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.

18 Dec

Rosa M: I was punished for loving the one I loved.

 

ROM-fustpassenger1

I am called Rosa M—-, 23yrs (but my friends call me ROM), because I was “born this way” and just different from the rest of the family members I was disowned at the age of 15yrs…. Reason!! I was a lesbian. To my father and mother this brought humiliation and shame to the family. To take you back, I was really loved by mother because I looked more like her late dad. That all came to an end when I innocently told my mother who I love. Hurriedly mother told my father about my sexual orientation and they organized a cleansing ceremony … okay call it ritual rape. The following weekend in the dead of the night, 6 energetic young men who had been selected pounced on me, they laughed as they took turns. I cried in pain and this gave them more gas to gruesomely rape me without any remorse. For almost 2 hours I cried and nobody cared what I was going through. I bled uncontrollably as they left me for dead. I was forced to drink some local herbs – and some herbs and ash was applied to my genitals to stop the bleeding. For almost 2 weeks I couldn’t walk but I survived and yes this didn’t change who I am and I was still attracted to fellow girls.

I weighed my options. Reporting the matter wasn’t going to change a thing. In fact it was like jumping from a frying pan to the fire.

I made a brave decision to take my life but something in me told me, why should I let the damn poor losers win because my mother wished me death. My father asked me to be straight or leave the village and the family home. I didn’t say a thing to him but before the sun rose the next morning I was 25 miles away from home, walking the dangerous jungles of the village. I made it to Mukono township, with little contacts or local knowledge I was on my own.

ROM-fustpassenger2b

Fast forward I started living a life of crime, prostitution and drugs. One of my clients in the drug business had a phone which had access to Internet, on Googling I learnt of LGBTq Organizations which offered services to gay people. This changed my life forever. One organization I won’t mention had the approach which fitted well with my needs and I asked to become their member/client. I was taken in and enrolled in different support programs, life started making meaning.

This peace was short lived by passing of the anti-gay bill, even before it was signed into law, the locals were taking matters in their own hands, attacking any suspected gay person, these days many always go unreported.

As hundreds of gays were struggling to get out of Uganda, the Quakers under the Friends Ugandan Safe Transport extended a loving hand and support to many of us. Am I am proud to have benefited from this program.

I am happy and yes, now life has a meaning. Thanks so much, FUST.


Please send a donation to support the work of Friends Ugandan Safe Transport so we can support the work of the amazing Ugandan conductors who help people like Rosa to escape the horror they face as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Uganda.

For PayPal click this button:

FUST-PayPal

Sending a check? Go here: http://friendsugandansafetransport.org/donate/

Note:  Contributions to Friends New Underground Railroad through Olympia Monthly Meeting (Olympia Friends Meeting) are tax-deductible.  Olympia Monthly Meeting is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization.  Cash and non-cash contributions are tax deductible to the full extent of applicable law.  Our Employer Identification Number (EIN) is 94-3145171.

Thank you.

17 Dec

Watch FOR’s interview with three Olympia Quakers about Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund

Bold, Friendly Action to Help LGBTQ Ugandans Flee to Safety

Published on Dec 11, 2015 – Dennis Mills for FOR. Click the photo or here to watch the video:  https://youtu.be/WX3-IeW38SQ

Glen Anderson interviews Kathleen O'Shaunessy, Alan Mountjoy-Venning, and Gabi Clayton about Olympia Friends Meeting's Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund project.

Glen Anderson interviews Kathleen O’Shaunessy, Alan Mountjoy-Venning, and Gabi Clayton about Olympia Friends Meeting’s Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund project.

“The Olympia Fellowship of Reconciliation’s January 2016 TV program lifts up a bold, compassionate, non-violent way to help people who are in danger because of the homophobic political culture in the African nation of Uganda. The action began with courageous, compassionate people within Uganda and is supported by Quakers and other people in Olympia WA USA and elsewhere.
“This month’s TV program explores a bold and courageous way that people in Uganda and elsewhere are protecting the lives and safety of people in Uganda who are endangered because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. People in Olympia and elsewhere are providing financial support to help endangered LGBTQ people escape from Uganda through the Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund. 1,194 persons have been transported to safety by December 5, 2015. Gabi Clayton mentioned that two of the “conductors” in Uganda have died.” https://www.facebook.com/FriendsUgandanSafeTransportFund

04 Dec

This Sunday – Media Island Monthly Benefit Brunch with Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

Media Island Monthly Benefit Brunch with
FRIENDS UGANDAN SAFE TRANSPORT FUND

Every month Media Island teams up with another social justice organization to sponsor a benefit brunch so we can learn about each other’s work. This month Media Island is teaming up with Friends Ugandan Safe Transport, which funds gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Ugandans who are escaping from that oppressive country where their lives are in danger simply for who they are attracted to or for their gender identity.

