Freebie Friday: Youth 4 Uganda

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Let me set the stage for you: it was October of 2007. It was the beginning of our 4th year in Boone. My husband was in school full-time. Our oldest child had just turned 10 and our second was 8 ½. Bringing up the rear, we had 19-month-old twins. I was working full-time in a tenure track position at ASU. In addition, I was dsc05138very involved in church and MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), and my children had hectic schedules with dance, scouts, music lessons and more. I considered it a success if the day ended and I hadn’t had a melt down, misplaced a child, yelled at my husband, or forgotten to pay a critical bill. We’ve all been there- basic survival.

My life was running on mommy overdrive and it was not the time to be dreaming, let alone entertain the idea of pursuing a dream. Or so I thought! God had other plans for me. You see, I had always dreamed of going to Africa. In fact, that dream was re-ignited when we moved to Boone because our neighbors live in Africa 10 months out of the year. During the summers, I would listen to all their stories and think, one day…..maybe…..probably not. The reality of my life always cut my dreams short: kids, work, family, bills…and the list went on.

dsc05114All that changed in October 2007 when I invited a man from Uganda to speak to one of my classes. I knew nothing about him but I was offered the chance to have him speak and, because my class was all about diversity, it seemed like a good idea. When he left the class that day my students were frenzied. They all wanted to go to Uganda and they wanted me to plan a trip soon. I knew nothing of how that was done but I promised them that I would inquire, assuming that it would be impossible to do it in the near future. After all, it’s ASU and there would be too much red tape. When I called the proper office, it was on the deadline to submit paperwork for travel with that academic year or following summer. But, she added, they were looking to have more travel to Africa and students were interested so I needed to cover over soon and they would help me get a trip together for the summer. Still skeptical, I made an appointment.

I was then faced with the challenge of introducing this idea to my husband. We had just watched “The Last King of Scotland”, a movie that chronicled Idi Amin’s brutality in Uganda. I wasn’t sure how to approach the subject, so I just spit it out. “What do you think about me going to Uganda?” My husband, who is usually cynical and skeptical of everything, responded calmly with a series of questions like, “When?” and “For how long?” The night ended with no objections to pursuing this idea.

To make a long story short, it takes most professors a year to 18 months to plan a study abroad trip. Six weeks after my guest speaker (which was later November 2007), I was prepared to begin accepting deposits for a trip that would leave the US that following May. So, in May of 2008, I left my husband home with 4 children (who were then 10, 9, 2 and 2) and took 10 college students to Uganda. My students ranged from age 19 to 26, one had never even flown before and I had never been to Africa. A recipe for disaster, right? Once again, God had other plans.

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The trip was life altering. There are no words to describe it. We spent 3 weeks working with a group called Youth Focus Africa Foundation (YOFAFO). We visited 5 rural villages and learned about all the development efforts in each village: animal husbandry project, microfinance programs, entrepreneurship support. We were welcomed into peoples lives and they opened up their homes and their hearts to us. My students’ mantra was “This isn’t the Africa you see on TV.” TV is full of images of violence and famine. Sure, we saw poverty. But we saw it in the context of pride and hard work.

My oldest daughter, Rayanna, who was 10 at the time worked hard and sent 150 lbs of donated clothing with us and we delivered those clothes to a village filled with children who were orphaned by AIDS. She also collected enough money to buy 5 pigs that were donated to the animal husbandry project. My students, some of whom had never done any physical labor, built the frames for 9 outhouses. They worked long and hard, alongside residents of the village, and were very proud to see the fruit of their labor but were frustrated that we did not have time to do more.

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It was not all work. We were able to bask in the glory of God’s creation. We went rafting on the Nile River. (How many people can say they did that!). We also went on a safari. We crossed over the equator. And yes, water really does drain clockwise on one side and counter clockwise on the other. Uganda is called “The Pearl of Africa” and, by the time we left, we had no doubt as to why.

As soon as I returned I knew that I had to go back. ASU officials were doubtful that we’d have enough students to make this an annual trip but I had faith. Given the economic twists and turns, it was slow recruiting and I become doubtful. But God remained faithful and in May of 2009, I’ll be taking 8 students, 1 ASU staff member and my oldest daughter.

