OHU had the opportunity to participate in Ellevate’s annual Nonprofit Panel and Expo on Giving Tuesday where participants shared their passion for giving, volunteering and making a difference. Thanks to Ivette Cebrero, Lisa Koehl and Mary Patronik for helping share our OHU story at our expo table. We were equally excited to see other OHU sponsors on the panel and in attendance, including Clark McCain, Shirley McAlpine and Ellevate organizer Ann Freeman.
Executive Director, Kim Lord Arndt, answered questions about the passion that drove the origins of our organization and keep it strong today. Here are a few of them:
Q: What inspired you to start One Heart Uganda?
A: About 14 years ago, after hearing about a young Ugandan girl who lost her father to AIDS and whose mother was very ill, our family began helping by paying her school fees. Each year as the man who told us about Jaki would come back to Chicago, we would exchange stories, letters and small gifts. My children were the same age as Jaki and our family felt a strong connection to her. I thought – why not get more people to share this wonderful experience. We started with 12 students in 2012 and currently have 130 students sponsored in the program.
Q: How would you describe your passion for the organization and how it has impacted your development?
A: We began as a very grassroots operation. Our earliest marketing was word-of-mouth and grew out of a northside community around the St. Andrew elementary school and parish. As we grew exponentially, we recognized the need for a program name, a website and most important the formation of a 501c3. Forming a 501c3 requires a board of directors and quite a bit of formal structure. It requires time and work – so the passion drives the work. But the passion is also what creates the connection with your supporters and brings the resources.
Q: To what would you attribute your current success?
A: Connection is what One Heart Uganda is all about. We connect students who are at-risk and live in poverty with individuals and families in the U.S. We not only want to create the connection but also support it ongoing – the connection is what makes it work. People feel invested in the kids they are helping and they want to continue to help. There’s no contract or length of time commitment, but it’s been our experience that many of our sponsors want to continue to help their student year after year. To support the connection, we deliver annual care packages to students in Uganda and we travel to Uganda every other year to conduct onsite progress reports, videotape interviews and support letter writing that strengthens the bond.
Q: How has your program structure changed over time?
A: When we began, we focused solely on the one-to-one sponsorship of students. Over time, we recognized that donors want more than one way to support OHU. So, we created the Hand Up fund that is a collective fund that donors can support at any financial level. The Hand Up fund targets post-secondary school students who need help completing the last few years of university or trade school education to earn their degrees. The fund helps provide laptops for these students. It also tops off tuition required for sponsored students whose school fees increase significantly with university or college tuition. And, it helps us bridge sponsorship gaps for students ensuring they receive consistent education.
Q: Where is your first inspiration student, Jaki, now?
A: Jaki received a full government scholarship to study Animal Science at Makerere University, one of the largest and most prestigious universities in Kampala. She will graduate with her Doctor of Veterinary Science degree this January.
Q: How can people get involved?
A: Our board of directors volunteer and are a “working” board. We need additional volunteers to join our committees to accomplish the work of the program. There are several opportunities to connect interests and skill sets to needs we currently have in our organization’s development. In other words, there’s lots of room for making an impact. As for learning more about our current students and candidates, we have a website where you can learn more or contact us and we’d love to tell you more in person.
Learn more about great nonprofit organizations and their passion: