Category Archives: Giving Back

Causes of note

Reflecting on Pulse ~ By One Pissed-off Christian Lady

Pulse

It took a few days to do this. It took a few days because deep within my sadness the responses I saw flying across my newsfeed sickened me; physically took the steam out of me. Weeping in my own wine does not accomplish much. Much of what I have learned on my journey with Job demands that I do more – far more. So, here we go.

The events of June, 12, 2016 in Orlando, Florida are not the product of Reason A, or Reason B, or some other simplistic, easy fix, “if only” cause. It was an event that was a culmination of many factors; all of which we share in to one degree or another. Humans do not like to think beyond the binary; it is hard work. To actually accept responsibility for tragedy is a whole different kettle of fish. There were many factors that left 50 cell phones ringing, unanswered, on a bloodied dance floor.

It is not productive to choose among the many in order to gain admittance to the wake. It is not acceptable to exclude a facet of the blood-covered stone to create a better setting for your own agenda. First, and foremost, it is about the arrogant turpitude that allows us to pick and choose those causes that best fit our own agenda. These are my picks, and there is nothing simple about them.

It’s about LBGT

No, you don’t get off the hook. You are not allowed to push this down (actually up, if you know your Native American lore) the totem. Whatever his future plans may have been, the perp saw a few guys kissing, and went ballistic. He targeted a gay club on a busy night and during a time of celebration. Word has it that it was a club that he, himself, had visited.

Did he think Americans would not care? That they might even thank him? Part of what sickened me this week is the number of pastors, and professed Christians, that stepped up to say that it was God’s judgment on the gays. Or that it was a good thing all those pedophiles were gone. (There is a vast difference, and I ought to know). Men who professed a belief in God who stood in front of congregations, and, while insisting that they did not advocate murder, suggested we should not grieve. Were there many? I have no clue. It is horrible enough that even one blasphemed his or her pulpit with this venom. They are no better than Mateem’s father who said his son should have left the murders to God.

It’s about religious fanaticism

The true believer, according to Eric Hoffer, needs the movement more than the movement needs him or her. Sometimes we cannot be driven to our worst (or our best) unless we perceive something greater than ourselves that demands it. Not always a superior being, sometimes just the mob, the organization, the belonging. But we, we of western civilized culture, do not come to the bar with clean hands. Not only is human history soaked in the blood of “others,” we light the fire brighter every time we choose to hate. Defend, yes. Hate, no thank you. Hatred changes you and takes away all that is human. Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu: it really does not matter. The founders of these faiths all spoke of something beyond the faith. Something intrinsically human. We are all selling our sacred heritage short if we choose to use it as a sword, rather than a way to support.

It’s about terrorism, domestic, foreign, and familial

If only. If only he had been dealt with when the charges of domestic violence floated around. If only the FBI had kept closer tabs, if only. If only McVey had not allowed himself to be egged on; if only there had been better communication before 9-11. When are we going to learn that we are part of the problem? If you believe the current administration is soft on terror you are sorely mistaken. Over the past 7.5 years Bin Laden is not the only target taken down. But these people don’t brag. They don’t occupy us with cheerleaders. They don’t stir up the hornets’ nest by blasting every victory across the headlines. They quietly, and efficiently, dismantle the knots of venom. The truly evil are being sought out. The war is with them, not your Muslim neighbor.

Sometimes we do win. Neighbors saw suspicious activity and reported it to police and police responded. A man from Indiana, a mid-western, white boy, was on his way to create mayhem at a Pride parade. But he was stopped. Countless other “almost events” have been stopped over the past several years. So, sometimes – whatever the threat – everything works as it should.

It’s about guns

I’m not against guns. I’m really not. I have, actually, used them and I’m not a bad shot. But, here’s the thing. We need a conversation about what is appropriate. I did some research (that’s what I do) and the AR-15 is not, I repeat not, a military-grade assault weapon. It is a modified, semi-automatic rifle that can be altered to accept a magazine of up to 100 bullets. As a semi-auto, it can be fired as quickly as the shooter can compress the trigger. One clip from Sunday morning records 20 shots within a 9 second interval. If you are going to talk about gun responsibility, and still preserve rights, then it is a good idea to know what the hell you are talking about.

