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Trading in the Pursuit of the American Dream

You read any stories that have really inspired you lately? You know the kind. The ones that take your to do list, turn it upside down and put in a whole different order of priorities?

My wife just forwarded me Katie Davis's blog (http://kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com/2008). Katie's a twentysomething that traded in the pursuit of the American Dream to help provide clothes, food, education and spiritual encouragement to 305 kids in Uganda by starting Amazima Ministries (amazima.org).

I've never met Katie, but I was stopped by the power and yet the simplicity of how they her story. It may not be the typical story of a self sustaining business that you'd typically find on this site, but it sure sounds like the heart of a leader, a self starter who saw opportunity and took action.

Here's a piece from website, read more stories at Amazima.org (http://amazima.org/stories.html).

"In December of 2006, Katie Davis traveled to Uganda for the first time. She was immediately captivated and fell in love with the people and the culture. While in Uganda, Katie met Pastor Isaac Wagaba who implored her to come teach Kindergarten at his orphanage in Buziika, Uganda, called Canaan Children's Transit Center.

In the summer of 2007, Katie returned to Uganda to teach Kindergarten at Canaan. As she walked the children home from class each day, she was shocked to see the sheer number of school-aged children sitting idly on the side of the road or working in the fields. It was then that it came to Katie's attention that there were very few government-run public schools in Uganda, and none in the area where she was working. Most schools in Uganda are privately run and therefore require school fees for attendance. Due to the extreme poverty in this region of Uganda, many children are unable to afford schooling.

God laid it on Katie's heart to start a child sponsorship program, matching orphaned children who are unable to afford schooling with sponsors in the US. Sponsors pay $300.00 per year to send these children to school and provide school supplies, 2 hot meals each day, and all needed minor medical care. Originally planning to have 40 children in the program, Katie had signed up 150 by January 2008. By the grace of God, in December 2008 the sponsorship program had successfully sent all 150 children to school for a full year and provided them will all life's essentials.

Every Saturday morning the children in the program, as well as others from the village, arrive at Katie's home for fellowship, a hot lunch, baths, and Bible study led by an Ugandan employee. The children sing praises to the Lord until late in the afternoon. Before returning home, they are each given a bag of food for their family. Amazima also strives to provide the children with spiritual growth. While the children are in school, two Ugandan Amazima employees spend time in the six villages where the children in the program live, holding Bible studies and spiritual growth activities with the families and guardians of the children to ensure they are coming home to a safe spiritual environment. Each child in the program is also visited by a social worker once every two weeks for a home visit to ensure that they are getting proper care and thriving in their home environment."

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posted by Justin Forman | 7.28.2009 - 8:14 AM

10 Comments:

Hi Justin,
Thanks for posting this story, it really touched my heart. There is certainly a connection though it may not be a typical BAM example. Katie's kids are beautiful--and God is so good.

blessings,
skye
commented by Anonymous skye, 11:11 AM  

Justin,
This is the opposite of BAM. This is traditional missions, dependent on a muzungu, who will leave and let the whole inverted pyramid she built fall down.
Does anyone under 30 read anything about the history of missions? Or does it matter as long as they can pull heart strings and raise the money?
Young people who are dedicated need to be honored. But, they also need to learn to ask critical questions, and not think they are the first one to ever see a poor person.
We work in Uganda, trying to have at least self sufficient programs. Our biggest problem is why should people work when someone will just give you stuff?
Please don't put this kind of stuff on a BAM page, or take my name off your list. I don't need to see it here where we are trying to encourage real enterprise.
Clark
commented by Blogger Ephesus Group, 9:03 AM  

I'd have to agree with Skye and Clark, that this isn't BAM.

Having lived in Uganda, I've seen both sides of the coin - desperate poverty, and spiraling dependency.

Clark, have you seen any innovative BAM initiatives aimed at primary education?
commented by Blogger Graham, 12:46 PM  

Clark,

Thanks for your comments and know that from someone who is passionate about business and ministry that we're committed to spotlighting stories and examples of people living out Business and Ministry. We're always always always looking for more stories and as Graham mentioned I'd love to hear of any examples that you can refer to us. Those would be great to share.

