All We Are has a mission to solarize over 50 schools in Uganda over the next 10 years. According to the organization, this can save money and ensure more young people spend more time in schools. We caught up with Nathan Thomas, the Founder & CEO for a chat.
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 fulfilment 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 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 KLA 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.
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. Here is a link to the story: allweare.org/2017/06/spotlight-on-nambuli-rogers
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
The Soroti Cricket Academy: Transforming Young Lives Through Sport
The Soroti Cricket Academy was founded in 2014 with five pioneer cricketers and has since grown to a membership of over 500 players. Founded by Felix Musana, a Certified Public Accountant and passionate cricketer, the academy has supported over 600 young people in Eastern Uganda through cricket, education and youth empowerment programs.
How it started
“I was working in Soroti and one day while I was jogging at a public field, I saw five kids playing cricket, 4 girls and 1 boy. They did not have gear and I worried they would get hurt. They had no one to guide them but they were playing anyway. I was impressed, I could not go forward without supporting them. I got them some gear and that made a very big difference for them. That is how it began,” says Musana. “They told their friends who joined the game and within no time, the numbers had increased.”
Having gained an appreciation for the sport at an early age and playing throughout secondary and university, Musana’s passion and love for the game pushed him to start this academy along with three friends, with a dream of harnessing young people’s talent and using the game to empower them to become changemakers. He currently plays for the Soroti Blazers.
To increase its sustainability and recruit more players, the academy works with ten primary schools and six secondary schools in Soroti, Mbale and Lira. They have two professional coaches who take turns training the players in schools. So far, three clubs have been established; Soroti Challengers, Olila girls club and Soroti Blazers and are now competing on the national level.
“We try to introduce cricket at the youngest level in primary and follow through with the players up to university. The youngest players are 8 years old in primary 3.”
Whereas cricket is the backbone of the academy, Musana puts much emphasis on education and youth empowerment as well to ensure a better life for its players who are mostly from rural eastern Uganda.
“We go beyond cricket,” he says. “Most of the young people we work with come from backgrounds with parents that do not believe in education, especially for girls. We mitigate this by talking to the parents to get them an appreciation for education and the opportunities it brings. The people we work with are from rural communities with challenged backgrounds. We realized that if we do not take that extra step, they wouldn’t get much value from playing cricket because many of the players were dropping out of school due to early marriages, drug abuse, pregnancy…”
Through cricket, the academy is empowering young people in rural communities in Eastern Uganda to become change agents. They do radio shows and conduct community programs during school holidays to show how cricket and education are linked.
“While cricket may not be a long-term career, it is a means to a better life for our players. Some have gone up to university level because their tuition is being paid by their patron clubs.”
Many players have received bursaries for secondary education and some university scholarships.
“Nine of our players have gotten call ups on the national team and four have represented the country in international games in international games in South Africa, Dubai, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Kenya and Kigali. We have 15 girls who have gotten bursaries in Olila Secondary School, 13 boys at Light SS, four boys in Mukono High School and another at Jinja S.S.”
Challenges they face
Being a voluntary project, Soroti Cricket Academy faces a multitude of challenges, most associated with resource mobilization. Without governmental support and limited support from the cricket federation of Uganda, there are very many limitations to how much they can do.
“In the beginning, it was only about getting the players equipment, but now we have 2 permanent coaches who scout train all the teams in the schools. Paying them sufficiently and on time is a challenge.”
Because there aren’t any cricket facilities in Soroti, the games can only take place in Entebbe, Jinja and Kampala where cricket ovals are. This excludes most of the players who may not afford transport and accommodation to participate.
Working with the schools too presents a challenge as they are more focused on academic work than sports so convincing the administration to let the students participate becomes difficult. However, inspired by the young player’s talent, he does not give up.
“I am impressed whenever I visit the players and see how talented they are. That keeps me going. Every time we get a chance to play at the national level, they play at their best. The talent, commitment and hard work these young people exhibit and the success they attain keeps me going. All the accolades we win lift my spirit. I can only consider quitting when I know Soroti has a cricket oval. When teams in Kampala come to play in Soroti.”
