The Moment That Started Everything
Jolly Lux, founder and executive director of Guiding Light Orphans (GLO), was born and raised in Masindi, Uganda. She came to the United States in 2000 and became a U.S. citizen in 2010. During a trip to Uganda to visit family in 2011, Jolly accompanied her aunt, a local politician, on a tour of some of the rural areas in her native Masindi district. In one of the more remote villages where they stopped, a young woman approached Jolly, assuming that she was there in some official capacity. The woman had AIDS, and she had lost her husband to the disease. She asked Jolly, “Who will care for my four-year-old son when I die?” Jolly responded with stunned and helpless silence. In moments, the woman disappeared back into the crowd. That chance encounter was the seed from which Guiding Light Orphans grew. In that moment, Jolly had no answer for the woman. Now she does.
Founding Guiding Light Orphans
When Jolly returned to the U.S. she felt compelled to do something – she just didn’t know what. She and her husband, Kurt, considered everything from trying to find the boy and adopt him, to financial support, to building a school. They quickly realized they didn’t know what kind of help was really needed. So Jolly returned to Uganda and asked.
On her return trip to Masindi, Jolly met with village elders, social workers, teachers, community leaders, and local council leaders. She learned that the community's most pressing need is basic healthcare. Lack of access to health information, essential services, and facilities was the root cause of poverty and death in rural villages. She found that those at the greatest risk are the children, many of whom have been orphaned as a result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The challenge faced by the woman Jolly encountered on her first visit was all too common.
Having gained first-hand knowledge of the real needs of these communities, Jolly and Kurt fully understood they could not solve all of the issues the people faced, but knew they could help. From their passion, commitment, and their firm belief that, “a small dent can make a big difference,” Jolly and Kurt founded Guiding Light Orphans, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
A Model for Immediate Aid and Sustainable Change
Based on what she learned from interviewing people in the villages of the Masindi district, Jolly saw the desperate need for immediate assistance, but also recognized that direct aid would accomplish little without long term support. The community leaders Jolly spoke with also made it very clear they wanted to be part of the solution. Involving members of the communities would be critical to the success of any efforts toward improving the health and lives of these people.
If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime
Jolly and Kurt decided on a two-part approach: semi-annual medical camps for direct aid and resident Village Heath Teams for on-going, community-owned change.The medical camps deliver urgently needed care. Guiding Light Orphans (GLO) holds the camps twice a year to deliver basic health screenings, immunizations, education and disease prevention services, and medical referrals when needed. Training and equipping local teams makes access to basic health services sustainable on a long-term basis. The Village Health Teams (VHTs), currently one man or woman for every two villages in the parishes served, continue to deliver services year-round.
While the services of the medical camps and the VHTs are available to all, GLO focuses on improving the lives of children, many of whom have been orphaned, and their caretakers. And in all of their efforts, they strive to convene and collaborate with other local and global organizations working to improve and empower the lives of the people of Masindi.
Guiding Light Orphans, Inc. is a charitable organization dedicated to providing support to HIV/AIDS orphans and critically vulnerable children and their caretakers in rural Uganda with free, quality basic health care, training, and skills for self-sustainability to break the vicious cycle of chronic hunger and poverty.
Meeting basic health needs is the essential first step in improving the lives of people in the rural villages of Uganda. GLO is proactive in helping to meet immediate needs and creating a self-sustaining model through training and equipping local health care workers, as well as forming partnerships with local medical facilities and other organizations. GLO’s priority is improving the lives of critically vulnerable children, many of whom have been orphaned by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, through medical interventions and other physical and emotional support systems.
Guiding light orphans believes
All people have a right to the most basic needs of food, shelter, health care, education, and love
All people are created equal and have a duty to help one another
All people have a right to be heard, respected, and valued
We believe that health and education are the keys to community empowerment and transformational change. Community involvement and ownership of solutions by people in rural areas of Uganda is critical in order to sustain that change. Guiding Light Orphans operates according to the highest standards of personal honesty, trust, and ethical behavior. We hold ourselves accountable to our supporters, partners, and the people we serve.