by Ruth Aine - 29 April 2014
Africa is a lovely continent without a doubt, but we have a few issues. Begging is one of them. I do not know if this is inherent. If we have to get anything, we prefer to beg. It is shown in our reliance on foreign aid and our love of gifts. We would rather consume goods made outside of the continent because we believe that they are ‘better’.
As a result, we are used to receiving more so than we are to giving. We believe that we do not have enough and so we need more. Philanthropy is therefore not at all an option in our vocabulary. Truth be told, if we decided to stop receiving and begging, many international organizations would be out of work. This culture has created a begging itching that has become a vicious cycle, yet also created jobs and work for many. Sad to note, but it is very true.
Philanthropy is defined as: “The desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes.”
There is a special case in Uganda though - an organization that is championing philanthropy by Africans for Africans. Esther Kalenzi is 26 years of age. She started a charity organization called 40 days over 40 smiles when she was 24 years of age. It started out as a project over Lent in 2012, called Give orphaned children smiles over the Lent period, which gave the children clothes, shoes, toys, breakfasts every first Saturday of the month, in order to give these disadvantaged children in an orphanage a smile. Two years later, it was a registered Non-Governmental Organisation.
There are not many donor organizations that may understand this kind of arrangement, especially if it has no sustainability. But Esther, with a group of committed 13 young vibrant youths, meet every week and hold events at least once a month to raise money and funds for their activities. So far they have been able to collect about 73 million Uganda shillings [$29,300] from all their events, having been able to build a dormitory for a school that is about 68km from the capital Kampala.
They have been able to do this by fundraising from their fellow friends, colleagues and with the use of social media. By using hashtags they create and relay a message that draws people in. And so they are able to accomplish a goal. This is unique, because if it was any other group of people, the first thing to consider would have been business proposals to donors outside of the continent, requesting for help before they can start off anything. And that is what we have grown accustomed to.
But does philanthropy then have a future in Africa? I believe so. With this new wave of young people who are looking so hard to create solutions on the continent - there is hope. We have a culture of sharing and giving and once this is matched with the right motives, a lot can be done. We love to give to weddings, election campaigns but usually so to be noticed. We forget that one by one makes a bundle. We want to make a difference with a lot, but a huge difference is made with the small and little sacrifices. That is what builds a society.
This small army has beaten all the odds. They have no social standing, they do not have much. Some of them are still unemployed, but they have a heart to give back to society. It started as a passion and a dream, but it has now grown into a big army. At the last event which was the commissioning to have the dormitory build, eighty people braved the one and a half hour long journey to go and celebrate this milestone.
I do not know if this model could be replicated in other situations and whether it would work. I choose to celebrate it for now and applaud the young philanthropists. They are who make this world a better place.