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Kampala World Cup Massacre

I had hardly stopped fist pumping in the air over Spain’s victory in the World Cup when I heard the news about the simultaneous bombings in Kampala, Uganda.  What caught my eye immediately, besides the death toll in the senseless attack, was that one of the locations of carnage was the Ethiopian Village restaurant in Kabalagala.  When we were in Uganda in June we stayed on the hill right above this district and would walk down to Kabalagala to eat and use the internet.  The Ethiopian Village had an enormous TV in the main room and people would crowd in to watch the World Cup.  We were in Uganda when African teams were still in the hunt so people would spill onto the street.  You would often see enthusiastic fans packed 100 deep on the street looking into some bar with a tiny TV just to get a glimpse of the action.

When I heard about the bombings, I immediately worried about my friend, Matt Anderson.  He’s a student from the University of Colorado, on his first trip to Africa, who is helping BeadforLife with its inventory this summer.  He was staying in the same guest house where we were and it would have been completely logical for him to have walked down the street to the Ethiopian Village for a Nile Special and the finals between Spain and the Netherlands.  Ethiopian Village has great food and my colleague, Paul, and I took Matt there one night after we all were done surfing the net across the street at The Lion’s Den.  My instincts were right.  Matt was in the bombing.  I received an email shortly after the attack from Devin Hibbard, our host and one of the founders of BeadforLife, that yes, Matt had been there but he was alright.  Thank God.  This morning I received this email:


I’m OK.  I was at the Ethiopian Village when the bomb went off.  Thankfully, I was in a side room watching a smaller TV, not the large projector screen, so there was a wall between me and the blast.  I wasn’t hurt at all by the blast but helped some Americans who got shrapnel in their legs – everyone’s instinct was to rush out as fast as possible but these people were on the ground and couldn’t move, I had to do something.  Eventually, people kicked me out saying it wasn’t safe even though these Americans were still inside and injured.  I didn’t know what to do until someone yelled at me to call my embassy.  Thankfully I had the number in the Uganda phone Devin gave me.  I called the embassy and shortly afterward greeted an agent who arrived on the scene.  This is all very scary and unfortunately put a damper on the whole trip.  I don’t know how much longer I will be staying but friends at BeadforLife say that there will be political unrest for a while… we’ll see.  Thanks for the email.  I’ll keep you posted.  Matt

A Somali group called Al-Shabab, which has ties to Al-Qaeda, is taking credit for this massacre.  A leader for the militants said “Whatever makes Uganda cry, makes us happy.”  The group has a beef with Uganda because they have peacekeepers in Somalia and have ties to Ethiopia.  There are worries that there will continue to be instability leading up to next year’s Presidential election.  According to news accounts, the bombings at the Ethiopian Village and at the Rugby Club killed at least 74 people.  This is unthinkable.  This is so senseless.  During my visits there I have always been amazed by how safe I feel in Kampala.  It is such a shame that radicals would disrupt and disorganize the place like this.  And it is such a shame that my friend Matt, who was so overjoyed by the opportunity to do good in Uganda, had to witness such evil.  I hope he doesn’t lose heart.  Please pray for the people of Uganda and most of all please pray for peace.

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Deed for Life

Ndagire Sarah walked the red dirt carpet in her perky hairdo and a beautiful blue and white gown. She carried herself like a rich lady in a gomesi, the formal dress of women in Uganda. When I saw her I was overcome with tears of joy. I had met Sarah in 2006 when she was so sick with HIV/AIDS that she could hardly breathe. She lived in a slum in Kampala and was poor beyond belief, a widow who could not afford to feed her family or send her children to school, one of the hundreds of millions of women who live around the world in extreme poverty. But that was then. Today, just four years later, Sarah was being honored, with 21 other women for an incredible achievement. She had paid off a home that she built for herself in the village of Mukono, and was being awarded the title to the land she sat on. Sarah, who just a few years ago thought she would die and leave her children with nothing, was now a homeowner and one of the very small percentage of women around the world with land in her own name.

Ndagire Sarah in 2006

Sarah’s transcendent moment came because of her partnership with BeadforLife.  For many months she rolled beads out of recycled paper and saved her money for a down payment.  Beads became bricks and a ladder out of poverty.  She didn’t eat the profits, worked hard, and became an entrepreneur who also raised poultry. Sarah was the pioneer in Friendship Village.  She built the very first of 130 homes, even though the men who helped her thought she would not live long enough to sleep in it.  Today she is the proud owner of a brick house with a tin roof.  She has a lawn, a garden and 1000 neighbors.  The women roll beads to pay off their mortgages and not a single one defaults.  On this festival day, Sarah and 21 others call themselves brides, and they march from home to home.  Each woman is given a certificate and dances with it on the porch she dreamed about.  “This is really a day of glory for each of you,” BeadforLife founder, Devin Hibbard, proclaims.  She tells Sarah and the others to close their eyes.  “Think about where you were and think about where you are now and my challenge to you is to create your next dream as you become homeowners today.  What do you want to accomplish in the next three or four or five years?  Can you picture yourself and where you will be if you accomplish your next big goal? Because this is not the end of the path.  This is only the beginning for you.”


Ndagire Sarah in 2010

In November another 60 women will become homeowners and receive the titles to their land, and in March the last deeds will be given out.  The women will sing and ululate and shout “BeadforLife Oye” as they parade through the village.  They will celebrate with their neighbors and dance until midnight.  They will never fear that they will be thrown out of their home again.  They will never worry that they will die and have nothing for their children.  They will have an asset they can sell or carry from generation to generation, and a garden so they can feed their family.  For when you have a home you are never poor.  “Being a homeowner means the pride, the success, the light in your eyes, knowing you have worked hard and you have accomplished great things,” Devin reminds them.  “Being a homeowner means the confidence and pride to carry yourself like a big woman.”  Today Sarah is a leader in the village.  “Because of BeadforLife I’m so happy and so proud.  Sometimes when I sleep in my bed I say every person never lose hope.  Let me be the woman determined to win.  Because of BeadforLife I have my own house.”

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