During the Frontline tour in fall 2011, Invisible Children offered 16 trips to Uganda for the top fundraisers. Collectively, the 16 winners raised $200,000 to fund Protection and Recovery programs in Democratic Republic of Congo.
This past July saw those 16 winners disembarking from a plane at the Entebbe airport in Uganda, ready to experience the trip of a lifetime.
This was more than a sightseeing trip – although they did that too. This was a chance to see how Recovery programs have been working in northern Uganda to bring improved education and livelihood to a region formerly affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army conflict. It was an opportunity to meet with Invisible Children Uganda staff who have the responsibility to mentor students in the Legacy Scholarship Program. It was a chance to talk with teachers at schools benefiting from Schools for Schools construction projects.
While many of these trip winners have been long-term supporters of Invisible Children, they still found themselves surprised by the number of programs that they discovered in Uganda. In particular, many commented that they had been unaware of just how much was being done through the Village Savings and Loan Associations program.
“It was wonderful to be able to visit a village and see how this program is improving the lives of the people there by helping them grow more food, buy products to sell as a business, and learn more about responsible economic practices,” said Forrest Sherman, who became involved with IC after seeing The Rough Cut as a freshman at her university.
In addition to visiting each of the on-the-ground programs and hearing from the community members, the trip included an overnight stay in Awere, with a visit to the place where Joseph Kony claims to have gained magic powers.
Invisible Children’s regional ambassador, Jolly Okot Andruvile, is also from Awere, and invited the group to stay at her family home. Over plates full of delicious local food like malakwang and sweet potatoes, Jolly’s father explained the history of the war and how it affected their family and so many others living in the north.
The trip was a reward for hard work and dedication, but it was also a starting point. A place to foment new ideas and gain perspective on our global community. Each of the trip winners has a unique skill set and the ambition to be part of a better future. Whether that is through supporting IC programs, other organizations that are making a difference, or by initiating their own ideas – there are exciting things to come from this group.
“Meeting all of these unbelievably friendly and strong and people was very humbling and I aspire to be more like them,” Forrest wrote after the trip. “I thought that Uganda was part of my heart before, but now I know that it always will be.”
Forrest is currently in medical school and is planning to volunteer at a clinic in Uganda next summer.
Another trip winner, Susie Jun, says that since going on the trip she has been motivated to get more involved with Invisible Children, maybe interning or becoming a roadie in the future.
“One thing is for sure, I want to see a change in our world and I would love to help that change happen,” Susie says.