what am I doing here?
No, this is not a blog post about some sort of existential crisis.
Simply speaking, I feel as though this is the conversation my family and friends have:
Strangers: Where’s Nikki?
Family & Friends: Uganda
Strangers: Really, what’s she doing?
Family & Friends: She’s in Uganda…
K, yes, that is based on the assumption that a) strangers are inquiring into my whereabouts and b) that people actually care, but I digress, mostly because I didn’t know what I was doing here until approximately 3 days ago.
(On a side note, I’m not entirely sure how often I will write about work and co-workers here as I’m certain this is not always the appropriate place to represent them and their work)
The Madrasa Resource Centre Uganda (MRCU) is a non-profit organization that works with disadvantaged communities to provide Early Childhood Development (ECD) services, including the establishment of community-owned and managed ECD Centres. MRCU began in 1993 as a project of the Aga Khan Foundation Uganda (AKFU) to replicate similar projects showing success in Kenya and Zanzibar, originally created in response to the disparaging results of muslim school children who weren’t receiving enough secular education.
MRCU’s mission is to promote quality and culturally relevant ECD in marginalised communities, including transition from home to preschool and into primary schools. Its vision is to create a society in which all children are active, healthy, knowledgeable and happy.
MRCU mobilizes communities to see the need for ECD centres and obtains their commitment through rolling out the following over a 2 year period: setting up school management committees (SMCs) and training SMC members, providing training and support to ECD teachers, and developing low-cost learning materials from local items. To date, MRCU has enabled 57 communities (in 10 Districts) to create and manage ECD centres; benefitting over 12,000 children aged 3-6. However many of these schools have, after graduating from the Madrasa program, declined due to a number of challenges. In order to address these challenges, MRCU National Board has decided to tackle issues that cause a sub-optimal demand for ECD services by attracting private donors to offer support through a concept called: Adopt A Preschool.
This program, this is where I come in (sort of).
What am I specifically doing?
As the communications specialist (I think specialist is utilized quite generously here), I’ll be working on increasing public awareness of the program and its efforts through articles, newsletters, etc. I’ll also be in charge of the implementation of the Adopt-A-Preschool program which aims to build ongoing support and learning based relationships between a growing number of donors and Madrasa Program supported and graduated preschools while providing a hand up, not a hand out.
What have I observed so far?
A handful of dedicated, tireless workers with a passion for change and a love for their country’s children so fierce they work relentlessly in the manifestation of the program’s vision. I’ve met and begun to work with individuals who consider an eight hour work day a suggestion, who go into the field and meet and talk and care for those who they work with.
Part of me is thrilled, excited, overwhelmed to be working with such a devoted team, the other part of me is, quite honestly, a jumble of nerves. Mostly, because I lack a background in education or in early childhood development and this is kind of my first real life experience. Struggling to find a spot for myself, I kept asking my boss how he still finds himself at Madrasa after 15 years of hard, dedicated work (this is a man that works 7-7 on weekdays and weekends). His response?
Satisfaction. Every day he comes into work and looks at every preschool Madrasa supports, every child he meets, telling stories of the children who went through Madrasa preschools to later become doctors. He looks at the work this program is doing, at whatever small scale it may be in comparison to omnipresent western NGOs, and is satisfied that he is making his country’s future better.
That, that is something and someone I can work with.