Sunday, August 9, 2015

Project FOCUS has signed off. To see out last blogpost and explanation, click here

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

PF is Signing Off! Our final request -


Greetings PF Community!

We've been quiet for quite some time, but things in Lyantonde, Uganda have not.

Sadly, this is our farewell post as Project FOCUS. Before we go, we'd like to share some highlights from the past few years of community development work made possible through your generous support of our partner organization, ICOD Action Network, and their vision of an Internet center for the community of Lyantonde.


Upon completion of an epic grassroots fundraising campaign, which enabled the launch of the Lyantonde Internet Center in 2010, Project FOCUS assumed, and enjoyed, a quiet role supporting ICOD's operation of the Center. Our goal was to facilitate the start-up, support a sustainable structure, and phase PF out after three years. Those three years have passed. We've been phased. And the Internet Center is alive and well.

Over that time, Project FOCUS was able to offer financial support for operations-thanks in large part to a few incredibly generous donors-without a continuous fundraising campaign.

We are so proud to announce the official transition of all operations of the Lyantonde Internet Center to ICOD Action Network. ICOD Action Network has done an excellent job growing and managing the center since its inception; the dedication of its staff has ensured the success and maximized the benefits of the center for the community of Lyantonde. The Lyantonde Internet Center has a tremendous and indispensable impact on information sharing in and around Lyantonde. It has been a joy to watch ICOD shine.


Bringing Solar Internet To Rural Uganda (

ICOD Action Network and the Lyantonde Internet Center have given training to more than 1,000 youth and 375 local farmers, while more than 50,000 people have accessed different services offered at the center. They focus on providing agriculture, education and health information to local community members including teachers, students, doctors and people living with HIV/AIDS.

Two main issues still challenge the sustainability of the Center-the price of Internet service and rolling electricity blackouts. The Internet costs ICOD an incredible $365 dollars a month. Initially it was thought prices would have decreased by now, but Uganda still lacks the infrastructure to provide accessible, affordable Internet. Rolling blackouts make electricity inconsistent, significantly impacting the profitability of the Center.

Despite these two major complications, with the exception of Internet services, the Center pays for itself. Thus far, Project FOCUS donors have risen to the occasion and covered this expense. This will be the first year that ICOD Action Network will be responsible for supplying the Internet, a challenge that they are prepared to face.


Although Project FOCUS as an organization will no longer be involved, individually we can't wait to continue our support of the good work of ICOD. We hope you will join us. Since our humble beginning in 2006, boldly standing on Michigan Avenue exchanging bear hugs for dollar bills, we've stood by the idea that every small donation helps. So donate now! Their work extends far beyond the Internet Center. Please take a moment to learn more about ICOD and the various ways they impact change in their community and beyond.

Stay Updated on the Internet Center and ICOD Action Network by liking them on facebook, checking out their websitechecking out their videos or donating to their current indiegogo campaign. There is only ONE WEEK left to donate!


As the members of our tiny organization grew from novice travelers, to hopeful idealists, to ambitious agents of change, we learned more than we ever dreamed. We learned that international development is hard, tricky work. There are no clear-cut strategies for progress. Unintended consequences lurk everywhere. We learned that partnering with a strong, local, community based organization that respects and values the voice of community is paramount to the success of any international community development project.

We learned that International community development work is not for the faint of heart. It takes guts, sweat, tears and as the members of Project FOCUS know all too well, hours of heated debate. We've come to understand that it is IMG955350worth it. The benefits of this work will always overshadow the struggle. The Lyantonde Internet Center has shown us that small acts matter. We can and must improve how communities produce and consume food. Over the past five years, something as simple as reliable access to information has drastically improved the livelihood of so many. Thousands of farmers are now able design their own environments and build increasingly self-sufficient food production systems.

We hope that you, and the Project FOCUS community all around the world, join us now in celebrating the development of the Internet Center, the life of Project FOCUS and the small changes that we created together. You changed our lives for the better and forever. We can't thank you enough.


Aura continues to work for Chicago Public Schools as a Social Worker. Since 2011 she has supported her husband, Bret Hoekema (a Project FOCUS volunteer in his own right), in his treatment and recovery from Hodgkin Lymphoma. While international endeavors have faded, Project FOCUS has inspired Aura to invest more in her community and taught her that small changes make communities stronger. Additionally, Aura will not be voting Rahm Emanuel for Mayor of Chicago in the upcoming election.

 Daniel is currently living in San Francisco where he's a second year resident in internal medicine at UCSF. He plans on pursuing a career in global health.

Florencia is now pursuing a Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of California, San Francisco, where she is examining health inequalities, health impacts of trauma and violence, and intersections of race, gender and health.

