W H A T M A K E S U S D I F F E R E N T
Having worked in Uganda for over 8 years, we have learned from our past mistakes and upended the classic Western style of philanthropy. In order to revolutionize our approach, we have developed three bold models that will facilitate the achievement of our objectives.
Scholarship not Sponsorship
Through Action in Africa, you will not find an opportunity to sponsor an individual student in his or her studies. After years of selecting a handful of students and directly funding their education, we realized the inherent flaws in this system. Rather than benefiting the individual students, the program created a hierarchy in our partner schools and a sense of dependency amongst sponsorship recipients. Likewise, it did not empower the students or their families to play an active role in their education. In response to these problems, we have established a variety of scholarship funds that benefit a multitude of students. At the primary level, we provide one lump sum scholarship fund to St. Johnson’s Primary School that is used to lower tuition for the entire student body. Now instead of impacting a few students, we are responsible for providing a discounted education to 340+ primary school students.
Upon graduation from primary school, students are encouraged to go through our rigorous application process in order to be considered for a secondary school, vocational program, or University scholarship. In order to be considered, applicants not only have to apply, but they must also interview, maintain high grades in all subjects, have perfect attendance, and volunteer at The Center.
Since the shift from sponsorship to scholarship, we have seen a drastic difference in our students, their families, the schools we work with, and the communities we work in. For example, St. Johnson’s is now one of the most affordable primary schools in the village, leading to marked increase in student enrollment.
Many times we are offered supplies to distribute to the kids and their families. Whether it be shoes, clothes, electronics, etc., Action in Africa now avoids handing out supplies to individual students carte blanche, as this behavior has been quite harmful in the past, creating a cycle of dependency and lack of ownership. Instead, we have begun to generate reward-based services that have more of a lasting impact than just one item, which can be broken, sold, stolen, or out grown. For example, we now offer free HIV testing, uniform tailoring, after school programs, counseling services, and, simply an open door.
The supplies that we do collect are items that can be used by the general population at The Center, such as art supplies, sports equipment, school supplies, books, etc.
Community Generated Offerings
One of the most unique aspects of Action in Africa is our honesty and transparency. In the past, we have come to Uganda with ideas that seemed really great from a western perspective. Some of our initiatives worked, but many failed because we simply did not take the time to understand what the community needed. However, since we have begun to maintain a consistent presence on the ground and to open our ears to suggestions from the community, Action in Africa has thrived. Some examples include our kid’s after school programing, the Women to Women group, the adult English lessons, and the HIV testing clinics. Action in Africa implemented these offerings in response to real needs voiced by real people in the village who told us how we could help. Now those are some of our strongest programs in Uganda.