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Unsung Heroes

Amaru the Songbird from Arua will blow you away

amaru This songbird from Arua will make your heart skip a beat. Her music is electric. Meet Amaru an amazing Ugandan singer. She has been living in New York City where she studied Acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and has been pursuing a Bachelor of Sciences in Dramatic Arts, Film and Television at St. John’s University in Queens, New York

Who is Amaru

I would safely sum Amaru up as a Passionate, African, Singer, Songwriter, Actress, Filmmaker, Dreamer, and Lover who desires to leave everything she ever encounters  better than she found it! She desires to spread  Love everywhere she goes.

When did you start singing?

I was born into a very musical family and had multiple opportunities to sing- right from Children’s fellowships hosted at our family house and children’s conferences that my dad played music at. Both my parents sang to me as a child and my father played almost every instrument I could think of, so naturally he encouraged me to sing. In fact, for a while I travelled with my dad and sang in his band on multiple ministry trips in schools, conferences and churches. Music became a part of my life so early and I recall always loving to sing.

Your first song  Stay’, you sounded like you were singing from your personal experience. What inspired you to write it?

The story behind Stay is actually a special one because I never intended for it to be my debut single when I wrote it. I initially wrote and recorded it as a personal message, much like someone would write a letter to another, but when it was finished, based on feedback I was getting, I realized that I was finally ready to start sharing my music. Around that time, I’d recently started writing songs again and wasn’t yet sure if it was time to start sharing, but Stay opened that door.

Let’s talk about your unique type of music. What do you call your style?

My sound is very eclectic and doesn’t fit perfectly into any music genres so I call my style of music “Soul-Truth.” This is really to remind myself of the sound I would like to maintain- I want to stay truthful and soulful as I keep writing and singing. As far as traditional genres go however, my sound tends to fall into the Acoustic-Soul world,or Pop-Soul like one of my friends likes to call it; and as I keep writing, I keep creating new fusions especially with the more recent music I’ve been working on, so as we go along, the labels might evolve. amaru-1 It looks like you spend a lot of time writing your music. What message do you think our music conveys?

My music tends to reflect my feelings about different experiences, and my philosophies on life. For the most part, I write a lot of love-related songs because I draw a lot of inspiration from the quest for, and the experience of love. Currently, my music shares pieces of my journey and the lessons I’m learning along the way. Hopefully my audience can share my experiences and even learn from my mistakes. Ultimately, I desire that music carries messages of hope and love to all the people who encounter it. I really hope I can change the world with my music.

How long does it take you to write a hit song?

It really varies. I’m realizing that I work well with deadlines as far as song-writing is concerned, but when left to an organic process, the length of time it takes me to write a song depends on how inspired I feel when working on the song. When really inspired, I can finish a song even in a couple of hours, however some songs take weeks, months and a few have even taken years.  I tend to write songs based on the way I am feeling, so when the feeling abounds, inspiration flows and writing is really easy. Also, having access to a musical instrument speeds up the process for me, and I reckon if I had the luxury of jamming with a band more often, I might write even more songs a lot quicker.

Home or US, where is your biggest fan base?

That’s a really tough one to answer since I haven’t been wholly pursuing a career in music in either location. I’ve mostly been doing music part-time in both countries and kind of focusing mainly on finishing my studies. That said, it seems pretty evenly spread to me. However, I desire to build a bigger following in Uganda and Africa considering that it is the audience I care most about and also because I would like to settle in Africa.

Looking back from where you started and where you are now, are you there yet?

I definitely am beyond where I ever dreamed I would be, but as I reach my  dreams, I develop much higher ambitions. God has been so faithful as to exceed my expectations and grant me dreams beyond my imaginations, so now I just keep dreaming bigger. So, looking at the dreams I currently have, I have barely scratched the surface of where I want to be. And that is really exciting!

When you are playing your guitar, it looks like you have an attachment to it. What is music to you?

Music is my best friend- we’ve been together for as long as I can remember. And because of the musical history I share with my family, the guitar for me, is so much more than a musical instrument. Multiple members of my family have played the guitar over the years, and so its come to serve in my life as a reminder of my heritage. The guitar for me is a symbol of love and family, and a reminder to live a life of worship. So when I hold my guitar, in many ways it feels like I am carrying my family with me. And that is probably why I seem to have a strong attachment to guitar in my music.

