We are delighted to report that our Lira Learning Centre has been fully repaired, renovated and security systems beefed up, thanks in part to the unrestricted COVID-19 relief microgrant that our organisation received from GlobalGiving. While we still bear the emotional scars, the physical scars from the May 2020 break in, theft and vandalization of our Lira Learning Centre have been erased and it is now as good as new.
The icing on the cake is that we innovated and we were able to utilize some of that which was vandalized by bad people who took advantage of the COVID-19 induced lock down to break into our Lira Learning Centre. We were able to utilize wood from most of the damaged wooden door shutters and frames, for example, to make shelves and cupboards and to establish reading stations in the Innovator’s Hall, the Reading Room and the Guest House, at our Lira Learning Centre.
Better still, young adults under our mentorship actively participated in bringing back to life our Lira Learning Centre. Some, provided labour at a very modest cost; while some provided their expertise, such as Emmanuel O. who utilized his artistic talent to paint murals on the walls of our outdoor sitting shed (vehicle parking shed converted); and on the walls of our perimeter fence.
It gets even better, our newly refurbished Lira Learning Centre is currently, for a 21 months period starting March 2021, hosting our research and advocacy project: “Challenging Categories: Educated Unemployed Youth as Institutional Innovators in Rural Uganda,” which we are implementing in partnership with Lira University and the University of East Anglia; and with funding from The British Academy utilizing the British Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund.
Seven young adults under our mentorship are directly participating in the implementation of our Challenging Categories project. They are working alongside two distinguished academics, the Principal Investigator and the Co-Investigator, through whom they are being mentored and are getting knowledge and skills on how to conduct empirical qualitative investigations from start to finish. They are also benefiting from the expertise of a media consultant and his team, who are enhancing their media content and navigation skills.
Three young adults from our first cohort of mentees who are continuing their mentorship with us, we have employed on probationary contracts, and, based at our Lira Learning Centre, they are working alongside our Managing Director. They are learning how to do publicity for a nonprofit organisation; and to profitably operate an innovators hall, a small reading room, a small guest house and a kitchen that are owned by a nonprofit organisation to raise funds for our organisation’s charitable work.
We are forever indebted to our donors for without your contribution we would not have the financial resources and the peace of mind to innovate, to implement and to make a significant positive difference in the lives of our direct beneficiaries - young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds, and ultimately their wider communities. To you our donors, we say thank you.
From Thursday, 21st January to Saturday, 23rd January 2021, eleven young adults participated in our training session on cash flows for income generation; a sub-session of Module 4: Initiating and Sustaining Innovations for Positive Change in Rural Uganda of our Mentoring Young Adults into Innovators against Poverty project.
We learnt and practiced how to develop a cash flow for income generating projects from start to finish. Our young innovators who participated in the training committed that they would use their new knowledge and skills as follows, in their words:
The training materials were developed by Ms. Norah Owaraga, our Managing Director; and she facilitated this our first training session on cash flows for income generation. The training was a hands-on, practical and delivered in a manner that encouraged maximum participation of each and every participant.
We had plenary sessions, exercises in pairs, exercises in small groups, and exercises individually
The training session was held at our fabulously spacious and serene learning centre in Lira; a very ideal centre, especially so in these days of the coronavirus pandemic.
Thank you to our donors for without your financial and other support we would not have this privilege of contributing towards nurturing the next leaders of our communities.
Yesterday, Monday, 23rd November 2020, Owomugisha texted me through Facebook Messenger.
“Because of knowing you I am a happy owner of 70 turkeys, which I would not have bought without your connection. I even have ducks clucking away. Last week I harvested 5 acres of Hibiscus. All this I did during the COVID-19 period. I am aiming for 10 acres of hibiscus and 200 turkeys soon.
I sell my hibiscus produce to buyers in Owino Market, but I’m looking for better buyers, like those buyers who sell to wine makers.
Knowing you has done me well. All honour to you.”
