Elevated Thinking: Child Sponsorships versus Teacher Sponsorship

By | Africa, Children, Education, Elevate for Education, School | No Comments

It is that time of year again. Elevate for Education is just around the corner and we need your help! Last year was such a success. In fact, we raised enough money to pay all of our teachers for the entire school year. This is a major help to Mountain of Olives as it frees up the revenue from school fees to be used towards other items such as food, new books, and various school supplies. Rays of Grace is hoping to raise $10,000 during our elevate campaign this year, help us get there!

Why does Rays of Grace raise funds for our teachers as opposed to our student tuition?

The answer comes back to Rays of Grace working alongside the community we serve. Families which send their children to our school need to be maintained as the role models.

A “White Savior” complex is introduced when a child sponsorship program is created for students by replacing the student’s parents with a white person with a checkbook. This can lead to breaking the bond between parents and the school at-large. Providing a sponsor disincentives parents to continue to have a buy-in to their child’s education and school.

At Mountain of Olives, our parents show up in droves for parent teacher conferences and report card day. Why? Because they care about the outcome of their children and they are proud of the school in which they invest their hard-earned shillings. Alongside this, our parents come together to create a caring community, there to help one another and provide the school with more than just the annual school fee, many times our parents provide food or a helping hand to our orphan student population.

On top of the disincentives, there is a potential problem of instability. A Ugandan boy of 10 is introduced to his sponsor parent and the boy is pleased to know he is being taken care of. He promises to keep his grades high, and the sponsor parent promises to check-in with him. Unfortunately, an earthquake in Nepal happens. Now the sponsor parent pulls their funding from Uganda to help a child in Nepal. The organization rushes to find a new sponsor because the boy’s family now relies on his education to be paid for and uses their money elsewhere. Hopefully the organization is able to support the boy with another sponsor parent, but what if they can’t? What if they do find another, but another natural disaster strikes another corner of the world? Sponsor parents coming and going separates the person to person support and leaves in place a money to person support system where the white person is seen as the money, no matter what the white person looks like.

The hypothetical organization just created instability in a family structure that was originally functional before the sponsorship came along.

So why is providing teachers any better? Rays of Grace believes ensuring a steady paycheck is the best incentive for teachers to continue to arrive each day to fulfill their duties with a smile on their face and the best attitude imaginable. Think about it, would you want to continue working hard and have stellar attendance if you weren’t guaranteed a paycheck at the end of the day? The relationship between student and parent is much different than teacher to school. Mountain of Olives is already required to provide for the teachers. By backfilling the administrative budget of Mountain of Olives, Rays of Grace creates stability for our teachers and creates opportunity for our Director Jackson to use more of his budget towards improving his school.

So come help Rays of Grace support our teachers! We couldn’t do it without you! Gather your friends and family and let’s go climb a mount to celebrate some elevated thinking and the highest education standards in Uganda!

The climb itself is scheduled for July 11th and you can sign up to hike with yours truly, or any of the other amazing teams! We even have teams scheduled in North Carolina and Arizona. There are various mountains to choose from with a variety of skill levels. Take a gander here and reserve your spot today!

If you would like to get a group of your own together please email me at info@raysofgrace.org and I can get you set up!

#empowereducatesustain #e4e2015

Ubuntu

By | Africa | No Comments

It hits you instantaneously. Death was everywhere, from the blasted out iron doors to the neatly cleaned yard. I have never visited Auschwitz or any concentration camp for that matter. It was an experience I could not truly prepare myself for, yet there I was, standing inside a building that saw 45,000 innocent lives extinguished by hatred and malice. The feelings were too many and too much all at once to distinguish what came first, but it is safe to say that if there was an emotion I felt it there. It was almost too perfect of a day, the sun shone through rain clouds and faintly in the background one could here a neighboring church singing out Catholic hymns. The singing was eerie,  straight out of a movie almost. Then there was the movie one of the security guards was watching while on duty, an action film at a particular moment of screaming and chaos. The sounds amplified and continued to direct us tourists every which way. How do prepare for something like this? The real answer is you can’t, but you don’t realize this until you are inside staring out at the pews full of dusty clothes meant to warn. Thousands, upon thousands of shirts, pants, blouses, socks, shoes, undergarments, jackets, and belts. There were artifacts placed on the altar. Many normal things found in the pockets of normal people. A pocketwatch, a pipe, jewelry, identification cards. I got stopped instantly by one of these cards. All that really could be made out was the circle around tutsi as “race” identifier and a birth year, 1970. This meant he was 24 when he died in the church surrounded by strangers and possibly family. It was a horrible thought to place myself among the screaming and chaos.

