We’re on our way to Uganda…

CROSO Founder and Executive Director, Molly MacCready shares a reflection as she and Sally, a long time CROSO Board Member embark on their trip to Uganda.

 

Sally and I have started our journey from Chicago to Uganda tonight and have completed the first of three flights! In the midst of preparing all the logistics of this trip, I realized I have not taken the time to share with all of you (our donors and supporters) what we’re going to do there and why we think this is so important. This trip is far more than a personal excursion for the two of us to see a different part of the globe or have a fun adventure. This trip is an opportunity for CROSO to continue building our support for a growing group of young Scholars and graduates in Uganda.

Starting on Monday, Sally and I will spend a week in Mbale, Uganda which is located in eastern Uganda, near the border with Kenya. We’ll spend time at the Mbale center for Child Restoration Outreach (our partner organization) and will talk with the staff there. We’ll spend time with our current CROSO scholars—learning about their lives now, visiting some of their schools, seeing the different accommodations where they live and hopefully seeing some of them in action at their internship sites. We also hope to meet with some of our graduates and learn more about the impact of the CROSO scholarship. Meeting with our scholars and the C.R.O. staff will serve as an accountability measure, but will also be a valuable chance for us to learn about ways we can be even more effective in our support.

The following Monday, we’ll leave Mbale and head west to Jinja. C.R.O. has another site there and we’ll meet with their Project Manager to start laying the foundation for a future relationship with them. As we envision CROSO’s growth, we know that eventually we want more young people in Uganda to have access to these opportunities, but before any growth can happen, it’s so important to ensure we have strong relationships with the people on the ground in Uganda. After meeting with the Jinja staff, we’ll continue west to Kampala where we hope to meet with a few of our current Scholars before leaving the country.

Before leaving today, I printed a comprehensive list of all the scholarships that CROSO has awarded over the past 8.5 years. In total, it was 34 scholarships! It is easy for me to get caught up in each individual story, to fixate on the struggles that each scholar faces and the frustration of not being able to accept all the qualified students each year due to lack of resources. So for me, seeing this list really gave me an opportunity to step back and see the bigger picture.

This will be a very full visit and we hope to share stories, photos and videos along the way, but know that there is more to this story than we will be able to post on our website or through social media (Facebook and Instagram). If you would like to hear more about the story, consider inviting one or both of us to share a meal with you when we get back or to speak to your business or a school with whom you’re affiliated. We would be honored to share the stories of our incredible scholars and to give you a more intimate insight into the important work that CROSO is doing to give these scholars the opportunities to succeed.

 

Successful Zumbathon!

Thank you to everyone who attended our 2016 Zumbathon on May 1st. With over sixty people in attendance, we had a great time and raised over $1,000! That’s enough to support an entire semester worth of expenses for one of our CROSO Scholars including tuition, housing, food, supplies and fees. Thank you!

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Niles North High School in Skokie graciously offered us space in their gym and encouraged students to join in the fun. Big thanks to our volunteer Zumba instructors who were incredible, all our Zumba participants and those who helped behind the scenes. We even had some local news coverage for the event!

 

Check out more photos from the event here:

If your company or business would like to be involved in future CROSO events, please let us know by emailing Molly today– Molly@CROSO.org!

Scholar Spotlight: Longora John

Today’s blog post is written by CROSO Board Member, David Blumenthal

As a board member of CROSO for the past three years, I get to meet a lot of wonderful people supporting our organization.One of my favorite experiences, though, has been exchanging letters with the scholars we support. I would like to share with you a little about one of these scholars, Longora John.

John is a young man with a bright future, and someone that has overcome incredible odds. When he was a child, John’s family suffered from dual catastrophes. A war in northern Uganda resulted in his father joining the military. Over time, his mother was forced into the slums of Mbale before contracting AIDS. John, his four siblings, and a cousin were forced onto the streets. There, CROSO’s sister organization, C.R.O., brought in John from the streets and provided him with a stable and supportive environment. His path has taken a dramatic turn for the better through the help of C.R.O., CROSO, and John’s own unique talents and dedication.

