In June I’ll be spending a month in Gulu, Uganda volunteering with Restore International at the Restore Leadership Academy, a school populated by orphans, former child soldiers and other children in need who possess leadership potential. In case you’re not yet familiar with the work of Restore International, here’s their mission statement, “Our goal is simple: to fight injustice. Restore International seeks to find daring and audacious ways to combat human rights violations, including forced prostitution and slave labor. Instead of just talking about it, we want to be actively seeking ways to bring hope, justice, and restoration.” Definitely my kind of organization.
Here’s the thing, while I may very well be audacious, I’m not the least bit daring AT ALL, but back in December, I felt God stirring me to make use of my summer in a new way. Usually I have a big bike adventure, raising money for LiveStrong or some other worthy cause, but this summer I’m taking on a whole different kind of adventure. After watching a video about two regular guys from the Pacific Northwest who built an entire school campus for the academy out of dirt, I knew I wanted to be part of the work Restore International is doing.
But what did I have to offer? I’m not a foreman or an architect who can create a school. Trust me, you do not want children occupying a school built by me! I’m not a lawyer or political leader who can help change laws. I’ve got three skills. I teach. I write. I ride my bike really far, albeit very slowly. Really, I’ve only got two and a half skills at best. Apparently that’s enough because an idea began to take form in my mind and heart.
What if I ventured to Uganda and helped the students write their stories? What if I published their stories in a book, with all of the proceeds of book sales going back to the school?
All of a sudden it felt like all my summers with the Northern California Writing Project learning to teach children to love writing were coming to a pinnacle at that very moment. I could use my heart for writing with kids to help these children write their own stories. With a pounding heart and trembling fingers, I emailed my idea to Restore International’s founder.
Then I waited to hear back from Restore. I waited to feel confirmation from God that this was what I was meant to do. And then I waited some more. I waited for weeks.
I didn’t hear a thing.
Then it struck me, chances are if I wasn’t hearing God, it wasn’t because he wasn’t speaking-it was because I wasn’t listening. So I did a daring thing.
I turned off my television for 10 days.
I know it doesn’t sound very daring, but for me it was. I decided that for 10 days, I would actively pray and listen for direction. In the third day of my fast from television, the founder of Restore International emailed me back. He loved my project idea and specifically wanted me to work with students at their academy in Gulu, the very same academy that had been built from just dirt. I was thrilled and began to plan the details of my project and trip.
Since that time, Northern Uganda and the Ugandan children have received a lot of press about the oppression inflicted by Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army. In a time when many people are voicing opinions about the turmoil in Uganda, I know that now is the right time for me to go and help give voice to the stories of the students of Restore Leadership Academy, to let their stories speak for themselves.
I tell you this story for two reasons, dear reader. First of all, if you’d like to support my trip, please make a donation here or click the photo and link at the top right of this page. Your donations will pay for writing supplies for the students, travel accommodations, and most importantly your donations will allow me to publish the stories of the students and give each student author a copy of their book.
Secondly, I’ll be using my blog to write about my adventure in Uganda. So for the next couple of months I’ll primarily be writing about my trip, including preparations, funny stories (because there are sure to be many), and the work I get to do on the trip itself. However, I do hope to rent a bicycle once I’m in Uganda, so while most of my stories will be on the Pencils side of things, I hope to have some wonderful Pedals stories to tell as well.
Thank you so much for your generosity and support. I look forward to sharing stories from Uganda with you.