Should citizens be armed with this capacity? I saw a meme float across my feed that froze my soul. “The problem was not the one bad guy with a gun, but the 103 without one.” Really? Please for the sake of all that is holy can someone tell me they don’t really believe this? Think about filling a room of over a hundred people, dancing to loud music, some of whom are at varying degrees of intoxication, and arm them. Then flip the panic button. What are the odds that the right guy gets shot, and that anyone walks out alive?

There are several timelines of the events available on line. I have relied on police reports to sort out the order. Just after 2 AM Mateen entered the club and started shooting. An off duty officer in the employ of the club immediately engaged the shooter and called for backup. Not long after backup arrives, Mateen barricades himself in one of the bathrooms and calls 911. Then he starts talking about bombs and ISIS. Swat, having already been onsite, breaches the building, and takes him down. Regaining control took a team of trained, prepared police officers, with all of the equipment available to them (including Kevlar helmets). The “good guy with a gun” was not able to control the situation; even though he was right on top of it. Some people I know might have been able to drop the perp in his tracks before he got very far. I’m not sure they are the type of folks that would have been in a gay bar at 2 in the morning.

If you are trying to protect yourself from the government I have a secret to tell you – they have drones, and black helicopters, and bigger bombs than you. If you are trying to protect your family in an event such as Sunday morning suggests? Then be trained, be smart and don’t complain when folks with appropriate credentials want to know where those weapons are and who had them last.

 

And here is the punch line. If you really, sincerely, want to be part of the solution. If you want to make sure that nutcases are not able to use hatred and turmoil to achieve their goals, if you want to be the humanitarian, the Christian, the believer you profess to be, then do something with value.

Stop “loving the person and hating the sin” and just love the person. Educate yourself about the LBGT community, and the issues they face. It is not a choice, people. All of the colors of the rainbow involve a complex combination of hormones, brain patterns, physiology, and plain old fashioned self-image.

If you want to be intolerant, be intolerant of violence, be it domestic, work place, any place. Do not let monsters grow in our midst. Get them help, or get them somewhere safer for us all.

Support those in desperate need. Please check before you give. I know of one GoFundMe that raised some $3,509,556 as of noon PT Tuesday. Find a way to put motion into your rhetoric; motion that says you really do care. Not just for gays, for every human soul that crosses your path. Be the change you want to see.

#onepulse
#BreakTheBox

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Reflections ~ Interesting Insights on Years Gone By

There is something about spring that invigorates a person. Or maybe it’s the end of the tax return pile. Whatever the case may be, I have begun to attack the pile of papers in my garage – with a vengeance.

In the interest of time, I have started with my archives of financial records. You do not want to know how far back this stuff goes – really. It can’t just be thrown away, it must be sorted and shredded – everything with a number, name, or address, must be converted into parade confetti. I chose to start with the financial records because, quite frankly, I could quote the record retention rules in my sleep. There are a few extenuating circumstances in my history, but, for the most part, the general rules hold. This means I can whip through these boxes with relative abandon. Unlike my husband’s records, I do not have to spend time deciding if I keep, scan, or convert something to unrecognizable ash. Nor do I have to decide if a pile of documents should be sent off to some company archivist.

There is a point to this meandering and that point has to do with the shredding of a few decades of a person’s life. Watching things disappear into the blades of the shredder can be therapeutic, disheartening, and sometimes sad. Here are some of the things I am remembering/discovering about the person that was, and is, me.

Sometimes arguments cannot be resolved. No matter how hard you try, some people will never understand why you will or will not do or say some particular thing they feel so very important. Newsflash — it isn’t important anymore. Why was there so much hurt wrapped up in the struggle?

I never thought of myself as an activist; I’m discovering that when things touch me in some important way I am very much so, and have been for a long time. Among the debris of so many years was a record of how I responded to one of the worst fire seasons Western Montana has ever suffered. The photo with this post was taken during the August 2000 fire in the Bitterroot National Forest. I honestly don’t recall if that was the same year that so much of the forests in Sanders and Kootenai Counties were in flames. There were three things I undertook to change or to help alleviate the burden our fires imposed.

Bitterroot National Forest, Montana, August 6, 2000. Photo by John McColgan working for the Fairbanks, Alaska division of the Forest Service. The photo is public domain.

