For the first time, Green Empowerment Team members converged in Uganda. This trip brought together expert staff from around the world to meet with potential partners, visit recently completed solar energy systems at Juru Health Center, and strategized our priorities in the region. It fills our hearts when we can gather to exchange knowledge and support this vital work.
The First Visit to Uganda
- The regional meeting included Andrea Johnson, Green Empowerment’s Executive Director who was recently awarded Executive of the Year for social impact by Portland Business Journal.
- Our two longest-serving team members, Gabe Wynn, Energy Access Lead and Sam Schlesinger, WaSH Technical Lead, who are using their combined two decades of experience at Green Empowerment to expand our impact, drive improvements and innovations, and share that expertise in Uganda.
- Team members Olivia Nanfuka, Energy Analyst, Benaville Nagudi, Uganda Program Coordinator, and Osbert Atwijukye, Africa Program Director who have embraced Green Empowerment’s partnership model and built our programs in their home country.
- US-based program manager, Alex Camacho, who has successfully raised funds for our programs in Uganda.
“The thoughtful discussions, the deep expertise, the openness to learn and share was inspiring and exemplified the incredible staff we have across the globe.”– Andrea Johnson, Green Empowerment Executive Director
Our work in Uganda started in 2019. During the first few years, Green Empowerment’s Africa team focused on finding potential partners that align well with our programs and values of community partnership and ownership. Unfortunately, the pandemic halted our ability to visit our partners and team members there, until this year.
“On a personal level, this meeting was a fantastic opportunity to rekindle my passion for our mission. This was my first time visiting one of our program countries since 2019 and my first time in Uganda,” Andrea explained. “It was an immense learning opportunity, it was inspiring to meet our Uganda-based team in person and it was a refreshing reminder of the importance of Green Empowerment’s work.”
Beyond a Technical Exchange: Nurturing New Relationships
During this visit, we learned how crucial technical exchanges are not just between Green Empowerment and partners, but between Green Empowerment team members as well. “The technical exchange with our partners and community members is essential but also within our own team. We are sharing lessons learned, we’re replicating things that worked, we’re trying some new things and bringing new ideas in a way that’s leading with humility and appreciation for the differences,” Andrea said. In addition to technical exchanges, time in person opened doors to new relationships among staff. Team members from different sides of the world found similarities in their work which inspired new collaborations.
“It was so exciting to see Gabe and Sam in action, interacting with partners and communities but in a very different way than they’re used to working. They have so much expertise to offer. They do it with such humility and patience. It’s very collaborative. Time in person can accelerate the collaboration with our team and with potential partners.”– Andrea Johnson
By the end of the visit, Sam and Obsert had deepened their trust in each other’s technical expertise. “They would be in the car talking about pressure across water pipes from the source to the last tapstand and how to measure that, piping size… they were nerding out deep on technology!” Andrea described. This inspired the team to start planning a trip for Osbert to visit Ecuador “Watching Sam adapt how he thinks of work and some of his expertise to the context in Uganda is definitely what inspired getting Obsert to Ecuador, because it would be a similar experience.”
Our Niche in Uganda
Since 2022, the Africa team has been doing a WASH and Energy landscape study to understand the current national priorities, existing gaps and how we can support in some areas aligned with the Green Empowerment global strategy. We have also been speaking with prospective partner organizations that can implement our work in their respective communities. “This trip really helped me see Green Empowerment’s niche vis a vis water access in Uganda. There are so many global development organizations present in Uganda, but not that many are focused on piped water systems and we have a lot of expertise to offer in that area,” Andrea explained.
After the field visits and understanding the local context better, the team updated the Uganda program strategies to focus on:
- Solar power electrification of health clinics: Continuation of the current projects with Medical Teams International.
- Piped water supply and extensions in rural communities with local partners.
- Productive use of power in rural communities to enhance production with our local partner for honey.