Written by Hannah McCandless | Managing Director
My head is bursting with facts. 70% of Uganda’s population under the age of 30. 1 in 3 girls in Uganda pregnant or married before the age of 18. 10-14 year olds in poor countries have already experienced more adverse childhood experiences than the average adult in the US. Numbers, facts, statistics all jumbling together—an ill-rehearsed chorus clambering about the scale of the challenges faced by young people in Uganda.
And then there is this image.
A single girl. Prepared to thrive. Diving fearlessly off the zip-line platform. Images like this calm the clamor. Every time I see one of our kids try something new or demonstrate remarkable resilience, the noise in my mind dims and I’m left in awe of the incredible task and privilege that our team has:
We are healing relationships, nurturing thinkers, training leaders, teaching through failure. We are preparing young people to thrive.
What does it mean to thrive? Through conversations with our staff, our board, our participants and their communities, we’ve determined that a young person is thriving if they are living a healthy, productive, and fulfilling life. By providing life-changing programming, our participant’s gain valuable intra and interpersonal skills, establish strong systems of social support, and become more self-empowered. Their new found skills, support, and self-esteem empower them to make healthy decisions, improve in school or start a business, and ensure that they have happy relationships and bright futures.
Over the past six months, we’ve made some exciting steps forward. Every decision—each new system and process is intentional—all with the goal of increasing our ability to prepare young people to thrive. Here are a few highlights from our new two-year strategic plan that I think best illustrate where we’re headed:
Monitoring and Evaluation System
We have a new robust system for capturing data and measuring our impact. In addition to registering participants in our life skills programs and tracking their attendance, we are now able to track participants' skill acquisition from the start to the end of our program. This means that as this year continues, we will not only be providing you with individual stories of transformation, but the data to back it up!
Deepen our relationship with local government and schools
Our dream is for every child in Uganda to have a life-changing experience that prepares them to thrive. We believe that our surest path to achieving this goal is establishing strong partnerships with schools and the people who run them. Over the next two years, we hope to deepen our relationship with the local government education departments in order to to better understand and prioritize where are programs will be the most impactful. Additionally, our goal is to have a significant presence working directly with primary and secondary schools in the next two years.
Train our staff in outdoor adventure and child development
In the next two years, our staff will become internationally certified ropes course instructors. They will learn from leading outdoor adventure programs abroad. Most importantly, they will gain a deep understanding of how children develop and why our role is crucial to preparing young people to thrive. Our team is already having impassioned conversations about the impacts of childhood adversity on health and the importance of using the ‘growth mindset’ when facilitating.
Grow our resources to drive impact
Our new dreams are accompanied by new needs. We’ll be drastically growing our resources over the next two years to support our growing work and impact. Our financial growth can be divided into three categories: Our social enterprise, which provides team building, day programs, and retreats to paying clientele from schools, companies, and non-profit organizations not only allows us to reach more people with our powerful work but also help support our other programs! In 2019 we raised almost 20% of our annual budget through our social enterprise and we hope to increase that to 25% of an already growing budget this year! Additionally, we’re applying for a number of grant opportunities through foundations and other giving institutions to cover program and administrative costs. Finally, we are eager to expand and deepen our individual donor base—growing our community of families (just like yours!) choosing to invest in preparing young people to thrive.
In 2019, 152 children graduated from our life skills programs. In 2020, we plan to more than double that number. We are striving to transform the lives of 450 life skills graduates in 2020. 450 lives changed. 450 kids prepared to thrive. By December of this year we’ll be better at measuring our impact, have a staff better prepared to create change, stronger relationships with local stakeholders, but most importantly, Uganda will have 450 kids ready to live healthy, productive, and fulfilling lives.