There are so many people who need our help in the world and our own communities; we are bombarded with requests for donations on almost a daily basis. For each of us the reason we contribute to a worthy cause is different, but the most compelling reason is usually a personal connection or a desire to improve conditions in a specific sphere.
For those of us at Turn the Page Uganda, education, literacy and peace are foremost in our minds. We believe that through education many of the other problems that plague a community--poverty, enslavement, unemployment and more--can be ameliorated. That is why we have chosen bringing books to classrooms as our focus.
But why Uganda? Here comes the personal connection. A number of us on the Board have traveled in Eastern Africa and feel a bond with the region and a couple of us had already chosen to make donations to groups working with children and education within Uganda. In the summer of 2010 Vicky, our Board President, traveled to northern Uganda and fell in love with the country and its people. We realized that through war and conflict people in Northern Uganda had been left behind when it came to the ability to provide any chance at much of a realistic educational future. Books had been used for fuel to cook with, schools had been used for IDP camps, many families living below poverty simply could not afford school.
Now you know the personal connection and why we have chosen to create a non-profit that works to bring books into the hands of students and teachers in northern Uganda. Below is a brief summary of the issues facing Ugandans.
The Lord's Resistance Army insurgency is a guerrilla campaign waged since 1987 by the Christian sectarian Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group, operating mainly in northern Uganda. The leader of the movement, Joseph Kony, proclaims himself the "spokesperson" of God and a spirit medium; he aims to overthrow the Ugandan government and to establish a theocratic state. Joseph Kony is on the World's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.
The conflict, one of Africa's longest running, has resulted in a severe humanitarian crisis. The LRA is accused of widespread human rights violations including mutilation, torture, rape, the abduction of civilians, and the use of child soldiers. A 2005 poll of humanitarian professionals, media personalities, academics and activists identified the conflict in the north of Uganda as the second worst "forgotten" humanitarian emergency in the world.
The United Nations estimated in the mid-2000s that approximately 25,000 children have been kidnapped by the LRA since 1987. As these children are released, escape or rescued from the military they need much help integrating themselves back into regular society. Part of that experience is attending school. As more and more children are folded into society, the schools are growing at a tremendous rate. Schools do not have enough funding to provide books for the students, and often the teachers do not have books either.
For a more personal look see this article about UNICEF's work helping to repatriate vulnerable children in Uganda.