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More than We Ask or Imagine

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church…”

Ephesians 3:20-21

It was only a month ago that the Zozu staff in both the US and in Uganda were daily praying for the future of Solid Rock’s first graduating class. The question on everyone’s mind was– what will these students take as their next step after finishing at Solid Rock? While we were thoroughly researching secondary schools, preparing them for final exams, and networking with like-minded organizations, we all were asking for clarity and wisdom from the only One who knows the future. And we are thrilled to announce that an answer has been given that is beyond what we could have asked for or imagined.

All of the 32 students who have graduated from Solid Rock Christian School this year will have the opportunity to attend a single boarding school in Uganda’s capital city, Kampala. The school whose administration has decided to accept them is Maranatha High School, located on the shores of Lake Victoria just south of the hub of Kampala. With an incoming class size of only 65, for Maranatha to set aside half of their seats is extremely generous! This partnership came about through old connections between Pastor John Paul, Zozu’s founder in Uganda, and the leadership of Maranatha. As Elaine told us with tears in her eyes when she read the news in her inbox, we all realized that this chance for the students is a miracle.

Entry gate at Maranatha High School

When the question of what will happen to the students after they graduate Solid Rock has been raised over the years, there have been many subsequent potential complications. Would the cost of sponsorship raise significantly? How would the Zozu Project staff be able to keep in touch with the students if they were spread across the country? Most importantly, how could the spiritual foundation and the love that is so central to being a student at Solid Rock be continued? The staff on both sides of the ocean never wanted to hand the students off to a good-enough school and call our work finished. After years of investing in them not just as students but as budding leaders, assurance that they would continue to be not just taught but loved was paramount. All of these questions needed answers.

Back in early 2018 we got to work researching options on the ground. Staff from both the US and Uganda visited secondary schools across the country, from secular public schools to private Christain schools, and from internationally supported schools to locally established schools. We looked at test scores, student life, costs of admission. We talked to current students, teachers, and administrators. And after all of that, here’s what Elsie, our communications director, had to say about Maranatha, the last school visited:

“Out of all the campuses we have visited, the students here are among the happiest and most energetic. Perhaps there’s something to the beautiful location right on the waterfront or the thrill of being in the city, but I think it’s the strong community of active faith here. We attended a chapel with the student body, and it seemed to me that the staff and student leaders were pursuing a family-like community. They don’t have the latest science lab technology or the most robust computer program, but the liveliness here is almost palpable. A family that encourages and supports each other– that’s what I saw.”

Shores of Lake Victoria, where Maranatha High School is located.

As a partner, Maranatha provides many practical blessings. The school is connected to a health clinic supported by the same umbrella NGO (Africa Renewal Ministries), so medical care is covered in the cost of tuition. Because of his connections, Pastor JP and the other Zozu staff can easily visit to keep up-to-date on how the children are doing. Perhaps one of the most significant perks is that the whole class of 32 will be together. Moving out of the village will be no small transition for them, but they will have each other. They are beyond excited. When we asked them two years ago if they would rather go to school in Arua and live at home, or go to a boarding school in Kampala, the answer was nearly unanimous– boarding school was what they wanted. They mentioned that they wanted time after school to do homework instead of the many home chores that come with living in poverty. They want to experience fully-stocked libraries, after-hours access to their teachers, and well-lit bedrooms with running water nearby. Having grown up in a mud-hut community where there is no two-story building for miles around and where many students who attend the local schools don’t graduate, they have over the last three years begun to hope for more. Leaving the rural slums that they have grown up in is an opportunity that these 32 children would only have been able to dream about three years ago.

However, the ultimate goal has always been to encourage the students not to abandon their home community, but to serve it. To that end, Zozu staff are already organizing parent visitation days where moms and dads from Arua can see their children in school. There will be term breaks where they will return to their families multiple times a year. And the Solid Rock staff whom the students already know and love are planning to visit “all the time.” We know that there are many additional questions in the months to come that need still to be answered, but the biggest question has been answered beyond our expectations. You have made amazing things possible in these students lives, and the fruit of your generosity and commitment to them is beginning to show. Stay tuned.

Aaannnddd… they’re off!