Bitterroot National Forest, Montana, August 6, 2000. Photo by John McColgan working for the Fairbanks, Alaska division of the Forest Service. The photo is public domain.

One was to find a way to help those that were accepting animals from areas burned or in danger of going up in flames. I contacted the Purina headquarters and they contacted their area distributors to mount a campaign to help reduce or eliminate the cost of feeding the four-legged refugees. One of the ranches accepting animals from all over the state called me personally to thank me.

Another thing I did was to contact Habitat for Humanity to ask them at the national level to look at the possibility of helping those who had lost their homes to the flames. Most people in Western Montana are pretty independent folks, and if helping someone raise a house or a barn was part of what was needed, then, well, let’s just get it done. I’m not sure if this initiative went very far. I think it was inherent in their policies that the person in need contact them.  They did make sure that the local chapter made their presence known.

Next I see that I wrote a long and impassioned letter to some government official, with FEMA, I believe. The letter was impassioned but it was also thoroughly researched. For whatever reason the federal agencies engaged in fighting the fires had decided that it was an actionable crime to assist in the firefighting unless you were certified and part of their crews. In Western Montana that meant that many logging and ranching families, with the appropriate equipment, and intimate knowledge of the lay of the land, were commanded to stand down. Even if their solution could stop another 1,000 acres or so igniting while they awaited “appropriate response.” This was a fire season so devastating that multiple agencies could provide no more help than 1 person per 100 acres in flames. I personally knew many families who, forced out of the field of battle, drew back, and simply fought for their own homes and acreage. Mandatory evacuation was not an option, it was a battle cry.

There are other bits and pieces. Things I volunteered for, people I contacted in hopes of matching up a need with a solution. For instance, finding a research program for a friend whose child had a rare form of epilepsy. All from my desk on the outskirts of a tiny town in Western Montana. No money, just a phone (on dial-up internet), some skill at putting thoughts together in a logical, impassioned order, and an apparent talent for finding people to talk to.

I guess I haven’t changed all that much. I may have better tools, better resources, a more mature sense of immediacy; but I still see my primary mission in life as finding a solution to problems. It’s not all that hard to give a bit of time here and there. We all have experiences that can help other folks. Very often we know of someone, somewhere who just might know how to fix a particular problem, or knows someone who can. Just make sure you know when to say “no” or nothing gets done. Believe me, I’ve been there, too.

Be a presence in the world that draws those who need you and your unique skills. Be the solution you want to see. Someday as you sit in front of a shredder, such things may give you hope that the fight is worth the effort.

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Reflections ~ Nothing is ever Black or White

New Year’s Eve, 2015. The end of a year with so many major changes in my life it is a bit like starting over. At my age that can be a crazy mix of invigorating and frightening. At this point I am well on the way to completing a manuscript I have been actively working on for around three years, using material I have gathered for decades. There is much work to follow, editing, graphics, covers, credits, permissions and all of the steps to getting a book ready for the market. It is good, however, to be this close.

There are other things. I am learning, day by day, to be “me” rather than “us,” even though so much of my husband permeates my home and my heart. I am getting settled into a new home with all the attendant worries and hopes; no longer dependent on a landlord to “fix stuff,” but fully responsible for setting priorities and sorting out the best way to accomplish end goals. A move, from a busy metropolitan center to a clump of smaller, coastal towns. A sorting out of where I am with my interests and how I can best contribute to their success. A year so full, and yet I found time to become more adamant, more vocal, on things that mean so much to me.

New Year’s Eve I stayed home. Dealing with the last vestiges of a rather rough cold, I turned down an invitation and curled up on my couch to look for a couple of free movies to fill the evening. And I came upon a 2014 movie staring Reese Witherspoon called, The Good Lie. While researching the film for this blog I found that, as in all things related to the heart, things are not black and white.

the-good-lie-poster

 

 

 

“Miracles are made by people who refuse to stop believing.”

 

 

 

In broad strokes, it is a movie about the children of the Sudan who were orphaned by the civil war, some of whom were pressed in to military service and escaped. Tens of thousands of these refugees became part of the growing “city” of Kakuma, a refugee camp in Kenya. Thousands of children walked for miles (as far as 1,000) to reach relative safety in first Ethiopia and then Kenya. Once they arrived, they spent years, if not decades, waiting for someplace else to be. A few of the stars of this movie are refugees or the children of refugees. The scenes and stories from the film are more than acting for them; it is their story.

