Turning Data into Development: UWP’s Pre-Site Assessment

It wasn’t all that long ago that stacks of paper were piling up here in the Ugandan Water Project office. By the ream, our staff shuffled and sorted forms transported to Rochester, NY all the way from Kampala, Uganda. We piled and unpiled. We filed and un-filed. In vibrant colors, we scribbled notes in the margins of our red-dirt stained stacks, trying to make sense of the data we were amassing. Impact surveys. Installation reports. Pre-site assessments. We were collecting all sorts of data in the field and bringing it home with us! Firmly stationed at the forefront of our Ugandan Water Project workflow is our Pre-Site Assessment survey. This assessment plays a particularly important role in evaluating the opportunity for UWP work at potential project sites. We seek to prioritize sites crippled by the most severe and urgent needs. In order to objectively identify these high priority sites, we employ a scoring system in the Pre-Site survey. In the paper version of our Pre-Site Assessment, we asked a set of questions with weighted scores assigned to each response. After completing the paper form of the Pre-Site Assessment, a total score was then hand-tallied into a single number. This value offered a quantitative value that correlates to the level of need at a particular site. While this output lacked meaning on its own, it could be easily compared to the scores calculated for other potential project sites. While this methodology made objectively comparing sites based on need possible, we were still left with a problem.  Our data and scores were held captive in stacks of paper. While we had an overflowing spring of...

Doroth’s Story

Nante Doroth, affectionately known as Dorothy to most of the UWP staff, works as our Office Secretary in our Ugandan office.  Her faithful dedication to our organization is one we don’t take lightly, so we wanted to share a piece of her story with you.  Meet Doroth! My Personal Story How I came to work with UWP: During my senior six school break, while wondering where tuition to push me through the university level was to come from, I got enough time to visit some of my relatives and during that time I came to know that I had an aunt (sister to my late father) called Namaganda Beatrice Nsamba – a wife to pastor George William Nsamba and also the UWP Director UG Office at the time. This family welcomed me as a child of their own introduced me to many new things, one of which was to work as an assistant secretary of George’s church and volunteer with UWP in the UG Office to help keep records. That is how I came to UWP in 2011. When James Harrington, the UWP Executive Director, came back to Uganda in 2012, we had a little conversation with him for the first time and I was able to show him what I managed to do as a volunteer by that time such as making files for each project that was worked. From that time, James gave me the job, and since that time up to now I am working as the UWP Office Secretary UG. What I love about working with UWP: In this organization we are a family, the...
Tanner’s Story: From Intern to Insider

Tanner’s Story: From Intern to Insider

In international development, there is a romanticism that comes with working in the field. There’s satisfaction in waking up to a golden African sunrise, in beholding the beautiful red dirt roads of Uganda. As a part of Team #18 in May 2014, I experienced life in Ugandan communities, standing shoulder to shoulder with amazing men, women, and children – and it shaped who I am, changed my worldview, and forced me to re-examine my values. Such fieldwork is critical in creating meaningful success in international development. It also happens to be the most visible facet. Such success, however, cannot be achieved without critical work on the back end. While there are no African sunrises or rolling red dirt roads in my internship, no photo shoots generating funding or emotional responses from friends and family, it is a story that I have been asked to share. In the business of charity, good intentions are not enough, helping can hurt, and charity can be toxic. It is humbling to know that, despite our best efforts to do good, we can be inflicting long-lasting harm without knowing it. For me, monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is an essential part of going beyond good intentions and avoiding these pitfalls. M&E supports both responsible giving and responsible receiving. It celebrates our best efforts and humbles us before our worst failures. For these reasons, I was elated when James Harrington, Executive Director of the Ugandan Water Project (UWP), expressed interest in an M&E program to help effectively provide communities in Uganda with safe drinking water. James proposed that I come on board as a summer intern to...
Eternal Memory

Eternal Memory

Eternal Memory (That we might never forget) My pretentiously sheltered experience is unable to escape the wrenching reality transposed before me through the medium of their iron-clad hearts, the bitter human precipitation that has engraved its memory upon their flesh, their countenances of leathery strength and turmoil, and their eyes which send a shrill scream to my impoverished soul, pleading with me to recognize the dreams which have become entrapped within the hoosegow of their desperation. – Christin Oliphant (Harrington) May 19, 1992...
Why We Go: Relationships Matter

Why We Go: Relationships Matter

Why go? Sixteen pairs of feet connected with Ugandan dirt on July 30th, 2013, anticipating experiences as part of Ugandan Water Project’s Team #16, unaware of just how deep that dirt would sink.  No hammers, no shovels; just 5 senses and eager hearts. One of the misconceptions of humanitarian organizations is that people who have should go and do for people who lack.  Those going on short term trips are often asked, “What will you be doing?”  Tasks and accomplishment are seen as goals in helping others rather than understanding and partnership.  In reality, it’s much less about doing to cause a physical change and more about being to foster relationship between one human and another. If this is the perspective we should take when attempting to “be the change” and leave legacies of social justice, why does UWP take teams of volunteers to Uganda three times a year?  How do we respond to those who question the time, money, and effort of travel; why aren’t we wielding hammers and shouldering shovels? Because lasting change happens in the context of relationship. Relationships require face-to-face interaction where real conversation happens, where a genuine desire exists to know the answers to “How are you?” and “What do you dream of?” and “How can I help?”  They require that we patiently learn about another’s culture and stop looking at the world through our own lenses of how, when, why. They require time spent alongside, trekking down pitted paths to stagnant watering holes, witnessing human beings filling jerry cans of heavy water to carry the burden of death back to homes of mud,...

Bunk Beds or Business – How to help street kids in Kivulu

It happens every time we take teams to Uganda. Two days are spent in an unusual neighborhood of heaven called Kivulu (pronounced chee-voo-loo).  Here in this ramshackle community a group of young men- Uncles, who once lived on these streets now sacrifice all they have to rescue boys that now live the life the Uncles managed to overcome .   When our Ugandan Water Project teams come to this place they are overwhelmed by the experience.  The joy and reckless abandon they see on the boys faces when they are being loved on and mentored is authentic…and the anger and pain that flashes and lashes out at unexpected provocation is also authentic.  The Uncles themselves are an inspiration – they have no regular income and often no consistent home and nearly no earthly possessions – they work each day to mentor these boys. Our teams are trained to look for “sparklers” – key people that shine with their ability to bring freedom and transformation where they are.  Our teams hunt sparklers and then look for the opportunities to strengthen, stabilize and amplify those key people.  Bringing our teams to Kivulu is like bringing them to the Sparkler Convention.  The real challenge is often figuring out how best to help. I just got off the phone with one of our team leaders who is walking his team through this exercise right now.  There is a house in the city that the Uncles have managed to secure and raise some funds to pay the rent for one year.  They have a number of boys living in that home and many are enrolled...