An Open Letter from Principal David

Receive warm greetings from the management, staff, parents and pupils of Solid Rock Christian School! Ever since you decided to be part of this ministry, we have seen tremendous changes in the lives of our children. We are so grateful because your generous support has not only helped keep the children at school, but also restored their hope for the future through education, health care, and meals among others.

David Portrait

I was born in the southern part of Uganda in a polygamous family. My father was uneducated, had 14 children from four different wives, and had no permanent job. Because of this, he could not raise enough money to take us to school. At the age of five my parents divorced, and I started living with my jobless mother. I started fetching water and washing clothes for the neighbors to support my mother and raise money for my school fees throughout primary, secondary, and university. Eventually, both my parents died of AIDS. I stand as the hope for the family, and I know this is because I managed to acquire an education. Because of this, I always feel a lot of untold pain whenever I see children failing to acquire at least basic education due to different obstacles. This pain and my own experience compelled me to leave my home area and join Solid Rock and Zozu Project, a team willing to use meager resources to restore hope among the less privileged children. 

Emmanuel James Opokrwoth, for example, is a 12 year old boy in primary five [5th grade] at Solid Rock Christian School. He lost his father when he was six years old. He is now living with his mother, who is jobless, and four younger siblings in a grass thatched house. They don’t have land to grow crops for food, so his mother sells goods in a local market where she can occasionally earn 2000 shillings (less than a dollar) per day. 

Emmanuel James

Emmanuel goes by his last name, Opokrwoth, which means “Praise God” and he is a lucky boy in the family. Because of sponsorship, he is sure of education, a school uniform, shoes, medication, books and daily meals at school. He is always sure of buying new clothes at the end of the year when his sponsor sends him a Christmas gift. Emmanuel’s future is becoming brighter every time he receives support from his sponsor. He has two years to complete primary education. He is speaking English well and he is a member of the Debating Club of the school. He is among the best football [soccer] players and last year he, with his team, managed to earn the school their first trophy. He is also a prefect in charge of pupils’ security. Who would have discovered all these special gifts and talents from this boy if he was not sponsored? 

Yes, the mother and the siblings are living in a poor state right now, at times sleeping with empty stomachs, but they don’t feel the pains they used to, and always have smiling faces because of Emmanuel. He is always promising them a better house and meals as soon as he finishes his studies. His self esteem is growing every day! His life is gradually changing and the hope of the whole family is now in this bright boy who is dreaming of becoming a pilot. He is proudly moving towards his goal. I am very sure nothing can stop this young boy from achieving his dream if supported.

Let me also share this with you. Last month I visited a game park, not very far from Solid Rock. It’s called Murchison Falls National Game Park and I had some lessons of my own there. Elephants are one of the animals in the park, and they always walk and live in groups of five or more. They were created to be social animals. However, there are some elephants that live alone in isolation. The game rangers told us to be very careful if we found one of the elephants moving alone. He said that isolated elephants are wounded ones, and they are very dangerous to people, fellow elephants, and other animals. They have no physical wounds, but their hearts are wounded. They get isolated by others from their groups because of old age, diseases, and after defeat in their fights. Therefore, they feel less important. The ranger explained that such elephants want to prove their worth by being destructive and dangerous whenever they get an opportunity. 

Elephant

When we asked what can be done for such elephants to restore them to their groups, he informed us that it’s impossible at that stage. There is nothing they need in life but to wait for their death.

This was my lesson: Most of the children in our communities are wounded children. Their wounds are a result of extreme poverty, ignorance, family neglect, or diseases. When these children grow up, like wounded elephants, it becomes hard for them to change. From my observation, if not helped, such people become dangerous, not only to their families but also to the world. They at times become unruly, heartless, and corrupt, and even when such people are caught and tried, it is always hard to change them. But now, there is hope. We can come to their rescue when they are still young and when their hearts can easily be healed and changed .

I really commend your generosity in supporting this ministry. We are seeing wounded hearts healing. The would-be isolated kids feel the warmth of love from you. Ignorance, poverty, disease, and hunger are no longer the major determinants of these children’s future, but love is! Your involvement in this ministry has gradually restored children and community members back to their social human nature. Any gift sent to support the sponsored children is embraced with love and goes directly to their aid in form of school fees, feeding, treatment, scholastic materials, furniture, text books, and many other necessities.

