Friday, October 31, 2008


I recently discovered a quote that supports my mission to provide a better education to African children.

This is by Adam Smith from his book, The Wealth of Nations, (1776) as quoted in The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs (2005, page 253).

"Adam Smith called for the public provision of education: 'An instructed and intelligent people... are more disposed to examine, and more capable of seeing through, the interested complaints of faction and sedition...' Smith argued therefore, that the whole society is at risk when any segment of society is poorly educated."

Thursday, October 30, 2008


BULA is holding a 5K walk/run on December 6th in Blue Point, NY.

Don't worry if you are not athletic, the run begins and ends at the Blue Point Brewery so you can hang out there and still be part of the fun. Registration begins at 9:30, the walk/run will begin at 10:30.

Every one is welcome to attend this event, a good time will be had by all.

Thank you for your support, we hope to see you there. If you cannot make it, remember, donations can be made on our website. I will keep you informed of any other events that are coming up.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

No Worries in BULA

“There are no worries in BULA.” After all, why should there be? This is the perfect place that the children created. We are the facilitators, but they are the visionaries. Unfortunately, the world is far from perfect, especially theirs, and sometimes there are problems. It hurts in unimaginable ways to feel powerless and unable to protect those you love from the pain and suffering that trespass into their lives.

I often envision the 13 year old gate keeper, locking the doors and keeping these children sheltered from the realities of their environment. By turning the key he is keeping them free from sickness, corruption, and abandonment. By moving the latch to lock the gate, he is offering a world of happiness, stability, and health.

But alas, reality creeps through the cracks and up from under the doors and the children are exposed to a world from which I cannot protect them. It is impossible to guard any child from all the horrors of the world, but my predicament is particularly difficult. I live thousands of miles away and I am foreign to the complex systems and culture that effects these children.

If this sounds like surrender, that is not my intentions; this is not the end of the fight. It is just the beginning. My plan is to give these children the only commodity that cannot be taken away – an education. Bettering educational opportunities for these children is the only way I know to protect them from their environment and empower them in the future. If I cannot keep them from the difficulties currently in their lives, I can only give them the human capital to cope with troubling circumstances - either how to avoid them or how to remedy the situation when the time comes.

By teaching them to think through problems, to question the status quo, to look for solutions that fall outside of the box these children will have the power to fight a corrupt system and have better lives in the future. Through education they will learn about health and safety for themselves; and then pass the knowledge to their children. Without a proper education they will grow up and perpetuate a cycle of hopelessness and desperation.

For now, they are just children. For now, they are innocent pawns in a game that has continued for countless years. But they will not be so forever - they are the future. There are no worries in BULA because BULA is the hope of a better future for children in need. And where there is education there is always hope.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Birthday Wishes

Melissa and I recently spoke at a conference for the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) of Suffolk County. This was an amazing experience. We had dinner with Representative Tim Bishop, who was also speaking at the event. We stood in front of 200 people and talked about BULA's past and, more importantly, its future.

The support was overwhelming. Countless teachers approached us to brain storm ideas on how to get their classrooms involved with BULA.

We inspired so many teachers to care about our cause, but I was inspired by one second grade teacher who told me about a year long project that he does with his students. Each year, his students write every world leader a birthday card. These 9 year old children ask these leaders to please, on their birthdays, make a wish for world peace. I was moved by his dedication and unique idea to teach young students about the world around them.

I cannot wait to hear what wonderful ideas come from next week when we present BULA to 200 teachers and union representatives from Nassau County.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Tuesday's Tips on Fundraising #1

I am going to begin writing about things I am learning while fundraising for our upcoming return to Uganda. Each Tuesday I will post a new lesson based on our experiences to inform people about this process and to help anyone who maybe embarking on this same path.

Tip #1: DO NOT hold happy hour fundraisers that continue late into the evening, the night before a really big, very serious, super important conference.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fall Foliage

Earlier this summer I decided that I was going to do a cookbook fundraiser to support BULA - A Recipe for a Future: Second Edition. I thought it would be a great idea to get my home town involved in our projects in Uganda. I drove home one weekend, made 600 copies of a flyer asking for recipes and I set out on foot delivering each one door to door.

As I walked around the town I saw it differently than I ever had before - I saw it through the eyes of someone from the village of Gganda. With these lenses on, I suddenly realized how beautiful my home town was. Everything I saw was amazing: the houses, the yards, the flowers, the wide open spaces. I was in awe.

Since my return from Uganda I am constantly amazed by what surrounds me: HOT WATER is available by simply turning a facet and TOILETS - but we'll just leave it at that. WIRELESS INTERNET that is unbelievably fast and doesn't turn off at the most inopportune time. Oh, and GASOLINE that only costs $3.30 a gallon. Or highways that are paved, without massive potholes spanning the entire road and drivers who actually follow traffic laws or CELL PHONE connections that come in clearly and hassle free. And there is so much more.

For many of us, we are experiencing the transition of seasons and the beautiful colors of the fall foliage. As I was driving through the town in which I live, all I could think about was someone arriving from Gganda during this time and encountering fall for the first time. How exotic and astonishing the leaves would seem to someone who never experienced anything in seasons but wet or dry.