Gloria currently works as an art therapist in adult psychiatric, teaches kundalini yoga part time and spends time painting. 

Grant is currently pursuing a master's degree in clinical social work at the University of Chicago,and working with the YMCA's Youth Safety and Violence Prevention program, where he is developing a digital storytelling curriculum that assists youth with processing the causes and impacts of community violence.

Harishi splits his time between his small fair-trade clothing line (ishi vest), youth organizing institution (Chicago Votes) and his consulting job with immigrant org. (Accelerate Change).

Madelene is currently living in Salem, Massachusetts with her Ugandan husband Hiller, and their two young children. She recently helped establish a community art therapy counseling center and works as an art therapist and licensed mental health counselor. This past summer, she and her family were able to travel back to Uganda to visit friends and family, and she loved every minute of it.

Mary is a purveyor of cool. She makes her home in Hollywood, but finds herself commuting weekly to San Diego for work. She's an architect working at CO Architects and specializes in enormous health care facilities, but has really designed a little bit of everything. She loves the active life-basketball, bicycles, etc. She returns to Chicago whenever she gets the chance. You should probably try to hang out with her.

Meg lives in Seattle with her husband Seamus  and 2-year-old son. As an art therapist she works at a local agency as a child and family therapist, and also maintains a  small private practice. Making art has continued to be an important part of life, and she spends time in her ceramics studio processing her thoughts, experiences and work. Her time spent in Uganda continues to inspire a greater connection with her family, friends and the local community, and will forever have a special place as life moves forward.

Rhea welcomed her sweet baby girl into the world on MLK day of this year (a future activist in the making???) with her husband Nenad, and spent 2014 teaching Devi Rising, the yoga curriculum she developed to empower tween girls.

Roy is now living in Seattle and is a photographer/ co-founder of Sonder Studios, a commercial and documentary production 

Seva continues her work in community development with ICA-USA, a non-profit in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood. She has spent the past few years organizing the accelerate77 project, and working on developing her skills as a facilitator. She continues to work with other small NGO's around the globe on their community development initiatives.

We sincerely thank you for all of your support on this endeavor as our friends, families, and colleagues and hope you will continue to follow and support the center and ICOD Action Network.

With Gratitude, 
unnamedPF, signing off

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Northwestern University Conference on Human Rights 2012

Ahabwe Michael, Founder of ICOD ActionNetwork, Project FOCUS’s partner organization in Uganda, has been invited back to the States to participate the ninth annual Northwestern University Conference on Human Rights (NUCHR).

This year’s NUCHR is entitled From Famine to Food Deserts: Human Rights and the Global Food Crisis. Join Project FOCUS in attending the conference, and don’t miss Ahabwe’s panel discussion, Failure of Distribution: Feeding Today, Starving Tomorrow, in which panelists will explore the failure of international systems to adequately distribute food to those that need it the most.

We look forward to seeing you at this thoughtful and inspiring event!
January 19-21, 2012
Northwestern University
Evanston, IL

Panel Discussion - Failure of Distribution: Feeding Today, Starving Tomorrow
Saturday, January 21, 2012
2:00 - 3:30 pm
McCormick Tribune Center

During his visit last year, Ahabwe spent four weeks with Growing Power in Milwaukee as a food security-fellow, was an honored guest speaker at the at the Jane Addams Hull House food activism series, Re-Thinking Soup. He was also interviewed on WBEZ’s Worldview for his work as a global activist.

To hear the full interview click here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ahabwe Michael - Guest of Honor!

Tune in to WBEZ's Worldview, to listen to Ahabwe Michael, Founder of ICOD ActionNetwork, Project FOCUS’s partner organization in Uganda, discuss issues of food security and sustainable agriculture in the rural community of Lyantonde. He will also touch on how the recently established Lyantonde Internet Center can assist local farmers in advancing their practices!

During his stay in the United States Ahabwe spent four

weeks with Growing

Power in Milwaukee as a food security-fellow. He worked side-by-side with

the Growing Power staff to explore sustainable farming practices, gain hands-on experience in setting up extensive community food systems, and examined challenges pertaining to food security. Fortunately, he was able to sneak away and spend a few days with us here in Chicago, where he was invited to be a guest speaker at the Jane Addams Hull House

Museum as well

as on

Worldview with host Jerome McDonnell.

You can listen to the interview on-line here.

Friday, September 30, 2011

You're Invited!

Ahabwe Michael, founder of ICOD Action Network, our local partner in Lyantonde, Uganda, will be visiting us here in Chicago!

