Halfway around the world and far removed from life in Whistler is a small group of children the world has forgotten about. And though these children smile, dance, and play with every bit of Whistler-esque spirit they can muster, the realities of Northern Uganda and of being a child born into slavery are very harsh.
Enter Whistler local Ali McConnell and her newly-formed organization, Empowering Kids in Uganda (EKU), an organization providing justice for orphaned children born into the captivity of Ugandan’s guerrilla army. With a background in criminology, political science, and terrorism studies combined with her in-the-trenches work in Uganda, 28-year-old McConnell and the EKU are changing the world one child at a time.
Their target is the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its infamous leader, Joseph Kony. While the LRA came under the viral spotlight of YouTube and into the minds of many North American young adults through the Kony 2012 campaign, like so many other important issues the campaign served largely as an interesting coffee shop discussion.
Meanwhile, in the days before Kony 2012 was the “it” social justice discussion, McConnell and her small team were busy building the framework for Empowering Kids Uganda. EKU works in partnership with Ugandan agencies to rescue and rehabilitate these children.
Providing or referring mental health services, medical support, educational opportunity, and livelihood support for rescued children, the EKU is giving a new lease on life to some of the planet’s most forgotten children.
“Whistler should care about this because these kids in the EKU program are resilient children who have undergone things in their short lives we can’t even begin to imagine,” said McConnell, who also works at the Whistler Chilren’s Centre. “Yet, these kids still laugh, smile, and they love school and I think to an extent there is a little bit of a Whistler-spirit in them. They’re not any different than the kids at the Whistler Children’s Centre — they do the same stuff, good and bad, and at the end of the day these kids aren’t that different.”
This week Empowering Kids in Uganda is hosting a fundraiser to raise support and awareness for the cause. The Hairfarmers will be performing, drinks will be drunk, dances will be danced, prizes will be raffled, and bingo sheets will be dabbed.
The event kicks off at 7:30 p.m. on Friday (Dec. 14) at Merlins and is generously being sponsored by Merlins, Skiis & Bikes, Escape Route, David’s Tea, Comor Sports, Lush, Showcase, Whistler Bungee, Buffalo Bills, Telus, Vega, YES Snowboards, IFound Headwear, and Nik Badminton of Tribal DDB. For more info on the EKU please visit: www.empoweringkidsinuganda.org