In January of 2005, Tomi Mills left for Uganda, Africa with two suitcases and a contact to work with an existing NGO (Non-Government Organization/Non-Profit). Upon arriving in Uganda, Tomi began working for an organization, which ultimately ended up stranding her in war-torn Northern Uganda, with nowhere to go. She had a decision to make, stay or leave. She decided to stay.
Northern Uganda has been torn apart by a 20+ year civil war. Tomi experienced the devastation of these people first hand. Gunfire could be heard at night within a ½ kilometer of where she stayed. During the day she saw thousands upon thousands of people living in IDP (Internally Displaced Persons/i.e. refugee) Camps. All around people were starving to death, dying from lack of medications, clean water, and sanitation, most of which were children. Night shelters were set up for children to spend the nights in for safety as they attended school because the IDP camps were often too far away from town to protect them. Hospitals had whole wings dedicated to malnourishment as the number of people needing care grew on a daily basis. The Lord’s Resistance rebel army (LRA) had even dedicated themselves to cutting off women’s lips, ears, and noses and doctors were scarce. It was here, in these moments of tribulation and the harsh reality that Tomi found the beauty of the country and fell in love with the Acholi people.
Upon returning to the capital city of Kampala, Tomi ended living with a Ugandan family for seven months. Fourteen people lived in a 3 bedroom home made of brick/plaster with no running water and a pit latrine for toilet and bathing facilities.
Living with this family gave her a unique perspective about the lives and culture of the indigenous people. For Christmas Tomi traveled back to the USA. Once back stateside Tomi gathered supplies and a little bit of money and headed back to Uganda with her daughter Nicole to start her own international non-profit organization.
Upon their arrival in Uganda, Tomi and Nicole rented a house and started the lengthy and complicated paperwork process for the non-profit (NGO). Their original vision was to build an orphanage that would house up to two thousand girls. Integrating into the culture by working in the slums of the Banda Acholi Quarters, which was made up of the very people who had been forced out of Northern Uganda because of the civil war, the Acholi’s, became the first order of business.
Starting a Saturday Children’s Character Training Program in which five hundred plus children came weekly to learn twenty specific character virtues (see “What We Teach”) and receive a snack at the end of the program was the beginning. After one year there was such a tangible and noticeable change in the behavior of the children that the women of the slums approached Kids Inspiring Kids and asked for an implementation of a program for them. And so, the Jeremiah Women’s Group was established. Jeremiah was a prophet of hope and these women were seeking just that. (Jeremiah 29:11).
Since the development of the Character Training Program and the Jeremiah Women’s Group, an additional youth program was added to focus on the teens in their critical transitional phase. These programs are dedicated to teaching character, life skills, family values and self-sustainability on a weekly basis.
During the implementation of these programs, KIK started to take notice of certain children in high-risk situations of abandonment and abuse. Through the evolution of establishing the cornerstones of KIK, it wasn’t long until they realized that an orphanage was not the answer. Ugandan culture is such that they stay in extended family homes if the families have sustainability. Thus, “Place of Refuge Village” was born.
By creating a self-sustaining village for these people it will give them the opportunity to keep their culture and promote the strength of family units while giving orphans a home.
KIK currently rents a compound which headquarters the NGO. This includes, but is not limited to, hosting volunteer groups and facilitating the care of high-risk orphans. In addition, KIK owns 97 acres, which is the beginning stages of Place of Refuge Village. It will become the model and training center for the Acholi people to regain their lost skill sets. KIK has begun building efficient housing, wells, pit latrines, stores, planting crops, etc and moving people from the slums and refugee camps to a place they can now call “Home”.
At the end of 2013, the Ugandan Government came to the Banda Acholi Quarters with the announcement of doing a “Revitalization Project”. This project will displace most of the people living the Banda Acholi Quarters slum as most are squatters. The village is crucial as these people will be displaced once again. KIK is focusing all its efforts building the Place of Refuge Village so these people will be able to finally have a place they can call home. If you want to be a part of giving these people a hope for a future then visit our Village Project page.