Excuse me, are you listening? 9-22
Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dear Readers,

I just returned from vacation and one of the best things that happened to me was that I was able to finish reading “The Price of Stones – Building a School for My Village”.

I met the author Twesigye Jackson Kaguri, when he was at a mo’ za ik event on August 4, 2010, sponsored by The New Citizens Press, which provides an innovative networking opportunities in a small group.  Many of my friends had mentioned him to me but I had so many authors in my head, press releases and autographed books that sit in my bookcase collecting dust.

Don’t get me wrong, I love books.  The leisure of sitting or laying down on the couch to be taken somewhere different by the weaving of words was something that I would have loved to do more of over the last 5 years.  Relaxing and reading for fun are not two things that I have engaged in recently.  My life has been so busy.

Twesigye gave me a copy of his book towards the end of the night.  He opened the book scribbled quickly inside and handed it back to me.  I promised him that I would read the book.  At the moment I said it a sense of dread washed over me.  I thought why did you promise that.  You could have just said thank you and kept it moving.  My own self doubts about time, phones ringing, stories to write, articles to proof read and the saving the world swirled in my head.

I promised and I always try my best to keep my promises.  I kept the book in my car and would take it with me when I went to breakfast with clients.  I read while I waited.  I read in between meetings.  I just could not put the book down.

While reading, I realized that there are so many similarities between the AIDS epidemic here and the AIDS epidemic in Uganda.  The plight of the poor here and the plight of the poor there are interestingly similar and boils down to a lack of education.

In the book, Twesigye mentions that the dollar stretches farther in Uganda.  The startling tiny amount that could be donated could buy textbooks for a year at Nyaka, we would spend on a pair of shoes. No matter what he encountered, including his own self doubts, he always found strength in the fact that an educated child was the best way to pull his village and his country out of despair.  Regardless of the lack of funds, he always found a positive way to encourage education in those who lives seemed so bleak from loosing family members to AIDS.

I cried and laughed with Twesigye on his adventure to open the Nyaka and Kutamba AIDS Orphans Schools in Uganda.  Under pressure from bribers who wanted money to approve an inspection, building a school, dealing with a stubborn father, traveling back and forth from the United States, raising money for what you believe in and a whole host of other issues that could have stopped his progress, he refused to give up.  I was especially moved when I read that some of his close family died from AIDS. I understand the journey and respect him immensely.  You should read the book.
I wonder if someone here will take up the same cause that he did in Uganda here in America regarding AIDS and HIV awareness.  The numbers are rising in our community especially for African American women.  The same types of ridiculous myths and cures have managed to morph into the same types of myths in America just different languages with the same poor outcome.

It took me 3 months to finish reading the book but I was determined.  I noticed that every time I picked it up to read it that Twesigye was encouraging me too.  I recalled events that made me laugh and made me cry but most of all I recall being disappointed when the book ended.

I began to read the front cover and the jacket information soaking in what I had skimmed over in the beginning of my read.  I looked into the children’s faces in the photos on the book jacket and thought after all they had been through their smiles were genuine.  I wanted to know their names and each of their stories, I am now connected to them

I finally read what Twesigye had scribbled on the once blank page in the front of the book in blue ink.  It said, “Rina, Thank you for all you do for humanity.”

I thought to myself, “No, thank you Twesigye, it takes a village to raise a child.  I will continue to do my best to encourage children to get an education.”

I now know that I am on the right path in life and will continue to do my part in taking care of humanity.  I have already started in Lansing, MI and it is where I feel I can make the most impact in my own way.  Thank you Twesigye for reminding me of this.


Rina Risper

P.S.  For more information, please log on to www.nyakaschool.org.

This column was printed in the November 21, 2010 - December 4, 2010 edition.


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