The program that was put in place to provide refugee status in the US had many restrictions. Immigrants had to find jobs fairly quickly, and the girls had to be placed with families. All of them required sponsors and many churches and faith-based initiatives took the challenge. They arrived with little knowledge of the culture and a reasonable understanding of English. Many of them were devout Christians with an African flavor of worship. It was anything but easy. The title of the movie comes from a class assignment in an evening English class, the reading of Huckleberry Finn. The Good Lie, is a point in the story when Huck lies about the status of Jim; because he would rather his friend be safe than to collect the reward for a runaway slave. To save his friend he lied. If I tell you more I will spoil the movie.

That program was shut down after 9-11. In fact, even those refugees that were in country were unable to move across state lines because they came from a terrorist state. Good ol’ American ingenuity – blaming the victims for the crime. And, that is where things get messy. Some of the story line was derived from background and interviews provided by refugees in the Atlanta, Georgia area. In the process of providing that information, they claim they were promised co-authorship of the movie and a suit is now in place against the producers. As of early 2015 it was still an active court case.

The film does provide access to a foundation called TheGoodLieFoundation. I was not able to find a lot of information about how much of their proceeds go to helping those still in Kenya or those who have found a place to live elsewhere. It does appear that they partner with UNICEF. I was able to find that the population of the Kakuma camp is now over 100,000 displaced persons. Due to the war, the life blood of these peoples, agriculture, cannot be pursued. That is building to humanitarian catastrophe of national proportions.

So, what is the point of my meanderings? Whatever challenges I have faced in the past year, or even throughout my life, I have learned that the only answer to disaster, grief, and evil itself is true concern for my fellow beings and the desire to rebuild. We have a world filled with people in need, people who are suffering, people who need so little – and we have so much. Including a great deal of fear. We are certain that every unknown is out to destroy us– every starving child is out to steal from us. Certain, that if we welcome those in need, somewhere in that group is someone out to murder us in our sleep. So much for “God will protect us.”

It is a very dangerous world and there are people who would like nothing more than to see us, or any number of other boogeymen, in a smoldering heap. I am here to tell you that does not matter. Should we take reasonable precautions to protect ourselves? Most certainly. Should those precautions kick the needy to side of the road? Absolutely not. Whether or not you follow the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions, I ask that you do one thing. Make a commitment be part of the solution. Do not throw money at the problems of the world unless you first check out where, exactly, it is going. But more than that, be the bright spot. Smile more often. Offer a helping hand in some way to someone with whatever you can give, even if it is only time. Time is rather precious, you know. We only have so much of it.

I leave you with an African proverb: To go fast, go alone. To go far, go together.

Be the change you want to see.

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Perk News for 2013 Songs of Kiguli: Museum for African Art Donates Book

One of the advantages of working with a project that reaches across the borders of countries and cultures is the opportunity to meet other people passionate about their interests.  This is what we found in the Museum for African Art located in New York City.  In response to our plea for support they offered up their catalog and said, “Pick something.”  We believe we found a treasure that expressed what we were trying to accomplish and did so within the spirit of our project.  We selected a wonderful book entitled Personal Affects: Power & Poetics in Contemporary South African Art.

personal_affectsStraight from the catalog description the “artworks represent artists’ responses to a week-long stay in New York and visits with the international team of curators. The common thread throughout the exhibition is the highly personal point of departure of their working methods, informed by their varied experiences as South Africans.”

Participating artists include Jane Alexander, Wim Botha, Steven Cohen, Churchill Madikida, Thando Mama, Mustafa Maluka, Jay Pather, Johannes Phokela, Robin Rhode, Claudette Schreuders, Berni Searle, Doreen Southwood, Samson Mudzunga, Clive van den Berg, Minnette Vari, Diane Victor, and Sandile Zulu. Exhibition catalogue with Introduction by curators David Brodie, Laurie Ann Farrell, Churchill Madikida, Sophie Perryer, and Liese van der Watt, and essays: The Enigma of the Rainbow Nation: Contemporary South African Art at the Crossroads of History by Okwui Enwezor, Towards an ‘Adversarial Aesthetics’: A Personal Response to Personal Affects by Liese van der Watt, and artist interviews by Tracy Murinik.

