Roots: I have lived all over Texas, but I’m so thankful to have spent the last 32 years in Austin.
Family Life: Blessed to be married to an amazing man for almost 35 years. Lew and I have 3 children; Wesley, Anne and Elizabeth. Two weddings this year and now we have two more wonderful children; Dora Lee and Nick.
Work Life: I retired from real estate several years ago after 18 years with Moreland Properties.
The best advice I’ve ever gotten…“This to shall pass” from my mother. I always thought this meant that difficult times would not last. As I have gotten older I realize the need to live in the moment and appreciate all the good days. They pass too.
I’m most inspired by…I was fortunate to have an incredible mentor in business; Emily Moreland. Emily is a great example of a working mother. She has a deep faith, kind heart, commitment to helping others and always puts her family first.
When I’m not working, you can find me…on the hike and bike trail walking around the lake.
My perfect day…is having all my children home. Anne and Elizabeth live in California and New York and I miss them.
My Story: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Through Education
I love to travel! In 2011 I convinced my husband Lew to go to Uganda to hike with the mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impentrable Forest. I had always wanted to go after seeing the movie “Gorillas in the Mist.” Bwindi is a remote village high in the mountains with no electricity or running water — this trip certainly qualified as the adventure I was looking for! We loved our hikes with the gorillas in the beautiful rain forest. It was awe inspiring to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
On our second day in Bwindi, Lew and I left the lodge to go visit the community clinic we had heard about. Without a map or cell phone we headed out. While we were overwhelmed by the poverty we saw, we were also moved by the smiling and curious faces staring at us as we walked through the village. Along the way, a little boy in rags appeared and walked down the dirt road with us. I guessed that he was about 6 years old. He had the most beautiful smile and peace about him. At that moment he touched my heart in such a special way that I still do not fully understand it today. With his direction, we finally made it to the clinic and he disappeared. As we were hiking the following day, we saw the little boy again. He ran up and hugged us and, of course, I started crying. We found out his name was Kamukama which means “ Protected by God”. He had been in the village the day before looking for his father to pay his school fees. He could not attend school without paying and his father had deserted the family for Kampala. Before we left Uganda we made arrangements for a guardian to make sure he was enrolled in school and we wired the money to pay his school fees.
A year later we returned to Bwindi with our children and Carol & Milo Burdette. We had great hikes with the gorillas and everyone was able to meet Kamukama. He was healthy and thriving in school. We saw so many other children living in extreme poverty without the chance of an education. I had been praying for a year for God to show me a way to help other children like Kamukama. I had no idea where to even begin. On this trip we met children from Victory School. We learned that Sylvia and Victor Bahati were struggling to educate 33 children at the school. They only had several untrained teachers, mud huts for classrooms, no textbooks and few resources, but they had a deep faith in God and a desire to improve the lives of children in their community.
After returning to Austin we decided to establish the Kamukama Foundation. We partnered with Victory School with the goal to expand and educate more children. I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support . With a new Victory School website, generous supporters from across the country have been able to sponsor children and make donations. We have built relationships with the families of students and work together with the common goal to provide a quality education for these precious children. We have so many gifts and talents to share with each other.
The school now has trained teachers and staff, textbooks, library, new classrooms and 300 students. It has been so fun these past four years to share this special place with friends who go with us to work at the school. The gift of an education is giving these children a real chance to break the cycle of poverty and have hope for the future…God has put us on this path and I am excited to see where he will lead us.
More about Victory School in Uganda:
Uganda´s AIDS epidemic, extreme poverty and decades of civil conflict have left the country with over 2.4 million orphans – the most of any country in the world. Due to lack of government subsidized education, families face enormous challenges to educate their children.
- over half of the people in Uganda struggle to survive on less than $1.25 a day
- 3 out of 4 children who start primary school in Uganda do not complete 5th grade
- 1 in 3 Ugandan children under the age of 5 suffer from malnutrition
- 2 in 5 children and adults in rural Uganda lack access to clean water
- almost 100,000 children die annually from malaria in Uganda
- an estimated 1.2 million children and adults in Uganda are living with HIV / AIDS, 64,000 of whom die annually
- the average life expectancy is 54 years
Victory School is a place of hope. The school provides an education to these children growing up in extreme poverty who otherwise would not have the opportunity to attend school. In addition to academics, Victory School equips the children with the tools to manage family planning, nutrition, health, sex education and farming skills.
To find out more about Victory School and how to Sponsor a Child, visit http://victoryschooluganda.org
How wonderful is it that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world? -Anne Frank
iGnite’s Real Women, Real Stories is a series highlighting the inspiring lives and experiences of women in our community. We hope their stories motivate and inspire you to live your life to the fullest.
Know someone who would be a great candidate for a Real Women, Real Stories feature? Email nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org