IN THEIR OWN WORDS

N THEIR OWN WORDS

 

Larry and Millie Magid had been supporters of our work for just over a year when they decided they wanted to see for themselves what they were investing in. They spent a week in the field visiting current and prospective projects in Uganda. When they got back, they were so inspired that they offered to do an interview to share their experience. Here's what they had to say about the trip:

I

Why did you choose to travel to Uganda with Innovation: Africa?

DESTINATION: UGANDA
I

t’s very important to see what an organization actually does. A lot of them
say they are doing one thing, but in reality, the money is spent differently: on overheads, on administration, on inefficient and ineffective programs.

 

We wanted to see their work firsthand, to make sure it was all being done the way they said it was. And we weren’t disappointed.

 

What impressed us about Innovation: Africa (iA) is that the funds are going where they’re needed. The organization spends time in every community. They don’t just come in with their solutions, they talk to people, and more importantly, they listen. Then they help them to solve the community’s challenges with Israeli technology. They don’t inflate costs—they are effective and thoughtful. They analyze their projects carefully, and build real partnerships on the ground with obligations on both ends. It’s not a one-sided project where iA just gives. The community knows that they have to make their projects sustainable, and maintain them properly. That’s rare. But they do it because the infrastructure iA brings gives them opportunities they’ve never had before: clean water, the ability to study at night, a decrease in maternal mortality, vaccinations, food and so much more.

 

The communities iA works with know that they’re getting all of this, and that they need to hold up their end of the bargain. This allows them to become self-sufficient. It gives them a sense of pride and ownership, and encourages them to further develop their own village. That’s so important, and makes every one of iA’s projects a real partnership. As a donor, that’s what you want to see, that’s what gives you confidence that the projects are going to work in the long-term.

Can you tell us a bit about your experiences on the ground in Uganda?

W

e had been to Africa, we knew about poverty, but on this trip we got to see firsthand how people live without water, without light and electricity. And we got to learn about real solutions that make a very tangible and life-changing difference.

As for their staff, they made us feel like part of the team. They are extremely professional and always met our needs, but most importantly, never once did they make us feel like we were just observing the work being done. From the head of the organization to the donors to the interns that joined us, everyone had a reason and a purpose for being there, everyone was given a job to do. That made it particularly meaningful.

 

We also really enjoyed the people we were traveling with. Their team is sincere and kind. The Uganda staff give so much of themselves. They themselves grew up in these villages, so they have a profound appreciation for the importance and nuance of this work. They spent hours speaking to us and invited us into their own villages to meet their families and communities.

Lastly, the organization’s founder, Sivan Ya’ari, is warm-hearted and open, always making everyone feel welcome and at home. We were a group of Jews and Christians, and all of us felt respected, valued, and essential on this trip. That meant a lot to all of us. It’s clear that she and her team really are motivated by wanting to make this world a better place, and it’s apparent in how they run their organization.

Now that you’re home, can you tell us a bit about your reflections on this experience?

A

s donors, seeing all this made us confident in our decision to support the organization. The impact of every dollar was so clear: the fact that one water pump, one clinic could impact thousands of people, sometimes as many as even 30,000 with just one $10,000 donation. That’s incredible. And it was so important to see the founder and staff committed to using every dollar well.

 

The timing of the trip also turned out to be quite powerful. We went to Uganda with Sivan in June of 2014, just as rockets were flying from Gaza towards Tel Aviv and other major Israeli population centers. Sivan is a mother with 3 children, but she left her own immediate family in Israel to go support her extended family in Africa. It was clear to us that this is how she seems them: as family. And even when things were hard in her own home, that wouldn’t stop her from doing this work that she knows is so critical. One of the most important Jewish values (and a value of many religions, including that of our Christian peers on this trip) is that no matter what happens in our own lives, we always have an obligation to help others.

That’s true for the State of Israel as well. No matter when or where an earthquake, a tsunami or any other humanitarian crisis hits, Israel is there, setting up hospitals, helping. It’s a small country, no one would expect it of them, but they are always there. And their inventions and ingenuity in fields like medicine, IT, agriculture and more are saving lives around the world every day. Not enough people know it. We were so glad to have seen it happening firsthand, and to share that with others.

 

As an example of this, we were sitting with Uganda’s Minister of Health on a plane discussing Innovation: Africa’s work. A member of the country’s opposition party that was on his way to speak at the United Nations heard us talking and was shocked. He was moved that Israel—a country with so many of its own challenges—would offer so much help to others. He decided to re-write his speech to recognize this work, and the work of Israel specifically in Uganda in his upcoming UN address.

This was in no way a typical trip—not an average vacation or a standard donor mission. But we got to see firsthand how people live in these rural communities, how Israeli technology is helping to change that, and how every dollar we donated is making a difference. We’d recommend it to anyone and hope many others take advantage of the opportunity.

N THEIR OWN WORDS

I LARRY AND MILLIE MAGID

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