Dream Deferred, part 1

The Ripple Effect
Boulder man's group offers hope in Uganda

Story and photos by Aimee Heckel
Publication: Daily Camera

Publication date: 9/3/2006

Editor's note: Fairview High School graduate Eric Glustrom established the Boulder-based nonprofit Educate to help fund the education of students in Uganda. In June, Camera Staff Writer Aimee Heckel traveled to Africa with Glustrom and his fellow college student volunteers to recruit African refugees and orphans to sponsor through school and to check on current scholarship recipients -- students helping students change the world. Heckel's series runs through Tuesday.

-- One thousand brown eyes stare.

The eyes are hollow with desperation beyond anger or sadness or happiness. They're waiting - for death or for a shot at a life outside the Kyangwali Refugee Camp in western Uganda.

So they stare.

Twenty-one-year-old James Hepburn is trapped where the gazes converge. The British student and five American friends - all students at Amherst College in Massachusetts - are in Africa for the month of June, led by Boulderite Eric Glustrom.

Hepburn is uncomfortable. He laughs, revealing two deep dimples, which quickly dissolve below his cheekbones.

He shifts his weight between grubby flip-flops. Then he glares, unconvincingly, hoping to intimidate his way free from the stares.

Hepburn's hazel eyes give up and look away. One thousand brown eyes continue to stare. Asking, needing, hoping.

He laughs again in discomfort, but more in defeat. He's just a student. He knows he can't help every needy refugee any more than he can greet every set of eyes with his.

So he finds one pair. He meets them. He smiles.

It's a simple connection. But a simple, human connection was how this whole movement started, too - the transformation of a bustling, troubled refugee camp by Glustrom, then a Boulder teenager, and his club called Educate.

The nonprofit has stirred the refugees' dreams to some day run for president of their war-torn homelands or to become lawyers, teachers and doctors. Anything to leave the fields. It has painted a new look across the privileged western students' faces, a realization that they will never see the world in the same way.

Like most people of privilege, they arrived in Uganda unable to fathom exactly what it would take to help. It seemed Africa's problems were too immense -- economically, politically and socially.

Educate's founder wanted to prove otherwise.

Africa's struggles seemed too big to wrap his brain around, yet years ago, as a teenager, he found a solution too simple to ignore. A tiny stone tossed into a sea of poverty and hopelessness that already has stirred ripple effects no one had anticipated.

The ripples are real. But what's needed is a financial tsunami. Hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It was the spring of 2002. Boulder's Eric Glustrom was just 17 when he asked Amnesty International to sponsor his vision to create a documentary about the suffering at a Ugandan refugee camp, a hefty concern for a kid freshly behind the steering wheel. He'd never even traveled overseas.

Glustrom is as laid-back as the hippies who characterize his Front Range hometown, hence his nickname, Easy E. His walk: a leisurely glide. His voice bounces with an almost ski-bum ditziness.

But Glustrom is intense when needed. On the track as a cross-country runner. In class, too. His Fairview High teachers said as a student, he "worked his guts out" to the point that he almost "erred on excess."

"He was an awesome student, funny in the way that he always did way too much work than he needed to, " said history teacher, Leigh Campbell-Hale.

No one was surprised when Glustrom started an Amnesty Club at Fairview his sophomore year; he was one of the school's few students to ever earn a perfect score on his International Baccalaureate project. The topic: peace studies.

Through the Amnesty club, Glustrom learned about Uganda's 220,000 refugees. Rwandans had fled there from the genocide of 1994. The Sudanese arrived, having escaped Christian-Arab conflicts at home. Groups fighting for control of the Democratic Republic of the Congo's mineral resources had left that country in ruin, sending a river of refugees to Uganda.

Despite Uganda's own struggles as a Third World nation, Glustrom saw it as a sliver of hope. Disaster had merged people from across the continent on one single point.

He felt drawn there, too.

Amnesty International shot Glustrom's proposal down. They said the teen was too young and his project -- to direct a documentary about Uganda's refugees -- was too dangerous.

This landlocked, Third World nation in eastern Africa is like another world. Diseases that long have been dormant in the United States, such as polio, run uncontrolled.

