On yesterday’s The Halli Casser-Jayne Show, I talked with my guest Allison Samuels about many things including her wonderful book What Would Michelle Do? A Modern-Day Guide to Living with Substance and Style, the untimely death of Whitney Houston, the Trayvon Martin story and oh, so much more. You must listen. Allison is the real deal, genuine to her core, and her truth sizzles when she speaks.
What I learned during the interview is that Allison and I share something in common, and that is our love for Africa. Allison first traveled to Africa with her friend Oprah Winfrey. We talked about Oprah and her all-girls school and about the fact that even though Allison and Oprah are friends, in a piece that Allison wrote about her trip to South Africa with Winfrey, Allison questioned the massive amount of money Oprah had spent on her project. Subsequently, Allison herself spent several months in West Africa teaching math and English.
I got my “calling” to travel to Uganda as both Oprah and Allison were called to Africa. Never one to pass up on opportunity, off I went. It was a vital trip, infusing, regenerating, heartwarming, difficult, fascinating, fabulous, heartening. There in that virtually untouched world where poverty and its ravages reign, you will never meet a more dynamic people. Untouched by the callousness and cynicism of Western life, the people are warm and sharing, even when there is so little to divide. It is cleansing to spend even a day in Uganda, fortifying, enriching, a natural multivitamin.
There in the land of Eden, much of my heart remains today. They call me Abwooli, my Empaco (nickname) that means little cat. The name was given to me by my very good friend, Amooti, Herbert Asiimwe, and his late mother who died of hypertension at 40 years of age — a death that would hardly occur in the Western world thanks to the availability of modern medicines, while, if available, unaffordable in rural Uganda.
It was with Amooti that I first traveled to the village of Nyamarwa to visit The Kibbuse Foundation, founded by a favorite person of mine, Rev. James Joloba Adyeri. Rev. James has more energy than the busy weaver birds who build thousands of nests in the upright trees of the gorgeous equatorial country.
I love a man of ideas and action; Rev. James is such a man. Out of the lessons of his own childhood, he conceived the notion and founded The Kibbuse Foundation based on the idea that if poverty is to be erased in Uganda, it will be because the nation has created industries that can make it an exporting rather than an importing nation. His goal was to build a school that educates students to become job creators rather than job seekers. In action, The Kibbuse Foundation offers unique opportunities for rural youth to join the 21st Century. He has achieved his goal.
At the St. James Kibbuse Foundation, young people are trained in the kind of skills that Uganda desperately needs. Carpentry, bricklaying, metalwork, auto mechanics, sewing and tailoring, catering, management skills, English are what are taught in the cool, dark, concrete-laden walls of the school.
There in a little oasis carved out of the African bush, children get a second chance at life. They are orphans, many of the AIDS epidemic, school drop outs, single mothers, or children whose parents simply could not afford to educate them beyond primary school. At Rev. James’ school, fees are set low so that even the poorest of the poor in Uganda have an opportunity to be trained to live a life of self sufficiency. Students grow their own food, and tend their own livestock. If necessary and it often is, school fees are paid in beans, or chickens.
So there in Nyamarwa I’ve given my time and money to what I consider a deeply, worthy cause. Many ask: Why Africa? Why give your time and money to a country so far away when poverty is a problem right here in America?
* Photos from the upcoming book OKUSOBOKA – POSSIBILITY by Halli Casser-Jayne with a forward by His Royal Highness King Solomon Gafabusa Iguru I.