Hope North is a 40-acre campus in northern Uganda where refugees, orphans and escaped child soldiers find a place to call home. With an accredited secondary school and vocational training center, this safe and vibrant cultural setting provides a haven for resident students to rebuild their lives through education and job training. With a monthly donation as little as $10, you can help these youth develop the skills and strength to build Uganda’s future after a brutal 22-year civil war.
The organization was set up by Okello Sam, a well-known Ugandan dance and theater artist whose family was directly affected by the war in the north. He and his brother Godfrey were abducted, and Godfrey was eventually killed by rebels. After his release, Sam purchased a large tract of land to serve as a sanctuary for his community, and on which to build Hope North. The dancer then acted as Forest Whitaker’s choreographer for a scene in The Last King of Scotland. Sam also played a role in the film and members of the Hope North community are featured on-screen. Whitaker learned about Hope North while working with Sam and felt compelled to support Sam’s vision. When he returned to Uganda for The Last King of Scotland’s premiere, Forest traveled to Hope North to meet the kids and learn more about the community.
“[When] I went up to Hope North, all of the children were either displaced from refugee camps or former child soldiers,” said Whitaker. “I spent time with them, watched these kids have joy, dance and sing… It was a beautiful example of what happens when people truly care, step in and become involved and so I wanted to be involved.”
You can join Forest Whitaker as a Hope North Mentor and bring hope to the war-damaged youth of northern Uganda by signing up for monthly donations to Hope North at www.hopenorth.org. Hope North has set a goal of enlisting 250 Hope North mentors by the end of December. Hope North Mentors receive a quarterly newsletter from Forest featuring updates from the students of Hope North, and invites to special events.
This year, Hope North is one of five charitable organizations chosen as recipients of GQ’s 2008 Gentlemen’s Fund initiative (www.thegentlemensfund.com). The Gentlemen’s Fund raises support and awareness in the five areas of education, opportunity, health, environment, and mentorship.
“Hope North is a much-needed sanctuary for young people whose lives have been stolen by a brutal civil war,” said Whitaker. “I hope you can join me in creating opportunities for these terrific kids.”