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INNOVATION THAT SERVES: CROSS – CULTURAL SOLIDARITY FOR GRASSROOTS PHILANTHROPY.

 Series 2 of “Innovation That Serves”

When we initiated the annual local fundraising and donation drive dubbed “Juzza Lorry Initiative Campaign (Fill-up the Lorry)” in the raging terror of the Covid-19 pandemic, little did we know that the direction we had chosen could backup the general vision that sought to promote local giving or African philanthropy.

Then we were quite an informal group just starting out as a grassroots advocacy collective of youthful Change Makers / Activists, based in the Kalerwe slum, one the poorest neighborhoods in Kampala, Uganda. As the initial founders, we had generally diverse backgrounds in education, upbringing, experiences, knowledge and skills.

Those varied individual circumstances prompted a great deal of creative ideas within the group as we remained certain that generating impact in those trying times meant first going an extra mile and then thinking outside the box!

Fundamentally the preemptive actions towards the pandemic like the hasty school and economic activity terminations including lock downs, bore a myriad of difficulties to the already marginalized members of our target community.  Then over 2 million pre-primary school going children were out of school, 65% of which came from poor families, there was almost a 50% surge in the numbers of female headed households coupled with an influx of refugees in the West Nile region of Uganda.

As we welcomed more new members into the group we could as very well realize that the pandemic wasn’t coming to an end any time soon, stories of children and families going hungry for days, became common as the media reported. Money plundering feats within public offices sent a straight response to all Ugandans that everyone was on their own!

We were disturbed as Activists by both the news and statistics, and we could as well recognize the silence of a truly troubled civil society, that struggled with a major impediment characterized by over-all deficiency of donor funds, which of course totally repressed all normal activities of the NGOs.

As we devised ideas for intervention, the situation continued to inspire within us a sense of solidarity and innovation, first the external donors and government couldn’t come to our rescue that was specified, second – by and large, inequalities were accumulating in every part of the country from, the brutal activities of local law enforcement to the skyrocketing numbers of teenage pregnancies.

Part of our categorical intervention was to start with those most affected and furthest behind, with a sustainability strategy that didn’t really need any kind of foreign resources, confident that Ugandans can as well be willing to support fellow country men and women who in this case happened to be refugees and host communities in the newest refugee settlement in Uganda- the Imvepi Refugee Settlement, Terego District, West Nile, Uganda.

The planning processes began with both high hopes and countless sceptic feelings, for the start.

 Unconventionally we had to utilize digital media platforms including socials, email, etc., to put our messages across by raising awareness and promoting the campaign, Twitter seemed suitable since it had a whole lot of our target audience from the middle class, who would generously find it easy to support our cause.

 With Hashtags such as #JuzzaLorry , the campaign gained momentum in ways we couldn’t imagine bringing better opportunities for collaboration and partnerships locally and internationally.

It similarly drove the interest of the media which covered and wrote stories like the one Here wrote by the GUIDE2uganda (2020) and another one Here by THE InformerUg (2021) all which seemed to spotlight on the Juzza Lorry Initiative Campaign.

 

The idea was welcomed by the community members too who often came to our offices with well washed used clothes as it was a requirement for any used garment to be clean in order to be accepted as a donation to the refugees and host communities in Imvepi.

 

Those that managed to donate food items, sanitation materials and other in-kind donations could reach out using the different channels we had laid for communication.

 

With local partners such as the Indian Women Association Uganda (IWA), under the Leadership of a great philanthropist Madam Suman Venkatesh(RIP), we were able to reach and impact more than 700 families in the Imvepi Refugee settlement and some 200 more from the host communities with day-to-day basic items, hygiene & sanitary materials, food, clothes, menstrual products etc.

 

 

That was 2020 when the lockdown, curfew and travel restriction were still active as restrictive measures to prevent Covid-19 transmission, but still regardless of economic or social status local people went an extra mile to generously share their resources with the most vulnerable members of our society.