Sunday, December 6, 2015
11 AM to 2 PM

Media Island − 816 Adams St SE − Olympia, WA
wheelchair accessible from the alley behind the house

For more information call Gabi Clayton, FUST Manager, Co-Clerk, Peace and Social Justice Committee, Olympia Monthly Meeting – (360) 888-5291.
Or call Media Island, (360) 352-8526

http://friendsugandansafetransport.org

MediaIslandBrunchForFUST

Download and print to share the flyer in PDF format.

MediaIslandBrunchForFUST-small

Download the flyer 4-up version (PDF):

MediaIslandBrunchForFUST-4up

14 Aug

Exposure In Tabloid Newspaper Places Ugandan LGBTIs To More Danger

HelloDaily-cover1Note from one of FUST’s Ugandan conductors:

“I want to tell you that a tabloid newspaper is exposing LGBTIs both in the corporate and other local celebrities in Uganda.  I got the papers yesterday.”

Gabi: “If you can translate we can share on our website.”

HelloDaily-cover2“It is in English. This exposure places LGBTIs in the corporate world to more danger just like the ones we have moved out .”

Click the images to see the covers larger.

 

Please make a donation so we can fund more LGBTQ people who are in hiding waiting for aid to get out of Uganda.

FUST-PayPalClick the button above to use PayPal or a credit or debit card.
Or to send a check see this page.

Thank you!

08 Aug

A Message from Rich: “I am among the lucky ones.”

Rich shared these photos and wrote:

Rich1

Rich2

 

“Yes I am among the lucky ones. I decided to share these pictures as an expression of the appreciation i feel in my heart for all the passengers Friends Ugandan Safe Transport has helped to get freedom. Look at me am lucky, happy and now more hopeful.”


Please donate to Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund so we can continue to help LGBTQ people like Rich leave the dangers they face in Uganda and find new lives in more welcoming countries.

FUST-PayPalClick the button to the left to use PayPal or a credit or debit card.
To send a check see this page.
Thank you!

03 Aug

Tina: “Hate, Discrimination and Fears Would Not Just Allow Us Be.”

Tina-Kim1Tina wrote:

“I fell in love with Kim at 19, we struggled to be together as a couple but hate, discrimination and fears would not just allow us be.

“Then we connected with an Organization which was working with Friends Ugandan Safe Transport. After 3 months of hiding we were finally able to leave Uganda in the dead of the night. On crossing the border I knew the long search for freedom was finally visible.

Tina-Kim2“Am grateful for the fearless transporter and a local coordinator who made us welcome once we left Uganda.

“My heart breaks for the many LGBTq who are still stuck or can’t leave Uganda. More Organizations like FUST should stand up and be counted for the good cause”

[fruitful_sep]

Please donate to Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund so we can continue to help people like Tina and Kim leave the dangers they face in Uganda and find new lives in more welcoming countries.

FUST-PayPal

 

Click the button to the left to use PayPal or a credit or debit card.

 

To send a check see this page.

Thank you!

29 Jul

Message From Charlie Who Made It Out of Uganda: “I was the happiest dude on earth.”

Charlie wrote:
CharlieR1

“I would like to pass on my regards and love to all and everybody who works, volunteers, donates and supports Friends Ugandan Safe Transport.”

CharlieR2

“To me FUST means love and they are the only reason am still alive. I was willing to take my life if I wasn’t helped out of Uganda.”

CharlieR3

“I don’t like using the word hate, but as long as the state sponsored homophobia is still alive in Uganda, I don’t like Uganda.”

“Gabi, I remember that message you sent through the coordinator confirming that we shall be leaving in the night. I was the happiest dude on earth.”

“I am settling in well here in Kigali and am happy thanks to u.”

