Game Changers

This summer was a game changer.

The people we met, the friendships we formed, the stories we made and the places we traveled once again changed the way that I think about the world.  I rafted on the Nile with a girl from Denver whose first trip on an airplane was to Uganda.  We had dinner with the Prime Minister of Uganda, we talked politics around the dining room table in Delhi, we cooked dal curry over a fire in the Tahr desert, we enrolled in an “Incredible Krishna” culinary class in Jodhpur, we sipped masala tea in Jaisalmer and we hiked to a temple in the mountains of the Himalayas and ate tomato soup.  I mean really damned good tomato soup!!

And as we wandered about the planet this summer and met spectacular people and saw spectacular things and feasted on spectacular food, we also know more than ever that the world is in desperate need of people who will not rest until they change the game.  As our tuk-tuk motored past hundreds of people sleeping on the main streets of Delhi during the early morning hours and as two- and three-year old kids held out their hands and begged us for their next meal in Kampala and Jodhpur, there is an inequity in the world that is irreconcilable.  It is a baffling and shocking inequity where just one meal that we ate at our hotel in Shimla would be at least a month’s salary for a family on the streets of India or East Africa.

One of my best friends from childhood, Eric Goold, wrote a brilliant piece this summer on a coming of age trip that three of us took to Eastern Europe in the late 90s.  This trip for me, two decades ago, was a game changer.  I remember Wallach, an engineer from Poland who was on his way home from work when he met us and realized we were lost and walked by our side for 45 minutes out of his way to make sure we got on the right train.  Wallach taught me that while poverty and hate run deep, there is extraordinary good in this world.  For me Wallach was a game changer.  And there are many more that I have met along the way.  This summer was no exception.

Regan is a game changer.

As of June 10th Entusi is Ugandan run and operated!  Students from the University of Colorado Denver and Colorado Mountain College, along with the Hybls and Myers and a delegation from Creighton University, Western Dairy Association and the University of Denver celebrated Regan as this 36-year father of two now makes the decisions for a team of 18 proud men and women in East Africa who are changing the game and transforming the community at Lake Bunyonyi.  And he manages with kindness and compassion. 

Agnes Igoye is a game changer.

One of the leading experts on human trafficking in East Africa, she learned what it meant to be a refugee when she was a little girl as the Lord’s Resistance Army ruthlessly chased her family from their home and dispersed them throughout Uganda.  She is now a voice for little girls and other vulnerable and underserved populations, as she works tirelessly to prevent bad people from stealing away childhoods the same way that hers was ripped away.  And she does it with extraordinary conviction and a contagious laugh.   

Mallory and Chloe and Isabelle are game changers.

Young extraordinary women from the United States who could have spent their summers anywhere and any place, they chose to travel to Uganda and Rwanda.   They dug in deep and they connected with the communities; they taught school and prepared lunch and played soccer with street children and village kids.  Along the way they loved and they learned and they built lasting friendships.  And they moved through East Africa with a song in their hearts and an insatiable intellectual curiosity. 

JoAnn is a game changer.

She traveled with me to Uganda three years ago and she saw something in Lira and the former child soldiers that I had not; she saw hope.  She helped me listen and think differently about Lira; and she helped me act and build Entusi.  And as she returned for a visit this summer, she reminded me in her own gentle way that by genuinely listening and thinking and remaining persistent, action and change is possible.  And she changes the lives of the people that she meets with elegant subtlety and grace. 

The camels that Andrei and I rode on in the Thar dessert are game changers.

About 20 kilometers from the Pakistani border, there is a part of the world that still uses camels to commute to work in the morning.  If you take an overnight camel safari and sleep on mattresses under the Indian sky along with the desert dung beetles that crawl on your feet, it will alter your perspective and move you out of your comfort zone.  And if you spend two days riding them (the camels… not the big ass beetles), they will change the way that you walk AND the way that you smell. And they do it without effort or remorse.

Ahhh…the little shit who managed to sneak my iPhone out of my pocket as I marveled at the Taj Mahal was a game changer.

This isn’t my first rodeo folks!  At least they didn’t steal this one out of my hand in a taxi while I was using it this time!  And they did it with great stealth and expertise.

And this summer was a game changer.

With over 100 students and community leaders engaging in capstones and immersion experiences in East Africa; with three major research projects and innovative partnerships with the Denver School of Science and Technology, Denver Center for International Studies, College Track and City Year, there is a lot to celebrate…and there is a lot to do!  And change is happening not because of one person or one idea.  It is happening because people are collectively changing the game.

Carrie Morgridge is doing it with her new book Every Gift Matters and Roxane White is doing it in her new leadership role with Nurse Family Partnerships.  Ken Gart is doing it with his statewide bike initiative, Aimee Cox is doing it building housing for the homeless in Colorado Springs, and the Downey-Fox girls are doing it through their music!

Early this summer I met a woman in a rural village in Northern Uganda who, along with her two daughters, told us her story of how the Lord’s Resistance Army murdered her husband and her son and abducted her two girls.  Her story was a game changer as it occurred to me as she was talking that this was the first time she had every told it.

Nobody had ever asked.

Not out of disinterest, but because most of her friends and neighbors had similar stories to tell.

As the summer winds down, we are deeply grateful to the many game changers who welcomed us into their homes and inspired us by the work they are doing to change lives and change communities.  The only thing we hope they don’t change… is the passion they have for the work they are doing.

So many of the people we encountered this summer from Denver to Delhi… for them it is hardly a game.

Inspired and humbled.

Let po, Jamie


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