Owomugisha’s gratitude is born out of me unintentionally becoming among her role models and mentors. She first contacted me in February 2015, texting me via Facebook Messenger:
“I thank God I read your article. It’s such a blessing that you give out free information. Those who have ears and eyes let them use those senses. No one will say you didn't give information.”
I am not certain which of my articles Owomugisha read. I have written some on my Alinga Farms Atorot brand (dried calyces of hibiscus sabdariffa fruit) value chain that I developed, and it is likely she read one them. Following which in February 2015 and through June 2019, she severally texted me via Facebook Messenger, persistently requesting my help:
“I would like to get seeds from you for the hibiscus plant. My farm is in Gomba Uganda.”
“Can I kindly ask that you save some hibiscus seeds for me to plant? I can pick them from you in a few weeks. Eyalama noi (thank you very much in Ateso).”
“Please if you have red hibiscus seeds I need 20kgs as soon as possible.”
“Sister, I am waiting on answer to hibiscus seeds 20kgs please red type.”
I am still hoping for hibiscus seeds from Cathy (my personal assistant). She is not responding to my messages.”
In June 2019, I followed up with Cathy, and I instructed her to make sure that Owomugisha is accessed the hibiscus seed that she had requested. “A note of gratitude. I got my hibiscus seeds through Cathy and planted them. We are doing very well. Blessings and honour!” Owomugisha texted in July 2019, via Facebook Messenger.
I have never physically met Owomugisha and without being introduced, I would not be able to know her if I met her. This makes her recognition of my contribution to her success ever so exciting. I am humbled and exhilarated at the same time.
Owomugisha’s success story is what we at CPAR Uganda Ltd are trying to replicate through our mentoring programme for disadvantaged young adults.
We are making some progress, irrespective of the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the pandemic hit and we couldn’t continue with our training schedule which required physical contact in class and in the community, we piloted giving some of our promising innovators small cash grants on the basis of their proposals for income generation.
Their success rate has confirmed to us the importance of the theoretical aspects of our programme. The innovators under mentoring need the theoretical aspects so that they can efficiently do the practical implementation.
We are delighted that it seems feasible that next month, December 2020, we will be able to resume classwork. We have scheduled a non-residential three-day training session from Thursday, 17th to Saturday, 19th December at our Lira Learning Centre.
It will be a tooling training session on how to prepare cash flows; how to use them for making informed investment decisions; and as tools to guide implementation of projects. In addition, each innovator who attends the session will be assisted to finalise a cash flow for one of their chosen projects.
We are grateful to our donors for your patience and we promise to stay the course until we have replicated many more success stories, such as Owomugisha’s, among disadvantage young adults in Uganda for their own benefit and for the benefit of their wider communities.
During this time of the COVID-19 induced lockdown in Uganda, we are in our third month, three young adults, Innovators, that are undergoing our mentoring program, teamed up, designed a project , which they code named: “Food in Lawns”; and they authored a proposal for it, which they submitted to us at CPAR Uganda. They proposed thus:
“Vegetables and fruits play an important role in human diet. The growing of vegetables and fruits, horticulture, can be practiced profitably at both large and small scale.
We want to create a horticulture farm on the grounds of the CPAR Uganda Lira Learning Centre and which we will run ourselves.
We want to do so, as a way to demonstrate to youth that it is viable to grow vegetables and fruits in small spaces; and to encourage youth to get involved in fruits and vegetable growing.
Overall, it is our intention to produce ecologically clean vegetables and fruits, so as to make nutritious food available to our communities; while at the same time we generate income for ourselves.
We will grow vegetables during all seasons, including the dry season, when prices for vegetables and fruits are high.”
Well, with our in-kind support – land and site for their project; and with our technical and financial support, the “Food in Lawns” project is now already off the ground. The three Innovators cleared the land; bought seeds; and have planted the first batch of crops; currently growing in seedbeds and in-field.
Similarly, another Innovator, from among the first cohort of our program, reached out to us with the following request:
“During the lockdown, when the CPAR Uganda Lira Learning Centre was broken into, it is unfortunate that I fell victim too. Among the things that were stolen where my assets with which I was using to run CPAR’s kitchen. I lost my restaurant items – plates, flasks, and half a bag of charcoal. This incident has impacted heavily on me. My capital base has been grossly affected.
