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Laura Byaruhanga: Spicing Up Uganda with the Spoken Word

LAura

Meet the passionate poet Laura Byaruhanga, she loves poetry so much that she treated guests on her wedding day to awesome poetry. she is the brain behind Open mic Uganda.  Open Mic performances will blow you away. Open Mic is a platform that promotes spoken word in Uganda. They hold  monthly poetry night activities and school visits. We caught up with the passionate founder Laura Byaruhanga who shared with us her experience

Who is Laura Byaruhanga?

Laura Byaruhanga Businge is a Christian. She is a writer, producer, voice artist and radio personality. She is a creative mind, a lover of the arts, and a wife. It’s hard to describe her so in a nutshell, she is Laura!

Why Open Mic Uganda?

I chose to be a part of Open Mic Uganda because it was a challenge in the arts scene in Kampala, and I enjoy challenges, especially because there were no regular poetry nights at the time we begun. It’s fun working with a team of passionate young people. In spite of the challenges, we have pushed through with our dream.

What is this spoken word that you and your youthful friends have been so much passionate about?

Well, spoken word is basically self-expression to entertain, educate or inspire an audience. It is primarily through poetry performances. A few of us watched a lot of Def Poetry Jam and thought abbot trying it out. We thought it would be a cool way to move an audience, and so the organizers are mostly poetry performers, and were to begin with. Most of the poetry performances in Kampala, which were seldom held, were theatrical in nature, so we decided to try out something new like we had seen in the videos we had, and a movement was born!

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One of Open Mic’s Finest poets

 You have been so passionate about poetry to the extent that you treated the guests at your wedding reception at Serena with bouts of spoken word. Where did all this begin from?

Lol!  Well, you could look at it in different ways. I needed entertainment at my wedding, so being a producer of a company that deals in entertainment, I already had a pool of talent in my grasp! Hahaha! But the real reason? I knew that if I got married, I wanted entertainment that would keep the audience glued, remember it possibly forever, and make everyone have a good time! So poetry performances were the perfect thing to have! Please note I would have probably had a huge poetry production, but my husband knew I would take it too far, and pushed against it. But the live performances, both music and poetry, were phenomenal!

 Where did you get this love for poetry and spoken word?

I think it’s a combination of reasons. Even though I don’t like being to be center of attention, I really enjoy public speaking, acting and performing. I love written poetry, I love word play and I love attending shows. I first fell in love with poetry from a young age, and I believe that a combination of these passions and talents gave birth to my love for poetry, spoken word and poetry performance!

 Has your family been supportive in your pursuit and love for this not so common spoken word?

Hmm. At first my parents thought it was okay, they have always supported my passions. But at the time I used to perform at poetry recitals at the National Theatre under the Lantern Meet of Poets, I was about to finish university and was unemployed. They thought I was wasting my time and told me to stop wasting time with poetry! Then Open Mic Uganda happened, and I was constantly lectured especially for going home late. I was severely told to leave the platform and anything poetry related which got worse when I finished my contract and was jobless again! It was hard but after I explained to them a million times and they saw my resilience in staying in the movement, they softened. I think it helped when they saw several articles of us in the New Vision and Daily Monitor newspapers!

 What are your biggest accomplishments ever since you launched this spoken word platform?

As Open Mic Uganda? We have sold maybe hundreds of our Open Mic Uganda merchandise such as T-shirts, wrist bands and bookmarks thus publicizing ourselves. We have a vibrant social media presence, especially on Facebook and Twitter. We have had I believe just over a hundred shows in and around Kampala. We have had performers on our platform go all over the country and across the borders exporting the talent that was nurtured on our stage. We have worked with organizations of all types dealing in humanitarian issues discussing their issues through spoken word. We have been spoken about on broadcast and print media that has been key in the growth of our movement. A lot of our management team have used the skills they have gained with us in their careers such as presenting on radio and public speaking. But most importantly, we have been the pioneers of a movement that we are working hard at passing down to the generations!

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 You are a producer at Open mic Uganda, how do you get to pull off these hectic monthly shows?

I can honestly not take the credit, I work with an amazing and vibrant team! Every production is due to a team effort! Also the support of the Uganda Museum where we hold the shows, and of course the poets, musicians we show case, and audience make it all happen!

 What was interesting about the “Fusion360”?

