Leila Clare sponsors two NOTDEC boys — one of them since 2007.
Finally, in January 2019, she went to Uganda and met both of them.
Leila — a Global Account Manager with a Japanese IT Company — took 3 weeks leave to help NOTDEC Uganda’ s Management improve the organisation’s processes.
This is her report.
After only a week back home, I was already missing the wonderful NOTDEC children. I’ve travelled extensively, both personally and for work, and thought I’d approached my visit to NOTDEC with few expectations and assumptions.
I was wrong!
Uganda was unlike anywhere else I’ve visited.
Did I encounter the worst poverty I’ve ever seen?
Did I build relationships and make connections with people whose lives are completely alien to mine?
However, I also experienced a country which is lush, green and beautiful, and met people who are welcoming, happy and contented. In spite of their troubled backgrounds, the NOTDEC children have been richly blessed and are full of love, joy and fun!
I learned quickly that these people have many wonderful things that we in England lack.
That challenged me personally:
- Could I be more content?
- Could I slow down my pace of living?
- Could I be more appreciative of everything I have?
- Could I focus less on work strains and pressures and more on my fellow neighbours?
After my time at NOTDEC Uganda, my answer to these very personal questions is yes, yes, yes and YES.
Sponsoring Titus & Timothy
As soon as I joined my company’s Graduate Programme in 2007 and started earning, I began supporting a child – Titus (here with me and my Mum, Rani).
Since 2012 I have sponsored Timothy too.
Meeting them was unexpectedly emotional and crucial for building a personal connection between me and the NOTDEC children.
Though obviously not well off, Titus’ s family presented me with a HUGE sack of avocados and papayas — their generosity was overwhelming!
The Joy of Giving
Every year each sponsor sends their child a Christmas present — an A4 parcel of small gifts and clothes. This requires reminders to sponsors to buy presents in the UK, then much organising, sorting, weighing and packaging — not to mention the shipping costs! I questioned whether all the effort was really worth it. At work, I’m always looking for opportunities to make efficiencies. I was certain that there had to be a better way of giving to the children that was more time and cost efficient.
The picture shows my Mum, Rani giving Christmas presents to Provia, Fortunate and Moses. In my first week at NOTDEC we gave parcels to 50+ children. As I saw each child take such pleasure in receiving and carefully opening their small package, saw how preciously they treasured each item, it hit me just how important it all was. Each and every letter from a sponsor is read; photos are kept by their bedsides.
This pricked my conscience.
I felt guilty that I’d initially thought of presents as insignificant. I am given gifts so often throughout the year that I take them for granted. These children get just one A4 parcel each year. No wonder they’re delighted! Each parcel reminds them that they personally are loved and cared for by their sponsors thousands of miles away.
It was truly moving to be there and to give on behalf of the sponsors.
I built a personal relationship with Julius quite quickly. (In the picture, he's above me - with his white collar half turned in.)
Looking through my photos back at home, I realised that he’s in most of them! He is SO lovely, I was definitely drawn to him and his crescent smile.
I visited Julius’ s father’ s home with a Social Worker to assess whether he could go to live there.
This was my first sight of a local village home. No amount of description could have prepared me for the worn out mud hut — home for 8 people. The picture shows part of the house in which we believe people sleep (!) and shows the state of repair.
I felt physically uncomfortable even being in there — and ashamed of myself for feeling that way. The thought that a large proportion of the world live like this with absolutely no alternative is a bitter truth to accept.
We look forward to raising funds to help Julius ’s family improve their property so he can live with them.
Doing as well as Giving
The money part of giving is relatively simple. But I wanted to help more. And, until I went to NOTDEC, I wasn’t sure how. Being there, working with them taught me that doing is as important as giving.
I was tasked with supporting the Management Team and office staff to see if, together, we could identify areas for improvement.
After some quick wins — with basic computer shortcuts — we established a new organisational structure, assigned roles and defined responsibilities. We set clear objectives & processes, discussed Management tasks and set up regular meetings — short ones!
Our aim was not to change or undermine what staff already do well, but to improve their effectiveness, MAXIMISING the benefit to the children they support.
Since returning home, I’ve been cold, I’ve been busy, I’ve travelled about, but I’ve dropped the Western guilt and have remained positive and thankful for what I have and the experiences I’ve enjoyed with many people in Uganda.
I have happy memories and bonds built with really special children. I hope to continue to learn from them how to share better, give more, be appreciative, stay happy and contented and be joyful at ALL times — whatever the circumstances.