Who would have thought that supply drive participants would ask for donations for Sister Schools at their birthday parties, but that's exactly what happened. Who would have thought that for fifteen years, children at Fernwood Elementary School would raise tens of thousands of dollars for Ugandan children through benefit concerts, but that’s exactly what happened. Who would have thought that dozens of schools would do coin drives to purchase thousands of backpacks filled with everything a Ugandan child needs to stay in school for an entire year, but that’s exactly what happened.
Who would have thought that Martha Birabwa, a talented young Ugandan girl disowned by her father and without the means to continue her education past seventh grade, would find sponsors through Sister Schools and continue her education, becoming a dentist who not only volunteers in disadvantaged communities but also contributes towards her younger brother's school fees to keep him in school.
And who would have thought Sister Schools sponsors would change the lives of more than a dozen other children, helping them become engineers, IT professionals, social workers, flight attendants and accountants, but that’s exactly what happened.
In the fall of 2000, a teacher from a Seattle school approached me while we were picking up donations at her school because her class wanted to do something more: she handed me a class picture and several dozen cases of Tic Tacs for the children at Naguru Reception Center. The candies were a big hit with the Ugandan kids and we had a great time showing the students back in Seattle just how much we enjoyed them, even though they only lasted one day.
Last spring, I was in Uganda on my first trip since undergoing open heart surgery. Although I had been doing fine up to that point, I began having issues and it quickly became clear that I needed to find a cardiologist. I ended up at a small clinic in the capital city of Kampala. After the cardiologist’s assistant prepared me for the EKG, she produced a clipboard and began recording all my information.
When I gave her my name, she dropped the clipboard and exclaimed, “You’re Mr. Terry! You came to my orphanage when I was a little girl.” On my next visit she produced two pictures she had kept of us sharing Tic Tacs nearly twenty years ago. The candies may have only lasted a few minutes, but the knowledge that she wasn’t forgotten had remained. Who would have thought that Diane would draw strength and courage for nearly two decades from the memory of sharing those small candies, but that’s exactly what happened.
Looking back on the past thirty years, the only expression I can think of is that I’ve been blessed. Blessed by the children in Uganda who show so much resilience and persevere through so much adversity. Blessed by the children here who show so much empathy and compassion in such a concrete, life-changing way. And blessed by supporters who have provided countless volunteer hours and funds to cover everything from shipping costs and travel expenses to construction costs, salaries and rent - everything needed to make it all happen.
Without the financial support of donors like you, none of this would have been possible. Thank you.
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