TALLAHASSEE, Florida — In April 2020, the World Bank reported that from 2012 to 2016 poverty rose from 19.7% to 21.4%. After the initial lockdown in 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, poverty in Uganda increased from 27.5% to 32.7% as a result of the slowing of the economy, widespread job losses and decreased remittances. A 2020 UNICEF report on multidimensional poverty in Uganda indicates that about 56% of Ugandan children younger than 18 “experience the highest rates of multidimensional poverty.” People in Uganda are still vulnerable to this day as previous poverty gains have proved unsustainable. According to a 2016 Uganda Poverty Assessment Fact Sheet by the World Bank, “between 2005 and 2009, for every three Ugandans who were lifted out of poverty, two fell back.” However, Global African Village aims to achieve sustainable poverty reduction gains in Uganda.
The Founding of Global African Village
Sebastian Wanzama-Piro, a native Ugandan, is the president of Global African Village. After moving to Canada, Wanzama-Piro would travel back and forth from Canada to Uganda, providing assistance to his tribe, the Bagishu people. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Sharon Green, co-founder, public relations director, corresponding secretary and newsletter editor of Global African Village, says, “In 2007, I and another friend offered to help Sebastian by forming a charity in Ontario and a 501(c)(3) in the U.S.” Their goal was not only to support Wanzama-Piro but to fund larger projects that could help his people in more impactful ways. With their all-volunteer, nonprofit secured, they decided on the name Global African Village.
Poverty Reduction Through Education
According to the World Bank, poverty extends beyond a lack of finances and includes a lack of access to “education, health, water and housing.” Education is one of the most important keys to alleviating poverty.
Before Global African Village came about, Wanzama-Piro was already making strides toward improving education in Uganda. He turned his childhood home into a small childcare center and later developed the center into a school — the Joseph Community School, named after Wanzama-Piro’s deceased father. The school now educates approximately 300 children, allowing students an opportunity to rise out of poverty through education. Green says, “The school is run by an all-volunteer staff. Each year, we provide the teachers with a small stipend to thank them for their dedication and hard work.”
Prioritizing Basic Needs
The Bagishu people have struggled to meet basic needs for many years. Oftentimes, they do not have “access to health care, dental care, eye care or mental health care.” The Global African Village uses some of its funds annually to purchase over-the-counter medicines for the Bagishu people. This helps improve the economy in Uganda because the healthier people are, the more they can participate in employment and improve the overall economy.
Global African Village has also taken up several infrastructure projects, which include constructing basic bridges to ease travel for Bagishu people as they do not have cars or public transportation systems. Another project Global African Village is working on is constructing wells to provide clean water. Women and children are often the sole collectors of water, walking miles to reach these water sources. This affects children greatly because they spend hours outside of school, not receiving an education, just to access water that may or may not be safe to consume.
Thanks to generous donations, the Global African Village could start a carpentry program that teaches children an essential trade while preparing them for future careers. According to Green, “This program has been a tremendous success.”
Success Stories from Global African Village
Green states, “We are especially proud of our fish pond. Many Bagishu people lack sufficient protein in their diets. There are no grocery stores in their rural areas — just simple local markets.” The Bagishu people live in extreme poverty and are oftentimes not able to afford meat at local markets and cannot afford to buy livestock to raise.
Wanzama-Piro travels to Uganda yearly when he can to listen to village leaders express their concerns and suggest initiatives that would significantly help villagers. When the proposed idea of a fish pond came up, Global African Village provided the villagers with a PVC pipe, wire fencing and fish. The Bagishu people assisted by digging the fish pond and have since created a second fish pond with the help of Global African Village.
Amazing Grace Campaign
The organization created the Amazing Grace Campaign to raise money to construct a basic health care facility that brings in traveling nurses regularly to provide basic health care services to the Bagishu people. However, the project has not moved forward because Global African Village needs the help of a sufficient number of volunteers to launch this campaign. To get involved, to support the organization or to find more information, one can visit the Global African Village website or their Facebook page.
Thanks to Global African Village, poverty alleviation in Uganda is already taking place. With the organization’s continued efforts and the support of the public, poverty levels in Uganda can significantly and sustainably decrease.
– Kaley Anderson