When junior international affairs major Isabella Batson, president of the new club, Ugandan Rural Fund, was asked to give a mission statement for her club, she smiled, pointed to a pamphlet and said, “Enriching lives, one village at a time.”
With this impressive goal in mind, the University of Mary Washington chapter of the Ugandan Rural Fund (URF) recently took its first steps in supplying direct relief to impoverished areas of Uganda.
The club focuses it’s efforts on many rural communities, such as Masaka and the Rakai Districts of southwestern Uganda.
The association is a nonprofit organization run out of Richmond, Va. Founded by Reverend John Mary Lugemwa, the URF aims to empower rural Ugandan communities, such as the area Lugemwa grew up in. The organization provides tools to combat poverty and disease, as well as promote education.
Recently the URF sought to expand their influence by creating chapters on local college campuses. UMW was the first to sign on. Batson said she was drawn to start a chapter of the URF because she always wanted to do more to help impoverished nations.
“This is the first club that had struck my interest, because nobody else had done it,” said Batson. “Something new is always interesting.”
Although the URF is not yet an official campus club, they have already received a promising turnout. Over forty people expressed interest in the club at club carnival.
“They were mostly geography and international affairs majors,” said Batson.
Part of the interest in the URF may be due to the fact that there are few club options for these students. “There aren’t too many clubs designed for people of these majors,” Batson said.
“The people who are willing to put forth a lot of effort are going to find it very rewarding. They will be the club’s founding fathers in a sense.”
Batson and the other leaders of the URF already began planning events for when the club is officially recognized and can begin to operate on campus, which Batson expects to happen in early October.
Students can expect to see the URF on campus walk throughout the year selling jewelry made by Ugandan women in order to raise money for their village.
For the club’s first event, Batson hopes to take a trip to Richmond and meet with Lugemwa in order to sync their campus activities with that of the organization’s headquarters.
While the long term goal of the URF is to take a mission trip to Uganda, the club is for now focusing on raising money for these poverty stricken areas. In the past, money raised for the URF has gone to building water towers or buying livestock for the local farmers.
“[Our Club] has a direct impact,” said Batson. “When people are donating money, you never know if your money is actually going where you want it to. With this, you know what your money is going towards. You know you’re helping,” Batson said.