How I met Annet Kayongo
by Gretchen Carlson
Founder/Director, 360 Vision
Hello! Thanks for wanting learn more. It's been over 10 years since I stepped onto African soil and spent an unforgettable 2 weeks in South Africa and Swaziland. The beauty of the land, the rural simplicity of their lifestyles and the joy of the people would impact my life forever. The photo shown was taken when I had the opportunity to meet my sponsored child Lindelihle and her family. I had been inspired by the work that World Vision was doing and had traveled to Swaziland as part of a World Vision trip. That photo marked a day I'll never forget from a trip that changed my life. Why am I now launching a sponsorship program to help an orphanage in Uganda?
It was completely unexpected. One random phone call in 2006 and my life has never been the same. I was working with a team of people in Community Education to plan an Empty Bowls event. The goal? Raise money to support hunger relief. But where? I mentioned Uganda to my coworkers, because I had started sponsoring a child named Reagan from Uganda. But we didn’t know where we would give the money. During that time, I called a reporter from our local newspaper to tell her about our project, thinking she would be interested in the handmade pottery aspect. She asked where the money would go. “We’re thinking of Uganda but don’t yet have an organization in mind.” “Uganda?!,” she said. "Just yesterday two women from an orphanage in Uganda were at our local thrift shop seeking donations.” I couldn’t believe it. (Note: I live in a small town in Minnesota. The likelihood of this happening would be RARE.) “No way! Are you kidding me?!”, I shouted, with an intensity that surprised even me. “Can you find out who they are?!” “Let me make a phone call,” she said. And within minutes she had called me back with the names. Annet Kayongo and her adult daughter Lydia were there seeking donations for New Hope for Africa Orphanage. It was a Divine connection, I was sure. We went on to hold a successful Empty Bowls fundraiser in 2006 and in 2010 and gave the proceeds to New Hope for Africa.
A year later when a trip came up through my church to travel to Swaziland, I was passionate about the opportunity and petrified at the possibility! I recall five distinct obstacles in my mind at the time. "What about this?" I would pray. "What about that?" One by one each obstacle was removed. It felt like a miracle. I flew to Swaziland with a wonderful team of people from my church and had an experience I will forever cherish. God made a way back then ... and He is making a way forward now. To Him be the glory!