Struggling with Justice

Below is a chapter from my book  “One of Us: Sex, violence, injustice. Resilience, love, hope.”

Day 272 since the incident: Friday, August 5, 2011

Pader, Northern Uganda

On Friday, August 5th, I walked 15 minutes to the school to see the Senior 4 students.  The majority of them stay in two side by side dorm rooms.  I went inside the first and the girls happily greeted me.  We talked about them sitting for exams next term and when they would go home for holiday.

They know my time is coming soon to leave Uganda since my 27 month service is quickly closing.  What they don’t know is that I may have to go back to the states for trial and life plan “E” is the possibility of having to stay stateside afterwards.  With that looming overhead, I didn’t know if this would be my last time to see them or not.  Juliet, our head girl, came out of her separate room and sat down beside me.

“Cindy, (as the majority of them never say Sandi) when are you leaving us?” asked Juliet.

“In September, but I have to go back for a little over a week.”

“Eh! You are always coming and going!  Why must you go in August?  Last time you left, they said you were sick.”

“Well, I have to take care of some business.”  She wasn’t very satisfied with my answer.  I hadn’t disclosed with any students what had happened but now that I would be leaving I thought the risk of sharing a small idea of what happened wasn’t as great.

“I have to go testify in a trial.”

“Cindy!  What did you do!!”

“I didn’t do anything, Juliet.  I am going to testify against someone else.”

“Eh! Sorry.  I hope he did not hurt you!”

But he did.  I quietly said that the man was violent during a bad incident.  I said how he was looking at a possible 60 years in prison for his actions against me.

“You want him to rot in jail the rest of his life?  Oh, Cindy, you must forgive him!”

Juliet is an interesting one.  She is the former “wife” of Joseph Kony, rebel leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army.  For her to say that I just needed to forgive him, after her story includes abduction and forced sex slavery to a rebel commander leading to a still born child, made me intrigued by her answer. Continue reading

Coming Together for Our Peace Corps Family

http://sites.miis.edu/communications/files/2010/08/peace-corps-NPR1.jpg

I have always felt appreciative of my Peace Corps family but not until recently have I seen or understood quite the power and support we provide each other.  Somehow, between having a man who is well loved and respected, combined with an official email sent to PC Global and reaching out to our friends at the State Department, and making the story personal while using social media, we raised over $15,000 in a matter of 10 days!

  • On Monday, 2 December, Peace Corps became aware of the life-threatening health and financial crisis facing Fred Kiyingi, the SSC at Peace Corps Uganda.
  • With coordination between post, PC HQ and FEEA.org, PC was able to establish a special fund through FEEA to raise money for Fred.  The fund went “live” on Friday, 6 December.
  • On Saturday, 7 December, a special blog post and a Facebook page for updates were created to spread the word and immediately personal stories from Uganda RPCVs started flowing in about how Fred helped them and how Fred would help save their lives if the situation was reversed.  “Friends of Fred: Saving a Life One Person” got over 1,000 views by  Monday.
  • On Monday, 9 December, an email was sent to Peace Corps Global informing everyone of Fred’s need and providing information on how to support him through FEEA.
  • By Wednesday, 11 December, nearly $10,000 had been raised through FEEA.  In 5 days, this effort exceeded the largest amount previously raised through FEEA for a single Peace Corps individual.
  • Posters were created and placed throughout PC HQ.  Our friends at the State Department called to action their contacts to support Fred.
  • We spread the word and people acted out of the kindness of their hearts.

Although we made the first hurdle with the funds, Fred’s battle with sickness isn’t over.  He successfully went to India where the doctors tested him further, but his results were not good.  The doctors determined he needs a liver transplant and just recently Fred found a living matching donor which they would be able to use part of his liver for the transplant.

We were able to raise $15,000 in 10 days to help save Fred’s life which was mind blowing and amazing.  Unfortunately, life-threatening health conditions are  sometimes even more serious and detrimental with new tests and findings.