Life is like Russian roulette, with deadly diseases as the bullet. Mosquitoes carry malaria and yellow fever, and the filthy water carries hepatitis A and typhoid fever. AIDS prevention starts in kindergarten; elementary schools are plastered with signs warning: "Abstain from sex." Life expectancy is low, at 42 years, almost half that of the United States. Infant mortality rates are among the highest in the world - more than 10 times the U.S. rate.

If you dodge the disease bullet, rebel groups fill the rest of the chamber. Since the late 1980s, the Lord's Resistance Army has abducted more than 14,000 children and forced them to fight. They're beaten, raped and forced to murder. They're considered military targets. Twice abused: forced to fight and then attacked for fighting.

Despite this -- or maybe because of this -- and Amnesty International's warning, Glustrom remained resolute.

"I had already decided when I applied that I would do it no matter what they said, " he says. "But I hadn't told my parents this, of course."

Convincing them was the highest hurdle. Then he had to ask them to loan him $4,000 for a video camera and tickets. He figured out vaccinations. He studied the region. And he went for it alone.

He caught malaria halfway through his trip, but he completed his documentary: "Dream Deferred."

And along the way, he realized, even as a teenager, he had enough money to send one of his refugee friends -- Benson Olivier, from the Congo - to a first-rate private school.

At the camp's overcrowded, government-subsidized schools, he saw one teacher wearing a screaming newborn on her back and teaching in a language the students didn't understand. Literacy rates in Uganda are low, about 70 percent, compared with 99 percent in the United States.

Less than $100 per trimester would pay for Olivier's private school - the price of a pair of shoes back home.

Glustrom could change a life.

Glustrom decided to sponsor a few more refugees. One of his friends, Vivian Lu, started a club at Fairview in 2003 to raise more money. By 2004, they sponsored 12 students.

Members of the Boulder club graduated from high school and moved away. Like Glustrom, who headed east to Amherst, the idealistic Boulder teens took Educate with them.

Today, nearly a dozen colleges and high schools across the country have branches, from local New Vista and Boulder high schools to Brown University in Rhode Island and Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

There are 150 student volunteers nationwide, 60 of them in Boulder. Since the beginning, they've collected $150,000. Nearly $100,000 of that came in the last year.

"Educate is expanding at an incredible rate, " says Glustrom.

In its fourth year, the organization now pays for scholarships and related expenses for 48 African students, including students in Kenya and Rwanda.

There's Ruth Tumushabe, a 14-year-old Ugandan girl fully sponsored by teens at Fairview High. She wants to become a doctor.

Boulder High sponsors a 14-year-old from the Congo, Aline Dusabe, who also wants to be a doctor. She says she wants a different life than other women in her family, who were forced into marriage and "treated as property."

Back in Uganda in June, Glustrom, now 21, invited Educate's Amherst branch to check on the African students' progress, since most don't have families. With hundreds of applicants and limited funding, the scholars must excel in their classes.

But in addition to checking in on the students' progress, the U.S. collegians are personally checking in on their friends. Making eye contact. Shaking hands. Sharing meals.

"What Educate is about is not just students helping students, but friends helping friends, " Glustrom says.

Glustrom also is handing out his e-mail address to students seeking scholarships, even though some have never seen a computer. He's interviewing applicants. One thousand brown eyes. Five new scholarships to award. Five more life-changing ripples.

Only five ripples, and refugee Wereje Benson isn't among them.

This young refugee holds your hand like if he lets go, he will die.

In some ways, Benson seems older than 23. Muscles fill his blue G-Unit T-shirt, a donation. His eyes, so dark they're almost black, are lined with the stress of poverty and a life on his own. But in that, his gaze - that of an orphan - is innocent and vulnerable. In some ways, Benson is still a child.

He was 13 in 1996 when he fled the Congo. He slipped through the back window of a church while rebels in the other room killed almost everyone in his school, one by one, by hitting the children in the forehead with a hammer. Benson remembers heads hanging in the trees. He saw eight friends burned to death.

Benson doesn't know if his parents, brother or four sisters are alive. He can't go home. He fears the rebels still are active.