 

There was an orange belt that has borrowed itself into my memory forever. It has been 20 years since the genocide and most the artifacts are dusty and the clothes deteriorating except this orange belt. There it sat on top of one of the hundreds of undiffering piles, pristine. As if a woman had worn it that morning, quickly thrown it on as she ran out the door to take her family to the church to seek shelter from another violent machete storm. Only this time, protection would not come as the door blew open with a bang and shots rang out from the exterior. So much fear. And there it sat, her orange belt as if it were only yesterday.

 

There was a blessed mother mary statue staring down at these piles as if begging for forgiveness while simultaneously weeping for her children. She could not and certainly did not protect that day and it was almost too much to stand in the product of her failure while listening to the Catholic hymns next door. Mother Mary seemed to constantly be praying for the victims, and for the visitors I think. Eventually all of these clothes will disintegrate (except for maybe the belt made of neon orange plastic) and at first a visitor might panic and plead with the church to maintain these clothes so future generations may witness what happened here. But the thing is there are several other places in Rwanda to do your remembering and to pay your respects. The clothes at Nyamata will fade as Rwandan consciousness moves forward. Nyamata’s bullet scarred structure may forever stand, but the clothes shall leave. As if to symbolize the scars from healing.

 

45,000 people gone after trusting in an institution to protect them as it always had in years prior, like 1992. An outsider and tourist should ask how can a church and beliefs that betrayed so many be able to endure to this day. But as the hymns stopped and the people of the church next door flowed out the doors and walked directly by the Nyamata site no tears were being shed. No blank stares. No grieving, just resiliency in the faces of every church member. Resiliency has kept the faith alive and well in Rwanda and it will never go away.


I am because we are.

The Boda Boda Less Traveled

By | Africa | No Comments

My first full day here in Africa, I found myself on the back of a boda boda heading towards my hotel. For those who don’t know,  a boda boda is a thoroughly African thing to do. It consists of a motorcycle, a driver, and a first time passenger holding on for dear life and settling his sins with God. Luckily for me, Jackson was kind enough to tell the boda boda man to take it easy on me as this was my first time.

 

Unsure about the whole situation I climbed on swearing to myself not to look too terrified. I am sure I did not accomplish this but I did not put us at a bigger danger than we already were by putting my feet down at huge divots and dips in the road. I am sure our slow speed annoyed the boda boda man to his wits end, but he kept his promise and took it slow. This is not an easy task either, with little traffic laws and even fewer people obeying them slow bodas are forced to be on guard at all times of passing vehicles. Being passed by a semi on a boda is a truly religious experience. The massive vehicle flying by you at top speed whips the wind and exhaust straight into your face. Again I cringe only because I know the boda man can not see me.

 

There is a company infiltrating the boda boda market in Kampala knkwn as Tugende. It is a for-profit institution which leases bodas to these drivers. Eventually after 18 months these boda drivers will own their own boda lifting the landlord and rental fee burden. Lifting the burden allows drivers to invest in school fees, housing, or livestock for their family. Some sell their bike and enjoy about a $700-800 USD boost to their personal economy. They will then reapply with Tugende for another bike and start all over again.

 

Apart from the terrifying semis and mzungos (white people) attempting to drive in Africa. The countryside is beautiful and truly can only be absorbed as a passenger on a boda boda. As we approached Jinja I felt comfortable enough and discovered I had truly enjoyed my experience. That even includes the time spent lost in Jinja side streets.

