Brittany Merrill Underwood has made an extraordinary impact by transforming the lives of impoverished women and children. While at SMU, she spent the summer of 2004 in Uganda and was moved by the dedication of local women who sought to transform their communities. In 2006, Underwood founded the Ugandan American Partnership Organization (UAPO) to partner with a Ugandan ministry to build a three-story orphanage with the capacity to house 180 street children. She moved to Uganda after completing her B.A. degree from SMU with a major in journalism and a minor in political science. Her first orphanage project was completed in 2009 and was featured worldwide on CNN and in several publications.
While working on the orphanage in 2007, Underwood established the Akola Project, a nonprofit social business that offers women vocational training, education programs, employment opportunities, support groups and savings and loans associations. By providing sustainable skills and reliable income for women, the Akola Project has elevated over 1,200 women and children out of extreme poverty. Locally made, high-quality and fashionable products made by the women of the Akola Project have been sold in over 220 boutiques throughout the United States
Since 2004, Underwood’s organization has successfully built an orphanage home, drilled over 23 clean water wells in displaced communities, constructed two vocational training centers and created a thriving social business for women. Underwood received a master’s degree in intercultural studies from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, in 2013 and continues to devote herself to improving the lives of women and children as the founder and president of the Akola Project.