ACO-what? ACODEV!

When I was back in the US for two weeks, pretty much everybody I saw knew that I was living in Uganda for the year. They knew I was in some sort of fellowship. And most people knew that I work in global health. But when conversation got much further than that, nobody really understood exactly what I’m doing here, where I work, and what I do on a daily basis. So, here’s a quick rundown of the professional side of my life here in Kasese for the year…

“Where do you work?”
I work at a local, Ugandan nonprofit (aka non-governmental organization (NGO) or community-based organization (CBO)) called Action for Community Development, or, ACODEV for short. Ten years ago, a group of community development professionals in the Rwenzori region of Uganda (in the west where I live) started responding to the needs of their community that were affected by conflict as a result of the Allied Democratic Forces and Lord’s Resistance Army. Particularly, there were many orphaned and vulnerable children (OVCs) and a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Thus, ACODEV was born. My favorite image of this period of time is that their first months of existence as an informal group were spent in meetings under a mango tree.

Since 2004, ACODEV has been formally registered as an NGO and has expanded their reach outside of the Rwenzori area to many other geographical parts of Uganda and will soon be expanding to Malawi and Rwanda. The program areas we work in include HIV/AIDS, reproductive and child health, and human rights. Throughout all projects, ACODEV works to empower citizens to demand for their needs while building the capacity of existing community structures to address these needs. With a staff of about 25 in total, our headquarter office is in Kampala but the regional office, where I work, is in Kasese.

Our Vision: A society where children, women, and men are happy, healthy, and economically productive.

Our Mission: To serve and empower individuals, families, and communities in the East African region through the promotion of innovative solutions in the areas of human rights, HIV/AIDS, reproductive and child health, and institutional capacity strengthening.

Quick examples of projects we implement include:

  • Running a vocational center for OVCs in the areas of hair dressing, sewing, poultry-rearing, etc.
  • Training health care workers in adolescent sexual and reproductive health and equipping health centers with materials to create “youth-friendly corners” to serve the community
  • Building the capacity of smaller CBOs in the areas of financial management, program planning, and monitoring & evaluation

To learn more about ACODEV’s projects, check out our website: http://www.acodevuganda.org/

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“What do you do there?”
My position is as a Fundraising Fellow; so, most of my time is spent thinking about how to acquire more resources for ACODEV. This includes looking for grant opportunities to apply to, writing proposals, communicating with partners, and building the capacity of staff in resource mobilization, But one of the great things about being a Global Health Corps (GHC) Fellow with ACODEV is that I’m able explore all aspects of the organization because they recognize professional development as a key priority for the year. So, for example, I’m also able to travel to the field and participate in our project implementation and work alongside any of the staff to learn about and help in their duties, such as monitoring & evaluation. I’m hoping to spend this year absorbing as much as I can about how a local, implementing NGO functions so that I can bring these perspectives to whatever my next role may be.

“So what do you do day-to-day?”
I live about a ten minute walk away from our Kasese office and typically arrive there around 8:30 in the morning. The rest of the staff is usually trickling in around this time. Once our Regional Coordinator arrives, we are able to unlock the office doors and turn the power/internet on. Early in the week, we usually have a 2 hour staff meeting to touch base on how the projects are running and any other business. My supervisor, one of ACODEV’s founders and current Executive Director, sits in the Kampala office. So though I still work with a lot of the Program Managers here in the regional office, I am often communicating via e-mail, phone, or Skype. Much of my time is spent researching funding opportunities online, writing proposals, drafting partner communications, or other documents such as Memorandums of Understanding.

We work up until lunch time, which is 1:00pm, and either walk home or head to town in the ACODEV van (if we have gas) with whoever feels like eating local foods at a restaurant. Then in the afternoon we work from about 2:00-5:00pm. However, there are often meetings, trips to the field, power outages, or times when I am in Kampala working out of the head office. As expected, I do find the pace of work to be slower than my previous jobs in Washington, DC. It seems to be a result of cultural differences and barriers such as frequent power/internet outages and a lack of resources. In any case, the work still gets done in one way or another.

Hopefully this helps to answer some questions about what my year in Uganda looks like in terms of work. I feel so privileged to be welcomed into the ACODEV family and am thankful to GHC for building strong relationships with partner organizations such as mine.

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