This June 2006, George is riding (again) in the AIDS/LifeCycle 5, a 585 mile journey from
San Francisco to Los Angeles!! Last year’s response was amazing. The community at
YIY raised over $1,000.00 through donations and Rebecca and Ken’s Yoga Workshop at
Can’t wait to make your Donation!!
Make your donation online: Click on the link below, which will bring you to George’s
fundraising page, and make a contribution to support his efforts.
Write a check: Pick up a donation form at YIY, save on postage, and leave your form
with a steward or teacher at YIY.
All donations go right to work!! Thousands of individuals in our community receive
life-sustaining services as a result of the money raised through AIDS/LifeCycle.
Your contribution is fully tax-deductible and will make a real difference in the
lives of many affected by HIV and AIDS.
” Educate! is a volunteer based, student run non-profit organization that provides scholarships to refugees and a select few underprivileged nationals in Uganda and Rwanda to attend school. ”
Here’s an article that appeared in Colorado’s Daily Camera about Educate!:
In support of education
Fairview teen starts nonprofit linking African, U.S. teens
By Aimee Heckel, Camera Staff Writer
The taxi skidded to a stop. A young African man stood at the edge of the road as if he’d been waiting all his life.
In a way, he had.
Only he didn’t yet know it. Benson Olivier had no idea who was inside the car or how this chance encounter would transform his life.
A blue-eyed 17-year-old Fairview High School student stepped out of the taxi and into the Kyangwali Refugee Settlement in Uganda. Eric Glustrom toted a video camera and a duffel bag, already stained red by the ubiquitous African dirt. He was traveling alone.
Glustrom’s life, and his plans for this summer in 2002, was also about to change.
By the end of his four-week visit, Glustrom would have a new best friend, a new life purpose and plans for a national nonprofit. His student-run organization, Educate, would sweep up desperate refugee teenagers, like Olivier, and place them in high-quality classrooms they could never otherwise afford.
Glustrom envisions that these students will grow into leaders — politicians, statesmen, engineers — who will help revive their own war-torn countries surrounding Uganda.
And as Educate clubs rapidly continue to pop up in high schools and universities across the United States, Glustrom says he can’t imagine the boundary of its influence.
None of this was part of the plan.
Too dangerous, too young
Glustrom had wanted to make a documentary to help his peers understand the suffering of refugees in Uganda. But Amnesty International rejected his proposal, saying it was too dangerous and he was too young.
“That made my parents even more worried, but it made me want to do it more,” Glustrom said. “The whole reason I was going was to see something I’d never seen before. I didn’t want to do a safari in Africa.”
So he followed through anyway, without sponsorship.
Alone, Glustrom secured permission from the government and found a translator to travel with. It was risky, he admits; he even caught malaria. Shortly after he arrived, he wrote in his journal:
“It is dangerous here. May 1st, two Congolese refugees shot by unknown gunmen. May 4 — the commandant (government official in charge of the camp) tortured Congolese refugees — including women of old age.”
That was Benson Olivier’s life before he met Glustrom.
The 18-year-old orphan happened to be standing by the dusty road when Glustrom’s taxi first dropped him off. Olivier, who speaks 10 languages, offered to help film the documentary. In his journal, Glustrom remarked how Olivier’s sense of humor echoed his friends in Boulder. Only Olivier had endured more in his youth than most Americans do in a lifetime.
He was 14 when his family fled the bloody civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But before reaching Uganda, his parents, two brothers and two sisters were killed. Olivier “had to learn how to survive on his own in some of the worst conditions imaginable,” Glustrom said.
Glustrom remembers the first time he visited Olivier’s mud hut at the camp. It was the size of an American bathroom, with a wooden stool, a bed made from hay and a few books.
“There was a silence after this and I felt tears coming to my eyes,” Glustrom wrote in his journal.
His dream of producing a documentary seemed futile in comparison to helping the faces he had filmed.
“Two days later I dream of only one thing: the moment when Benson can leave the Kyangwali Refugee Settlement and journey to America,” Glustrom wrote. “I will do everything I can to make this dream come true. After all, it is only my dream because Benson told me it was his.”
The day before Glustrom flew home, he enrolled Olivier in secondary school. It cost $75 a trimester — impossible for an uneducated orphan. A refugee’s typical earning for a day of hard labor is about 33 cents, Glustrom said.
But Glustrom could afford it, even as a high-schooler. Suddenly, he felt empowered. He carried the momentum with him back to Boulder.
Students sponsoring students
Three years later, Glustrom totes a cloth shopping bag heavy with videos, photos and brochures down Pearl Street. He’s promoting Educate. His goal: to raise $5,000 by fall. That will put more African students through school, in addition to the 19 already sponsored.
Boulder students have raised more than $10,000, said Lulu Feingold, the president of Fairview High’s Educate club.
“It’s inspiring hearing the stories and how easy it was, how little effort it was to make someone’s life completely different for the better,” she said.
Her club recently expanded to help a Kenyan refugee camp, too. Fairview senior Vivian Lu, 17, spent August in Kenya recruiting students and volunteering at the Huruma Children’s Home in Nairobi.
“There’s something very special about students sponsoring students,” she said in an e-mail. “Because we are the same age, there’s an automatic connection, a guaranteed potential friendship with the person you are sponsoring.”
Some of the Educate refugees dream of becoming doctors to help cure the diseases that killed their parents, or statesmen to end the violence. One student wants to be a civil engineer so he can help rebuild Rwanda.
Edward Guma, 18, wants to be a journalist. He is finishing secondary school in the Uganda capital of Kampala.
Guma’s family fled the religious and civil wars in Sudan, and he said his education is their only hope. He said he doesn’t know how to show appreciation for the Boulder students who raised money to put him through school.
“Really, I can’t express it in words,” he said from his dorm room. “Because they have given me so much, I will appreciate them for life.”
More than a dozen schools across the United States now boast Educate clubs, including a new one at the University of Colorado and at Amherst College in Massachusetts. That’s where Glustrom studies neuroscience.
Hope for the future
It’s strange how life sometimes has its own plans, Glustrom said. He finally finished editing his documentary last week, although he says it will always be in progress.
He returned in July from his second trip to Africa, checking up on Educate’s students and meeting with the minister of education and minister for the presidency of Uganda. They endorsed Educate, and the latter joined its board of directors.
Once again, Olivier was the first person in Africa to greet Glustrom, this time with a strong hug as Glustrom stepped off the airplane.
Olivier is also studying, at a secondary school in Kampala. He hopes to become a politician. He is determined to end the war in the Congo that took the life of his parents and four siblings.
“I would like to serve Africans who are suffering because their right is ignored,” Olivier said from Kampala. “I have hope for my future here.”
Contact Camera Staff Writer Aimee Heckel at (303) 473-1359 or firstname.lastname@example.org.