In the KLM lounge at YYZ, en route to Uganda, I furiously fiddle with codec files to figure out how to get videos made by two sets of high school kids — York School and Malvern School — for our kids in Uganda to play on my ipad. A few google searches, a couple of downloads, a few false starts, and I got at least one of them into mp4 format and into itunes and then onto my ipad. (The other one is a VLC-crashing mystery).
That little moment was just another in the intricate, always surprising dance steps of running this project. Deciphering CRA needs (with the help of Leslie and Stephanie), endless wrangling over budget reports and ever-more labyrinthine admin needs from our umbrella charity — “We have a new policy — we can’t forward this money until we have physical addresses for the recipients.”
Trying to get someone in Canada to give me medical support for our Director who has diabetes (Uganda has no primary care), and gradually finding myself in the office of a nurse/diabetes educator who teaches me to use a glucometer, how to be a basic diabetes educator. Seeing the upset on the face of the nurse because she can’t legally give me anything but education — which explodes in a burst of generosity when she takes me down to the ATM and gives me $100 out of her personal account.
My 7 year old niece calls me and asks for a picture of me with the kids so she can take it to school and do a project and raise funds from her friends. She’s 7.
People want to be generous, I’ve learned on this project, and if they can directly provide something concrete, they surge in it. 16 year old girls sell $1400 worth of cupcakes over the year at lunchtime. A request for a laptop for one of our university students brings us enough for two, cash shoved into our breast pockets. The deeply resourceful head of our fundraiser makes a general request of her hockey team about how to buy laptops in Uganda, and she finds someone who knows a guy who’ll meet us at our hotel on Sunday morning with three good quality, well-priced Acers.
The generosity warms me, makes me optimistic, gets me to this lounge and on a plane. It’s tricky to manage sometimes — it feels so much more meaningful to people to buy $30 worth of art supplies than to put the $30 into a general fund that goes to school fees, salaries, “rollons” for the teenagers. I have two bags that weigh more than 30 kilos each (roughly my body weight), stuffed with gifts, baby clothes for our social worker’s little Nana, art supplies, diabetes management instruments, a weight of generosity and hope entrusted in me.
In Canada, people wanting to help in the ways they can, in a way where they can see something “real.” From our umbrella charity, endless scrutiny that every cent is properly recorded and every form filled in. In Uganda, perception that this is a Real Fund somehow, with requests to increase the networking budget (we don’t *have* a networking budget), to buy the project a car (to replace the car we didn’t need that was donated), to buy a refrigerator (which would quadruple the electricity use). Endless needs, endless possibilities to emulate a middle class living standard, when what I think we’re trying to do is something different… but if what is it, really, other than trying to create a middle class, if we’re trying to create possibilities for kids of doing something meaningful?
It’s complicated, and it’s complex, and I feel the weight of it. And, I’m belayed in that weight by the endless support — from our little band of a stalwart board, from my business partners and our energetic coordinator, by the people who let this project carry them into their most generative selves. As I prepared to fly for 18+ hours, I know how lucky I am.
(This is Trip #4 for me to Kasese. I’ll be gone 10 days, and I’ll blog where I can, on this site — but online access is ramshackle and rare, so don’t expect pics till I get home ;-). If you’ like to see blogs gone by from my previous 3 trips, go to: