Brenda at Coal Bin, Kampala, Uganda 2009
I returned to Laramie from Boulder, Colorado last night, where I attended a Board of Director's meeting for One School at a Time, the non-profit that I photographed for in Uganda in 2009. One School partners with individual schools (one at a time) to improve educational opportunities for rural Ugandan kids. They're small and they do a fantastic job of working with the school community to make sure that any improvements made to the schools will continue to function long after One School has left. Lots of NGO's drop money into projects in Africa without ever really engaging with the people they are trying to help. The result is a surprising legacy of decaying infrastructure, unusable or in disrepair. When I was in Uganda I saw textbooks on the history of Robert E. Lee in the South in donated "libraries" at rural schools, and an articulating hospital bed in an empty concrete room at an unstaffed "clinic" among banana trees. One School is remarkable in that 96% of their funds go directly to their projects (tiny overhead for an NGO) and the projects continue to function on their own, thanks to carefully crafted community buy-in.
Early in the history of One School several of the directors traveled to Uganda where they met individual children, like Brenda, in need of support. Later, they decided that individual sponsorship, though badly needed, was not the most efficient way to use their limited resources, so they evolved towards the current school partnership model. Nevertheless, several of the directors personally took on sponsorships of a handful of children, including Brenda (above) and her sister Agnes, whose mother worked in a coal bin in Kampala selling coal for the owner for less than a dollar a day. The girls were living in a nearby shack with their mother and suffered from crushing poverty and frequent illness. Thanks to the sponsorships, these girls are now thriving and eager to attend secondary school, which costs more money than their original sponsors can afford alone.
One School is looking for a few people willing to commit to a long-term sponsorship (5 years) of one or more of these 5 or so children to get them through secondary school. A commitment of $500/year for 5 years for each child would be ideal to cover all of their costs, although $100/year for 5 years would make a difference. For these particular sponsorships, the directors are not looking for small donations, though you are certainly encouraged to donate whatever you can to One School at a Time to contribute to their school partnerships. If you'd like to take on a long-term sponsorship, contact Bay Roberts, the One School director. If you are interested in making any kind of donation to One School, you can do so at this page.
I'm hoping to put together a proposal to return to Uganda in 2012 to do a story on the issues and challenges associated with educating girls there. Stay tuned for more information on this as I begin to plan for this project.