Foreword    One of the most important areas of development at Notre Damein recent years has been its increased activity in...
with the refugee situation in Northern Uganda in 2003. In this partof Uganda, which is not far from Darfur, there has been...
Afterword                        By Kevin Bailey    Over two years ago I made my first trip to Uganda, for a two-week rese...
spending nine weeks in the country, and eight of them wouldbe spent teaching. However, I became convinced that there wasan...
I did eventually make it up to northern Uganda at the endof my time in southern Uganda. I had the chance to be hostedby ke...
classes and enjoy the last couple of months of my senior year,while also applying to other jobs as a safety net in case re...
Afterword                    By Aliker David Martin     It was Friday morning. I sat restless with the teacher staffin a K...
is the first casualty of war.” From a distance the student who leftthe class looked like he was praying, yet he also looke...
could not make it. He left his property behind and no one hasseen or heard from him since.    During my December school ho...
colleagues hesitated because they were from different cultures anddidn’t have faith. That evening I went to our place of a...
people of the north, directly associating myself with them. Inmy work with Invisible Children, I was in an enclosed office...
Many times we are called to realize our dreams but we abscondbecause of fear of the unknown. If there is anything that wil...
Since my last trip to Uganda, I have been working on thenext stage of the installation of computers for BOSCO(Battery Oper...
Acknowledgements   I would like to thank my wife, Karen Zuehlke, my parents,Gus and Helen Zuehlke, Paul De Celles, Dr. Tom...
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
The Uganda Blessing
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5
×

The Uganda Blessing

782 views

Published on

Copyright Gus Zuehlke

Gus's story (thus far) of the launch of BOSCO-Uganda.

