The Act4Africa Story
In 2000, our co-founder Kathy Smedley returned to Uganda, having worked in East Africa as a young teacher many years before. She was shocked and saddened by what she found. The effects of HIV/AIDS were everywhere and whole communities were being devastated without any hope. Having lost a young, close friend to the virus in the early 80’s, Kathy and husband Martin’s personal experience of this dreadful disease meant they couldn’t just stand by. They decided to try to do something, something which used the talents and capabilities of the local African communities themselves. Back in the UK, they gathered a small group of friends and started raising funds through cake making, car boot sales and sponsored events. They raised enough to start to train a small team as health education community youth leaders in Jinja, Uganda – and Act4Africa was born.
Martin, himself a trained actor, recognized the perfect fit of Theatre for Development (TfD) as a means of communicating Act4Africa’s messages to the rural communities it served. A series of TfD programmes were developed, and the charity’s youth leaders began taking them into communities and schools, educating and informing about HIV/AIDS and stigma.
In 2006 Act4Africa started providing mobile HIV testing and counselling services, and in 2010 we began to address a cornerstone of the HIV/AIDS epidemic: gender inequality.
Our work is increasingly focused on this issue. We believe that by educating girls and women about their rights, their health, the value of their continued education, we can change not only their lives, but those of their wider peer group, family, and community.
In August 2014, our co-founder Kathy Smedley sadly passed away at the age of just 65. Her legacy and inspiration continue at the heart of what we do, and we are proud to be raising funds in her name to create a lasting legacy in the form of a women’s centre in Mayuge District, Uganda.
You can read our tribute to Kathy here.
As we look forward, we’re focusing on a number of projects. Our Grow a Girl programme connects you, our supporters, with Ugandan teenage girls who need sponsorship to be able complete their secondary education, whilst our HEAL project is helping the women of Mayuge District to establish savings groups and work together to create small businesses. We’ve been recognised for our efforts in sexual and reproductive health with a USAID award for our STRIDES project, and our teams in Uganda, Malawi and Tanzania go from strength to strength building on this success. We hope you’ll join us on our continued journey. You can sign up for a newsletter of inspiring stories about what we’re up to, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter – or of course, donate to help us continue our work changing attitudes, transforming communities, and saving lives.