Seeing this amazing gift of Mother Nature, for what seemed like the first time, I felt blessed to be surrounded by such magnificence.

Someone once said, “Look at everything as if you were seeing it for the first or the last time. Then your time on Earth will be filled with glory.”

This is what my time in Uganda has taught me.

PS: The cookbook will be available in November!!!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Happy Hour Fundraiser

Please join us at Puck Fair on October 23rd at 7:00.

Puck Fair at 298 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012.

There is a great drink special, it will be a great time and it supports a great cause (must be 21 years or older).

I hope to see you there!!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


According to the World Bank in September 2008, Uganda has the highest dependency ratio in the world with children constituting more than half of the population.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


In 2006, 76.2 million of the world's children did not attend primary school; half of the these out of school children lived in Sub-Saharan Africa. - The World Bank

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Land of John

The children are always singing. They sing songs about Uganda, songs about the future, songs about welcoming visitors, and more. One day I asked an eight-year-old girl, to teach me the lyrics to one song.

She sang:

Uganda, the land of freedom,
The pearl of Africa, the land of John,
I am happy to be Ugandanese,
Uganda is my motherland.

Now, I was able look past the obvious error in the song which calls the wonderful people of Uganda, Ugandanese rather than Ugandans, but when she sang about the land of John, I just had to stop her and ask, "Wait, land of John, don't you mean the land of JOY?" Clearly, this is the proper lyric for the song, I KNOW it is the land of joy.

She stood there in all seriousness, reciting the lyrics in her head (lips moving, a pensive expression on her face).

She stops singing, and says, "No, sister, it is the land of John," and continues on to the next verse.

For me I am calledee ___,
I am happy to be Ugandanese,
Uganda is my motherland,
Uganda is our motherland,
Oh Uganda!!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Building More Than Schools

Generally speaking the women in Uganda are submissive, despite their overwhelming importance in the Ugandan culture as the primary care givers for children and their contribution to sustenance farming and trade in the markets. Even though they have only slightly lower attendance in both primary and secondary schools, women's roles in Uganda are noticeably subordinate to the males in their lives. Even today, women in the Buganda tribe are expected to kneel when speaking to or gretting a man.

These are the stories of two yound women with whom I lived.

At the orphanage the girls tended to be quieter than the boys. They kept themselves busy in the kitchen; they prepared most of the meals, did their other chores, completed their homework and hung out in their dormitory.

So we knew something very peculiar happened when a 15 year old young lady, approached Melissa and asked, “Sister, what is the meaning of fed up?”

Naturally, a little confused and worried about this question, Melissa couldn't help but to ask why and who she would say this to.

“Well,” she continued, “I said it to teacher; please tell me what it means.”

Despite her curiosity, Melissa explained, to be fed up means that you are tired of something, you are not going to tolerate an action any more, you will not put up with it any longer, and then, of course, she asked, “What happened?”

The girl replied, “Sister, in school today, teacher was going to beat me, and I said, ‘no, I am fed up’ and I ran out of the classroom and came home.”

Not long after, the jjajja (grandmother) who prepared the lunch time meal left the orphanage. The men who run the children’s home refused to prepare the meals for the students. Instead, each day one girl had to stay home from school to complete the cooking; the older girls often missing 2 or more days of school each week, and at times, missing their very important end of term exams.

It was during this exam week, that another young lady, 13, was taking her turn to stay home from school. She began preparing the lunch in the morning as usual. For half an hour she remained in the kitchen cooking posho and beans over the wood fire stove, until, suddenly a loud crash was heard from the kitchen, we ran out to see what happened, and there she is, storming to her dormitory, proclaiming, “I am wasting my time!!” She continued to put on her school uniform and march to school just as her exams began.

You may be asking the significance of these two stories. Both these young ladies inadvertently recognized that their cultural hierarchy is flawed and stood up to a system that is constantly trying to keep them down.

You cannot teach someone the resolve to take control over their lives, but can only help them build upon the values that you instill. You cannot expect someone to risk grave consequences, unless you have built a support system where they are loved and cherished. You cannot make someone stand up against their adversary, but can only encourage them to build the confidence to do so one day.

Change is possible; change is happening. It is often slow and hard to recognize, but it only takes one or two people to plant the seed of equality in the minds of others. These two young ladies are role models to the girls in their classrooms, and should be to anyone who has ever been taking advantage of, abused, harassed, disrespected, or belittled. May we all have the courage that these young ladies displayed in the face of our aggressors.

Needless to say, I am proud of these girls.

BULA is hoping to develop programs that will continue to empower women. We are currently planning courses for the women in the village so they can learn English, health, and math. These educational opportunities will be greatly valued as the majority of women do not attend school past the primary level. Continued education will not only provide these women with greater employment opportunities, but also empower the women so they lead more fulfilling lives. These women will receive more respect from their community members and pass the value education and the importance of learning on to their children.

Friday, October 3, 2008

My First Blog Entry Ever

Thanks for visiting my new blog. I'm really excited about sharing all my experiences in Uganda and working for BULAinc., here in New York. I hope to share some of these experiences in the next few days so if this is all that is posted come back then to read more.