Our story starts back in 2007 when we were both college students. A family friend (Diane Brask) initially told us about Uganda’s civil war and we were devastated and overcome by the need. This is really when our long journey began. Our first big hurdle was our parents. We spent 6-8 months trying to convince our parents to give us their blessing. The condition was that when Uganda was removed from the government’s “Travel Advisory” list they would consider allowing us to travel.
Eventually, Uganda was removed from the Travel Advisory list and our parents provided their blessing. We worked for two years in order to raise money for the trip. As college students with jobs, we did yard work, a spaghetti feed, a garage sale, sold concessions at a local summer event and did all kinds of odd jobs in order to raise the money for the trip. We raised money for our travel expenses, a 5 day dental clinic with 3 dentists, a malaria drive and general medications in order to provide start up supplies for a local pharmacy.
While in Uganda, our hearts broke again and again due to the utter devastation we saw. Despite seeing pictures and watching movies, nothing could have prepared us for the level of poverty we saw. It was hard to believe that in 2009, people were forced to choose whether they wanted to treat their toddler for malaria (which costed just over a dollar) or allow their other children to die from starvation. We wondered why we, as Americans, throw a dollar around like it’s nothing while others have to watch their children die from preventable deaths.
During one of our last days in Uganda, we were given a gift from one of the ladies we had spent so much time with. She gave each of us a rolled paper bead necklace. We liked what we saw so we asked her if she could take us to the lady who was selling them so we could purchase more before returning home. It is clear that this was a significant turning point in our lives. God gave both of us a vision of selling this jewelry back in the States and within no time we had purchased a significant amount and brought it back home.
We traveled back to the United States naïve about the impact the trip had on our lives. We tried to get back to life as “normal”. However, found that we were forever changed. We found ourselves having many conversations about what we could do after seeing the devastation and hopelessness in Uganda. We remember many days feeling frustrated and overwhelmed by the level of poverty we had experienced, wondering if we could make any kind of impact due to the magnitude.
However, God gave us a clear message that we were to continue His work in northern Uganda by selling the jewelry in order to help support the Ugandan women who made it. At times, it was hard to continue pursuing this vision, wondering if it was having any type of impact or if it was just busy work and another “college dream”. Diane returned to Uganda the next year and it was then that we found out that the jewelry we were selling through our local coffee shop was helping to support about 20 women and their 55 children.
Diane came back with photos and stories of changed lives from the women under the tree who were making the jewelry. Their stories were encouraging and it was confirmation that even though we had a simple dream, we really could make a difference in the world. Hearing about the impact this jewelry business had on their lives re-energized us. God reminded us that He gave us this passion and we were to continue His work.