I request your continuous support. Every year many children come crying for help at the school.  Every day many children fall sick, and every hour they seek something to eat at school. We can take care of them if you decide to offer more of what you can for this noble cause. If we come together with all the resources we are called to give, this will be possible. The future of many of these children is in our hands. 

May God Bless You, 

David Ssemuvubi

Principal, Solid Rock Christian School 


The Year 2065

Oftentimes when we are moved to help people who are victims of struggling and suffering, it’s because of an eye-opening experience. A photo or video strikes out, or we read an article, and the abhorrent conditions ignite a previously dormant spark of compassion. But those abhorrent conditions, so shocking to the new eye, are the day-to-day experience of those who live in them. Long after the picture fades from our memories, that child is still living in that hut. That mom is still working that farm. That baby still has those flies swarming around its lashes.

Poverty is more than just lacking food for today. It’s your family lacking food for two generations. Your father has never known the dignity of stable work. Your mother has never had the security of a loving husband. You’ve never been expected to finish school. What does it feel like to live like this? How can we possibly develop the empathy necessary to love from so far away?

Immersing in their culture is a powerful gateway to experience a bit of what the poor experience every day. Yes, the students we serve are up against material poverty. But the hardest obstacle is not a poverty of things, but a poverty of hope.  This is a poem by Ugandan poet Peter Kagayi, and in it he unpacks what the poverty of hope feels like in an erudite, eloquent, and challenging way. He, a native of poor Uganda, imagines what life will be like in 2065, roughly 50 years from now. It’s not an easy read, but then again, neither is the life of the poor easy.

In 2065

Nothing will have changed that much,

Except I will be over 70 years

The roads will be the same

The politics will be the same

Kampala [the capital city] will be the same

In 2065 nothing will have changed that much,

Except I will be over 70 years

 

And I will go to Mulago [hospital] to cure my rheumatism

And the doctors will say there is no cure

And the boda- boda [motorcycle taxi] man at the stage

Will recommend to me a West-Nile witch doctor

And I will go to my grandson’s school like my grand-father did

And I will be turned away, for old age will be something forbidden.

 

The president will be the president we have today,

And in a wheel chair he will give the Nation Address

Only his son, then a field Marshall, will read it on his behalf

And he will talk on his behalf

And he will rule on his behalf

In 2065, nothing will have changed that much,

Except I will be over 70 years.

 

And Makerere [the university] will be on strike and Major- General ‘Something’

Will order open-fire on the students

Because their demand for fried beans

Will be a threat to the security of the State.

And U.R.A [political party] will be taxing the air we breathe,

The many times couples kiss,

The fart we excrete,

The words we speak

And the way we die

And will determine those who go to heaven

And those to hell

And tax their corpses differently

 

In 2065 nothing will have changed that much,

Except I will be over 70 years,

 

And teachers will be begging on the streets to feed their families

Their wives will sleep with tourists to make a decent living

The syllabus will be the same shadow of what colonialists left behind

With systems too archaic and too alien to offer anything essential

And the students will remain cabbages and potatoes

And the ratio of the jobless to the job-hopeful

Will remain nine to one

And like that life will move on,

And like that nothing will change.

 

In 2065 children of eight will be using contraceptives

Children of eight will be going to night clubs

In 2065 children will not be children

They will be eating fellow children for breakfast and for break at school

And they will not wash their hands and will offer you a hand-shake.

 

And we will be the people in that future

Built from a present that promises not much

Except ageing

We will be there hoping to die soon.

 

It breaks our hearts that this is the mindset that many of these students grow up in. Poverty is hopelessness, but thriving is hope. This is what we stand against with every child that is welcomed into Solid Rock and every dollar that is raised. We stand against hopelessness. Yes, the children and families we serve can use a new bed or a bag of beans, but more than that they need hope. Stumbling, imperfect though we are, we want to be a participant in ending hopelessness.

“…if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday” Isaiah 85:10.

Our sacrifice of money or time or prayers can, and does, create hope. The encouragement of a teacher builds hope in each student that they really can graduate. Education for children builds hope in each mother, that one day their child will be able to provide for their own family. Our dream is that in 2065 the students who graduate from Solid Rock will be 55 and still be able to say “I have a full life ahead of me.” Most of all, it will be them who will look around and say “how can I bring hope where there is none?” If poverty is believing that in 2065 nothing will have changed, thriving is believing that the best is always yet to come.

