We’re a rag-tag group of people vigilantly pursuing self-sustaining educational & employment opportunities with and for students and their families living in rural communities in developing countries. We believe in asking hard questions like, “What do you need and how can we help?” We believe that communities know their needs better than we do and that it’s our job to listen. We’re big on being kind for the sake of kindness and we believe that even the smallest acts of kindness can make a big difference. We believe in keeping vigil over one another and watching for opportunities to help, no matter how far off the beaten path those opportunities take us. We’re vigilant in our belief that God has given each person unique gifts and that one of the highest forms of worship is using those gifts to serve others. We believe God has a purpose for each life and Vigilante Kindness is our purpose. Join us as we live out wild adventures in service of God and others. Join us in committing acts of Vigilante Kindness.
Hey, Vigilantes, Alicia here. I’m excited to introduce you to Laura Gore, the newly appointed Treasurer of Vigilante Kindness. If you followed along when I was blogging at Pedals and Pencils, you know Laura as That Laura. As in Laura who teaches archery to blind kids? Yes, that Laura. Laura who once inherited a cat named Little Baby Jesus? Yes, that Laura. Laura who convinced me to ride 200 miles from Seattle to Portland? Yes, that Laura. That Laura also loves making spreadsheets and analyzing and collecting data. All I have to say about that is thank God there are people out there who speak math. Here’s a little more about Laura.
Treasurer: Laura Gore
In Real Life: Laura has been on both sides of funding streams, working for funders as well as grantees. Currently she works as a Research Program Specialist with the California Department of Health and Human Services. Laura enjoys spending time at home with her two hilarious dogs, Skeeter and Sting. She also loves to travel and once took road trip with the sole purpose of seeing the longest continuous burning lightbulb, the site of a crashed UFO, and the Computer History Museum.
Gifts & Talents: Laura finds crunching numbers fun and is used to receiving strange looks when she gets excited and rambles on about data. Her other gifts include seizing opportunities, hunting down answers, and being very, very persuasive.
Things You Never Needed to Know: Laura was a competitive archer and has taken first at many archery shoots. She has ridden a bicycle from Hue to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam with her father. She once served a two-minute stint in solitary confinement at Alcatraz.
Hey, Vigilantes, Alicia here. I’m over the moon to introduce you to Colin Higbee, the newly appointed Secretary of Vigilante Kindness. Colin put up with me for a whole month on my very first trip to Uganda, so what he didn’t mention in his bio is that he is also a saint. Here’s a little more about Colin.
Secretary: Colin Higbee
In Real Life: Colin is a lifetime educator. He currently serves as a School Support Specialist with the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Prior to working with the SDE he has been a Guidance Counselor, Teacher and Camp Director in Oklahoma City, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska. He is an avid traveler and feels very fortunate to have taken part in several epic road trips. He’s also grateful for the month he spent meeting amazing people in Gulu, Uganda. Colin is married to his best friend, Lauren.
Gifts & Talents: Colin’s talents include photography, writing, teaching, and the ability to fall asleep in any situation.
Things You Never Needed to Know: Colin can wiggle his ears. He once shook hands with George H.W. Bush. He can perform cut down rescues from challenge courses and among certain circles he goes by Chigbee.
Read more about the fantastic collection of people we call our Board of Directors here.
The paintings of artist Ivan Leku, 19, may not ring a bell on the first look. They may seem like any other paintings, like the ones for decorating our rooms or office walls.
But on closer and careful observation, one gets fascinated with beautiful graphical illustration of the abstract paintings in acrylics.
The paintings send a striking message about the lives of the African street children, of children living a deplorable life, yet covered with jolly faces.
No Ordinary Painting
“This is not just an ordinary painting. I am trying to relay how our children are suffering on the streets,” Leku says. “All these children need is love and care so that they are transformed.”
Leku says from his experience as a street child for more than 10 years, he knows the challenges street children go through. “From my talent as an artist, I think it is worthwhile telling the world about these children through my paintings,” Leku says, adding: “My ambition at the moment is to ensure that the local people and the government take up responsibilities of looking after the street children who could be in possession of good talents.”
Passion for art
Leku says art has been his passion since childhood. He acquired practical art skills from Jinja Art shop, where he had been undergoing training in abstract and landscape paintings.
“Even in my childhood, no one thought I could be an artist. But because I had people around me who believed that art was what can earn me a living, they groomed me and today, they appreciate my skills,” says Leku.
He began commercial painting in 2010.
With Shs400,000, he rented a room in Gulu Town, which serves as his work station.
In order to reduce the rent he pays, he shares the room with two other artists. On how and where he sells his products, Leku says it is mostly at exhibition shows, trade fairs and hotels, targeting mainly foreign customers who seem to be more interested in his art pieces.
He says some of his clients constitute foreigners, who place their orders and have their goods sent to them and the money sent to him through Western Union.
Leku says he intends to turn his workshop into a free training class for street children, whose lives, he says, are considered wasted.
“I want these children to learn practical art skills for their future life sustenance,” says Leku.
Those foreign clients who place orders and send money via Western Union? That’s you, sweet Vigilantes. You’re making a difference in Ivan’s life. In turn, he’s sharing his heart and his talent with street kids in Gulu.
The elephants of Te Okot were tromping through my mind today.
A few weeks ago, I received a mini grant that allowed me to purchase 23 solar lights from Unite to Light, the same company I purchased solar lights from last year.
23 more solar lights for Te Okot.
23 solar lights that will not be fire hazards in their huts.
23 solar lights that won’t accidentally set their mosquito nets on fire.
23 solar lights that won’t require families to purchase kerosene and then breathe toxic kerosene fumes.
23 solar lights to keep the wild elephants at bay.