The struggles we’ve faced in planning have inspired me to pursue starting my own nonprofit, Youth 4 Uganda. I am in the process of getting nonprofit status but the groundwork is already laid.

I am also thrilled that this time, my daughter will travel with us and she plans to lead art activities in the elementary schools and my students will plan a variety of experiences to share with our hosts. This group will also have the opportunity to raft on the Nile and go on a safari.

Just think- this started out as just a glimpse of dream and in a flash, it’s an annual event. Uganda is a part of my daily life, my thoughts, and my long range plans. More importantly, I’ve been given this vision to share what I found there with as many young people as possible.

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Join Usborne Books for a Charity Booke Sale, to benefit the new library in Uganda!

During this trip, one of our main projects will be starting a library in Kampala. One of my new friends in Uganda, Jon, sent me a moving blog entry that described the need for helping Ugandans develop a culture of reading. I had already dreamed of starting a library and Jon’s blog was just the confirmation I needed that this is indeed the time. As if that wasn’t enough, Sarah (founder of the Mom Squad) was thinking of having an Usborne Book party and we’ve joined forces to do a charity sale. Furthermore, our Usborne Books consultant, Jennifer Lawrence, has agreed to donate some books to the library.

Join us on March 24th for our Usborne Charity Book sale. It starts at 5:30 and will be held at Living Water Christian Fellowship in Boone (located across from the Wellness Center and beside the bowling alley). Bring in your gently used books and get free shipping on your order. Don’t forget, the one who bring the most books also gets a 10% discount.

To find out more out my budding nonprofit, Youth 4 Uganda, and to see a calendar of our upcoming fundraisers, go to www.youth4uganda.com

This week’s Freebie Friday will be a set of jewelry made by Ugandan women!

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Here’s how to enter:

  • Visit Youth4Uganda.com and choose which fundraising event sounds the best to you  (this is not a commitment)
  • Leave a comment on this post, sharing the answer.

For extra entries:

  • RSVP for the Usborne Book Sale on Tuesday, March 24th (in a comment on this post)
  • Share this giveaway by Facebook or blog.
  • Leave a comment if you are a subscriber to High Country Mom Squad.  (click here for daily updates, or enter your email address in the box at the top of the page for weekly newsletter)

Added by Sarah:

  • Leave a comment wishing Tiffany a Happy Birthday!!!

5 entries per family please.  Contest will be open through Sunday, March 22, and will be announced Monday..


Comments

  1. I love books so I think the Usborne party sounds great! Of course, the Cici’s night sounds pretty cool too!

  2. subscriber

  3. I will be attending the Usborne book sale.

  4. Happy Birthday my sweet friend!

  5. Tiffany, I am proud to consider you a friend… what an amazing cause!!!
    The jewelry looks beautiful, and I would be thrilled to be the winner of this amazing freebie!!
    I think the African Arts Festival sounds like a blast! Wish I could make it, but I will be out of town… I’ll be sure to hit up Cicis and BYB, and do my best to be at the book sale!

  6. subscriber (and contributor)

  7. facebook

  8. Happy Birthday, Tiffany! I hope it is a great one!

  9. What an amazing thing you’re doing! I will try and make it to CiCi’s and the book sale for sure! I will come by your bake sale too!!

  10. RSVPing to the book sale!

  11. Shared on facebook!

  12. Mom Squad subscriber!

  13. Happy Birthday Tiffany! I hope you have/had a fabulous day!

  14. Happy birthday!!!

  15. subscriber

  16. I want to support your efforts every way I can! Going to bookmark your site so I won’t forget. I’m also going to try to get to the booksale and will bring some books from our collection to it.

  17. I enjoyed the last Back Yard Burger fundraiser Tiffany & Rayanna had & I am looking forward to the next one! I’ll probably have to help myself to some of Tiffany’s goodies at the Bake Sale! She’s a great cook!
    Thanks!

  18. I am going to do my best to be at the book sale on Tuesday.

  19. I just added this to FB.

  20. I’m a subscriber.

  21. Happy Birthday, Tiff (and Rayna & Rayland)! Love you!