At Kyangwali, Benson tamed the field behind his mud hut with a machete and hoe, raising enough money for the shoddy refugee school, seven miles away by foot. But he failed because the cost of books and a school uniform drained his money, leaving him starving and unable to concentrate.

So he took another path. He began practicing soccer every night. For three years starting in 1998, he practiced until he became one of the best players in the region. He earned a reputation, and with it a 100,000 shilling ($55) scholarship to Kitara Secondary School in Hoima, Uganda.

He's studying now for his final exams. Of 750, he's Kitara's top student.

But with the end of secondary school comes the end of his scholarship, and Benson wants to go to go to college and study economics. He dreams of creating an organization that supports refugees as they try to fit in with the Ugandan natives, who are often hostile to them because they're temporary residents who don't pay taxes.

In December, Benson created a similar refugee-support group, on a smaller scale.

He opened an Educate branch on the settlement. More than 100 refugees patch holes in the road and hack through fields to raise money to pay for other members' uniforms and books. When the camp cut funding for the local primary schools, the club raised $300 by digging. At about 33 cents for an eight-hour day, that adds up to about 900 days of labor. Two-and-a-half year's worth.

Many of the members are not yet sponsored by Educate and can't afford to put themselves through school.

They call their club Coburwa, short for Congo-Burundi-Rwanda, an unprecedented movement that has unified different nationalities on the camp.

Benson is the president of Coburwa.

Yet his own scholarship application still sits in Educate's stack of "not yets" and "maybe nevers."

The same suffering. A different ending.

Benson Olivier, 22, is Wereje Benson's best friend. They grew up in the same village in the Congo, and escaped death through the same back window. As orphans, they worked the same fields at Kyangwali. They even share a name.

But Olivier happened to be standing by the side of the road when a cloud of dust brought a taxi carrying a white boy from Boulder to the refugee camp in 2002. Glustrom stepped out.

Olivier offered to help him film his documentary. They became close friends, and Glustrom decided fund Olivier's education, supporting his dream to become a politician to help end the war in the Congo that took his family's life.

That's where Olivier's new life began.

That's where the Educate movement began.

COMING MONDAY: The Educate volunteers encounter the desperation, high hopes and deep appreciation of the refugees they've traveled so far to meet.

* * * * *

Dream Deferred, part 2
The here and now
Life in the camp today

Story and photos by Aimee Heckel
Publication: Daily Camera

Publication date: 9/4/2006

Editor`s note:
Fairview High School graduate Eric Glustrom established the Boulder-based nonprofit, Educate, to help fund the education of students in Uganda. In June, Camera Staff Writer Aimee Heckel traveled to Africa with Glustrom and his fellow college student volunteers to recruit African refugees and orphans to sponsor through school and to check on current scholarship recipients -- students helping students change the world. Heckel`s series began Sunday and concludes Tuesday. See the whole series at

UGANDA -- A bony woman shouts from a wooden hut on the side of the road.

"I heard that muzungus would come some day, " she calls. "I heard they would come and save us."

Muzungus. White people.

She`s talking to six college students who are hiking several miles across the Kyangwali refugee camp to the commandant`s office.

The students, with a nonprofit called Educate, are the only white people most of the residents have ever seen or ever will. They`re visiting Uganda this summer to recruit more refugees to put through school. They`re led by Eric Glustrom, who founded the organization in 2002 when he was 17 and a student at Fairview High School. These muzungus come from Educate`s Amherst College branch in Massachusetts, where Glustrom, now 21, is studying neuroscience. The volunteers are also checking up on the 40-plus refugees Educate already sponsors with scholarships and other financial support. Most are orphans from neighboring, war-torn nations, and they say encouragement from their western friends is often the only thing that keeps them pushing forward.

The bony woman's story rushes past her lips in desperation. She's a widow, twice. One husband was a victim of rebels, the second of disease. She has two children and wants to go back to school. She only has a fifth-grade education, though, and her unruly hair is graying.

The English language - and a history of suffering - is the thread between the camp's various tribes and nationalities. The camp is divided, most notably between the Sudanese and Congolese. They use the same mud, yet even their houses look different. Their rivalry is weighing on 21-year-old Glustrom.

