How Charity Does – or Doesn’t – Work in Africa

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Makerere University campus, Kampala

 I feel shattered after a 5am start and seven hours’ travel. A smooth flight from Nairobi to Entebbe, then a slooow drive through crawling traffic for about one and a half hours through the sprawling outskirts of Kampala, much greener than drought-stricken Kenya.

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The red soil and grassy banks behind which the Ugandan shops ply their trade remind me of rural Kenya.

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CIMG1958 (1024x575)My room in the Kabubbu Resort centre north of Kampala is lovely; basic, clean and serviceable. And my eyes light up at the numerous Great Blue Turacos that flop among the foliage. I’d only ever seen a single one in Kenya’s Kakamega Forest before.

I lunch in the dining room and remark on the heavy, solid chairs.

Geraldine and Geoff Booker are the Founders of The Quicken Trust charity in East Sussex, somewhat dazed at the journey that has been imposed on them since 1999 when the Kabubbu concept was born.

They never had a plan – or a “model”, as somebody asked them. Kabubbu has progressed over the years, as part of God’s accord, and they’ve gone along with it.

We discuss the reason for my visit. Children from local schools in East Sussex go out on holiday projects, and adults from all walks of life become sponsors of children, home projects, and even grandparents. Lives have been changed dramatically by the experience – of both the givers and the receivers.

I want to know how their volunteers react to the Project. They rejoice in the freedom from restraints of modern Britain, I’m told: “We can touch and hug the children without fear of attacks and accusations of ill-intent.”

“And the people of Kabubbu?” I ask. Geoff says they are like all humans. Some embrace the help given through Quicken Trust, they take responsibility and run with it. Others grab what they can, then sit back and do nothing; yet others are suspicious, they wait and watch, wonder why help is offered, then in time might acquiesce, or turn away. It all takes time, he says; it’s barely 150 years since Uganda saw its first missionaries. It took UK since Roman times to get where it is now.

Perhaps that’s the secret of this extraordinary Project: time, patience and collaboration?

After lunch I go on a two hour walking tour with John Kisakye, who went to school about 8 km away, and started work in the project library before he took up guide duties. His 85 year old father used to be the local pastor.

The Kabubbu Development Project (KDP) is a locally registered Non Government Organisation (NGO) which owns and manages various projects. Quicken Trust works in partnership with them, raising funds.

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Boda Bodas

“Projects” are scattered seemingly haphazardly over a sprawling area, which cannot be compared with the compact villages of the western world. A dirt road, where boda bodas (motorbike taxis) ply their business, is the “village” backbone. Four boreholes have been built, and people draw from them daily. But for John, the advent of electricity was the turning point for the village. It drew outside business and raised the price of the land.

He shows me the piggery. Piglets scamper along the dividing passageway while the sows grunt at us. A toad lurks in a corner by the door. The pigs belong to different families in the village. When a household is given a pig by a sponsor (who buys it from the Project), the first litter is distributed freely among the community. The second litter, however, belongs entirely to the original recipient, who can then start a business. The gift is thus “passed on.” This idea was devised by the Project Trustees, says John.

“Like AIDS, but in a positive, good way!” said John Sibi Okumu, a friend of mine, when I tried to explain the concept to him.

For the villagers, the focus is on “the KDP”. There is no mention of Quicken Trust. Quite natural. Conversely, the sponsors and volunteers see it as the Quicken Trust project. Interesting…

I spend a week at Kabubbu probing into the inner rationale of this amazing place, for I am writing the sequel to my book, Breath of Africa, and am interested in how charity does – or doesn’t – work in Africa.

I shall be digging deeper over the next few weeks.

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3 Responses to How Charity Does – or Doesn’t – Work in Africa

  1. This is very interesting Jane. My wife and I have a friend who spent 10 years in Nairobi as a missionary. The paragraph with the line “it all takes time” makes sense when you factor it really did “take the UK since Roman times to get where it is now”.
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • jbwye says:

      Yes, Carl. And we’re always in such a hurry in this world of ours. Where in Nairobi did your friend work, I wonder? I’m writing the sequel to BofA at the moment, and immersed in Kenya’s “recent” past.

  2. Hi Jane, she has been back in Canada for about 10 years now, but she was with a Christian mission in Kenya called Language recordings, which is under an international umbrella called Global Recordings. She would often be in remote areas of Kenya, sometimes Tanzania. Often helping illiterate people who could not read or write, these tape recorders, are hand wound, so you would not need electricity. 🙂

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