You have been silent for over five months now. What can your lovers be expecting any time soon?

I decided to prioritize my education especially since I was so close to completing my studies, so I’ve been focusing more on school the past couple of months so I can return home. It’s been really important to me that I finish school since I recognize the value of higher education. There’s a misconception that musicians can just drop-out of school, and I strongly disagree with that. I think completing one’s education really enhances what one has to offer, regardless of the field, an especially within the Arts. That said, because music is a huge part of my life, inevitably I’ve been writing  music on the side as well as singing with the Hillsong Church Choir in New York. Now that I have finished with school, I am really excited to share with all of you all the music I’ve been working on behind the scenes. I think it’s been nice to have a break to grow and nurture my sound even more. Also I’ve had a chance to do some soul-searching and reconnecting with values that I will need for where I am going.  So hold on tight and look forward to some new music real soon!

Who is that one person who has been at the forefront of your success as a  musician?

Because I’ve had a lot of support, from my family, friends and my Music  Management, this is a really tough one to answer.. I’d really like to point them all out because they have been key to my success, but since you need me  to pick one person, I’ll have to take a moment to honor my brother. He has listened to literally every single song that I’ve written and he is one person I can absolutely count on for honest criticism. Because we are the same age, and have shared pretty much the same history, I can count on him to understand me best. I send him everything I write before I forward it to anyone else and I usually trust his opinion since he understands my style and knows me better than most people. Also because he has supported me right from the start, I can count on his opinion and completely trust his intentions towards me.

What has been your best moment so far as a songbird?

My best moment was probably the first time I heard my debut single “Stay” play on radio in Uganda for the very first time. I remember waking up early that morning to hear the breakfast show hosts at Magic 100 debut my song and say really lovely things about it. It felt like a dream! I stood in my parent’s bedroom and listened in such a blissful trance, much like a child taking in their very first ice-cream experience. It was truly magical and I’ll cherish that moment forever.

Any worst moments?

There are no specific moments that I can point to as my worst in my career journey so far, but I can definitely think of some moments when I have doubted my dreams and questioned what I have to offer as a musician. And those have been my lowest moments. Music is such a big part of my life that  for me to question whether or not I should be doing it takes a huge toll on me. Thankfully connecting deeper with God has given me a new found confidence and sense of purpose in my gifts.

Which famous musician(s) do you admire? And why?

There are so many great musicians that I admire for various reasons but I’ll highlight two for now: I have a lot of admiration for the Hillsong United and Third Day. This is for many reasons including how hard and skillfully they work to create cutting edge and beautiful music; as well as how powerful their music is. I think there’s nothing more amazing than worship music that ushers people into encountering the presence of a Supernatural God. I am fascinated by music that stirs the presence of Holy Spirit and literally frees people from bondages and gives them encounter with a Sovereign and Supernatural God. Listening to both their music has been changing my life and I am finding such freedom and fulfillment in praising and worshipping a Being that actually deserves it. I’ve had the privilege of experiencing God’s presence and finding real peace and strength through rough seasons while listening to some of their songs, and I think there’s nothing greater than creating music that is so much bigger than just feel-good music: music that can actually bring hope to people. I desire to do that too- to alter lives for the better! Another thing about both bands is in spite of the awards they hold, the genuineness and humility of their members is incredible. I’ve had the honor of meeting both band leaders and can testify that there’s probably no better illustration of true great people, than such influential and gifted yet extremely down-to-earth, love-filled and servant-hearted musicians who strive to walk their talk.

How do you balance music with other obligations like family, friends and fans?