At C.R.O., John has become an active and supportive member of the community. He is a friend to his brothers and sisters at C.R.O. and spends his free time sharing his love of music and soccer. In turn, he has been able to participate in unique opportunities. Before college, John spent a year in Norway as part of an exchange program. He is now a student at Ugandan Christian University pursuing a Bachelor of Arts. When he finishes his program in 2017, John hopes to become a secondary school arts teacher.10155487_1021912221177449_1661564322961422081_n

A college degree can be a long, arduous marathon rather than a sprint. Imagine how difficult this race can be for someone that has lost so much. And yet, John routinely expresses a deep gratitude and appreciation for the support of CROSO. He recently wrote to me how this past semester of student teaching at a secondary school in Mbale has instilled a feeling of hope that he will finish his college degree in 2017 and achieve his lifelong dream of becoming a teacher.

It is rare in this day and age to be able to see the direct impact of the work we do. Longora John would not have been able to achieve his dream of becoming a teacher but for the support of CROSO and its donors, among others. I hope you can see how our work is having a profound impact on the lives of an inspiring young man, and how that investment will pay off by transforming communities for years to come. Thank you for your support of CROSO!

The Evolution of CROSO’s Letter-Writing Program

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    By the end of 2012, our CROSO scholarship support program had existed for 5 years and was in full swing. Scholars were progressing through their programs, and the President of the Board was in touch with our contact on the ground in Mbale, asking for updates on students and staying in touch with the needs of the scholars as best as possible. At CROSO Board meetings, some student stories would be shared by the President, but most of the students’ life stories and issues remained a bit obscure to the rest of the members on the Board, and also to many of the donors. The idea of broadening our understanding of how students are doing through a liaison program was brought to the floor and accepted with little resistance.

    The liaison program initially paired board members with individual scholars with the expectation of sending monthly emails. For the past four years, each Board meeting includes sharing scholar updates by these liaisons who have communicated directly with the scholars each month. We have also received requests from volunteers interested in getting more involved and high school students who want to connect with our scholars as letter writing companions. In some ways, these letters have been a “game changer” for us and for our program.

We like to say that one of the qualities of CROSO is that it is an “intimate” experience of connection with worthy scholars far from us who are reaching goals they could not meet without our support. That “intimacy” is definitely enhanced by reading the students’ letters, their personal and family stories, their opinions, struggles and successes in this one-on-one exchange.

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Shibolo Awali

We also gain understanding of some of the current social and political issues in Uganda. When Awali, a CROSO Scholar who is studying law, wrote two years ago about the news of his country’s policies regarding homosexuality, his liaison Lisa (Monnot) Hyatt was able to share that with the board. Awali was also one of several scholars who shared their perspectives on the recent presidential elections held in February of this year. Hearing the scholars share both their personal experiences as well as what they are hearing on their campuses helps the CROSO board to better understand the context of our scholars. (To learn more about the election experiences, you can read our scholars’ reflections in their Facebook posts.)

As liaisons and scholars write one another, they develop a personal relationship too. The friendliness and affection of these letters is a gift we receive from the students and they from us. They send their best regards to our family members, ask about recent challenges, and continually express their gratitude to all who support them. We of course do the same for them. Another CROSO scholar, Esther has shared the excitement of her liaison, Sally Ryan’s grandchildren being born, and even calls them her “little brothers.” Esther is getting her nursing degree, and Sally has shared with Esther about some of the medical challenges she and her husband have experienced in the past three years. Gabriel, a CROSO Scholar studying Clinical Medicine, has communicated with Margy Roberts for the past three years. When he learned about Margy’s daughter who was studying similar courses in nursing in the US, he began to offer words of encouragement and advice to her through his emails with Margy. We hope our letters make the challenge of reaching out to these young scholars so far across the globe more manageable. As a result, our relationships and our program have become more intimate.

