It might not be possible to change the world, but it is possible to change the world for one person.
This philosophy is embodied by Brooke Lees and Dave Rathborne. The local duo founded Kusoma’s Promise, a sponsorship program to ensure disadvantaged children in a remote Ugandan village have access to education.
Brooke and Dave spent five months vol- unteering in Africa in 2015, a world away from life in Australia. They taught children in a remote Ugandan village during their placement with the charity Arise and Shine, and two years later they are ensuring those children are still receiving an education, albeit from the relative luxury of Parkes.
Brooke said their trip made them realise the impact education had on the community. “The ones who attended school were not only learning about English and maths,” she said, “they were learning life skills. We also realised that what we take for granted in Australia – the fact that every child just goes to school – was actually a luxury for some of these kids. If their parents couldn’t afford the school fees they couldn’t attend school.”
“So, we decided to start a little sponsor- ship program to help the kids at the school where we taught. We worked with the local community while we were there and designed the program.”
The result is Kusoma’s Promise, a program that provides sponsorship for children to attend the Arise and Shine school. So far they have attracted 193 sponsors who give just $15 per month to cover a child’s education expenses.
While there are many charities and organisations that do similar – and equally valuable work – Kusoma’s Promise’s point of difference is the scale. It is driven by two people’s compassion and the passion to make a big difference to a small community.
“We do it all on our own, so we don’t have any ambitions to go in and help every child
in Africa, or Uganda, or even the district for that matter,” Brooke said, “we just want to focus on getting it right at Arise and Shine.”
Brooke said their initial aim was to spon- sor 50 children a year. “In our first year we got to about 190, so we smashed our goal,” she said. “Something we’re really proud of is that in 2017 our first class of sponsored children went to high school,” Brooke said. Since the sponsorship program started, school enrolments have increased.
Brooke is keen to emphasise that unlike larger charities, there are no administrative costs in the Kusoma’s Promise sponsorship.
“I think what people really appreciate is that 100% of what people give to us goes to the kids,” Brooke said. “If you sponsor a child you know they are guaranteed to go to school as their fees are paid and then a small percentage of each sponsorship pays teacher salaries, buys school sup- plies, and some porridge for the kids.”
Managing Kusoma’s Promise program takes up a lot of their spare time; evenings and weekends are spent attracting new sponsors, bookkeeping and delivering correspondence.
“We get letters and pictures from the kids and send them to our sponsors, and vice versa,” Brooke said. “It’s not all glamorous and fancy – it’s real, the paper has dirt on it because it’s being written or drawn on in classrooms with dirt floors, by kids with dirty hands. I love that about it.”
Nelson Mandela said that education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world. Through Kusoma’s Promise, Brooke, Dave and their sponsors are changing the world for the children at Arise and Shine. Visit Kusoma’s Promise on Facebook if you would like to sponsor a child.