An Open Letter on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Law by JLMC’s Girl Power Project® Facilitator

Monica speaking at Camp Girl PowerDear friends, supporters and well-wishers of Just Like My Child Foundation and its Girl Power Project®,

Warm greetings.

I am writing this note to share some of my thoughts on the anti-homosexuality bill that was passed into law last month in Uganda.

I know that there is great concern in the West regarding the passage of this law. I share the same values of so much of the online response I have read. My human rights colleagues in Uganda and I believe this process was undemocratic and a violation of human rights and dignity. I further believe that the purpose of the President signing this bill into law and the Parliament putting it forth was for political ambitions, since as a country we are soon going to the polls to elect new leaders. Because of lack of exposure in Uganda, the mass population is homophobic about the whole aspect of homosexuality, and so the anti-homosexual position is a powerful stance for politicians. This fear is further amplified by the church leaders who strongly speak negatively about homosexuality, in my opinion from a very ignorant point of view.

Passing this law is definitely a step backward for Uganda’s growth and it reflects poorly on Uganda’s commitment to protecting human rights.

However, despite this challenge, I would also like to share with you that the problem associated with homosexuality is small – and only affects a very small portion of the population in Uganda. Affecting a far greater portion of Uganda’s population are the issues of violence and disempowerment of women, HIV/AIDS, early pregnancies and other issues affecting over 50% of the population.

1465777_10152185909188436_1653616597_oThrough your generous support and partnership, Just Like My Child Foundation has empowered girls and communities to achieve their fullest potential in education, health, social justice and human rights, among others. Your support directly benefits the highly vulnerable girls who have nothing to do with the legislative body that has passed this law, and need your support more than ever. I also assure you that this legislation is contradictory to the beliefs of the growing human rights consortium in Uganda, and it is contradictory to the spirit and information we bring to the Girl Power Project®.

I encourage you to continue supporting girls because through this support, in the long run, we shall have a population that understands that all minority groups who are part of our society deserve their human rights and to be respected. And if we raise girls to live their fullest potential, they will soon be sitting in the seats of Parliament in greater numbers, with louder and more powerful voices than ever.

As human rights activists in Uganda, we shall continue to push for the amendment of this law.

Yours in Solidarity,

Monica Nyiraguhabwa

Girl Power Project® Mentor and Facilitator

Answering a Call to Help the Children of Uganda

By Karla Peterson, San Diego Union Tribune | January 21, 2014

During her first humanitarian trip to Africa, Vivian Glyck met a man who told her about a small Ugandan clinic that was fighting for the lives of its people and losing ground every day. It was a desperate story from a land of many desperate stories, and it should have scared her off. But where other people might have heard a warning, Glyck heard a call.

“He said there are people dying left and right. There is no doctor. There is no nothing,” Glyck remembered. “And I said, ‘That sounds like the right place for me.’”

And so it was. Nine years later, it still is.

In 2006, Glyck made her first visit to the Bishop Asili Hospital in Luwero. When she returned, she started the Just Like My Child Foundation. The group quickly raised $30,000 to buy the hospital a much-needed generator. Then came a doctor, a sterile room and surgical tools. Since then, Glyck has made 15 more trips to Uganda. Her calling struck a chord that keeps on resonating, and Just Like My Child has made a world of difference everywhere it goes.

The foundation has worked with local educators, parents and community leaders to build six schools, helped more than 300 families struggling with HIV to start self-sustaining farming businesses, and held life-skills and mentoring workshops for more than 1,300 adolescent girls in 12 villages.

As for that dark and dank clinic, it is now a fully equipped teaching hospital. In 2007, Just Like My Child received a grant from the Clinton Foundation to provide HIV pediatric testing through Bishop Asili. The hospital also provides everything from lifesaving operations and AIDS treatment to prenatal care and malaria prevention to more than 76 villages.

