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Opinion | My first experience at a Ugandan UNAA Convention — JW Marriott By Damalie Namponye, MD

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Posted September 14, 2016 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in UNAA Conventions ~ 2,297 views

     

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By Damalie Namponye, MD — Two wonderful events occurred over the labor weekend.  In Boston under the auspices of the Uganda North American Association, UNAA, a number of our government representatives attended the annual conference.  Over in Los Angeles we had the Leader of Opposition Hon. Winnie Kizza, the Lord Mayor of Kampala Erias Lukwago and the opposition Chief Whip Hon. Ssemujju Nganda gracing the occasion of UNAA Causes.  Together they joined hundreds of Ugandans in celebration of Labor Day weekend, and networking for more effective individual and community growth.  In Los Angeles, we were reminded by our leaders of the importance of remaining active and involved in the affairs of our native country of Uganda.

At the UNAA Causes conference, it was good to see long lost friends as we celebrated Ugandan women and men who had gathered to have fun, meet new people, and shared accomplishments of being a Diaspora community.

After 17 years of living in the US, at the urging of a friend, I attended my first Ugandan convention.  I would like to applaud the organizers for a great conference.  I enjoyed it and met some wonderful individuals.  Moreover my life was enriched with stimulating conversations of global health, human rights and the challenges that families face while living in the diaspora, and I look forward to my next conference and getting an update on previous ideas discussed by my fellow diasporians, including the convention organizers.

Having worked for an organization that valued new hire feedback, and worked toward implementing those changes that were suggested by new hires, I value the importance of feedback; such feedback is considered valuable especially because when one is a  new hire, they’ve not been affected by the status quo, and can look at the system with less bias.  It’s with such fresh eyes that I write this piece with the hope that effective change will be implemented by UNAA Causes as they head to Las Vegas.  This is especially true since this is only the 3rd year that UNAA Causes hosts the annual Ugandan gathering.  Moreover, I believe that UNAA Causes has great potential, the organizers are working hard to improve and they are open to feedback.  As I reflected on the conference a day after the events ended, how does one determine that a convention has been successful?  What are our (UNAA Causes) objectives?  How do we go on from here and work toward improvement?

Having a theme: beyond having a good time not only benefits Ugandans in the diaspora, but those in Uganda as well.  I applaud UNAA Causes for the water project initiative, which once implemented will go a long way to improving access to water, which is a direct measure of not only economic growth, but also has a direct impact on health.  Along the mission of UNAA Causes of “promoting great values in our community”, in what ways can we promote the great values, and what are those great values that we stand for?  The great values may include health, education, human rights, business, and working on ways the organization can improve.   Along those lines, the following will go a long way in continuing to push a great organization in the right direction.

Timeliness: for an event that was scheduled to begin at 8pm with a festival runway, it was disappointing that the main activity of the night did not start until later.  Although we appreciated the DJ’s music, an update from the organizers as to why the delay occurred would have been appreciated.  Two other areas where an improvement in timeliness would go a long way in the attendees having a more positive experience are the main registration process and the management of numbers on the boat cruises.

I arrived at 8pm and proceeded to inquire about the registration process from the organizers.  I was informed no registration was necessary, but perhaps in the future, wristbands may be provided to ascertain the participants who’d registered previously.  About 3 hours later, I was approached in the bouquet hall and informed that I would indeed need a wristband.  I stood in line for almost 1 hour as people cut in line, and others paid for the Platinumz show.  This, I believed to be poor organization by the leaders of UNAA Causes.  A more efficient way would have entailed having the wristbands ready hours before the start of the convention, and confirming registration of each new participant then.  For those who only wanted to attend the Diamonds Platinumz show, a separate line, preferably behind those who had registered earlier would not only have been efficient, but also not construed to punish those who paid in advance or reward those who were late in paying.
The boat cruise was a positive experience for those who attended.  Per sources who attended, the DJ’s did a great job with the music selection, mixing it up with both old and new music to carter to the different age groups that attended the boat cruise.  Other positives included a three course dinner, and having a selection of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages since this event was also attended by families.  According to my sources, areas of improvement include making plans for people to pay on time and not at the last minute since late payment contributed to overbooking and failure to seat some guests some of whom had missed their hired chartered buses resulting in a late departure.  The late start left some revelers somewhat disappointed since this shortened the boat cruise from 5 hours to about 3 hours.

There are several areas where the organizers deserve credit for a job well done; I applaud the event organizers for publishing an agenda, which is an improvement from last year as no agenda/program existed, according to a participant who attended the previous convention.  The agenda clearly delineated the particular events that were scheduled.  Personally, one of the events that I looked forward to was the business expo.  I looked forward to networking, and hearing about the different kinds of investment opportunities that exist in Uganda.  I was disappointed to learn that this event did not happen owing to some logistical challenges.  Again, communication would have been appreciated.  Originally, the event was re-scheduled for 2pm the next day (reportedly announced on Friday evening).  Unfortunately, I did not find out until I had showed up for the 10 O’clock event.  Moreover, the hotel screens still showed the business expo for 10 0’clock.  A more effective way would have included not only making an announcement late on Friday night, but updating Facebook page and the official event website.  In this digital age, social media is important and should be utilized to the maximum.

In addition to utilizing social networking, information on which artists will perform should be uniformly updated on the UNAA Causes website and also updated on the Facebook page.  In case any of the featured speakers or artists cancel or cannot make it, updating the convention participants online, by email or Whatsapp is always ideal (this can be through a created database as most people include their contact information during registration process).  Updating the participants will go a long way in continuing to build confidence in the leadership of the organization, and give attendees confidence that the convention leaders are honest even when the plan does not happen as originally mentioned.

Last but not least,  a lot of people I spoke to were unable to find information about the convention online.  Again here, an agenda would enable participants plan better regarding which sessions they wish to attend and what preparation is needed before attending; this is especially important because part of the feedback the organizers received from the participants included giving attendees an option to pay for only those events that they are interested in attending.

All in all, I enjoyed the conference.  I especially liked that there was a lot of networking with like-minded people, some of whom share an interest in global health, human rights and how the lack of democracy, both in the past and in more recent times, has impacted Uganda’s economic growth.  I look forward to the next conference in Las Vegas, and feel privileged to have been a part of such a great and beautiful event.  The Black Tie Dinner and the clean water project were a positive ending for what was a classy entertaining labor day weekend. Well done UNAA Causes for with your limited resources you put up a great event at a magnificent hotel in the center of Los Angeles!

The author is a Medical Doctor based in California. She can be reached directly at dvn102011@gmail.com


About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.

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