Published by the Museum for African Art, New York and Spier, Cape Town. September 2004. 176 pp.

It is through art (and writing) that our species expresses those things which touch us most deeply, that give rise to all that is good, and bad, within us.  It is how we convey emotion and thought across language and cultural barriers.  Understanding the power of the word and art will prepare the students of Kiguli for a lifetime of successful leadership in their homes, communities, and perhaps their nation and the world.

The museum book is part of a package making up the perk for a $100 donation to 2013 Songs of Kiguli.  We labeled this perk “Hill of Antelopes” which is taken from the name of the capital city, Kampala (Kasozi Kempala). Won’t you join us in supporting a cause that gives us an opportunity to reach out, person to person, and help build a better world?  Just one more thing, helping to pull this project together will make the smiles on nearly 700 children that much more bigger and brighter!

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Stop by our fundraiser and check out all of our perk packages.  We only have 6 days to go.  We have received dozens and dozens of complements on the project and the work to date.  That, of course, is appreciated.  It is time, however, to back up all that praise with a bit of cash.  Help us deliver on a promise to light up a corner of Africa with poetry and music.

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When Poetry Makes a Difference

Why is a book of poetry, The Songs of Kiguli so terribly important to bright and inquiring minds living in the rural areas of Uganda?

1236165_10200400083191948_1324088671_nThe Kiguli Army School was originally founded to provide an inexpensive education to the children of soldiers in the Ugandan Army.  At inception it was registered as a Universal Primary Education school or UPE.  UPEs were set up by the government of Uganda to provide free primary-level education to children across the country.  Registration does not mean that the operating costs of the school are covered.  Books, stationary, school meals, and much of the salaries paid to teachers and administrators are not covered.

The cost of teacher salaries was not supported by the government until 2001 since the ministry of education had difficulty locating the registration number.  From the organization of the school until 2001, the teachers were paid out of the army’s “Rational Cash Allowance (RCA).  This is a fund providing small stipends for soldiers.

In 2002 things began to change for the better.  Luwero Industries, Ltd. Provided a location for the school and constructed 4 classroom blocks.  With this contribution came more students from the families of workers at Luwero.  The school is now providing education to the Nakasongola military fraternity and the children of Luwero workers.  The school is able to keep the contribution required from the families to a reasonable amount due to the proximity of the campus to corporate housing, local villages, and the homes of the fraternity.

“Reasonable cost,” of course, is a relevant term.  Education is being provided with the materials at hand.  But the school desperately needs a number of items not covered by the government, fraternity or corporate support.  Many of the students travel some 4 km to and from school. Reliable transportation is required to and from athletic events.  A maintenance vehicle is needed as well as repairs to the original buildings.  A library has been started and it is in need of more inventory.  The expanding school could also use more space.  The teachers and the administrators would like to see the school lunch program expanded.

It is true that the sale of this little book of poetry, along with its companion DVD and the 2012 edition, will help raise funds to support the projects required by the school.  PDMI Publishing, LLC, is doing its best to build the kind of marketing program that will generate the required interest in this project.  But there is far, far more.  One short review of the thank yous that flow from this rather large school give you some idea of the impact the simple act of publishing can have on the spirits of the students themselves.  Although the poems show that they are already far along the road of understanding the circumstances of their country and the world, this book gives them the sense that they have the power to change things for the better.  Something THEY do can have an impact.  Won’t you join us in training and inspiring the next generation of thoughtful, compassionate leaders of this African nation?

Check out the web page and the Facebook link on my side bar.

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Qwela ~ The Rhythm of Uganda

Here we go with another article in my series about the 2013 Songs of Kiguli project.

The 2013 edition of Songs of Kiguli will be released by PDMI Publishing early this fall. There will also be a DVD with footage of the school and of the students reading their own poetry.  In addition, Qwela has graciously agreed to support the project with their music.  Qwela is a band from Kampala, Uganda with a “unique afro-fusion flavor of music.”  Qwela means pure in rukiga, which is one of Uganda’s ethnic languages.

Although influenced by western culture, members of the band were raised in traditional African families.  Their work is original and it fuses the traditions of their culture with western styles such a jazz and reggae. The mix is their own special interpretation of Uganda and its people.