 

 


“Girl Child Education is a Wasteage of Time”

I still remember when I first went to Uganda, and I visited the classroom on debate day. The 4-6th graders all get together and have a full-on debate, with moderators, score keepers, and formal statements and responses. For those who aren’t familiar with debate structure, there’s a given statement that one side “affirms” and the other side “negates.” Walking into the room, I read the statement on the board: “Girl child education is a wasteage of time.” I was shocked. To my liberal, educated, western mind, this topic was so clearly negated that it seemed taboo to even be up for debate.

I sat down, and proceeded to listen to what the children had to say. Over the hours of hearing these 4th-6th graders talk, I came to understand. This is a very real battle for these girls. While Solid Rock School firmly teaches that both genders are equally valuable, that is not the predominant message of the culture around them. Were they not in school, they could have been “married off” for a bride-price by 16. I don’t believe that the students arguing the affirmative side believed their arguments (it was a class project, after all), but I do think that adults in these students lives do.

One student, Lenia Leaneda, was on the “negative” side. Passionately, she argued for her own equality, and for the right and value of her and her sister’s education. I was in awe. She, a 6th grader, stands up for herself in a powerful way. Being at Solid Rock Christian School gave her the language and the platform to articulate exactly why she was worth it. To know that we who are a part of Zozu Project are a part of breaking the cycle of poverty and inequality, and to see evidence of it standing before me, was humbling. And there are over 100 girls at Solid Rock, with, God willing, many more to come in the future.

Lenida Lenia singing at chapel on a Wednesday

We are so proud and blessed to educate the young people of Uganda, boys and girls alike, to learn that they are all made individually, lovingly, and for great purposes. So while I’ve been told that people’s attention spans these days are short, and no one reads long things, I think that this poem is worth sharing:

For Every Woman
By Nancy R. Smith

“For every woman who is tired of acting weak when she knows she is strong,
There is a man who is tired of appearing strong when he feels vulnerable.

For every woman who is tired of acting dumb, There is a man who is burdened with the constant expectation of ‘knowing everything.’

For every woman who is tired of being called
‘an emotional female’
There is a man who is denied the right to weep and be gentle.

For every woman who feels ‘tied down’ by her children, There is a man who is denied the full pleasure of parenthood.

For every woman who is denied meaningful employment and equal pay,
There is a man who must bear full financial responsibility for another human being.

For every woman who was not taught the intricacies
of an automobile,
There is a man who was not taught the satisfaction of cooking.

For every woman who takes a step toward her own liberation, There is a man who finds that the way to freedom
has been made a little easier.”

 

I personally sponsor Winnie Letasi. In her bio, I read that she wanted to be a police officer when she grew up. That’s bravery right there, police officer in rural Africa. I cannot wait to meet her in person, tell her how beloved she is, encourage her in her dreams, and see her grow into who she was made to be.

Elsie

Interested in sponsoring a young girl, or young boy, at Solid Rock?  >>> Check it out Here <<<


The Preschool is Finally Happening!

 

We are so excited to announce that construction on the Preschool extension to Solid Rock School has officially begun!

It’s hard to overstate the need for this expansion. Our teachers were putting in hours of volunteer time on the weekends to bring incoming first graders, who had no foundation, up to speed. Some of the first graders speak some English, but most don’t. Trying to teach a classroom in multiple languages is taxing! Also, many incoming first graders are malnourished, already hindering their cognitive and physical growth.

Solid Rock Christian Preschool will provide meals, community, and instruction to 40 new preschool students this year, with the vision that we will one day serve over 100 3-5 year olds at this facility! We are so excited for not just the kids, but the families that will be reached and blessed through this expansion.

Thank you to all of the supporters of this project for making it possible. You’re making a difference!

Surveying the future location of the preschool back in April, 2017.

 

Overview of the building and latrines nearby that will go in on that plot of land.

 

Artist’s rendering of the front of the preschool building, ready to be filled with kids!

 

Plans for the classrooms, layout and construction, produced in collaboration between Shana Reiss with Reiss Design Studios and a local Ugandan architect and contractor.

Layout of the land

Now that construction has begun, it’s time to get this preschool ready for the kids. That means filling it with desks, notebooks, games, and everything else needed to successfully welcome 40 new students and their families. Read more about how you can help here, or sign up for the email newsletter to get more pictures and updates in the future!

