Empowering Development Alternatives(EDA)
- EDA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in New York City and operating in Uganda.
- Working to break the cycle of poverty in rural Uganda through education and empowering young boys and girls to become agents of change.
- We believe that poverty should not be viewed merely in economic terms, but as social, political and spiritual powerlessness. Our vision is to strive for development alternatives committed to empowering people in their own communities, and to mobilize them to have an active role in directing their own destinies. In contrast to blanket development policies regulated and implemented at the national and international level, development alternatives restore the initiative to those in need, on the grounds that unless people are actively involved in their own growth long-term progress will not be achieved.
Leaders of the Future enables orphans living in impoverished households in Jinja, Uganda to realize their full potential through support and access to quality secondary education and continued support through achieving a university degree.
First, a little bit about Uganda:
A relatively small country located in the heart of Africa, Uganda possesses a breathtaking landscape, ranging from lush green rainforests to the life giving force of the river Nile. A culture of kindness and hospitality greets you from the first moment you step off the plane. The weather is warm and beautiful.
What has happened there?
A lot of wonderful things. Uganda now has near universal access to AIDS/HIV care, and is on track to halve the proportion of people suffering from hunger, as well as the proportion of people living under one dollar a day. But about 3 million orphaned children are in Uganda – roughly 10% of the country's population and equal to the number of people living in the entire state of Iowa. These orphans are far more likely than other children to become involved in prostitution, drug use, and crime.
Orphaned children have an incredibly hard road ahead of them. When the traditional family support system breaks down, children become vulnerable to many factors of extreme poverty, one of the most devastating, in the long term, being a lack of education. Money is the limiting factor for most of these children, as the tuition, fees, and room and board costs can be prohibitively expensive. For an orphaned child whose remaining family is impoverished and struggling to provide basic necessities such as food, shelter, and medicine, education becomes a relative luxury that is overlooked. In the long term, this creates a cycle of poverty that is difficult for the community to break. Our goal is to focus resources and attention on education as a way of empowering communities to become self-sufficient and to acquire the tools necessary to address their own needs and direct their own future.
What is EDA's approach?
We focus on children at one school in Uganda: Cardinal Nsubuga Secondary School. The students are between 12 and 18 and have a wide variety of academic interests. As part of the EDA program, sponsored students receive full tuition, room and board, books, as well as health care. We have also supplied the school with several cell phones. The students use these phones to regularly communicate with us, telling us about what how we're doing, how they're doing, and anything else that comes to mind. We are extremely lucky to have the help of the school's Principal, Ritah Nassaza. As EDA's Project Coordinator, Ritah keeps things running smoothly by observing and suggesting changes to EDA's local activities. Because the education of children is always a family affair, EDA also extends its reach to the parents and caretakers of all sponsored students, often meeting with them in person. Our overarching goal is to use education for the empowerment of communities in Uganda. To accomplish this, we want to do three things: make schooling accessible, improve the quality of the classroom experience, and encourage students to serve their communities.
Increasing access to education. We want to make sure the orphans we work with have enough support to enter and complete secondary school. This includes financial support, but also healthcare and regular mental health services.
Improving the quality of education with science and technology. For students to get the most out of their secondary school experience, they need good libraries, science labs, and computer facilities. These ingredients are important for students to gain practical experience, and to become exposed to the kind of modern technology that they will need to use at universities and in their professional lives.
Local, long-term reinvestment of the benefits of education. We encourage students to maintain the ties they have to their communities, with the hope that once completed, their education will allow them to make contributions in the places they and their families and friends live and grow together. To engender this spirit of community service, we ask sponsored students to participate in community-building activities, such as mentoring other kids in the village they come from, carrying water for the elderly, or building a clean water source. We also encourage students to be creative and find the unmet needs of their community. We hope graduates will maintain their spirit of community service in ways that they will be uniquely positioned to decide. In this way, an initial investment can provide the tools for long lasting, high impact, community driven change.
What has EDA accomplished so far?
EDA is a young organization, but this hasn't kept it from making waves both here and in Uganda. One of Bonnie's first projects was the Bujagali Crafts and Poultry Project. Twenty-three women from the Bujagali province developed skills and organization needed for them to generate their own income. At the same time, Father Tom saw a tremendous need for health care in Jinja and decided to open an HIV clinic. Between 2007 and 2009, Jinja's HIV/AIDS service availability has risen from 70 to nearly 90%, now exceeding Uganda's national average for HIV/AIDS service availability. Thanks to Tom's initiatives, we can feel like we had a role in creating that change.
Today, through careful planning, EDA has established sponsorships for twenty students in Uganda. Beginning with their first year of secondary school, sponsored students will be fully funded. That means tuition, room and board, books, and healthcare. We have partnered with Nyenga Hospital to provide general healthcare, in addition to the HIV/AIDS services we already coordinated with Father Tom's assistance. We have also employed and coordinated with a local psychologist, Fulgens, who has experience working with vulnerable children in eastern Africa. Fulgens has regular weekly appointments with our students at the school, in both group and individual therapy sessions, and monthly meetings with family members.
Student financial support continues through their years in university. We will arrange periodic trips for them to return to their hometowns, encouraging continual investment in local communities. These visits can be a time for our students to mentor or tutor younger students, teach a skill they have learned to the residents, or promote and encourage higher education. We network and coordinate with local professionals and entrepreneurs whose careers reflect a commitment to finding sustainable solutions for regional problems, fostering social and economic growth and development.
With so many orphans and only limited resources, how does EDA channel its activities?
In selecting students to sponsor, we look at past academic performance, family situation, and economic hardship. Student success is important to us, for sure, but there is no single number by which a student can be assessed, so we are always open to different assessment methods. Another important part of the sponsorship is that students be willing to participate in community-building activities, such as mentoring other kids in the village they come from, carrying water for the elderly, or building a clean water source. Of course, there is no one way to do community service, so we encourage students to be creative and find the unmet needs of their community. And if a student is having difficulty in school, we'll try to get them involved with after-school tutoring or visit with their parents to find out how we can help. But the problem is two-sided: while we try to be efficient in allocating our resources, we are always hoping to support more students, which is why financial support and volunteer involvement are so important.
For a more complete synopsis, click here.