Glustrom's tall, blond friend tells the woman to e-mail her scholarship application. He gives her Glustrom's e-mail address, wishes her luck and walks on. She stares at the paper like it's her ticket out of here.

But it won't be. There aren't enough donations, and she's not a good investment. With only five scholarships to give, the Educate volunteers are careful to pick young, healthy people who are most likely to succeed.

She's too far gone.

The camp commandant forbids the visitors from being out after dark because of recent rebel attacks in the area. A group of insurgents hijacked a van and robbed it at gunpoint. Now taxis must travel with a police escort and only while the sun is high.

"Muzungus are a target, " the commandant says.

This commanding officer charged with the visitor's safety is a few years older than Glustrom and eight months into the high-stress job. Glustrom expects he'll quit before the year is over. Most do.

The commandant Glustrom met on his first visit in 2002 was removed from office after accusations that he'd randomly arrested, tortured and slaughtered refugees. The New York-based Human Rights Watch reported allegations that he raped a Congolese refugee woman, but he was freed by police and threw himself a party to celebrate.

The new commandant is irritated and fiddling with the tie on his suit. He doesn't appear to be as much concerned with the visitors' safety as keeping the camp calm. The visitors stand out, wearing sunglasses, reeking of bug spray and dragging name-brand backpacks. None but Glustrom have visited Africa before. They don't know what to expect.

Homes here are regularly torched. Residents report being stalked by the rebels who chased them from their homelands. Last week, one man looked up from the community waterhole into the dark eye of a shotgun. He ran. He was used to it. He survived.

As a way to rally hope in these conditions, Wereje Benson, a 23-year-old orphan from Congo, started an Educate club at Kyangwali in December. Still, Educate only has five scholarships to award this summer, and so far, Benson isn't on the list.

He describes the refugee life in a letter:

"We are people who don't know other members of our family, like parents or uncles. If you get a problem of any kind, you fight yourself. Sometimes spending days without getting what to eat. Things concerning education and medical care here, we live under God's mercy. If one is sick and cannot afford treatment, then you have to stay home waiting either to die or to be healed by God.

"So this is our life."

Now Glustrom is walking across camp to one of the biggest celebrations of the year.

His leisurely pace is nearly stagnant as he pushes gently through a sea of bodies. Some are half-naked, the dirt outlining their muscles or ribs. Others are dressed up in all of the clothes they own: plaid scarves, jackets, ski caps and startlingly clean shirts. It's hard to breathe in the dry heat and the crowd.

A square of paper hangs on a mango tree down the road: "Welcome to Kyangwali. I was waiting for death only! Due to imponderable problems. Lack of education. I was puzzled. Amazed. But due to Educate, I'm happy! I can smile!"

It makes Glustrom blush. The enthusiasm is embarrassing.

The signs are everywhere - not only a symbol of appreciation but also of improving literacy.

"Educate! You reinstated my senses! You unburdened my burdens. You are intending to break the circle of poverty. We love you."

"Mr. War took away our relatives, parents, brothers and sisters. I don't own a country. My names are refugee, orphan. But now!! Educate, our guardian. Eric W., our uncle. Long live Eric."

"Long live Eric?" his friends repeat.

They laugh -- not at the message, but that it's referring to Glustrom, their buddy with wild blond curls who jokes that his greatest accomplishments include downing seven donuts in four minutes, and a gallon of milk in an hour. A normal, funny guy back home. Not here.

To Wereje Benson, the Congolese leader of the camp's Educate club, Glustrom's visit is his only chance. Either Benson gets an education - and with it, a pass to leave the refugee camp - or he stays here digging in the fields making about one quarter a day until he catches polio or malaria. He gives himself 10 more years.

"If someone has provided education, you have stopped their death, " he says. "If you give money, you have given life. You will be someone responsible, you can help others and live much longer. I can be useful to the country. I can help the whole world."

Top schools cost less than $100 per trimester. Back in Boulder, the sacrifice would be forgoing lattes for a month or a stack of new CDs.

For Benson, that is the difference between changing the world and dying full of unrealized dreams.

All or nothing.

The ceremony starts abruptly, shortly after 2 p.m.

