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New VK Projects and 101% on Giving Tuesday

Happy December!

The close of the year is an exciting time at Vigilante Kindness. We’ve wrapped our projects from the previous year and have taken some time to consider, pray about, and begin the baby steps of planning new projects for the coming year. I’m giddy over our projects for 2016!. Some are familiar projects we’re continuing with and others are brand spanking new opportunities. I hope you’ll take a sec to pop over to our Current Projects Page and read all about them, but for now I’ll just say they involve pigs and tractors and feminine products-oh my!

In other exciting news, today if you donate to Vigilante Kindness via the PayPal Giving Fund, your donation will go a lot further.

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Normally VK receives 97% of all PayPal donations, but today we’ll receive 101% of every donation. So if you’d like to make a donation before the calendar year ends, or if you know an organization seeking to make a donation, your donation can do a just little more good today through the PayPal Giving Fund.

I’m thankful for how seamless PayPal makes our transactions and thankful that they’re giving back to Vigilante Kindness today. Most of all I’m thankful for you, Vigilantes, for falling in love with the people and places we work with and joining us in committing acts of Vigilante Kindness.

 

Black Friday and Cyber Monday for Vigilante Kindness

Happy day after Thanksgiving! Maybe you’re out and about in the bustle of the crowds today. Or maybe you’re like me, clinging tenaciously to my covers and refusing to acknowledge that Thanksgiving break is ending and it’s time for the dreaded Christmas shopping.

I love Christmas. I love humble Jesus born in a stable to heal our broken world. I love my mom’s Christmas baking. (Hi, Mom!) I love decorating our tree with ornaments The Hubs and I have collected from our travels. I love the way O Holy Night breaks my heart every year at our candlelight Christmas Eve service.

I do not love Christmas shopping. At all.

Thank goodness for online shopping. Recently I had a conversation with one of our Vigilantes, Hannah. (Hi, Hannah!) Hannah chooses to support Vigilante Kindness by purchasing paintings from our artists in Gulu, purchasing jewelry from our artisans in Bungatira and by shopping at AmazonSmile to benefit Vigilante Kindness. I’ve known Hannah since she was a teenager and she’s my kind of girl, not only because she once taught first grade in a foreign country, but because she also likes her money to do the most good possible.

With her permission, I’m sharing parts of our conversation because you might be wondering some of the same things Hannah was wondering.

Hannah: Hi there! Happy Thanksgiving! I’ve been donating to Vigilante Kindness throughout the year via Amazon smile. Just curious, is that program worthwhile?

Me: Aw, thank you for picking Vigilante Kindness, Hannah. It’s worth it to us. We get 0.5% of purchases from people who choose us via Amazon Smile. Last quarter we got a check for $30, which might not seem like much, but that’s the equivalent of 6 new Acholi fable books for kids or 4 new solar lights. Since we’re a really small organization, every penny counts. What’s nice on the administrative side of things is that AmazonSmile’s donation process is truly seamless so the quarterly donations don’t require any extra time on our end, meaning I continue spending my time on the kids and families our projects serve. Does that answer your question? Thanks again for donating to VK.

Hannah: Yes, that absolutely does! I’m happy that it’s seamless on your end. I would love to one day go to Uganda and volunteer.

Me: It’s fun having companies come alongside us. Amazon is great. And Uganda is a beautiful country. Winston Churchhill and Ernest Hemingway both called it the Pearl of Africa and I couldn’t agree more. The topography, the people and the wildlife are lovely. Keep me posted as to what you might be interested in doing and what your particular skill sets are. You never know what projects might come our way that you’d be the perfect fit for. There never seems to be a dull moment in this work and I love that part of it.

So if you’re shopping on AmazonSmile today or Monday or any other day of the year, you can help support Vigilante Vigilante Kindness by choosing us as your charity of choice on AmazonSmile.

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For those of you out braving the crowds today, I’ll be thinking of you as I shop while wearing my pajamas and some pretty fantastic bedhead.

-Alicia

Brick by Brick

I’ll never tire of the greens of Uganda, it’s like every shade of green is born here. The road out to the chicken farm is rich with green against the ruddy red road. I love the ride out here, past a stream and a rock quarry, past lines of children standing, waving shouting, “Munu! Munu! Munu!” to me from the edge of the road.

We arrive to see the chicken farm being built brick by brick, mortared together with cement and red mud from the dirt that coats everything here. The workers are taking a break from the hot sun, peeling sugarcane with their teeth. 

Lamuno welcomes us in and almost immediately Baby Patience begins crying. She sits in Lamuno’s lap and I tickle the bottoms of Pash’s feet. This is a huge step, but even still she tells Lamuno not to leave her alone with the munus and I can’t help but giggle.

Lamuno cooks lunch for the workers and then for us. She’s fixed my favorites: beans, malakwang, and sweet potatoes. Her malakwang is perfect-nutty, rich and smoky. I eat my fill and my stomach feels round and happy. 

