Picking on charities is just plain rude. Thankfully, that’s not what we’re about. We’re about proving that hackers have amazing skills that can transform charitable organizations. We support the organizations that step into the gap to feed, educate and provide for the world’s most vulnerable citizens. We are virtual, geographically diverse and different. We are Hackers for Charity.
First, a bit about our history. Hackers for Charity was founded by Johnny Long, a professional hacker by trade, author by brute force, public speaker, “pirate by birth” and “ninja by training”. He travelled to Uganda in 2007 after his wife Jen was profoundly affected by a mission trip there the year before. During his first two-week trip, Johnny’s eyes were opened to how the “rest of the world lived”. From the Twitter version of the story: “Her pictures. Africans. Orphans. Ridiculous poverty. Filth. Huge smiles. Laughter. Happy kids?!? Happy about what? It ate at me, haunted me.” Johnny found that his (unlikely) skills could literally save lives when he leveraged them for more than personal gain. Realizing that others in the community might be interested in lending their skills to help others in need, Johnny founded Hackers For Charity in 2007 with it’s controversial tagline and T-shirt logo, “I hack charities”.
Eventually, Johnny and Jen felt God’s distinct calling to go to Uganda. Johnny walked away from his career and the Longs sold or donated their belongings, left behind their home (which eventually was lost to foreclosure) and with very little spending money, took a leap of faith and relocated to Uganda as a family.
Over time, it became clear that they were called to do three distinct things: act as a support organization to non-profits working in Uganda, provide technology and skills training to Ugandans and non-profit staff supporting them, and provide a platform for hackers and technologists to get involved in life-changing work all over the globe.
The Long family served full-time in Uganda for a total of seven years (2009-2016), funded solely by small donations from individual donors and supporters, and Hackers for Charity continues to grow.
..one person can have a profound impact on the world. By giving of their skills, time and talent our volunteers are profoundly impacting the world, one “hacker” at a time.
‘Serving the Servants’ in Uganda, East Africa
During our seven years in Uganda, our primary goal was one of support. We provided technical support, food, accommodation, training and more to dozens of organizations, supporting them as they in turn supported the world’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens. We started a restaurant in Jinja (The Keep) which served as a hub, allowing us to interact and come alongside a multitude of workers and volunteers assisting them with not only food, coffee, Internet and a safe family-friendly, non-alcohol environment, but also with technical support in the form of computer repair, networking services and more. We lived in a home which we converted into a non-commercial bed and breakfast designed to assist missionaries, adopting couples and others with safe, comfortable and affordable housing as they lived, worked and served in Uganda.
We provided food to children in East Africa through a food program, funded by profits from sales of Johnny’s No-Tech Hacking book and the (now-defunct) Informer subscription program.
[In East Africa], we provide technical support, food, accommodation, training and more to dozens of organizations, supporting them as they in turn support the world’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens.
Technology and Skills Training
Our Computer Training Center has been in operation since 2010 and is run by dedicated team of Ugandan employees, most of whom received technical training through the center. They serve as proctors and instructors and even conduct courses in the field to schools and organizations that can’t afford travel to the center.
The CTC and Hackerspace is fully funded by the hacker community (at a rate of $1200 per month) and has served hundreds of students (most of whom started with no experience) and have now landed IT-related jobs as a direct result of our training. Other graduates continue their education in highly-selective IT-focussed university courses.
We train many students for free, including: non-profits, government or police force staff; HFC employees; and those who can provide a letter of introduction from a non-profit organization. Other students train at a deeply discounted rate designed to encourage training instead of profit. In addition, we have supported many local schools with the addition of computers and training software to allow schools to teach IT, putting their students far ahead of the educational curve. We also provide space, tools and resources for a high-school level robotics team which is set to represent Uganda in the VEX World Championships.
In addition to our technical training program, we also run a leather working program that employs fifteen Ugandans full-time. The program grew from a simple realization that many people needed skills but for various reasons found that IT training was an impractical path. Since many skills training programs (tailoring, bead making, wood working, etc) were saturated we decided to focus on leather work, a practically unknown skill in Uganda. Johnny and Jen taught themselves the basics of the trade and taught what they learned. Now, the craftsmen and women are producing beautiful works of art in a joint process that empowers widows and disadvantaged women in the village and students working in our home “workshop”. Click here to learn more about our leather program and see some of our artists’ work, or visit our Etsy shop which showcases products as the come available.
The CTC is fully funded by the hacker community (at a rate of $1200 per month) and has served hundreds of students (most of whom started with no experience) and have now landed IT-related jobs as a direct result of our training.
“Can I ask you a personal question?”
On a personal note, we are commonly asked if HFC is a “Christian organization”. Johnny and Jen Long are Christians and in faith followed the call to Uganda. However, we were not called as full-time evangelists, but led very specifically to “serve the servants” here in Uganda, playing what is often a very backstage role. Our calling has been clarified over and over and we now realize how few organizations filled this kind of support role. While there were many organizations serving in Uganda in various ways, no one was directly supporting them. That became our primary role.
The hacker community knows that the Longs are followers of Jesus, and while some disagree … we have proudly worked alongside volunteers of every “religious” (and “non-religious”) affiliation.. [supporting mostly] Christian organizations who are doing unbelievably heart-wrenching work here in Uganda.
HFC operates by Christian ethics and principals, but as members of the hacker community (who constitute the bulk of our volunteer workforce), HFC is not “religious” in it’s affiliation. We understand the diversity of our community and don’t wish to deter volunteers from doing good, whatever their beliefs.
The hacker community knows that the Longs are followers of Jesus, and while some disagree with this in principal, we have proudly worked alongside volunteers of every “religious” (and “non-religious”) affiliation. Together we have worked with all manner of non-profit organizations, the bulk of whom are Christian organizations who are doing unbelievably heart-wrenching work here in Uganda. I am proud of these collaborations, and this is just one example of what makes our community special. We can set aside most issues that divide communities and simply work together without much fuss.
However, we have paid the price financially. While many organizations we serve have sending organizations, we do not. Big corporations and churches don’t quite know what to “do with” support organizations, and especially not ones that mix it up like we do. However, we cling to Galatians 1:1 each and every day, and although we paid a heavy premium to keep our kids in a missionary-founded school at expat rates and we lived hand-to-mouth solely on individual donations, we had a peace that were are in the right place doing exactly the right thing.
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