Jolly Grace Okot Andruvile, founder of Wend Africa, Invisible Children Uganda, and HEALS (Health Education Arts and Literacy), recently visited Westminster Academy to give a presentation to the Upper School students. This was an incredible opportunity for the students, as Mrs. Andruvile is the first Ugandan woman to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Price (2005) as a result of her work through HEALS.
Junior Lucy Jones was particularly moved and inspired by what Mrs. Andruvile shared with the group. She wrote the following when asked about the experience:
“I am still a little bit in awe. Mrs. Andruvile’s hardships, humanitarian work, and her perceptive vision for the ‘big picture’ of her life was truly striking; especially to me as I work through the task of choosing a college, which suddenly shrank to a mere triviality in the face of her acute knowledge of God’s sovereignty in spite of such horrific suffering. She prefaced her speech to the Upper School with a disclaimer: that she told us these things not to make us sad, but to demonstrate to us how faithful the hand of God has been, and how there is hope for the future. Working through her slides in the eloquent, confident tones of her rich Ugandan accent, she laid before us the story of her life. She had been a child soldier, abducted from her village in her late teens and forced to join the rebel militia along with countless other captured Ugandan children. She was separated from her family, forced to live under unspeakable conditions, raped every night for years – the list goes on. She told us of the day that her entire family was murdered by those same rebels, of her dramatic escape, and her eventual opportunity to be educated in her early twenties. This is where she stressed to us the inimitable importance of education.
“After hearing all of these tales of suffering beyond anything any of us would likely ever experience, I think we were all especially stunned when Mrs. Andruvile told us how, years later, she chose to leave her current residence in the United States and return to Uganda. She chose to return to the very place where she had endured so much in order to help those who had suffered similarly. Despite threats from the Ugandan government to remain silent about the chaotic Uganda of her youth, not only did Mrs. Andruvile create awareness and share her story- she took strides to bring healing to those who had experienced the same things. She created Ugandan schools, educating thousands of girls in a country where only 1% receive an education. She spoke before the United States Congress and influenced the passing of a law promoting U.S. aid to Uganda. She mothered four adopted Ugandan children and four biological children. She created humanitarian organizations that share the same Gospel that upheld her in her trials and minister everyday to those in Uganda who so desperately need it.
“Above all, Mrs. Andruvile hammered home one very clear message to us all, one that she let guide her life and one that she claimed had gotten her to the place she is today. ‘Have courage,’ she told us. ‘And speak loud.’ That is what our God and our education allows us to do, and, as she assured us, when we do this, we can accomplish far greater things than we imagine.”