This post is going to serve two purposes...to tell you about 18 year old Elizabeth who I fell in love with in Otuboi, Uganda...and to tell you about how together with my friend Sam Henry and his organization HopeMongers we can help Elizabeth and other students just like her.
My week in Uganda ended on a high note for sure. Our very last stop was to visit Otuboi Secondary School. We were running a little late and when we got there, about 40 students who live at the school were sitting in the grass waiting for us. After meeting mostly younger kids all week long, this group of older kids was striking. They had a certain strength and beauty about them that I know I won't be able to explain properly. Most of them were boys but there were a few girls too. We shared with them what our hopes were for them in a formal presentation of sorts and got to meet the teachers of this school. Then we had some time to talk to the students and get to know them and the school a bit more. Don't they look joyful?!
Turns out that this school had been closed for periods of time because the Lord's Resistance Army had been active in the area and it wasn't safe for the children to walk to school etc. Due to the instability it was difficult to attract and maintain teachers. Most of the teachers I met weren't getting paid what they were supposed to because the funding isn't there. This leads to a problem of frequent turnover among staff because the pay isn't consistent, if at all. To the 40 or so students I met, this is problematic at many levels. Without teachers they obviously do not receive the education they need but they also lack the nurture, guidance and encouragement that the teachers provide. Almost all of the 40 students I met were orphans with no one else to care for them. The role of the teachers is so important because they really are parental figures. Here's the group of teachers that we met at the school:
They were so sweet and very clearly loved the students. And rightfully so! These kids were phenomenal. They had such good manners and were smiling and laughing - they had joy.
One of the girls caught my attention from the beginning and when I had the opportunity I asked if I could hear her story. She graciously agreed. Her name was Elizabeth. She shared with me that she had lost her mother to AIDS when she was six years old and that her father is no longer in her life because he was an alcoholic and abused her. Her life was very hard when she lost her mother at such a young age with no one to really care for her. It was a dark time for her. I asked her how she survived and made it through that and she said "I know God and I know that He is a Father to orphan and so He has taken care of me". Powerful. She said that she LOVED going to school and that her sister couldn't take care of her but tried to send her money for her school fees so she can continue to get an education.
I asked her what she wanted more than anything and her answer? To serve the Lord and be prayed for. And if she could have anything she would want a Bible to read. WOW!! I tried to encourage her but mostly I felt floored by her faith, her strength and her perspective. I told her that I could at least pray for her, so I wrapped my arm around her and prayed through my tears for sweet Elizabeth. The whole time I prayed she fervently agreed with me in prayer with "Yes, Lord" and "Hallelujah!". I was so moved by Elizabeth who was so firmly rooted in her relationship with God. It wasn't until the next day on the bus that I realized I had a Bible I could have given her. Thankfully, one of the Ugandan widows traveling with us said that she visits the school monthly and would take it to Elizabeth for me. So, I have such joy knowing that a Bible with her name on it and a letter to her is on its way to Elizabeth! Wish I could be there when she receives it!
Here is a picture of Elizabeth in their dark school room - literally the only light they get is the light that comes in the windows and I can tell you it's not much!! She just looks radiant, doesn't she?
So, enter my friend, Sam Henry and his new micro-giving organization, HopeMongers, which is launching today!! Sam traveled with us to find projects in Uganda that people like you might be interested in helping to fund. Great idea, huh? Here's a picture of Sam in the school at Otuboi getting his inspiration for one of those projects!
The cool thing about HopeMongers is that you don't have to just give to a general fund somewhere...you can pick a project that moves your heart, give to it and watch it all unfold. So cool!!! Well, one of the many HopeMongers projects in Uganda is to fund the teachers at Otuboi! Woo-hoo!! I could not be more thrilled with this choice because it will provide stability in so many ways for the children who attend this school which is SO important!! I would ask you to consider giving to this project if your heart is moved. The beautiful thing about Hopemongers is you can give anything from $10 on up - whatever you feel like giving. To give to this project simply click here.
Thanks for helping the children of Otuboi - you really are helping to change their lives!