Because my music is very precious to me, I tend to want to put everything else second to it, so this has been a struggle for me to find a balance. However,  over this past season of my life I’ve been finding a new balance. I think what’s been helping me is realizing what my greatest treasures are, and becoming more aware of the immeasurable value of family and friends. Realistically speaking, fans come and go, and the pain of losing them might be great, but my family and friends have been there from the start and I can’t imagine surviving the grief of losing them for something so temporary, so I realize that I need to put them first. We all come out of a family of some kind, and in spite of our family’s imperfections, there is tremendous value on family. Without my family, I wouldn’t exist to even have this career to begin with so it rages against wisdom to think that I should pick my career over them. Thankfully I don’t have to choose, since my family actually supports my career ambitions and in any case only guides me in ways they believe will advance my career. That said, someone once said to me that if anyone was playing my music it was because they are my friend, so I honestly look at my fans as an extension of my family and friends so it all works out in the end. However if the opportunity ever does present itself, I would like to be able to choose to honor my family and friends over anything else.

What challenges do you face as a musician based in New York?

The major challenges for me have been being a full-time student with no income, and being so far away from Uganda since my main desire has been to build a music career based in my home country. Other than that, the city has been incredible- There’s just SO much to learn and draw inspiration from that I am really grateful for the opportunity I’ve had.

Where do you see yourself and your beautiful music five years from now?

Well that is quite a sight to behold! Five years from now, God-willing, I see myself dominating the African music and film industry, whilst mentoring Africa and what I believe will be the world’s next big musicians. I really believe that African music is not just the future, but is actually NOW, and we need to put our best foot forward and get in position to run the game. So in five years, I would like to be a stabilized household name working with peer and newer acts not only to alter the image of Africa to the world as well as fellow Africans, but also to bring positive change to our planet.

Ugandan  music has always been criticized for not making it to the international scene for lack of creativity. What do you think is the cause of this?

I’ve been trying to figure this out for some time now, especially because I’m on the scene now too. (I think its easy to criticize something from a distance but once you step into it, you’re able to take ownership of flaws and understand them better.) One thing that I’m becoming more aware of is that our greatest weakness mainly lies in our songwriting. We have outstanding instrumentalist and vocalists but for the most part, we seem to fail when it comes to competitive song-writing.   Perhaps this can be blamed on how we tend to recycle the same sounds over and over again. It seems that when we hear something that works, we often almost simply “copy and paste” those ideas without making any major creative changes to melodies and structure. So that breeds the lack of originality that we often get criticised for. There seem to be fewer cases of originality in our sound and that’s where I think we really fail. Being aware of this, I’m trying to be conscious of this as I work, and I see many other musicians breaking this mold by boldly stepping out with different sounds and I really like that. We have grown SO much as an industry and I am very grateful for those who have gone before me and raised the standards as well as paved the way for the Ugandan Music Industry  to aspire to  even greater heights.

Your hairstyle, it is rather remarkable. Any particular connection to it?

Thank you! My hairstyle is a means of my creative expression and serves as a reminder to me, to live boldly and not to be afraid to be different or stand out. I first had the idea to have multi-colored braids over 7 years ago and when I first did it then, a lot of people thought it was a terrible idea but then ended up liking it. Turns out it worked and I liked it too, so I started wearing my hair like that. I took a break from it when I moved to New York and was afraid to stand out, but a two years ago, I realized that I needed to gain my confidence  again so I brought the colors back. Now I get a lot of positive feedback and find that my hairstyle inspires others to be bold and embrace their creativity and uniqueness.

What advice could you give to a girl who wants to be a musician like you?