Fusion 360 is the monthly show we hold at the museum. It is interesting because from Fusion 360, we have been able to gage what the audience wants, the local talent we are dealing with, how to come up with a production and work on our marketing and publicity.

 Any experiences that have touched you while promoting the spoken word?

Yes, the hunger for talent grooming and mentoring. Whether at Fusion 360 or at schools, many writers and performers have come to us for advice on how to improve their performances or writing. It’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly!

Also at the close of each and every show, we have had performers thanking us for giving them the opportunity to share their talent with the world! It always touches me and reminds me why we do what we do!

 As a lady, how do you manage to keep on persevering to promote this idea even amidst challenges?

Well, the world knows that women are the backbone to many successful ventures in history. This may be because of our ability to multi-task, not break under pressure and care for those around us. So no matter what storm hits us, as a person and as a woman, I know that we can handle it. I won’t lie, I cry many tears that are unseen to those I work with and those we struggle for, but in those tears I find strength that endures the winds and the pressure trying to knock us down.

 What has been your best memorable touching spoken word show or tour ever since you started and why?

I honestly can’t pick, they were all touching at some point in their own ways! But the ones that stand out are when we held a show with Abavubuka Foundation at Open House, the very first Open Mic Night Kampala show at Sabriinas, the first show we held at Gayaza High School, the first Fusion 360 show we held at the Uganda Museum, the last Fusion 360 show we held supported by Take One Entertainment, when we performed at the Bayimba Festival in 2012 and Engero at the Ugandan Museum.

Well, it seems you are here to stay! Where do you see Open Mic Uganda ten years from now?

Ten years later, I see us in our offices with enough room to hold shows and rehearsal space. I see us exporting our poets around Africa. I see the management team being able to earn salaries on a monthly basis, and our poets getting paid handsomely for each of their performances. I see us performing at state functions and still supporting underground artists. I see us, the current members of the management team being mentors to those in the spoken word movement in Uganda and East Africa.

Start-ups take great courage and commitment. What are some of the challenges you have faced so far?

The challenges are very many! Consistency in passion of each team member has proven to be our hardest challenge! Lack of finances is probably our second biggest challenge. Also most of our target audience is still biased against poetry as a form of entertainment. And support of the government and arts community is greatly lacking!

 Any worst moments or regrets?

Definitely. Trusting some organizations who wanted to selfishly benefit from us caused us to get into a lot of trouble and stress. But we were able to learn from this difficult experience and come out of it better and wiser than before.

 Are you planning to promote and produce spoken word for the rest of your life or time will come and say “Yeah i have played my part”?

I think a time will come when I will note that I have played my part and step off the playing field for others. This movement is bigger than the individual; it is something we want to touch the generations to come even long after we are long gone. Also, there are other passions in my life that I want to dedicate my life to, so as much as I will dedicate a large part of my life in this commitment, I will walk away from actively producing the shows at some point. But I hope to always be a mentor in this, even in my old age!!!

 

Lets talk about the activities you do. From school outreaches to monthly poetry nights (which are awesome by the way), what made you adopt this strategy?

Hmm. Well, like I said it was a team effort! The purpose of the school trips was to first of all show the generation after us what poetry performance is all about. Then encourage them to try it out and start it as a school activity.

Monthly poetry nights are our first, most consistent and best way of achieving our vision! We actually started this and then decided to come up with all the other activities to support the success of our poetry nights. It is our most successful activity!

 

Have you received any rewards or skills or lessons from being associated with this platform?

Rewards? No yet! Skills? Definitely! Organizing events, human resource management, problem solving skills and creatively engaging a consistent audience to mention a few. Lessons? There are many but the one that stands out is to never give up your dream, even when against all the odds. Also, keep praying! When I pray, I mention Open Mic Uganda often because it is very close to my heart and I believe God wanted it to be a part of my destiny!

 

Am sure this started as a passion for poetry. But now that you’re getting recognition, does it still remain driven by passion?

Yes! It is! There are challenges like I mentioned earlier with consistency in passion. But in spite of the challenges, even when our problem of the presence of finances is solved (and I am sure it will be), it will still be driven by passion! We deal with poets, a category of some of the most passionate people on the planet! So I guarantee passion is key!

 

Behind your inspirational leadership and the name of your organisation, there are other people who help you be who you are or have helped you. Do you mind mentioning at least some of them? How big is your team?

