Life in Africa: Living it Online!
(Christina Jordan and her lovely son Ben, who was intrigued with my hand puppet!)
It seems appropriate that I first met Christina in a virtual capacity. Her ventures into internet interfacing, and online collaboration are the hub of her own work with Life in Africa. I met her through an online community called The Omidyar Network, where people across the globe can discuss social change issues and collaborate on projects. So meeting in person was a bit of a novelty!
It was never Christina’s intention to set up an organisation- it just emerged. It all started when the family of one of the guards at her home (it is very common here to have security staff) disappeared in the North of Uganda (where there has been long term conflict). Christina started writing letters home to her own friends and family, explaining the situation. ‘Then someone donated some money to finance the transport to be able to go and find his family’, Christina explained, ‘and they did, and they came back with the family’. Then in one of the letters Christina explained that herself and her husband were going to offer this man a loan, to be able to support his family. "Then I got all this email back', Christina elaborated, "saying, 'we want to be a part of that, and within a week I had $2,000- it was not very much money, but it was people saying, 'we trust you, and we want to be a part of this'".
Thus emerged Life in Africa’s first initiative, a loan programme.
From those initial letters, (back in 1998), Christina started seeing the internet as a unique space to garner support and financial assistance for projects in Africa. It was early days of the internet, and email was just taking off; but the potential she could see was there.
Now Life in Africa is both a virtual and a physical space. A group of buildings houses the loan programme, craft workshops, education programme, IT training and a savings programme for both adults and children (the latter is particularly unique here in Africa). It is a place where local Ugandans can connect with the outside world and plan for their future.
I asked Christina was her biggest challenges were. ‘Connectivity’ and ‘Power’. She meant it in a very practical way. Connectivity being the quality and strength of the internet connections here in Kampala, and power being the electricity supply!