Liz Smith visits Uganda: “The Hello Hubs open up the World.”

Very often, it is pure coincidence that we meet the people who become involved in Projects For All. One of those serendipitous moments occurred when Liz Smith from New York City read an article about the Bottles to Buildings project that Katrin Macmillan set up in Nigeria. At that time, Liz was working on a project in Tanzania to recycle plastic bottles into bags for Whole Foods. She contacted Katrin to exchange ideas, and soon the two women started to think about what the next generation of these projects could be. It was through these conversations that they developed Bottles to Blankets, a business plan aimed at recycling plastics and creating jobs in Africa, while supplying refugees with fleece blankets. Even though they haven’t yet found the funding to launch this project, they remain friends and supporters of each other’s work.

 Liz has a personal interest in solutions with "cross-cutting impact”

Having heard so much about Project Hello World from Katrin, Liz was eager to see it in real life. Liz works in international development and she has a personal interest in solutions with what she describes as "cross-cutting impact”. So, just a few weeks ago, she booked a ticket to Kampala. “I needed a break and change of scenery”, says Liz, who is in the midst of launching the start-up EYElliance, a multi-stakeholder initiative dedicated to increasing access to eyeglasses.

"Access to a Hello Hub can transform lives."

Although work back home in the US got in the way of touring Uganda as extensively as planned, Liz visited Tooro, St. James and Kidubuli and spent a lot of time with the communities. She visited the site where the new school in Kidubuli is being built and met with both Father Sylvanus and Josephine, the headmaster of the current school. Liz received a very warm welcome from the students who have fond memories of the day when Katrin Macmillan visited to teach them. Liz also had a few adventures in Fort Portal including a hike with Tabu that included a brief but frightening encounter with a 4m long snake!

Seeing the Hello Hubs, and the communities interacting with them, was one of the highlights of the trip. Liz commented that “the lack of opportunity in Kidubuli was surprising – and I am no stranger to remote and impoverished communities. The children in this community have no clear pathway to change their lives. It’s in settings like this that access to a Hub can literally transform lives." For Liz, the Hello Hubs are the most beautiful example of how one simple idea – albeit complex in its design – can connect people, promote educational opportunities, and increase gender equality and social inclusion of those children who are not enrolled in school.

"Hello Hubs will have a far reaching impact."

When Liz embarked on her trip three weeks ago, she wanted to find the answer to one question: Can Project Hello World really achieve what we all hope for? “After seeing the Hubs in action,” she says, “I have no doubt that not only will they deliver on the opportunity of improved educational outcomes, but they will also have a far reaching impact on the entire community that we can’t even predict.” 

By Monika Hubbard