As a Client of SPS You Have Made a Difference!
As many of you may know, my family and I travelled to Uganda in 2016 to visit the village where we helped to build a well for the community. I wanted to share a little more of this story with you because, in a very real way, every one of our clients contributed to the project. Yes, some people made specific donations, and for this we are exceptionally grateful, but just by being part of the Strategic Planning Solutions family you helped build a well and change so many lives.
I am so blessed to work in a job where I can help people succeed financially and to fulfil their dreams. But the other great thing about this business is that Deanna and I are also in a position where we can give back, and share our success with others. I like to think of each of us as a drop in the well – alone we might think we make no difference at all, but collectively we can change the lives of hundreds…
Before I was a financial planner, I was a teacher, working as a Housemaster at a co-ed private school. I’ve always been interested in helping people increase their financial literacy, and I wanted to help my students to understand how a little can go a long way.
In 1995, I arranged for the kids in my house to sponsor a child through Child Fund. The students all put in 50c each a month, which went towards a child named Raphael Opira who lived in a village located near Uganda’s second largest town, Gulu.
Four years later, I left teaching to pursue my financial planning career. I passed on the sponsorship details to the incoming Housemaster to continue the program. I thought that would be the last I would hear about Raphael.
Fast forward to 2014, and I received a Facebook request from someone with a name that I didn’t recognise. Something made me pause, and I didn’t reject the request outright but parked it to come back to at some stage.
A month later, I was looking at the request again, and it dawned on me that if I reversed the first and last names that perhaps this was the child we had sponsored all those years ago. A few messages back and forth confirmed my deduction, and we became online friends.
Curious about his life, I asked Raphael if we could communicate via phone, rather than just on social media. Over the next few months, we engaged in a number of long conversations. He told me that because of the sponsorship he was able to go to school, and then on to university, where he obtained a degree in logistics and forged a career for himself. He’s now preparing to undertake his MBA! This path may be familiar to Aussies, but in Uganda hardly anyone goes to school, let alone university. The sponsorship really did change his life.
In early 2015, we invited Raphael out to Australia to visit with us. He had never been on a plane, much less to another country, but he couldn’t wait to take the three flights needed to reach Sydney. He was so focused on getting here, he even committed the instructions I had given him to memory!
We did all the usual sight-seeing things – the Opera House (which Raphael renamed the ‘Opira’ House), a cruise on the Harbour, a trip to the zoo to see the koalas and kangaroos – all of which were met with smiles and laughter. Of course, just being in a Western city, surrounded by traffic and high-rise buildings, was a new experience for Raphael, but he took it all in his stride. He just couldn’t stop smiling!
We took him to see the school at which I had been a Housemaster, where he addressed the whole school, proudly wearing his Academic gown – a gesture of just how much the achievement of graduating meant to him. We also arranged for him to spend a morning at Child Fund, the charity that had organised his sponsorship so that he could talk to the staff and help to bring home the impact of their day-to-day work. Listening to Raphael share all he had accomplished and the opportunities he had because of the sponsorship was truly heart-warming.
But it wasn’t until later that week, over some red wine and a pizza with some of our friends that I came to understand the challenges Raphael still had to overcome. He explained that his village had no clean, running water. His wife walked 1 ½ kilometres twice, sometimes three times, a day, to the nearest water source. She would carry 20 litres of water on her head and 10 litres in her hands (30kgs in total), just so her family could drink, prepare food and wash. Sadly, the water was not clean, and Raphael’s children were regularly sick, keeping them away from school and putting additional strain on the family’s activities and finances.
We sat and thought about their plight, unable to comprehend a life so different to ours. Then one of my best mates, Daniel Sgroi, said the words I will never forget: “Let’s build them a well”.
Things moved really quickly after that. We went back to Child Fund and told them of our plan. They were happy to coordinate the project for us, provided we could come up with the funds. Preparations were made, and construction began. Raphael gave up a corner of his own land in order to build the well, generously handing the site over to the whole village so they could all benefit from the water-source.
In January this year, we travelled to Uganda to visit Raphael and to attend the official opening of the well. We were given a traditional tribal welcome by the village and treated like absolute royalty. The power of the well was clear in the smiles and the cheers we received. The children in the village were no longer sick. The village’s women and children did not have to cross a dangerous road to fetch water from over a kilometre away. The 90 minutes a day these women had previously spent carrying water back to their homes was now time that they could use to pursue study or home industry. One woman even told us she could now wear white clothes because she finally had clean water to wash in!
We started the project in August 2015. Drilling commenced in December 2015, and the well was completed in January 2016. It cost just A$10,500. Up to 350 villagers now directly benefit from the well. Best of all, the well will have a generational impact on the village of Pece Acoyo.
I can’t describe just how fulfilling and life-affirming the experience was. I guess the best way I can express the feeling is through action – by doing it all again. Yep, we’re going to build another well!
We’ve partnered with the School For Life Foundation to tackle a water project at Mbazzi Primary and Secondary School. Along with the students and teachers at the school, who desperately need clean water to improve their physical and mental activities, thousands of people in the surrounding communities will also be able to access the well. Our target is $8,000.
Update: We reached our target, but due to drilling issues, our funds were diverted to the installation of a 100,000 litre water tank, which is able to capture the runoff from the vast roof area of the school!
If you’d like to learn more about School For Life and the other projects they are undertaking to benefit children in Uganda, visit: schoolforlife.org.au