THIS IS MY
(way too fancy of a title)
Two summers ago, I had dinner with a woman who little did I know would change my life.
Her name was Jolly.
At the table, between bites of our meal,
she began to tell her story.
A story unlike any I'd ever heard before.
After dinner, I rushed home and immediately wrote down in my journal.
"Jolly is the most extraordinary woman I have ever met - she is truly my hero.
If I ever have the opportunity to do anything with this woman.. I have to say yes."
A few months later, in the middle of class, I felt my phone buzzing. Immediately, I ran to the bathroom to answer.
It was my good friend Connor's mom, Ali.
"So, I was talking with Jolly, and we think you should come to Uganda."
She told me that in May she was bringing out a team of people to her families orphanage,Jireh, and that I should come and stay an extra week to go up to Gulu and take some pictures to help Jolly with WEND's website.
Immediately, I thought back to what I had wrote down in my journal, and began to tear up.
"Yes, I'll go. I have to go."
Fast forward to June in Gulu.
A couple days in, I realized God had brought me here do a much bigger job than just taking pictures.
I felt myself falling in love.
I felt this unreal amount of clarity and comfort..
I felt like I almost could audibly hear the words,
"this is what you're made to do."
"Do you think Sara would ever come work for us?"
Jolly asked Ali.
"Ah unfortunately I don't think so...She has another job...and she just moved to California and will be getting married soon..I don't think she will be able to," she replied.
But one night, some how and in some way the topic came back up again about me working for WEND...
I don't really remember it clearly. I just remember sitting down at dinner and telling Jolly I want to work for WEND. I have to do this. This is what I've been praying for. I know it. Before I could finish my breath, Jolly had explained.
This is what I've been praying for for the last two years. I've been praying for God to send me someone. Send me someone to help. Someone to help continue this in the United States. And here you are.
No words will ever be able to describe this moment.
After dinner, with tears in my eyes and my heart pumping out of my chest I raced upstairs to go facetime my family to tell them the news.
"Mom. Dad.You know that job I got in California two weeks ago? Yeah, well I'm going to need to quit. I just got asked to be the US Executive Director of WEND. I know I know..it's a big title. But it kinda has to be because I'm the only American..and people need to take me seriously. Hahaha. Isn't this crazy?"
She told me how she grew up in the same village as Joseph Kony. (Remember KONY 2012?) And how one day, she was abducted by Kony's rebels and forced to become a child solider. She described her years in captivity where she was forced to fight, steal from her her own people at gunpoint and repeatedly sexually abused by the rebel commanders. Despite the horrific circumstances, Jolly said, "I never gave up hope." After two two long and painful years, she managed to escape - but would pay a heavy price. When she returned, she learned her beloved father had been imprisoned and was soon to be shot to death.
Using the training she was forced to learn, she lead a nighttime raid and successfully free her father.
When the rebels learned of what she had done to free her father, they retaliated and killed 21 of her cousins.
Despite the atrocities she faced, Jolly persevered. She went back to school - realizing education was the only hope for creating change in Uganda. At this time, Jolly was offered a life of freedom in the United States, but declined because she felt that she had been blessed to return to her family and felt it was her responsibility to help other child soldiers regain what they could of their lives. Since then, Jolly has dedicated her life to working with communities affected by LRA violence. Earning herself the affectionate name "Mama Jolly" for her outstanding love, compassion and charity for her people. In 2005, Jolly was even nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize - where she immediately responded with "what is that?".
HOW IT HAPPENED
What do I do?
As the only full-time American I war a lot of hats.
Everyday I am learning. Something new. Something random. Something I never thought I'd have to learn.
Accounting. Reconciling your bank accounts. Knowing fabric weights and leather types. Knowing legal terms about nonprofit and social enterprise sector. Learning about founders boards and how to create one. Emailing nonstop. "What's- App" texting the office in Uganda at weird hours of the day. Planning trips to Uganda. Driving to the middle of nowhere East LA to look a leather. Taking photos. Editing photos. Creating websites. More emails. Dreaming up ideas on how we are going to raise money for the millions of needs we have. Creating online fundraisers. Going to meetings in San Diego or in high schools. Getting a part time job. Quitting a part time job. Applying for apartments - sending a description of WEND's mission instead of my paystubs. I'm all in.
I AM WITH WEND.
"I FELL IN LOVE.
I MADE A PROMISE.
I AM ALL IN - THERE IS NO PLAN B."
"I PROMISE I WILL DO EVERYTHING I CAN TO HELP YOU. I WILL WORK MY HARDEST FOR YOU LADIES.
EVERY SINGLE DAY. AND EVEN WHEN I'M GONE, AND YOU CAN'T SEE ME...I WILL BE WORKING FOR YOU..AND I WILL BE BACK. I WILL NOT LEAVE OR FORGET YOU.GOD IS WITH US - AND HE'S ABOUT TO DO SOMETHING HERE."
This is the scariest, hardest but greatest thing I have ever done. The weight of this work is greater than anything I have ever known. It's God's work. It's kingdom work. Work that's far bigger than myself. Work that is impossible for a 23 year old like me.
Whatever may come of WEND will have little to do with me and everything to do with what God has done. I have reached a breaking a point. I have reached the point where I have given everything I can. I've emptied myself of what I can do sitting from my home by myself. I'm at the phase where I need help. I need your help. And I have faith in a bunch of small things creating something amazing. There is a huge collective WE component of WEND. Together we can do great things. But I'm afraid if nothing changes, neither will WEND. And I won't be able to keep my promise to the women. Which would be the biggest disappointment of my life. I refuse to let it happen. God's called me to this so he'll bring me through this!
Our goal is to empower the disadvantaged women and community to live a decent life while respecting their dignity by providing them with business opportunity, mentorship, skills training, health education and formal education.