Our Vision Team had a very sobering day visiting some possible future partners in Gulu, Northern Uganda. We had a very early start, to ensure that the five hour drive North did not eat up to much of our day. The scenery was both beautiful and a constant reminder that we were leaving the big city of Kampala far behind us. I believe that the entire team enjoyed a chance to rest up a bit during our drive as we got to share in life, dream about the future of Fields of Dreams, and laugh a lot together. Although we saw a few accidents along the way of our journey, we arrived at our housing in Gulu with plenty of time to make the rounds to our meetings at possible future partners.
We enjoyed a wonderful time at the Restore Academy, a secondary school that is doing a wonderful job caring for their students. Our team had the opportunity to talk with the head teacher, girl’s soccer coach, and a few of their star athletes. The character and resolve that these students were expressing was inspiring to the entirety of our team. One of the young women we talked to was 17 year old Nancy Olcott, who has the dream of competing in the 2016 Olympics in the javelin. If you had been present during our conversation, you would have thought that she had already received a personal invitation from the Olympic Committee. We are very impressed with the good work that this school is doing, and we are already thinking of many practical ways that we can inspire hope in these children, and the dreams they have for their lives.
I was reminded during our time in Gulu how healing sports can be to a child and/or adults alike. And the beauty of sports is that the ripple effect often has an uncontrollable reach. I couldn’t help but think of Hurricane Katrina, the impact and devastating destruction that it had on the Gulf; and in many ways it was the NFL Saints that brought healing, hope, and a rally cry to New Orleans and the surrounding communities. There have been 25 years of evil unleashed on this part of the globe, and I can say in confidence, that the beautiful game of soccer can bring healing, hope, and a fresh start to the Acholi people.
We spent the rest of our afternoon visiting a possible partner in the form of a Sports Center for children, and we also got a history lesson from The Primary Teachers School in Gulu. As we sat down with Madame Grace, we learned that the school grounds were used to house the night commuters and their families during the height of the LRA’s reign in this region. The school would become a safe sleeping ground at night, as thousands of people would flood this campus using the desks, chairs, and even the books for kindling to keep them warm and help them cook their food. Although the night commuters are now back in their homes and villages it is obvious that a great need remains in the form of hope. Madame Grace shared with our team that she fully believed that our program would touch every child at her school.
Our leadership were hit with the realization that the time to act in Northern Uganda is now. The needs are simply too great. It is an injustice to compare the lives of any two orphans, and the needs in Northern Uganda and in Kampala are both great. Our programs are already producing results in the capital city, and we are resolved to do everything in our power to ensure that Fields of Dreams Uganda has a presence in theNnorth in the near future. But we cannot do this alone. We need the help of all of our supporters. We need to lean on the gifts, both financially and physically of the people that are reading this post, and feel a tug to get involved and act on behalf of these children who refuse to keep dreaming.
As our day came to a close our team members had the honor of sitting down with a local Gulu woman to hear a bit of her story of perseverance. This incredibly strong woman shared in detail her multiple abductions; the brutal murder of her father and mother at the hands of the LRA; and the impossible task of having to raise her siblings alone at the age of ten, just after dressing the mutilated body of her mother as she buried her in the red soil of Uganda. Our team members no longer need to think of the movie clips, or books on Uganda, but instead their Uganda has a new face, a new name, and new story, and it ends in HOPE. As the executive director for this incredible organization I am determined now more than ever to make sure hope is restored throughout Uganda. The time to act is now. The time to give everything we have to a cause that is much greater than ourselves is now.
I am forever grateful to the first ever Vision team that has accompanied me on this journey. Their companionship has been both a blessing and an encouragement. I cannot thank the family and friends of these individuals enough for their tremendous support and understanding. I hope and pray that many of you reading this would consider coming to this incredible country with us in the future, to help restore hope to a land that has seen far too much suffering.
~ Mike Warneke