 

Tugende is searching for new markets and hopes to expand from 1000 bikes currently to 10,000 bikes in the next 5 years. They have started doing market evaluations in Jinja. If I was to offer a piece of advice to Tugende it would be to ensure their drivers knew the streets well and all major destinations within the city.

 

You see, Jackson had told the driver how to return to my hotel and so I was not worried about getting lost. However, the driver must have forgotten because we stopped and asked for directions where I would later find out was only a short 5 minutes from my final destination. After the couple of Africans we asked either didn’t know or pointed us back the way we came the driver was obviously tired of his time with me and tried to convince me to get off the boda and wait for the next one who knew jinja better. I refused and he conceded after I told him I knew how to get to my place (which was a lie). Luckily I have a great photographic memory and was able to eventually lead him the proper direction after a couple of missed turns. Once arriving at my beloved place of rest I asked how much I owed for the drive.

 

Boda drivers do not necessarily own their own bikes. They rent them from a landlord and pay him a certain percentage of daily profits or set amount at the end of every day or week. Since the bikes are the landlords can demand the bike back at any time it leaves the drivers in a perpetual state of panic that any morning their way to make a living could be gone in an instant. This forces drivers to haggle with passengers over prices and drive recklessly at all hours of the day.

 

In Uganda everything is negotiable. Which leads to the next part of this story. The driver started out by asking for 100,000 shillings which is a little lass than $50 USD. I remembered my ride was 150,000 from the airport to Jinja in a private taxi so obviously the driver was trying to cheat me. I said heck no and called him a thief and we haggled back and forth. He argued about how slow he traveled for me and the time spent lost made him lose potential customers. I argued it was not my fault the got lost and he should have listened better. In the end, we settled at 50,000 shillings and thought I had won my first haggle battle. Only, the next day Jackson asked and when I told him he called the boda a thief and deleted his number from his phone. I found out later that boda drivers are lucky to make 30,000 a day from all their drivers combined. Oh well, TIA (this is Africa).


The moral of this story and the purpose of the juxtaposition within this story is to show how a for-profit institution can bring great change to the way an already established yet dangerous practice like the boda-boda. Financially incentivizing boda drivers through eventual ownership of their own bodas is integral at increasing safety in Africa. The boda-boda will always be dangerous and even Tugende wishes to see them phased out with public transport and better road infrastructure but in the meantime working with how Africa currently operates is most important.

 

Rays of Grace prepares for Annual Elevate for Education Climb

By | Elevate for Education | No Comments

Rays of Grace Elevate for Education

Denver nonprofit partners with organizations across America to bring fun and raise awareness to their ongoing sustainable community project in Kirugu Uganda.

DENVER (July 3, 2014) — Rays of Grace’s mission “Empower, Educate, Sustain” comes to life as over 50 participants gather in Colorado and California to climb 14ersto raise money to build a new schoolhouse. On July 12, 2014, the five philanthropic teams will get elevated in hopes to raise $50,000 to begin breaking ground on a new solar powered schoolhouse.

Known for impacting through collaborating with likeminded world changers, Rays of Grace founder Britt Froistad and team created the annual fundraiser around the energy, passion and love of young people around Denver, adding participants in Texas and California to the Elevate 2014 partnership. Last years Elevate for Education provided the funding to purchase a plot of land in Kirugu Uganda, planting the seed of hope for a fully sustained school house, almost entirely powered by the sun. With over quadruple the participants this year, we know that a new structure is just the beginning.

Drew Harris from Boulder company Breeze Bars states, “Breeze Bars is ecstatic to be a sponsor of Elevate for Education this year and completely support locals like Rays of Grace. Our passion for happy and healthy lifestyles go beyond the boarders of our country, but reach a greater need like sustaining the students at the Rays of Grace school in Uganda”.

“We want to raise awareness about how literally anyone can help change the world,” said Kael Robinson, founder of Live Worldly. “Through Rays of Grace’s Elevate for Education, we can help children in Uganda go to school to get a better education. We can’t wait to hike Missouri Mountain on Team Stiletto Pumps in the Club!”.

