Bruce Duggan is director of the Buller
Centre for Business at Providence
University College and Seminary in Otterburne,
Man. Find more of these columns at www.
christians have been raising funds for worthy causes ince the start of Christian- ity. Paul raised funds for the
Jerusalem church in the 1st century.
World mission societies started raising funds early in the 18th century.
And the 20th century saw an explosion of church-supported aid initiatives that now span the globe.
The questions we’ve faced have
remained remarkably constant:
What should we raise funds for?
How should we raise those funds?
How do we get the money to the
right recipients? And how do we
know the money is being well-spent?
The Internet hasn’t changed these
questions, although it has begun to
alter the answers. Finding out about
worthy causes is faster and easier.
We can more easily raise funds from
people far away. Transferring funds
is simpler, faster and more secure.
And young people can become engaged with important development
projects without having to spend
thousands of dollars on travel.
But the Internet isn’t a substitute
for personal connection. It’s more
like a box of tools. Understanding
how to use these tools wisely – and
in God’s service – remains the enduring challenge.
Consider a project called Fuel for
the Future, which has been developed by students at Providence
University College, where I teach
The project, a crowdfunding initiative to support the production
of something like charcoal in a
refugee settlement in Uganda,
emerged from a course in non-profit management. Let me explain.
Crowdfunding, according to en-
thusiasts, is a revolutionary way for
businesses and non-profits to get
funding through the Internet. Put
up a project on a site like Kickstarter
or Indiegogo and ask for support,
and money will roll in. The hype is
overblown, but there’s no doubt
crowdfunding has potential. And it’s
certainly something non-profit lead-
ers need to know about.
The fuel in this project is called
“biochar.” It’s made the same way
as charcoal, but instead of wood it
uses materials such as plant stalks
and weeds left over from farming.
In the right circumstances, biochar
can be a local, affordable, clean-burning and sustainable fuel.
(Right now, one-third of people
worldwide cook their food using
fire, often burning either dried animal dung, which is not so healthy, or
charcoal made from forests that are
being unsustainably harvested.)
Despite the role of the Internet
in this project, it never would have
worked without a personal connection with two people in Winnipeg
– Daniel Lepp Friesen and Theo
Muthumwa – who told my students
about a small business, started by
pastor Byaruhanga Godfrey, in the
Kyaka II refugee settlement in
Uganda making biochar.
Muthumwa came to Winnipeg in
2009 from Kyaka II and got to know
Lepp Friesen through his church.
The duo have travelled twice to
Uganda to help pastor Godfrey get
his business on its feet.
In Kyaka II each family is given an
acre or two of land to grow food.
Before pastor Godfrey started his
business, the 22,000 people in
Kyaka II had two options for fuel:
foraging for firewood or buying
charcoal. Foraging for firewood
means leaving the safety of the
settlement. Charcoal has to be
trucked in from 300 km away.
Biochar offers a third option.
Residents can make it with material left over from their crops.
Any they don’t need for their own
use, they can sell.
The biochar business is up and
running, employing three people.
To expand they need a building, a
truck and a few office essentials.
Altogether they need about
$30,000. That’s too much for a
microloan, but right in the sweet
spot for crowdfunding.
So my students got to work. They
researched, debated, reported and
reworked. They ran into lots of
obstacles. They overcame them all.
At the end of November, Fuel-
launched. Even as you read this, it’s
busy raising money.
Sometimes people my age decry
the cynical, entitled youth of the
millennial generation. I don’t know
where those youth are – they weren’t
in my class. The ones I know are
committed, passionate servants of
Christ. All we need to do is give
them knowledge and tools – and
steer them in the right direction. /F T
The last step in making this charcoal-like fuel involves
drying it in the sun.
putting faith into action
Manitoba business student project reaches Uganda