In the time since our last report, we’ve been working hard towards achieving several long-term goals for this year. The remaining weeks of summer after returning from Uganda were filled with (ongoing) efforts to start building a stronger network of members, alumni, and supporters through media such as our redesigned blog, new website, and a more-lively facebook page. This year’s leadership is the first generation to follow the graduation of essentially everyone that was a part of the founding group. We had been fortunate to be able to rely on a sizeable group of highly committed people who were in it for the long term, until this year. It was clear that we would need to recruit a new crop of quality student researchers in the fall to really keep the group viable. The big tests for this were effectively promoting our mission preceding and during the fall Student Organization Fair. When our kick-off meeting came, we did more than fill a 50-seat lecture hall with prospective members. Maybe 30 of them have stuck around four weeks later, which was roughly our goal in starting out.
Another hurdle that the group faced was making the experience of being a part of EDGE engaging and worthwhile for every minute. Based off of past years, we made the decision to let members chomp at the researching bit longer. It is very difficult to start producing meaningful research after a month of being in the organization for a trip that won’t come for another 7 to 8 months. We’re confident that putting off research until the spring semester and instead focusing on educating members about issues that Africa, Uganda, and Lingira Island face will get enable students to come up with research that will be very well suited to the needs of Lingira. (The trade-off is that the research part of our work is a huge pull for membership, and we need to sustain interest throughout this period in order to not lose the most zealous members.)
We were really fortunate to be able to link up with Robert Enholm Exec. VP of Citizens for Global Solutions, a Washington organization that lobbies and raises awareness about the continued need for meaningful international relations on the individual and state level. Robert gave a great lecture in mid-September and gave our internationally inclined group a lot to be excited about. It is our intent to continue hosting lecturers throughout the year, especially those UW faculty members who work everyday on the issues we are trying to address.
Currently we are planning our third annual banquet celebration on November 12th. This will be a fundraising event for EDGE, but also an opportunity to dwell on our shared success in working to transform Lingira Island. (If you wish to attend, email firstname.lastname@example.org.) Such events are great for creating awareness of what we do and why it's a great thing to be a part of.
Lastly, perhaps most importantly, we’ve been getting wonderful reports from the island about the progress of their garden project. The students and faculty were ambitious and excited enough about the garden to try planting a month or two before the dry season ended. They had planted a large area of the garden with sweet potatoes after preparing the soil. Since then, we have heard that the students are already eating greens out of the garden, which is a huge step towards a nutrient-rich diet for the students in many ways, especially given Ugandan’s usual skepticism of leafy greens. Though we have not yet received word of how planting went, it should have finished a couple weeks ago. What we know for sure is that the kids and teachers are excited about having somewhere to be working and growing.
A final note: we are in the early stages of working out how to transport and place several dozen Household Water Treatment Systems (HWTS) on the island. We’ve been working with an engineer who has designed a unique sort of filter that will cost $13/unit and deliver all of the safe drinking water a family needs for several years. Our goal is to assemble them on the island next summer and distribute them at a subsidized cost to those who wish to take up one of the filters.
Please stay in touch as we build towards another round of researching and implementing hand-crafted solutions for Lingira Island. We’ll do our best… you may have seen our sort of “promo video”, if not, here it is.
Many thanks and best wishes,