I’m certain that I want to help the people in Nandere solve their water problem. Before leaving, I met with three engineers from the region. I asked them to find out if it would be possible for one of the three wells in Nandere to be repaired. A different plan emerged from our meeting: as Nandere is situated on a small hill, the idea is to dig a well at the foot of this hill. The water will be supplied to the village by means of an electrical pump and almost 500 meters of piping. I ask the three engineers to give me their quotes, but after a few weeks have passed I’ve only received two.
“If you had just one wish, what would it be?” I asked the people in the village before I left. The response I had from almost everyone was “water” or “rain”. Ever since then, this wish has been my motivation. I want to work as hard as I possibly can and do everything in my power to make it a reality. In June 2015, the project starts to take shape. I launch the fundraising page on betterplace.org.
Before anything else, I make a projection of how I’m going to manage to reach my fundraising target. “I have 707 friends on my private Facebook profile. If everyone donates just €10, we’ll have surpassed our fundraising target,” I write in my blog.
“And let’s be honest – how much is €10 anyway? Three beers down at the pub? A cocktail in a bar? A small meal in a restaurant? Two packets of cigarettes? What could you go without for one day?”, I continue. I’m convinced we’re going to be able to raise the money we need by next year.
My calculations are off.
In the months of June (€1466), July (€185), and August (€373.50), we raise a total of €2024.50. The project got off to a great start in June, with some particularly generous donations coming in from my blog readers, friends and members of my family. But there comes a time when my blog’s reach has been exhausted and I must change tack. I’ve got to make the project bigger, so I join forces with a blogger friend of mind, Katrin. She’s already spoken highly of the project on numerous occasions and offered me her help. We manage to find new donors through her circle of friends and the “donations instead of gifts” campaign for an alternative to birthday presents, as well as from readers of her blog.
I start looking for an organisation to give the project the significance it deserves in the outside world. I’m also in desperate need of expert support and legal assistance. And another thing: a charitable organisation would be able to issue charitable donation receipts, which would be helpful seeing that all the donations made so far have been considered gifts to me as a private individual. With an organisation on board, I want to come up with a sustainability strategy to help us guarantee long-term support. After all, we’re helping no one if the pump needs repairing after a month or so and there’s no money in the pot to mend it.
The search proves difficult. The project is too small for Viva con Agua, and Engineers Without Borders Germany doesn’t have any capacity to spare. Technology Without Borders Germany is the first organisation to express an interest in the project. They warn me about the tedious bureaucratic challenges that lie ahead and put me in touch with an energetic and experienced project manager in the form of Hannes. I get to know him and the rest of his regional group in Leipzig, at which point I admit that I’m a bit disappointed as I’ve only managed to raise €2328.50 of our €7015 goal. The members of the association don’t understand my frustration, they just pat me on the shoulder and tell me it’s a great achievement.
But things aren’t moving quickly enough for me, I wanted to have raised the money by now.
Hannes worked in Ghana a few years back; he set up a recycling project there. Now we join forces to set ourselves some new objectives. Our first job is to look for an engineer, and we soon find one in Steffen. Hannes and Steffen already know each other from beforehand.
In and amongst all the positive reactions to the project, I must also learn to deal with the odd critical voice. The sustainability of the project is called into question, as are its practical implementation and even its justification. On top of that, my motivation is scrutinised. I’m branded a colonialist, someone who wants to make a name for himself in Africa with help from donations.
But then Father Joseph gets in touch in a Facebook message:
Hello Friends from Berlin,
I salute you all and I thank you for all the work you are doing. I am Fr. Joseph-Mary Kavuma from Nandere Parish, in Uganda. And I take this chance to thank you very heartily for accepting to be part of us by sharing in our suffering. You have done us great through the generous contributions towards our water project.
I am most grateful to you all, most especially Steven, who took charge to mobilise and sensitise you on this great need for water. Nandere is the oldest Parish in Kasana-Luweero Diocese, having been founded by the Missionaries of Africa way back in 1899. We wish to provide water to the 5 communities at the Parish Headquarters; namely the Parish Community, the Sisters and the orphanage, 2 Primary schools and the Health Center. Members from all the 5 communities share one borehole which was built 15 years ago, it keeps breaking down due to old age and excessive pressure. The situation becomes unbearable during the school going days coupled with prolonged dry spells as a result of climate change.
We really need your support to go out of this mess!
Wishing you God’s choicest blessings in all.
I’m emboldened once again by this message. It reminds me and everyone else involved in this charity project just who this project is all about. November (€2083) and December (€3087.09) consequently turn out to be the most successful months for fundraising.
A rude awakening, right in the thick of it.
I’m forced to raise the total fundraising target from €7015 to €9215. I’d neglected to take certain costs into account in my initial calculations back in June: for example, the outward journey and medical care for the people involved in the project.
With help from my friend David, who also asks people to give a donation instead of gifts for his birthday, a radio interview, and my former colleague Ecki, we manage to finish fundraising on 10 February. I’m saved at the last minute, as my flight to Uganda is due to leave in eleven days.
My joy diminishes five days later, when I learn of the sudden death of the representative of my former volunteering organisation. He suffered a fatal car accident in the early hours of 15 February.
I’ll never forget the way he bode me farewell at the bus, wished me all the best for the future, and vanished. And how ten minutes later, he reappeared at my window of the bus, asking if he should accompany me to Kampala. He said he’d look after this 1.92-metre-tall, almost hundred kilo Mzungu.
Godfrey had studied in Austria. He had the chance to stay in Europe, but he chose Uganda. Because he loved his country and he didn’t want to leave anyone behind. Godfrey was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met.
* * *