By Liz Parker (Founder of AFFCAD UK)
IF you had to explain the idea of the internet to someone who lived a hundred years ago, what would you say you were using it to do? I would like to say we are using it to change the world, to reduce extreme poverty and to make people's lives better. I'm not saying let's delete all our selfies and stop following funny pictures of cats with moustaches or whatever makes you laugh, what I am saying is that there is a hugely powerful tool available to us which can be used to fight poverty directly, people to people; so let's use it and let's use it effectively. Most people I know here in the UK really want to help others but are all too often put off by the corruption and uncertainty of where their money actually goes with big charities and government schemes. Social media allows direct contact between normal people who live worlds apart. That's why I set up AFFCAD UK to connect the world with the amazing people of Bwaise and to show transparency in exactly where people send their money when supporting the carefully planned projects run by AFFCAD on the ground in the slum.
I volunteered last summer and lived with a host family in Bwaise; the largest slum area in Kampala. Collecting water in a jerry can to wash each day, eating local food and generally living like most people do in the poorest area of Kampala, Uganda. Despite being a 6ft tall blonde female and constantly being called "muzungu" by kids, I felt completely cared for and loved like one of the family, one of the community and the people of Bwaise completely stole my heart. They made me feel alive in a way I can't really explain unless you have spent time in East Africa - in which case you will know exactly the magic feeling of which I am talking about. There is an air of hope, humanity, fun and love amongst the stench of sewage, no I'm joking it doesn't smell of sewage everywhere but then again I wasn't there in the rainy season and then again every "bathroom" of any of the local bars did rival India's for the most stinky toilet shack in the world award!
My story: I was there because 3 years previously I went on a slum tour run by AFFCAD (Action for Fundamental Change and Development). AFFCAD a small Ugandan based organisation which was set up by 4 pretty incredible young guys - I could see they were the real thing and decided they deserved all the help and support I could offer. AFFCAD run projects to improve health, education and employment opportunities for the people of Bwaise. For example slum tours fund the only free primary school in the area. It's difficult to get funding as a Ugandan registered Organisation and so when I returned to the UK I set up AFFCAD UK.
Continuing the ethos of AFFCAD 'empowering the younger generation', I started by involving my students (I am a science teacher in south London) and the enthusiasm from my students was over-whelming. Using Skype calls to Bwaise the kids here can speak to the guys on the ground there, make friends and discuss how to lend their support. The idea has grown, and so many people like what we are about. I soon had a deputy director Samantha Nakirya who is an ex-student of mine currently studying at uni, with family in Uganda, she is as passionate as I am about improving things in Bwaise.
Samantha and Liz Speaking to students in London about Project Chicken Feed.
Samantha (L) and Liz having fun in London
My friend Luke is now looking into moving his new clothing company to Bwaise to employ graduates from AFFCAD's Bwaise Youth Employment Centre (an inspiring centre which trains 800 young people each year with vocational skills). We have recently got a new Medical Director on board and a group of guys climbing mountains dressed as chicken to help us fundraise - the response from everyone has been incredible.
Our latest project #ProjectChickenFeed
saw us on the front page of the South London Press, on ITV news
(Watch on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGHq0vBDLgQ) and in 2 other papers not to mention the social media frenzy. The idea is to start a chicken farm to sustainably feed 200 children at AFFCAD's primary school by using money raised from the release of our song; CHALLENGES. The song is written and performed by my friends Heart Beat Performers. They are group of young musicians from Bwaise and the song is about standing up to the Challenges they face as one. Every 2 downloads (99p each) will be enough for us to buy one chick; you can watch the music video here:
Our next project is Give a Girl a Future
which enables people here in the UK and across the world to sponsor a girl with a one off payment of £250 which will take the young girl out of the sex industry and into other employment. This is a subject so close to my heart after meeting many girls selling sex to survive when I was in Bwaise in the summer. Please see more and find out how you can become a sponsor on our website http://affcaduk.org/?page_id=241
I don't know if there is anyone in world that could be as excited as I am about going back to live in a slum this Easter, but maybe that's because they don't know just how awesome the people of Bwaise are. Hopefully I'll be returning with enough money raised to start the chicken farm and enough sponsors to help AFFCAD transform lives.
TO me it is too simple and too obvious not to do anything. The world, our home, is tiny. If you could see the 9 year old orphaned girl who lives alone next door selling herself 5 times a day for 15p a client to buy herself enough food to survive, then maybe you wouldn't eat that second Krispy Kreme doughnut; maybe you would give it to her. That's all.
Founder and Director
Working Together to Transform Kampala's Poorest Slum Areas