I couldn't help but share Katie's story because I was struck by the simplicity. There was a need, and when presented with the opportunity she responded. She took action and got involved. Many times I feel like that is missing in our churches and in my generation of twenty and thirty somethings. We get lost in the complex and the reason's why not instead of seeing the opportunities.

I admire Katie's passion and the refreshing simplicity of responding to a need. At the same time I long for more people to build that sustainable, business as mission model that we're all so passionate about.

I welcome ALL leads and stories on people living out this idea of business as mission. I think that hero and case study of people living out business and ministry is desperately needed.

We will definitely be highlighting those stories in the coming months but could use everyone's help in pointing a few out.

Thanks for your passion.

Justin
commented by Blogger Justin Forman, 1:17 PM  

Right now a Christian school is the most fantastic business opportunity going. Having started schools in three countries, we do a lot of "coaching" me in the business of a school, and my wife in Christian worldview and curriculum.

A well run school is a great opportunity for BAM- for every student you affect 5 or more people, usually adults. And, people everywhere will make sacrifices for their children to get ahead.

I have another friend here who has started a metal fabrication business. We are trying to run water businesses. Well drilling is wide open. Farming of all types is open. You don't need a lot of capital- just a good design, some capital, and the spirit of being in "real BAM".

Don't get me wrong- there is and will always be a need for "charity" but when you run a refuge camp for 20 years and destroy an entire generation's will, and don't teach the next, that is charity gone awry.

Trade, not aid. TIA!
commented by Blogger Ephesus Group, 1:41 PM  

Thanks for the info, Clark. Are the schools you mention sustained only by the fees paid by families?

I'd love to hear more about this - and the broader baseline economics in the region that make it possible.

(I lived and worked in Aringa, where most people were subsistence farmers, and I didn't see much cash transaction besides salt, sugar, soap and tea.)
commented by Blogger Graham, 4:14 PM  

Justin,

I loved this story. While it's not BAM related why not make it so? Yep, as a case study. In what ways can BAM impact the work that Katie is doing? What opportunities are presented in the story (and her blog) that can help turn her work into a sustainable project?

She doesn't have to do it of course. I personally think that it would be better to do this then not post about these inspiring stories at all. Thanks.
commented by Anonymous James, 5:16 PM  

Hello All,

Over the past two years I have become consumed by several growing BAM initiatives. The first is the start-up of a new venture to begin delivering entrepreneurial training and fostering micro-business development in Uganda.

Re your story about the work that Katie is doing - I focus on two facts. If BAM is going to be effective and part of sustainable development in countries like Uganda, then it seems quite apparent that until some foundations of sustainable self-sufficiency are created that this heart felt type of assistance still needs to be carried out. The second point tags onto one of the other comments, that the challenge should be how do we turn the short term impact of this kind of aid into BAM. Innovation, creativity, collaborative solution oriented approaches to these issues can become a catalyst for change and legitimate opportunities for BAM.

I am also involved as the director of a new NGO that is delivering assistance to Ugandan communities much the same as Katie, but we have a committed foundational goal of working to turn these initiatives into self-sustaining programs. Engage, equip and empower is our mantra.

So suffice it to say that from my vantage point it should always be - OK that isn't going to be self-sustaining - how could we make it that way. And, as for BAM how could we really leverage these "real" global challenges as opportunities for win-win partnerships and legitimate business ventures.

The interesting reality is that much the same as most things in life - experiencing it sometimes is often the only way to truly accept its reality. It is our paradigms that always seem to get in the way. If traditional AID doesn't work, which is more or less a proven fact as many of us know, including some of the contributors, then what shall we do - quit, give-up ... I have, along with a few other dynamic associates and friends decided that yes these are the facts, but let’s BAM the heck out of it and see what God has to say about it along the way ... we know it will not be easy ... maybe we will fail, but it's worth a try as long as we don't just attempt to repeat the same "status quo" approaches. Read "Dead Aid" - agree with it and then let's try some new ways...

