In the a-ha moment I described in my last post, I began to understand the magnitude of the need. Uganda is a nation of 45 million people. It has the youngest population of any nation in the world. Uganda’s exponential population growth in the 21st century has brought with it a multitude of challenges.
For starters, nearly 60% of the population is under the age of 18. To put that in perspective, Imagine for a moment, the number of children in the US under the age of 18. Now triple it.
80% of Ugandans live in poor, underdeveloped, rural areas with limited access to an education. 40% of children are not enrolled in school. 75% will never complete their formal education. That’s not to mention the estimated 2.7 million orphans scattered across the nation.
While poverty affects people of all ages, children are the single most affected of any age group. Without access to education, poor children become poor adults who have poor children themselves, and the cycle of poverty continues. Access to quality education has proven to be the most effective strategy in combating poverty.
Following my return to the States, I began efforts to raise money to purchase school shoes in Uganda. I shared with everyone and anyone who would listen, my experience that day at St. Angelas. Over the next few of years, I organized regular fundraising events. What was meant to be a single journey morphed into an annual expedition to purchase and deliver shoes.
Before long, I had begun recruiting others to raise funds and travel with me. It was during one such event that I met Mike. Mike would forever change the trajectory of what is now Uganda Shoe Trees.