Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Message from the Founder

Thank you so much for taking time to learn about The Bernie Project!

I am so excited for The Bernie Project to be getting off the ground. This project has been percolating in my soul for many years, but it began taking real shape over the past four months.

Our first initiative, stabilizing the feeding program at the Wakiso School of Hope (WSH) is our most imperative and urgent. WSH receives most of it's funding from a small organization AGLMUK in Wales, those funds are stretched very thin as their budget manages all components of the school. Currently WSH has limited funding for their feeding program this month and no funding for the months of August, October and December. When I spoke with Pastor Joshua (the administrator of the school) this past week I asked him, "what happens if you don't receive the funding." He replied "the children receive fewer meals or we take out a loan for the food and we go in debt."

For 250 children to receive 3 meals a day of porridge for breakfast, posho and beans for lunch and dinner the total cost is approximately $3,000 for one month, that's .13 cents a meal per child.  While these meals keep the children from starving to death it is far from nutritional. The Bernie Project wants to incorporate fruits, vegetables and protein, ensuring these children are receiving the vitamins and minerals that help them focus in class, ward off illness and grow to be healthy girls and boys. By donating $25.00/month you are providing one child 3 meals a day for a month, along with hygiene supplies that are appropriate for their age.

Once the feeding program is improved and stabilized, we want to evaluate the farm land WSH owns and create a program that not only allows for fruits and vegetables to be grown and used at the school but also to be taken to market and sold providing additional support to the school and village.

I'm traveling to Uganda in August and will sit down with Pastor Joshua and lay out a plan for improving the feeding program, along with plotting out what resources and finances will be necessary to create a successful and viable farming project. I hope to see the farming plans in place by mid-2014.

The short term goal of stabilizing their feeding program for the rest of the year is the most urgent. However, our long term goals of improving the nutritional quality of the feeding program and implementing a successful farming project are just as important.

I chose the tagline It Starts With One, because the first time I was in Uganda I wanted to personally affect positive change in one child's life, knowing at that time that was all I could invest in and afford. Over the past few years it has become apparent, that it is my duty to affect positive change not on only one child but many. However, I can't do that alone, so while it may start with one, it will take many to meet the goals of The Bernie Project. I hope you consider being a part of our team.

With abundant gratitude,


The Inspiration Behind The Bernie Project

Photo by Hannah Westphall

The Bernie Project was named after a little girl in a photo who ended up being very much a little boy in real life. April first laid eyes on Bernie the summer of 2009, when her friend and roommate Jen Gash returned from Sweet Sleep's inaugural trip to Uganda. The photo to the left hung in their house. April's sister, Katie came to visit and named the girls in the photo Tasha (in pink) and Bernie (in blue). Katie and April spent a good 10 minutes making up a story about Tasha and Bernie's lives. Unbeknownst to April at the time, she would have a life changing encounter with Bernie while traveling in Uganda with Sweet Sleep just a few months later. 

After spending three weeks working in Northern Uganda with Sweet Sleep distributing beds to child headed households, April was down to her last two days in Uganda. On one of those days April accompanied Jen and her colleagues to the Wakiso School of Hope (WSH). 
Sweet Sleep wanted to check on how the beds and mosquito nets that had been distributed in June were holding up, impacting the spread of malaria and improving the quality of sleep amongst the children.

When April arrived at the school, she was immediately mobbed by children reaching out their small hands looking for the smallest sign of affection. As April attempted to dole out equal parts of her hands, fingers, and legs to all the kids around her, Jen uttered the fateful words, "April this is where Bernie and Tasha live!" April quickly inspected the small faces around her in search of Bernie and Tasha**. Seconds later, April exclaimed to Jen, "Bernie's a boy!" Jen said, "How do you know?" to which April replied, "He has no pants on!"

April was officially introduced to "Bernie", whose real name is Mahadi. As Mahadi stood in front of April that day, he was shy and pensive, and he instantly won her over with his big brown saucer like eyes. April knew that meeting had forever changed her life. Though she had just met Mahadi, April decided on the spot that she would take responsibility for this child. She committed to pay for his medical care and to cover his school fees once he was old enough for school. In that moment, April didn't know how much that promise was gong to cost or the exact logistics of making that commitment come to fruition. But she did know that she was making a conscious decision to make a difference in one child's life.

April has been back to Uganda twice since that first trip. During a trip to Uganda in November 2012, April talked to a Ugandan friend about possibly sending Mahadi to a different (better) school in a year or two. After much reflection, April decided that she didn't want to pull Mahadi away from his grandma, his brothers, his friends and teachers and out of the only environment he's ever known. Instead, April was determined to find a way to improve Mahadi's school. The Wakiso School of hope can become a place where kids will learn, grow, and blossom into healthy and empowered young adults. Now, not only Mahadi, but all of the students April has come to know and love at WSH will have the opportunity to become well-equipped adults.

The roots of The Bernie Project started with one young lady making a commitment to one small child in Uganda. Join April in multiplying the positive impact, one by one, on the lives of vulnerable children in Uganda.