I am a single mother who is struggling to make ends meet. Currently, I am struggling to raise money to re-establish my business. I am doing so through farming in the village with my parents. I am looking at opening a small retail shop just where I am living now due to the COVID 19 situation.
I am requesting for any assistance you can give me so that I can rebuild my business and I will highly be grateful if my request is put under your kind consideration.”
We have approved her request and we will provide her with financial and technical support to re-establish her business at her ancestral home in their village in northern Uganda.
We intend to support her, with the view that in the longer-term her innovation shall also function as an inspiration for the younger generation in her community to join the fight against poverty, through coming up with and implementing pertinent innovative and viable enterprises.
You may want to note that the pandemic escalated right after we completed, in February, the first of four modules of our program. Our original plan was that we would complete three modules, before requesting our Innovators to implement their innovations to address at least one challenge that is negatively impacting their communities; innovations that they would have development under our mentorship.
Clearly, the pandemic has forced us to innovate; to jump to the end; and work backwards. Our working paradigm has shifted from “learn how it is done professionally and correctly, then do”; to “go ahead and do, and as you do you will learn how it is done professionally and correctly.”
That four of the eight Innovators that are continuing as the first cohort of our programme, successfully have already come up with such exciting projects, is testament, as well, of the effective delivery of our first module, “Understanding Poverty in Rural Uganda.”
Without your support, this would not have been possible and so we thank you.
On Friday, 14th February 2020, eleven young adults (4 men and 7 women) fulfilled all requirements and thus successfully completed the first of four modules of our CPAR Uganda Ltd innovator mentoring programme. We awarded them certificates, because they:
“Satisfactorily completed 23 days of training on Understanding Poverty in Rural Uganda as part of CPAR Uganda’s project: Mentoring Young Adults into Innovators against Poverty, conducted from 22nd January 2020 to 14th February 2020 at the CPAR Uganda Lira Learning Centre. Topics covered: Conceptions of Poverty; Measurement of Poverty; Causes of Poverty; Symptoms of Poverty; Gender and Poverty; Poverty Messaging; and Where to start in the Fight against Poverty.”
We are delighted to report that each and every one of our 11 Innovators are not afraid to get their hands dirty. We have every confidence that as they innovate against poverty, they will be hands-on; will lead by example; and will be excellent agents of change.
All have indicated their desire to continue on their mentoring journey and, if funds are available, they will participate in the remaining three modules of our programme: Module II: Applying Development Theories and Methodologies to Rural Uganda; Module III: The Dynamics of Uganda’s Rural Economy; and Module IV: Initiating and Sustaining Innovations for Positive Change in Rural Uganda.
In between modules, they have agreed to be volunteers, offering their time, labour and expertise to CPAR Uganda in areas of administration and fundraising. And, in return, our Managing Director is mentoring them and giving then hands-on training on how to fundraise for and how to administrate a non-profit Ugandan organisation.
Please note, although, we had selected 20 young adults and offered them scholarships to be among our first cohort, four of them did not report for their first module. They gave two major explanations: employers refused them study leave; and conflicting schedule with university programmes.
Of the 16 that reported, two dropped out because their employers called them back to work; and two, because of inability to cope with the participatory nature of the training, which required all to participate equally in class and during non-class activities. Of the twelve that stayed on to the end, one was found insufficient in quality.
Depending on our success in fundraising, it is our intention to make another call to young adults, so that we may select 14 for whom we will conduct Module I. If we can, we intend to do so before we conduct Module II for the eleven who have already gone through Module I. If we succeed then we will combine the two groups and all the twenty five will go through Module II together.
Our project is now off the ground and we are up-beat that with vital financial support from our donors it will succeed. We are thus indebted to our donors for making it possible for us to positively impact the lives of young adults from disadvantaged communities of Northern Uganda; and through them their wider communities.
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