Featured Fundraiser: Friends of the Sick and Poor
Friends of the Sick and Poor is a non-profit organization based in Dorchester, Mass., that seeks to meet the basic health and educational needs of the people living in the Bbanda village in Uganda. Their focus is on ensuring the people of the area have access to drinkable, non-contaminated water.
Fundraise.com spoke with Alyce from Friends of the Sick and Poor over email to find out more about how they got started and what keeps them going.
How did Friends of the Sick and Poor get its start?
The Friends of the Sick and Poor got started in one of those interesting moments when a chance conversation revealed some unbelievable information about some one we knew. You know, one of those times when you hear something and think, “We should do something about that” and usually don’t. This time we actually responded.
A few years ago, I went to a special Mass at my church (it was its 100th anniversary). During the service, a child ran from the chapel behind the altar clear across the altar and down the aisle. Afterwards a small group was talking about how strange that situation seemed. We learned that the boy was the nephew of the Pastor. In any case, present for the discussion was a priest from Uganda. His name is Father Emmanuel Mwerekande. He was in Boston studying at Boston College and stationed in Dorchester during his stay. Father Emmanuel mentioned that where he is from it is not strange for a cow or a chicken to walk in front of the altar. As you likely imagine, we all wanted to understand where he was from and how such a situation could exist. If you look at picture all bbanda 040. I took that picture myself in 2009 when I went to see for myself what this village of Bbanda is like. This is a pic of a church outpost. The people are villagers and engineers from Northeastern University’s Engineers without Borders. Animals are close by and it is easy to imagine one walking in from time to time.
Up until that time many of us were contributing money to help Father Emmanuel raise money to buy rain barrels, ARV medicines for women living with AIDS and to pay tuition’s for some of the orphans to go to boarding schools. We were already helping (2005) this village but we didn’t really understand the magnitude of the need until that service when we couldn’t understand how a chicken could walk across the altar. On a subsequent trip back to Uganda (while on vacation from BC) Father Emmanuel reported that a woman taking ARV treatment was consuming contaminated water. We all realized and Father asked us to think about how the water access situation might be solved. And at that moment in time our efforts for Bbanda increased. We decided that we had to focus on the water situation first because it leads to so many problems for people in the village. A group of people from St. Mark parish in Dorchester and others started to meet to determine if we could be helpful. With pro bono assistance from downtown law firm Wilmer Hale we attained 501c3 tax status allowing donors to receive tax benefits when they give to Friends of the Sick and Poor.
In Bbanda, children carry water for their families, cooking takes place outdoors in fire pits, the health center did not have any electricity until last August when the engineers were able to install a solar panel, a few light bulbs and a small refrigerator so that the health center can now have antibiotics and other meds that need to be refrigerated.
The well as it turns out, is a place in the earth where the people have dug until water springs up. Uganda has plenty of water, it is just all underground. They collect water by walking a mile or more filling plastic jugs and carrying it home. Mostly children carry water and sometimes women. If you look at the all bbanda header, you will see a pic of children collecting water from the well.
What motivates you in your fundraising efforts?
Having seen for ourselves with visits, pictures and stories we now know that there are wonderful, generous people who are in need of one of the most basic essentials for life - water. And, because they have water in the ground it is hard to imagine walking away from children (many orphans) who can not go to school regularly because they have to carry water. A water distribution system where water is pumped from the source of the spring up into a tank and then flows (gravity) down hill into tapstands through out the village is a simple technology for us in the U.S. Working with the people of Bbanda to have this simple technology will allow them to greatly increase their quality of life. There are about 1,000 people in this village. It is a small place in the world where we can have a huge impact.
What is your favorite part of working with Friends of the Sick and Poor?
My opportunity to meet the people of Bbanda was extraordinary. It made it clear to me that we should consider reaching out to people who really live very difficult lives and could be helped with simple solutions that already exist. Also, Bbanda is a place where, Protestant, Catholics and Muslims all live very peacefully together. I met with the village leadership and it was striking how cooperatively they work together for the benefit of the village.
I am also very happy that our work supports the work of young engineers, many of whom even after finding permanent employment will always carve out time to use their talents to make a positive contribution to the very needy.
Who benefits from your fundraising efforts?
Two groups benefit from our work. First the villagers of Bbanda. Secondly, Engineers Without Borders Northeastern University chapter. We provide some financial support to EWB/NEU so that they can provide the testing and technology that is needed in Bbanda.
What advice to you have for aspiring fundraisers?
My advice to aspiring fundraisers is to work for people or programs that you really believe in. I think you have to have a passion for your cause if others are going to respond.
What goals are you trying to reach by fundraising?
Our major and first goal is to build and install a water distribution system in Bbanda, complete with 12 tap stands throughout the village. Once we have accomplished this, some of the other situations we would like to assist the village with include - learning how to use drip water farming strategies to improve crops during droughts, repairs to some of the schools and tuition for orphans to boarding schools.
Do you have any additional notes or stories you would like to share?
One of the most moving moments for me when in Uganda was when I and and engineer conducted health surveys throughout the village. We visited a one room mud home where grandparents lived caring for their orphaned grandchildren. Before we left the grandmother pulled out an egg and thanked us for being interested in helping her village. We had to take the egg, but we didn’t see any others around. Every where we went people were generous in magnitudes greater than we are used to.
For more information on helping the people of Bbanda please visit: Friends of the Sick and Poor Online Fundraising