“Vivian is a force of nature. I have watched her go from having just the seed of an idea to making magic happen with amazing speed and dexterity and thoughtfulness and creativity,” said Arielle Ford, a longtime friend and a founding member of the Just Like My Child board. “People know that when they donate to Just Like My Child, she will squeeze something out of every penny. She is not flying first class to Uganda. She is on the ground getting her hands dirty and doing whatever it takes to fulfill this mission.”

This was never what Glyck thought she would be doing. But it is exactly what life prepared her to do.

The youngest of three children, Glyck grew up in New York City’s Spanish Harlem, where her family struggled with poverty, domestic violence and sexual abuse. She escaped early, heading to the University of Rochester at 16 and later into a career in health care and media relations. She worked at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston and with Deepak Chopra. She wrote books, including “12 Lessons I Learned from My Garden: Spiritual Guidance from the Vegetable Patch” and “The Tao of Poop: Keeping Your Sanity (And Your Soul) While Raising a Baby.”

Glyck married author and entrepreneur Mike Koenigs, and the couple moved to San Diego in 2001. Their son Zak was born one year later. Glyck felt blessed and happy, which made it the perfect time to throw herself a major life curveball.

“I knew I was really good at telling a story and finding ways to connect with people, and I became on fire with the idea of helping kids around the world,” Glyck said during an interview in the family’s La Jolla Shores home office. “I was so in love with my little boy, I thought, ‘How could children just like him be perishing?’ One night, I woke up with the sound of children crying in my head, and I thought, ‘OK, I have to go to Africa.’”

This year, Glyck and the foundation are focusing on the group’s Girl Power Project. The goal is to use workshops, mentoring and leadership camps to give adolescent girls in the developing world the emotional, psychological and educational tools they need to stay in school, avoid early pregnancies and build independent, self-sustaining lives.

If 100,000 girls take this new knowledge back to their villages, and each girl mentors 100 girls, Glyck can see a world that looks much different from the one we have now. That is one part of the dream. The other part is that the Just Like My Child boys and girls can claim this better future as their own. Because it will be.

“When I was in Uganda last time, I was talking to one of our legal volunteers, and she said, ‘I just wanted to thank you for giving us knowledge, not just giving us money.’ That is what I’m most proud of,” Glyck said. “When I go to one of the (Girl Power) conferences, they have no idea who I am. They take care of each other. It’s just them.”

Read the full article here: Answering a Call to Help the Children of Uganda

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The Symphony of a Rainstorm

Heavy Rainstorm At Bishop Asili Hospital

We are sitting in the office during a strong thunderstorm. Like clockwork, the power company switches off electricity before a storm hits to ensure safety, as many of the electrical poles are not strong enough to withstand strong winds and rain. The beeping sound of our electronics signifying power is gone starts off the music in our office; then comes the symphony of the rain banging on the tin roof combined with the now and then drumming of the thunder – you can imagine it makes for a noisy meeting.

There is something that we take advantage of in the States and that is the ability to work during rain. In Uganda, things come to a halt when it rains, unless you have already traveled to your destination. and you have written work to do or your battery can run off power for a few hours. Since most times, the means of transport are motorcycles, you can get stuck for hours at a time inside the grocery store, an office, or even your home before you can head to the meeting that was supposed to take place an hour before. Regardless of the delays and hassle the rain can cause, there is a certain beauty and peace that comes with the rain here.

The following are a few tips for surviving and enjoying a rainstorm in Uganda:

  • Make sure your electronics are fully charged so you can continue to work through the power outage.
  • Stay where you are; it’s understood that if there is a rainstorm, things will be delayed and you will not be late due to issues out of your control!
  • Shut the windows in the room and especially in your bedroom or else you will find the room soaked!
  • Pour yourself a cup of hot tea and put on “Africa” by Toto and enjoy the symphony outside!

Written by Marissa Uvanovic, Just Like My Child’s Country Director in Luwero, Uganda.brand levitra

Help us welcome our new Country Director, Marissa Uvanović!

