When Kim Taylor traveled to Africa nearly five years ago to photograph the opening of a children’s home she would have never guessed it would lead her to starting her own non-profit organization, The Grow Hope Foundation. However, while she was there she met a doctor who took her to tour a children’s hospital. She had so many questions - Why so many sick kids? How many of them had been there before? What is it that creates this cycle? And most importantly, what can be done to stop it?
Together, Kim and Dr. Isaac Lufafa began working on a plan - a pilot project- to educate families on the importance of hygiene and sanitation. Dr. Lufafa assembled a team of volunteers- a social worker to connect with the women, and a technical expert who would handle the research and resources for the project. Together they chose an area outside of Jinja, Uganda. They worked with village elders to identify 40-50 homes that were in need of help and would be receptive to making changes. They began weekly meetings to teach people about things like building proper latrines and actually showed them how to do it correctly. They taught them how to make simple hand washing stations, called tip-tops, which would allow them to improve hygiene and reduce the spread of germs that cause severe health problems. The members then learned how to make sanitation tables where they were to keep their cooking utensils and anything they used for eating. These tables allowed them to wash and store their supplies in a safe sanitary manner and again reduced the spread of fecal contamination diseases. Every home in the pilot project was required to build these three things in order to improve their health and well-being. At the end of the one year pilot project the results were impressive. Families were healthier- especially the children, hospital visits were drastically reduced, and there were no deaths due to the secondary effects of poor sanitation or hygiene.
But even more encouraging were the unexpected benefits of the program. People began to ask for more knowledge- especially in regards to nutrition. Now that they were seeing the physical effects then wanted to continue to improve their health. A farming program was started, and people learned how to plant vegetables in recycled grain sacks and began growing their own produce. Groups were formed to work on plots of land to learn how to properly plant, mulch, water and harvest different crops. Their diets began to improve and so did both their physical and mental health. Hope began to return to this rural area.
After a year of working with this community, Kim and the team in Uganda felt that what had been offered to these 40-50 families could be a life-changing opportunity to so many people in the surrounding countryside. A piece of land amounting to 4+ acres was purchased in the center of the community. Plans for an educational compound were drawn up. The name Tusubira Village was decided upon, tusubira meaning “hope” in the local language.
Back in Seattle, with the help of Kim’s dad, they registered their non-profit and were granted 501(c)(3) status in 2014. That was a good year for a number of reasons for the Grow Hope Foundation. With the help of an Indiegogo campaign they funded a well which was drilled at Tusubira Village. The water from this well is changing lives in this village. Not only is it clean and completely safe for drinking, but the well is easily accessible by roads unlike the previous water source, which was accessed through the jungle. Attacks on women and children were common and the results were devastating. With the well now in operation this is no longer a concern. The peace of mind that that fact must bring to the community is one of the many unexpected bonuses in all of this.
The Grow Hope Foundation has grown so much in it's first four years. Not only do we offer programs teaching sanitation, hygiene, and nutrition, but we also offer a number of other programs to empower our community. We teach skills such as tailoring so that women are able to create an income source and provide for their families. We teach business training to community members to help them learn how to make a business plan, and how to budget and save so that they can implement those plans. We host groups at Tusubira Village where we teach farming and how to grow produce to feed their families in challenging environments with little water.
And it is all done with the focus on creating INDEPENDENCE rather than dependence. We work to empower and educate in hopes that our community will spread what it has learned to others outside of our area. Knowledge is power and we believe that it's the way to change the future of this community.