A boy pounds on a metal hubcap hanging from a tree. A baby wails. A woman addresses the crowd, but no one can hear her. In the distance, young voices sing. They grow louder. They're here now.

"Eric Glustrom is an Educate founder.

Congratulation for your gracious love.

Through Educate, you restored hope.

You rehabilitated our success in future.

Dearest orphans, come on, come on, don't cry.

Come on, join us in order to succeed.

There is a guardian known as Educate,

Our helper, to brighten our future."

Everyone's eyes watch Glustrom. His eyes watch his feet.

"I didn't expect this, " Glustrom tells his friends. "It's a little much."

And it's just the beginning. It seems as if all 18,000 refugees who live here are crowded around the courtyard of the Kinakeitaka Primary School for "Educate Day 2006."

They perform for hours. They line a wooden table with more food than most families have seen in months -- watery beans and bland dough. There's no silverware. The hungry crowd watches but smiles.

As the president of Kyangwali's Educate club, Wereje Benson holds the mic. It sounds like he speaks into a tin can.

"There is not any person who can express his happiness when he sees someone from America in Kyangwali because of you or me, a refugee who is an orphan, " he says, flailing his hands. "Who are you to bring these people here? Who am I? I cannot express my happiness because this is beyond my thinking capacity."


He continues, "We are orphans, but we're doing better because of the presence of Glustrom. This is our father. Our guardian. Our uncle. Our everything."

Glustrom's cheeks are as red as the Ugandan dirt. He doesn't feel like he deserves this. Considering the number of people he still wants to help, he feels like he's done nothing.

The assembly rolls past the sunset, when the mosquitoes and stray dogs take over the streets. It continues after the visitors fight through the masses and duck away.

They walk miles back to the church in darkness and silence, for the first time comprehending the magnitude of what they're doing in Africa.

It's 2 a.m., and 21-year-old James Hepburn can't sleep. The Amherst senior from London lies on his back on the ground outside the Catholic church where his other friends have been sleeping for hours. The stars look closer on the equator, almost within grabbing distance.

Kyangwali is simple, and in that, it's beautiful, Hepburn says. Nothing like Boulder's Pearl Street, lined with immaculate rows of flowers, high-end shops and coffeehouses.

The Kyangwali people climb trees to shake down fresh fruit for the visitors. They offer everything they have, from stale infant cookies to freshly plucked sugarcane sticks. Hepburn loves how the handshakes linger for 30 seconds or longer in Africa, where touch means hope.

Still, Hepburn can't stop wondering what's happening around him that he's not seeing.

Like the mother on the verge of tears, crawling across the dust on her knees, unable to work because of AIDS. The cholera outbreak. Too many eyes glow an eerie yellow from malaria.

It's like the snakes. Everyone keeps warning Hepburn of the green mambas, river cobras and Gaboon vipers. The residents say snakes wrap the branches of the mango trees he climbed earlier today and in the tall grass he walked through wearing flip-flops.

Yet he hasn't seen a single one.

The refugee life. It's winding through green hallways of maize, embracing the simple beauty around you, but knowing behind one of those stalks, a cobra may be sleeping.

COMING TUESDAY: The volunteers offer inspiration to the hopeful refugees - and come up with a major aspiration of their own.

* * * * *

Dream Deferred, part 3
Hope for tomorrow
Story and photos by Aimee Heckel

Publication: Daily Camera
Publication date: 9/5/2006

Editor`s note: Fairview High School graduate Eric Glustrom established the Boulder-based nonprofit organization, Educate, to help fund the education of students in Uganda. In June, Camera Staff Writer Aimee Heckel traveled to Africa with Glustrom and his fellow college student volunteers to recruit African refugees and orphans to sponsor through school and to check on current scholarship recipients -- students helping students change the world. Heckel`s series began Sunday and concludes today. See the whole series at

UGANDA -- The lean, dark bodies wait for Eric Glustrom at the gate, hours before the echo of drums and chants awake him.

The bodies follow the 21-year-old Boulder man home every night and watch him vanish into his concrete cell of a room at St. Patrick`s Catholic parish in Uganda, where he and the other volunteers for his Boulder-based nonprofit group, Educate, are staying.