It’s that last one that gives me goosebumps. You might know the story already, but if not, let me get you up to speed. The people of Te Okot are sustenance farmers, meaning the food from their gardens is what they eat. It’s not like there’s a grocery store down the block.
A garden = food = life.
So you can imagine what, quite literally, a large problem it was for the people of Te Okot to have wild elephants come and devour their gardens at night, not to mention the acute fear of having wild elephants trample your hut and your sleeping family inside it.
The solution was an elegant and, for me, an unexpected one.
Now on nights when the elephants come near, the people of Te Okot turn on their lights and place them outside of their huts. Elephants associate light with the lights on the scopes of guns, so when they see the lights, they lumber away, leaving the people of Te Okot and their gardens safe and sound.
All of those things would be enough, more than enough, but, dear ones, this is not a story of just enough. This is a story of Vigilante Kindness from unexpected places and of a company who shows their heart through their actions.
Last week Unite to Light sent me an email saying that there was a mix up and they’d accidentally shipped another box of 23 lights. They gave me three choices:
Return the lights and they’d reimburse me for postage.
Buy the lights.
Keep the lights for free and give them to an organization to distribute and then report back to Unite to Light who I gave them to and where the lights will be used.
The idea of sending the lights back broke my heart, but I didn’t have a spare $250 lying around to buy the extra 23 lights either.
Unite to Light gives generously to non-profit organizations all over the world. We’re not a non-profit, not yet. So I did the only thing that made sense to me, the same thing I did when I didn’t know how to get clean drinking water for Te Okot.
I told a story.
I wrote back to Unite to Light and told them the story of solar lights and elephants and the people of Te Okot.
I told them about our little rag-tag organization, Vigilante Kindness, and that we don’t have our official non-profit status yet. I told them that it would be an incredible gift to bring the extra lights to Te Okot in July, but that I understood completely if they couldn’t do that because of our status.
My email was forwarded to the President of Unite to Light and her response still makes me get all teary-eyed.
I am so excited about the work that you are doing. I have already promoted you and your website on our Facebook page. (I hope that is OK!)
Your story is so intriguing. I am glad that you will be able to take the extra lights with you and deliver them to the people in Uganda.
You are brightening lives and we thank you.
Sometimes our mistakes work out for the best. Twenty-three more lives will be positively affected with those extras.
Blessings to you for the work you are doing.
I love the line, “Sometimes our mistakes work out for the best.” I’ll say.
23 46 solar lights for Te Okot.
23 46 solar lights that will not be fire hazards in their huts.
23 46 solar lights that won’t accidentally set their mosquito nets on fire.
23 46 solar lights that won’t require families to purchase kerosene and then breathe toxic kerosene fumes.
23 46 solar lights to keep the wild elephants at bay.
So now when the elephants of Te Okot tromp through my mind, I’ll smile and think of 46 more shining solar lights, peacefully keeping the people, the gardens, and even the wild elephants of Te Okot safe and sound.
Want to help bring light to people of Te Okot and the students of Northern Uganda? Click the PayPal link below. You could be light number 47.
Vickie and some other women in Te Okot know how to make paper bead jewelry. In fact, some of the men, including Denis, know how to make beads, too. I wanted to bring Vickie a gift the next time I went to Te Okot, so I bought her some jewelry making tools and supplies.
The one thing that had me stumped was where to get the paper. Slick, shiny, colorful magazine paper would work best, but it’s not like there’s a magazine stand on the corner in or anywhere near Te Okot. I can think of two bookstores in Gulu. They carry textbooks, dictionaries and Bibles.
Earlier in my trip, I’d stopped at the stationery store and picked up two blank sheets of poster paper to use in the poetry workshops I was teaching. The posters were baby blue because that’s the only color the stationery store had and I bought their last two sheets.
I penned George Ella Lyon’s earthen poem Where I’m From on the posters, my handwriting slanting perilously downward as I wrote the words in pungent, permanent black ink.
I took these posters back and forth with me to class, rolled up in my backpack as I rode on the back of a boda to school, then taped with duct tape on the makeshift blackboard and finally rolled back up into my backpack at the end of each class.
By the time the writing workshops came to an end, my posters were covered in chalkdust from all the notes we added on the board around the poems. The edges of the posters were red with the dust that blew into the classroom and also kicked up underneath the tires of the boda. They were splattered with mud from puddles of fresh rain and polka-dotted with water spots from the rain itself.
My tattered posters were destined for the trash, that is until I found out that Vickie needed paper for jewelry making. The posters weren’t the slick, colorful magazine paper that’s best for bead making, but they were what I had.
This seems like a lesson I have to learn over and over again. What I’ve got to offer is enough, even when it’s tattered and splotched with mud. It’s enough.
I passed off my poster to Denis who took it home and made beads with Vickie. By the time I returned home, my mud stained, used up poster had been made into beautiful beads.
I love these beads because they’re proof that stained, wrecked things can be made new. Broken, wrecked people like me can be made new. That’s another lesson that I have to keep learning. Maybe the broken, wrecked parts of you need that whispered in the cracks, too.
I love these beads because poetry is tucked into them. The black parts of the beads are my lopsided scribblings of George Ella Lyon’s gorgeous words.
I love these beads because the lighter parts of the beads are the water spots from a day when I was caught in a rainstorm, drenched down through all the layers of myself.
Most of all, I love these beads because they mean that Vickie and the women of Te Okot get the opportunity to be a businesswomen who are able to earn money and feed and clothe their children.
When I return to Te Okot in July, I’m bringing Vickie a suitcase full of magazines. Your magazines and my magazines, once destined for the trash, or the recycle bin at best, will be made into jewelry. Second chances never looked so beautiful.