Just an example, my involvement in Uganda has branched off into multiple paths which are integrated and connected somewhat by design, but also strangely they are in some cases being connected for me. So we are doing relief work in Uganda, similar to Katie’s work but on a larger scale (tied to our sustainability mantra); we want to continue these efforts and we need continued funding. I have my first cup of Ugandan coffee and say out load this is "awesome" … It just so happens my other BAM project is the opening of a 3rd Place coffeehouse venue in a downtown warehouse redevelopment project. This will be a place with a high end coffeehouse component, live theatre / arts and music and a bookstore. We are focused on reconnecting with our downtown business community, loft residents and faculty and students from a new university campus. The connection is that I am now working on locating a coffee roaster that can supply Ugandan coffee that we will serve and sell, with excess profits being poured back into other initiatives in Uganda.

I guess my overall point is that BAM can come from places, issues, opportunities and so on that unless we open our minds up we walk right by. I in no way have the answers, in fact I am looking for collaboration opportunities that will help leverage and extend the initiatives we are just starting and to dream a little about what could be and can be going forward. Finding a Ugandan coffee partner has not been easy, but I am committed to solving this small piece to our BAM future.

It’s all about connectors … and knowing when to walk away and when to push just a little harder until the doors either continue to open or they begin to close. Only one Person knows the answers as to what’s next …

Blessings

S.
commented by Blogger IDEAS mission, 3:13 PM  

Mantras aside, I wish you were with me in the next two hours as we are trying to determine the premium that people will pay to drink safe water vs swamp water. We know they pay 200 shilling for a 20 liter jerry can of swamp water. We are trying to create a 100 shilling premium for safe filtered and chlorinated water. Whether it will work, I will tell you in two months.
Buying and roasting coffee and selling it (esp to Muzungus) is one thing. Check out www.ugandagold.com they not only roast and sell, but the grow it. Creating value in an donor driven society is quite another, and is confounded by the millions in food aid and other distribution which are donor driven, not client elected. TINTAAFL.
I encourage you to continue all of the things you are doing. The BEST thing you could leave behind here in Uganda is a Christian business, run by Ugandans, based on Biblical principles. That is the beauty of BAM- real BAM- which takes the risks without donations, and doesn't fall prey to the sheen of success.
commented by Blogger Ephesus Group, 12:55 AM  

Excellent points that you make. I completely agree. The reality is that I ran out of space in the last entry to point out that IDEAS mission is an new venture that will begin working in Uganda at the start of next year to deliver entrepreneurial training and fostering micro-enterprise. This is where the mantra is focused - on equipping and empowering Ugandan's to become engaged in their own BAM's.

All I was trying to point out initially is that to completely disregard great stories of people trying in engage to assist the poor shelters us from "why" this is all so important. I completely understand the on the ground challenges your are facing. This is the reason for me being so passionate about trying to get BAM working to help in someway to begin building real sustainable development solutions. I see BAM as the answer. It's all about how can we develop collaborative entrepreneurship amongst our selves and including the entrepreneurs in the local communities where we will work. Aid is not the answer.

I am already working with "Ugandan Gold" - a great model. My challenge has been trying to locate a legitimate source in Canada. The point to the coffee is that it is a great awareness and marketing tool that will help get other entrepreneurs engaged with the country where we are beginning new BAM initiatives. A tangible connector.

I do wish I could be there with you, but I have a few months to wait. I have been informed of a new water purification system that has just been developed in Canada and is being used in pilot projects in Sudan. I will be following up on this, as this is on my list of initiatives as well, as a potential opportunity to service a need and to develop enterprise around.

It is great to see that we can converse from multiple perspectives and paradigms and yet I hope leverage ideas, innovation and so on. Collaboration in all forms can develop awesome opportunities for win-win. I am encouraged by the energy that can be created. One idea leads to another ... BAM ideas.

Keep up your great work ...

S.
commented by Blogger IDEAS mission, 7:51 AM  

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