The bodies stand there when the sun sets, which happens almost instantly on the equator, like the flip of a light switch. They`re there when the sun rises.

Maybe they never go home.

The six volunteers, students at Amherst College in Massachusetts, are visiting the Kyangwali Refugee Camp in western Uganda to choose refugees for five scholarships. Educate`s dozen student-run clubs across the United States have already put more than 40 refugees through school, with hopes that the educated Africans will someday help rebuild their war-ravaged homelands.

The movement started with Glustrom when he was a 17-year-old at Fairview High in Boulder. He`s now a senior studying neuroscience at Amherst.

Five scholarships. Hundreds of applicants.

And whatever story they tell, the answer is the same: Send an e-mail to Eric. He`ll provide the application details. Good luck.

A 13-year-old African girl is so malnourished she looks 8.

A 15-year-old girl will be forced into marriage if she can`t pay her school fees.

A 60-year-old man wants to finish primary school.

"I don`t want to be ignorant the rest of my life, " he says.

A confused man submits an application to driving school. Another man with no teeth pleads to be connected with the pope so he can become a priest.

In 1997, Armani Jean-Paul, 23, was a teenager, fleeing the bloody civil war in what is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo when he saw a newborn lying abandoned in the field. He picked her up and carried her with him. She is now 9, and his adopted daughter.

What made him stop and save her? "You never know who she`ll become, " he says.

It`s true about him, too, if he`s given a chance.

Sarah Tracy, a sophomore at Amherst, has interviewed more than 30 residents today. The Educate volunteer can`t keep the stories straight. She has run out of paper in her journal, and her pen is dry.

"How do you choose? How do you say this pain is worse than this pain?" she asks.

Now in its fourth year, the nonprofit has raised $150,000. But he number of applications Educate gets in the mail continues to rise to more than five a week, and each sponsorship requires about $630 a year, including tuition, school supplies, medical expenses and transportation. Educate commits to support each student as long as he or she wants to study.

Some classrooms have dirt floors, no electricity and are standing-room only. To send an e-mail, residents must catch a taxi 50 miles to the nearest city, wait in line for a dial-up modem and pay by the minute with money that would otherwise buy food or medicine.

A one-legged man staggers out of his house. A bomb in Rwanda crippled him. The balloon bellies of his five children show they`re starving.

Tracy hands him Glustrom`s e-mail address. She looks younger than her 20 years, with plump, pink lips and cheeks like a cherub. The refugee boys trail her in admiration, often reaching for her hand, which she doesn`t pull away.

Her robotic response: "Send an e-mail to this address. He`ll send you the application."

The old man`s face lights up. His English is poor. He thinks the paper means his children are chosen. Sarah tries to explain, but he continues grinning. She`s swept into the crowd.

"What is the balance between giving them hope and reality?" she asks.

The reality: This organization on which thousands of Africans have hung their fates is run by kids. They meet in their university student centers or high school classrooms and raise money through dodgeball tournaments, date auctions, donations and bake sales. The Amherst group, in Uganda in June, haggled the $10 a night cost to stay at the Kyangwali Catholic church, hoping to save their limited money for the scholarships - knowing that much money would take a refugee slashing through the fields a month to earn.

Back home, Tracy works three jobs, coaching field hockey, manning the chemistry stockroom and working as a geology teacher`s assistant. She attends Amherst on a full-ride scholarship, about $32,000 a year.

"They don`t realize it, but I`m in the same situation as they are, " she says. "That`s one of the reasons I joined Educate in the first place. I understand."

But Tracy already has more than most of the refugees ever will, even with the best education Africa has to offer.

Her sympathy also has frustrated her. Is her presence here - like the boys` hands she holds - a comforting beacon of hope or a tease for what they`ll never have?

"I guess I`ll have to separate my emotions from this, " she resigns. "Yet I feel like that`s why I`m here."

Tracy and the Educate volunteers interview dozens of applicants deep into the night, despite the camp commandant`s warning on the first day it was too dangerous to be out after dark.

A shadow explodes from the black wall of trees framing the road. The visitors cannot see the man`s face, but his jagged English is frantic. He taps one of their notebooks. He wants them to write down his name.