Lamuno lives in a three room brick home without power. At lunch I give her one of our charging solar lights. She hugs me and tells me she’s glad I love her, that she thinks of me as her daughter and thinks of my mother as her sister. It’s a privilege to be chosen by this strong, beautiful woman. She puts her light outside to charge and thanks me at least ten times more before I leave. 

As we ready to hop on bodas back to town, she asks me when I’m coming back. I tell her Friday, the day after the chicks arrive. She asks what she can cook for me-bo’o or malakwang? I tell her I’ll love whatever she cooks for me, but that I love malakwang more than bo’o. She nods. It’s settled.

The workers and my son, Opiyo Martin, and Lamuno begin speaking Luo loudly, laughing through their words. It’s too quick for me to pick up and Martin explains that Lamuno has a bow and arrow she keeps in case she needs to defend herself at night. She slips into one of her side rooms and emerges with her bow and arrow cocked, ready to defend herself or ready to shoot any of the workers who aren’t working hard enough. 

I laugh and fall more in love with Lamuno. As she teases the workers with her bow and arrow drawn, I understand that Lamuno, too, has built her life brick by brick, mortared together with the grit and humor that coats everyone here.

Leng Leng Like a Watermelon

“I see you’ve put on more weight.”

If there are words more hurtful or cutting, I don’t know them. Only my doctor gets to say that to me and even he says them sparingly while beyond the reach of my right hook.

On my first evening back in Uganda, I sat outside my hotel in Gulu when my friend, Chris, who works at the hotel approached. I hugged him tight and greeted him in my best Acholi. He responded, “I see you’ve put on more weight.”

I fought back tears and forced a smile, one that might cover the fact that I have put on weight.

This past year was a tough one. I survived an impossible situation at work and spent the year learning to navigate the unexpected bouts of loneliness that came with my husband’s new work schedule, which has him working out of town more often. I’m not saying either of those are a good excuse for overeating, but that’s the reality of the choices I made this year.

So there I stood, chubbier than I was a year ago, absorbing Chris’ statement about my weight.

Now before you start readying your own right hook for Chris, let me explain a little piece of Acholi culture. The Acholi are a strong, svelte people. They primarily grow and raise their own food. Every home has a well-tended food garden and there is not enough food to eat for any other reason other than hunger.

When they comment on a change in weight, it’s an observation, not a judgment. When you lose weight, it’s not uncommon to hear something like, “You are losing your fat, are you sick?”

In that same vein, if I have a pimple or a mosquito bite or a scrape, my Acholi loved ones will poke it with their finger and ask me about it. It would be rude to notice something like that and not inquire about it. Let me just say that having the pimple that popped up on my nose poked at is not super fun. But again, it’s not done with any malice and I am expected to do the same to them. Just last night at dinner, my boda driver, Denis, wanted me to feel a wound on the back of his head. I explained that I didn’t want to poke something that already hurts and cause him more pain, but he insisted I feel it, feel the place he was hurt.

That’s the thing that had me fighting back tears when Chris remarked on my weight. He was poking a tender place that was already hurt. I know as I see more of my Acholi loved ones for the first time this year, they’re going to remark on my weight, they’re going to unintentionally touch a painful place.

Yesterday on the eight hour bus ride from Kampala into Gulu, our bus stopped alongside the road for one of the many patches of road construction. Food and drink vendors rushed to the stooped bus to sell their items to the people on the bus. I wasn’t hungry or thirsty, but as our bus waited I struck up a conversation with two of the vendors standing underneath my window. I figured it would be a good opportunity to practice my Acholi. They greeted me. I greeted them. They asked where I was going. I told them I was going to Gulu to do some work. It was all very benign.

Then of the vendors said I was beautiful. This is another Acholi cultural thing, they think all white women are beautiful and they feel free to comment on it. Normally I don’t give any attention to such remarks because they’re not real compliments and the color of my skin has nothing to do with beauty, but the vendor outside my bus window had said something a little different.

He said, “Mzungu, you are leng leng like a watermelon.” Translation: White girl, you are beautiful like a watermelon.

Then his friend chimed in, “Your eyes are like beautiful pineapples.”

I laughed and thanked them in Acholi and our bus pulled away a few minutes later.

That evening as I sat talking with Chris, fighting back tears from his remark about my weight, the words of the roadside vendor launched from my lips. “Today someone told me I’m leng leng like a watermelon, Chris.”

It’s true, I may be round like a watermelon, but I’m also delicious and full of life. I’m happy to tell you that I not only survived that impossible work situation, but I came out the victor. I’m glad to tell you that I’m doing a better job navigating bouts of loneliness. I’m riding my bike and doing this revolutionary thing called eating when I’m hungry. If you’ve ever struggled with your weight, then you know how seriously revolutionary that is.

Beautiful like a watermelon? Hell yeah, I am.