Education, Economic Security
The Morehead-Cain Foundation
I have been to Uganda twice so far, the first time for the duration of three and a half months and the second time for the duration of about a month. Both of my trips were fully sponsored by the Morehead-Cain Foundation as part of the Morehead-Cain Scholarship. My first trip was during the summer of 2009, when I was supported in a microfinance internship through Experiential Learning International in Iganga, Uganda and Lambaala, Uganda. It was through the connections that I made through Experiential Learning International and my internship with Uganda'a Microfinance Support Centre that I was able to found Empower U: Social Innovation for Women's Education (EmpowerUgandaNow.org). The initial funding for the Empower U project was personal savings and direct personal donations. The project was kick-started when I returned to Uganda in December 2009 and spent the month with my Ugandan co-founders in Kumi, Uganda.
During my initial internship in Uganda as a consultant in the Microfinance Support Centre, it was my role to spend time at individual microfinance institutions to audit financial records, identify problems and charter solutions. I compiled reports on these institutions for the Microfinance Support Centre, which in turn would loan out funds accordingly. While at my internship, I formed a partnership with my supervisor and one of the most incredible women I have ever met - Immaculate Okurut. Together we brainstormed the concept for what would become Empower U.
The concept is simple - each beneficiary chosen is a young woman who is looking for a way to fund her education. Each beneficiary receives a pig and business training through Empower U, setting her on the road to becoming a business-woman of agriculture - a field many Ugandan girls feel most comfortable in. As the pigs multiply, the girl is responsible for passing one on to a new beneficiary and for using the rest of her profit to fund her education goals.
Immaculate and I kick-started the program in December 2009, distributing 30 pigs and 10 goats among forty young women.
The most rewarding aspect of this experience has been the proof that one person can make a difference. Yes - it is only when that one person has the sort of complete support that I did and has been so fortunate as to form the partnerships that I have - but it is entirely possible. What was the dream of Immaculate and myself while sitting in her office in the early morning (by Ugandan standards) had become reality within a few short months. Our first monitoring session of the program was carried out in the summer of 2010 by two fellow classmates from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and we are going forward from here.
The opportunity for true cross-cultural friendship and understanding in working toward a common goal is one of the most incredible things I've had the chance to experience - I am so thankful for this.