[fruitful_sep]

Please donate to Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund so we can continue to help people like Charlie to leave the dangers they face in Uganda and find new lives in more welcoming countries.

FUST-PayPal

To send a check see this page.

Thank you!

06 Jun

“We Knew We Had to Flee Uganda!”

by Miranda (pictured)

At 36 years, one would imagine I almost had realized my career dreams and had overcome all the challenges I went through growing up in a very poor conservative catholic family.

This was not true as the jobs of 16 women including myself are no more as I narrate our ordeal.

We are a group of girl-friends, all lesbians, and were all working in the corporate world till just a couple of weeks ago when news spread like wildfire that we engage in what some people here in Uganda prefer to call “unnatural relationships”. All of us worked for the same institution, although we were spread in different branches across the country, including the head office.

Miranda-May2015No one would imagine that my employment at this prestigious multi-billion dollar corporation would come to an end the way it did. Considering that I was third in the hierarchy within the human resources department and also in charge of the several student interns, that would ordinarily give the impression that I would be treated differently, but this was not the case.

We are all well-educated and well-grounded in our careers, with the majority holding masters degrees. We are in that category of Ugandan society one would envy, considering the good jobs that we held and the attendant salary and fringe benefits that accompanied them.

One of the employees at the head office where I worked peeped into my computer. Apparently I had not signed out of my email when I stepped out for a snack that afternoon. We were seriously organizing a weekend retreat to Bulango Island and the email contained all the details about our outing. We had actually paired up the attendees and listed them by name because each has an intimate girl-friend.

One mistake we regret in our email exchanges was the straightforwardness we used since we trust each other and the group is closed. We did not at any time think that our private communication would get in the hands of a non-member. We were wrong on this and I feel guilty personally that my carelessness brought all the other 15 women to this big trouble.

Little did I know when I came back from a quick snack lunch that my email was read by an unauthorized person. I confidently sat down and went straight to my tasks.

Unfortunately the email that contained our private group conversations had been forwarded to our Deputy Executive Director who is a sworn and devout Catholic lady. Hardly had I sat on my desk for 40 minutes that I received a call from her. I did not even have the slightest imagination that there was anything wrong because I always had official interfaces with her.

On entering her office, I observed a tough facial expression which was unusual. I exchanged pleasantries and did not even hear her reciprocating. Hardly had I asked her the reason for her inviting me to her office than I heard a knock on the door. It was another woman in our group, but from the finance and administration department. I heard her calling our head of human resources department to come over and join us in this meeting.

Before the head of human resources came over, two other women also in our group entered the office.

Now the Deputy Executive Director invited us to the board room because her office was not spacious to accommodate the people that were in the meeting.

Inside the board room, the Deputy Executive Director informed us that she had information that we were engaging in relationships with fellow women. We spontaneously looked at each other in wonderment. She added that she was really angry at that information and saw no reason why we should continue working with the institution. She explained that our continuing at the institution would cause disrepute. She informed us that she knew there were another 12 women within the same institution but in different branches also engaged and belonging to the same group of friends. Up to that point, my mind was confused and I had hard thoughts as to who gave her our secrets.

The head of human resources sprung up and advised that she did not see any shortcut for us to jump out of our trouble without leaving our jobs. She gave us two options: one to resign, and the advantage of this alternative would be to move out without raising any eyebrows within and without the workplace, and the second one was to be sacked with disgrace.

We who worked at the head office knew the Deputy Executive Director as someone who did not have any kindness for LGBTs having at one time advocated for a special policy that outlaws them at the institution.

We four women listened for most of the meeting and only chipped in when we informed her that resigning was not what we had in our minds. We were determined to fight on, including engaging lawyers. However we were mistaken on this as the Deputy Executive Director informed us that she planned to call another meeting the following day in the afternoon with all culprits, including those from up-country branches..

We left her office and each one of us went back to our respective departments. We exchanged sms on phones about our dilemma and how we planned to go over it.

Before we left office in the evening, I received a phone call from a close friend from the procurement and logistics department informing me that she had been instructed to prepare herself for the following day’s meeting in which the topical discussion was going to be about women employees who are having intimate relationships with fellow women at the institution. She wanted to find out whether I knew about such a meeting. I attempted to feign ignorance about it, however, admitted that I had also been invited for the same.