Qwela small

Qwela formed in 2007 and started their career by producing their own versions of popular contemporary music.  As they grew in their art, so did their repertoire.  Now they produce their own music and are a featured act with a following.  In addition to the influence of jazz and reggae, the band draws on inspiration from rumba, blues, gospel and afro-soul rhythms and sounds.  The band’s music blends African rhythms and melodies with socially conscious lyrics that support and illuminate stories with a message.

Qwela’s mission is to help bring about positive change in the hearts of those living in Uganda and those around the world.  When you visit their page on Reverbnation you should note that 50% of the proceeds from their music go to World Vision.  For these reasons, and many others, they made a perfect match for the Songs of Kiguli project.  Their music speaks directly to the lives, dreams, hopes, and needs of the children in the Kiguli Army School.  They express the heart of the project in song.  Selected music, lyrics and videos can be found on Reverbnation, Qwela.

The trailer for the 2013 Songs of Kijuli uses a clip from Mwana Wangye, “My Child,” the DVD will contain the cut in its entirety:

They say that we can’t make it
but they don’t know who we are
they say that we can’t do it
but they don’t know where we’re from

Iwe mwana wanje we
iwe mwana wanje
Iwe mwana wanje

When I was young my daddy taught me
he said son, here’s the secret to success in life
he said find that thing which you can do best
and just give it your very best shot

Qwela and The Songs of Kiguli are doing just that.

Another piece that will be on the DVD is the story of Okello, a child kidnapped from a burning village to become a warrior in war that is not his.  The tale and the music are haunting.

His little feet are burning
On the hot desert soil
barely hours since the village burnt down
and now he’s taken prisoner
this little dreamer village boy
dreamt of being a football star
now marched by army rebels
to fight a war that is not his

Okello Okello
Imitu bedingo
Okello Okello

Forced into brutality
He was a child no more
He learnt to kill
learnt how to fight
learnt how to survive
but deep in his heart remains
the dream that would not die
and every day he went to sleep at night
he could hear the voices in his mind
they’re saying

First chance to be free
should I run or should I stay
but his little feet start running
cuz he can hear his mama say

“Ati na ba
wi pe wiliba
Akaniyo diluni
dwong pachuba

Okello Okello
Running through the night
Okello Okello
Oh he ran with all his might
Okello Okello
running for his life
Okello Okello
and now he’s free
Okello Okello
free to run
Okello Okello
free to live
Okello Okello
to live his dream

The last piece is a beautiful song written in the native tongue. The video shows a family day of being together, enjoying the outdoors, a picnic, just being family.  The chorus soothes with the sounds of a lullaby,

Don’t you cry, Mama tokaaba saying, everything is gonna be alright, it’s gonna be alright, it’s gonna be okay.

For the DVD , PDMI Publishing will wrap these beautiful pieces around the vision of primary school students who are doing their best to change their lives, their community, and someday their country.  Won’t you help us?  Donations can be as low as $1.00 and all of the perks carry the theme of Africa and education. Learn more about the power of poetry at the links below:

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/2013-edition-of-songs-of-kiguli

https://www.facebook.com/SongsofKiguli

https://www.facebook.com/events/338374329634484/

https://www.facebook.com/PDMIPublishing

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Inspiration ~ What a poem can do

The school:

Kiguli Army primary school is populated by 687 students. These students come from diverse backgrounds, experience and lifestyle.  Mostly, they are dependents or orphans of the Ugandan military fraternity. The school can be found on the hinterland closest to the shores of Lake Kyoga, Uganda. Lake Kyoga is a freshwater lake that supports several landing sites and fishing communities from which many a Kiguli student hails. Some of the children’s parents work in the Ministry of Defense ordnance factory called Luwero Industries Limited. The school has thus been made the centerpiece of the company’s corporate social responsibility plan due to filial as well as patriotic links. The school is also located in an area that is part of a re-forestation project being conducted by Luwero Industries.