We came together once- can we do it again?

Can we raise $45,000-$60,000 depending on which hospital in India he needs to go to and the doctors final decision?

Do we know of any doctors or hospitals that would be willing to help?  What would this look like?

If we think big, how can we come together to help save the life of Fred, our Peace Corps family member?

Sandi Giver rebuilds lives, empowers victims of war in Africa

Sandi Giver

KOKOMO, Ind. — Sandi Giver’s heart for helping those in greatest need takes her to places most people fear to go.

She’s lived without electricity and water in war-torn Uganda, providing a mother’s love to teen girls rebuilding lives shattered by civil war. In the slums of India, she ministered to women forced into prostitution, helping them into dignified employment that allows them to escape poverty.

And she did all of this before her 28th birthday.

“I feel like my life sounds pretty intense to other people,” Giver said. “To me, it’s simple acts of kindness, and simple things nobody talks about, taking care of populations that are overlooked or people haven’t talked about. I have taken extra effort to find them, or it’s come across my path, and I’ve learned more. Anyone can do it, you just have to put the effort towards it.”

Her bachelor’s degree from Indiana University Kokomo made this possible, she says, teaching her the value of hard work, and providing leadership experiences in student government, Student Union Board, and speech and debate.

She was a full time student and held full time jobs, which let her pay her tuition and living expenses without student loans. After graduating, she was free to seek out the overseas volunteer experiences she dreamed of, rather than having to find a job to pay off college debt.

“I’ve always wanted to go overseas, and to experience something unlike America, where I could get to know the people, the issues, and how I could successfully empower them,” she said. “IU Kokomo made that possible, because I wasn’t financially in debt when I graduated.”

She’s now using her knowledge to prepare future Peace Corps volunteers to be safe while serving overseas, working for the Peace Corps Office of Safety and Security in Washington D.C.

Giver, from Peru, earned a degree in general studies, with a concentration on social and behavioral sciences, in 2008. After graduation, she spent four months in India, with Word Made Flesh, a faith-based organization that helps women escape brothels and find jobs with dignity.

She then served 27 months with the Peace Corps in Uganda, living in a primitive refugee camp, with no electricity. Giver taught life skills, communications, and relationship skills to young women in the camp, and helped many of them cope with post-traumatic stress disorder, from being displaced or abducted during civil war.

“Going to a post conflict zone was so much different, when it came to building trust, and living in the camp,” she said. “At the same time, I was able to build relationships with my girls, and with my teachers. I was able to learn more than someone who was in Uganda for two weeks. There were definitely some hardships, but I am thankful for the experience, and the work I was able to do in the community.”

In her current job with the Peace Corps, Giver develops procedures, policies, and training to help volunteers reduce their risk of being sexually assaulted, or a crime victim. She also trains and equips staff to respond when a staff member is a crime victim.

“This is my first office job,” she said. “Right now, it’s good to be where I am, in a cube, outside of the chaos. Now I can step back and work on issues a little less directly. My heart has been, and is still, to work with marginalized people, when they don’t have a voice. “

Giver plans to earn a master’s degree in social work, preparing to work in community awareness and advocacy. She also would like to go overseas again at some point.

“I want to go when the moment is right,” she said. “It might take a little time. I also see the value of working on issues at home, and in America.”

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

http://newsroom.iuk.edu/alumni/682-sandi-giver-rebuilds-lives-empowers-victims-of-war-in-africa.html

Angels on Earth – Peace Corps

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Angels on Earth – Peace Corps

There are still Angels on the Earth. Anyone who wants to meet them needs to go to Peace Corps. All Peace Corps Staff at Post and Global and “my Super Volunteers” made me stronger and stronger every day by being so concerned and showing care and love by contributing and giving anything that they had to save my life.  Also, I do extend my thanks to friends, brothers and sisters for all your generous contributions toward saving my life. The James Bond will come back alive. Peace Corps –“Yes We Can”.

Thank you so much for the great job done.

