Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Monthly donors make a difference!

Alanta Colley is special to Uganda Village Project (UVP) for several reasons. First, she was the Healthy Villages Coordinator years ago, and we’re always proud of the dedicated staff members who have been with us in Iganga. And second, Alanta is one of our amazing monthly donors. UVP is so grateful to the partners who give each month: because of them, we have a source of funds we know we can depend on, and thanks to their support we can run programs throughout the year. Every time we see Alanta's donation come through, we smile, because she dedicates it "to the wonderful UVP staff," and it inspires us to keep working on behalf of rural villages in Iganga.

We caught up with Alanta to see what she’s been doing since her time in Uganda and why she’s committed to giving monthly to UVP.

How did you originally get involved with UVP?
I ended up in Uganda after completing my Masters of International Public Health at the University of Sydney, in Australia. (I'm Australian!) Uganda is very, very far away from Australia. I had wanted to go to Uganda for years, as several of the amazing doctors and nurses in my uni course were Ugandan, I was fascinated by the history of HIV incidence reduction in the country, and I had read it is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world! I started volunteering in a small village clinic in Ibulanku, traipsing through the fields to do sanitation education with communities. This was the first time I heard of Uganda Village Project. 

Julius Ntalo (UVP Fistula Coordinator) and Leah Bevis (UVP Healthy Villages Coordinator) visited the clinic sometimes, and I soon got to meet them, discovering them both to be passionate, intelligent, hard working people dedicated to doing everything they could to support the communities across Iganga district. I was very inspired by both of them. I then moved on to work in an even tinier village in Kenya, Leah called me to tell me that she was leaving UVP, and that they were looking for a new Healthy Villages Coordinator. I still remember the interview over Skype conducted by Alison Hayward, co-founder of UVP and current Chair of the Board, after she had just come off a 48 hour shift on emergency medicine. There are few times I've ever been so nervous; UVP was thoroughly wonderful and I wanted very much to be a part of it. As soon as we got talking Alison put my mind at ease. 

What's your best memory of Iganga?
The villages in Iganga are beautiful. I don't have a single favourite memory, but I loved the culture that whenever you were driving somewhere and it started raining, you would drop whatever you were doing and go sit on the porch or in the living room of the most nearby house. The sense of trust and hospitality is something my community in Australia lacks. I loved being part of community celebrations, I love the Igangan culture of meetings where everyone gets a say. 

My least favourite memory of Iganga was running along the train tracks (one of the few places one can run) to discover a train had offloaded several thousand syringe heads on the tracks. It did give me an incentive to keep light on my toes though!

What has kept you involved?
The work of UVP is evidence based, tangible, practical, and based on priorities devised by the community. I've seen first-hand how passionately committed all the staff and volunteers are, and how well money is used. I think UVP supports communities to have the stable access to health information and services to provide a platform to realize their greater aspirations. 

What motivated you to give a monthly donation?
UVP is focused on making the most of every precious dollar it receives. UVP is very clever in utilizing existing resources, and sustainable appropriate materials. For example the shallow well program used the materials the District has already purchased and could be fixed by community members, unlike the expensive bore holes built by other INGOs that community can't fix. The materials we used in the sanitation campaigns to make tippy taps were extremely cheap, and could be replaced easily by community members. Salaries are the biggest cost often for UVP, but only because of how cleverly inexpensive all the other costs UVP incurs are managed. I have no doubt that in terms of positive impact for Ugandan people in Iganga, donating to UVP enables me to get the best 'bang for buck'. 

Can you share a little information about yourself?
I'm Alanta, I'm Australian, and I'm 32. Since working for UVP I've returned home to work with Engineers Without Borders, coordinating a program supporting Aboriginal communities and engineering organisations to work collaboratively. I love cycling, comedy and gardening.  I love Uganda Village Project and always will :-)

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