He doesn`t ask for scholarship information; maybe he`s too excited. He tells them he will be the president of the Congo someday - "the first president of books, not of guns" -- and they should write down his name so they remember that it started right here.

As if the blind scribble across the page makes it so:

Irankunda Ndeze Immanuel.

Maybe that`s why they all stare.

The staring brown eyes don`t know how, but the would-be students think maybe in some way these visitors will help. And maybe they will. Even if they don`t have enough money.

They walk through the streets as symbols of hope. They are recruiting a few refugees, but they are also inspiring many more.

Emmy Smith, 20, an energetic, blond Amherst volunteer, adds a line to her travel journal:

"We`re reinforcing in children and parents the value of an education. We`re encouraging solidarity in a camp filled with racial tension. And most importantly, we`re creating hope in the midst of despair."

Edward Guma is furious, but he`s trying not to ruin the 11 p.m. dinner on Glustrom`s last night in Kyangwali.

Guma, 19, is one of the few Educate students from Sudan. Glustrom made two treks to Guma`s side of the camp this week, hoping to recruit more.

There`s friction between the Sudanese and Congolese. Not back home - their wars were civil - but because of outside aid organizations that favor one country`s refugees over another. Unease rooted in desperation.

In December, young refugees created their own Educate club, which they named Coburwa, for a new unity between residents from the Congo, Burundi and Rwanda.

Then earlier this week at a celebration called Educate Day, the club made a surprising announcement that it was changing its name to Coburwas -- adding an "S" for Sudan. The crowd jumped to its feet in celebration, clapping and dancing and stirring up a haze of red dust.

But Guma thinks it was an empty act to impress Glustrom, who keeps urging the different sides of camp to work together.

Guma says amid the joyful singing at Educate Day, Congolese students forced his Sudanese friends to leave. They stole their chairs and demanded tickets, even though there weren`t any, Guma says.

He thinks Coburwa intentionally left off the "S" for Sudan to begin with.

A Congolese student sharing the dinner table with Guma and the Educate staff wears a white "Coburwa" T-shirt - no "S" for Sudan. He insists with a calm smile the club is new and evolving, and that Guma`s friends must have misunderstood.

Guma shakes his head.

"That`s a great speech, " he snaps, the sharpness in his voice signaling the end of the discussion.

It reminds Glustrom of how far Educate still has to go.

A letter arrives from Wereje Benson. The 23-year-old Congolese orphan is the president of Coburwas. He has emerged as the spokesman for the refugees, plastering the camp with posters about how Educate is changing lives and writing Glustrom`s friends letters almost daily.

Today, he writes:

"Your kindness, encouragement and sweet words give us hope, happiness. It`s incredible, and this leads to the extension of our existence. ...This puts us in good moods and hopeful feelings, causing us to behave like successful people already. Even if poor or sick, any bad situation, I know you pray for me and you care, hence getting hope and relief.

"Hope is vital."

The Educate volunteers have not given him anything tangible. He`s still not selected for a scholarship.

Yet he adds, "It`s unfortunate that I am not able to express my happiness which is about to break my heart."

This is it.

Hepburn and Glustrom exchange knowing nods. Their school will look like the Catholic church where they`re staying.

Doors form an "L" around a courtyard. Out back, acres of vegetables and fruit orchards make the property self-sufficient. A rickety barn houses cows and chickens. Instead of contaminated water wells, the building has gutters that tunnel rain into tanks.

They could do this, Glustrom says.

They could raise money to build an Educate school, instead of scattering their 48 students to 13 schools across the country. They could feed them nutritious meals instead of watery beans and rice. And as part of the deal, the graduates could teach underclassmen for a few years before pursuing their careers.

It could also be the answer the question every Educate student asks: "How can I repay you?"

They`d need about $1 million a year to build and run it, Glustrom estimates. A friend immediately volunteers to take off a semester next fall to move to Uganda and line up the details. They could start building in five years, Glustrom says. He sees the future as only one large endowment away.

It sounds crazy. But then again, that`s what Amnesty International thought of Glustrom`s original proposal that ignited Educate in 2002.

"I do think it`s possible, " Glustrom says.

