There are those people that float into your life, even for just a few hours or days that change the energy in the air and alter the shape of your worldview forever. Evelyn, a friend of a friend, stepped off the post bus after an 8 hour journey from her village to Kampala, not only visibly refreshed from the country air, but determined to effectively spend her short weekend stay getting down to business. Through our first few exchanged sentences, I could already tell that Evelyn was a woman of strength and dignity, a wealth of knowledge, and an invaluable asset to her country.
Evelyn was born and raised in the small village of Bushure, in the district of Kibaale, in western Uganda. Laughing, she describes her parents as an “old couple”, rich with love, support, and years of experience living life together. After her eldest brother’s death from HIV, she is now the eldest of 6 siblings and a distinctive role model not only for them but for the rest of her village. After attending boarding school as a girl, she was the first from her village to graduate from university, and admits that was a lot of pressure and took hard work and dedication.
“University changed my views a lot,” Evelyn acknowledges. “I learned that education is the key for people to understand things in a different perspective. When I returned to the rural communities, I realized that I had to create an opportunity and a hope for them.” Evelyn studied Environmental Development at Makerere University in Kampala, which influenced her belief that educated Ugandan’s can have the most impact, if they have the will and desire. An ambitious woman, Evelyn wants to further her career in sustainable development and be continually gaining more knowledge because she can see the impact in has on rural communities.
“My dad was cutting down trees to pay my school fees, so I thought that if I started planting more trees, I would conserve the environment and replenish the trees that my father had cut down to put me through school. The women I was employing to replant the trees were mostly widows, and so I began to invest in them and the other initiatives of my organization expanded. It started in a small community and now reaches 4.” Evelyn’s community based organization, Green Environment Promotion (check it out on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/147819258647457/), which she self started from scratch, provides and promotes health, sustainable agriculture, and education. She works in rural communities teaching the people how to grow their own food, and since most of them are HIV positive, she helps them lay a foundation for a balanced and nutritious diet. Though she takes on a lot of responsibility running the organization on her own, she enjoys having a variety of visitors to observe her work, volunteer and bring new ideas and skills that can be of assistance.
Evelyn says that her life is her project, and her goals for her own life and for her organization go hand in hand. “I will be very glad if my education program can expand to accommodate the secondary levels, because there is no secondary school in the area. I want to definitely have at least 20 people in my program to go to the highest schools. I would like to have a health facility, and would be very glad if most of the women have learned and implemented the sustainable agriculture practices.”
The children she works with are benefiting from her hard work and dedication as well. Most girls in her village marry around the age of 12, not because they want to, but because they believe that have no other option. Through her programs and education initiative, these same young girls are being inspired to develop their studies and desire more for their lives. Their parents are also being encouraged to pay for their children’s schooling and support their education.
When asked what advice she would give to disadvantaged young girls aspiring to further their education and make a difference in their country, Evelyn confidently suggests that they “be patient. Have dreams. And fight towards achieving them, because it is hard but very possible. One has to have a strong will and be self motivated.”
Evelyn is a shining example for the future generation of Ugandan women, and inspiration for all women around the globe desiring to make this world a better place, one step at a time.