Published in: Spiritual, Business
  • Be the first to comment

The Uganda Blessing

  1. 1. Foreword One of the most important areas of development at Notre Damein recent years has been its increased activity in the area of socialjustice. During my time as president, I felt strongly that thetraditional vision of Notre Dame producing students who weredevoted to “God, Country, and Notre Dame,” needed enrichmentOur graduates had the reputation of being outstanding citizens andskilled lay leaders in their parishes and local communities.However, something seemed to be lacking with regard to thesocial gospel, which was becoming increasingly an area ofecclesial concern in the late fifties and the early sixties. Therefore,in line with the vision of the Church expressed at Vatican II, inparticular in the great conciliar document, Gaudium et Spes, Ibegan to encourage students, and all the members of the NotreDame Family, to look for new ways to spread the Gospel throughsocial justice projects of various kinds. In the past fifty years, one can see great progress at NotreDame in this field of endeavor. One of the more recent initiativesin social justice work has been Notre Dame’s “Uganda Initiative,”spearheaded by Fr. John Jenkins, CSC and overseen by Fr. BobDowd, CSC. This initiative was officially announced in the fall of2006, and it is evolving into a substantial project. Our Holy Crosspriests, brothers, and sisters have been doing missionary work inUganda for over fifty years, and Notre Dame’s new effort can be afine complement to this missionary work. Gus Zuehlke, class of 1980, has been what you might call a“quasi ex officio” participant in our Uganda Initiative for severalyears. In cooperation with a number of Ugandan bishops andpriests, several of whom are ND graduates, Gus began to help out 3
  2. 2. with the refugee situation in Northern Uganda in 2003. In this partof Uganda, which is not far from Darfur, there has been a rebelliongoing on for the past twenty years. Gus undertook his ministryunder the guidance of Fr. Paul Doyle, CSC and Fr. John Dunne,CSC. He began by giving a retreat to the Ugandan Parliamentwhich inspired a number of Members of Parliament to give morehelp to the suffering people in the North. The book you are aboutto read tells the rest of his story. I recommend this book as a fine example of what one can do inthe area of social justice in Africa if one is willing to take someprudent risks and follow the Holy Spirit where the Spirit leads. Weat Notre Dame have recently inaugurated our “Spirit” campaign fordevelopment. The goal of the campaign is in part to foster the kindof projects that Gus has undertaken. I wholeheartedly endorse hisefforts in Uganda and pray that God continues to bless theseefforts. Fr. Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC December 19, 2007 4
  3. 3. Afterword By Kevin Bailey Over two years ago I made my first trip to Uganda, for a two-week research investigation. While on my flight, I was waitingin line for the restroom when a man in front of me asked mewhere I was from—he must have noticed that I was wearing aNotre Dame shirt. I told him that I was a student at Notre Dame.He then introduced himself as Gus Zuehlke, a 1980 Notre Damegraduate doing work in Uganda. In those next few minutes, Gus explained to me that he wasstarting a project in northern Uganda. Initially, his idea was touse a technology that we take for granted in the U.S. as a methodfor saving lives in the Internally Displaced Person (IDP) campsof northern Uganda. These poorly protected camps had oftenbeen raided in the past by LRA rebels, leading to the abductionof children to use as child soldiers in their war against theUgandan government. Gus’s idea was to use wireless Internet,solar-powered computers and VOIP telephony technology toconnect the isolated camps, which were often without electricityor effective modes of communication. At the end of ourconversation outside the airplane restroom, Gus and I promisedto meet again back in South Bend to discuss shared experiencesin Uganda. A few months later, I was returning to Uganda to teach ata Holy Cross secondary school near Jinja, in the south of thecountry. Before I left, Gus told me that he would put me in contactwith leaders from the Archdiocese of Gulu so that I could spenda few days experiencing their hospitality. At the time, I didn’tthink I would have time to get up to the north because I was only 103
  4. 4. spending nine weeks in the country, and eight of them wouldbe spent teaching. However, I became convinced that there wasanother side of Uganda—a forgotten side—that was not apparentto me while I was in the south. It wasn’t until my second month of teaching that the conflictin the north would really enter my consciousness. Next to theschool where I was teaching there was a convent of nuns, and wewould occasionally go over to eat lunch with them. After lunchon this particular day, we had an extra hour or so, and the sistersasked us if we wanted to see a new DVD documentary thatthey had just received. It was called “Uganda Rising.” It was achilling and poignant description of the events that had occurredjust 200 miles north of us over the past 20 years. Watching thisdocumentary deeply affected me; the documentary showed howspecific policies from both within and outside of Uganda hadprolonged the duration of the conflict and were still delayingthe process of seeking a peaceful solution. It showed picturesof disturbing human atrocities (a photo of a brain hacked outof someone’s head was shown), killings, and of many acts ofabsolute human terror. To say the least, I was touched, terrified,moved, speechless and upset, all at the same time. After watching it I was emotionally exhausted and hadno words to match my racing mind. Watching that DVD wasa surreal experience—one in which you realize only silenceremains. There was so much evil seen, so much gratuitoussuffering, that all that remains is the silence of God. At the time,I could think of nothing else to do except to pray in the sisters’chapel, so I did just that. I asked God for peace, for love, for thesoftening of hardened hearts. And I thanked him for the gift ofhope in northern Uganda. It was at this point that I started to contemplate going to thenorth to learn about the conflict first-hand—to see if I coulddiscover the forgotten side of the Ugandan story. I thought tomyself: How can I continue to neglect this conflict and the Acholipeople who had been left behind? 104
  5. 5. I did eventually make it up to northern Uganda at the endof my time in southern Uganda. I had the chance to be hostedby key leaders in the Archdiocese of Gulu and to visit thedisplacement camps, seeing with my own eyes what had beenshown so poignantly by the “Uganda Rising” documentary andwhat had been spoken about so passionately by Gus and othersduring their work in Gulu. As my senior year at Notre Dame began, I remained abreastof news coming out of northern Uganda and kept in touch withGus, learning more about how communication could lend itself topeacebuilding and development in the region. Sometime duringChristmas break I decided that I needed to return to Uganda aftergraduation. I wasn’t sure how I would be able to do this, sinceI learned that there was no room for any more volunteers at theHoly Cross secondary school where I had taught the previoussummer. Northern Uganda was on my mind, yet I didn’tknow how I would be able to contribute. I talked to Gus aboutpossibly returning to northern Uganda to work with BOSCOand the Archdiocese of Gulu. He agreed that there was plenty ofwork to be done and that I would be able to make a substantialcontribution. So we outlined a basic proposal about what I mightwork on over the course of the year in northern Uganda. It allsounded good and exciting until I realized that BOSCO hadnever had a full-time volunteer from the U.S. before. It is anorganization run full-time by committed board members who doa fantastic job of contributing to the growth of the project fromwithin their other professional commitments as lay catechists, ITspecialists and physics teachers, among others. In short, I came to the realization that to make this possibleI would need to raise all the money I needed to support myselffor the year. So I sat down, did some research, and figured outthat, with the cost of airfare, health insurance, room and board,transportation, etc., I would need to raise almost $30,000 dollarsto support my work with BOSCO. It seemed like an impossibletask at the time, and I was not convinced that I wanted to goforward with it. After all, I was busy trying to keep up with my 105
  6. 6. classes and enjoy the last couple of months of my senior year,while also applying to other jobs as a safety net in case returningto northern Uganda would not be an option. Gradually, however, the donations started rolling in fromfamily, friends and supporters at Notre Dame. By March, I hadraised half of the money necessary to support myself for mywork with BOSCO. And within a few weeks after that I was ableto finish my fundraising efforts. It seemed that, as I followed myheart and sought something that I find great value in, the wholeworld conspired to help me achieve it. My role today with BOSCO as a full-time board memberin Gulu has taken on something of a combination between amanager, administrator, consultant, trainer and friend. I visit theIDP camps frequently to assess how the BOSCO systems arebeing used and to try and facilitate greater and more effective useof the technology so that leaders in the camps can communicatewith each other and with the archdiocese. This has helped theAcholi people to become self-advocates for peace, by relievingat least some of the isolation they currently experience withthe lack of communication resources in the camps and with theoutside world. This work is really all about two Notre Dame graduatesfollowing their hearts in the work of peacebuilding. Both Gusand I were theology majors—one from the class of ‘80 and theother from the class of ‘08. It is through our commitment to thiswork that we seek to live fully and learn from those we encounteralong the way. 106
  7. 7. Afterword By Aliker David Martin It was Friday morning. I sat restless with the teacher staffin a Kampala schoolroom, staring at the wall, deep in thoughtabout what life is all about. The bell rang but I couldn’t hearit. Suddenly, a few minutes later, a teacher called out in a loudrude voice, “Mr. Aliker, are you not going for your lesson?” Irealized that the prefect was calling me to teach my lesson, so,after yawning and feeling tired, I got up and left for my lesson.My topic was “Life in a Changing Society.” Midway through my lesson, I told my students about thehopeless situation of life in the displacement camps in northernUganda. I told them about life in the cities in central Uganda,where there is relative peace, compared to the life I had leftbehind in the north. This only provoked arguments from mystudents about how peaceful Uganda is and how “life is what youmake of it,” as one student persisted in saying. He went furtherand said, “The people in northern Uganda are killing themselveslike cockroaches and expect the government to stop them!” Then there was a mixture of frowning and laughter, butbecause he was a good joker all the students ended up laughing. Suddenly a tall dark gloomy-faced student called Komakech(his name means “he who is unlucky”) stood up and left the class.I could see wrinkles of tears in his eyes, so I didn’t stop him. Isimply looked on as he left the class. Realizing the problem, Istopped the discussion and began to dictate the planned lesson. I kept on hearing the words clearly in my mind: “The truth 107
