Report on developments at Acoke and on projects of
Acoke Rural Development Initiative

Fred Obala, Secretary of ARDI
5 May 2007

This report was prepared in preparation for my visit to the Netherlands for a meeting at Nabuur.com. This was my first opportunity to express directly to Nabuur our appreciation for the way they have linked us to the world. It was a great pleasure to meet with Nabuur founder and CEO, Mr Siegfried Woldhek.

I have been back to my Acoke
[pronounced ah-chock-ay]
community for important meetings.

I have been a student in Kampala but have made a commitment to go back to my community to get these projects working and effective teams managing them during the next year.

I have postponed university study for this. I am 24, I need to study. First, however, I am determined to record successes for my community — success with business projects and success in healing the lives of young people damaged by war.

This is me with my father
John Baptist Odongo
who has been a great strength and inspiration to me.
My father is in his uniform as a community leader,
charged with responsibilities in dealing with issues arising because some of our young men have been boy soldiers and also responsible for very big issues
when we move back to our own village,
abandoned because of fighting in the last decade.

Some time ago, we resolved at ARDI that we should set up an internet cafe in the nearby town of Lira: as business experience, as a base for computer training and general office training for us all, as a step for our young people into employment and as an income source to start up other community businesses and war-recovery programs. There are internet cafes in Lira, but we see a niche for an internet cafe that offers warm welcome, training and support for all... something lacking so far. Lots of people curious, getting no help!

I have been working with the support of 'neighbours' from around the world, by email and in our project workshop at Nabuur.com We have secured computers as a gift from a school in the Netherlands and assistance with the shipment of them to us.

We have also developed a business plan, dealing with all the issues of computer systems and business start-up, marketing and operations.

A major task in my return home in the past several weeks has been to call meetings with the community.

The business plan as developed with assistance of good friends on the internet is nothing without the support of the community.

So we all had to discuss that. It is not a small thing. I am ahead of everybody, far ahead of everybody at Acoke, in understanding computers.

The community knows the importance of computers and the internet for the future, but they have been relying on me for advice.

This has not been an easy task for me: to tell everyone properly what the business plan means and how starting a business means accepting business risks.

It is important that we show that we will accept risk and not just beg for aid on this.

We ask donors for the capital cost and one month running costs... But that leaves us with a real share of risk, real responsibility.

I am pleased now to report that after several meetings, the community and the board of ARDI have made commitments to the business plan and have accepted the risk of the business undertaking.

The draft business plan, before adoption, was amended to include the following words:

The local community have taken into consideration the sustainability or back-up plan of this internet centre by already identifying some possible income generating activities that would help to raise money from another source to sustain this within the kick off period or infancy stage in case the centre is not yet fetching enough customers to meet the recurrent cost.

Brick making is one of the activities identified by the local community as the means of raising funds. When community makes their bricks and sell it to the local constructors within lira town or beyond and this activity would no external support to start it meaning we can do it well within our local efforts here at Anai Olando trading centre near Lira town.

More activities of this kind are still to be surveyed if it can serve the purpose of raising the income required for this centre recurrent cost.

So I am pleased to report that the Business Plan has been accepted and adopted with major commitment to work hard and avoid failure.

The Business Plan
and the Assistance Needed!

You can download a copy of the Business Plan as adopted by the community and the board of ARDI here.
[pdf file, 300k]

Within the Business Plan you will see specified the assistance we seek. In summary, this is:

Capital and start-up expenses...$US8489
One month of operating expenses $US1114
......................Total: $US9603

Please note that these dollar amounts are on the basis of the exchange rate at April 2007. Actual calculations in the business plan are in Uganda Shillings. Actual costs may vary slightly.

Should a donor wish to propose a more efficient scheme for start-up and operations, we would be very happy to discuss that.

Start-up of Start-up

This is of course, the start-up of our start-up project. Within the next year we must have others under way.

Integrity

We need to make clear the following in addition to the information in the Business Plan.

We know we can only secure foreign assistance for this and can only succeed in business with the support of our community, if we operate with integrity. We will have well trained staff, we will have sound financial management software and management practices.

We will report to community and to donors. We will maintain wider knowledge of our actions through news to this web site.

Identity

That picture above is of Acoke — we go back there from our refugee camp soon. The government says it is safe now. It holds bitter memories and there will be much to do...


You need to know who we are.

We have some information at this web site. You can see some children here. They came running to hear about this internet cafe!

They are the future, these children.

We have children who smile these days.

Mothers who may have more difficulty smiling.

Those of us who are a few years older than these children have many terrible memories... many many things that we cannot get out of our heads, day and night.

It is something that I have wanted to share, but this is not easy.

There are photos of mine from the past, from the terrors of war, that I want to share, if you are able to look at them.

They are in a password protected folder here. You can only see them if you deliberately choose to see them.

Follow this link, give the username 'visitor' and the password 'imaycry' ("I may cry"). I must warn that these are really not suitable pictures for children to see.

They are not suitable situations for children to be in.

That young mother knows, has seen.

Let me tell you of my own family. Yes we are a big family.

Historically African families have been big, bigger than most are these days.

My grandmother died aged 82, a very happy African grandmother, in 2004.

She then had about 120 grandchildren alive.

But 47 of the children in the family were dead from the war in the last decade...

This is not, and should never be 'suitable for children'.

 


You can see from our 2006 Annual Report [.doc file 880k] some of our other ARDI activities. I did not get an opportunity yet to photograph our girls drama group, raising small funds from performances on gender issues. I did take pictures of our 'ranch' - the beef cattle husbandry project:

But there is still so much needing to be done, to build hope and make a future.
We invite you to stand with us, work with us.

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