Against all odds, JACARA believed!

Dearest Supporters,

My written words after Africa have been silenced, as the weeks and months following my adventures I tend to be reflective & quiet. It takes time to learn how to re-enter into this society. This world of ours that is ferociously different than the one we lived in Uganda. Though our time there was short, just shy of six weeks, I can tell you that what we saw & experienced began to shift us internally, in a profound and sneaky way. It’s not until you’re home that realize everything around you. It’s as if I swallowed a gulp of foreign liquid and all around me began to be revealed. Sounds, colors, the sky is different. Being able to hold my husbands hand in public, without any fear, the smell in the air. Dinner in which most people don’t finish the food they put on their plate. Freedom to be, me. Freedom to wear what I want. Yet, when I walk those foreign dusty roads in a land far away, called Uganda, freedom rings, it’s as if we traded the constraints of one society for another…

I received news that I could not keep for myself. My silence for written word had to be lifted and this story shared…

Rogers

Rogers

Over a year and a half ago I met a man named, Rogers. His name was passed on to me by a good friend, as a private hire taxi. I was assured that if I needed, he could take me anywhere in Uganda and I could trust him. It was my first time in Uganda and also my first time out of the village and in the town. I drove in with people I knew, though they had business and I found myself alone, a little scared and not quite knowing how I would get back to my accommodation or exactly where I was. The only time I had seen the town is an hour after we crossed the Ugandan/Rwandan border in the middle of the night. There was no one on the streets, the fog was creeping along the roads and it seemed to me that this was a quiet place. Oh boy, I was mistaken. I now found myself in the midst of what seemed like a gazillion choice’s for transportation! Bicycles, cars, buses, bigger buses, boda-boda’s, more cars…and people galore, not to mention the occasional cow or goat.

For the first time I used my Ugandan mobile phone and called a boda-boda driver, about five times. When it was clear, that I had the wrong number I searched through the handwritten pages that were given to me with trustworthy contacts. Rogers was on that list, though I knew this type of transportation would be more expensive I decided to ignore the ploys to get me in an unknown taxi and call him. He answered “yes please!” I smiled and explained that Leah (also Rogers friend) gave me his number and I needed a ride from Royal Supermarket. He said he would come right away. I payed for my sweet biscuits and when I turned around, I saw a man smiling at me,

The boys...

The boys…

quite positive I was the one that called, though hesitant to assume. He tentatively walked my way and as we made eye contact, we both smiled. He eagerly shook my hand and from that moment on, Rogers was not only my friend, but my Ugandan confidant, tour guide, driver and ultimate educator in Ugandan life.

After some time I inquired about his work. I learned the amount he paid to rent the car daily and the amount he actually made, I wondered if there was a better way he could provide for his family. Many days he was in the negative. The beautiful thing about Rogers…he didn’t ever volunteer his troubles or hardships, never. In fact, at times I had to pry. I secretly wanted to figure out a way that my new and fast friend could get ahead in a society in which he is meant to stay as he was, struggling. Although it may seem harsh to many Americans & even Ugandans, I feel strongly against just aimlessly giving money, even to those much less fortunate. I would not allow someone to starve or suffer, but through my experience I have come to realize that there is such a great need for foreign dollars. Begging doesn’t even begin to describe this dependency. Children, elders, anyone will walk right up to you and say “give me money”. This is not the fault of the people, they have been given handouts for so long. So, I strongly believe in not perpetuating the need for outside dependence. What these people need is education. Instead of putting a dollar in their hand, give them a skill. Teach the children something they can teach others, empower them. Listen to the simple dreams of people old and young, brainstorm, implement realistic creative thinking. These are the things, I believe are needed to truly change the fate of so many less fortunate in our world.

The day Rogers budget was created!

The day Rogers budget was created!

But how would I do such a thing with Rogers? Back to basics. I would teach him something he could really learn from. So, on a beautiful Sunday in March, I sat down with Rogers for hours and we diligently wrote out all of his finances. We added and subtracted and finally we came up with a budget. Rogers, for the first time learned to budget. A direct solution for Rogers was to have his own car, but that’s not so easy. We calculated the cost of a car, if he saved X amount monthly, we saw it would take him almost twenty years to save this amount of money. It’s as if I saw hope seep out of him. Inside, I was crushed. I couldn’t let him see that, so we put pen to paper, yet again. After hours we managed to shave off years, if only he could save so much monthly (far over what seemed possible). We talked of work ethic and the real possibility of changing his future and especially that of his children.

You see, Rogers had not ever budgeted before, nor thought it possible that he would ever own his own car. We would occasionally check in with each other and I began to see him shift. There was hope and faith in a man that thought his life was already laid out before him. Although this task of saving Millions of Ugandan shillings seemed nearly impossible, when someone can make only thirty thousand shillings a day or even a month (equivalent to about $11.50). Rogers took on the challenge. With all of my heart, I believed he would do it. All of us did. JACARA believed in this man, we, my husband and I

JACARA, Jared, Rogers & his wife, Gift. Our Ugandan family!

JACARA, Jared, Rogers & his wife, Gift. Our Ugandan family!

believed in this man. Though, we never imagined it would be anytime soon.

Yesterday, I received this message “Hi Jas everybody is doing well,we thank you very very much in a special way. Today we’ve bought a car today as we told you,we would not have done this but its because of your support,we’ll never forget you. webare munooooooonga.”. WHAT?! was my exact response.

Tears fill my eyes and joy fills my heart. Yesterday a man did an extraordinary thing. He did not give into doubt. He did not feel sorry for himself or his situation. He believed that with hard work he could truly change the course of his life, and he did. Yesterday, Akampurira Rogers, my dear friend bought his first car!

Rogers & his very own car!!

Rogers & his very own car!!

His road of challenges is only beginning, although he saved more than imagined in this amount of time, he has to pay the bank loan back, but I know he’ll do it. I believe in this man, my friend and my brother, with all of my heart. It may have been me, that taught him to juggle numbers, but it is him that has taught me what hope, faith and hard work

will really do. He taught me that against all odds you can do anything.

Rogers, you are our hero. Now, you have the true chance at giving your family a better life, educating your children, as you wanted to be educated, providing a good and safe home with meals everyday with an honest living. YOU did this, my friend.

We are humbled and so proud of you!!!

Ninkunkunda Munoooooonga (we love you soooooo much!),

JAsmineCAthyRAmon & Jared