Posted: Tue, January 02, 2018 | By: Misc.
2017 was a highly “educational” year for the Brighter Brains Institute. We learned some startling lessons in our efforts to promote humanism in western Uganda. The two top revelations are:
1) Funding small projects ($700-$1,500) is more successful than funding larger projects ($3,000-$5,000). The more expensive BBI projects occasionally fail, due to corruption, or mismanagement, or the recipient doesn’t try hard enough to make the project work, due to their belief that BBI is wealthy and forgiving enough to simply provide more and more and more funding. BBI’s new “hard love” policy - to provide only small sums for sustainable projects to humanist communities, and then, not fund that school again until the project succeeds - is working extremely well. We’ve had a string of successes with small projects that we just weren’t getting with larger amounts.
2) Our efforts to “convert” rural Ugandans to humanism are only successful 35-40% of the time. Humanism is either too difficult (?) to understand for these communities, or the Catholic, Anglican, and Islamic presence is too powerful. In the future, BBI is going to only support humanist communities that are already established.
Below is a quick update on BBI activities in multiple areas. We raised $79,186 in funding and distributed $69,979. These are smaller amounts than 2016, but larger than 2015.
Kanungu Humanist School - This village in southwest Uganda, populated by the Bakiga tribe, has been an ideal partner for BBI in multiple projects. BBI’s new consultant - Justin Silbaugh - urged us to establish a Community Garden as the first endeavor. This effort was very successful in bonding the community and producing a bumper crop of profitable tomatoes. After that, BBI delivered funds to launch a Tilapia Pond and a Passion Fruit Farm, we also provided Kanungu with a clinic, teacher salaries, orphan sponsorships, a FreeThinker Library, and micro loans to two women’s groups. In response, Kanungu delivers to BBI a monthly calendar of their humanist events and they’ve explained humanism twice on the local radio station. Kanungu received $11,233 from BBI in 2017. Next year, we want to install a Critical Thinking class here (partnering with Atheist Alliance International) and we’re discussing a SoyBean Factory, to produce soy milk and tofu.
Kasese Humanist Primary School, Kahendero Humanist Primary School, BiZoHa Orphanage Humanist Primary Schools, Kasese Humanist Secondary School - These four schools received $26,663 from BBI last year. A large percentage of this amount comes from their orphan and day scholar sponsorship programs, established in 2015. Kasese Primary School celebrated its 7th year of existence recently, and BiZoHa, Kahendero, and Kasese Secondary are deeply intwined with BBI, because we raised the funds to build all of them, brick by brick. Our goal with these schools, however, is to detach ourselves slowly, to reduce our funding, in the hope they’ll be self-sustaining. Will this happen? We’re not sure, because our project funding has so far failed to produce sufficient income. Despite our investment of $7,000 for a tractor, $3,000 for Kahendero Humanist Hall, $5,000+ for BiZoHa Humanist Centre, $1,700 for fishing boats, $1,600 for a piggery, and a loan of $1,000 for a pork joint - despite our considerable fund-raising efforts, these four schools (directed by Bwambale Robert Musubaho) still have difficulty paying teacher salaries on time, in sufficient amounts to keep the faculties intact. BBI’s intention in 2018 are to maintain ourselves as the conduit for funding the schools receive from a multitude of international donors, but we won’t spend any more funds on projects here, until the present ones demonstrate success.
Kanyenze Humanist School - The tiny settlement of Kanyenze is one of only two humanist schools in the Kyarumba area that BBI will continue funding. We were very pleased with our inspection in June 2017, and we’re optimistic about our future together, although Kanyenze is often disturbingly tardy in their communication with us. In 2017 we provided Kanyenze with $4,265 in funding to build a Girl’s Orphanage and Boy’s Orphanage, both equipped with solar lighting. Kanyenze also has a clinic, funded by Atheist Community of San Jose, and a Pellissier Motorcycle Repair Garage that spends its profits on the school lunch program. (This garage was one of the few $3,000 projects that succeeded). Our plans with Kanyenze in 2018 are uncertain; they have not yet complied with our request to provide a humanist calendar every month; this is a newly-installed requirement.
