As I look back at how challenging running a nonprofit was in 2020, I also think how blessed I was to run a nonprofit in 2020. Many challenges arose during 2020 and many more questions arose. Would we lose donorship? How do we keep our elderly (elders) safe? Would we even be able to travel to the villages? Would food be available? At the start of 2020, we cared for 26 elders people in Uganda, Africa. We would provide monthly care packages for the elders, hire two nurses and doctor into the villages twice a month to do check ups and provide basic medicine and vitamins. After the elders were taken care of; the medical team then would triage and treat anyone else that needed care. This often-included young mothers, soon to be mothers and other elders in the village not under our direct care. We made the decision early in 2020 to fence in our property, this was a decision that I was against, my leadership team voted for it and I reluctantly sent money to Uganda for a fence to be built. This would prove to be one of the best decisions we made. The pandemic hit Uganda early in June. We could still do care packages but could not gather, we would drop our care packages off, have our pastor (whom we decided to pay full time instead of part time during the pandemic) to go and check on elders and people in the village. He would report to our leadership team in Uganda and they would disperse needs and care to the people in need.
During this time, we were approached by local village leaders to meet with us and have a very serious discussion on how we can help their villages. The village leaders asked us to help feed their villages in any capacity we were able to. The government of Uganda was not equipped to handle such a crisis, villagers were not permitted to travel far for food and local leaders did not have funds available to bring food to the villagers. The Ugandan team brought the request to our US team and asked if we could help. We knew we had to help. The question was: Could we? Being a nonprofit means following certain guidelines. When we started Mugabi Ministries we did not want to handicap ourselves by limiting what we do to just elders. If our mission and vision statement say we are to help elders only, this would be hard to help an entire village. The second concern we had was donorship funds. We had to look at what our donors gave and to which cause (restricted money), if they are giving to a direct fund, we were unable to pull money out and move it to a different cause. Thankfully for us we have donors that give to a general fund, giving us some leeway to use money for such emergencies as this one. After we discussed and weighed outcomes of helping and not helping feed the local villagers, we agreed to help. As Uganda was on lockdown, how to be able to feed villagers became a challenge. Our Ugandan team had to secure papers to allow them to travel in Uganda. Which they did. Then the other challenge how do we feed over 600 people safely and within local laws. Uganda restricted gatherings of any size. Our Ugandan team met with local leaders and was determined we could hold food pick up at our property since it was fenced in. This allowed us to control how many people were let in at one time (something we did not know when we discussed building the fence). In 4 days, we fed over 600 villagers, providing each person with 2 weeks’ worth of food. In the months that followed, restrictions have been lifted, people are back to work, and we found favor in the local leaders.
At the start of 2020 I did not know we would be facing the challenges ahead. I learned to trust my team. We might have disagreements, but I know we all love the work we do; we all have the interests of the people we serve in the core of our heart. I learned being in charge is sometimes a heavy burden, but this is a burden I do not carry alone. I look at my team, we have four people stateside and 10-15 in Uganda. We all care and love what we do. We faced many challenges in 2020, but it has been a year that has been most fulfilling for me. When I accepted the task of starting this nonprofit four years ago with my Ugandan friend, our vision was to be in a village and make a difference. We never thought we would feeding entire villages, or even have 27 (we were able to add an elder to our care at the end of 2020) elders under our care. We still have a long way to go, we will make mistakes, but it is how you grow as a leader and a nonprofit. If you run a nonprofit, I would love to hear about any challenges you had in 2020, how you had to adapt in 2020, and lessons you learned. We can grow together. BEN.MCAULIFFE@MUGABIMINISTRIES.ORG