We can’t wait to keep updating you as the project comes to fruition.

Elaine, Mick, and Elsie.

 

 

 

Our Giving Tuesday Campaign is going to provide shoes for all of the incoming preschool students. It’s really simple, a pair of shoes is $25, and it all goes straight to the kids. Learn more here.

 


Term 3 Update from Solid Rock

Written by Richard Aguta, social worker at Solid Rock Christian Academy

“Classes just commenced two weeks ago and teachers are now teaching the children; imparting knowledge and good behaviors to them as said “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” So, Solid Rock Christian School embraces Christian morals and disperses them into the lives of our kids via counseling, teaching the Word of God and societal morals, hence the children’s lives are enriched. Our children have been in their school vacation and many of them have been helping their families with domestic work, since in African culture children are encouraged to be involved in domestic work.

Students back in their classroom after the break.

However, Grade five and six students also attended a school vacation program. The school vacation program was organized for the upper class students to do correction for precious exams, so that in the beginning of third term new topics are taught to them.

During the school vacation, Zozu project staff visited some homes of the sponsored children, and their family members were happy for the sponsorship from the United States, especially those who received family gifts last month. Parents and Guardians heartfully appreciate the service offered by Sponsors and Zozu Project to their children. Your support has restored hope to the hopeless families that were un able to support their children with education, for education is the key to success. 

Thanks to all our sponsors for educating a child in Uganda, Africa. God bless you.”

 


The Image Challenge – We Face it Too

It’s no shocker–image is everything. In the days of Instagram, YouTube, and ever-improving camera tech we are inundated with images of people, brands, organizations, companies, you name it. I know that I can’t be alone in feeling the pressure to only put the good photos up on Facebook–the ones with beautiful lighting that show my family and friends looking happy and gorgeous. Working for an organization, especially a non-profit, is no different. On behalf of Zozu Project, there is a desire to post just the well-lit shots of children and their families that are artfully composed. In America, where the environment is relatively safe and clean, it’s easy to produce pictures like this. Most companies, and a lot of charities, have whole teams of people just dedicated to taking good pictures.

I’ve been thinking about this recently, because a lot of photos we receive from the field look like this:

It’s a little wonky. And slightly blurry. But you know what, I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s ok. While beautiful images can shed important light on the realities of Uganda, the reality these children live in is not that well-composed. It’s messy. It’s dark. It’s dirty and rough. These small, sometimes blurry images show that reality in a different way. While we absolutely love and celebrate the most professional looking photos, and want to share those with you, sometimes all we have is shots like these. It’s easy to forget in an age of high-quality DSLRs and high megapixel phone cameras just how precious a simple image like this can be. The very fact that we have them at all is amazing! We want to honor your commitment as a sponsor by sharing pictures with you no matter the quality, and as Director of Com., I felt compelled to write about it.

We are committed to transparency and honesty with you in all that we do as an organization. In our minds, that is more important than our own picture-perfect branding. When we have images of the kids you support, we want to share them with you no matter what! And as much as I would love to say that all of the photos we send will be pretty, you can expect more gritty, real images from Africa coming your way! Thank you for supporting what God is doing in Uganda through all of us, and may he continue to bless the loaves and fishes we offer.

Elsie


Q and A with A Sponsor – Kaitlyn

[Q: Elsie, Director of Communications for Zozu

A: Kaitlyn, Sponsor]

Your family sponsors Billy and Lee, right? Did you get to meet them?

The very first week I was in Arua, I visited the kids that my family sponsors at their house. I loved meeting their family, and didn’t realize how many siblings Billy and Lee have. They are only 2 of 6! Their mom lives with them and their dad left their family two years ago to South Sudan, and they haven’t seen him since. It was very bittersweet because I just wish I could have helped more, and I wish I could change their living situation. But I know that they are all so loved, which gives me peace.

What was it like for you to see Billy and Lee for the first time? Like, was it anticlimactic, were you nervous, did something change for you?

Honestly, at first it was super awkward. Both of them didn’t know that I was coming, and all of a sudden they were being taken to the principal’s office, so I imagine they were pretty confused. Billy and Lee are both shy and rather quiet, but Lee is almost mute. He is only in P2, so I don’t think he knew what I was saying at first. Plus, all of the kids speak so softly at first, so I couldn’t really hear them, either. But, as I got to know both of them more when I was there, it became very special, and I miss them so much!