The team was vast, but membership numbers have dwindled. However, key to mention are Ernest Dennis Sesanga who is a director, has been there from the very beginning and has been responsible for the Marketing department. Murray Shiraz sat in the very first Open Mic Night Kampala meeting and has dedicated every bit of his passion in this movement. Mark Gordon Musinguzi was the founder of Open Mic Night Kampala, and some of the members from this thus formed Open Mic Uganda. Winnie Apio, one of our most talented poets has been acting as the administrator and manger of the team. Maritza Byoga was the P.R.O and MC of our shows as was Patrick Maasa Birabi who doubled as our Graphics Designer for most of the posters of our shows and branded material. Steve Gumiriza has been key in dealing with stage management, and Tasha Emily for the welfare of our audience during our shows. Also key members in the past to note are Don Arinaitwe, Hellington Musoke, Susan Tusabe, Priscilla (Chef Illaxino) and Deexon Muhizi.

 

Then outside OMU, which partners have been helpful to you in your spoken word poetry shows?

We have been largely supported by Milege, they have been incredible and we are forever indebted to their assistance with sound equipment during the shows, sometimes availing the Milege Afro Jazz Band! We are also grateful to Take One Entertainment for graduating us to a level we only dreamed of at the time! Bonfire Uganda has helped us with sound equipment at our first Fusion 360 shows, as well as in providing performers. We are eternally grateful to The Lantern Meet of Poets for providing us with incredible talent and poets over the years. Also important to note are One Question Network, Brand 360, Writivism/CACE and others. Also, we are thankful to media houses like The New Vision, The Daily Monitor, NTV and others for covering many of our shows, we are honored!

 

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

I honestly never know how to answer this question; I am inspired by many people in different areas in my life! But key is Jesus, He has never let me down and constantly sustains me and uplifts me to greater heights!

Apart from God, I am inspired by my husband who has been there through EVERYTHING! He pushes me on when I feel like everything is a mess, when I want to throw the towel in. My parents and their love always never ceases to amaze me. Nargis Shirazi, my friend and sister from another mother truly amazes me with the fight to achieve her own dreams, some which are similar to mine in nature. My siblings and their individual strengths. And the entire Open Mic Uganda team that works tirelessly to support the dreams of many poets, and upcoming poets and performers.

 

If you had a chance to meet Russell Simmons (Def Jam), what would you tell him?

First I would jump up and down in disbelief! Then I will make him scribble his autograph like a million times! Then I will thank him graciously for coming up with his dream of spoken word because it has set fire to maybe hundreds or even thousands of minds to express themselves through their words and thoughts. He is responsible for many people finding their confidence to step on a stage and open their hearts and minds with others. I would tell him this and more.

 

If you also had a chance to meet policy makers in the Ugandan government for example the president or parliament, what would you tell them?

I think I would lecture them for undermining the performing arts in this country, especially His Excellency! Then I would ask them to find a way to ensure the performing arts are supported by the government. I will probably have a proposal strategy in hand and will do my best to blow their minds! I don’t know if it would work, but I would do my best!

 

At the end of the day, they say judge a person by the works of his or her hands. How do you want to be remembered?

Well, as concerns Open Mic Uganda and the spoken word movement in Uganda, I would hope to be remembered as a person who inspired others to follow their dreams, those who follow us to work tirelessly at progressing the spoken word movement in Uganda, and someone who pushed on against all odds!

 

This Is Uganda wants to tell the world that Uganda is not about Idi Amin or Kony but about beautiful people like you making a difference. Imagine if a white is reading this interview and they are touched, where can they contribute to your cause?

Well, if by a white, you mean someone who has the ability to contribute to our dream financially and is willing to do so, I would tell them to meet up with us and see how best to contribute. It could be with a grant, via sponsorship, or in any other way! They could reach us on our Facebook group or page on Open Mic Uganda, or our Twitter handle @OpenMicUganda, on email openmicuganda@gmail.com, or our blog openmicuganda.blogspot.com.

 What advice would you give to someone who wants to be like you?

Love God with your all, be true to yourself, and work at helping others to the best of your ability. This is the policy I try to live by, and it seems to be working!

 Any remarks you want you make to appeal to the people?

Poetry is the essence of art! It is the backbone of music, the body of visual art, the motion in the tempo of dance. Embrace it!

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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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