Brighter Brains

humanism, women’s equality, sustainability, and education

Home > Articles > Charity to Uganda Humanist Schools - a little goes a long way

Charity to Uganda Humanist Schools - a little goes a long way

Posted: Fri, August 14, 2015 | By: Kasese

by Sean McGuire

Mario Mouton from KidsHeartKids sent me this blog post by Steve Hurd over at the Uganda Humanist School Trust. In case you don’t already know, this Trust helps fund Humanist schools in Uganda.

The post, Mustard Seed Girl Scouts: a funding dilemma, resonates with me. It’s about the challenges of fundraising within the Humanist and atheist communities. It brings up memories of crushing sadness and frustration—burnout—when I have launched worthwhile projects that ought to be completely achievable by any measure but it simply doesn’t pan out.

this essay was first posted at Sean’s “mysecretatheistblog” HERE

There was no overhead, no ambiguity about where the money would have gone, no risk and immediate payback. Everything would be done on a shoestring. I just didn’t understand it.

Back in September, Steve reported of the great success for the newly formed troop of girl scouts at the Mustard Seed Humanist school. Shortly after getting their new uniforms, they attended the Ugandan national scout competition and made it to second place. They rocked! In his words:

As a result they have been chosen to represent Uganda at the East African zonal scouts jamboree to be held between 27th Dec 2014 to 8th Jan 2015 in Kigali, Rwanda. The children are very happy with their achievement. It has made them more than confident that the Mustard Seed school in Busota has the potential to face a greater challenge from scout groups from other countries in the region: Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Southern Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.

 Certificates presented to Mustard Seed Humanist School Girl Scouts. (source) Certificates presented to Mustard Seed Humanist School Girl Scouts.
Certificates presented to Mustard Seed Humanist School Girl Scouts. (source)

The trip would cost around $4,000 CDN and that’s value for your money:

… to process immigration documents, transport, register, feed and maintain 13 scouts and 3 staff for the camp which lasts close to two weeks in Kigali.

Fast-forward to October 4th and Steve reports that zero dollars were donated to this cause. I don’t mean to berate donors and I understand that there are many worthwhile causes out there and people’s money is stretched thin. It’s just that the numbers don’t seem to add up for me.

What frustrates me is that this sort of cash is likely raised by high school band groups around the country every day selling chocolate bars. It is very definitely raised in churches, small, medium and mega, every week to send off missionaries to spread the good news. Is our community too small?—maybe. Was the messaging insufficient?—quite possibly, I don’t know. Is there even a platform for such messaging? The Humanist television stations? Radio stations? Humanist centers, maybe?

A little more perspective:

To set the £2,200 for the girl scouts in perspective, we give each secondary school £800-£1000 each year to buy books, £400-£500 on science materials and a similar amount on such things as maintaining computer networks, art, sports and music or meeting shortfalls of money to pay staff wages. The same sum would bring one or two of the school Directors to Britain to undertake a speaking tour, which would inform our supporters and Humanist groups around the country about the work of the schools and, in the process, help with fundraising.

Think about that. A sum equivalent to bringing a scout troop to a jamboree is in the same ballpark as funding the core needs of an entire school for a year. Now think about how little this money is compared to what is raised every Sunday in church collection plates around the country. I’m not suggesting imposing tithing, but just think of what could be achieved if our community adopts more of a culture of giving?

I apologize for what I’m about to say, but just think about how many schools could be built if people would give just a portion of what goes to going to skeptical conferences out there, or attending Burning Man, etc. I really don’t mean to accuse anyone—I’m just saying that funding a school in Uganda is achievable if more people in our community donated just a micro amount. This is not big bucks.

If someone has any ideas they want to shoot my way, let me know. I am working with someone right now who’s setting up a registered non-profit and I’m looking into mobile giving options so people don’t even need to get off their phones to help.

Steve quotes a letter he got from Mustard Seed Humanist School Head Teacher:

Last Friday, the District Education officer of Kamuli awarded our scouts with certificates acquired from the last national competitions at school, he promised them Uganda Shillings 500.000= (£120) towards their expenses to attend the Jamboree. The presentation was covered in both local radio stations and in the “Daily Monitor”, a Uganda national newspaper. This has prompted the woman member of parliament for Kamuli district to invite us to her home at the end of this month; hopefully she will offer a further small contribution.

Our girl scouts moods are upbeat; are you having any success in raising funds for them to go to Rwanda? We need to confirm whether they can attend very soon. The picture below shows the press visit to our school for the presentation of the certificate.

Look at the immense effect this small amount of money is having! District Education Officers! National press coverage! Members of Parliament! No wonder the homophobic Christian Right has achieved such status in this country. Just look at how little can change the lives of children, their families, the community and alter a country’s perception of Secular Humanism!

Moses is waiting for an answer. Will these children be able to represent Uganda, Humanist ideals and themselves to other African countries?

If you feel you would like to help the girls go to the Jamboree then you can donate through the website (please add a note to say the money is for the Girl Scouts), alternatively cheques can be sent to: UHST (Girl Scouts Appeal), 31 Greenmeadows Road, Madeley, Crewe CW3 9EY.

this essay was first posted at Sean’s “mysecretatheistblog” HERE


Please email comments to