Matt Gach:Mat Gach is a Senior Chemical Engineering student at MSU. He has been involved with the club for the last three years and the fundraising chair for the previous two years. Hailing from Midland, MI, Matt is also a co-op intern at Dow Chemical Company. Andrea Vera:Andrea Vera is a Junior within MSU’s BS-MS program in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Currently, the chapter’s Vice-President and Tanzania Project Lead, Andrea has been involved with EWB-MSU for the last three years and is an intern with the Air Quality Division at EGLE.
Thank you for taking interest in hearing more about the mission work Karen and I do in Southwest Uganda. The organization is called ACT (Agape Community Transformation). ACT is a registered 501 C 3 and in Uganda the organization is a NGO (Non Governmental Organization). In the US, ACT is run 100% by volunteers while in Uganda there are 9 paid staff. The program started as a church based organization, involving over 15 different churches of many denominations. Since 2012 I have traveled to Muko Sub County, Uganda 10 times. Karen has been there 9 times. We have been involved with ACT since 2008 when we started sponsoring an orphan. ACT began with the assistance of our friend, Sue Waechter, who is a strategic planner by profession. A Ugandan man named Richard Turinawe had sent out over 50 hand written letters to persons known around the world who were strategic planners. Our director, Sue, W answered the letter and the program grew from there. The original focus of ACT was the sponsorship of orphaned children who were actually living in the “bush” with no family support. These students were then sponsored and sent to boarding school. This program grew over the years to its peak of 147 orphans. Another initial program was the training of Ugandan women and men in the making of African crafts like baskets and carvings. Travel teams then brought these crafts back to the USA and volunteers sell them at churches, art fairs, and in online sales. In 2018, we are asked by the Diocese of Kigezi, to take over the management of Muko High School where all of our high school level students attend. This school was failing due to poor management and corruption. I act as the Accountant and Superintendent of the school, and now have a really great Head Teacher and staff. The finances have been completely turned around, with enrollment increasing and honest transactions between us. We have been very successful involving organizations such as the Rotary with major projects. Both the Midland and Traverse City Rotary have been involved as has the Midland Kiwanis. The Midland Rotary funded a safe filtering and drinking water system in 2018, one of the first of its kind in all of southern Uganda. Currently both Rotaries are assisting in an attempt to secure a grant to install solar power to the school through Rotary International. Midland Rotary also provided a team for staff training in 2018. Our focus at the school is water, sanitation, safety, and improving the level of education for the students. On August 1 of this year, the Orphan Sponsorship program was reworked into a new HONOR scholarship program, to involve as many students as possible who have a strong desire to attend school but whose family cannot support the cost of their tuition, room and board. By expanding and changing the program we are able to reach more students, and, for example, reach young girls who are forced into early marriage by paying their school fees and keeping them in school. The cost for a student to go to school for three terms, or one school year, is $300 US or $25 per month. We are pleased to report that the number of scholarships has increased to just over 200 students for next term. The scholarship program not only assists desperate children but sustains the schools by providing reliable fee structure. We are now working with a Primary school in addition to our High School. ACT has a website, which is actuganda.org This website will tell you much more about our organization and what we are trying to accomplish. One important philosophy of ACT is avoiding aid and, instead, working toward self development. Our board constantly struggles to give the responsibility of decisions and programs to the Ugandans.
Vicki Hamilton-Allen is the President & CEO of Habitat for Humanity Capital Region and recent author of the children’s book The Itchy Secret. Vicki serves on the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis Board Advisory Committee for Affordable Housing and she coaches girls from grades 3 to 5 for the Girls on the Run program. Vicki is the founder and CEO of Executive Ideation, a change management consulting firm, and is an adjunct instructor at the Business & Community Institute of Lansing Community College and is a fellow Lansing Rotarian. She received her B.A. degree in Political Science from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada and her MBA with a concentration in Change Management from Ferris State University. Vicki grew up in Montreal, Canada and moved to England after completing university. She lived there for the next 18 years. In the UK Vicki served as a consultant for Britain’s foremost house builders where she acquired much of her property development knowledge. She then went on to become a Higher Executive Officer for the British Government, specifically for the Department of Education. When arriving in the USA, Vicki chose to work in the non-profit sector initially with the American Red Cross. With her construction experience and non-profit experience it seems that working for Habitat was the natural segue in her career.