I would say that you need to trust what God has put inside of you.Find security in Him and know that you have something unique and precious to offer.  If He has given you a gift for making music, you need to embrace that and be confident in it. Don’t doubt what you have to offer, and don’t hide your light because you’re meant to shine it: Let your light shine bright so you can lead others to freedom! I also deeply desire, especially for  female musicians, that we  will rise up to defy the seeming norm that female musicians have to sell sex appeal in order to be successful in the music industry! So take care not to objectify yourself as you sell your music. I desire to show other aspiring female musicians that they can honor their bodies and still excel in the industry, but I’d like to invite other female musicians to join me in this. So I guess what I really want to say to any girl that wants to be like me is, set standards for yourself and have non-negotiable in your career. Remember that where there is a will there is a way so you don’t have to conform to the standards if they are lower than what you set for yourself.  Realize that as musicians, we have a lot of power to influence our cultures so let’s seek to influence it for the better. Also, make sure you have a great support system and keep your fuel tank full to sustain the fire in you! No man is an island, so surround yourself with dream-builders so you won’t back down even when the storms come. And please steward your gifts well, nurture your talents: practice, seek to learn more, watch and listen to those who have gone before you so you can accomplish even greater things. DON’T SEEK TO BE LIKE ME, SEEK TO BE BETTER THAN ME!!! The stars are only the beginning. Listen to God and let Him direct you. There’s no better person to seek guidance on how to use a product to its fullest potential than its manufacturer, so have God guide you and direct your path as you pursue your dreams if you want to soar. Follow His lead, and believe me, your mind will be blown!! He really is amazing, and the people He will bring your way will be more amazing than any contacts you could ever have gathered on your own. Work hard and smart; but stay humble, love and serve! Remember, there’s an indescribable peace that comes from knowing that God has got you, which drives away any sense of insecurity and jealousy. In knowing Him, you’ll realise that there’s room for all and you’ll actually desire the best for others and be freed to root for other. And that will give you such immeasurable  joy in your journey to the successful career you desire. I realize that’s a long essay haha but I really wanna share with you all the things I wish I was aware of sooner. I love you and wish you the best!!

Is there anything you want to share with our readers? Any last words?

Yes. THANK YOU!! Thank you sincerely for all your support and for following my music and career so far. It’s really just the beginning so for those who are encountering me for the first time, I look forward to having you join me on this journey. I strongly believe that great things lie ahead and we each have A LOT to offer our planet, so please connect with your purpose and let’s SHINE our light to the ends of the earth and leave this world a better place than we found it. Keep loving and dreaming and lets never stop serving one another!   Bjix6cfIEAAw2w1B9HT3XACcAAq_K5 And lastly, I’d like to leave you with a quote that inspires me: “To be the best in the world is competition, to be the best for the world is loving.” I hope we choose LOVE! Oceans of Love to all, Amaru

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. rapgun

    June 16, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    I like your story. its inspiring especially to a rapper like me from arua. am glad your representing the people of westnile. I wish I could get a link to your music

  2. Herman Clive Quotes.

    June 20, 2015 at 8:18 am

    Reblogged this on Herman Clive Quotes and commented:
    She has a great voice.

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Collective Good

How Not For Sale Uganda is Fighting Human Trafficking

Human trafficking, a criminal activity that is often described as modern day slavery, has become a world-wide industry, incorporating millions of people annually, and generating an illegal annual turnover of billions of dollars.

According to the Uganda 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report presented by the US Department of State, Uganda is a source, transit, and destination country for women, children and men subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically conditions of forced labor, child labor and sexual exploitation.

On record, there are about 837 reported cases of human trafficking according to the National Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Office under the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Raymond Kagumire and his team are trying to fight this status quo through Not For Sale Uganda, an organization that has set out to build a strong network of advocates to fight against modern day slavery.

Raymond (In white) together with his team during one of their recent outreach awareness campaign. (Photo credit: Not for Sale)

“My story begins when we were having dinner about 4 years ago at home and mentioned to my sister that one day I would love to market a beer. She later introduced me to a Swedish technology executive, Ulf Stenerhag who had a desire to expand his beer brand “Not For Sale Ale” that donates 100% of the profit to Not For Sale organization to fight human trafficking.” Raymond states.

In July 2014, the team kicked off after the Founders of the Global Not For Sale Campaign based in USA David Batstone and Mark Wexler chose the name “Not for Sale Uganda” to start fighting modern day slavery most notably, Ugandans being trafficked to the Middle East.

“At Not For Sale, we understand that root causes of human trafficking or commonly termed as human trafficking is poverty and we build scalable, design driven social business solutions that can help us to inoculate communities susceptible to human trafficking as well human trafficking survivors.” Raymond says.

Not For Sale during one of their public awareness campaigns. (Photo credit: Not for Sale)

Not for Sale combines the best elements of social programming and business in its proven, 3-step process. The first step is social intervention where it partners with local experts, community leaders, and business people to understand the root causes of slavery in the region.

