The village of Nyabushozi is located in Uganda, across the border from Rwanda, in the Mbarara region. It is a region where there are no lakes, no rivers, no water sources. Lacking access to water from natural sources, the population is entirely dependent on rain, which has been very meager over the last few years. Moreover, water is not only required for the people, but also for the domestic animals. Finding water is the most important thing in the lives of the people living there…

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Update on Funding

Funding for the Nyabushozi project has been coming in slowly, but steadily over the last few months. I turned 50 this year, and I thought that it would be nice to call for a donation of 50 euro/person at that occasion. That’s how the Times 50 initiative started… Whilst we didn’t get to 2500 euro, we got people to contribute, we created awareness, and that’s what it is all about! Next step will be to put the project up for funding at the 1% Club!

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European Summit for Global Transformation

On October 15-17, Winfred and I spent the weekend in Amsterdam to attend the European Summit for Global Transformation (ESGT). This is where Winfred and I met in the first place, and somehow this is where the Nyabushozi project started (read the story). So it was a very emotional weekend for all of us.

Winfred Pitching

Of course, meeting with our ESGT friends, old and new, was very important. But so was Winfred’s presentation of the Nyabushozi project to the audience on Saturday (photo), and our participation in a small fundraising auction on Sunday.

Our presence at the summit also allowed strengthening ties with those people that are close to the project: Cheryl Cooper, the incredible Maggie Doyne, Wiebke Herding & Emmanuelle Lambert (both from Brussels, both their first ESGT participation!), Karen Schmidt & Trish Longhurst who both made very generous donations (Thank You!), the lovely Marcella Nihof, and of course Rebecca Self, grand ESGT organizer, not to forget the Epic Change team including Stacey Monk, Sanjay Patel and “Mama” Lucy Kamptoni of course, and finally my daughter Léandre (just turned 16, I’m very proud of her active participation in such an event!).

More than anything else, participating and sharing with friends at the ESGT has confirmed that we are doing the right thing with The Nyabushozi project, that the peer-to-peer approach is the right way to go, and that there are other people out there that believe in our approach.

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Looking into funding options

On our return from Paris, we met with Mark Charmer. Marc works for the AKVO and he explained to us that they currently focus on water-related projects, but that they may be interested in other projects such as education in the future.

AKVO is an organization that has structured the charity funding and follow-up processes in a disciplined framework. Winfred and I plan meeting with Luuk Diphoorn, director of AKVO, to discuss the best way to include our project in their portfolio. Of course, the charity has to be established first.

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Africa Gathering

On May 27 & 28, Winfred and I went to Africa Gathering, an event in Paris. I believe that this meeting was an important turning point for the project. Africa Gathering is an initiative by Mariéme Jamme, promoting social entrepreneurship in Africa. Africa Gathering brings people from multiple disciplines together to talk about positive change in sustainable development, technology, social networking, health, education, environment and good governance in Africa.

The entrepreneurial aspect opened our eyes to the need for local autonomy, for running this project as a business opportunity rather than a charity. In order for this to succeed, we identified 4 key steps to autonomy:

  1. Drinking water
  2. Sanitation
  3. Basic education
  4. Commerce

These steps are not necessarily sequential, but they represent an order of priority.

In Paris, we also met with Samia Lounis and Walter De Brouwer, CEO of the One Laptop Per Child initiative for Europe. OLPC is very active in Rwanda, where they have a support center for the region, and they are interested in expanding into Uganda. We will have further meetings in the weeks to come, to discuss possible collaboration with OLPC.

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Update from Nyabushozi

Winfred did spend 4 weeks in Africa, traveling from Kigali where she has family and friends, but also contacts at government level, to her native region of Nyabuchozi to meet with the local people, share her ideas, and establish key relations for continued local management of our project, and finally to Kampala where she used her relationships to connect with government officials.

The objective of her trip, which was sponsored by Fast Track Consulting was twofold:

  • develop a better understanding of the situation, the local needs, and the project opportunities
  • establish contacts with local people, government authorities, and local contractors able to execute the project activities.

The results of this preliminary analysis are outright positive. There is a real need for the project that we propose, the people are enthusiast, and the local government will support the initiative (although not financially).

Upon her return, we have posted some pictures of her trip.

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The Story

How I met Winfred

I participated in the 2009 European Summit for Global Transformation, which was held in Rotterdam. This is a wonderful event, which focuses on social entrepreneur’s passion and capabilities to actually bring the change they dream of. Among the many projects presented, there was a school being built in Rwanda by Innocent Bajeneza with help from Jen Lemen. Innocent doesn’t speak English and his story was translated by Nina Uwera with help from Winfred Asiimwe, both of Rwandese origin but now living in Europe. As much as Nina is easy going and outspoken, Winfred seemed rather shy and difficult to access. During the conference, that is. I was lucky enough to drive both of them back to Brussels after the event, and that’s how we started talking and slowly got to know each other.

I’ve learned that Winfred can be fragile and strong, determined and shy, … all at the same time! Her life has certainly been difficult and harsh, I know she suffered violence and lived in hostile environments, but she stayed beautiful and pure and she’s driven by a strong passion to help her former refugee village in Uganda.

Winfred’s Project

Winfred was born in Africa, and although she lived in Europe for the past 30 years, she has kept strong connections with her homeland. She remembers that as a child, she would have to walk hours for water. She told me there was only water available close to her village during the rainy season, but it was of very poor quality so it had to be boiled. Having to walk many miles for water, poor sanitation, and not always being able to boil the water nearly caused her death, as she suffered cholera as a child.

She told me: “since I survived cholera, I have this dream to help avoid the disease in my community by providing them with clean safe water” — unfortunately, so many years have passed and she has never been able to fulfill that dream. We both feel that now the time has come. And we also wish to provide her village with a school, as we strongly believe education is what can help the people out of poverty.

The village of Nyabushozi

The village of Nyabushozi is located in Uganda, across the border from Rwanda, in the Mbarara region. It is a region where there are no lakes, no rivers, no water sources. Lacking access to water from natural sources, the population is entirely dependent on rain, which has been very meager over the last few years. Moreover, water is not only required for the people, but also for the domestic animals. And “if the cattle have no water, they will not produce milk” says Winfred, so finding water is the most important thing in the lives of the people living there. She explains: “currently, rain water is collected in small ponds (man-made dams), but it is of very poor quality, shared between the animals and the population, and therefore the source of many diseases”

Providing Clean, Safe Drinking water

A well seems the logical solution for the water problem in Nyabushozi. We know however that just drilling the well is not sufficient. And we know that a water well is a lot more than only a hole drilled in the ground! So we have drafted a high level project plan, whereby we have to tackle many issues, from financing the project to defining ownership and ensuring maintenance. From the original idea to celebrating success there is a long road, including a preliminary visit, financing, connecting with local authorities, finding a contractor, engaging the community, etc.

Ensuring Education

Whilst water may seem quite a challenge already, both Winfred and I are convinced that we have to go the next step also: provide the children with basic education. Especially as these children and their parents will be freed from the burden of getting to water, the children will have more time for education. That’s why we wish to provide the village of Nyabushozi with a school. Providing basic education locally will have a tremendous leverage effect; it will equip the future people of Nyabushozi with the means to fight their poverty.

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Nyabushozi Photos

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