If you have been following this blog for some time, you may remember a post from Jared at the end of 2012. Jared was a 27-year-old Ugandan, volunteering at a palliative care clinic, but by 2012 he realised that volunteering wasn’t going to pay any bills and so he started contacting several companies asking for employment, including us at OTA. The employment market is tough however, and he wasn’t successful. Also his heart wasn’t totally in it – he would much rather go back to university and complete his Public Health degree. The cost of university fees made this dream impossible, so Jared requested some assistance. He compiled a request letter and his previous results which we published on this blog to see if anyone might be able to assist. No one was more surprised than us when Bev answered the call! And so we connected Jared and Bev directly to organise the sponsorship.
A university education is life-changing in East Africa but many young people miss out because of the expense. Finding a sponsor is an incredible opportunity for a young person to break out of the poverty cycle, developing themselves and also their country. Of course there was a bit more to the story than the abridged version above describes and so this article offers three tips to ensure your sponsorship is effective and legitimate.
- Ask for references
Jared and Bev were connected through us. Bev had travelled with Tracey in 2009 for five weeks from Beijing to Istanbul – this journey undoubtedly built a high level of trust between the two. And Jared had been communicating online with Francis and Tracey as well as having the opportunity to meet in Kampala. Sending school fees to random email requests is fraught with danger, but being able to check with a trust-worthy source means you can be confident that your money is headed in the right direction.
- Conduct regular check-ups with the university
The student should be sending the sponsor regular updates of their academic progress. In Bev and Jared’s case, the updates flew thick and fast as they also got to know more about each other’s lives, families, and cultures. This is not necessary but receiving the results at the end of each term or semester means there is some accountability for the student to make the most of the opportunity. If the sponsor has the name of the university, it is sometimes also possible to check directly with the university that the student is attending classes and performing well.
- Be aware of requests for “extra assistance”
During 2013 Jared’s bike lost its gears and needed repairs. Jared rode fifteen kilometres to university and found the bus cost too much. It wasn’t until he asked for help to repair the bicycle that Bev realised more help was needed. Since then she has sent him a monthly allowance and also ensures he can attend conferences or other university activities. However, she is quick to stress that Jared is not a “taker” – he contributes by getting holiday jobs as a laboratory assistant. Also she has never heard from any of Jared’s friends or family members asking for her to assist them. This can sometimes happen where sponsors get bombarded with requests from the rest of the family asking for more.
This year, Bev came to Kenya and Uganda both to see the sights and to meet Jared in person. The emails the two exchanged over the 18 months had brought them close enough to call each other “mum” and “son”. Now there was the opportunity to travel together so Jared could see more of his own country and get to know his benefactor. After the safari, Bev spent a week in Kampala seeing Jared’s life – they visited the university, met his family, saw plenty of hospitals (Jared is studying Public Health after all!) and also did the tourist highlights of the city. The relationship was cemented and Jared can continue his studies as well as take on extra-curricular activities such as attending the East Africa Health Conference in Tanzania.