July 31, 2019

I went to see the new Lion King movie recently. The opening sequence was beautiful and inspiring and reminded me of the gorgeous African savanna. Our organization is based just a couple of hours away from that habitat, Queen Elizabeth National Park, where we take some of the Batwa children usually once a year. 

But we are closer to the Montane rainforest of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a gorgeous ancient forest that until this century was home to the indigenous Batwa who lived in and among the wildlife at peace. They hunted, they gathered, but it was sustainable and harmonious. 

They were not responsible for the depletion of the mountain gorilla’s habitat, or the gorillas themselves, which was caused by other tribes engaging in agriculture and deforesting the area. 

Yet the Batwa have suffered more than any other group because of tourism and because of the park. We love mountain gorillas — in fact they are my personal favorite animal —and yet to save them we hurt people....

February 24, 2019

“Skip the middle” may be a bad slogan for a movie but a great idea for energy!  The progression of bringing power to places has historically been no power, dirty energy, to clean energy.  RSF’s Power to the People campaign is starting to bring solar power to the Batwa people of Uganda, skipping the dirty “middle”.

But when it comes to helping others, RSF doesn’t skip the middle.  We want to make sure that the Batwa individuals in this village receive solar lanterns, cell phones, and that the families get complete solar power systems with a solar panel, a charge controller, a rechargeable battery, and lights in every room and outside.  We want to make sure that every kid in the village can read their books on rainy days and complete their homework at night — not to mention that they can eat their dinner and see it! RSF is helping give "Power to the People" — solar power!

Shivan turns on the power switch for the first time!

By the end o...

November 26, 2018

I’d known Wendee nearly ten years as a dynamic journalist who traveled the globe to report on wildlife and environmental issues. So when, in 2014, she told me she was selling her house in Texas and moving to Uganda to start a nonprofit on behalf of the Batwa people, I thought she was a teensy bit crazy. But when she explained the principles on which Redemption Song Foundation would be based, and her plan to implement them, I not only got on board – I literally joined the organizations first Board of Directors, on which I still serve. 

RSF is different from most charities set in the poorest parts of the developing world in that help is not “imposed” by outsiders. Rather, the people served are consulted every step of the way, with the ultimate goal being to empower them to be self-sufficient not only by providing for their basic needs, education, and infrastructure, but also helping them to create economic livelihoods (like the Women’s Artisan Co-op) that help them maintain the unique Bat...

November 25, 2018

Just imagine for a moment life without electricity... no lights, no heat, no air conditioning. No way to charge your phone even if you had one. No lights in the community that lit your way for safety. Sheer darkness. 

Even if you grew up poor in America, you almost certainly had electricity. - you had lights. With no running water, no electricity, no traditional education, and no access to their traditional source of food in the forest, the Batwa are facing extreme poverty the likes of which most people in the U.S. can't really imagine. It is even considered shocking to some Ugandans who grew up in a village to see some of these living conditions. 

Slowly by slowly (as they say in Uganda) we are working with the Batwa to develop their community - and we are all excited by the positive changes. First we built a bridge at their request. Then a home for a single mama. Then we got kids who'd dropped out back in school. Then we got clean water which was huge (and the system is broke...

In the English language, light is an overused metaphor, in hit songs like ‘You Light Up My Life’, in movies – Luke Skywalker is affiliated with the light side of the force (at least initially), and in common phrases – ‘his eyes lit up.’

Physiologically, exposure to light improves one’s mood - and lack of can be associated with the winter blues. Light is so crucial to education that "enlighten" means to inform, instruct, or educate.

Bringing solar power to Batwa families will allow children to complete homework and improve their chances of escaping poverty. Educatiois so crucial to every aspect of how we form as humans, in escaping difficult circumstances, in growing as human beings, in bettering the human condition through self-education or educating others. 

In Uganda, English is the national language, though individuals who drop out of school often do not learn enough to get good jobs. If they stay in school and learn it, their opportunities expand. When kids learn to read,...

November 13, 2018

My physician husband, two younger daughters, and I spent 5 weeks in Uganda in 2016. While my husband did anesthesia for surgeries at Bwindi Community Hospital, the girls and I began spending time with Wendee and the children at Redemption Song Foundation (RSF). We became aware of the challenges the Batwa people are facing, helped publicize Wendee’s fundraising efforts for safe drinking water, and assisted in constructing a mud hut for a family (through the Batwa Development Program).

Because we lived in northern British Columbia, we were accustomed to long winter nights – sunrise after 9 am and sunset before 4:30 pm. However, until we experienced life in Uganda, we hadn’t experienced true darkness. The dark that descended shortly after 6 pm felt thick, almost three-dimensional. Unlike the local people, we had flashlights to help guide us up the 2 kilometer dirt road from the guest house (where we ate our meals) to our accommodation. Even with the flashlights, it was disconcerting, parti...

November 11, 2018

This holiday season of giving, Redemption Song Foundation (RSF) is bringing Power to the People — literally! 

We're bringing solar power to the Kalehe Village Batwa, an indigenous pygmy tribe in SW Uganda with which we work. This sustainable electricity will allow kids to study on rainy days and dark nights, enabling them to get away from the gritty, smoky fires that now provide their only light.  There are 8 existing homes in Kalehe and we'll build new solar-powered homes for 3 single moms (Allen, Zawadi & Jolly), and get solar power for our school, Hope Stone Academy. Each home will also get a solar lantern for going to the outhouse (latrine) at night & a cell phone. 

The Batwa tribe lags far behind other Ugandans in education, income, and development and RSF has worked alongside the Batwa of Kalehe to help in these ways. The grant that first brought our director — journalist Wendee Nicole...

November 26, 2017

Since September 2014, Redemption Song Foundation has had its office, staff housing and community center for the Batwa in a lovely one-story house in Buhoma, a few kilometers from the main entrance to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park – the ancestral forest homeland of the Batwa people – and just down the hill from Kalehe village, where the Batwa we work with live.

The house has a beautiful large yard, with banana, plantain, avocado, and mango trees, and a pineapple plantation. Alas, the owner recently sold the house and sadly, he also passed away last month. As a result, RSF has found itself suddenly without a home for the future.

The RSF House has provided a safe place for the Kalehe Batwa kids to play soccer (“football” in Uganda) and Frisbee, to do cartwheels in the yard, and to come inside to watch movies, color and play with toys and read books.

Every week, the RSF house welcomes all the Kalehe Batwa kids to our Educational Soup Kitchen — feeding them a protein-rich meal,...

October 23, 2017

I have volunteered for Redemption Song Foundation for the last two years and it was the name that triggered my connection to the cause in the first place. Named after one of Bob Marley’s songs, Redemption Song, RSF aims to emancipate or free “conservation refugees” from poverty and destitution. As a refugee living in Sweden, Wendee’s mission inspired me, and that is why I am a part of RSF’s volunteer team.

​After finishing my undergraduate​​ study with a major in Sociology and Social Administration 16 years ago I had worked for about 7 years helping vulnerable people and groups in my home country, Ethiopia. 

In 2008 I decided to change my career to environmental communication and came to Sweden to earn a Master of Science degree with a major in Environmental Communication at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.  I returned home in 2010 and worked for 5 years helping local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) preparing project proposals...

Please reload

Featured Posts