Going Deep with Time, Talent and Money

Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2016/12/going-deep-with-time-talent-and-money/


By Patty Huston-Holm


The first time I saw my first Sarah, she was a skinny, teenage girl, helping to carry wooden beams to a church construction site in Mukono, Uganda. She barely broke a sweat from around the colorful scarf covering her shaved head. She had a beautiful smile.

sarahdaytonexperiencedocumentShe is the first of my seven children, ages 16 to 29, in Uganda, Africa: Two Sarahs, Damalie, Jamirah, Betty, Eva and Sailas. They call me “mom” even though I didn’t give birth to any of them. Dozens of other Ugandans, including Jonathan, Veronica and Matilda, call me “professor.” My gift to all of them is education.

Like many Americans, I write checks and pray. But my engagement goes deeper. I give of my time, talent AND money.

Less than 10 percent of Americans will be engaged in some type of national or international mission project in their lifetimes. Like me, five percent of those mission workers – about 1 of 200 – will move beyond a one-time experience. I share my story in hopes that others will decide to make that next step, particularly in a developing country such as Uganda.

sarahsnowforarticleFor my Ugandan children and students, I’m in their lives both in-person and 7,000 miles away in Ohio. When I am in Uganda, I give lectures at Uganda Christian University (UCU), provide feedback on academic and job-seeking work, keep my ear to the ground for employment opportunities, write job recommendations and both encourage and scold. Except for the lectures, I do everything else from Ohio via Skype, email and phone text. I have twice opened my home for lodging by students who come to the United States.

In a broader sense, my story is unremarkable. It isn’t as far-reaching as that of Katie Davis (“Kisses from Katie”), for example, who lives year-round with 13 adopted Ugandan orphans and founded Amazima Ministries International. My pockets don’t even skim the surface of billionaire Bill Gates and his extensive philanthropy to help the poor. I am a small-town, middle-class American woman, spending most of my time in a country home with my husband, dog and cat.

What IS remarkable are the relationships I have with my Ugandan kids and their moms and among UCU students and faculty. Together, we understand the best way to turn poverty around is through education. For any country, education translates to increased self-esteem, higher income and improved health.

Education is a natural fit for me. From a professional perspective, my resume lists journalist, local school communications director, state education public relations specialist and college instructor. Investing in education in a developing country feels natural and compelling. I grew up in a poor, midwestern United States home; we had no indoor plumbing until I entered second grade.

mike-and-melodyMy softer, natural skills in networking and relationship building help me avoid common pitfalls of organization competitiveness, turf encroachment and cross-cultural misunderstandings. The last pitfall – that Americans are somehow better than Ugandans – is easily dispelled when you go deep and engage with highly educated and very knowledgeable students, teachers, pastors, business owners and others. I currently volunteer through three Ugandan-based nonprofit organizations – Ugandan Christian Solutions, Uganda Partners and the Women and Orphans Support Organization.

I started my deepened mission contributions right after my first trip to Uganda 2009, but frankly I could have done it sooner. Time? I took vacations to a warm, friendly and fascinating location called Uganda. Talent? I was used and appreciated there beyond any paying job I ever held. Money? It was needed and used wisely because I donate through organizations. The UCU Partners non-profit is incredibly accountable with ongoing communications and end-of-year statements.

Redirecting my finances is not that difficult. I simply eat less in restaurants and spend less at the shopping mall. And while the commitment to Ugandan students and their finances is mine, I find that when I’m short of money for their tuition, I have relatives and friends who pitch in. (With this simple strategy, I honestly have even more money for my charities at home, too.)

I’m both loving and tough on my Ugandan kids. I tell them that if I am paying about $2,500 a year (a bargain compared to American prices) for their education, they have to not only get a job after graduation but they need to work at least two years before starting a family.

So far, it’s working. Five of my six children who have graduated from UCU have started their careers in retail, social work, health education, technology and communications. My sixth, who completed her UCU undergraduate degree in logistics in early 2016, has written a business plan with intent to sell women’s shoes. My seventh is still in high school.

To my university students, I encourage their ideas while requiring paper revisions again and again. With English as a second language to that of their respective tribal ones, they are eager to learn and respectful of those like me who teach them.

“I call you my mom because you took me in as your very own even when I was a stranger,” my first girl, Nakayima Sarah, wrote on Facebook in the spring of 2016, from her residence in Dubai. “God used you to make me what I am today.”

What I do is within – not beyond – anybody’s reach. Go deep.
With the help of UCU and the Partners organization, Patty Huston-Holm has sponsored students for undergraduate degrees, has hosted two UCU students in her home while they completed internships in the United States and started a writing center on the UCU campus.

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