Marissa

Our entire team at Just Like My Child Foundation is excited to announce Marissa Uvanović as our new Country Director, headquartered in Luwero, Uganda. Her values strongly align with JLMC’s philosophy of a ‘hand-up’ not a ‘hand-out’, as her personal goals for programming include creating communities that are self-reliant, sustainable, and empowered. Marissa’s professional and personal experiences have inspired her to dedicate her career to serving marginalized groups and advocating for equality and justice, which makes her a perfect fit with Just Like My Child Foundation’s initiatives and goals.

In addition to her new role with JLMC, Marissa is studying the theory, history, and practice of nonviolence through a program with The Metta Center. She was previously employed as the Implementation Program Manager for The 31 Lengths Campaign, an NGO aimed at providing entrepreneurship skills and education in Northern Uganda. Additionally, for the past five years, Marissa has served in numerous roles ranging from Operations and Communications Manager, to Grant Writer and Executive Assistant at Web of Benefit, a grassroots domestic violence and women’s empowerment nonprofit serving women the Greater Boston and Chicago areas.

Graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a focus on social entrepreneurship, Marissa has learned and put into practice the power of intertwining business practicum and skills in the pursuit of social change and empowerment programming. In the past five years, Marissa has studied, volunteered, worked, and/or researched in the following countries: Cape Verde, buy viagra Guatemala, Turkey, and Uganda. During her time abroad, she has focused specifically on the use of business as a tool for empowerment and social change regarding issues of violence, human trafficking, and oppression.

Marissa will be blogging about her experiences throughout her time as Country Director – be sure to follow her adventures and updates here!levitra cost of sales

Our little musicians are blowing away the competition!

20130822143209-IMG_0026In a rural village of Luwero, Uganda, St. Joseph Magogo Primary School stands as a beacon of hope for the community. Its talented young students thrive in a culture of music and dance, with an emphasis on self-expression and cultural heritage. Over 290 boys and girl practice music and dance regularly as part of their education, and their Headmaster is eager to see them prove themselves on the national stage.

Just Like My Child Foundation™ has worked side-by-side with the staff at St. Joseph Magogo since 2010 through our Project Universal Education™ and Girl Power Project™. In 2012, after witnessing  the school’s incredible culture of music and dance, we funded the purchase of musical instruments for the students. At the beginning of August, they won the opportunity to compete in the Luwero District Music and Dance Competition, and won 9 out of 10 rounds. From there, they went on to Regionals (which included 7 districts), where they won first place! The students were overjoyed to hear they had earned the opportunity to compete at Nationals, especially after an initial miscalculation by the judges led them to believe they had not qualified.

In order to raise the funds to compete at the National Theater in the capital city of Kampala, this motivated school drew upon the school development training they’ve received from us to hold a fundraising event where they  charged a small fee for a dress rehearsal performance. Their confidence in the community was rewarded, as 160 community members turned out to support the performance!

20130822153418-IMG_2654To enable this remarkable group of children to compete at Nationals, Just Like My Child Foundation™ started an Indiegogo campaign that has raised over $2,500 to date. This outpouring of support from longtime donors and strangers alike allowed us to give the school the go-ahead, and they are currently in the capital city of Kampala competing for the National title in Music and Dance!

Just yesterday, we heard from our Program Coordinator on the ground in Uganda, Grace Najjuma, and here’s what she had to say:

“I am happy to JLMC for sending me to watch this National competition. Honestly, it is fun and am glad to inform you that Magogo is doing so well in its competition compared to the first class schools it’s battling against like Namugongo, Kabojja, Ndejje – for no one believes it is their first time in the Nationals! There are 42 schools in the competition from all parts of the country and it is amazing. The children are so happy and grateful to JLMC for the support and here Magogo is rejoicing!”
20130822142918-DSC_0209Thank you to everyone who donated to our Indiegogo campaign to send our “little musicians that could” to compete in the National Dance and Drama Competition in the capital city of Kampala! Your continued support means higher quality transportation and food for these talented young children and their devoted teachers.Watch here: Send the children of St. Joseph Magogo to Nationals!