Creating a more inclusive Uganda

Creating a more inclusive Uganda

How are Ugandans fostering a more loving and inclusive society? Universal Love Ministries (ULM) is hosting a series of workshops, supported in part by Spirit in Action, at schools in Uganda. Their team talks with students and teachers about life planning skills and human rights, particularly the rights of LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) people. At the end of the workshop, students are encouraged to form “inclusive clubs” to defend human rights in their school.

Taremwa Kenneth is a Fine Arts teacher and deputy head teacher at Bitereko Vocational Secondary School, where ULM held a recent day-long workshop. In his many roles, he works closely with head teachers, and government and community leaders.

Kenneth sees that the Universal Love Ministries’ workshops are having great impact in his community in Mitooma District. LGBTI youth are safer and more confident. Youth are focusing on inclusion and standing up against hatred. After talking with youth who attended the workshops, Kenneth shared his findings.

Skits are common in Ugandan workshops. They are a more fun and accessible way to talk about social change.

Report from Kenneth, Deputy Head Teacher

“I attended two of the day-long ULM sessions, the one held at my school and another that was delivered at the Kitojo Secondary School. After ULM left Mitooma, the message they delivered in the workshops circulated around the district and reached community members and government officials. This happened by word of mouth as teachers and students who attended the ULM workshops retold what they had learned to others.

“Recently, I traveled to Kampala and spent a week of training at the ULM office. The training opened my inner eyes and ears. It helped me to start thinking in a different way: a way that seeks a constructive solution to the problems faced by people in our communities.

Samson Turinawe, director of ULM, leads a workshop session on human rights and life skills.

What have students learned about being inclusive?

“I talked with students, including those who attended the ULM workshops, as well as those who got word about what happened at the workshop through inclusive club members. Through this I learned how the previous ULM workshops helped the students and teachers who attended.

  1. They learned about human rights. They had heard about human right but they did not know exactly what human rights mean.
  2. Students came to know that one’s sexual orientation cannot be changed.
  3. They learned the difference between gender and sex.
  4. They learned that LGBTI people are not cursed nor are they agents of the devil, as they’ve been told by local religious leaders.
  5. LGBTI youth were happy to know that there is an organization which is educating people to accept them and include them in each and every activity in their communities.
  6. LGBTI students started believing in themselves and accepting who they are. It was their first time to hear someone affirm them. 
  7. Some LGBTI students who were in the closet are now coming out openly to their fellow students about their sexual orientation.
  8. Students now socialize in the inclusive club, which meets twice a month. In club meetings, they educate others on human rights, and to accept LGBTI.
  9. Students told me that they would love to have more training because they have more questions they need to ask, and that they are also asked many questions which do have answers.
  10. LGBTI students reported that they are no longer teased and bullied by their fellow students and that after the workshops some students approached and apologized to them. 

Inclusive club members. At their meetings they talk to others about human rights and help people accept LGBTI students.

ULM fills the knowledge gap

“They all thanked ULM for the good work. I want to personally thank the ULM team and Samson for the good work that ULM is doing for issues that affect our country. I did not know how to handle these issues beforehand. Many professionals still do not know how to handle these issues. ULM is there to fill the gap. I am committed to use the knowledge I gained at ULM along with my connections and my network of friends to see that ULM’s work and teachings reach many people, directly and indirectly.”

Wisdom from Del: I’m trusting….

Wisdom from Del: I’m trusting….

Del used to say that in times of uncertainty, or of challenge, or when he wasn’t sure what the right choice among many might be, that he would pray, “Father*, I’m trusting.” And by pray, I mean focus one-pointedly in it, so that you embody the intention, you become the prayer, which is another way of talking about praying without ceasing.

FATHER, I’M TRUSTING

Simplest prayer in the world. And perhaps the most powerful.
Not, “I’m trusting about tomorrow.”
Not. “I trust You in yesterday.”

But:
FATHER, I’M TRUSTING

In THIS moment. In THIS now. With every fiber of my being, I relinquish all my opinions, preferences, and desires about any possible outcome.

FATHER, I’M TRUSTING

I’m trusting, moment by moment. As you trust, as we trust and relinquish, God can work out God’s perfect plan.

*Tanya’s Note: ‘Father’ was Del’s word. For myself, I am using the prayer, Spirit, I’m trusting.

Del & Bebe at Sierra CFO camp [no date]

Del & Bebe at Sierra CFO camp [no date]

Wisdom from Del: Grow younger!

Wisdom from Del: Grow younger!

Spirit in Action’s Founder, Del Anderson, was 90 years old when he formed SIA. He lived with a clear mind and loving heart until the age of 102! 

Reverse the Trend! Grow Younger

1. Keep before you the simple truth that you were given life by the Creative Spirit we call God. Your brain – your entire body – was formed and is being sustained by this Creative Spirit.

2. Present with you all the time, the Creative Spirit keeps your heart beating and does the countless things for you which you cannot do for yourself. This includes keeping open the lines of communication between your brain and the rest of you, so that you may thing straight, talk straights, and act straight.

3. The wisdom, power, love, and joy of the Creative Spirit are available to you all the time. For you not to make conscious use of these blessings is like living in poverty unaware that a priceless estate awaits your claim.

4. When you get your little self out of the way, these blessings are free to enter. They start reversing the trend. You begin growing younger. This will be noticeable to you and to others. With the Creative Spirit as your Partner, all things are possible.

