In 1976 a student led movement for educational rights took to the streets of Soweto, South Africa. The young men and women were crying out for an education system to be available to them in their own language. Many children were killed during the demonstrations, including the leader, a young man by the name of Hector. I have had the honor of visiting the museum honoring these young crusaders in Soweto, the home of so many marginalized individuals in Johannesburg, South Africa. In the year 1991, the African Continent began to remember the struggle of these young heroes by creating The Day of the African Child, to be celebrated every year on the 16th of June.
Our team had the chance to be enveloped in the celebrations at two of our partner schools, Gulu PTC Demonstration Primary School, and Pageya Primary School, as we honored The Day of the African Child. Education is life to these children, it is the very thing that will propel them toward their dreams and a promising future. How fitting for us to give out our education grants to our partner schools today to help them make improvements to their campuses, and remove obstacles facing these amazing children. Our schools are using these funds to bring electricity to their schools, to boost their teacher salaries, to update classroom space, and even to start a piggery project. The African child was held high today at our partner schools through song, dance and drama and the sharing of cakes and shared community.
This date also marks a very special day in the life of our organization as it is the 3 year anniversary of our first FODU tournament held in Kampala back in 2012. At the time our organization employed only Jonathan Ssebambulide as our National Director, and our work was just beginning. Reminiscing with Jonathan today brought us so much joy as we stood in awe of what has been accomplished with a thousand simple acts of obedience to the convictions laid on our hearts and so many others in the U.S. and Uganda. To look out at the work we are now accomplishing and the seeds of hope that are being planted all across this beautiful nation can only be attributed to God’s hand on this work.
Just as our work has come full circle on this important date, the programming we are sharing with the children has come full circle as well. As an organization we take great pride in listening to the needs of the children we serve, and then responding appropriately. The FoDU team that was present in Uganda this past February to distribute hygiene kits heard countless stories of rape, defilement and bad touches from the young girls receiving our kits. It was heartbreaking to our team at the time, and we have responded by challenging the young men of their soil to be men of great character and integrity. The young men at our partner schools have been called to be men of INTEGRITY: to be Intelligent; Non-judgmental; Trustworthy; Eager to Serve; Generous; Respectful; In Control of Their Emotions; Thankful; and finally to be Yourself.
I had the task of addressing the cries of their sisters and talking with these young men candidly about rape and defilement during the Respectful portion of our workshops. Some boys giggled uncomfortably about the topic, while others looked back at me seriously having seen so much violence lived out before their very eyes. We shouted out together in unison, “The rape stops with us,” in hopes that they would become a new generation of Ugandans that can change the culture around sexual violence that has been instilled after 20 years of civil war. We shouted loudly, in hopes that the young women on their campuses heard that their friends and brothers are there to protect their rights and stand up for their futures. It makes no sense for us as an organization to push for girl empowerment, when we are not challenging the young men in ways that lift up these young woman as well. You simply cannot address the victim, and then ignore the perpetrators hoping that true change will take place.
I go to sleep tonight with mixed emotions. I am so proud of where our organization has come in the three short years we have been working in Uganda, and at the same time I am wondering what the next three years have in store for us. I am proud that we are empowering 6,000 children at our nine partner schools, but this is not the time for contentment. The needs here are great, and I invite anyone reading this to come and see this work with your own eyes, touch this work with your own hands, and have your heart broken for the beautiful children of Uganda. We need your help to continue our work. The reason we have seen such change in the children we are serving, is because so many of you have chosen to invest in our work. We thank you greatly as an organization, and I thank you as FoDU’s Executive Director. Our programs are changing lives for the better, and we need your hearts, your prayers, and your finances to continue the great work that we have been burdened to carry.
Thank you for your time and interest in our work!