 

Today the biggest task ahead of us lies in our sustainability plan, as we face more threatening challenges like climate change how do we maintain the culture of giving 

and make generosity – “the gift that never stops giving” in our local communities.

 

 

Custom designed  MAAMA-Kits assembled for expectant  mothers in Buikwe District, Uganda.

 

GRASS ROOTS PHILANTHROPY AND CROSS-CULTURAL SOLIDARITY.

 

Cross-cultural solidarity as a foundation for grassroots philanthropy looks as an alien practice in the Ugandan civic sector, but in reality, it is not the case, since non-indigenous players like the Indian Diaspora in Uganda have played an outstanding role through their occasional philanthropic work.

 

 Notwithstanding the fact that the Ugandan private sector is controlled by a foreign Indian minority who in many cases happen to enjoy economic freedom than their local / indigenous counterparts.

 

Through the various groups and companies and organizations the Indian Diaspora has given back to the Ugandan community abundantly in many ways. Nevertheless, the avenues for collective exhibition and learning between the Indian and Ugandan communities are quite narrow!

 

Good examples such as the Ruperalia Foundation by the business magnate Sudhir Ruperalia, the Indian Women Association Under the late Suman Venkatesh, the Karnataka Sangha with Former Chairman Manepali Venkatesh and Chairman Lachmayya Siddanmane have all led efforts aimed at giving back to the Ugandan local communities; the work includes renovating schools and health centers, providing bursaries and scholarships to poverty-stricken families, care for homeless children etc.

 

Such actions of solidarity inspired our alliance with the Indian Diaspora in Uganda and accelerated our work towards a more diverse and intercultural model of Local Philanthropy.

 

 

 

SYNERGY IN COMMUNITY – VOYAGE TO UGANDA (SCV-U)

 

Bennetta Thomas (L) Shardae Herriford (R) and Quantanise Williams (C)  visiting the Kalerwe Slum before the community workshops.

 

 Again, the time has come for the Africans and all people of African descent living on and off the continent to come together to reimagine a better Africa.

 

The African diaspora proliferates on almost every continent on the face of the earth, it is worthy in all its diversity, strengths and abilities, to lead a global paradigm shift, in the way that Africa is portrayed internationally, if it is openly willing to merge efforts to transform the social and Philanthropic sector in Africa.

 

Synergy in Community: Voyage to Uganda (SCV-U), was birthed from the partnership between Outcast Activists Forum-Uganda and The Baby Bond: Birth and Beyond, USA-Michigan.

Initiated as a vehicle to elevate an equitable environment for everyone starting with those furthest behind in Uganda East Africa.

Through the medium of synergy and solidarity the Synergy in Community: Voyage to Uganda (SCV-U) saw a collective of 11 for-profit and non-profit groups coming together for the sole act of giving back to the Ugandan communities of Kampala and Buikwe, with a target to serve the poor of the poorest in those areas, through intercultural competence and the urge to create impact together with grassroots African social change organisations.

 

Headed by an African-American Team from Detroit Michigan, led by Shardae Herriford the collective’s first mission trip to Africa, impacted close to 200 lives through interactive Mental Health and Wellness workshops, Breast feeding and Menstrual Health Education, Self-empowerment and mindfulness workshops coupled with in kind donations of food, menstrual hygiene products, computers, Maama KITS (Items used during delivery for mothers) etc.

 

When exemplary ideas like the ones above reach the grassroots and inspire new approaches and ways of thinking in regards to development, humanitarian and community work – then that’s the “Innovation That Serves”, once communities; learn, unlearn and relearn from a cross-cultural context, it leads to an aura of peace, tolerance, innovation and empowerment, which eventually equates to sustainable development.

 

Special thanks to: The Bonding Experience Perinatal Wellness Center, Amazon, Microsoft, Cocoiv, Qpid’s Passion: Reproductive and Sexual Health, Vagesty, Menstrual Closet, Herriford Consulting, Floco Wear, Private Education Development Network (PEDN), and lastly the team at Outcast Activists Forum – Uganda for making the Synergy In Community journey as smooth, exciting and transformative.

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