The following day by 2 p.m., all had been set for the meeting, and 14 women had turned up who are my group members, with only 2 who we were informed were sick and could not travel. Five other heads of departments and the Deputy Executive Director were in attendance.

The Deputy Executive Director called the meeting to order and in no uncertain terms informed us that 14 women in the meeting are victims of the sacrilegious vice of homosexuality. She further said that she had received an email that contained plans and schedules of activities including parties, outings, and also mentions who is in love with whom. She reiterated what the head of human resources had mentioned in the last meeting – that the only safe way out of the bigger trouble was for us to resign instead of either being sacked or forcing the police to take action.

To cut the long story short, we had exchanges and at the end of the meeting the bosses had a clear wind of our intention not to resign.

On 12th May 2015, I received a call from the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) inviting me the following day by 9 a.m. to explain the activities of our group. Two other women had also been called. We were at the place on time and we were ushered into a room where we found two men and one woman waiting for us. The officers exchanged pleasantries with us and straight away one of them asked us to introduce ourselves and what we do. We obliged and the officers asked us how many women are in our group.

I frankly told them that we are 16 and are all in love. This meant we were eight couples. So the lady officer inquired whether we knew that according to the penal code it was illegal to be involve in an affair with a person of the same sex. She called it an unnatural relationship. We all kept quiet on this and she probed further. The whole interrogation lasted six solid hours with two 30-minutes intervals of break to relax and have a snack.

Little did we know that we were going to spend some days and nights inside jail cells. Toward 6 p.m., the meeting came to an end and the officer in charge thanked us for fully cooperating. We were told to follow the lady officer on our way out for further details and to our surprise when we reached another block, she handed us over to another lady officer who she told to keep us under key and lock.

At that time, we knew that our predicament had taken a new twist. We had to surrender our bags and all the valuables therein and also remove our shoes. All our items were recorded in a book. At 8 p.m. food was brought in but we didn’t feel like eating. We were terrified. None of our relatives knew where we were and we didn’t even want them to know.

The following day in the evening, 13 of our colleagues joined us in the cells and coincidentally five were brought to the same cells we were in and eight were put in other cells.

On the third day, we were all taken to a room and the officers we found there informed us that we are legally entitled to a free police bond and that we would all be released and must report to the unit at regular intervals. We felt a sigh of relief.

Bond papers were brought and we were informed that we should each have a surety. So we had to make calls to various relatives and friends to come over and stand surety for us.

So by 3 p.m., we were all free and had to think pretty fast about what our next move would be. We received tons of messages on our phones – some from sympathizers and others that were rebukes. One message that captivated my mind and also indicated that our lives were in danger was from a man reading thus “You bitch, how dare you share your fucking love with a fellow bitch. I will ensure that you get damn punished harshly for it”.

At that point I knew the Rubicon had been crossed and we had to think fast to avoid any likely harm – including but not limited to changing our places of abode. Three women and I moved in together in a single-roomed house and the rest also shared in groups of four in different locations around the city.

Fortunately through our contacts we got information that there was someone who could assist us to move out of the country. We got the phone contact and rang the person who informed us that he needed to also find out from his benefactors how funds would be organized to have the women move out.

We did not tell the person who coordinated our travel that we were 16 at first in fear that he would be overwhelmed. We thought it would be prudent for him to have us four move out first and then let him know that we have more colleagues in waiting.

Although we were salaried people we didn’t have much money with us.

FriendsUgandanSafeTransportFund-logo200x200pxWe are now excited that funds have been found to have us four leave.

We are making a passionate appeal for support to have 12 women in our group also move out to avoid the likely danger and harm to their lives.

We are very grateful to those fellow Ugandans who have helped us escape, and to Friends Ugandan Safe Transport that funded our movement out of the country.

Miranda
On behalf of the women who were sacked from work for their sexual orientation

—-

APPEAL

Now that Miranda, Naira, Laura & Jayne are out, the 12 women Miranda wrote about who are still in Uganda have been able to raise $840.00 of the $2220.00 needed to get them out of Uganda – at $185.00 each. There are also another 14 lesbian former students, bringing the total this conductor is helping to 26 women we need to raise a total of $3970.00.

We can do this with your help! Please make a donation!

Thank you!