22 Nov Thank you … why, you ask?
Health care and education. I bet you would place these in your top five needs for a child – maybe your own child. Turns out people in Uganda want the same things for their children.
Ugandan parents want their children to be healthy. They want them to get an education. For the same reasons we want these things for our own children. Because it makes their lives better, safer, and more fulfilling.
Social Promise helps provide education and improve the health of Ugandans.
(Skip to the end for graphics that are helpful in teaching children about Social Promise.)
What does Social Promise do in Uganda?
A long time ago, we visited Uganda and found an exceptional hospital. And we found an outstanding home for orphans where all the children were being educated. The people running these local, Ugandan nonprofits asked for help, so we didn’t think we had much choice.
The exceptional hospital is called St. Mary’s Hospital – Lacor. Most people call it Lacor Hospital (pronounced Lachor). It consists of a main campus and three satellite clinics, together offering 554 beds, a Nurse Training School, a Laboratory Training School, and a medical school teaching site, among other training programs.
On an average day, there are over 500 inpatients at Lacor Hospital, with about 600 additional patients helped at the outpatient clinics. Specializations at Lacor include urology, orthopedic, pediatric, plastic and Fistula surgeries; treatment of childhood malignancies; endoscopy; and detection and treatment of early cervical cancers. The annual operating budget for the hospital is close to US $6 million. In a region where almost 35% of the population does not have enough money to survive on a given day. Only 45% of children under 18 years of age has a blanket to sleep under. In only 40% of families, does every member of the family have a pair of shoes (p.94).
St. Jude Children’s Home
It is difficult to imagine much good about an orphanage. But in a country with about 55% of the population under the age of 18, there are going to be orphans. And there needs to be a loving, caring, supportive home for these children. St. Jude Children’s Home is exactly such a place.
About 100 orphans live at St. Jude, in small family-style homes. About 10 children live with a “mother” in a single building that has several bedrooms, a bathroom with running water and a shower, a common area, a small indoor kitchen, and a traditional outdoor stove area. Each ‘family’ tends a small garden, to produce vegetables of their choice, and also contributes to the harvest from the all-orphanage garden.
The orphanage includes an on-site nursery school as well as a primary school and a special home for children with disabilities.
As you might imagine providing shelter, food, healthcare, clothing, books, and education for over 100 children is expensive. But maybe not as expensive as you think. The annual operating budget for St. Jude Children’s Home is less than $200,000. The two largest costs are the school fees for the children and the salaries of the caregivers.
So now you know the ‘what’. Curious about the ‘why’?
Why does Social Promise help in Uganda?
Social Promise didn’t officially exist until January 2012, when we received our ruling from the IRS stating that we could operate as a nonprofit under section 501 (c) (3) of the tax code. Oh my goodness that was the best day ever! The culmination of 12 years of work and hope, lifted up by supporters like you.
I first went to Uganda in 2000. At the time I was working for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and I was sent to Uganda as part of The International Ebola Response Team. The outbreak of Ebola in northern Uganda was the largest outbreak to date, at that time. But actually it wasn’t the worst thing that had ever happened to the people in that region.
Can you believe that? Imagine if there was an outbreak of Ebola in your hometown, but that was seriously just another bad day in a long series of bad days.
When I first traveled to Uganda, the Gulu region where I was stationed had been living with the horrors of nonstop, gruesome attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) for two decades. The internationally respected nonprofit Doctors Without Borders wrote in 2005 that that situation in Gulu, Uganda was one of the world’s Top 10 Most Underreported Humanitarian Tragedies. The stories were nearly unbearable to hear – children abducted and then forced to choose between death or returning to attack their own families, young girls forced to become sex slaves, campaigns of amputation to keep the local population living in fear.
Can you imagine hearing these stories firsthand? Seeing the effects of the extreme poverty that resulted when people were forced to give up their farms and move to government camps for protection? Lying in bed and hearing distant gun fire and almost, but not quite, feeling the fear that governed the lives of children in Gulu?
People that I met throughout my time in Gulu asked for help. They asked me to return to America and tell others about their plight. They didn’t want to be forgotten.
Now you know the ‘why’. Curious about the ‘how’?
How did Social Promise get started?
When I came home, I told the story of people I met in Uganda. And you had the most amazing responses.
I met some of you over coffee. Some at lunch. Some of you introduced me to your friends that you knew had big hearts. And all of you wanted to help. Your response was incredible. And inspiring.
With your help, we started hosting an annual event to raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Home – the orphanage where I had spent a lot of time during my stay in Gulu. You helped St. Jude year after year. Eventually, they opened Consolation Home within the orphanage: a new branch devoted exclusively to serving otherwise overlooked Ugandan children with disabilities or special needs. In 2008, they opened a primary school so the children at St. Jude’s could receive a good education.
The Next Step
This was all good. But there was more to be done. During the Ebola outbreak I was stationed at Lacor Hospital, arguably the best hospital in northern Uganda. We all wanted to help there, but there was no mechanism to transfer your donations to them unless we incorporated as a formal nonprofit.
Sarah McGee, my fabulous sister-in-law, insisted that we do it. No matter how scary and difficult it was to imagine running an entire nonprofit on our own.
Carolyn Mullins, a quiet, intensely compassionate and knowledgeable friend who had spent time in an orphanage in Kenya, knew an attorney who walked us through the IRS submission process: 26 pages of forms and 39 pages of attachments. You wonder why we had put it off!
What else does Social Promise do?
Our Mission has always been to support health and educational opportunities in Uganda by supporting existing Ugandan nonprofits. But there was always something more.
We wanted children to learn at a young age how they could make a difference in Uganda. We wanted them to learn that lives around the world might look different at first glance, but that children everywhere want the same things. And that truly, these things are attainable for everyone. We just need imaginative, optimistic children to keep their imaginations active, to keep their optimism burning, and to apply it to problems they learn about – to help the world.
So in 2012 we hosted our first African Adventure to teach children in the United States about life in rural, northern Uganda. And children have been learning every year since.
We believe children deserve to learn about their entire world – even the parts that we find difficult or troubling. So we teach them about problems, but at the same time, we teach them how to be creative and to search for solutions to improve the world.
We teach children the facts about Uganda – both bad and good – with a focus on how many new good facts there are. So children internalize a sense of optimism about the future and want to join in the challenge of creating a better world.
Thank you for your generosity, for caring, for learning.
There’s always more to learn and do. Visit our homepage.
Want an idea for teaching a child about Social Promise?