UK founders, Shamila Mhearban, director of Gingko People, an HR consulting firm based in London, and husband James, have set up charity Tulinawe this year after living in Uganda for four years where they witnessed the everyday struggles of the people around them.
Tulinawe, which means ‘we are with you’ in Ugandan, provides short-term financial aid in unexpected hardship. Local community workers serve as the charity’s ‘eyes and ears’, consulting with council leaders and village elders to identify those in need, in circumstances such as unexpected income loss or medical bills, buying food, and support with school fees.
Shamila said: ‘As UK nationals, we were used to being able to turn to the welfare state if we were ever in need. We knew first-hand how much of a positive impact support such as the NHS can have on every aspect of an individual’s life. Living in Uganda opened our eyes to what happens when there is no safety net.’
The couple, who have family ties to the country, will donate a proportion of their earnings to the charity, which covers its running costs and grants given out to the community. They are now seeking support from other philanthropists and businesses to help their charity develop and reach more people in need. Shamila hopes to help at least 12 families by the end of this year as, because of the global pandemic, the charity’s aid has never been more needed.
While the couple are now moving from Uganda, they say they won’t forget the community that gave them such a warm reception.
Shamila said: ‘This country will always have a special place in our heart. We arrived in Uganda at a time when we, as a young family, felt very vulnerable and isolated. Realising that families in Uganda go through intense struggles, without the safety net that we could access, was eye-opening. The local community has been so good to us, and we hope this is the start of something very beautiful. Tulinawe will allow us to put donations directly in the hands of those who need it most.’
Lead community worker at the charity and Ugandan national, Ayot Joyce Gladys, said that, as ex-pats, the couple were often sought out for support: ‘Uganda is a mixture of extreme poverty and extreme wealth. Each week people would knock on Shamila and James’ door to ask for help because they had nowhere to turn – basic requirements such as not being able to afford to bury a body or feed their children. In that moment of need, a small amount of financial help can make a huge impact.’
Uganda remains among the poorest nations in the world. One in five Ugandans still live in extreme poverty and more than a third survive on less than £1.25 a day, with 70% still depending primarily on agriculture for their livelihood. This exposes them to risks of weather-related and health shocks.
To donate or to find out more about Tulinawe, visit their website.