While here, Michael will be an honored guest speaker at the Jane Addams Hull House food activism series, Re-Thinking Soup. His presentation will include thoughts on how rural African communities can be a leading source of the world’s health food supplies if respective governments make technical and policy adjustments. He will also discuss the importance of access to healthy and sustainable foods in rural communities, as well as ICOD Action Network's use of the Lyantonde Internet Center to promote agriculture information and training within the Lyantonde community.

Please join us for this thought-provoking presentation and a delicious bowl of soup!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011@ 12:00-1:00pm
Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
The University of Illinois at Chicago
800 S. Halsted Chicago, IL 60607

Also, Ahabwe Michael has been invited to speak on Worldview with Jerome McDonnell to discuss the continued progress and challenges with the Lyantonde Internet Center.

Stay tuned for the date and time of the WBEZ broadcast!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Community Art, Community Growth

Thank you to everyone who stopped by our table at the Global Activism Expo!

Below are some photos of the Community Art Mural from the event. We were painting Jane, a farmer from Kywanula village in Southwestern Uganda. She has been an active partner of Project FOCUS from the beginning.

Jane, as a leader in her community, was featured in the Portraits of Resilience art project in 2007. More recently, she participated in a permaculture workshop hosted by Project FOCUS and ICOD Action Network to learn sustainable farming techniques to improve her yields and the health of her crops.

Jane is also training to use the Internet and communication technologies at the Lyantonde Internet Center. The internet center allows rural villagers like Jane access to weather predictions and market information for their products.


If you took home seeds to plant, we would love to see how your Sugar Snap Peas
are doing! Send a photo of your growing plant and any other information you would like to share to We will post the photos here on our blog and our facebook page to share with with Project FOCUS community in the U.S. and Uganda.

If you were not there but would still like to participate, let us know!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

ICT and Permaculture Training in Lyantonde

With your help, the Lyantonde Internet Center opened its doors in June 2010, providing people with access to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) previously unavailable in the area.

Individuals now have access to the Internet for personal and professional use, but the benefits of the Center extend beyond individual use. ICOD Action Network and Project FOCUS have partnered to provide capacity-building training on a community level through the Center. Thus far, over 60 people have been trained in ICT, nearly 70% of whom are women.

In addition to ICT training, Project FOCUS and ICOD Action Network have also partnered to implement a 1 week long Permaculture workshop for local farmers in the rural community. 137 farmers, over 80% women, participated in the Permaculture skills workshop.

Our partnership will continue to serve the general population of the Lyantonde region, with an emphasis on developing practical skills, especially for women.

One Permaculture training participant, Nalukwago Fatuma, shared her experience with us: "Before March this year, none of us here in Lyantonde knew about permaculture... Throughout this course, I was introduced to many new things that are very important for our daily lives like planting a food forest and embracing nature so as to sustain ourselves and the future generations. I now believe that our standards of living can only be achieved if we only embrace nature and preserve it."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Global Activism Expo 2011

Reconnect with your favorite organization at the Global Activism Expo hosted by Chicago Public Radio on Saturday, April 30, 2011. After being interviewed by Jerome McDonnell, host of WBEZ’s Worldview, about the Lyantonde Internet Center, we’ve been invited to display our work at this international celebration of social activism. Complete with food, music and over 100 Chicago-area Global Activists we promise it will be worth your while!

Say hello to Project FOCUS at our booth, get updated on the Internet Center in Uganda, talk to us about our upcoming Permaculture projects, participate in our community art mural, and pick up some seeds to plant in your garden!

The Global Activism Expo is also an incredible opportunity to meet similarly-minded organizations, representing work in over 40 countries with efforts ranging from buying cows for Kenyan families, sending bicycles to Latin America, providing medical services in Haiti, and so much more!

In case you missed it in February, listen to Project FOCUS' interview on Chicago Public Radio here.

Details of the Expo:

What: Global Activism Expo hosted by Chicago Public Radio
When: Saturday, April 30 · 12:00pm - 6:00pm
Where: UIC Forum 725 W Roosevelt Rd. Chicago, IL 60607
Cost: FREE Admission

RSVP for this event on facebook.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Permaculture in Uganda

Permaculture is a conscious integrated design system based on ecological principles that create resource efficient and productive human environments.

In partnership with Project FOCUS, ICOD Action Network recently facilitated a Permaculture Design Course with over 80 farmers in Lyantonde, Uganda. The course focused on sustainability, and drew on local knowledge and materials to address agricultural challenges. In Ahabwe Michael's second video blog, he takes us through the course and shares the farmers' experiences with us.

For more information on Permaculture, visit True Nature Designs.