October 30, 2009

Volunteer, Jenny Calvert, Shares Her Experience at the AGYA Learning Center in Uganda

Jenny Calvert, a 22-year old graduate of the University of Southern California and founding member of AGYA partner organization R.A.Y.S.E. (Rise of African Youth through Self-Empowerment, a student-led group at USC), has been in Uganda since September. In this article, Calvert who hopes to work in the field of international development shares her thoughts about AGYA and Uganda's language, culture, and people!

(Above: Calvert plays a card game with 3-year old Shafik)

(Written By Jennifer Calvert, 10-30-2009) Before I arrived in Uganda, when people asked me what I would be doing at AGYA, I responded, with enthusiasm, “Teaching!”. And though I technically have been holding English and creative writing classes twice a week and dance classes once a week since I have been here, the perpetual newness of my experiences and the energy and talent of the people around me has turned my entire world into a classroom.

Besides the actual classes that are happening every day – art, music, dance, film, photography and countless others – I am discovering a new way of life and a new culture in many simple, everyday tasks. And with every single new experience I have here in Uganda, I lose a little bit of my heart to this beautiful country and its people.

One of the first things that Divinity said to me when we sat down for my first Luganda lesson was, “The best thing about Luganda is that it makes sense. It’s logical. The ancestors knew what they were doing”. And while that is absolutely the case with the local language in Kampala, that observation also applies more broadly to way life is lived here. Take food, for instance. Families grow a variety of agricultural products on their farms and bring them daily into the local market, where other people buy them. This is not because we have an active Slow Food Movement chapter or a co-op of local farmers and a progressive streak in our neighborhood, but because that is how people have lived for centuries – healthily, and happily.

In addition to life as it should be, one of my favorite things about staying at the AGYA house is the constant positive and creative energy that both the youth leaders and the participants of classes bring to the space. And again, while I came to lead classes, being constantly surrounded by young people using their talent to express their dreams and their experiences has revived a spark in me that I lost somewhere among the books, essays, and analysis of other people’s thoughts that my education required of me. It was only when I recognized the positive influence that being a part of this community has had on me that I really understood how important the work of AGYA is.

In my short month here, the members of AGYA have become my surrogate family, and though I am half a world away from the place I was born and raised, I feel completely at home. And despite the cultural and linguistic differences, my roommates here and I laugh about and get frustrated by the same things, have the same big dreams for our future, and have dance parties to the same music as me and my friends back home. And if someone asked me today what I have been doing in Uganda, I could only reply “Learning, laughing, being inspired”.

Above: Jenny with the AGYA Family Melodies Choir before departing for a praise and worship ministry at a local church

Above: Jenny having a one-on-one Luganda language lesson with AGYA Youth Leader, Nelson Kazibwe

Above: Jenny assists with the AGYA Free Lunch Program by preparing chapati, a local favorite made from flour, water, and salt!

Above: AGYA Girls members participate in Jenny's weekly dance class.

Above: Jenny, Shafik, and Nelson celebrate Ugandan Independence Day at the Annual Trade Fair Exhibition on October 9th.

October 28, 2009

AGYA Family Celebrates NGO Certification

After months of hard work and tough decision-making, the Amagezi Gemaanyi Youth Association is proud to announce that the organization has officially been certified and accredited as an international non-governmental organization (NGO) by the Republic of Uganda.

"This is a huge step for us," said AGYA Executive Director and Co-Founder, Divinity Barkley. "Though our initiatives are grassroots, we are committed to financial and organizational sustainability because it is the only way that we can solidify our presence in Uganda and make a long-lasting impact."

The NGO certification represents a crucial step on what has been a difficult journey for AGYA, an organization that was founded only 10 months ago. Despite being a young organization, AGYA has already registered more than 200 women and children in the urban communities of Kasubi, Nabulagala, and Lubya. In the next year, the organization is set to strengthen the foundation of its social entrepreneurship ventures as well as potential micro-credit initiatives.

In 2010, AGYA looks forward to forming new partnerships while also fostering its relationship with key partners such as the African Millennium Foundation, the Century City Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the University of Southern California (USC) student-group R.A.Y.S.E. - Rise of African Youth through Self-Empowerment, and Point Youth Media, a Canadian-based non-profit that conducts film, media, and photography projects at the AGYA Learning Center in Uganda.

Below, please view photos of the women and children who make up the AGYA Family as they celebrate AGYA's N.G.O. certification!

AGYA Co-Founder, Abraham Matovu and AGYA Volunteer, Jenny Calvert celebrate the NGO status at the AGYA Learning Center in Uganda!

Above: AGYA Girls Participants celebrate the NGO Status!

Below: Members of the AGYA Hip-Hop Crew, "BTH" celebrate the NGO status. The boys, who recently received funding to do 2 studio recording sessions, plan to write a song about the impact AGYA has had on their lives.