A giving iceberg in Uganda

Jenny Benson is the president of The Aninga Project, an organization based in Halifax that helps girls in Uganda go to school. During the 2014 holiday season, Benson wrote a piece for A Quarter Young about her family’s Canadian charity. This year, in support of today’s Giving Tuesday, we invited Benson to write a second piece about The Aninga Project, shedding new light on how this non-profit directly impacts the lives of girls overseas.

Special thanks to Benson, and her mom Fiona, for investing in the piece below. Most importantly, thanks to them for investing in education for all.

You do not usually see the words “iceberg” and “Africa” in the same sentence. Nonetheless, that is what The Aninga Project unintentionally has created: An “iceberg of giving” in Uganda.

The Aninga Project is a non-profit educational initiative that works to educate and empower girls in Uganda. We currently have 16 girls in school: 13 in grade school and three in post-secondary programs. We know that we are making a direct and significant difference in the lives of the girls that we are supporting, and this was the intent and objective of the project. It turns out, however, funds our supporters give and the sponsorship involved in this project are only the tip of the iceberg for this giving campaign and the positive outcomes that have resulted.

An estimated one-tenth of an iceberg is above the water and the shape of the underwater portion can be difficult to identify when only observing what is visible. We did not foresee the further giving and positive change that would result – “underwater” and out of sight – from our direct and visible support of the girls’ education. We could not have anticipated the degree to which the girls would use our support to create many more positive changes in their communities.

Here are two of their stories.

Aninga and her sister, Uganda.
Aninga and her sister in Uganda.

Aninga & Her Sister:

We began supporting Aninga in 2007. Our friends in Uganda told us about a girl who was a great student and loved learning but had to drop out of school because her mother could not pay for her school fees. She is from Koboko District, an area close to the borders of both Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is a dangerous and unstable area where educational opportunities are scarce.

We asked Aninga if she would like us to send her to boarding school in a safer location and pay for her school fees, transportation, boarding fees, uniforms, school supplies and other daily necessities.

She said, “Yes!”

In 2009, I met with Aninga in Uganda and she told me how much she appreciated our support and described the positive differences that school was making in her life. This meeting inspired me to name our small family initiative The Aninga Project; to incorporate it; to register it as both a Canadian Charity and Ugandan NGO; and to work to assist more girls like Aninga.

I returned to Uganda in 2011. The Aninga Project, by then, was supporting seven girls. I travelled to their schools to meet each of them. When I arrived at Aninga’s school, her principal wanted to share a secret with me. Aninga had not been using the pocket money we were providing her for her own daily necessities. Instead, she was using that money to pay for her sister’s school fees. I could not believe that Aninga had managed to pool the small amount of money we were providing her, for things like juice and snacks, to send her sister to school.

We have since come to understand that while many of the girls we are supporting in school are the first children in their family to stay in school past Primary 4, all of their younger siblings are now following in their footsteps. This has lead to more children staying in school in Koboko District and has also influenced communities to value and encourage the education of females.

Agenes at the watering hole, Uganda.
Agenes at the watering hole in Uganda.

Agnes Here to Help:

The school we work with in Bududa, a town in Eastern Uganda, called the Bududa Vocational Academy, learned about a tragic situation. A local grandmother had been left with many children and was struggling with their care. The grandmother’s daughter-in-law had died in January during childbirth and the responsibility of all the children now fell to Granny.

The Executive Director of the Vocational Academy asked if any students would be willing to help her assist this grandmother. Agnes, who would not be able to go to school without support from The Aninga Project, jumped at the opportunity to help.

We recently received a photo of Agnes grinning from ear to ear surrounded by the children as she helped with the household chores at Granny’s house.

Aninga and Agnes serve as reminders that no matter how much or how little you have, you still have something to give. You have the capacity to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

The Iceberg Beneath the Surface:

When The Aninga Project started supporting girls in Uganda, we could only see the direct impacts of the funds that we were providing – the tip of what turned into “an iceberg of giving.” Over time, we have become aware of a vast array of positive spin-offs that have resulted for the girls we support, their extended families and the broader communities of which they are a part.

And, the impact continues to grow as we anticipate two students to graduate from university this school year, fine young women who will continue to give and to promote giving. It all began so simply, by offering to pay school fees for one girl, Aninga.

– By: Jenny Benson and Fiona Benson, The Aninga Project

For more information about The Aninga Project and how to give or get involved, visit their website, e-mail Benson or call the organization at 902-446-6974.

Interested in making a donation right now? Click here. Donations in the name of loved ones always make great holiday gifts. Do so in honour of today’s Giving Tuesday and make a real difference during the season of giving.

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