Do you have any favorite memories from the tip?

One of my absolute favorite times was the last day I was in Arua. I was leaving the next day, so I was soaking up each moment with the kiddos. All of a sudden a random car pulls up, (I thought it was JP, but the driver ended up being white). I was so curious considering I hadn’t seen another white person for weeks. Then, I look to my right and see a mass of about 20 kids running towards the car yelling “JESUS” “JESUS IS HERE”. I was obviously so confused so I turned to the boy next to me, named Emma, and I asked him who this Jesus character was. He looked at me very confused and answers “the son of God?”. I laughed because he obviously didn’t understand that I didn’t know who this other white person was, or why he was on driving his car on Solid Rock’s campus. You know, I never actually found out who he was!

Another one of my favorite days was when I visited the women in the bead-making group. They are so, so sweet and sit on cloth on the dirty cement ground and make the jewelry. The day I visited, it was very rainy. These women were getting rain splashed on them, but continued to make the beads. Some of them didn’t speak English, so they mostly spoke in their local language. I enjoyed listening to them talk and watch them make beads. Most of their incomes came from those beads, and maybe selling other starches. The women’s children were there and I played with them for awhile, too. Going to Africa made me realize how much I love kids, and changed my perspective about what I want to do later in life.

Another great day was when JP, Richard, and I spent an afternoon visiting the children’s homes. The kid’s sponsors had sent them money for gifts, so we went to take pictures. I loved seeing how happy and thankful they were. The children’s families bought things like soap, mattress, flour, and diapers.

What did a typical day look like for you?

Overall, a typical day for me looked a little like this: I woke up, and got ready to head to the clinic. Rose [Pastor JP’s wife] made me breakfast every. single. day. She is amazing! I loved her cooking. We would head to the clinic, and each day was different. At times, there were lines out of the door of people waiting to see Rose. One day, I think I tested almost 15 children for malaria. One time I even tested a 9 month old. After being in the clinic for a few hours, I would go and eat lunch with all of the kids. I loved spending time with Billy and Lee. I also grew close with Patricia and a few of the P4 girls she was around. I would go back to the clinic, and it was typical for most of the kids to wait until the last moment to come in to take their medicine. Typically, there would be at least one wound from the kids playing outside. One time a kid even got hit in the head with a rock. After school, I would go and watch the girls play netball. They are so cute! David [the principal] recently told me they did very well in a tournament, which made me so, so happy. After netball, Rose, JP, Johnny, Joel, and I would go back to their house. By this time it was around 8pm at night. I would eat dinner, and then go to bed. Some nights I helped them make beads, too.

You said that going there made you change you perspective on what you will do later in life. How so? I thought you, like, wanted to be a nurse so did something change or get added to that? I’m so curious about what that was like for you. 

So, I have known for a long while that I want to be a Nurse Practitioner.. and I always thought that I would specialize in family, so an FNP. But, after being in Africa and seeing the type of care they receive, I really think I want to go into emergency pediatric medicine. I visited one of the hospitals in Arua and it was baffling. I have been to other very poor countries, like Nicaragua, but seeing this hospital was like a light switch went off in my head. I knew that then that I have to go back eventually and try to help modernize Arua’s health care. That’s when I knew I wanted to go into emergency medicine, and not just family practice. And then I also figured out that I wanted to specialize in Pediatrics, not just family. I have always loved kids so much, and for so long I fought working with them because I didn’t want to limit myself to only working with kids- I wanted options. But, I feel like I really got to know myself more when I was abroad. I learned that what I like most about children is that I can be their advocate. As you know, SO many of the children in Arua live with a distant cousin, or aunt or someone that isn’t their immediate family, and it breaks my heart. Many of them aren’t taken care of well, and I think there is so much education in being a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, because I can educate the caregiver.

And finally, if you don’t mind me asking, how did God show up? Did you get to spend time with him? Did you learn something more about Him and His love or how he works?

