This is the letter we sent to FNUR’s donors today:
A letter to Friends New Underground Railroad’s wonderful supporters.
December 2, 2014
It has been almost eight months since the Friends New Underground Railroad was founded. We have made so many friends all over the world since we began making it possible for LGBT folks in Uganda who were at great risk for their lives and safety, to leave, and start new lives.
As of today, we – and you – have helped 705 people leave Uganda (including eight children, six straight allies, and at least 33 people who identify as transgender). Many are now in their final countries of destination – Canada, Sweden, Rwanda, South Africa, Norway, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Ireland. And we are receiving their stories – and their thanks – for you.
There is Evelyn, a skilled midwife, and a lesbian, raped by her future husband at the insistence of her family and community. He gave her HIV. She is now working at a private clinic in Rwanda. Read her story here:http://friendsnewundergroundrailroad.org/evelyn-kemiremba-27-settling-in-rwanda-november-2014/
There is Nandi, a bisexual high school chemistry teacher outed by her husband and chased by a mob. She had to leave without even the chance to hug her son. http://friendsnewundergroundrailroad.org/nandis-story-i-wasnt-a-given-chance-to-even-hug-my-son-in-rwanda-now-nov-2014/
There is Robert, also escaping from a mob, who was one of Friends New Underground Railroad’s very first passengers. He made it to France, fell in love, married and is now happily living in Oslo, Norway.http://friendsnewundergroundrailroad.org/am-robert-and-i-love-happy-endings-25th-november-2014-at-oslo-norway/
There is SM, with a long history of being sexually exploited, who is now a conductor, who has pledged “unto death” to rescue LGBT people from rioting mobs and move them on to safety.http://friendsnewundergroundrailroad.org/if-everybody-runs-away-who-is-going-to-help-others-the-story-of-sm-a-fnur-conductor-in-uganda/
There is J, wife of Friends New Underground Railroad’s former conductor Katende Sam – straight allies who had to flee with an hour’s notice with their three children with only what they could carry, after helping more than 80 people escape under the most dangerous of situations in which several beating and burning deaths had already occurred.http://friendsnewundergroundrailroad.org/js-story-letter-from-the-wife-of-a-former-fnur-conductor/ andhttp://friendsnewundergroundrailroad.org/statement-of-a-fnur-conductor-xxxxx-aka-katende-sam-mr/
Then there is CL, driven out of the university like so many others and forced to flee from mob violence, now resettled in South Africa.http://friendsnewundergroundrailroad.org/cls-story-living-in-the-jaws-of-death-because-of-our-sexual-orientation-and-an-appeal/ There are currently 10 more lesbian university students on the Friends New Underground Railroad’s waiting list.
There is Michael, one of the Friends New Underground Railroad’scourageous transporters who shares his story of being inspired and transformed by one of our first conductors (who lost a kidney after being beaten within an inch of his life). Michael has inspired his entire workforce to lend a hand even when other doors are slammed.http://friendsnewundergroundrailroad.org/testimony-from-michael-a-railroad-transporter/
The Railroad has not been without its losses. We are still in mourning the loss of our conductor Tony. Tony was pressed into service when his predecessor, S., was beaten so badly that he suffered intracranial hemorrhaging, a broken skull, and multiple rib contusions, requiring a very difficult medical evacuation. S. is now in detention in Canada, awaiting a hearing on his request for permanent refugee/asylum status. Tony was a 35-year-old pharmacist with, obviously, no experience in these matters, but daring, great resolve, and a huge heart for people. In three months, working himself sick, he engineered the escape of almost 280 passengers, including five children. Returning from his last mission (which involved three of the children), he suffered a blood clot in his lung, which was traveling to his heart. He was operated on successfully, but when he returned to the ward, it was found that he had been doing all of with work with the Friends New Underground Railroad while suffering from malaria, typhoid, active tuberculosis, worms, bacterial dysentery, and severe malnutrition. His spirit, we would like to believe, continues to animate everything we do.http://friendsnewundergroundrailroad.org/we-have-lost-tony-one-of-the-railroad-conductors-we-need-to-raise-money-for-his-burial-asap/
Our work is, sadly, far from over. The Ugandan Parliament is close to voting on a new Anti-Homosexuality Bill that we have heard will be even worse than the last. Among other provisions, those who house, feed, transport, or assist gay people in any way can be subject to up to 10 years in prison.
The Friends New Underground Railroad is operated by Africans for Africans. Our role is to tell their stories and to raise funds to support them doing the brave and remarkable tasks they have taken on for Ugandan people.
Each escape costs us between $55 and $185, depending on route, mode of transportation, and interim destination. There have been some other expenses such as medical care and temporary lodging while waiting to cross into other countries.
So not to sugarcoat it, we need your continuing support.
Yes, we need money – and every little bit helps! Not one donated penny and not one Ugandan shilling has gone to our personal expenses or those of our conductors – we are all volunteers. And Olympia Friends Meeting (Quakers) doesn’t take a cut.
We know many of you have already donated. We hope you will again and we hope you will let your family, your friends, your neighbors and your colleagues know how much we need their support as well.
We need the opportunity to tell our story in your community – in LGBT groups, churches, meetings, synagogues, civic organizations – either in person, or via Skype. We need contact with your local media, your local newspaper or NPR or community radio affiliate. And we need your prayers and good thoughts.
So now you know what needs to be done. We and our brave conductors will keep plowing ahead – the rest is up to you.
Download this letter in pdf format which includes a form you can send with a check:
If you prefer to contribute (one time or monthly) on-line via PayPal, visit:
Ubarikiwe! (“Be Blessed!” in Kishwahili),
Gabi Clayton, Manager
Friends New Underground Railroad
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