  8. 8. is the first casualty of war.” From a distance the student who leftthe class looked like he was praying, yet he also looked like onewho was reflecting on an idea. As I got closer he asked me to leave him alone, so I did as Iwas told. When I approached him and asked what the problemwas, he didn’t answer back, and then I switched to our locallanguage dialect and asked him what the problem was. He thenretorted, “Master, why are you pretending that you are with us inour suffering? You are friends and an accomplice of those whocastigate us, who call us names and those who hate us. That’swhy you never get offended by the bad things said against us.” I then told him I was sorry if I offended him in any way, butinsisted on asking what was wrong. After a minute, he said hewas praying to God to forgive those who had forsaken his peoplein the north. Again I asked, “What is the problem?” He said, “Don’t youknow I am a former child soldier? Teacher, look! I am not ashandsome and acceptable as my fellow students because ofthe scars of the war which I can’t explain. I wonder why therewas no one to save me from these acts of violence. I am notonly physically ugly but mentally shattered because I hear theirvoices and see them in my dreams crying and asking for helpfrom their persecutors. I am full of guilt, it pains me to see otherchildren being loved and hugged, yet I have never been huggedin my life.” I then asked him, “Do you believe in God?” He answered,“Sometimes I feel I have faith but at times I don’t see any sensein believing in God. I wish I had died!” Before I could answerhim, the bell rang and he asked to leave, promising me he wouldopen up later. The next day was one of my saddest moments as a teacher;the disconsolate student had left school, leaving behind a notefor me saying that he had abandoned studies because he felt he 108
  9. 9. could not make it. He left his property behind and no one hasseen or heard from him since. During my December school holiday, I got an opportunity togo back near home and do research in Pader district in the north.We were assessing the poverty level of people in the satellitedisplacement camps. The research required that we interview thepoorest of the poor in these camps. In one home, my colleagues and I met a woman who lookedold; however, it may have just been the fangs of poverty adjustingher age. A story is told of this very woman. She loved to pray andtake care of her three grandchildren. In fact, she was a regularat church, but she had kept away from the church for one week.All realized her absence, including the priest, who asked forher in a sermon, only to realize nobody could answer as to herwhereabouts. The next day in church the priest was told that thewoman refused to pray in church because she was too poor to hideher nudity in church, so she preferred to remain home to lookafter her grandchildren. Later that day the offertory collectionwas dedicated to her so that she could buy clothes. My two colleagues, who didn’t know the local language inthe north, introduced themselves to the old woman. On hearingmy name, she looked on motionless and chuckled, then asked hergrandchildren to leave and go to play. She then started narratinga story, saying that her only son and daughter-in-law died in thewar and left her with the grandchildren, and how she had hopedthe son would have been able to take care of her in her old age.Now she could not garden but instead could only collect firewoodfor survival. It really touched me so much that I offered her the only moneyI was paid for the research; my colleagues were also moved andoffered her 20,000 Uganda shillings, or $10 U.S. dollars each. Indisbelief, she could not remember when she last held so muchmoney. She asked me to offer my hands for blessings from ourancestors and spat on it, asking them to give me plenty in return. My 109
  10. 10. colleagues hesitated because they were from different cultures anddidn’t have faith. That evening I went to our place of abode hungryand kept awake in the night reflecting on my latest experiences.Tears kept rolling from my eyes, yet I felt great fulfillment inserving those in need and all I received was gratitude. It was here, near my original home in the north, where I hadcome face to face with the effects of the 20-year-old war on mypeople. Then I remembered my student and how he felt that dayduring my lesson. I then realized that in life there is pain thatwords may not be able to describe. As I reflected on my student’s pain, sleep caught up to meand I woke up with one resolution—QUIT TEACHING ANDCOME HOME TO SERVE MY PEOPLE. Opportunity always strikes for those who are awake. Iresigned from my teaching job on the third of January, 2007.1left