Mother Givers School in Buhanga - Visiting the scenic Ruwenzori mountain village of Buhanga was a highlight of the June BBI inspection; the people are gracious, the children adorable, the school administration well-managed, the food delicious. BBI contributed $5,324 in funding to Buhanga in 2017; money was provided for chickens, orphan sponsorships, birth control, and classroom construction. Our assistance is aided - very generously - by Buhanga’s special friends in Australia, who have spent copious amounts of cash for classroom construction and educational materials. BBI’s goal for Buhanga in 2018 is to maintain support primarily through orphan sponsorship - Masereka Sebastian’s excellent photos of the village orphans consistently gain eager donors.
Nyakiyumbu - BBI has had a long and tortured relationship with this impoverished village near the Congo border. We’ve provided them with steady funding in the last three years but they never seem “to get it together” and our inspection in June was quite depressing. Nyakiyumbu had failed to grasp what humanism is, and they failed to build an effective Grasshopper Trap with our funding. We considered cancelling all future support, but instead, we switched our communication and funding to the local women’s group — Nyakiyumbu Widows Association, directed by the capable Muhindo Nyesi. Our relationship is on an upswing now; in 2018 we are planing a campaign to provide the widows with a peanut farm. Last year, we gave the village funding primarily for classroom construction.
Pearl Vocational Training College — BBI’s latest partner is a small college near Masaka that provides training in employable skills to homeless orphan teens, widows, single mothers, i.e., the poorest of the poor. In December 2017 our crowdfund campaign gained $1,035 in funds to start a Vanilla Bean farm here, and we’ve also given them funds for condoms. For 2018, we’re discussing another campaign to support the college’s humanist dance troupe.
Mughete Junior School, Rays of Light Orphanage School, Vision Care School, Garama Secondary School - BBI is cutting off funding to these four schools for a variety of screw-ups, primary evidenced during our June inspection.
1) Mughete Junior School doesn’t have a clue about humanism; the children actually sang a song for us with the refrain “God Loves Humanism.” We also heard from our volunteer living there (Aaron Silver Pell) that Mughete teachers hit the children.
2) Rays of Light Orphanage School also hits the children, and throws rocks at them, too. Plus they botched up a $3,000 project we provided funding for in 2016 - a donor bought them a maize grinder that they can’t hook up to the electric grid, so they spend all their profits on fuel for a diesel generator.
3) Vision Care School - we’ve had a longterm relationship with this kindly but financially inept Kyarumba school. They don’t hurt their pupils, but a $5,000 project here (five motorcycles for rental, funded by one donor) is grossly mismanaged - the agent for it claims it makes very little money. Our efforts to clarify this turned into high drama - the agent, claims a BBI partner - threatened to poison anyone who spoke against him.
4) Garama Secondary School. BBI’s three-year clinic funding here rapidly evaporated - How? Why? The money, or supplies, were apparently embezzled by either the medic or (more likely) the director. Lesson we learned: don’t send large amounts, ever. Send small amounts, requesting transparency and accountability, before additional funds are granted.
Women’s Microfinance Collectives - BBI is partnered with ten rural women’s groups, who utilize our startup funds to buy pigs, sewing machines, farm tools, and seeds. We enjoy this relationship and we’ll continue this in 2018.
Fistula and Club Foot — BBI provided approximately $7,000 for fistula repair for women & clubfoot therapy for children. Funding these life-improving operations is gratifying and we’ll continue to do this, if our donors request.
Apostate Support — BBI assisted our advisor Yasmine Mohammed in 2017, in welcoming ex-Muslim refugees to Canada. We will expand this program in 2018.
Appalachia - BBI spent $393 in 2017 on humanist and humanitarian programs in impoverished eastern Kentucky. Unfortunately, we’re going to discontinue this because the region appears even deeper entrenched in fundamentalist religiosity than SubSaharan Africa. We haven’t been able to effectively connect with anyone in the “hollers” that we can work with.
EXCITING AMBITIONS FOR 2018
BBI’s upcoming goal is “SubSaharan Expansion” - we want to connect with humanist schools and organizations in other nations of Africa. Presently we’re communicating with an orphanage in Kenya, a Masai women’s group in Tanzania, and humanist activist groups in Ghana and Nigeria.