Empty promises are sometimes made, but one promise made to a pleading old man in Uganda changed an American woman’s life forever.
Suzy Benson Gillies, the founder and president of African Promise Foundation, was first introduced to the idea of going and helping the people of Uganda a few years ago.
“In 2005 I volunteered to work with refugees from Somalia,” Gillies said. “They were all malnourished and some were struggling with malaria.”
These refugees told her about the war happening in Uganda at the time. It was the longest running war in the history of Africa. During this time, thousands of children were stolen or kidnapped by the rebel army, which called themselves the Lord’s Resistance Army.
“Once the war left Uganda, I knew that I had to do something,” Gillies said. “I went to Uganda and used soccer as a tool to educate these women. I taught about goals on the field and related them to goals in life.”
One day in an African refugee camp, Gillies met a man named Tiger who asked her, with tears in his eyes, about why the American people do not see their suffering in Uganda.
“I made a promise that day to Tiger that I would not forget the things which I had seen,” Gillies said. “African Promise was born from that promise.”
“We of African Promise Foundation have made a promise to the people of Uganda to bring attention to their suffering and help them find solutions to their weighty challenges,” according to the mission statement on the website.
Gillies said the suffering of the people is the most influential aspect of the trip.
“The suffering of the people has such a large impact on the volunteers,” Gillies said. “In America we have everything we want, but the Africans have nothing.”
Gillies said African Promise Foundation is a great learning opportunity.
“We go to Uganda to help the people, but in the end, they help us,” Gillies said.
Laura Sudweeks, a junior from Provo, studying photography, said her experience with Gillies in Uganda was a great opportunity.
“Going to Uganda was an awesome experience,” Sudweeks said. “It was great to go to different orphanages and hearing the children talk about their experiences, what they go through daily and learning from them.”
Sudweeks said one thing the foundation could do better is stay longer at the different orphanages.
“We would spend 1-2 days at different orphanages and that wasn’t enough time to listen to the children,” Sudweeks said. “The kids are used to people coming and leaving. We stayed at one orphanage for three to four days and it was the best experience because we actually got to know them.”
Krista Malyon, a sophomore from Bellevue, Wash., studying public health, is considering going to Uganda with African Promise.
“I think it is important that these women get back on their feet,” Malyon said. “This foundation focuses on women empowerment. I think that is key because these women have to take care of their families and the orphaned children.”
Malyon said she thinks African Promise is going to make a difference.
“Once African Promise Foundation grows and becomes well known, they will be able to help and support these women,” Malyon said.