the city very skeptical about if what I was doing was best. Iimagined the nice people in the city, the quality social life in thecity, and unforeseen opportunities. Yet, despite all of this I hadfaith in my conscience. On April 23,2007,1 got an opportunity to serve an NGO inthe north called Invisible Children as a volunteer; this was oneof my greatest moments, joining a reputable organization withan educational background. The motivation was so much that infour months I received two promotions: from education assistantto education officer. I then received an offer through Invisible Children to visitAmerica. My conscience called out, “What is your sense ofpurpose?” I adapted really well to my new-found values. I wentto visit America but then realized fulfillment is one virtue youcan’t lie about and it can never be compromised with life’s favors,even visits to America. My real interest was in communicating with the suffering 110
  11. 11. people of the north, directly associating myself with them. Inmy work with Invisible Children, I was in an enclosed officewhere one signs forms just to see me doing desk work. Here, youcomfortably communicate in the King’s English, forever facinga computer for the rest of the day. Yet every time I had opportunity to get out of the officein Gulu, I paid a visit to my mentor, Fr.Joseph Okumu, at theCatechist Training Center. I would listen to his opinion about thesuffering of the people in the north and the role of a few educatedlocals like us, especially young cadres with strong Christianupbringing, on how to bring social change in our society. Fr. Joealways moved me with this kind of talk. He would speak passionately about the BOSCO projectduring these times. He would tell me why it was important togive our people an opportunity to generate information from theirexperiences and share this with the world; and the importance ofcommunication in the postwar era. We often agreed and even hoped one day we could dosomething about it. Finally, one day, under the mango treeoutside the Catechists Training Center, Fr. Joseph told me thatas a product of the Church it was imperative that I gave back tothe Church through service to BOSCO. He had told me of myown father’s role in the Church. I had known Fr. Joe for morethan a decade and had never doubted him. Yet I was faced withthe challenges of possibly joining BOSCO, a new organization,compared to the comfortable job I had established with InvisibleChildren, a reputable organization in the area. This made it adifficult decision. Reluctantly I accepted Fr. Joe’s offer. My worry was my smallfamily and how the change could affect us, but eventually I toldhim, “I am not certain of the future, but since I have never doubtedyou in the last decade, I will take it up without any more thoughtbut with faith in your credibility.” He only retorted, “Come and beled by an old man, for you are going to make a difference.” 111
  12. 12. Many times we are called to realize our dreams but we abscondbecause of fear of the unknown. If there is anything that will neverbreak our hearts, it’s our conscience. In BOSCO, I met a silentlyhumorous team of workmates so respectful in thought and ways,so dependable in private and public, a true manifestation of myteachers’ common saying: “Simplicity signifies the magnanimityof the soul.” They are great personalities yet so simple in theirways, with a cutting-edge sense of freedom and responsibility. This is the home of my fulfillment, where virtues and valuesin all you do are a priority, where I am directly in touch with mypeople both in prayer and at work, where satisfaction is not onlygotten from earthly pleasures but from ideals one stands for. I feel so privileged amongst my peers to be engaged bymy Church at this hour in my life. It is an honor to serve anorganization committed to a new concept in our generation ofproviding communication and information technology to fostersocial and economic development and peacebuilding in ruralcommunities. I thank all those who have made it possible for meto be part of the BOSCO family. I promise to give it unwindingservice to the best of my ability and at all times. I further askGod to bless my action in serving humanity through BOSCO. 112
  13. 13. Since my last trip to Uganda, I have been working on thenext stage of the installation of computers for BOSCO(Battery Operated Systems for Community Outreach.) Mybiggest task now is to raise funds for the continuing deploymentand maintenance of the system. Anyone wanting to help in anyway with BOSCO can visit us at www.bosco-uganda.or g.Tax-deductible donations can be sent to: BOSCO-Uganda Relief Fund St Bavo Church 502 West 7th Street Mishawaka, IN 46544For additional copies of this book, send $5.00 for eachbook, plus 10% for shipping costs to:Light to the Nations Press22342 Brick RoadSouth Bend, IN 46628 113
  14. 14. Acknowledgements I would like to thank my wife, Karen Zuehlke, my parents,Gus and Helen Zuehlke, Paul De Celles, Dr. Tom Loughran,Kirby Falkenberg, Joe and Monica Higginbotham, Holly andDave Brandewie, Kevin Bailey, Dr. George Anastaplo, Father JohnDunne, CSC, Father Paul Doyle, CSC, Dr. Todd Whitmore, Fr.Richard Warner, CSC, Bob and Margie Kloska, Fr. Ted Hesburgh,CSC, Fr. Bob Dowd, CSC, Dr. Carolyn Woo, Sue Alwine, Joel andJodi Pairitz, Brian and Barb Finkelstein, Chris and Julie Watkins,Melissa Paulsen, Jessica McManus Warnell, Fr. Bill Miscamble,CSC, and Dr. Joe Bagiackas for their help and advice. 114

×