Before I take you on my journey to Uganda this October, I’d like to share with you how I came to start Bluseeds there in the first place.
The Evening That Changed My Life
I have to admit that I had never felt the need to support or to be that charitably active on the African continent. That doesn’t mean that I’ve not donated money to charities or supported a Godchild in an underprivileged country but my donations and efforts were mainly focused on Asia or Latin America.
I have thought quite often about why I avoided aiding people in Africa. In hindsight, because of stories I’d seen in the media, I had a fear that my money would be misused, and funnelled mainly to the manager’s salaries or corrupt politicians in African countries.Having now spent lots of time speaking with senior staff of charities and high-ranking politicians as a part of my work with Bluseeds I can tell you that the bad picture painted by much of the Western media is wrong.
Yes, there are some cases of bad management, but this is one of the reasons why we as donors have to take responsibility and become more involved in charity projects to develop a better understanding of the situations we are being asked to assist with and donate to the right charities and their projects.
That’s one of the reasons for this blog. To invite you to dive in and read what we are doing at Bluseeds. And I not only invite you to read the blog but to share it as well. But back to that story...
More than three years ago, a good friend of mine, Holly Vanstone, invited me for cheese and wine with her visitors from Uganda. Holly is an amazing and inspiring woman who spent 8 years in Uganda in the NGO Wellspring close to Kampala, Uganda as a Head-Teacher.
As you can imagine has she many stories to tell, which she summarized brilliantly in her book: Africa, Birthright and Calling (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Africa-Birthright-Calling-Helen-Vanstone/dp/1788156617). On this particular evening I met Herbert and Eve, Directors of the NGO Wellspring, an organisation that is impacting thousands with their community work, medical care and schooling (http://wellspring.or.ug/)
We had a fantastic evening. We shared our views of life, marvelling at how different we are yet at the same time how many similarities we have in common. It was an unforgettable evening with a lot of laughter, dancing and singing. A life and love filled evening. At this evening two words captivated me and imprinted in my head: Dignity and Hope. In all our conversations these two words popped
With a smile in my face and one of the African songs in my ear I went home and to bed. But at 4am with less than three hours sleep - I was wide-awake. I tried to fall to sleep again without any success. I had the urge to write down on a simple piece of paper ideas I had about something my brain was
calling “Bluseeds – Dignity and Hope”, a concept about funding micro businesses, about helping people build on their abilities and motivation, to give them hope and to restore their dignity. Very excited, I woke up my wife and needed to share what I just created. My wife saw the sparkle in my eyes and was amazed by the concept, which seemed so simple and on the other hand so powerful.
Like a little kid I couldn’t wait to call Holly at a more reasonable hour to tell her what had happened. It was I felt, very important to get her input, and that of her African friends about my concept. That afternoon I was back at Holly’s home sitting on the floor and explaining my ideas while answering many critical questions. Eventually though, we all agreed that this was a unique concept worth giving a try in Uganda with NGO Wellspring. On the same day I checked the flights to Uganda and informed myself about all the vaccinations I needed to have. Five month later I travelled for the first time to Uganda.
“Honestly I’m Not Crazy”
My business partner at the time thought that I’d gone crazy and didn’t really understand why I wanted to do this. He thought it was a ‘mid-life crisis’ and suggested I just buy a Ferrari instead and to enjoy my life! I have to say that this was at a time when we had just successfully sold our company. The sale had
actually been one of the of the reasons why I had started to look more in charities and how I could help disadvantaged people.However, people who know me well, know, that when I catch a fire that it will shine like a lighthouse, even in foggy and stormy weather. Nothing could dampen my excitement about Bluseeds – Dignity and Hope. Still, I am lucky I had a great deal of support from my wife and kids!
Over the next three years, with 97% of the program’s funding coming from my own money , I delivered the proof of concept with the great support of the team at Wellspring. I can assure you, that the last three years working on my “calling” was a rollercoaster ride. Several times I came close to stopping everything and buying that Ferrari - or another fancy toy - instead.
But today, we can proudly look back on our 43 still active kickstarted entrepreneurs with over 377 beneficiaries. 2018 is the year where Bluseeds – Dignity and Hope is becoming far more established as a viable, active group effort and not just a European one man show. With David (CLO) and Tasha (CMO) I’ve formed a great board of big-hearted world changers. We are
currently a registered company in England and are now in the process of the charity commissioning application. Fingers crossed, this will be all done by November this year. Bluseeds – Dignity and Hope has clear plans to expand our program to Tanzania, hopefully to start up in December, and then into Moldavia and Brazil next year.
And that’s my story so far. I hope that I was able to give you a little bit of insight before I fly off to Uganda again. And speaking of that, will you join me?
Back home in my safe little European bubble, I'm still recovering from the trip, all the work I did there and, sadly, the side effects of my malaria tablets!
It's been three years since we began our work in Uganda. And I can see that, along with other local initiatives in the fields of health care, family planning, hygiene, housing and so on, that Bluseeds, in enabling individuals to start a business in their own community, adds an important additional element in the development of sustainable communities. Read on and reflect - and look forward - with me.