Over the years, nonprofits have served humanity by addressing needs that have slipped through the cracks of the government, the economy, and other systems. And some nonprofits have been more effective than others. On the front of international poverty, many organizations have historically used a model of relief, giving aid and resources only to find that the recipients develop a greater dependency on the organizations. While there are some contexts like natural disasters that require relief, most development work must employ a different model that can create self-sufficiency and an infrastructure for lasting change.
When we started BOH, we didn't want to fall into the trap of relief work and leave our women worse off than when we started. We had to do something different...Cue: Empowerment.
From the start, we have used an Empowerment Model. But what does empowerment look like?
#1 People: Most importantly...the people we work with. Our women in Uganda are smart, innovative, talented, and capable. They are the experts regarding their community, and their hopes and dreams are the fuel for change. Recognizing this, is essential to empowerment because our women in Uganda must have a voice and a key role in our operations if we hope to have a lasting impact. This is the starting point of empowerment and the glue of program development.
#2 Programs: Programs and statistics don't mean much unless they address an issue that is important to our women. With this in mind, program development starts with their ideas and insights. In meeting with our women, we discuss the resources of the group and how these can be used to address challenges. Together, we brainstorm ideas to overcome obstacles and achieve the women's goals. These ideas give birth to programs.
For example, our Pig Project originated in a meeting when the Nakakulwe women stated that their biggest challenge was a lack of capital. In brainstorming ideas, it was determined that raising pigs was the best way to raise capital. One of the leaders in this village had seen significant success with raising pigs, and she served as an inspiration to the other women. The group organized and individually saved to buy pigs, and by the end of the year, most of the women had at least one pig if not multiple. This proved to be a very successful program because the women initiated it themselves and the organization simply provided training and counsel.
#3 Maximizing Funding: To optimize our impact with empowerment, we have to use our resources strategically. As an organization operating in two countries, it is glaringly clear how much farther the dollar goes in Uganda than in the U.S. With this in mind we have always worked hard to keep our expenses low in the U.S. so we can put as much funding as possible back into our programs in Uganda. This has included operating out of a free office space for over 7 years, and having our U.S. staff fundraise the majority of their salary expenses for the organization. By putting more resources into our programs in Uganda, we are able to do more with empowerment.
#4 Grassroots Staffing: To further execute this, we have to employ staff that recognize the value of our women and have the ability to build them up daily. In Uganda, we employ 6 full time staff members who are all Ugandan. Our staff speak the local language, live in the villages we work in, know the culture, and understand the challenges our women face. They are well equip to work with our women daily, and they are part of the local community they are impacting, helping our day to day operations be even more effective.
As you can tell, we believe in empowerment in the deepest way. Not only is it a part of our mission with our women, but it is also an essential part of our internal operations. This model has helped us see real impact in our 7 years as an organization. We have seen our women increase in their ability to provide for their children with new sources of income. We have seen them grow in their skills, knowledge, and abilities. And we have seen their confidence and independence increase.
It has been our privilege to work alongside our women in Uganda and we hope you will continue on this journey with us. Our end goal is to see our women fully empowered and thriving. There are still many years ahead and much work to be done. But we are sharing all of this because we want you to know what you are a part of. When you give to BOH, you are giving to long-term impact and lasting change. You are giving to empower entire families out of poverty. And you are a part of something far bigger than you realize.
For those of you who have been running with us for awhile, thank you for helping us succeed. Thank you for giving to lasting change. And ultimately, thank you for giving to empowerment!
Written by Natalie Ruiz