30 Jul

“Exclusive Interview with a Refugee: A Personal Story of Persecution and Dramatic Escape” and more

Big thank you to Greg Stemm for writing: Exclusive Interview with a Refugee: A Personal Story of Persecution and Dramatic Escape —  AND — Under the Rainbow: U.S. group helps LGBT Ugandans travel from hatred to hope — which is in part about the work of Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund. It is a wonderful article and it includes a lot of background information about why the work of FUST is so needed. I have them both linked here:

Exclusive Interview with a Refugee: A Personal Story of Persecution and Dramatic Escape

by Greg Stemm – July 14, 2016 – Watermark – Orlando, FL

RefugeeInterveiwAbstr

“Jane” is 34 years old and grew up gay in her native Uganda, enveloped by an atmosphere of hatred towards homosexuality. After years of persecution, she was smuggled out of Africa and resettled in Europe where she is making a new life for herself. Watermark is unable to use her real name or the country to which she has relocated. Revealing too much information could place her and those who helped her at risk.

Working together closely with Olympia Quaker Meeting, Watermark was able to secure an exclusive interview with “Jane.” What follows is her story in her own words:

Read the whole article: http://www.watermarkonline.com/2016/07/14/exclusive-interview-refugee-personal-story-persecution-dramatic-escape/

AND:

Under the Rainbow: U.S. group helps LGBT Ugandans travel from hatred to hope

by Greg Stemm – July 14, 2016 – Watermark – Orlando, FL

[Note, the graphic with that article says, “Under the Rainbow: Florida group helps LGBT Ugandans travel from hatred to hope” which is an error because we are a Washington State group.]

This is a story that will probably mortify most Americans. Uganda is a place where people are outted and then completely shunned by their families. Their names are read aloud in shame on the radio. They are fired from their jobs and evicted from their homes. Without access to living space, food or health care, many simply perish. Those that don’t can be subject to state-supported beatings, maiming or even death. The atmosphere of terror extends to the families of LGBTQ people, who can also face persecution. The stories remind one of the days of Jews in Nazi Germany.

But there is a beacon of hope in a small Quaker congregation that set out to make a difference. These dedicated individuals cautioned Watermark about what we say and how we say it; a misstep could endanger the lives of those they help and those still in Uganda who were their lifeline out.

Read the whole article: http://www.watermarkonline.com/2016/07/14/watermark-online-uganda-rainbow-railroad/


Please support the work of Friends Ugandan Safe Transport!

We have been offered a matching grant for up to $7000 through the summer, so if you donate now with a check or through PayPal your donation will be doubled.

We sure could use the funds. Between the conductors, today there are 37 LGBT people in hiding, waiting for us to raise the funds to pay for their transport out of Uganda.

Please make a donation to Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund.

Thanks!

02 Jul

Article: “Ignorant Kadaga Strikes Again”

One of the conductors that Friends Ugandan Safe Transport supports to transport LGBTQ people out of Uganda with your help shared this article with us with this comment:

“It’s true and visible that leaders in the Ugandan Government are still very homophobic. The world seems to be quickly forgetting the plight of the lgbti in Uganda but there is still so much unforgiving pains and struggles for the ordinary lgbti”
Ignorant Kadaga Strikes Again
30 June 2016 – Queerlife South Africa

Over in homophobic Uganda, one of the country’s most feared gay haters in government, Rebecca Kadaga, the Speaker of Uganda’s Parliament, this week proved once again exactly how ignorant the poor woman is.

IgnorantKadaga-4blogIn a speech where she urged the country’s youth to become “ground fighters” in the national battle against homosexuality she claimed that “the Canadian court has legalised sex with dogs in addition to homosexuality.”

Rebecca Kadaga made the comments at a party hosted by local youth leaders to congratulate her on her reelection to Parliament last February.

In her speech she also said that she has proof that foreign NGOs working in Uganda are recruiting children into homosexuality.

To make a donation to support the work of the Ugandan conductors, click on the link on the top right of this page or the Donate link in our menu. Thanks!
17 May

Article and Video: “This Powerful Film Explores The Dangers Of Being Queer In Uganda”

 05/16/2016 article in Huffpost Queer Voices:

“We should ensure peace, social justice and tolerance for all no matter who they are and who they choose to love.”

Watch this video:

“In 2014, a Ugandan tabloid published the names and faces of 200 “top homos” in the country following the criminalization of homosexuality.