422866_423627354360152_876206834_nThe school is a primary school, not a military or boarding school.  It is not grooming new soldiers. There is a premium placed on discipline, hard work and service to the wider community. These, we believe, are the three legs of the school’s ethical stool. From Primary One through Primary Seven, the students learn Social Studies, Mathematics, English and Science. No one is promoted until they accomplish the work required for the next level with a passing grade.  These subjects are buttressed by extra-curricular activities such as football (soccer), volleyball and athletics. The school has won several district athletics accolades. It is currently poised to enter a district-wide football showpiece that will highlight the children’s unrivaled skills in this sport.

Academically the school has churned out the best students in Nakasongola district in Maths and English for several years on the hop. And this is good for the nation. Admittedly last year the school experienced a dip in such stellar academic achievement. This was due in part to the increased costs of living and falling standards of living in Uganda. Despite of this decline in academic scores, the best student last year was given a bursary in a school near the national airport in Entebbe. He is currently topping his class. Sadly, the rump of Kiguli class of 2012 fell dangerously behind. These children teeter on the precipice overlooking the abyss daily and without this education, there isn’t much promise for their future. It is common for some to fall by the wayside and find themselves as fishermen whose moral dereliction leads to a large seraglio of women and zero prospects beyond living hand to mouth. That’s the boys. The girls end up pregnant as teenagers and faced with a life of poverty with little or no chance of improving their lot.

The school needs a break, too. It provides porridge as the sole meal to the kids but obviously such sustenance for a child (indeed anyone) is way off the mark. We could use help developing a more nutritional cafeteria program.  The buildings of the school are in a state of disrepair.  The parents, Luwero Industries, and other well wishers have put together some funds to repair and renovate the school. But this is a drop is a large ocean of need, especially in light the constricted operating budget; the teachers earn a pittance or volunteer. Yet, we have a strong sense of mission. And we have faith that initiatives such as this project will flip the floundering fortunes of this school and its glorious, inspiring students.

The students.

378201_411855885537299_1338786910_nSo, what can a poetry book do to combat such a mountain of obstacles?  A lot.  This project, The Songs of Kiguli, has given the children a belief in themselves. That’s why even though the majority of the 2012 class didn’t make the grade academically, they continued on to secondary schools of relative repute. This little poetry project is a major boost and helps fill our kids with the inspiration and the belief that if they can pen a published anthology, then they can repair their lives. Here are just a few of the little miracles our little book of poetry has sparked.

Ryan Masaba was a contributor to The Songs of Kiguli 2012. Although he was 3rd in a class of 56 pupils, his grades didn’t measure up on a national level. However, he was able to parlay his contribution to Songs of Kiguli 2012 into an acceptance at a top-drawer Kampala secondary school called Mengo Senior Secondary School. When the headmaster of that school took a look at the anthology he was impressed with this budding poet of Kiguli renown.

Kiguli Army School also attracted pen pals from Florida under the caring tutelage of Mrs. Katherine Rascoe. She was duly impressed by the words woven into a tapestry of poetry in the anthology.  She and Philip Matogo developed a “poetry without borders” program as American and Ugandan kids shared poetry and experiences reflected through their own words. The anthology was the key that created an international relationship between the future leaders of both countries.  Both student bodies could share their artistry in poetry at a level beyond the customs and waters that divided them, learning about the things they shared as well as those that made them different.

61396_423627424360145_1042741173_nSongs of Kiguli also caught the eye of the then Uganda Chief of Defense Forces, four-star General Aronda Nyakairima. He is currently the Minister of Internal Affairs. He was flummoxed by the beauty, honesty and maturity of the Songs of Kiguli. He, at the time, thought that the writing was so good that it could not have come from rural kids deprived of the perquisites that benefit Kampala children. Another General that was impressed by the words conjured by our children was Brigadier-General James Mugira who is also the Managing Director of Luwero Industries Limited. He is a patron of the primary school and was totally taken aback by the children’s brilliance. Thus the army of Kiguli poets had enlisted two powerful generals to its cause.

The school indeed stands upon the cusp of monumental achievement. All these students need is a way to effectively express themselves and they will find the path to a stronger future. This is what this project will give them. Their poetry goes a long way to highlight their own circumstances and talent however it will also throw a spotlight on what ails the people of Uganda, and Africa as a whole.  A people whose time has surely come. That moment in time will shine far beyond any 15 minutes of fame.

Check out the 2013 Songs of Kiguli fundraiser now! Donations start at a dollar and there some awesome perks.

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