Going it alone - how I did it

Published on: 17 Apr 2013

Name: Olivia Barker

Age: 23

Occupation: I run a charity called Kids Club Kampala, which works with vulnerable children and women in the slums of Uganda.


My story

I went to Uganda in 2007 aged 18 and lived there for 6 months on a gap year programme, working mainly in schools. One day my friend and translator Sam invited us to come with him into the slums of Kampala to meet the children and community there. I was heartbroken to see the situation they were living in, and went back every week to play with the kids, feed them, sing songs and run lots of fun activities to bring a bit of hope and joy into the children’s difficult lives. Over the next few months I fell in love, with the country, the people and most of all the children.

After I left Uganda, Sam continued this work and I sent him some money to help. My friend Corrie and I went back to Uganda a year later, and we realized that something needed to be done - money had run out but we wanted to continue our work. We tried to contact organisations in the UK and Uganda to help, but none were interested so we realized we had to do something ourselves. Together with Sam, Corrie and I set up the charity Kids Club Kampala, to bring hope and love to children living in desperate situations in the slums of Kampala.

The conditions in the slums are shocking. People live in overcrowded conditions with whole families living in small shacks made from corrugated iron. Disease and illness is rife, children often suffer from malaria and medical treatment is not free in Uganda. The slums are also notorious for crime and violence at night. A lot of other charities are reluctant to work in such conditions and to help the people living there.

After making the decision to set up the charity Kids Club Kampala, the first thing we did was to get registered as an NGO in Uganda and set up an office there, as we are fundamentally a Ugandan charity for Ugandan people. I then set up a website and came back to the UK where I started fundraising as much as possible. For the last 4 years I have been running the organization in my spare time, initially whilst at University then when I was working full-time.

Work for the charity involves lots of fundraising, organising and training volunteers, publicising and raising awareness about the charity, writing proposals for funding applications and travelling out to Uganda myself at least once a year. I recently won a Vodafone World of Difference award (www.vodafone.com/worldofdifference) which is funding me to work full-time for KCK for 4 months. To be able to concentrate on running Kids Club Kampala full-time is a dream come true after doing it in my spare time for the last 4 years.

When we began in 2009, we were working with 200 children in one slum community. In just 4 years Kids Club Kampala has grown extensively and now works with over 4000 children, plus their families, women and the wider community in 16 underprivileged areas throughout Uganda.

Kids Club Kampala is making a huge difference to the lives of so many children and individuals in the slums of Uganda. There is a social stigma attached to children from the slums, which is why Kids Club Kampala is so passionate about empowering the children and communities, letting them know they are loved, and helping them to overcome their situation.

My advice for people looking to “go it alone” is to be sure you want to do it. Once you start, there’s no going back! Make sure you are organised, and plan your time around what needs doing. Make lots of lists (and spreadsheets if that helps) to make sure you are on track and don’t forget what you need to do!

I think the most necessary thing is to have a passion for what you are doing and to be incredibly determined to succeed. It has been hard at times to run a small charity with no money in my spare time but I knew that I needed to help these children and it is what pushed me to succeed and kept me going.

Don’t give up even if it seems really hard or stressful, and surround yourself with people who will support you when the going gets tough. I have weekly meetings with Corrie and Sam; talking through weekly tasks is really helpful.

Networking is also great, try to get in touch with people doing similar things and working in similar areas to get advice and to learn from them.

Don’t be afraid to take risks, and always learn from your mistakes. I regularly look back over the last few months, and try to analyse what worked well, what didn’t and how that can impact us going forward.

Lastly, be committed to what you are doing, find what motivates you and how you work best.

You can get in touch with Olivia at Olivia@kidsclubkampala.org if you want more advice on going it alone.  

For more information about Kids Club Kampala visit www.kidsclubkampala.org