“The results were catestrophic for those named and now a new film is telling the story of one queer person’s experience following his outing.”

Read the article:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/uganda-outed-the-painful_us_5733d042e4b08f96c1823b6c

03 May

Snapshots – Seven Updates from Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Passengers

Snapshot: YK - Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

Snapshot: YK – Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

For now just call me YK. I love telling my story in a more simple way. What I know I was born a lesbian, never been attracted to the opposite sex, I love girls and girls. Yes  I was born this way. Besides my sexual orientation there is more to me, I am good sports woman, I love dancing and its through these two hobbies that I earn a living here in Nairobi. Oh why did I leave Uganda??? Honestly I didn’t leave Uganda, I run, I just escaped thanks to the friends in US who run a safe transport underground rail program for gays and lesbians in danger. We came in a group of 52 and by mid of Aug last year I had already gotten a job and a place to stay. Am a hard working one and life is looking good. I forgot to tell you, I can’t return back to Uganda even if the situation changes, those guys just wanted me dead. Am working on my papers and I am hoping to seek refuge in the Netherlands. Cheers YK

 

FUSTstories-Viva

Snapshot: Viva – Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

Greetings from  Poland, this is your home gal Viva, its has been long since we last communicated. Settling here in Poland hasn’t been so easy especially because of the language barrier but am learning Polish slowly and this will open up new opportunities for me. Am getting used to the food and the Polish life style. Never the less am grateful to you guys especially FNUR for having saved my life to help me escape from Uganda. Thanks Viva

 

Snapshot: Jojo - Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

Snapshot: Jojo – Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

 

 

 

Most of my friends call me Jojo and I don’t mind the name. I just wana thank Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund for all the sacrifices they make to save as many as possible the fleeing LGBTq from Uganda. As a beneficiary of the program, I will be forever grateful. Finally am settled here in Kigali Rwanda.

 

 

Snapshot: Flashee - Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

Snapshot: Flashee – Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

 

Hey, I felt  I should write down something to just say thanks to all those donors and friends of the Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund. Your work is priceless and to the thousand plus who have benefited from this arrangement you mean the world to us. Am an orphan who never saw my dad or mom, I was picked from the streets and I grew up from the Orphanage. This was an Orphanage managed and run by hardcore born again Christians, by the age of 18 they started noticing that I wasn’t straight, despite the rainfall like prayers which lasted for more than 9 months, nothing changed, they asked me out and even exposed me, one time I was attacked on the streets in Mbale, that’s when I learnt that my life is in danger. I sought for help and I was helped to escape from Mbale and am settled here in Kigali. Thanks everybody, Flashee

 

Snapshot: Dell - Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

Snapshot: Dell – Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

 

Am called Dell, one of the girls who left Uganda in 2014 after being exposed in the local news papers about our gay lives. After leaving Uganda I stay in Kenya for 6 months then an opportunity came where I could get a job in the UAE. Though they aren’t gay friendly they hardly mind we black Africans. I stay with my girlfriend and we are working hard. In the next 5 years we plan to go and live in Sweden. Thanks Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund.

 

Snapshot: CD - Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

Snapshot: CD – Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

Hello friends,
Greetings from Bujumbura here in Burundi. Times have been a little too hard lately but the situation has cooled down and life is back to normal. I settled here in Burundi after escaping from the dangers of life I encountered daily in Uganda. When one isn’t “straight” in Uganda you face countless challenges everyday. Though one can stand all the pain day in day out but when you are exposed it’s the end, chances are high that one can even be killed. As a lesbian whose family refused to accept me as I was, they wanted to force me into marriage to a man fit to be my grandfather. So when I heard of a program of Friends Uganda Safe Transport Fund, I decided to request for immediate support. I was dully assessed and they verified my claims, and after 3 months of waiting I was contacted that we are good to go. We were kept in hiding for 2 weeks and where one of the passengers took his life because he was over stressed and he thought that the mission had failed. Luckily among all the 46 passengers, us the 45 made it safely without so much struggles. It took me another 6 months before I could finally settle here in Burundi. I love music and am working on a couple of rights and freedom songs with a celebrated producer. Watch this space.
Thanks
CD

 

Snapshot: OK - Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

Snapshot: OK – Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

Hi, I send you greetings from Kigali Rwanda, am called Oliver Kawempala. Am a medical student here. I left Uganda in 2014 with the funding from FNUR. Thanks so much for having saved my life. I hate speaking about what happened to me while in Uganda because as a lesbian I went through a lot. My heart is healing piece by piece.