The future for Soroti Cricket Academy
In its five years of existence, the academy has produced some of the best cricketers in Uganda at the moment such as Joyce Mary Apio, Eloku Esther, Kevin Auro, Alongat Eunice and Apollo Joseph who have received national and inter-school accolades.
“The overall goal is to make Soroti a cricket powerhouse and empower athletes to become community leaders by staying in school.” Says Musana. “Already, one of the clubs, Olila cricket club has claimed its position as one of the best in the country.”
This Organisation is continuously tailoring projects to save the girl child and support needy women in the Community
Started a few years ago, local tailoring entrepreneur Harry Patel under his company Tengi Styles has over the years joined the helping hand supporting local communities with emphasis to the girl child and women in the rural areas of Jinja District.
This is all done under the ‘Abaana Abaidho’ Organisation that runs on the ‘Changing a life’ tagline. Through numerous tailored projects, the Foundation is changing the lives of very many young girls, and women in local communities especially in Jinja.
Apart from selling some of the best custom made ‘Bitengi’ that they also deliver in Kampala, Tengi Styles has taken up the mantle to deliver and train girls and women in hands on tailoring skills.
With this initiative, the Company and foundation have not only supported girls and women in tailoring but have also donated sewing machines to these people to enable them utilise the skills they have gained thus offering them an opportunity of earning a living through tailoring and through Tengi Styles that already has a functional client base.
The Foundation also engages young children under the school’s kids & community gala where they come together to play soccer/football as well as giving them scholastic materials to enable them go through school smoothly.
Together with local celebrities like Maro and the Brian Umony Foundation, who inspire young people to follow their dreams and use all available resources to better their lives have changed the course of life in rural Jinja
Through the use of fashion to change the lives of the needy and to empower the local person, Abaana Abaidho Foundation is continuously looking forward to create and tailor make programs and projects to better the life of the rural and ultra-poor person.
Who is Harry Patel?
Source: Proud to be a Musoga
Hari Patel aka ‘Waiswa’, from Buwenge, Jinja District, is ‘Proud to be a Musoga’. Hari qualifies as a ‘true’ Musoga, having been born, schooled and still lives in Buwenge. He is fluent in spoken and written Lusoga and loves Jinja.
He is very passionate and active about Busoga and owns a local charity, Abaana Abaidho, that uses football/sport to build confidence and unite the youth, and teaches vocational skills like tailoring.
Disability is not inability: Meet Aisha, a blind hair dresser
In a world full of uncertainties, Malengo Foundation is a living testimony through its Girl 50 50 project that no form of adversity or discrimination is enough to keep a strong woman from achieving her goals.
Being blind never stopped Bahati Aisha’s passion for beauty, business and style to blossom. The amazingly talented Aisha has broken barriers to run a successful hair and beauty salon in Kampala and is rising fast to rank among the stylists and fashion influencers despite being blind.
Aisha stood out as Miss Tourism Independent 2015-2016. She is also a makeup artist and cat walked for Malengo Foundation during the Hot Pink fashion show
Girl 50 50 is a Malengo Foundation Campaign mainstreaming the disability normative in gender empowerment. The project decided to honour all the vulnerable ladies who chose to thrive and didn’t let their disability to hinder them from pursuing their dreams.
Aisha was among the 6 remarkable girls and women with disabilities in various fields from Para sports to entrepreneurship that were recognized by Malengo Foundation.
Speaking during the Girl 50- 50 Forum and project launch at Mestil Hotel, Aisha shared her experiences about how blindness has impacted her life and career. The project will encompass a multitude of activities and interventions throughout the year focusing on the girl child disability rights in an effort to mainstream gender within disability rights.
Aisha was crowned the stylist honoree of 2019 and her award was presented to her by Lady Justice Margeret Oguli Oumo.
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