Ah, yes! I love this question. So, like I mentioned before, I have been on other mission trips.. I went to the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua in high school and for some reason I had a hard time with them. I had a youth leader who told all of us that THESE AMAZING, EXTRAORDINARY THINGS were going too happen to us when we went abroad. When I went to serve, I felt out of place, like I was doing something wrong because these SUPER AMAZING THINGS weren’t necessarily happening to me. But, looking back each of those trips were just preparing me for Arua.

What I learned the most about God is that He is simple. He loves us more than anything, and nothing else in life matters. The only thing we need to do is chase and love Him, and love others in return. I feel like God was really protecting me when I was there. I felt at peace and present this summer- at peace with God, where I was staying, and what I was doing all day. I learned that less is more- less distractions in Arua lead me closer to Him, which was awesome. Little things just don’t matter to me anymore, and I am trying to keep that perspective this semester.

I learned that sometimes the answers are not always there, and that is okay. Honestly, I am still wondering why I was supposed to go to Arua this summer, and I am learning to accept the idea that maybe I never will, or maybe it is as simple as to just love on those people. There you have it! My trip was simple, humble, and the best summer of my life.


Two Sponsors Get Innovative in Giving Back

One year ago, Tammy and Tim Mathieu saw a post on Facebook about realtors donating their commission to Zozu Project, and it got them thinking. While they’re not realtors, they are stock traders, and here’s what they did in response.

For 15 years, BTIG, an institutional brokerage firm, headquartered out of NY has hosted a yearly “Charity Day.” It’s a really big deal in the trading world. Hundreds of the largest institutions, pension funds, and corporations together direct their earned commissions to charities of their choice for that day. They also host big name celebrities in the trading room like Alex Rodriguez and Shaquille O’Neal. It’s a big event, and more high-profile than anything we had been involved in as an organization before! Last year, this day raised over $4 million dollars to for charities chosen by clients and celebrity guest traders.

Celebrities, stock trading, and fundraising for our Ugandan school children? We’re just as amazed at this coming together.

So what does this have to do with us? The Mathieus were already sponsors of Gilbert, one of the students of Solid Rock. But after seeing that post about a realtor donating their commission, they thought that they could do much more by reaching out to their workplace. Tim is the Director of Trading of a large institution on Wall Street, and this gave the couple the idea to ask BTIG to approve Zozu Project as a charity for the big “Charity Day.” So they did. Zozu Project was accepted and got to be a part of the big day along with charities like The Boys and Girls Club of America and The UN Refugee Agency! Here we are, a small group of people helping the poorest children in a small African town, and through Tammy and Tim God brought us onto the floor of the stock exchange to raise funds. Sounds like an underdog story to us!

In Tim’s words– “It truly was an honor to get Zozu on the map with some of the largest philanthropic foundations and endeavors in the country and was a joy to know for a fact that the dollars raised for Zozu are going to such a worthy cause!  Mick and Elaine and their children have founded an entity that we are all so proud to be a part of.  We love our Ugandan child, Gilbert, who we sponsor (he just used his birthday money to buy his first bed), especially since we cannot have children of our own.” Tammy added  “Our prayer for Zozu, is that this inspires someone else to look into their own lives and see if there is a way to give back, that might not just be the usual ‘write the check,’ ‘go to the chicken dinner banquet.’ Think outside the box – be creative!!”

Because Tim and Tammy got creative in how they contributed, the money that was raised is going to give the children in Arua the best education possible so they can one day give back themselves. To us, the most incredible thing about this is how God uses very ordinary people to make big things happen. Tim and Tammy just started where they were and thought “what could we do with what God has given us?” You don’t have to be a celebrity to be a mover and shaker in God’s kingdom, you don’t have to be a millionaire, you just have to be willing, and he will multiply. Many, many thanks from Arua!

 

In case you’re curious…

More info on the event →  http://www.btigcharityday.com/

And a video here →

http://www.nbcnewyork.com/on-air/as-seen-on/Sports-Stars_-Celebrities-Turn-Out-for-Charity-Day-in-NYC_New-York-421066113.html

 

 


Celebrating Another Successful School Year

Yesterday concluded Solid Rock School’s final day of the school year. To commemorate a successful school year, students, parents, and faculty held a celebration filled with food, song and dance, drama, and other activities. During the event, parents were part of an informal conference as teachers and staff lectured in regards to childcare during the holidays, sending children to Sunday School, and the value of education. We think that the pictures speak for themselves!

 

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