will one of their students miss breakfast.
The long-term vision for this program is to sustainably continue adding primary schools to our porridge program as they maintain developing a relationship with Action in Africa. Will you join with us to help make this happen?
On December 16th we hosted our 2nd Annual Holiday Party at Bootsy Bellows in Aspen. It was tremendously successful, with over 400 guests, an amazing silent auction and live raffle, great cocktails and food, and lots and lots of dancing. We are beyond grateful to everyone who attended, donated, contributed and overall helped make the event happen.
Special Thanks to Aspen Sojourner and Windfirm Photography for the wonderful photos!