**The following blog post was written by Kristine Sullivan, co-founder and current Director of Programs and Development who is on the ground in Gulu, Uganda**
On Thursday our group went to MEND to visit the ladies. MEND is a social enterprise that funds many Invisible Children programs while providing sustainable development through vocational training, education, and counseling in the Gulu region to many women who are victims of the LRA. I visited MEND last year but learned so much more about it on this trip.
It was an amazing afternoon. One that made me feel nostalgic for my Gulu TEX family as we passed our former house (it’s for rent, so if any of you are moving here to join me— we can get it. Hurry up!) One that humbled me — watching the women start a spontaneous dance party because of their overwhelming joy and zest for life. And one that made me realize how small our world is! Ten days ago the new MEND IC employee began her two year contract. She just moved to Gulu— by way of Los Angeles— hailing from Saugerties, NY. We are from the same area and have traveled a near identical path, landing us here in Gulu for the next few years. Again. Small flipping world.
Joining the women as they shrieked joyfully and danced in the middle of the MEND office amidst patterns and sewing machines also allowed me a moment to reflect on our purpose and our path.
Our group had spent the morning at the U-Touch office meeting with Emmanuel and Charles and learning more about their community school and computer training classes. They had so much joy for what they did every day and it was evident that they have been successful, with over 1,000 Gulu residents going through their training programs since the programs inception. Rebuilding infrastructure and business in a post-conflict region is not an easy task, and both U-Touch and MEND are equipping the most vulnerable of the community with the means to achieve success. It’s truly a beautiful and hopeful thing.
I hope and pray that Educate for Change will be able to provide the same opportunities for our students. The news so far is positive, but there is a lot of work to be done. I am slowly learning sign language to try to engage more with our deaf students in the primary school. I am visiting the students at their secondary schools and learning more about the opportunities our P7 students have— whether that be vocational school, boarding school, or day school. My simple dream is that they are all successful and happy. And I am planning on doing anything and everything in my power to allow them the opportunity to make that happen for themselves. I think that’s my purpose and my path. I wake up each morning with it in my heart, after all.
I just have to “dwell in hope” (Acts 2:26) and trust that it will come. In time. The following is a poem that was emailed to me by my amazing friend. THANK YOU for thinking of me and sending this along, Emily.
“I hope you wake with a gasp, a thousand flutters in your heart
Not from the whirlpool of worry. Not from a bad dream.
Not from a deadline or a string of demands, or the great to-do of the still-to-be-done.
Not from the lopsided weight of futility and failure
or some wayward mutiny shaking your bones.
Not from the loss of letting go or the grief of giving in.
Not from the illusions of your metaphorical imprisonment or escape.
Not from grass-is-greener or anywhere-but-here.
I hope, instead, you rise from the tremble of something finding its edges, earthquaking its way into being.
That riotous pulsing of birth, and the cry that comes just after
the lungs taking in their first overwhelmed breaths.
That same lucid sweetness of entry and release.
The song of your life being sung.”
Much love from Gulu.