Stephen (back) and Philip (front) are just beginning to realize what’s possible.
Hello again from the St Nicholas Africa Fund!
Hey friends. Big story spanning Texas, California, Utah, and Uganda— and a definite encouragement from God!—
Our strong supporter Charles proposed a while back that with existing online tools and resources and a little mentoring we should be able to bring a couple of African students up to professional-level programming skills in less than a year. He and his company had done this with a few of kids in Texas, so why not in Africa? All they needed was a little aptitude.
So I said, Game on!— and we’ve been setting up a computer programming boot camp in Kampala!
Charles found a couple of used MacBook Pros, both in great shape, at about $800 each, and loaded them with all the software and videos they’d need to get started.
I picked Stephen Ojuku, one of my former seminarians, and Philip Atuhire, who was just a high school kid when I was in Kampala, but who recently graduated from Makerere University with an IT degree, to be our first students. Africa’s IT students don’t always have much experience with actual computers unless they own one, which Philip didn’t. But he has the idea anyway, and I’d made Stephen learn touch-typing.
Stephen is an Itesot tribesman, and Philip is muNyankore— both minorities in Uganda— so we’re already an equal-opportunity school! (and if we do this again, we’ll choose women from two other tribes.)
Next I had Billy Mambo, our Kampala Program Manager, find a secure apartment. We settled on a second-floor unit just behind the Orthodox cathedral in Namunggoona, which is nice, because Stephen is Orthodox, and can readily be part of the community there, and Philip’s family (not Orthodox) is nearby too.
Now this is where the adventure began.
We were expecting that shipping would be a little pricey, but we were not prepared to learn that lithium batteries are considered hazmat, and that it would cost us at least as much to ship the computers as they’d cost in the first place!
In fact, it turns out, we could take those same computers in carry-on baggage and deliver them ourselves for less than the cost of shipping!
But only because my sister has a couple of friends who work with Delta. They helped me get to Africa last time— but it’s been some years, and summer was peak season! But I got in touch to see if they could get me a standby flight to Dallas, where our contributor had the computers, and then on to Africa.
But— ooops!— need to renew my passport! And get booster shots! Believe me, it starts to add up pretty quick!
Well, just about the time I was getting ready to pull out my credit card (uh oh), a nice Romanian lady visited our church here in San Anselmo. We got to chatting and I mentioned our Africa project, and she said her church (Open Door Church in San Rafael) was sending a mission to Africa in August. So I asked, Where to? And she said, Uganda.
—Uganda??! This must be from God!!! Quick, what’s their contact info??!!!
Well you can imagine how today’s severely restricted baggage allowances might make an already overpacked mission a little shy of enthusiastic about some stranger’s extra luggage. But after thinking about it, Jon Riley, their assistant pastor, told me he had such a heart for Uganda that he’d just make it happen for us!
But now we had to get the computers from Dallas to San Rafael— within one week!— and remember, we can’t ship them by plane! So I have to go to Dallas and back. Within a week.
But this point, my sister’s friend got back to me. Turned out her daughter lives in Dallas, and would be coming to visit in three days! And she could then just fly out to the Bay Area on her special pass, bring the computers to me, enjoy dinner in SF before heading back!
So just as i was poised to spend some $3,000 on a trip to Africa, the whole episode collapsed into the cost of a couple gallons of gas and an $8 bridge fare, and voilà, Jon Riley was in the air to Uganda with our computers before the week was out!
And the very next day, as you can see in the picture below, Stephen and Philip were already emailing me and exploring the Terminal program under Charles’ direction.
Now, how’s that for divine providence?
Of course, we have to get the whole project stably funded. Rent, utilities, security, stipends for our two full-time students, internet (expensive in Africa), and miscellaneous expenses will come to about $800/month. About half of this is already covered, but we sure do hope you will step forward to help with the rest. Click this button— and please consider making an automatic monthly contribution!—
Earning professional money for professional services, will be a game-changer not just for our students and their whole families, but for Africa. I don’t know of another “boot camp” like this anywhere on the continent. If our program works— and for three months now it’s been very smooth— we’re going to expand and multiply. Even some of Charles’ programmer buddies are very interested in our potential.
So— RIGHT NOW you have the chance to do something really astonishing— maybe your next app will even be Proudly Programmed in Africa! and you’ll know you were part of that game-changing story.
By the way, in addition to our 2 programming students, the St Nicholas Uganda fund is also currently supporting—
- 1 pre-med student
- 1 nursing student
- 2 university students (computers; accounting)
- 6 high school students, and
- 8 primary students
- 1 refugee family in South Africa (and btw, we could really use some help with this!)
We’ve also made grants or loans to 3 entrepreneurs, to help get businesses started— and one of whom is doing so well in his snacks business, that he’s just paid back his third loan ahead of schedule! (I’m even thinking of investing in him privately!)
You won’t get another chance to impact people as directly or as personally as this— so please click this button and become a partner in this all-important work!—