Good morning, everyone. I’m really glad that we’re all here together virtually and I’m hoping that you are geared up for a really fantastic platform today. This platform is one of my favorites, where we get to hear an update from the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust, an organization the Ethical Society has been affiliated with for a number of years. Knowing that we can learn from everyone and that every person is deserving of worth and dignity, we’re putting our values into action and spreading that humanist message outside of Saint Louis and into Uganda so that schools can exist that educate based on science and compassion, that students can attend those schools regardless of their families’ ability to pay, and that women and girls have a chance for a different life than they would have without this intervention of education. Now I know that every single person has differing reasons about why they choose to be here as a member of the Ethical Society and also differing organizations that they choose to support with their philanthropy dollars. I’m going to tell you a little bit about my story and why my family chooses to support the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust.
I grew up in small town Kentucky and I was the first in my family to go to college. To give perspective on that, I want you to know that my mom was young when she had me, my cousin became a grandmother at age 30, and my one of my best friends was a mother by the time she graduated from high school. Teenage pregnancy very much impacts the way of life in my hometown. And we know, either from lived experience and certainly from the research, that if we’re able to delay a person becoming a parent – until it’s a decision of their choosing and when they have the ability to raise their child in the way they wish – then the outcomes for that child and for that parent are much higher and for society as a whole.
I offer this as a framing context. Due to COVID the Ugandan government shut down the schools; they did it and sustained it, so some of the folks who are returning to school literally this week have not been at school for the past two years. Some of the girls who we were providing scholarships for, who were staying in the boarding schools because it was safer for them to be there, they are not returning back to school. They went home and were in situations that did not them protect them in ways that they would have wished, and now they are young mothers and not able to continue on with their education. I offer this with the knowledge that our household, when we make a donation to the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust, that we are giving $500 and giving another person a chance to a different way of life. That is a small cost for our family but has transformational impact. Maybe it delays so that this person actually will become a nurse or a teacher in the way that she desires, that she will become a parent later in the way that she desires, that she will have the choice how to live her life in the way that she desires.
Eight years ago, I turned to my sister, who also went to college and knows the power of education, and I told her that our family was going to provide a scholarship and sponsor a girl in her honor. And that’s been our tradition, that every winter season, my family donates to UHST in honor of Samantha. But, really, it’s in honor of this idea that every person deserves the right to opportunity and if we can open that door just a little bit wider and allow more people through it that our world would be a better place.
Today in platform you’re going to hear from James Croft. You’ll also hear from school directors in Uganda and the reasons why they are in humanist schools. I hope that upon hearing those stories you feel compelled to give to help better the opportunities for these young girls and women and to provide them schooling opportunities for their future as well. Thank you.