This blog post by Ford Noble, 16, was submitted to the Huffington Post, winning a runner-up award in the publication’s “Teen Impact” contest. Noble, whose mother is on Empower’s board of directors, started a group at his school called ReThink the Possibilities, through which he continues his work in Uganda.
My parents have instilled in me from an early age the importance of traveling and experiencing other cultures. Last Thanksgiving on a trip to Uganda, I realized the significance of other cultures and the position I am in to help others.
My experience began with an emotional encounter with an African girl named Sharon. Sharon is an Empower African Children student. Her father died of HIV; her mother is destitute, HIV positive, and cares for her three siblings by ironing clothing for money.
Sharon was able to join Empower and thus receives the highest quality education in Uganda. Her younger brother has one uniform, one pair of shoes, and attends school at the local grade school. In Uganda, grade school is free until sixth grade as long as you can pay for a uniform and books. Many families cannot.
Sharon’s older brother has diabetes. Sharon’s mother spends almost all of her money trying to buy him medication that needs to be refrigerated. The family had no refrigerator, so Sharon’s mom would bury his medicine in the sand, hoping for the best. Her home was one room, no bigger than my closet at home, filled solely with bunk beds. Next door, the landlord leased a small space to a bar owner. Late at night, people would drink and play loud music. The wall she shared with the bar did not reach the ceiling. Besides being loud and uncomfortable, the house was in a dangerous location.
Instead of asking how people lived like this, I found myself asking why people had to live like this.
I raised $7,000 and gathered donated supplies that filled 25 duffle bags. The money I raised purchased computers, desks, and chairs for a learning lab. I then made sure I had enough money leftover to move Sharon’s mother out of danger. A few thousand dollars allowed for her relocation, a refrigerator for the medication, replacements for the shoddy bunk beds, and basic household appliances.
Moving Sharon’s family changed me. After they had settled in, the youngest son came home from school and immediately led the family in prayer. First Sharon’s mom began to cry, and then tears flowed from her sons’ eyes as well. I turned to see my mother and father crying. Before I knew it, tears started streaking down my face.
I began to look at Africa not for what it did not have, but for what it did have. There is so much poverty, but within the poverty, there is so much hope, gratitude, and inspiration. I realized that one small gesture snowballed into inspiration for many.
I never knew what hope truly meant until that day.