It is the philosophy of FSD that I think is so good. In their name, “sustainable” refers to the fact that the projects the interns work on are self perpetuating. A Ugandan once said to me, “donations have destroyed Africa,” and by that I believe he meant that coming into the country and just leaving some resources behind is not helpful to anyone. Instead, the generation of business and transfer of skills are the most valuable things. FSD gives you great freedom to work on what you want and guides you to ensure you project fits this model of a sustainable social enterprise. For the project to be sustainable the materials must be sourced locally, people from the community need to be the primary labor force and the utility must be relevant to progressing the standards of living of the community.
Being interested in technology, I worked with another intern on solar energy. FSD introduced us to the Lwemodde Youth Group which tinkers around with electronics and had an interest in the subject. The youth group pointed us to a small fishing village called Malembo which was not on the electricity grid. Our project was to then help the youth group build a small solar power company by teaching and helping them with the initial grid. It was very rewarding to see some of the villagers get connected and receive night time lighting and phone charging services. The youth group now has another source of income, part of which they use for community projects.
Without FSD guidance we certainly would not have used our time as effectively. In terms of setting us up in the country the local FSD organizers were very useful. Uganda can be a difficult adjustment for many and so the team put effort into our orientation which included a bit of history, cultural lessons and language. They tried very hard to find us the best host families possible. One of the best doctors in town doctor was brought in to tell us about how to keep safe against diseases we normally do not encounter such as Malaria. We were given all sorts of ways to access this doctor’s services or others if need be. In my summer term, there were 14 interns and FSD helped us socialize and go on trips together. We were able to travel to others parts of the county, experience the Nile river and see Queen Elizabeth park. It would not have been as comforting or as good a set up for our work without the FSD team.