Gertrude's Influence...and Me
Who knew that trading a dream trip to the Masters Golf Tournament for a trip I had no idea I even wanted to take, halfway around the world, would end up being an experience of a lifetime?
The journey began last summer when I met Gertrude Kabatalemwa at a friend’s house. To say Gertrude is an amazing woman is an understatement. Gertrude grew up in Uganda as an educated daughter of a tribal leader and lived prosperously as a wife, mom and personal secretary employed by the government. Then in 1971, her life—along with millions of Ugandans—was tragically affected when Idi Amin became president of Uganda. Throughout Amin’s dictatorial rule, an estimated one million people were murdered. Two fathers of Gertrude’s children were killed, and her oldest son was kidnapped before being miraculously returned 20 years later. Through all of this tragedy God pursued Gertrude, and she became a follower of Christ. Her life was spared through Amin’s rule, ongoing civil unrest and an AIDS epidemic.
Gertrude has long been a driving force in Uganda and wanted to change the direction of hopeless poverty and sickness. In the 1990s, she visited her home village and saw children drunk by 10 a.m. after farmers paid for their work with alcohol. Through God-given talents and help from key friends in the United States, Gertrude turned a story of pain into a story of redemption by founding NEEPUganda (National’s Efforts to Eradicate Poverty in Uganda) and the Nyamabuga School in 2001.
A deeper connection
I was able to experience Gertrude’s incredible story last summer and was deeply moved to action. Along with a group of friends, we developed a video to share Gertrude’s story and how the Nyamabuga School is making a difference for children in Uganda. This effort only deepened my commitment to Gertrude and the school, and I looked for other ways to make a positive difference. The more I explored how I could help, the more I was being led to two important facts. First, Gertrude’s life story is a true inspiration to everyone who learns of it. Second, Gertrude is 68 and her story will fade away when she’s no longer on this earth. I felt that God was compelling me to be part of recording Gertrude’s story so it could be shared with others and possibly lead to long-term financial support for the school.
This realization ultimately led me to visit with several experienced professionals who work in publishing, movies and other media. They were blown away with Gertrude’s story and felt the story had potential to be commercially viable. However, I didn’t yet have Gertrude’s full story. My timeline of her major life events was fuzzy, and there were some facts I hadn’t nailed down. Someone needed to go to Uganda to get the story and verify as many facts as possible. That someone ended up being me.
You have to understand, I never wanted to go to Africa. I’m not the most adventurous person, and my wish list of international destinations includes places like Italy, Spain, Fiji, … I think you get my point. Throughout my search for helping Gertrude and the Nyamabuga School, God was preparing me for a trip to Uganda. While speaking with a key school volunteer in January, I knew it was meant to be. After sharing all that I had learned about the next steps to get Gertrude’s story recorded, the volunteer responded by telling me about a mission trip specifically to support the school in the works. They planned to take 10 people, and nine were committed—leaving room for only one more. God hit me right between the eyes. I was going to Uganda in March with a group of people I had never met. To a non-adventurous person, this leap of faith was terrifying.
Across the globe
I landed in Uganda in early March and spent 10 days volunteering at the Nyamabuga School and soaking up the beauty of the region with an amazing group from Washington, D.C., and Virginia.
The impact Gertrude and the school are making in Uganda is more significant than I imagined. The school teaches more than 600 students ranging in age from 4 to 18. It’s considered a private school and provides an education far greater than any public school options. Just as a point of comparison, a public school has a student-to-teacher ratio of 200 to 1. (No, that’s not a typo.) In national testing, the Nyamabuga School has ranked second in the region and is a highly sought after school, but resources are severely scarce. The school could be much larger, but parents can’t afford to send their children. I was also impacted by how much our dollars can accomplish at the school. For example, a teacher’s salary is $80 per month and annual tuition for one student is $60.
During our time at the school, we were able to make a significant connection with the students and faculty. The team set up an infirmary, made a significant upgrade to the computer lab and provided vacation Bible school for the students. I was able to sing songs with kids, play games and witness some amazing “firsts.” I saw teenagers spend hours using simple watercolor paint with wonder and joy. I saw children eat a basic snack of peanut butter and bread with curiosity. I saw kids giddy with excitement as they chased bubbles. Overall, I was able to share laughter, tears, hugs and ultimately my heart with a group of beautiful children. I am forever changed and committed to following God’s leading to support Gertrude and the Nyamabuga School. We’ll see where that takes me next.
Learn more about David Morgan, his experience and how to help at davidcor1.wordpress.com.