Why Uganda? Projects for All Founder Katrin Macmillan on Why Hello Hubs Are Important to Rural Communities

PED recently announced our collaboration with Projects for All to bring Hello Hubs to Uganda this fall. We sat down to discuss the partnership with Projects for All founder Katrin Macmillan and our shared vision to bring digital learning to more individuals throughout the country.

 

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1) What compelled Projects for All to partner with PED?

We always look for a local partner when we are launching Project Hello World in a new country. I met Pangea Educational Development through our talk at SXSW in Austin in 2014. After a series of conversations with Drew Edwards, we knew that Uganda would benefit from our work and that Pangea Educational Development would be an ideal partner.

In Uganda, in 2011, there were 439,143 children not enrolled in either primary or secondary education, an alarming statistic.   Projects For All’s mission is to provide educational materials to the most vulnerable and remote communities and individuals across the globe, so Uganda felt like the right next stop.

We look for partners who share our values and a community-led approach. We don’t like to simply do things for the communities we work with.  Like PED,  we challenge them to identify needs and come up with solutions themselves. This way of working takes longer but – in my view – it is the only really effective, and sustainable, approach.  From our first conversation with Drew it was clear that PED has a non-authoritarian approach and respect for the communities that they serve. We have felt very comfortable working with PED ever since that call.  I anticipate that this will be a long-term partnership.

 

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2) What was your first experience in Uganda like this past September?  

I joined Drew in Uganda last month to start the community process and identify the Hello Hub locations.

We met with community members described the project to them to see if they would find it useful and would be interested in working on a Hub with us.

We received encouraging and warm welcomes in all of the places that we visited.  Some communities use the Internet already, and others had no concept of it. But after discussions, many questions and debate, we were enthusiastically invited to partner with each of the communities.

There was a lovely moment when Drew explained the Internet to some of the community at Kidibui village. He said that it is like having every single Mzee (Swahili for ‘wise person’) in one place where you can ask them any question you like, at any time. I thought it was a clever way to introduce the concept of collective information, and people seemed to understand that would be a very useful tool!

We asked each of the Hub communities to make an investment in their Hello Hub, as equal partners alongside PED and Projects for All. This is always a new concept to those communities who are used to a traditional aid model, but it wasn’t a surprise to the communities that PED has been working in. They quickly agreed to invest time, labor, land, cement, management and their skills in the project. For us, success is entirely dependant on this partnership and equal investment.

 

3) What are you most looking forward to when it comes to the building process and the future of Projects for All and PED's partnership?

I am keen to get back to Uganda to see what the communities have accomplished in the intervening weeks – they were charged with leveling the ground, organising the community and assembling the building teams. It will be fun to actually start building with them, to get to know them better and learn about their lives. I met some inspiring adults who are working for their communities in difficult circumstances, and I met some gorgeous, joyful children.  I am very excited at the thought of seeing them all again.

I feel confident about Hello World in Uganda because of Drew and his team’s style of working with the community. I am very happy to be able to hand over some of the community organizing to Drew and Nathan.  This means that we will have a dedicated Hello World community team on the ground for the duration of the build.

My hope is that we can work with PED on many more builds across Uganda, particularly in Gulu, and have the PED team take a lead on the whole process. In this way we will be able to reach so many more children, more affordably and more efficiently.

Katrin would love to hear thoughts and feedback on this project from the wider Pangea Educational Development community. You can contact her directly at katrin@projectsforall.org