The gift that counts

In the village of Tabiro in central Uganda, electricity is produced with gas generators. Power is limited, sporadic and expensive. Children in the village orphanage often can’t study or read after the sun goes down. Businesses usually close early and there’s no way to maintain a proper health clinic.
All that could soon change, however. Tabiro recently received government funding for a modern electrical grid. The Ugandan government has agreed to pay 70 per cent of the roughly $100,000 required to connect the village to a steady stream of hydropower. Fadi Al Qassar hopes his fellow Haligonians will help with the rest.
Originally from Jordan, Al Qassar moved to Halifax in 2005 to attend Saint Mary’s University. He’s now the managing director of Uganda Venture, a Halifax-based international development project.
The small organization has already helped with a number of initiatives in Tabiro, including the construction of classrooms, a computer lab, and two dorms for 100 orphans. The group also set up a micro-credit pilot program that has provided loans to 25 local entrepreneurs.
“For a little project we’re actually doing a lot on the ground,” Al Qassar says.
He’s now in the midst of a Christmas fundraising campaign called Lights for Lights. The goal: to encourage 3,000 Haligonians to each donate $10. If successful, the campaign would raise the remaining $30,000.
“It means they can live what we consider a normal life,” says Al Qassar, who has visited Tabiro three times, most recently in August 2012. “They can study, they can read, they can have their businesses open, they can have a health facility.”
Al Qassar, 26, acknowledges that Lights for Lights is up against thick competition in its pursuit of holiday charitable cash. But he’s optimistic Haligonians will accept his challenge. “You can make a difference. And it doesn’t take all that much,” he said. “I spent $6 on coffee this morning. All we’re asking is for $10 to help bring electricity to a village. It’s an amazing opportunity.”

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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