 


Right now there are 75 passengers in hiding in the care of the FUST conductors, waiting for funds to get them out of Uganda. They are 14 gay men, 27 lesbian women, 27 transgender persons (17 F2M and 10 M2F), and 7 bisexual people (2 men and 4 women) – between 19 and 31 years old.

Please make a donation to Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund so we can support more people like YK, Viva, Jojo, Flashee, Dell, and CD out of Uganda.

04 Apr

A ray of light from in the dark black skyline…

Note: This was sent to me from HM, a Ugandan conductor, on January 3rd and due to computer and other technical issues it was not posted then. My apologies.
— Gabi Clayton, FUST co-manager.

Chapter 2, Section 9 of the [US] Bill of Rights is clear. “Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.” This is an echo of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ratified in 1868. But the South African constitution goes a step farther. “Everyone is equal before the law” is defined in subsection 3as follows…

“The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, color, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth”

It took a man in the late Nelson Mandela to raise up clear and proud to be counted to build a constitution which doesn’t only look at gays as LGBT but as humans like any other who are supposed to be protected by law.

This is 2016, happy new year everybody but when I ask myself what are we celebrating as LGBT? Yes there are achievements I can see, I can see some steps, I can see a ray of light in the dark black skyline. Will it take another Mandela to have an Africa which looks at the gays as fellow humans? NO!! It takes you and me. 2015 had many challenges but for the strong and courageous like FUSTF formerly FNUR they never say never, they are the ray of light. They have given us so much hope and too thousands they know their work is priceless. Despite the criticism and setbacks yet with limited resources, they have accomplished what a million strong men just dream of. Thanks FUSTF.

I can proudly say that over 1000 individuals who identify as LGBT have been helped to get to another destination where they feel safe and wants to start a new life. Uganda might not be directly involved in state sponsored homophobia but still its not safe for the “uncelebrated” openly gay people. Thousands still continue to suffer in the darkness and silence. Small charities may not be having the financial base do this alone but FUSTF has not given up on them as it keeps on doing whatever it takes to help those in need to cross to safety. We shall be forever grateful.

It always given this big wide smile when I travel to different countries and I come across some of the passengers who have gotten freedom through the hands of FUSTF. I can see hope, I can lives being rebuilt and I see a future for many.

To the supporters of FUSTF thanks for that unconditional love you have shown to the Ugandan LGBT.

Yes I know the burden still ahead us is big and challenging but I have never been so hopeful than I am now that with FUSTF more is possible and yes we are proud of this program.

To the many LGBT who wish to leave and start a new life in another country, I know help is on the way, I know FUSTF is human in its operations and they really care about you.

Thanks and happy new year. HM

Download this as a PDF document here.

Between our Ugandan conductors there are 77 LGBTQ people in hiding waiting for funds to cover the cost of transporting them out of the country. Please help with a donation if you can.

Thank you!

16 Feb

Article: “What This Lesbian Learned From Being Outed in Ugandan Tabloids”

By Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera and Brian Klosterboer – The Advocate

15 Feb

Article: Pastors, politics and anti-gay rhetoric: Uganda’s election cometh

By Amy Fallon – Special Broadcasting Service – SBS [AU] – 15 Feb 2016

“Anti-gay rhetoric in Uganda has intensified in the lead-up to this week’s elections, with pledges to “rehabilitate homosexuals” and the threat of violence worrying LGBT community leaders.”

Read the article:
http://www.sbs.com.au/topics/sexuality/article/2016/02/15/pastors-politics-and-anti-gay-rhetoric-ugandas-election-cometh

11 Feb

Snapshots – Updates from Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Passengers

11 Jan

Save a Conductor’s Life! An Emergency Appeal From Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

Our “conductors” inside Uganda are the heart-and-soul of what we do. They are our heroes, finding ways for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people to escape Uganda where they are under direct threat – up to, and including, death.

The conductors hide them while waiting for funds to get them out of the country, feed them, sometimes provide for medical needs, and then find ingenious ways for them to cross the border to other countries where they pass them on to other groups that arrange for the passengers to have access to medical, housing, food, psychosocial, visa, and transportation support to their final destinations. To date, 1,302 LGBT folks and their allies have left Uganda with the help of these conductors, with a great number now in their countries of final destination all over the world.