The group then provides food, shelter, education, and healthcare to people affected by modern slavery. This supports it when it goes to research and development to investigate the local economy asking key questions like, “why are people here susceptible to slavery? What could we do to create economy for them?”

“Our  third step is to partner with entrepreneurs who have a vision to build an economic engine for the project. These businesses feed revenue back into the project, so that we can give them jobs, stable income, and fund more social intervention.” He explains.

Raymond (left) with his team ready to inform locals about human trafficking

To date, Not for Sale has built a team of dedicated ambassadors/volunteers working to eradicate school going children/students and communities. Given varying objectives and differing understandings of how to conduct more effective outreach, the group targets different populations in its anti-trafficking efforts.

“We have also been able to provide informative community based lessons about the crime of human trafficking and the advice available to the survivors of the crime and remain focused to task various organizations to fight this crime. It is not simply about finding and advising the survivors, it is about creating a self sustaining economy and a society which is more alert to the crime.” Raymond states.

Building a dedicated team of ambassadors committed to do good in their respective communities remains remarkable to Raymond, something he prides in.

Currently, Not for Sale conducts a school/community out reach program “The Not For Sale Campaign” to raise awareness against human trafficking in schools and communities.

“In January 2018, together with our mother organization, Not For Sale in partnership with Coburwas International Youth Organization to Transform Africa (CIYOTA) will launch a million dollar project to help refugee children to access quality education and amplify their entrepreneurial skills through seed funding opportunities for innovative solutions in Kyangwali refugee settlement on Uganda/Congo border.” Raymond says.

Not for Sale conducts a school/community out reach program “The Not For Sale Campaign” to raise awareness against human trafficking in schools and communities. (Photo by Not For Sale Uganda)

Seven (7) years from now, Raymond and his team wants to be able to answer the question; “What are the reasons that contribute to people being trafficked and communities being at risk of human trafficking in our country?”

“That’s the question that fuels the vision of Not For Sale Uganda and is the key factor in our next 7 years because while we provide answers, we understand that the lifestyle of the people in the 21st century is ever on a change and new methods will be designed by the traffickers.” Raymond explains.

It’s in this essence that to achieve their vision, Not For Sale has a dynamic road map and will remain committed grow self sustaining social projects with purpose-driven business to end exploitation and forced labor.

“I would say, energizing would even makes stronger and find innovative solutions in our anti-trafficking efforts.” Raymond concludes.

We all agree that modern day slavery is on the rise and all efforts can’t keep but Not For Sale understands and has proven scalable, innovative business concepts and desire to do good to change the world and we can inspire others to create a world where no one is for sale.

Like this story or have something to share? Write to us: info@thisisuganda.org, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Unsung Heroes

Food, Education, Clothes & Shelter: Ddiba’s Way of Rehabilitating Street Children

Joseph Ddiba 28, is the Founder and Team Leader of Ba Nga Afayo (Act like you care) Initiative Uganda, a youth-led charity organization providing assistance to former street children, orphans and families struggling in terrible poverty in Uganda.

Ba Nga Afayo literally means “act like you care”. Which according to Ddiba means that if it is too much to ask that someone becomes part of solving a problem, can they at least act like they care. This itself would require action.

“It is all about restoring lives and equipping less fortunate children with the knowledge and skillsets necessary to discover and live out their true vocations, thereby creating the opportunity for them to lead successful and fulfilling lives.” Ddiba says.

Over the past three years, the initiative has been providing shelter and basic care to homeless children and orphans as well as providing children from surrounding community with free care, counseling, school supplies and education scholarships. Many of these Children come from broken or poverty stricken families and the center is a haven for them, whenever they need it.

And it started with one story. “It all began with just one abandoned child. She was dumped and left to starve to death by her unknown parents. My mum being a nurse, she brought the little malnourished kid home, I believe the kid had like a week to live. So about two years later when I was out of University, this little kid had completely recovered and my mum said there were many cases where this one came from.” Ddiba remembers.

Her recovery inspired Ddiba to go save more himself. “ I remember I was hoping to help one or two children but unfortunately the number of cases was overwhelming and the root cause was poverty” Says Ddiba.

