Helping humanity: DWU alum brings nonprofit to Uganda, Rwanda
One trip to Rwanda and then Uganda, and Andrew DeVaney was changed.
The Dakota Wesleyan University graduate traveled to the countries twice while in college, and became close friends with the people he met. Ever since, he's vowed to continue helping in any way he can. So DeVaney created AsOne Ministries, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping communities in both African countries by focusing on education and enterprise.
Schools have been started, businesses built and local church communities empowered, DeVaney said, and more than 50 students have experienced life-changing trips through the organization.
And most recently, the organization started a bakery this summer, called AsOne Bakery, in Kagina, Rwanda. The bakery employs six women and one man.
It's success like this that brings a smile to DeVaney's face, and he's already got bigger plans in the works. A bakery is also planned for Uganda, and DeVaney said the organization has begun looking to partner with other local schools for a possible secondary school.
DeVaney also aid some "major expenses" are coming up with the school, and will be working to fundraise for the education center. He also would like to see the organization play a bigger role in transitional housing and scholarship opportunities in the countries.
"The goal is, out of relationships and flipping the paradigm, if we listened to the relationships we have, we spend time with the poor, we were close with the poor and we listen to what their needs were. We can use these sustainable platforms to bring about transformation within their lives," DeVaney said.
Other projects completed by AsOne includes an education center; a feeding program in Nakagunju, Uganda, which feeds more than 400 students three times each week; a transitional home for women; a soap project, which has sold more than 1,500 bars in the past two years; and several small businesses including a bike repair shop, grinding mill shop and salon. A church has also been constructed along with four water wells.
"We're seeking a more full picture of what it means to be human and that humanity is not just about materiality," he said. "And as Christians, it is not just about getting souls into heaven. It's about seeing lives, societies and cultures transformed through knowing God and living justly with one another."
DeVaney wasn't alone in forming AsOne. He and two other Dakota Wesleyan students, Joe Ford and Isaac Van Essen, also helped form the nonprofit. DeVaney also credits Alisha Vincent, who is the executive director of the McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service at Dakota Wesleyan. She serves as chairperson of AsOne after her organization, Esperance Education Institute, merged with AsOne in February this year.
DeVaney said the idea behind AsOne was to display the interconnectivity of the world. And to do so, DeVaney works closely with Dakota Wesleyan and Vincent.
Vincent, who is DeVaney's former professor, is proud of his work and seeing him "thrive in the environment of service."
"He's gone and developed some pretty solid and significant relationships with our friends in Uganda and Rwanda. And then he just decided to pursue those and help make their lives better in a way to allows them to reach their potential. I think, in doing that, without barriers of geography or any other limitations, it's testimony to Andrew."
For anyone interested in becoming part of the group, contact DeVaney or by visiting the nonprofit website www.asoneafrica.org.