Today we met with the British Council in their offices in Kampala. I was nervous as both Silas and me were arriving late, rushing through all the embassy-style security. The room was a big boardroom, quite official and not intimate. The whole experience was nerve-racking, I choke on my words and find it difficult to breathe in such situations that are important and pivotal particularly for Bavubuka and Silas, who I really care about. I just wanted to set the right impression to bring opportunity to him and the organisation, and I knew the British Council would be such an important partner in facilitating collaboration and learning across our two continents.
What impressed me and stayed with me within those conversations was Emily from the British Council asking Silas how he creates ‘transformation’ within his work. Silas told a story of a girl who was playing the xylophone, he approached her and she immediately gave him a narrative around how she was an orphan and needed sponsorship. Silas reflected on his own life and challenges and spoke to her in a different way. He told her that he was inspired by her music and saw potential in her because of her unique talent, making a connection within the music.
I realised through listening to this story, one of the big factors that attracted me to Bavubuka was the way in which the foundation highlights and strengths the unique talents of young people in their work, and in no way are they focusing on the lack of opportunity within the communities of Uganda. Bavubuka break away from the over-saturated narrative of the poverty stricken dependent Africa in every aspect of their work. Their work is celebratory, powerful, authentic and just cool!
Another aspect of the conversation that made me proud to be part of the movement was the foundation’s stance on development and the NGO sector. Bavubuka stands strong today because even without funding, the work carries on bold. The hundreds of young people Bavubuka have reached and the communities that have taken part in their transformative work were not because of grants or big budgets. The following and love is there because Bavubuka has spent the time to connect with young people on a personal level, they have turned up to communities time after time to show love and encouragement.
On further reflection, I feel like shouting from the rooftops to attest for the way Bavubuka is working in communities. I have come from a background of working in many charities and NGO’s and felt particular frustration with the NGO I worked with in Uganda. I was a team leader in the villages in Jinja and managed around 40 UK and Ugandan volunteers, young people with ample energy, skills and the passion to make positive changes in those communities. The NGO network and bureaucracy that surrounded the work we were doing was stifling. Any suggestion and comments given by the community to our young people, or any innovation driven by our young volunteers could not be materialised in the communities. The NGO had targets set over three years from head office in London. This meant that no matter the reaction of information found in those communities, all the work had to be channelled through that narrative for funding and monitoring and evaluation purposes. This was very frustrating for the volunteers who wanted to make relevant impact, and caused distrust and disinterest in the communities we worked in.
This is far from my experience with Bavubuka where instead, we enter communities, have dialogue and exchange with the people, and the programme is ran and adapted from our experience, feeling and discussion with the people. We enter in a space of spontaneity, which is fun, authentic, lively, and creates real memories, friendships and impactful experiences. This is grassroots authentic development work in its truest form.