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!

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

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”

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!

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!

09 Feb

Praise Wancha: “The caring sister went ahead to tell me how such evil was trying to eat me up, to make me a lesbian.” — A Friends New Underground Railroad Story

Praise Wancha

Praise Wancha

I am called Praise Wancha, born in Mbale Nkokonjeru. I lost both my Parents to HIV/AIDS when I was hardly a year old (so am told) so I was taken on by the little sisters of Saint Francis in an Orphanage they supported.

I was loved and appreciated, I didn’t know I was an Orphan till the age of 12. Though I had so many questions, I really never minded the answers, after all I had so many “mothers” around me who loved and cared for me so much.

One thing in life which really bothered me was that I never had a father figure, kids at school used to tell all sorts of stories about their fathers, well it was really hard for me to miss what I didn’t know.

As I grew into teenager hood, something was not strange but rather different, I was attracted to fellow girls. I tried fighting it and caused more pains in my heart. I was confident enough to go and openly tell one of the sisters about my internal struggles. The caring sister was so touched and she explained to me what it means, and she went ahead to tell me how such evil was trying to eat me up, to make me a lesbian. We prayed and we were in agreement with God that it will all be well.

Little did I know that I was being stalked and watched closely by all the sisters and the Mother Superior.

Despite my efforts to force my self to get attracted to boys in school, I failed, the more I tried the more I hate to even associate with boys within the high school.

This was hard for me, these internal struggles made my class grades and marks drop, to heal my self, I started becoming so stubborn and bullying other students and a tomboy.

Chance came my way when another girl who was different from other students joined our school, it didn’t take long for us to start dating, we even made agreements to start sharing a decker-bed. This landed us into trouble and just before our final exams we were both suspended.

The sisters weren’t impressed and I was put into isolation and asked to dedicate my self to a life of prayers, this made me become suicidal and I attempted to take my life on more than 3 attempts. Inside me, I came up with a plan to run away. I lied to one of the sisters that I wanted to go for confession to the father. The sisters were impressed, so I was allowed to go.

I never returned, I disappeared. This took me to a whole new world, a life of drugs, crime and scandals. This drew a lot of attention to me and my other fellow gals, so we decided to move to another town. We just kept on moving from one town to another. We risked so much. At 21 I looked as though I was an old woman of 50 yrs, drugs had taken a heavy stand on me, I accepted to seek for help. I did some little research and it landed me into the hands of one activist who changed my life. This man who has lived his life for others talked to me and he was the first person who made me feel that there is hope in life.

FriendsNewUndergroundRailroad-logo-200pxHe worked with other volunteers to help me fight my drinking and drug problems, he had created safe spaces for lesbians and we socialized and even start thinking big, some of us were even enrolled into life skills training, where I learnt making baking. By 2013 I was making a living by baking cakes, I had both gay and straight clients.

But when the Ugandan government went harder on the gays, there was a lot of unrest within our community and when the radio stations started outing our names and addresses, Uganda wasn’t home after the president signed the AHB into law. Several of us went into hiding and by July of 2014 we had gotten help to leave Uganda, thanks to a rather little known Organization called FNUR. These guys rock despite all the criticisms they managed to save some of our lives without so much long waiting. They coordinated with people on the ground and we were transported out of Uganda.

Am now settled in Kigali Rwanda where am living my life, earning a living by making cakes for all sorts of events. Thanks FNUR for saving my life and God bless you all.

###

Please make a donation to support the work of Friends New Underground Railroad so that we can help other people like Praise Wancha.
http://friendsugandansafetransport.org/donate/
Thanks!

Download Praise Wancha’s story in pdf format here.

14 Sep

Article: Friends New Underground Railroad

Thank you to Friends Journal for writing this article about FNUR:

Friends New Underground Railroad
Friends Journal – by Staff – September 1, 2014

“Earlier this year a group of Quakers from Olympia (Wash.) Meeting started the Friends New Underground Railroad (FNUR), a project to help lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals living in Uganda leave the country in order to flee terrible persecution resulting from the passage of the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act.”

Read the article here:
http://www.friendsjournal.org/fnur/