We don’t bury our bad news

Any PR professional will tell you, it is a good idea to go public with bad news on a day where there are already lots of big stories in the news. Then hopefully no one will notice your bad news. And big charities are able to shout about their success stories, while not mentioning their projects that weren’t quite so successful.

We don’t want to do that. We want to ensure that our supporters feel part of our work and that means hearing about problems, as well as celebrating the successes.

Last week, we received some sad news from our team in Uganda regarding the orphanage that we support. The management of the Busolwe Orphans Home has broken down after the board of the orphanage decided to dismiss the director. It had come to their attention that he had been dishonest in managing the Orphanage’s financial affairs (misleading at best, stealing at worst) and there was increasing concern regarding his competence.

In light of the evidence, the board of a little bit of HOPE (Uganda) and the trustees of a little bit of HOPE in the UK have offered our full support to the Orphanage’s board regarding its decision.

But what about the children?

support orphansI am sure that your first thought is, ‘But what about the children?’ This was certainly our first thought, and the top priority of our team in Uganda as they support the Orphanage.

I’m afraid that, in the short-term at least, the news is not all good. In the fallout it has come to our attention that as many as 40 children were not under the guardianship of the Orphanage but of the director. Therefore, he has taken these children with him to set up another orphanage / school.

This is deeply concerning. However, it’s important to emphasise that there is nothing whatsoever to suggest that he has ever done anything to deliberately harm these children. It should also be noted that I have seen the paperwork associated with all the children living in the Busolwe Orphan’s Home for myself, and I had no idea that anything was amiss. Therefore, although we acknowledge that we need to put in safeguards to make sure we don’t get misled again, we do not blame our team in Uganda for this situation.

We have also since learnt that some of these 40 children have returned to live with their extended families. This begs the question, ‘Why were they living at the orphanage in the first place?’ This has been an issue we have been working on for a while now. In part, the answer is that sadly the conditions at the orphanage (non-leaking shelter, beds with mattresses, regular meals, basic education) are better than the children would get at home. It was for this reason that we had already put plans in place to enable the Orphanage to employ a social worker next year, who would spend a third of their time enabling children to live with their extended families rather than at the Orphanage.

a little bit of HOPE (Uganda) is limited as to what it can do to ensure the best possible outcome for these children. However, what little can be done will be done. For example, they are ensuring that local government officials are fully aware of the situation, and we trust that they will investigate and respond accordingly to ensure that these children get the best possible start in live.

What now?

This means that the orphanage that a little bit of HOPE supports now only has ten-children in its care. So what are we going to do? We have ensured the Orphanage’s board that we will continue to support them – perhaps even more so – to enable them to create a fantastic home for the children in their care. These children, it would seem, are children that genuinely do need to be living in an orphan’s home.

We very much see this as a situation where the problems are in the past, and the future looks hopeful. Therefore, although we will endeavour to learn every lesson possible from the past, our plan for the future remains almost identical to what it was at the beginning of last week. The only difference being that we will encourage the Orphanage to remain small, until it has everything it needs in place to expand.

      1. We will provide the Orphanage management with the training and support they need as they work with local government officials to ensure that all their policies and procedures are in place. (We have a copy of the Orphanage’s ‘development plan’ that has been approved by local officials.)
      2. We will continue to fund the building of the new dormitory block to ensure that their buildings meet all the requirements to register the Orphanage at the national level (it’s currently only registered at the local level).
      3. We will continue with our plans to raise funds in the UK to enable the orphanage to employ a matron and a social worker at the beginning of 2014 (although we might explore enabling this to happen sooner rather than later now).

Has my money been wasted?

18% of our a little bit of HOPE (Uganda)‘s expenditure in 2012 went to the Busolwe Orphan’s Home. (The approximate 2013 figure, to date, is 9%.) Therefore, you might be thinking, ‘Does this mean that money I’ve given to a little bit of HOPE has been wasted?’ We’d like to suggest that it hasn’t!

      • It has enabled us to purchase beds, beddings and mosquito nets that children have been benefiting from for over a year now. And we’ll ensure that even if the Orphanage does reduce its capacity, any spare beds will be given to children who desperately need a bed to sleep on.
      • It has enabled us to train and support the Orphanage’s management team – training and support which ultimately enabled the board to identify the problems that existed and which will be so valuable to them as they plan for the future.
      • It has enabled us to help build a new dormitory block, which we are confident will provide children with a safe home for decades to come.

We can also report that we have all the evidence we need to tell you that the director of the orphanage did not mislead or steal any of the money that a little bit of HOPE gave to the orphanage. The concerns regarding financial mismanagement are linked with community donations (primarily for food) and school fees from non-orphans who attend the school that is connected to the orphanage.

In conclusion

a little bit of HOPE funds, wherever possible, community led development projects. We believe that this is the most effective way to bring about long-lasting development which is sustainable. However, we accept that it comes with risks. That’s why we couple this relatively ‘low control’ approach with both ‘high accountability’ and ‘high support’. Our team in Uganda works hard to monitor every project we support to ensure that all the money we provide is spent as agreed. They also ensure that along with providing money to projects we also provide the necessary support and training – to ensure that the money isn’t just spent as agreed, but in a way that is effective and ensures the likelihood of positive outcomes, in both the short and long term.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support of a little bit of HOPE which we value so much. Your generosity has provided hope to thousands of people. That is why we decided to be completely upfront about this situation. We also know that this will enable many of you to pray for everyone involved – which we know that the team at the Orphanage and our team in Uganda will appreciate.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me by email (phil@alittlebitofhope.org) or phone (07984 403469).

Also, keep an eye open for the next edition of a little bit of news, that will be coming out next week – that will tell you about all our successful programmes!

Forever hopeful,

Phil Green
On behalf of the trustees of a little bit of HOPE in the UK