In June of 2008 Heidi Kaltur, as a recently graduated University student still looking for her life’s purpose, traveled to Uganda with the simple agenda of volunteering at a local orphanage. Here is her story:
During a moment off work I decided to explore the nearby town of Jinja and stopped for lunch at a local restaurant. As I was served my plate and began to lift my fork my peripheral vision picked up a group of children, ranging in age from 4 to 14, just outside the boundaries of the eatery. I could tell immediately that they were malnourished, sickly and weak. As soon as I acknowledged their presence they rushed the table and began begging for scraps of my lunch. I could not ignore their hungry pleas and decided that I could go without this one meal as, unlike these children, I knew another would come.
As quickly as they had stormed my table, they just as hurriedly ran off to eat what I had given them. They did not hesitate nor did they look back; they were all so hungry and afraid that if they did not quickly eat their portion they would not get to eat at all. There was one child, however, who did not continue on with the team but instead slinked back to my side. Our eyes met, and with a sincerity which I had never before experienced from such a small frame, managed a heartfelt “thank you”. He then sped off as quickly as his bare feet would take him and was reunited with his juvenile family to share in the small amount of sustenance I was able to offer.
This guileless boy, Paul as I would come to know him, was going to change my perspective and my life’s journey. As I spent more time with him and the other children over the proceeding weeks I became entranced by their stories and the story of their people, the Karamojong. I would learn that this nomadic tribe has been devastated by the effects of the modernization of Africa as well as the intolerance directed toward them from the greater Ugandan community. Because of their nomadic existence and reliance on cattle and crops their education has long been viewed by many Karamojong communities as unimportant and irrelevant. As a result, the majority of the Ugandan population views the Karamojong as unintelligent and a deficient group of people and do not take into consideration why they have not sought formal education. As their land and livelihood have deteriorated in recent years many Karamojong have been forced to seek asylum in cities such as Jinja. They have been greeted with coldness and hate. These stereotypes and prejudices have created an epidemic of poverty and homelessness for which there are few resources set up for the Karamojong to aid in their escape from this cycle. Because of these lapses, a centuries old people are literally disappearing right before our eyes.
For Paul, the Karamojong and my own peace of mind I could not leave Uganda without promising to help. In April of 2009 I, with the aid of Ellie Coleman as co-founder, formed The Peace for Paul Foundation. This was a major accomplishment for us, two young women in our early twenties. With the receipt of our 501c3 status our goal to provide education, nourishment and hope for the Karamojong has become a reality and has become the focus of our days and nights.
Since our inception in 2009 our team has grown from a two-woman operation struggling to get off the ground to an organization with hundreds of supporters and ten official board members.