Fred

$15,000 – January 15 – One Life Saving Operation Needed

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A couple of months, that’s it.  A man that has spent years supporting Peace Corps Volunteers in Uganda.  If you have a safety concern, you go to him.  If you are the victim of a crime, he helps you navigate the reporting process and so much more.

Fred was my strength when I didn’t have any.  While waiting to speak to an investigator at the police station after being a victim of a serious crime, he took care of all the logistics and helped me feel at peace.  I could not have gotten through that place in my life without his professional and compassionate guidance and support.

A looming threat of death due to hilar cholangiocarcinoma, an aggressive form of cancer.  I wish I could be his strength but I can’t.  I wish I could be there physically to help his wife take care of their 4 kids but an ocean separates us.

His life can be saved by an operation but the situation is complicated.  The particular surgery that Fred needs can’t be performed in Uganda or neighboring Kenya so he must fly to India for the operation.  Although this will save his life, his insurance will not cover the costs of a surgery that takes place in another country.

$3,000 by December 31st for travel to India, $12,000 by January 15th to help cover the medical costs.  

I hate that as I’m writing this, I’m thinking how $15,000 is what determines if Fred lives or dies.  Reality is that timing is of the essence.  If funds are raised quickly, they will go towards the surgery and his recovery.  If the full amount can’t be raised in time to save his life, funds raised will go to his surviving wife and children.  I choose life.

Please join me to save a life.

Join me because rarely are we given the chance to give back to the individuals who support us.  Our financial support is a tangible way to do so to a man who has not only supported me but also other Peace Corps Volunteers who have been victims of crime. On top of his regular work load, Fred is one of the few designated staff at post which support sexual assault victims that choose restricted reporting.

Join me because we have the opportunity to show someone we value their work and we want to see them live another day.  Formerly, he worked with the American embassy RSO. He has told me stories of his work in Rwanda during the genocide.  He has helped the expat community as well as his own community.  He is dedicated to serving others and I wish his health was better.

Join me because we should take care of our fellow man. I am also asking my extended network that are also heavily committed to philanthropy and volunteerism to also consider a gift. The gift will go directly to a trusted source, the Peace Corps Federal Employee Assistance Fund and is tax deductible.

I, Sandi Giver, choose to donate $200 towards saving Fred’s life.

What do you choose?

If you would like to join me in saving Fred’s life, please follow the directions below:

Fred Kiyingi is eligible to receive support through the Peace Corps Emergency Relief Fund.

Please note, if you choose to support Fred Kiyingi, select the Peace Corps  from the Agency drop down menu and specify that the donation is for Fred Kiyingi in the In Honor /Memory Of field to make sure your donation goes to him and not to the Peace Corps Emergency Relief general fund. All comments will be sent to Fred so make him smile! Everyone can donate- you don’t have to be a federal employee.

To get updates on our status supporting Fred, please join  www.facebook.com/howtosavefredslife  Facebook page.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, in advance for your support.

“Survivor Strong” in Boston

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Since the sexual assault, November has been a challenging month.  This year, I’ve been able to shift my focus from November being consumed by thoughts of the incident to focusing on everyday life.  I was extremely productive at work designing posters for a campaign, too focused on planning for my trip to Boston to see friends rather than focusing on the fact that I take this trip during the anniversary/mark of the incident.

I only Googled the man who chose to rape me for an afternoon rather than obsessing over trying to find information on him.  He’s moved from Virginia Beach to Jacksonville, Florida, where he’s started a workout clothing line with a partner saying they “are your typical guys trying to be better in this world, just like everybody else.“  I also found photos of him in white board shorts and greased up from the 2013 NPC Bodybuilding National Competition.  Good for him.

His name, that night, the next year and a half going through the military justice system, the remnants that still remain will never be forgotten.  I am thankful for being able to release the majority of negative and detrimental emotions attached to the incident.  My life is actually pretty calm, stable, and I like my work/life balance.

Continue reading