Why don’t you sponsor kids and pay their school fees? That’s a very common question we get, both in the US and in Uganda.
Rather than benefiting students, sponsorship programs create a hierarchy in schools and a sense of dependency amongst sponsorship recipients. It also limits the potential outreach by limiting who can benefit from the program. Likewise, it does not empower the students or their families to play an active role in their education. In response to these problems, we have established a variety of programs that benefit a multitude of students.
One of the biggest problems we see in Uganda is that aid has been given in a harmful way. Usually supplies are just dumped and left with the locals, but no resources are given on how to use items that are new to them. Other times items are left for distribution with no guidelines. After the items have been handed out, there may not be anybody there to repair it if it is broken. Once the items are used up, there may not be a way to replace it after a person has become dependent on it.
In the past couple of years there was an organization that set up a baseball field near Rising Star. When they set up the field, they went around and gave baseball equipment to the schools in the area so they could start a baseball team. Sounds like a nice gesture until you think about the fact that most Ugandan’s don’t know what baseball is. Now the schools have gloves, bats and balls sitting around collecting dust with nobody to teach them how to use them.
Many times we are offered supplies to distribute to the kids and their families. Whether it be shoes, clothes, electronics, etc., Rising Star avoids handing out supplies to individuals. This behavior has been quite harmful in creating a cycle of dependency and lack of ownership. Instead, we have offered reward-based gifts that can be used for furthering the child’s education, such as school supplies and backpacks.
Many people have come to Uganda with ideas that seemed really great from a western perspective. Some of those initiatives worked, but many failed because they simply did not take the time to understand what the community needed. However, since we have begun to maintain a consistent presence on the ground and to open our ears to suggestions from the community, Rising Star has thrived. Rising Star implemented these offerings in response to real needs voiced by real people in the community who told us how we could help.