5. To get yourself out of God’s way, to make yourself an “agent and instrument of divine Providence” (Lincoln’s words), recognize: With every breath I take – out and in – starts the simple practice of breathing out ego, breathing in God.

an older Del Anderson

Del Anderson

6. Your Creative Spirit Partner will guide you in your treatment of every person you meet. Each will observe the radiance in your face, reflecting the presence of your Partner. Because you have found your place in God, some will surely feel inspired and helped.

7. The body your Creator-Partner made for you deserves care and respect. When you open yourself to your Partner’s guidance, you will choose foods as close to their natural state as possible. Your Creator-Partner has placed in these foods the very elements needed to replenish your body, to insure its health and vigor.

8. In all things, your desire will be to have your Creative Spirit Partner rule your life, confident that the Supreme intelligence knows what is best for you.

9. The world around you will lose much of its influence and control over you. People about you may continue to crack in their mid-forties and early fifties, but with your new understanding you will grow younger.

Grow younger with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life,
For which the first was made.
Our times are in His hand,
Who to be man’s Partner planned.
Who can reverse life’s trend
Blessed younger years to lend.
— A poem by Robert Browning, modified by Del

10. Make this your motto: Mind over matter, Spirit over both.

Read more wisdom from Del.

Do we have the courage to act?

Do we have the courage to act?

Reposting this post, originally posted January 20, 2015, to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. It is also renewing the call to stand up for the rights of the oppressed people in your country and around the world.

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“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  -MLK, Jr.

Yesterday, Boyd and I took our lunch break to read Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail aloud to each other. Reading it in its entirety, rather than in a series of quotes, I was impressed by frequent references to God, Jesus, and Biblical figures. There are many deeply moving quotes from King about the arc of justice, about how we are all inter-connected, about expressing compassion to each other, about love and hatred. These are quotes that stem from and refer to the deep truths of his Christian faith without always mentioning his faith.

King’s letter quoted Amos and made more than a few references to Paul and the early Christians. He seemed to take courage from those first Christians who were radical in their faith and who didn’t settle for the status quo. Churches today, King lamented, were afraid to be labeled as “nonconformist” and were shying away from the important work of challenging injustice and structural prejudice. He asks: “Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world?”

This letter is a call to action, now. Not to wait. Not to be afraid to be different or radical or uncomfortable. People of faith must be people who stand up for justice, for moral rights, for the inherent dignity of all people.

Sometimes action means listening. Small Business Fund coordinators listen to the stories of the successes and challenges of the entrepreneurs in Uganda.

We may not be able to help everyone. But we are not waiting until we can to solve all problems before we serve one person. We are not waiting to be a perfect organization before we dive into action to co-create with God for a better world.

Spirit in Action is not just a “spirit” organization. It is also an “action” organization. We see light and value and hope and possibility in the poor, in people of distant communities. We see that organizations that do not allow people to be actors in their own future, in their own prosperity, perpetuate an unsettling hierarchy of those who are helpers and those who need help. Action is confronting people who make statements that lump all of Africa into a uniform culture, who distrust all people who are poor. I know that is my great privilege to serve others, to give and encourage so that they can realize their own dreams for a better future.

Thank you for joining me on this path, in this action, in this service, and in using the power of God for good.

I sign off my post today with the same words as Martin Luther King, Jr. used in his letter from the Birmingham jail:

Yours for the cause of Peace and [Sister/]Brotherhood,
Tanya

Receiving the gift of a chicken from a Small Business Fund leader in Kasozi Village, Uganda, 2014.

Encouraging Updates

Encouraging Updates

A family business in Eldoret, Kenya

Purity and her son, Cyril, started a milk and doughnut business (a winning combination!) with a SIA Small Business Grant in 2015. This week, local coordinator Dennis Kiprop went to visit them and was pleased to see that Cyril had already sold out by 10am. Cyril shares his excitement, “I am grateful for SIA for coming to us in time, we have been so encouraged in our family and we have expanded the business.”

Cyril with milk jugs attached to the back of his motorbike. He works with his mother to support the family.

Cyril with milk jugs attached to the back of his motorbike. He works with his mother to support the family.

Supporting Business Expansion

The SIA Board met over the weekend. We took time to pray for each of our dedicated partners throughout Africa. We rededicated ourselves to continue our work of empowerment and encouragement. One of the newly approved grant projects is a jewelry shop. The Namaiyana Women’s Self-Help Group is in Archer’s Post, Samburu County, Kenya. The 25 members make beautiful, handmade beaded jewelry and accessories, wooden artifacts, and suvenirs for tourists on safari.

Board Member Kathleen King was pleased to support this application. “This is exactly the kind of project that we like to support. The women have already learned the skill and Spirit in Action funds can help them get to the next step to support themselves and their families.”

Young artisan showing off the beautiful beaded jewelry.

Young artisan showing off the beautiful beaded jewelry.

Receiving Prayers of Peace

“We are praying for you in the wake of your elections,” is a phrase I have written many times in my nine years with Spirit in Action. Elections in Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria have called me to prayer. This week, I am on the receiving end of these messages. One of our partners in Kenya wrote, “I am also praying for you for peace, understanding, and respect in the wake of your new president.

I remember that when in Kenya, everyone I met was so proud of President Obama, a man with Kenyan heritage. Many Kenyans remarked how impressed they were that the United States had elected someone who was so different. May we receive these prayers and be grateful for our amazing global SIA community.

“Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world.”
~ Dolores Huerta

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