Reaching Beyond My World

After learning about the homeless, starving, and diseased children in Uganda, I knew I had to do something.
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I'm doing something about this.

I penned these words in my journal in April of 2007. I had just attended Displace Me, a Nashville event put on by an organization called Invisible Children ( Five of my friends and I joined 3,000 others to experience a day in the life of a displaced person in northern Uganda, Africa. To symbolize Ugandans' homelessness, my friends and I sat in a cardboard hut eating saltine crackers.

During the event, we watched the documentary Invisible Children, which opened my eyes to what was happening in Uganda. I learned that, for more than 20 years, a man named Joseph Kony has been leading a rebel movement against the Ugandan government.

He raids and burns villages, only sparing the children so that he can abduct them to fight for his army. He has abducted an estimated 25,000 children. By being forced to randomly murder one another, these children are turned into ruthless killers. Young girls are turned into sex slaves for the commanders.

In an effort to separate rebels from civilians, the Ugandan government told its citizens to leave their homes and go to camps. Around 1.5 million currently live in these camps—and about 1,000 of them die weekly because of malnutrition, AIDS/HIV, and other preventable diseases.

I also learned that one of Northern Uganda's greatest needs is education. The filmmakers of Invisible Children talked about a program called Schools for Schools in which schools like mine can raise funds and awareness for a partner school in Northern Uganda.

After the event, I couldn't get the children off my mind. Proverbs 31:8-9 kept popping into my mind: "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy" (NIV). That's when I wrote in my journal that I had to take action.

I went straight to my school's principal to ask about starting a Schools for Schools program. He was hesitant. He thought the school should focus on needs in our own community. But as I persisted, he eventually changed his mind and even said, "The more I think about this, the more I think this would be a really good thing. It'll be good for students to see the needs beyond Dixon County."

At the first Schools for Schools meeting in September of my senior year, I set our fundraising goal at $10,000. From September to February, 20 students and I worked to raise money for our partner school, Lacor Secondary School. We held fundraisers such as dress-up dodgeball, T-shirt sales, bake sales, a raffle, a benefit concert, and a haunted house.

By January, we had raised $5,500, but we weren't sure we could raise the remaining $4,400. I started seeking donations from my community. We went to every business in town. I pleaded with my church and different service organizations to help us meet our goal. Our final total was $10,137.

In the meantime, I had learned about The Better Hour contest while reading a story about teen abolitionist Zach Hunter in a 2007 issue of Ignite Your Faith. The contest awards high school students for their service and honors the legacy of slave abolitionist William Wilberforce. I entered and ended up winning first place. I received an additional $10,000 to put toward our cause. I was so excited! The teacher who sponsored the Schools for Schools club and I couldn't help but think, Wow, God is completely blessing us.

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