A reflection by Molly MacCready, CROSO Founder and Executive Director, after visiting Uganda in June 2016.
After spending time in Uganda last month with CROSO Board Member Sally Ryan, I am filled with stories and scenes that make my heart feel so full. Everything Sally and I witnessed affirmed the work CROSO has done for the past nine years and at the same time emphasized how much more work there still is to do. I could write pages and pages, but for now I’ll try to stick with one story.
At the end of our first day visiting our partner organization (C.R.O.), Sally and I were tired. It was the end of a full day after a VERY long weekend of travel and both Sally and I were ready to be back in our hotel where we could relax. Instead, we found ourselves in a long conversation with Stella and Carol, two of the C.R.O. social workers who I have known since my first trip to Uganda ten years ago! Sally and I sat in chairs along the wall of their small, poorly lit office which somehow managed to hold three full-size desks and seven chairs, with just barely enough room for anyone to walk in or out.
Near the beginning of the conversation, Stella made a comment about how the CROSO scholarship is a transformational opportunity that enables our Scholars to become self-reliant and productive citizens in Uganda. Carol then quickly jumped in to share examples of what our CROSO graduates are up to now. Carol shared that Lokorio Mary (CROSO Scholar from 2009-2012) continues to work as a health educator for an NGO in Moroto district. As Carol described Mary’s success in that field, her face glowed with pride. She said CROSO has really created “powerful people.”
Our feelings of exhaustion ebbed as Sally and I listened with rapt attention as Carol went on to list the successes of other CROSO graduates.
- Okolis John Bosco (CROSO Scholar from 2010-2013) was promoted to branch manager for the micro-credit bank where he works in Pallisa town.
- Namasobo Lydia (CROSO Scholar from 2010-2012) lives in Mbale, is married with a one year old child and works part-time for BRAC, a development organization with the goal of alleviating poverty by empowering the poor. (Lydia and Molly are pictured above.)
- Nafuna Margaret (CROSO Scholar from 2012-2015) is a manager for a business based in Uganda’s capital city, Kampala.
- Walufu Titus (CROSO Scholar from 2013-2015) is working as a civil engineer for a company based in Kampala that is involved in road construction.
With each story shared, Carol’s eyes grew brighter and brighter. Having worked at C.R.O. for over ten years, she’s known many of these young adults for nearly half their lives. She and Stella (and all the C.R.O. staff) were instrumental in their upbringing and now, just like proud parents, the C.R.O. staff tell these triumphant stories of realized potential. While we already knew some of those updates, some were completely new to us.
When there was a pause in Carol’s stories, I asked if either of them had heard about Edweo Sam’s success and they both shook their heads no. I was excited to contribute to their enthusiastic reports and shared that Sam (CROSO Scholar in 2009) has been working in Lira with a solar panel company for several years now. Last October, I received an email from him informing me that he’d been promoted to lead branch manager for the company! Carol and Stella were thrilled for him.
Thinking back on that meeting with Carol and Stella, I am struck by what a beautiful moment of camaraderie that was for all of us. Within the first day of being there, we were able to see that we all shared a common investment in these Scholars. I don’t just mean financial or even time invested, but genuine emotional investment and hope that these scholars will be able to work for a better future for themselves.
When we created CROSO, we believed that these young people had far greater potential and, with access to higher education, they would be able to have huge positive impacts on their communities. Nine years later, we can comfortably say that our Scholars have proven that ten-fold. Each time we invest in a new scholar, we are opening the door for them to have a brighter future. At the sight of that open door, our scholars are not merely walking through, they are sprinting! Through their hard work and commitment to their coursework, our Scholars have been able to break the cycle of poverty that has held them hostage for so many years. Their new freedom has had a ripple effect and improved the lives of their families and their communities, especially as they step into more and more leadership positions.
Stella was right—our CROSO scholarship program truly is transforming lives!