Sunday, March 25, 2012

Alumni Profile: Benjamin Hans, One Acre Fund & Former UVP Intern

Benjamin Hans interned with UVP on the safe water team in summer 2009. He currently works as a Technical Associate at One Acre Fund in Rwanda. He has a BS in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research with a minor in Global Poverty and Practice from UC Berkeley.

UVP: Ben, tell us who are you.

Ben: I studied Industrial Engineering and Operations Research with a minor in Global Poverty and Practice at UC Berkeley and graduated in 2010. Through a myriad of experiences, including continued growth in college and my sojourn in Uganda through UVP, I was inspired to professionally seek opportunities to utilize the power of technology to bring tangible solutions to development challenges. Today, I work for an organization called One Acre Fund, which currently empowers 120,000+ farming families across Kenya, Rwanda, and Burundi. I work as the director of the IT department for our operations in Rwanda, and as a programmer striving to develop more powerful internal software to better serve our clients across different countries.

UVP: Tell me about your experience with Uganda Village Project. When were you involved, with what capacity? What did you do?

Ben: At UVP, I worked with the "safe water team" which had two projects: to create a safe water storage pot business that reduces water borne diseases in drinking water, and to install several chlorine dispensers, which are devices that disinfect dirty water by releasing small amounts of chlorine into buckets that are used to carry water from a well, in some rural villages. My tasks included mobilizing villages, conducting market research, and performing quality control testing on the products.

UVP: What was your biggest challenge working in Iganga? How did you deal with it?

Ben: I believe the biggest challenge for me was obtaining a humbling and sobering perspective of development. I think that a lot of young people, including myself, often romanticize the idea of "saving the world" and "helping the poor" without having a solid grasp of what it's like in reality; progress takes time and lots of sweat from lots of people.

UVP: What is your favorite memory about your time in Uganda?

Ben: My favorite memory was exploring with my buddy by biking through villages and jungles on crappy bikes, playing soccer at remote schools and climbing Pride Rock - all in a day's work.

UVP: What advice do you have for future interns?

Ben: Be humble, be thirsty, and don't forget that you are a guest. Also accept that you will change yourself more than you will change others.

UVP: How has UVP shaped your career today and what you aspire to do in the future?

Ben: If it wasn't for UVP, I don't think I would have chosen to live for a few years as a techy in E. Africa. I love it out here.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Nangobi Stella, UVP Orphan Support Program Scholar, attains highest A-level exam score at Iganga Parents High School

By Caroline Nyuguto; Contribution by Anthony Bui

Uganda Village Project’s scholarship program gives orphans and children in need more than just financial support. As Beatrice Lamwak put it, “it is a light to write by and learn by, to read by and to tell their stories in its glow.” These are the stories of girls and boys who will one day be strong and hopeful Ugandans – those who will fulfill their dreams of nourishing the Pearl of Africa. The story of one young woman—Nangobi Stella—has just begun.

Earlier this week, Nangobi Stella learned that she had attained the highest points at her school, Iganga Parents High School, on her A-level exams, placing her among the leading students in the Iganga District. Stella is an excellent example of what UVP’s Orphan Support Program (OSP) can do – it identifies promising disadvantaged individuals from underserved communities and gives them the opportunity to become future leaders of Uganda.

Though Stella is a bright, bubbly, and optimistic individual, things have not come easy for Stella over the years.

Before she was 10, Stella’s parents divorced, and her father remarried. According to Ugandan tradition, children of divorced parents remain with the father. Unfortunately for Stella, her new step-mother disliked her and made her life extremely difficult. Stella then moved in with her mother, but she quickly faced a new set of challenges. Stella’s mother had little skills and was unable to generate enough income to meet Stella’s basic needs. Her mother would often leave Stella alone in the house with no food. Unable to pay rent, Stella was eventually evicted by her landlord, who took their belongings as back payment for rent; all of this occurred while Stella’s mother was away living with her new husband.

It was then that Stella’s neighbours decided to house her, where she was tossed from house to house until she was taken in by her father’s sister. All of this happened to Stella before the age of 10.

Stella’s solace was in school. With the Uganda’s Universal Primary Education Programme, she could afford to go to school. She joined a club called “Children’s Rights and Responsibilities,” where her peers appointed her the leader of the group. It was then that Stella developed her passion for law and education, and she knew she would grow up to defend children like herself who were treated unjustly and unfairly.

FIDA, who sponsored the clubs, noticed Stella’s talent. Together with ACCORD and UVP, FIDA offered Stella a scholarship to secondary school, which she would have otherwise not afforded. From then on, Stella completely took advantage of the path that lay in front of her.

We had the opportunity to conduct a brief interview with Stella.

UVP: Where does your inspiration come from?

Stella: First and foremost I am a Christian and my inspiration comes from God, I also admired other students who did well and saw what opportunities were presented to them and therefore I wanted to follow in that path, every time I excelled I also got additional bursaries which showed me that with hard work, doors could open.

UVP: What profession do you want to take up?

Stella: I want to be a lawyer. From a young age I saw FIDA fight for the rights of children, children like me, who are treated unfairly and cannot defend themselves’ I have also thought of journalism as well, as I can tell the stories of children like myself.

UVP would like to congratulate Nangobi Stella, UVP’s future Children’s Human Rights Lawyers. Stella, you have made us proud and will continue to shine!

We would like to thank our supporters and generous donors that have helped students like Stella get where she is today. To further support the Orphan Support Program, please visit

Caroline Nyuguto is the Assistant In-Country Director of UVP. She has worked in public health roles in Canada and Kenya and has an MPH from the University of Liverpool. Anthony Bui is the Marketing and Communication Chair of UVP. He currently works a strategy consultant in New York and Kenya.