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Lotimong Esther

When we haven’t heard from a scholar in a few months, it gives us information that we can bring to our Director Molly (Heineman) MacCready to probe a bit about their welfare when she is talking to the C.R.O. project manager in Mbale. It is important to know when the health of a scholar is challenged by emotional issues, or about another whose mother has called that scholar home to find medical support for her condition and caused a challenge in her being able to focus on her studies. When we hear of a challenge, either academically or personally, we are able to draw on the strength of these letter-writing relationships to mentor and guide our scholars. We are always encouraging them to look ahead, and see ways that they can make connections and network through their experiences in their academic programs and internships in ways that will support them to get into the work world at the end of their program.

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Akitwi Pamela

This mentoring and personal exchange of letters also helps us to let our donors know more about the resilience, strength and successes of the students to whom they are finding it in their hearts to give so generously.  “Thank you for the love and care,” writes a new scholar, Atkiwi Pamela. Titus, who is looking to further his studies in Engineering, writes to his liaison Beth Lampson, “I am so excited too Mama Beth for giving that opportunity once more of getting back to advance in my field of expertise. I cannot stop saying Thank you Thank you, for that is the only way of paying back to you. Also send my sincere Thanks to the Donors in the Background who are giving in their time, a financial hand, and whoever is involved in CROSO programs in any form, May the Almighty God Most High Bless them all.”

If you are interested in becoming a liaison to one of our scholars, please email our Executive Director at Molly@CROSO.org.

Scholar Spotlight: Ariong Gabriel

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     CROSO scholar, Ariong Gabriel, has just begun his final year, studying and working towards a Diploma in Clinical Medicine and Community Health at Medicare Health Professionals College in Kampala, the capital of Uganda.

     The diploma in clinical medicine is a three year program, in which the students spend a great deal of time participating in clinical activities in community and outpatient hospital settings, while completing a rigorous academic curriculum of science and practical medical knowledge.  The majority of Clinical Officers work in rural settings, performing patient assessment, disease management, triage, minor surgical procedures, and referrals to tertiary settings. They participate in community outreach, health education, screenings and care coordination. They play an important role in the Ugandan medical system, because they can provide a lot of the care at smaller, rural health centers, where doctors are not available.  

Gabriel at the C.R.O. Clinic.

Gabriel at the C.R.O. Clinic.

     Understanding the academic and practical part of the program, and the role that Clinical Officers play, helps to explain the enthusiasm Gabriel has for his chosen profession.  When he was in secondary school, and helped by CRO, our partner organization, Gabriel enjoyed working with the nurse at the CRO health clinic.  He seemed to have a natural affinity for this type of work, and he continues to volunteer at CRO, when he is on break, or at a hospital placement nearby.  In a letter this year to his CROSO board mentor, he said, “I try to leave the hospital just as soon as I am discharged, and go to the project clinic, where I offer medical skill to those who could be sick, health educate others, as well as encouraging those who are at school not to give up through sharing with them how I overcame similar challenges.”

     Gabriel is a very regular correspondent with his CROSO liaison. He enjoys talking about his clinical experiences: “I will be completing my hospital attachment at Mengo hospital on Friday this week. It has been interesting to be here, since our major field of concern was maternal and child health. We were in groups of five and deployed to several departments such as triage, immunization, prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV, family planning, and post natal… We receive all mothers at triage, where we measure their blood pressure, height and weight before sending them for laboratory tests.”

     Our CROSO scholars all seem to be involved in many extra-curricular activities, in addition to academics, and Gabriel is no exception. In his December letter, he related his latest activity; “I was involved in the preparations for a mission outreach by the college Christian group, which I am chairperson.  We visit communities outside the college…sharing love and hope…we mobilize funds from ourselves and articles such as clothes, shoes, soap, sugar, etc.”

     Gabriel is most grateful to CROSO for the life-changing opportunity they have provided, but also for the mentoring relationship he has enjoyed with his board liaison:  “I appreciate the time, love and commitment you have rendered to me for the years we’ve been communicating. I’m grateful for your emails, which have always been part of my inspiration to work harder and view life in a positive perspective…. Great thanks to CROSO for your tireless support towards rescuing the formerly endangered bright future that was buried on the streets. Wishing you goodness through out this year.”

 

Post written by CROSO Board Member, Margy Roberts.