Ddiba is providing children and community with free care, counseling, school supplies and education scholarships

That’s how he started a movement among his friends and family to “Act like they care” and donate something to help these children survive.

For the last two years, the initiative has been able to place 45 children into school who would otherwise be without a family or education. “I have not only witnessed the lives of children being transformed through sponsorship, but have furthermore become convinced that Uganda can be restored through education of these less fortunate children.” Ddiba says.

One of touching stories out of the initiative is a story of a beneficiary called Ezesa (in English Esther). Eseza was born out of incest, a relationship between a niece and her uncle. In their tribe she was an abomination. She was thrown away at birth and no one wanted to be near her.

“We met this girl when she was three years, never been breast fed, never been loved and always fed on left overs. She slept in the bush and she was hairy.” Ddiba says.

Eseza is now 6 years and she is going through recovery. “seeing her run around playing with other children makes me wonder where she would be if she was never found.” He says.

“Her story really touched me. I no longer have any choice but to acknowledge the heavy reality of it all: These children don’t just need our help–their very lives depend on it. It is mostly her story that keeps me going every time I think of giving up. I believe God brought her into our lives for a reason.” Ddiba says.

For the last two years, the initiative has been able to place 45 children into school who would otherwise be without a family or education

This however does not come off easily. His biggest challenge is that there is a lot of need and yet very limited resources. One incident he cites is a story of “Sula” one of the beneficiaries who got a sponsor and after just a few months, lost touch with his sponsor. “That right there is my worst moment. Until now, we have never told this child the bad news we don’t want to see that glow fade away.” Ddiba says.

One way how he is however fighting these challenges, is through partnerships. The initiative is currently working with Individuals, private companies, and churches in Canada, USA, UK, Romania and Argentina even though he is still working on creating a few local partnerships.

He also does not do this alone. He commends his team for being part of his journey. “Maria our manager, Sylvia our manager for child sponsorship, Deborah our community coordinator, Hope our manager for child relations and all house mothers who act as mother figures to the homeless children.” He lists them.

Some of the volunteers at work during one of the initiative’s Back to School Charity drive

Six years from now, Ddiba sees BaNgaAfayo growing as one of the major players eradicating Poverty in Uganda with more branches all over the country bringing real and lasting change to families and children living in poverty.

Ddiba wants to be remembered as someone who set an example and left a footprint in humanity. He hopes that the work he does at BaNgaAfayo Initiative will live past him and continue to touch a life here, a life there.

“Keep this verse in mind, Hebrews 10:24. And let us consider how we may spur one another on in love and good deeds.” He concludes.

Like this story or have something to share? Write to us: info@thisisuganda.org, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Collective Good

This organization is building sustainable solar programs and changing the future for thousands of children

At age 16, All We Are founder Nathan Thomas started taking change in his own words. Collecting used computers from friends, family and his local community, he started sending them to villages in need of technology, laying the groundwork for All We Are’s continued focus on educational access. Eight years later, he has built a team that is creating sustainable Projects that are locally supported in Uganda and built to last. He had a chat with This Is Uganda team and we bring you the interview.

Let’s start with the name- “All We Are”, Why did you choose that?

I was lucky to, at a very young age, discover that the best version of yourself is the person you truly are. For many of us this journey of fulfillment is one that spans a lifetime. All We Are is the hope that by living a fulfilled life we can take our talents, passions, and all that we are to help others realize their true potential. We believe that “it starts with us.”

What inspired you to start All We Are?

The belief that if you get to a certain point of your life and decide that now is the time to start giving back, you took too much. I was a 16 year high school student living in Findlay, Ohio USA who wanted to do something to change the world. I luckily found several people who believed in me. Eight year later, I lead a platform of over twenty young professionals in America who volunteer their time to our mission, and an incredible team of employees on the ground in Uganda who implement our work.

Let’s now talk about your work. What are your focus areas?

By the end of 2017 we will have equipped 20 schools in Uganda with electricity through the design and installation of solar power. We are scaling a women’s empowerment project to educate and provide female personal hygiene products that allows girls to remain in school. This year we have also launched a pilot water program to provide access to clean water to these partner schools.