During the short life of the Friends Ugandan Safe Transport two Ugandan conductors have died – one from beatings, and one from a multitude of health conditions, built up in the course of his relentless dedication to this dangerous work. Here is the story of Tony, one of our conductors who died in the service of his LGBT brothers and sisters. There are others who have very narrowly escaped death, and have suffered crippling injuries.

And now one of our most dedicated conductors is hospitalized with both typhoid fever and a very serious lung infection. The infection will require surgery, at a total cost of $1,805, and, frankly, at this moment, we don’t have it. We need to raise a minimum of $640 in the next 24 hours to keep him alive (we have someone working with the hospital to work out a payment plan.) And within the next two weeks, we need to raise it all.

This is our opportunity to help someone who has dedicated his very life to the service of others, at great risk. Let’s not let him down.

10 Jan

Intolerance And Hatred For Gays And Lesbians Now Synonymous With Catholic Seminaries And Colleges In Uganda

by “Conductor #1”

We know for a fact that Christian teachings compel humanity to be kind to one another through unconditional love; however, there is a paradigm shift in this doctrine on the part of the Catholic Church in Uganda which is apparently on a deliberate move to make life difficult or next to impossible for all who are openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

There has been an upsurge in the number of gay men dismissed from seminaries. Recently 11 seminarians were dismissed from a seminary because they are gay for fear that they would “contaminate” others. However, what is surprising is that the dismissals were not formal by way of a letter. The victims say that the institution does not want to endanger its reputation and attract “noise” from activists by issuing dismissal letters, so they keep it as silent as possible as the victims suffer the humiliation and mental anguish of cutting their learning short.

One expelled seminarian tells of draconian rules that infringe on the liberties of the students. There is a rule that there is no close friendship allowed among seminarians. Lights are not switched off the entire night and, of course, there is no sharing of beds.

A number of students have been expelled from seminaries on the pretext that they were closely relating to one another. The administrators conducted investigations and found that the students engaged in ”unholy friendships”.

Eleven seminarians contacted me and with the help of the Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund I was able to get them out of Uganda, where they were then helped to countries of final destination all over the world.

The temporary accommodations for the victims as they await evacuation are always in shared double rooms that have very minimum amenities. It is a challenge to try to ensure the neighborhood doesn’t become suspicious while they await the chance to leave. On a number of occasions we have had to relocate as pressure mounts from the local community who view new residents with suspicion.

The movement of the seminarians has been done in batches as the funds from our supporters across the globe warrant. I am in direct contact with the folks at Friends Ugandan Safe Transport who coordinate the fundraising, but I decide the order in which folks are able to leave. As we speak now [when he wrote this in December] 10 have already been moved out of the country, and preparing to move to their final destinations.

Recently, I have also received nine women from a Catholic Church-founded college in western Uganda. The women, some of whom were in their final year of diploma study, were dismissed because the college administration investigated and found out that they engaged in “unnatural love”.

The fate of the women was so terrifying that they were not even able to retrieve their personal belongings. Unlike at the seminary where the dismissal process is done discreetly, at the college, it was done with the full knowledge of the entire college community. This attracted rage from other students who attempted an attack on the women. The women were saved by a passenger van driver who stopped at the signal of three girls by the roadside. The three had escaped a mob that was gradually building up. The mob was so angry that it became difficult to even discern what they were exactly shouting, except it was clear that they were to be attacked and beaten. No sooner had the three girls reached the passenger van terminal than their six colleagues joined them. It was then time for the women to plan very fast what their next move would be.

Staying in the college vicinity overnight was out of the question. The women could not make it to Kampala in one go and had to spend two nights in a town called Masaka.

It was while at Masaka that one of the women contacted her peer who had fled last year. All the women belonged to the Q-Hearts group whose membership of lesbian and bisexual women is widespread across the country in colleges and universities. The response from the former beneficiary of the evacuation is what eventually helped them contact me. They are now [in December] in hiding in two separate locations, awaiting the means to leave Uganda, and get on with their lives. Life in Uganda is now intolerable with their very lives at risk.

The women that have moved on praise the initiative of the Friends Ugandan Safe Transport who voluntarily raise funds from compassionate and kind-hearted people to support victims move to a safe country.


January 10, 2016 update: Conductor #1 now has 18 LGBT passengers with another 4 possibly joining them in hiding. They are waiting for funds from us to transport each person out of Uganda. It costs him $185 to get each person out of Uganda.