Finding Loro: a simple story about the contagious nature of love & service

by Riley Webb

above: female students at the Loro Primary School celebrate the delivery of their sanitary pads in early June, 2017, the first gift offered from Love for Loro. 

In November of 2016, Front Porch volunteer, Betsy Sammon, sat in on a youth Sunday School class at All Saints’ Episcopal Church. As the class pondered various topics that day, somehow the conversation turned to focus on one of the class’ leaders, a young man from northern Uganda named Edward Abili. The kids began asking Edward questions about life back home in his village: what kids over there did for fun and what their lives were like. But when Edward began to describe a life devoid of the luxuries that we know here in Austin, the kids’ gentle curiosity turned to concern. Eventually, one of them asked the question Betsy had been quietly hoping for: “What can we do to help these kids? Can we do something with The Window?”

Edward Abili grew up in Northern Uganda before coming to the US just a few years ago.

As the lead volunteer of our youth service corps, Betsy had been pondering what The Window could do all along. But she was overjoyed to hear that the kids themselves would lead the way on this quest. Immediately, she called me and invited me to sit in on the next class. It was this simple chain of events that sparked the journey of Love for Loro.

When I discussed potential plans of action with the Edward, Betsy, and the youth the following Sunday, the whole affair seemed rather ordinary at first. Edward explained that the options were wide open concerning what we might do to help—that the people of his village need everything from school desks to buildings to food to medicine. But, when we asked ourselves more intentionally about what we could do, somehow, we landed on shoes. Edward had told the class that most of the kids at the school in his village had to trek the African countryside barefoot to class and back every day. Soon, it was decided: we would by raise funds to purchase a pair of hard-rubber shoes for each student who attended the school in Edward’s home village of Loro, Uganda.

The pin represents Loro.

Mindz of a Different Kind help launch the program.

As we moved into December, the idea really began to crystalize. Betsy, Edward, and I held planning meetings all throughout that month, and then, in January, All Saints’ hosted a launch party for the first-ever Front Porch led fundraising drive, Love for Loro. The event featured hip-hop music from local outfit, Mindz of a Different Kind, and framed the event in the Epiphany spirit of spreading the good news far and wide, but with the Front Porch twist of getting outside of ourselves and learning from those of a different culture. We announced that, following the fundraising drive, we’d be implementing a pen-pal program to deepen the dialogical aspect of the program. 

When Edward explained the need for the shoes—that many of the kids who attend Loro Primary School must often walk upward of 10 miles a day, barefoot, just to get to class, through rural territory infested with worms and parasites—you could see the empathy spread around the room. Betsy also added caveat to the fundraising plan: we’d raise an extra $5,000 or so to purchase menstrual kits for the female students as well, so that they would no longer miss vital class-time or suffer public shame. By the time the presentation was over, positive energy and good vibes flooded the room, and 13 people signed up as individual fundraisers. In that moment, we began to see this as something that could actually happen—a real, viable adventure to embark on. We also began to see how it would work itself out—from person to person, one step at a time, as an emerging, co-creative, multi-faceted endeavor. 

Throughout the months that followed, we have seen so many different communities come together around All Saints’ and The Window to make this happen. From small groups like bible studies and office drives, to school clubs around Austin, to driven individuals who’ve held private fundraisers, we’ve seen so many do so much to raise this dough. Truthfully, this has been, perhaps, the chief beauty of Love for Loro: it’s provided hundreds of chances for friends and strangers alike to meet face-to-face and serve hand-in-hand toward a common goal. So far, we’ve raised over $17,000 toward our goal of $33,000, and we’re well on our way to earning the rest!

If you had asked Betsy and I how this project was going to happen in January, we wouldn’t have been able to tell you. We just trusted the people around us, and it paid off. This jigsaw puzzle of small fundraisers and bigger checks and Edward’s parents and friends on the ground in Uganda and store discounts from our partners there and folks of all ages coming up with unique plans to raise dough has been nothing short of Spirit inspired. Love for Loro has served as a reminder to so many of us that all it takes to make something incredible and good happen is a little initiative and openness to the people around us, and a willingness to work towards co-creating something new and beautiful as partners. To put it more simply: we just have to do it, and do it together.

The Window team relaxes after a day of hard work at the Love for Loro Garage Sale in early May.

As you may have seen in the video at the top of the page, we were so grateful to be able to deliver the menstrual kits and complete Phase One of the Loro program just few days ago. Now, we look forward to a few more weeks of fundraising as we attempt to raise another $15,000 toward the shoes. Many thanks to the following groups of folks—these people are the true heroes of this project! If you’re interested in fundraising individually or doing something with a group to help us meet our goal, please email me at rileyjacksonwebb@gmail.com. And don’t forget to join us at the Love for Loro benefit concert with Walt Wilkins at All Saints’ on August 24th at 7:30 PM!

Big Thanks to:

Betsy Sammon, for doing nearly everything that happens behind the scenes to keep this going.

Edward Abili & family for doing everything related to the delivery of our goods in Loro, and for being open to that vital initial connection across the world.

The All Saints’ Episcopal Church Youth Group, for all the hard work at the garage sales, bake sales, flower sales, and more, and for continuing to help us plan and implement the project.

Kelly Barnhill, for all of your ideas, encouragement, research, resources, and gifts.

Wini Wood, The Cornelius Family, and Mary Wright for being the backbone of the Love for Loro garage sale.

Carol Moczygemba, Karen Mountain, and Migrant Clinicians Network for hosting the amazing “Wine and Cheese” evening.

The Greendyk family, for hosting your incredible lemonade stand fundraiser.

Gullett Elementary School’s “No Place for Hate” program and “Camp Be The Change” for the garage sale help and lemonade stands.

St. Andrew’s Lower School for your “Change for Change” program.

Lone Star Family Market for donating goods and your space during the garage sale and much more.

Mike and Mary Hemby, Lucy Nazro, The Sammon Family, Austin Community Foundation, Cynthia Caruso, Beverly Pond, Mike Adams, Joanne Bruce, and many others, for your continuing and generous support.

 

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