As young change makers, All We Are’s focus is on responsibly building infrastructure for schools in Uganda. We focus on sustainability and putting money into the local economy with an emphasis on stewardship. Every member of our USA team is a volunteer and is personally investing in All We Are’s mission, which enables us to put 100% of public donations to use on the ground in Uganda. We believe that development is only successful when it is fueled locally by the communities. We work with the Rotary Club of Nateete-Kampala to conduct needs assessments for our projects. They are the face of our projects on the ground.

And the communities, where do you work in Uganda?

We have worked in Kampala and the surrounding area in the past eight years. This year we are pushing into more rural areas where there is no access to Umeme and the existing schools’ infrastructure is much weaker. We will be working in Rakai, Luuka, and Kakumiro to name a few Districts, and hope for further expansion in the near future.

At the end of the day, what are you trying to achieve?

A world in which we all have the right to dream. A world where every child receives an education because it is the young people who are the future of our countries.

What has been All We Are’s impact in Uganda so far?

We have spent the last eight years in Uganda helping build educational program in and around the Kampala area with the hope that we are having a positive impact on the schools we partner with. We have also been able to positively impact the lives of many members of the All We Are family on the ground in Kampala through job creation and by providing them with a means to support their families.

In a week we are launching our largest solar project to date. This project will bring electricity to nine rural schools in Uganda.

All We Are’s focus is on sustainability and putting money into the local economy with an emphasis on stewardship (Photo credit: All We Are)

Any particular impact story you can single out?

One of my favorite stories is a spotlight we did on Nambuli Rogers, Headmaster of Mackay Memorial Primary School in Kampala.  We electrified this school in 2016 and also partner with them on our women’s empowerment project. The school’s motto is, “Temudda Nnyuma” and we believe that perfectly describes the work we trying to accomplish.

With development work comes a lot of uncertainty and questioning whether the solutions we are providing are impactful. In February 2017 we were in Kampala and visited Mackay Memorial. I will never forget getting out of the bus and walking up to the HM’s office to be greeted by a big hug from HM Rogers. It is in moments like this that we remember why we do what we do. (Read the full story here)

Where do you see All We Are 5-7 years from now?

In 2015 we set an ambitious goal of electrifying 50 schools in Uganda by 2025. At the end of 2017, just two years later, we will already have 20 schools in the All We Are family. In five to seven years it is very possible that we will have realized our planned goal of 50 partner schools. As we scale our work, we will expand our women’s empowerment program and clean water initiative. We are committed to a problem not a solution. The problems we address surround  education. As we progress as an organization, and as new technologies and opportunities become a reality, we will continue to innovate and refuse to stop challenging ourselves.

Through All We Are’s sustainable program, electricity costs go down by up to 80%, and student performance improves as much as 22% in a year. (Photo credit: All We Are)

Let’s talk about personal inspiration. Which people inspire you in everything you do?

It is easy to draw inspiration from people who live fearlessly. I draw inspiration from those who fear less. From my parents who moved from the comfort of friends, family, and what was normal in India to America before my brother, sister, and I were born. To members of the All We Are team who are so passionate, and so willing, to go far beyond what society deems “millennial engagement” to be.

If someone wants to get involved in All We Are, how do they get in touch with you?

We are always looking to engage with like-minded individuals who want to be a part of the global conversation on change. Take a look at our website at www.allweare.org and our social media platforms. If what we are doing interests you, send me an email at nathan@allweare.org. Remember that the best way to start is by simply getting started.

Any last words or piece of advice to someone doing a similar initiative like you?

Share stories of success with your networks and ensure that you do so with cultural sensitivity. At All We Are we gravitate towards empowerment versus charity. You will not find images that exploit the dignity of the communities we serve, or “voluntourism” opportunities. Instead you will find a group of young people dedicated to positive change that is tangible. The key to achieving this is patience. Take the time to develop a solid foundation for your work.

All We Are’s Founder Nathan (middle) is passionate about empowering young leaders all over the world and works to help people realize their potential. (Photo credit: All We Are)

Like this story or have something to share? Write to us: info@thisisuganda.org, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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