Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Recap of August and where The Bernie Project is headed

It’s been a long while since I’ve updated The Bernie Project blog, I apologize, it’s not because stories and words haven’t been rolling around in this pumpkin size head of mine, it’s because finding the time to sit down and tell the story has been used doing something else.  Starting a non-profit is like well starting a business and the list of “to-dos” does not get shorter, couple that with my “real job”, things have been really busy since June.

For people who don’t know me personally, professionally I’m a corporate meeting and event planner and the last few months have been nothing short of insane. The fact that I’m writing this blog en route to my “Swan Song” in the event industry is sort of amazing, bittersweet and perfect timing.

My fourth trip to Uganda in August was fantastic and I was lucky not one time did I think “what am I doing here?! This is a mistake.” Those 9 days could not have gone better, the affirmations I received that week were a blessing. Sure is there a lot of hard work ahead of me and The Bernie Project no doubt, did I leave there with more questions than answers like I do every time I leave Uganda, yes, but unequivocally moving to Uganda, starting The Bernie Project is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing next.  Will it look exactly like it does today in 6 months, I hope not, will things ebb and flow as we progress, I’d bet on it.

What exactly did I do while I was there? Thanks to all of you who have donated, we were able to provide posho and beans to the kids during August, along with providing general hygiene kits for all of the kids, they received bathing soap, washing (laundry, yes they hand wash their own clothes) soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, Vaseline and a hanky in a draw string bag. We also equipped all the girls who have their periods with AFRIpad kits. Many girls in Africa miss four school days a month because they don’t have adequate supplies to manage their period. AFRIpads is an awesome Uganda based organization that provides washable, reusable pads. Most Western women grimace at this thought, but if you were using, newspaper, leaves, rags or old clothes, reusable pads would be a welcome product.

For the past few years a UK based organization has been providing the funding for the school’s feeding program, but this past year they have not been able to raise funds for all of the months, the launch of The Bernie Project could not have come at a more perfect time. Once I came back from my trip, Chris the woman I’ve been in contact with from the UK organization emailed me and asked if she thought The Bernie Project could cover the feeding program for 6 months in 2014. I told her yes we will cover 6 months, and we will also provide hygiene supplies each term. A few days later she emailed me and said the group who raises money for the feeding program now feels they can only commit to four months in 2014. I know people are thinking “what would the school do if The Bernie Project wasn’t on the scene”, we don’t need to answer that question because we are there. Universe, God, divine intervention, whatever you’d like to deem it, has put me and you right where we need to be to ensure that 250 kids at the Wakiso School of Hope don’t go hungry and suffer from malnutrition.

While I was at the school it was very apparent the school has a lot of issues that need to be addressed and it’s going to take a lot of patience and resources to bring this school up to a level we can all be proud of we are a part of, there are many people all over this world who have had the fortunate experience to know the kids at this school and I’m confident if we work together we can prove that the phrase “it takes a village” a “global village” at that is a true statement.  

The Bernie Project’s short-term goals ensuring that the kids don’t go hungry for one day, like they recently did, because the firewood was wet and they couldn’t cook for a day. That was a fun phone call to receive as I’m spending thousands of dollars on a corporate dinner for a few 100 people in the US; I’m getting a call that the kids at the school hadn’t had anything to eat for a day.  Talk about a stressful 24 hours! Another short-term goal getting mosquito nets back up in the dorms, there were few over the beds while I was there and the few that were there had massive holes that an ostrich could infiltrate. The number of malaria outbreaks while I was there was disheartening. Ensuring that the kids have access to hygiene supplies every term and encouraging them to practice good hygiene is an essential initiative to keeping the kids healthy. Long term goals: finding sustainable ways the school can feed itself, creating incentive programs to keep mosquito nets in tip top shape, incentive programs for keeping the compound of the school neat and tidy and finding ways to encourage and support the staff that has little resources or motivation to stay at a school that is in dire need.

Before I head to Uganda in January, raising funds for the 2014 feeding program will be The Bernie Project’s main focus, along with committing to providing hygiene supplies to all children every school term (3 times a year).  After October 12th, I will be directing much of my energy to creating fundraising events and speaking engagements through the end of November in California. After Thanksgiving I’m taking The Bernie Project on the road and will be stopping in Phoenix, Albuquerque, Denver, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois. I would love to come and speak to students of all ages, organizations and groups of any kind to discuss our goals and how you can become a part of our community. If you’d like me to come and speak at an event or have a fundraising event in mind, let’s talk, email me at april@thebernieproject.org.

A college friend of mine recently, innocently asked me, “April, there is so much need in Chicago, why don’t you do something here? Why do you have to go Uganda?” I said Jake, “it’s a fair question. But Chicago is not my path, Uganda is, I can’t explain it and I don’t I have a concrete answer for you. All I know is a number of events have happened in my life that there is no question Uganda is where I’m supposed to go next.”  There is need all over this world and while I strongly encourage you to support me and The Bernie Project, I equally encourage you to do something, anything to make a difference in someone’s life whether it’s in your own back yard or 2,000 miles away.

With Abundant Gratitude,


It Starts With One.