The Elevate for Education climb will take place at 6:30AM on July 12, 2014 at multiple mountains across Colorado and San Diego. Join us for a celebratory BBQ on July 13 at Washington Park in Denver at 2pm.

Rays of Grace is also providing donors and climbers with a goodie bag from our partners and sponsors around the world. Be sure to check out the good times had at last years Elevate here.

About Rays of Grace:

Information on partnership:
Tyler Maybee
e: tyler.m@raysofgrace.org
p: 303.809.8908

all other press inquiries:

Syd Froistad
e: sydney.f@raysofgrace.org
p: 303.809.8908

Through empowering community engagement, we believe we can plant the foundation of a school to enable a system for education, vocation, and a sustainable means to break the cycle of poverty.

Inspired by the capacity of the collective, we know that wind can take down a tree, but that it is no match for a forest. Rooted in our faith in Christ, we believe we can cultivate a better world. A world where souls, knowing and resonating their selfworth, will link arms, pursue their potentials relentlessly, and flourish.

www.raysofgrace.org

Elevated Giving

By | Education, Elevate for Education, Fundraising, School | No Comments

elevated_giving_blog

I am honored to be the first Rays of Grace blog contributor. First, I would like to welcome you to our new website. This is our attempt at professionalism and we are loving it. A big thanks goes out to Sauté Creative and their hardwork and dedication at getting this site off the ground. Looks great guys! I started my career with Rays of Grace in January 2013 in the midst of my first year of graduate school. Since then Rays of Grace has raised over $25,000 for the Mt. of Olives school outside Kirugu, Uganda and I have recently completed my Master’s degree in International Development from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver.

If there is one theme I focused on during my studies its the idea of helping while not hurting.

Unfortunately, this is not a simple task. Organizations and countries have attempted and failed such a task. Toms developed a 1 for 1 approach where one purchase of their shoes by a wealthy consumer like you or me, also purchased a pair of shoes for a child in need. A worthy aspiration indeed, trying to shoe those who walk miles in their bare feet, but the development community soon discovered the hurting to Toms’ helping. As Toms landed in villages across the world to deliver shoes to needy villagers many locals who once had shoe stores found themselves out of a job (it is hard to compete against free commodities). Furthermore, Toms shoes are not American made, but cheaply made in China furthering the problem of low paid employees unable to afford shoes. The Development community has gone after churches and other organizers of donation drives under the same issues found in the Toms strategy. As clothing drive collections were delivered across South America and Africa the local clothing store and factories were closing their doors. The detriments of hand outs are well established, yet they still exist. It is important to understand the implications of injecting an unnatural state of being into a society. The saying “nothing in life is free” is born from an ultimate truth.

So what then do we do?

As a society where our values have taught us to help the poor in every way we can; how do we help without hurting? Rays of Grace grapples with this question each and every day and our solution is to promote the leadership of Jackson, our well known and respected founder of Mt. of Olives. This involves providing funding for his ideas and insight into avenues he may not have thought about yet. More importantly Rays of Grace looks to empower the community by giving them a voice in the projects that come to their village, it is their village after all.

elevate_for_education

We are excited for our approaching second annual Elevate for Education with the goal of $50,000.

With this goal met we hope to finance the beginning stages of construction for our school. So, tell your friends, tell your significant other, tell everybody to help out a great cause. There are several methods you can contribute. Send a one time donation, sign up for a monthly $6 donation, or spread the word about Elevate for Education by using #e4e to get the world excited for some crazy kids with dreams atop mountains. If everyone of our Facebook likes donated $6 a month Rays of Grace would have $7,200 a month! crazy! Be a part of the change you wish to see in the world! I hope this brief insight helps sell you on our cause, but if it doesn’t, don’t worry there are many more blog posts to come from the many voices of Rays of Grace. Stay tuned and get excited for the future, I know we are!

Hope all is well,
Tyler Maybee
Colorado Director of Operations