Fifteen people, most of them members of Celebration Lutheran Church, have gone into a fundraising mode, hoping to raise enough for a two-week trip to Uganda to build a school.
Although the trip won’t take place until next August, time is of the essence as organizers have to raise funds in advance to ensure the trip can even happen.
The group is even selling “bricks” for the schoolhouse – the “bricks” in the form of plastic cards that go for $20 each. The schoolhouse project will cost $20,000. If all goes well, workers in Uganda will prepare the foundation, and the tour group will then do the rest of the building, brick by brick. In addition to the building fund, the trip planners must also raise at least $3,000 each for their airfare and living expenses.
Uganda is a country in central Africa that has been torn apart by conflicts, an AIDS epidemic and the brutal dictatorship of former tyrant Idi Amin. Because of the years of turmoil, disease and bloodshed, there are many orphans in the country.
Maggie Brossoit of Sartell, a retired language-arts teacher, has been to Uganda four times for similar construction projects. She has come to love that country and its people. She even “adopted” a Ugandan boy by helping finance his education and helping him find a secure home. The boy’s name is Patrick Oodong. He was 17 when Brossoit met him, and his tragic story is not at all atypical of the horrors that happened in Uganda. One day years ago, rebel soldiers stormed into Oodong’s village. They forced him to kill all the members of his family. Then, along with other children, the rebels abducted the boy and coerced him into becoming a soldier. After two years, he managed to escape and walked for weeks through the country to his village where he discovered all of his relatives were gone. They had either fled or been killed.
Thanks to the Watoto Child Care Ministries, Oodong found a secure home where seven other orphans lived in the city of Gulu. He also went to a vocational school where he learned cement work. He is doing just fine now, Brossoit noted.
“His story is terrible but also amazing,” she said. “The Ugandan children are the happiest and the most grateful children I have ever seen.”
Uganda, she said, is a very beautiful, lush-green country.
“It’s actually a very safe country,” Brossoit said. “The people in Watoto (organization) take very, very good care of us when we are there in the city of Gulu.”
Brossoit first went to Uganda in 2005 with a group from Pelican Rapids. She went again in 2007, along with her son, Aaron. In 2009, at Aaron’s urging, they returned and then, in 2010, Brossoit and Kim Holweger, also a member of Celebration Lutheran Church, organized a small group of people from Celebration and some from Pelican Rapids for another trip.
When people have asked if she plans to organize another trip, Brossoit has always said, “OK, one more trip.” And she keeps saying that.
Brossoit and her late husband, Mark – a language-arts teacher at Sartell Middle School – always enjoyed traveling and making cross-cultural connections. Both served in Libya in the Peace Corps in 1968-69. Mark died of cancer eight years ago.
When asked why she helps people in Africa when there is plenty of needs here in the United States, Brossoit has a quick answer.
“One can do both,” she says.
This year, if enough funds can be raised, the group will include Celebration members Brossoit, Barb Churchill, Joyce Townsend, Karen Fuglie, Kathleen Engel, Nancy Curtis, Ben and Linda Theisen, Bob Ringstrom, Kelsi Holien and 12-year-old daughter Ainsley and the LaFleur family – parents Mike and Chris and sons Ezra and Ethan. Townsend and Fuglie have both been on previous Uganda missions.
Many people in Sartell are aware of the Watoto organization. Twice in recent years, the Watoto Children’s Choir performed to great acclaim at Celebration Lutheran Church.
There are at least two fundraisers scheduled. One is a concert at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27 at Celebration. The other is a breakfast and silent auction from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday, March 10 at Rollie’s Bar and Grill. east of St. Cloud on Hwy. 23. In the meantime, group members will be selling “bricks.”
Anyone who would like to donate can send checks to Celebration Lutheran Church, 1500 Pinecone Road N. 56377, Sartell, MN 56377. Be sure to write “Watoto” or “Uganda” on the check’s memo line.
For more information, call Brossoit at 253-1044.
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.