This is only Educate`s dawn, he insists. It is young, like its volunteers.

Coburwas` president, Wereje Benson, is waiting by the gate when a taxi rumbles up to take Glustrom and his friends away June 22. Benson watches the car dissolve into a fog of dust.

It`s like the negative for the photograph of Educate`s beginning, when Glustrom first rolled up in a taxi four years ago. Only instead of Wereje Benson, it was his best friend with a similar name, Benson Olivier. Benson Olivier shook Glustrom`s hand. His future changed. He became the first Educate scholar and the catalyst for the organization.

As Wereje Benson stands, waving goodbye, his own future is uncertain.

The next morning, he hires a taxi to take him 50 miles to the city of Hoima, past the Catholic church, the commandant`s hut and a vast forest that hides insurgents.

Benson finds an Internet café and sends an e-mail to the Educate volunteers. He wants his to be the first name they see when they get home, and it is. He asks for photos of their families and their prayers as he takes his final exams.

He doesn`t mention his scholarship application, still floating in limbo between his dreams and the brutal maize fields. His story might not have a happy ending.

Most don`t.

Benson asks his new friends to remember him and leaves it at that, hoping their time in Africa taught them that on the other side of the planet, one man`s ripple is another man`s wave.

Starting a club
High schools typically need to get permission from an administrator and need a teacher sponsor. New Vista, Boulder and Fairview high schools have local clubs.

Clubs that raise enough money can adopt a student.

Educate can help provide brochures, posters, stamps and other costs related to hosting fundraising events.

How to help
Donate online at Click on "donate" at the top of the screen.

Mail a check to:
4492 Burr Place
Boulder, CO 80303

The cost of education
The average cost to sponsor a student:

Tuition (trimester/year): $75/$225

Total cost per student including tuition, school supplies, medical expenses, and transportation (trimester/year): $210/$630

For more information
E-mail or Eric Glustrom at

Kyangwali Refugee Settlement Where: The Hoima district of western Uganda

Who: About 17,800 Congolese, Sudanese, Rwandan, Kenyan, Burundian and Ethiopian refugees.

The life: Upon arrival, residents receive farming and cooking equipment, tarps, blankets, a plot of land, seeds and small food rations.
Refugees in Uganda also receive free health care, primary education, water and access to community-service workers and income-generating programs. Refugees are expected to provide for themselves.

Common hardships: Hunger, disease, abduction, illiteracy, rape, robbery, poorly defined property rights. Secondary education is not provided and limited to the more affluent. Camps have limited opportunities to generate income needed to send children to secondary school.

Source: Andrea Samuelson at

Children in Uganda The Lord`s Resistance Army, the most active Ugandan rebel group, has abducted more than 14,000 children in Uganda and forced them to become rebel fighters.

Abducted children - both boys and girls - make up more than 85 percent of the rebel`s forces. They are often beaten, raped, forced to kill others and each other as a test of loyalty.

They are also considered government enemies and military targets.

According to the Women`s Commission, "These young people have been abused twice; they are abducted and forced to fight and are then attacked for fighting, instead of being protected and rescued."

Source: Andrea Samuelson at

The refugee life
About 220,000 refugees live in Uganda, most from Rwanda, Sudan and Congo. The refugees from Rwanda fled the genocide of 1994. The refugees from Sudan are largely a result of the Christian/Arab tension between the south and the north. The refugees from Congo had to flee because mineral wars and groups fighting for control of the country`s resources have killed many people and left the country in ruins.

Uganda does what it can to care for the refugees, but it already has trouble caring for its own people, because it is a developing country. But they have still managed to do a relatively good job. And while the conditions in a place like the Kyangwali refugee camp are hard to think of as good, relative to many places in Africa, Kyangwali is actually much better.

I think it`s amazing that Uganda has remained peaceful in spite of the bloody wars in Congo, Sudan and Rwanda surrounding it. It gives me hope to see a country like Uganda doing well in the midst of all the killing.

But after the refugees flee they have no one to care for them. I know that there must be so many talented people among them who can make a large contribution to solving Africa`s problems if they are just given the chance.

- Eric Glustrom, founder of Educate