An email from a stranger in Uganda might end up in most people’s trash folder but not Brian McMahon’s.
His reply would lead to a friendship that would help an African village.
McMahon, who resides in Madrid, New Mexico, had a feeling that the Facebook message he received in 2018 from Ddumba Hakim in Uganda, in east Africa, was genuine. Part of Hakim’s message read “Sir, I would like to change my life.” The message struck a chord in McMahon, who is a former teacher, and frequent correspondence between the two men began.
“Well, I don’t know that I can speak to so much to why it was me,” McMahon said of Hakim randomly reaching out to him. “I have a feeling they’re probably just reaching out in every direction. You know, by the time we really started supporting their projects, we had been in a regular dialogue for probably, I don’t know, eight months or more. And so we had a lot of conversations about everything having to do with what life in Uganda was like.”
McMahon soon learned about the challenges Hakim and the residents of his village Kyamulibwa faced. Some obstacles included the lack of clean water, a large orphan population, limited options to make a living and more.
This inspired McMahon to seek help from his community in Madrid to assist the people of Kyamulibwa. Things began with small donations and sponsoring orphans so that they would receive basic necessities.
One if the first gestures to nurture the relationship was to send a box of seeds.
“I was able to see pictures of all the seeds that we’d sent, grown out,” McMahon said. “And, you know, I got a pretty good sense that they were willing to do the work that was required on their side of things. I think, before we went, we also had a couple of the freshwater wells dug.
“And so then when people started expressing skepticism, you know, I had a 90-plus percent confidence rating in my judgment. But I couldn’t say 100%, that I’d been there and I’d seen it all with my own eyes. And so that’s why my son and I went (to Kyamulibwa) the first time.”
McMahon was not astonished when he arrived at the village. It was thriving thanks to the nonprofit organization, New Village Alliance, which McMahon helped create.
“I wasn’t really surprised, I think it was more just the whole impact of Africa and the village, and just the whole experience, really,” he said.
“I was probably back for a couple months and I was still sort of riddling to myself what exactly did I experience. … You know, one of the real surprises of this whole project has been the gratitude that has been expressed from the people who have actually been making the donations. You know, that was a little bit of a surprise to me. But I think that what’s happening here is because of the use of Facebook, because we have these smartphones, and so much information can go from one place to another so quickly we’ve got a much higher degree of engagement between the two villages.”
New Village Alliance serves as a pipeline between donors and beneficiaries in Uganda.
“I do go to Africa and I verify the projects,” McMahon explained. “We do accountability stuff and some consultation as far as how to grow their different projects. But, rather than us sort of coming into the situation saying ‘Okay, this is what you need to do’ (we are instead) sort of empowering people to do it.”
New Village Alliance has created a chicken farm with the women of Kyamulibwa, who often handle entrepreneurial pursuits. The organization has also helped build two wells in the village as well as procure medical treatments for children and adults. It used money from a grant it received to purchase a truck to enable farmers to bring their produce to market. The alliance also provides vocational training to villagers.
“We have kids already welding and brickmaking and (taught) how to agriculture and also tailoring,” McMahon said. “So we have programs going where kids can learn that.”
McMahon is hoping to encourage other communities and organizations to adopt other Ugandan villages in need.
“It seems to me that lots of people could be doing this,” he said. “We do have a group in Albuquerque, called the World Shine Project. And they are also sponsoring a village. And you know, we’ve been, I’ve been sort of assisting them and going through that process. So right now what we’re trying to do is see if we can maybe find two, three, four more groups that would be willing to sponsor villages, because we do have those villages sort of available and sort of set up to receive that sort of support.”
For more ways to help and for more information on New Village Alliance visit newvillagealliance.org.